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Eyes on Denver

Stephanie DePrez | Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I love Denver. I’ve lived in the Denver area all my life. Denver has a mountain mystique, an allure that comes from being a world-class city so close to unchangeable, natural grandeur.

We’re in the middle of the country, not near any ocean or lake, and yet we’ve managed to blossom into a thriving culture hub with a top performing arts complex and brand new opera house, not to mention our overwhelmingly successful sports teams (Broncos, Avalanche) who have each won national championships in the last decade, and the Rockies, who won the National League last year.

We’re a rockin’ city surrounded by fourteeners (read – really tall mountains). We’ve got cowboys, ski bums, and the occasional trust-fund hippie.

But last week we had something a little unheard of on our western plains: national politicians looking for a good show.

It was quite a trip to watch my home city roll out the red carpet for everyone from Obama and Hillary to Susan Sarandon and Christian Bale.

Though most people in Colorado have an opinion, politics hardly ever comes to blows, and all of the sudden the Democratic Party was staking out their territory.

I felt a polar surge through Denver the likes of which I’d never seen before. Talking to friends back home on both sides, some were having the time of their life, volunteering for the convention and getting caught up in the political wave. Others were getting sick of the one-sided Denver Post stories and the inability to start a conversation that didn’t center on why Obama is the greatest man ever in a million years to ever breathe, ever.

I watched with a certain smugness as the whole nation and even world turned toward Denver. Shots of the Pepsi Center, where the Avs play and where I saw The Police reunion tour last summer, were taking up TV screens everywhere. It was covered in “Celebrate Denver 08” banners and used as the establishing shot behind countless station identification bits from CNN to FOX News.

National newspapers were doing articles on Rocky Mountain oysters (buffalo testicles) and their mountain-esque appeal. Mention of INVESCO Field no longer meant orange- and blue-blooded maniacs bringing out the big guns for game day.

Reporters and those of the liberal persuasion flooded the streets, and one friend told me the 16th Street Mall (where I spent many a night this summer) was as crowded as the busiest street in London.

Regardless of the politics, I think Denver did a great job of hosting the party.

The nation was given a chance to see how friendly Denverites really are, and how welcoming our city is.

Volunteer orientation for the convention centered on making sure to be hospitable, and that didn’t go unnoticed. Our city bent over backwards to ensure a good time for every visitor who flew into DIA.

People across America were given the chance to see our grand city blown up on the big screen, proving to them that we are a full, thriving economic and cultural center here in the West.

But more than that, we showed them that Denver is full of some of the finest people around.