Denver Expects a Rocking Ol’ Time

Posted August 5, 2008 at 10:30am

Everyone knows the real fun at a political convention does not occur on the made-for-television stage with its endless speakers and confetti spray.

No, the real spectacle is all about town, at the invite-only parties, classy receptions, charity functions and community events.

Despite a few new and pesky ethics rules that may have put a slight damper on the lobbyist-sponsored party scene, the Democrats quadrennial affair this month in Denver promises to be a week of star-studded concerts, shindigs and old-fashioned (as in the way it was before the new ethics rules) good times.

“In Denver, there is just across-the-board excitement for these events to come to town,” said Rob Jennings, president of American Event Consulting Inc., which is producing concerts and parties at both conventions this summer.

“The response we’ve had from musicians has been off the charts. And the Fillmore is going to be the epicenter of hipness and cool.”

The Fillmore Auditorium, once a skating rink and now one of the Mile-High City’s most storied and intimate live-music venues, will play host to several functions, including “Jam-Balaya,” a New Orleans benefit concert that Jennings is producing on Aug. 24. (Roll Call is a sponsor of the event.)

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, is hosting its benefit “Rock to Win” concert featuring chanteuse Melissa Etheridge at the Fillmore on Aug. 26. And the celebrity lobbying group Creative Coalition is planning a benefit performance there featuring the Black Eyed Peas on Aug. 27.

Not to be outdone, the Grammy Foundation has booked three bands — Daughtry, Everclear and the Flobots — to serenade the political set on Aug. 26 at gothic-style night club the Church, a former house of worship. “It’ll be the hottest ticket in town,” said Daryl Friedman, Grammy’s vice president for advocacy and government relations.

Convention-goers looking for a more family-oriented event should try to snag a ticket to the city’s baseball park for “A Day at Coors Field” on Aug. 26 to take in some on-the-field batting practice.

The home-team Colorado Rockies won’t be in town, but a collection of pharmaceutical and technology companies is hosting Members, staffers and delegates to an afternoon of baseball.

“It’s the absolute best event of the convention,” said organizer Lee Ann Petersen of the Convention Baseball Group. “You’re literally on the field on home plate taking pitches from a AAA pitcher.”

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) will serve as the honorary hometown host, and the event will donate proceeds to three charities: the Colorado Rockies Charity Fund, the Women’s Bean Project and Tree Link.

Mile-High City-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck plans a “Welcome to Denver” kickoff reception on Aug. 24 at the Denver Art Museum, a building whose new wing is best known for its bold, modern architecture designed by Daniel Libeskind. The museum’s Web site proclaims that the “design recalls the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and geometric rock crystals found in the foothills near Denver.”

Also Aug. 24, the city is hosting a soiree to honor the convention delegates at the Colorado Convention Center. The event will feature many of the same artists who will play later that night at the Fillmore.

If amusement parks are more your style, then head to Elitch Gardens on Aug. 25 for the Democratic Governors Association “Rocky Mountain Salute to Governors.”

The group has rented the entire park for the evening. The DGA is in the party spirit — it’s also sponsoring a shindig on Aug. 27 at the Wynkoop Brewing Co., best known to outsiders as the establishment owned by the Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

The D.C.-based law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs, which has a Denver office, is planning a late-night party at downtown’s Bar None featuring salsa music. “We’re honoring everybody at the convention,” said Nick Allard, co-chairman of Patton Boggs’ public policy practice. “The reason we’re attending is we are all political junkies and this is the Super Bowl of politics.”

Patton Boggs is joining a long list of other firms and groups that are taking a less hedonistic approach to the Denver scene and are hoping to have fun by doing good.

Allard said his firm has arranged a fundraising auction with the Denver Public Schools — up for auction will be students’ creations. “We support them throughout the year,” Allard said. “We wanted to have a special event with them during the convention.”

Also in the doing-good category, the Credit Union National Association is planning to unveil a new home in the Denver area that it sponsored for an injured Iraq War veteran.

“Instead of spending our money on a party or something else, we’re building a house for an Iraq veteran who is disabled,” explained CUNA’s president and CEO, former Rep. Dan Mica (D-Fla.). The house, in Golden, has been specially outfitted for the soldier’s abilities.

For some groups, though, it will be all about the business of politics.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is planning to roll its 2008 “Vote for Business” bus tour through Denver during the Democratic convention. The group did a cross-country get-out-the-vote bus tour in 2006, and this year it will have two buses cruising the nation (one will stop at each convention).

“We will do get-out-the-vote and voter registrations in partnership with the local chambers and businesses,” explained the chamber’s executive director of communications, Eric Wohlschlegel.

And just because Patton Boggs will be in a predominantly party spirit doesn’t mean it won’t have a little something on its agenda for the policy nerds in all of us. It is hosting four seminars in Denver focusing on communications, health care, energy and transportation, and a post-election policy outlook.