We just get a little worried when we’re in the spotlight. For too long, Denver has been stuck with the reputation as a cow town in a flyover state good only for skiing. We don’t want to lie: It’s given us a little performance anxiety. Sure, we threw the G8 Summit in 1997, and the NBA All-Star Game a couple years ago, but generally, we prefer to stay low-key in Colorado. We actually turned down the option of hosting the 1976 Winter Olympics. That’s right--we told the International Olympic Committee to take their multi-colored rings and shove them. And we liked the guy who ran that anti-Olympics campaign so much that we made him governor.
So now that we’ve walked into hosting the most important convention in at least 36 years, we don’t want to be tarred as the small city that couldn’t pull it off. The last time the Democrats had their convention here, in 1908, William Jennings Bryan didn’t even show up. He went on to lose the election, while Denver remained a middle-American backwater. It’d be nice to avoid a repeat on that.
This year’s pre-party stumbling isn’t exactly easing our worries. The DNC host committee missed fundraising deadlines, budget concerns forced the DNC to consolidate the state delegation parties into one big bash, and the city got in trouble for giving the DNC host committee access to tax-free gas pumps. The Obama campaign also decided to pull a last minute switch on his acceptance speech, moving it from the Pepsi Center to Invesco Field, at the cost of an additional $5 million to the host committee. Since Invesco borders I-25, our major North-South highway, police will be closing the road for four hours on Thursday night--during rush hour. Not the best way to endear yourself to swing-state suburbanites.
Still, we’re doing our best to make the city shine. The Pepsi Center has undergone a seven-week remodel to accomodate all the delegates, meaning we’ve missed the summer tours of bands like Radiohead. We raised tents outside the stadium big enough to house some of the 15,000 members of the media covering the event. We planted trees and new shrubs, and spiffed up the public art cows that dot the downtown sidewalks (see the photo above). We revived a beautiful old fountain that was first built for the 1908 convention, but has sat submerged and broken for more than a decade. Our local caterers, under direction from the DNC, assembled a rainbow-colored banquet of vegetables and fruits for the vitamin-loving, picky-eater Democrats--and since fried food was banned, they couldn’t dish up Rocky Mountain Oysters, our local delicacy. Hell, we’re even making sure that the homeless have new haircuts and tickets to the movies and the zoo.
We’re also doing our best to prevent protester-police violence. The specter of Chicago is so frightening that we passed a law to make sure protesters don’t carry around buckets of feces or urine-filled squirt guns. (Seriously.) And the police, concerned about angry protesters--including a group called “Recreate ’68”--have prepared a temporary protest jail north of downtown that’s already been dubbed “Gitmo on the Platte.” Good times.
You see, we’re doing all this because we like it here. The weather is great; we actually get more days of sunshine than San Diego. The people are smart, friendly, and fit--the descendants of the individualistic and rugged folks who first moved west. And the mountains are stunning. Look westward: Some of the higher peaks still wear ice halos, even in August. And we really want you to like it here, too. So, we’ll make you a promise: As long as you leave your fecal buckets at home--and Obama delivers a speech for the ages--we’ll invite you back sometime soon.
Patrick Doyle is associate editor of 5280, Denver’s city magazine.