>>Best Special Events Planner
BETSY WIERSMA, CSEP
Owner/Wiersma Experience Marketing/Englewood

Betsy Wiersma’s career has focused on building ROI or "return on ideas." Essentially this translates into helping clients harness the power of wow. She explains, "Big ideas cut through the clutter. The meetings and events industry is very blessed because we can use big ideas to impact the world."

Four years after graduating from Purdue University, Wiersma started her own business, which she has operated for more than 20 years. After many years of traveling and keeping a hectic pace managing a growing business and staff, Wiersma redesigned her life after marrying and adopting a daughter. Today she works on projects that keep her in Colorado and continues to author books.

Three highlights of her career have been developing an events manual for the U.S. Air Force, doing training at every Air Force base in the world and developing a satellite television show (and working with other branches of the military as well); serving as director of events and sponsorship of "The Special Event" for five years and raising sponsorship levels to $3.5 million; and creating Camp Experience to bring together women for a three-day retreat at Copper Mountain.

>>Best Up-and-Coming Special Events Planner
KYLIE INGLEE
Senior Account Executive/Convention Designs LLC/Greenwood Village

After receiving Kylie Inglee’s resume from three separate meetings and events industry professionals all within the same day, Convention Designs hired her as an administrative assistant. She quickly worked her way up to account executive and was promoted to senior account executive last year.

She now partners with various corporations and associations, assisting with events such as an Ace Hardware conference for 10,000 and a three-day equipment demonstration and open house for 3,000 guests in the parts yard of an industrial machinery client.

The nature of my job is expansive, and it’s never the same day twice. My days are jam packed and fly by-I get a little taste of everything," Inglee says. "I like the thrill and satisfaction of seeing an event go from the preliminary preparations through execution and follow-up."

A Colorado native, Kylie became involved in the hospitality industry immediately after college. As for the future, she looks forward to furthering the depth and scope of her client portfolio, while maintaining a healthy balance of work and play.

>>Best Meeting Professional
KRISTIN HOUSE
Regional Vice President/ConferenceDirect/Denver

Kristin House remembers attending ConferenceDirect’s first annual meeting in 1999, when there were only 15 associates. Now the company has grown to 250, including 19 in the five-state region that she oversees in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. "It has been really exciting to be in at the ground level," House notes.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, House has spend most of her career in the Denver area except for two years at the San Jose Convention & Visitors Bureau in California, where she was the convention sales manager responsible for recruiting business from the eastern seaboard. After returning to the Mile High City, she held a similar position at the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau from 1995 to 1999.

"My passion is booking city-wide meetings. That’s what I’d like to focus on more in the future. I love to sell," she says.

For people new to the business, she advises, "Stick with it. Sometimes it’s tough, relationships are tested and you’ll make mistakes. It’s hard to tell a client that you mess up. …It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to figure out if you were meant to be in this business."

>>Best Up-and-Coming Meeting Professional
TAMIE BULOW
Convention & Tours Manager/American Birding Association/Colorado Springs

"Teaching an old dog new tricks is my theme," laughs Tamie Bulow. After 25 years as a sales rep for Riedell Skates and 13 years managing ice arenas, she turned to event planning as a career with the American Birding Association (ABA).

The bonus is that this avid birder has been able to add numerous entries to her lifetime list, even though it involves organizing conference field trips that sometimes start at 4 a.m.

With 17,000 members strong, ABA holds one convention and one or two conference planned by Bulow every year. Every other year is an international event, with the last one being in Quito, Ecuador, where Bulow noted 314 new bird sightings on her list. "We pick our locations based on where the birds go and the time of year they are there," she explains.

"I have a passion for birding, and I also enjoy the planning aspect. I love to make plans for my own trips," says Bulow. "What I have learned is not to be shy in asking questions and not to be embarrassed about asking about the details. Really paying attention to the details makes the difference between a successful event and a disaster."

>>Best Supplier
BARBARA BOWMAN
Director of Sales/Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau

If you’ve been in the meetings and events or tourism industry for any time in Colorado, it won’t take long to run into Barbara Bowman. She has been the director of sales at the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau since 1991, when the organization was founded. Previously, she was the director of guest services at the former Grand Butte in Crested Butte, worked for travel agencies and lived in Europe.

To say Bowman is a tireless champion for her town and native state is an understatement. The mantra for her and the VCB has been: "Promise only what you can deliver; then, deliver more than you promise."

She explains, "Don’t be afraid to raise the bar, and we’ve certainly done that. Grand Junction has created more magic moments in hospitality much to the surprise of our clients and peers."

Bowman also operates under the philosophy of "One is only as good as one’s team." She says, "The highlight has been the relationships that I’ve built with meeting planners in the business and my peers. You must have a real passion for the hospitality industry. The energy, synergy and variety are fun."

>>Best Up-and-Coming Supplier
ANNA MARIE MARTINEZ
Special Events Manager/INVESCO Field at Mile High/Denver

Anna Marie Martinez started out as a special events assistant (known as an intern at other organizations) at INVESCO Field at Mile High and has worked her way up to special events manager.

A graduate from Johnson & Wales University in Denver with degrees in marketing and sports and entertainment event management, Martinez marvels at how she landed a job that combines both so well. "This is exactly what I went to school for!" she says.

Martinez works for the private events team at INVESCO Field, balancing the scheduling of 300 events a year with 10 Broncos football games. She recalls her first concert on the field, with Huey Lewis & The News performing for Microsoft’s U.S. region during the company’s worldwide convention in Denver.

When lightning rolled in during the performance, the challenge was to get 4,000 people and the band to safety. One of her favorite events was The Million-Dollar Round Table Welcome Reception with 6,000 international guests.

In the next 10 years, Martinez hopes to become more involved in coordinating the fine details of events and organizing international events. "I’d like to showcase my ideas more," she says. "The chance I have to do this now is for our own holiday event."

>>Lifetime Achievement
LARRY DIPASQUALE
Owner/Epicurean Culinary Group/Centennial

To write about Larry DiPasquale’s career highlights and philosophies in a short amount of space is nearly impossible. For 26 years, Larry has owned and operated Epicurean Catering, now part of the bigger umbrella known as Epicurean Culinary Group, which also includes Epicurean Entertainment and Mangia Beve, an event center and restaurant that will open in the Denver Tech Center area this summer. The company employs 350 to 400 at peak times.

"I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, the oldest of six kids and the only boy in an Italian family. My relatives cooked on Sundays," DiPasquale says. After graduating from college, he quickly moved up the ladder at the five-star Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe, starting as a restaurant manager and eventually overseeing all 28 food facilities in the casino. "The customer service at Harrah’s was second-to-none," he notes. "It had a huge impact on my career along with the opportunities they gave me at a young age."

Giving employees a chance to grow is a priority at Epicurean Culinary Group. "Over the years, we’ve been able to give a great platform for the up-and-coming stars to fulfill their goals through dreaming about what we can do as a company to go above and beyond for the client," DiPasquale says.

In the Epicurean Culinary Group office is a board with five core values for the company: quality food, quality service, going above and beyond, building relationships and contributing back to the community.

"Even though Larry has amassed a lifetime of leadership awards and accolades in business, he and his wife, Jill, would be most proud of their community involvement," observes Greg Karl, chief operating officer.

In addition to a constant focus on quality, Epicurean has strived to blaze new trails. For example, most catering used to be done with the food prepared in a commissary and sent out to a venue. Two decades ago, DiPasquale went to New York and California to see the trends, resulting in a commitment to cook food fresh at the site of the event. "It was tough at first because we had only so many chefs. Now it is what the top caterers do."

Although DiPasquale has built a business that serves the big names like INVESCO Field at Mile High, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Winter X Games, major PGA golf tournaments and Denver Summit of Eight World Leaders, he has strived to keep his life and priorities in balance. A quote on his desk reads: "Keep your eyes on the stars and feet on the ground."

Take note of these seven pros who are making their mark in the meetings and events industry. Colorado Meetings + Events is proud to introduce our 2020 Hall of Fame inductees, who are among the state's most creative, dedicated and passionate individuals. Our editorial advisory board, composed of 15 industry representatives from around the staste, nominated and selected this year's inductees for their commitment and unique contributions. Now in its 13th year, the Hall of Fame has 90 distinguished members. 

 

Here's who has been crowned the winners and runners-up of the Colorado Meetings + Events Best of 2020 readers' choice awards. Congratulations!  

Best Brewery/Distillery/Winery with Event Space 
Bigsby's Folly Craft Winery & Restaurant 

 

We salute seven Colorado meetings and events industry pros for their expertise, enthusiasm and involvement.