Top of the Town 2009

A peek at our must-read annual round-up of who's who and what's what in the Mile-High City.

July 2009


Top Athlete
Editors' Choice

Christian Vande Velde
He was supposed to be in contention to win the Tour de France this year—that is, until a crash at the Giro d'Italia a few months ago left Christian Vande Velde of Boulder's Garmin-Slipstream team with three fractured vertebrae, two fractured ribs, and a hairline fracture of the pelvis. Can he still compete? See page 102 to read more about the 33-year-old cyclist.

Readers' Choice

Chauncey Billups
Just the fact that this Park Hill fan fave came home would have been enough for you, but let's not undersell our hometown hero: Billups saved the Nuggets' season. Sure, they lost the conference championship, but who knows if the Nugs would've gotten that far without the man teammates call "Smooth." Chauncey is a pro's pro, a guy willing to sacrifice personal stats for the good of his team. And he does it every game. Any fan anywhere can cheer for a player like that.

Top Columnist
Editors' Choice

Al Lewis
In these troubled economic times, you need a columnist who's going to boil issues down to the basics—and put a smile on your face. For the second consecutive year, we're going with Al Lewis, the former Denver Post business columnist who now works for the Dow Jones Newswire. Whether he's writing about used furniture, bank bailouts, or the closure of Linens 'n Things, he addresses issues with clarity, brevity, and—best of all—wit.

Readers' Choice

David Sirota
A progressive ideologist who's not afraid to stick it to both sides of the aisle, this Denver-based columnist/author/blogger/activist seems to be popping up all over the cable dial and has fast become a recognized media face outside the Mile-High. Sirota's writing also appears in more than 40 newspapers across the country, including the Denver Post.

Top Local Band
Editors' Choice

Paper Bird
Anchored by the luminous voices of Genny and Esmé Patterson and Sarah Anderson, this quirky septet's melodic, rootsy sound frequently sweeps through local joints like the Hi-Dive or Larimer Lounge on weekend nights. To fully appreciate Paper Bird's joyful depth and range, you can catch them at this year's Mile High Music Festival.

Readers' Choice

The Fray
Despite being anything but prolific—the Greeley quartet took almost four years to write 10 songs and compile them into its eponymous second album—the Fray is our readers' pick for the second straight year. We look forward to hearing the band's head bob-able brand of piano pop on many a teenage-angst movie soundtrack for years to come.

Top DJ
Editors' Choice

Dom and Jane, MIX 100 FM
For 10 years, this tag team has enlivened Denver's morning commute with talk, music, quizzes, and live-audience Fridays. The Jane Report—a snarky rundown of the day's celebrity news—is especially amusing. At a time when shock-jocks and over-the-top antics routinely win the ratings wars, these two keep it good-natured, lively, and real.

Readers' Choice

Bret Saunders, KBCO, 97.3 FM
Given his enduring popularity among local listeners—who enjoy his reliable mix of amiable anecdotes, rock 'n' roll knowledge, and funny-yet-intelligent banter—we may soon have to rename this the "Bret Saunders Award." Catch his shtick during the weekday-morning drive time.

Top Radio Talk Show Host
Editors' Choice

Ryan Warner, KCFR (NPR), 90.1 FM
With his evenhanded approach and smartly delivered interviews, the gentle-voiced host of Colorado Matters sometimes makes it easy to forget that he works for the notoriously left-leaning NPR. His show touches on a wide range of issues important to all Coloradans and does it in a way that educates and enlightens. Listen Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and again at 7 p.m.

Readers' Choice

Jay Marvin, AM 760
The onetime, self-described "house liberal," Jay Marvin has attracted a growing, devoted audience from across the political spectrum by sprinkling in doses of libertarianism that play well in the Mile-High City. Talk radio is too often overrun by broadcast blowhards, but Marvin tries to inject a little humanity into his weekday morning shows, and he usually succeeds.

Top Local Author
Editors' Choice

David Wroblewski
David Wroblewski's literary debut, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, is a masterpiece so elegantly crafted as to land him the Oprah Book Club seal of approval and countless other national accolades. The coming-of-age novel, packed with vivid imagery and ardent language, skillfully brings to life both human and animal personae as it draws the reader into its pages. It's an unexpected diamond in the rough in today's quick-lit landscape.

Readers' Choice

John Shors
This Boulder-based scribe burst onto the literary scene with Beneath a Marble Sky in 2006, followed it up smashingly with Beside a Burning Sea in 2008, and is launching hit number three—Dragon House—a tale of power, sacrifice, love, and redemption in Vietnam, this fall. His poignant story lines and vivid drama make for honest-to-goodness page-turners, and Shors' finely honed knack for bringing history to life gives his work depth and context that set it apart from others in its genre.

Top Newly Elected Politician
Editors' Choice

Jared Polis
Jared Polis, who was elected in November to Mark Udall's old congressional seat, is the kind of smart, young guy with legitimate business experience that's all too often lacking in the lawyer-heavy Democratic Party. And although much has been made over his being the first openly gay member of Congress to be elected to a freshman term, it's clear he's far more conservative than many of his fellow Dems. In December, while Washington, D.C., was scrambling to find a way to save the Big Three automakers, Polis penned a prescient editorial in the Wall Street Journal advising that bankruptcy might be the best option. Four months later, President Obama took the same tack.

Readers' Choice

Barack Obama
It's little surprise our readers picked President Obama as their favorite newly elected politician: In November, he became only the third Democratic presidential candidate in the past 50 years to take Colorado. To win, Obama spread a lot of love and spent a lot of time in our square state during the campaign. Obama should tread carefully, though: He also finished second in our Readers' Choice for Top Politician to Vote Out of Office.

Top Politician to Vote Out of Office
Editors' Choice

(No One)
Truthfully, it was kinda hard to come up with someone deserving of this award—mostly because we've recently rid ourselves of so many bad apples. To wit: The 4th Congressional District voted Marilyn Musgrave out of office last November; Tom Tancredo (thankfully) retired; and State House Rep. Doug Bruce couldn't even win his primary this past August.

Readers' Choice

Bill Ritter
5280 readers ain't so happy with Governor Ritter, who's seen his once-deep political well dry up. He campaigned across the state for Amendment 58, which would eliminate tax breaks for energy companies, only to see it fail spectacularly at the polls in November. In January, Ritter upset the Democratic faithful—not to mention allies Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and former speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff—when he plucked Michael Bennet, the former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, to replace Ken Salazar as U.S. senator. Ritter's popularity, once at 70 percent, has dropped to a paltry 50 percent. Ritter better hope it doesn't fall any farther in the next 18 months—he faces re-election in 2010.

Top Local Artist
Editors' Choice

Quang Ho
Ephemeral moments of a nude woman on her bed. A graceful ballerina at the bar. Energetic chefs working in a Denver kitchen. With Denver's Quang Ho, you're never entirely sure what you're going to get when it comes to subject matter. What you do know is that it will be absolutely gorgeous—highly textured oils give each painting a breath of life, and Ho's use of color makes his work glow. The Vietnam-born artist, who has lived in Denver for decades, teaches at the Art Students League of Denver and owns his own gallery, Gallery 1261. Gallery 1261, 1261 Delaware St., 303-571-1261

Readers' Choice

Chris Guarino
If Tim Burton and Marilyn Manson were to create art together, you might get something as explicit and thought-provoking as the sculptures, illustrations, and photography that come from the mind of Denver artist Chris Guarino. Although Guarino works out of his home studio, his work is often displayed at Rock the Cradle and Motorsports Gallery.

Top Local Jewelery Designer
Editors' Choice

Franki Morales Cook
Although she only began designing jewelry full-time in 2003, Franki Morales Cook's work can already be seen in boutiques across the country. A self-taught artist, her "Out of My Hands" collection ranges from a classic aesthetic—an abalone and pearl bracelet—to a found-object approach, like a Gustav Klimt portrait pendant decorated with crystals and set in an antique frame. See her work in the Denver Art Museum gift shop. 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, 720-865-4488

Readers' Choice

Lizzie Sarah Designs
A University of Denver international relations graduate, Samantha Sussman turned her passion for designing jewelry into a regular gig after a search for the "perfect job" proved unsuccessful. Letting her interest in far-flung locales spur her creative process, Sussman's gold and sterling-silver jewelry uses beads and items found during her travels abroad (Peru, Israel, Jordan, Egypt) as accents for her fun, colorful, and one-of-a-kind pieces.

Top Entrepreneur
Editors' Choice

CUBS Bags & Accessories
Boulder businesswomen Judy Godec and Alexis Baile got the fairly brilliant, environmentally sound, and increasingly profitable idea of collecting fabric remnants from local manufacturers that otherwise would have gone into a landfill, and turning them into custom-made handbags. The often high-quality fabrics also grace diaper bags, pet beds, and scarves. The CUBS (Cool Usable Belongings Sustainable) line is unique, gorgeous, and crafted in Boulder County. 1740 Skyway Drive, Unit B, Longmont, 303-547-6220

Readers' Choice

Drop Shots Tennis and Golf for Kids
Let's face it: Tennis and golf aren't the most toddler-friendly sports (hand-eye coordination anyone?). That fact got Matt Nelsen, the owner-operator of Centennial-based Drop Shots, thinking: Why shouldn't these activities be available to young kids? So he opened Drop Shots, where everything is miniaturized to fit the physical needs of kids. Of course, Nelsen doesn't promise that he'll turn your child into a Tiger Woods or Venus Williams, but he'll do his best to make sure your little ones have fun and develop fundamental skills. 8263 S. Holly St., Centennial, 720-276-0550; 8433 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree, 720-276-0550

Top Humanitarian
Editors' Choice

Peg Ayan
In 2005, the chief cardiac surgeon at Children's Hospital asked a customer-service researcher to evaluate the satisfaction level of former patients—more specifically, the patients' parents. That researcher, Peg Ayan, not only discovered that the hospital could improve its bedside manner with the parents of severely ill children, she also took it upon herself to do so and formed the hospital's all-volunteer welcome program. Ayan or a member of her team is often the first person who greets parents at the door of the hospital, tends to their concerns, and is with them to the end, whether it be a successful surgery or an unthinkable reality.

Readers' Choice

Women's Global Empowerment Fund
Founded two years ago by Denver resident Karen Sugar, the Women's Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) works to reach poor and marginalized women around the world and helps them create viable opportunities to succeed. Since 2007, the nonprofit has arranged for about 900 women in impoverished northern Uganda to secure microcredit loans to start businesses and live lives otherwise impossible. 303-520-7656

Top Blog
Editors' Choice

Often the criticism leveled at Jason Bane's ColoradoPols.com is that it's driven by a liberal bias and trades in too much gossip. Well, duh. Welcome to the blog-osphere, where anyone can pretty much write anything he damn well pleases. Sure, ColoradoPols.com is infused by a Democratic agenda, and there's plenty of sophomoric mudslinging, but despite those facts, ColoradoPols.com is chock-full of valuable analysis about the politics of politics in Colorado.

Readers' Choice

"Helping Denver suck less, daily." That's the mission statement of TheDenverEgotist.com. Ostensibly, the site is dedicated to all things advertising—who's doing what campaigns, how, for how much, job opportunities, that sort of thing. But, really, TheDenverEgotist.com is a hilariously honest cultural commentary that transcends the ad game.

Loudmouth in Need of a Muzzle
Editors' Choice

Jared Polis
U.S. congressman Jared Polis told a convention of politically progressive bloggers: "I have to say that when we say, 'Who Killed the Rocky Mountain News,' we're all part of it, for better or worse, and I argue it's mostly for the better.... The media is dead, and long live the new media, which is all of us." Polis meant that Internet-based commerce and journalism had undermined the Rocky, but, regardless of whether we agree, it was, at best, a poorly phrased and insensitively timed statement. Look, we think Polis has the makings of an effective U.S. congressman [see Top Newly Elected Politician], but part of being a great statesman is knowing how to speak your mind without belittling people.

Readers' Choice

Peter Boyles
Imagine a radio talk-show host referring to U.S. congresswoman Diana DeGette as "Vagina DeGette"—no, that's not a typo—and you've got KHOW's morning mouthpiece, Peter Boyles. At a time when the nation appears to be attempting to focus on issues, and the electorate has had enough of politics of personal destruction, Boyles is doing his part to pollute the civic discourse. Thanks to the First Amendment, Boyles can call a congresswoman whatever he wants. Fortunately, we can simply change the dial.

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