SubscribeAvailable Now
Culture

Colorado’s 11 Biggest Moments of 2020

From the throes of a pandemic to protests to a historic election, 2020 shaped our state in more ways than we could have ever imagined. Here, we look back at some of this year's defining moments.

 •  

The First Wave

The emergency room staff at Swedish Medical Center treats a critical patient. Photograph by Daniel J. Brenner

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived at Colorado’s doorstep, local hospitals transformed themselves to treat those suffering the virus’ worst effects. Despite exhaustion, uncertainty, and fear, Denver metro-area health care workers continued to put patients’ needs first.

The Black Lives Matter Protests

Photo by Kevin Mohatt

On Memorial Day, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, despite Floyd repeatedly saying he could not breathe. The story of police brutality against Black citizens is not new, but Floyd’s murder would galvanize a country. Protests immediately erupted in nearly every major American city, including Denver, demanding more accountability for law enforcement officers and more value be placed on the lives of Black citizens.

A New Law to Hold Police More Accountable

Aurora police
Aurora police line up in riot gear during a protest in summer 2020. Photo by Robert Sanchez

Just 17 days after protesters descended on Denver to speak out against unequal and often violent treatment of Black communities by law enforcement, Colorado legislators responded by passing the Police Integrity Transparency and Accountability Act. The bill, also known as Senate Bill 217,  is one of the most thorough police accountability bills in the country, but how exactly it impacts the state remains to be seen.

Cleo Parker Robinson Celebrates 50 Years as a Cultural Force in Denver

Cleo Parker Robinson
Cleo Parker Robinson pictured at her studio in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. Photo by Sarah Boyum

Since founding her modern dance institution, the Denver icon has used her art to honor the African American experience—and as an agent for change. As the nation reckoned with systemic inequity this year, Cleo Parker Robinson celebrated her company’s milestone and reflected on the work that still lies ahead.

100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage

Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History Photographic collections

August 2020 marked 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women across America the right to vote. The Centennial State also celebrated nearly 130 years since our state’s voters extended franchise to women—a milestone that was duly honored by Coloradans’ record voter turnout in the 2020 general election.

Devastating and Historic Wildfires

Smoke obscures the sun as fire approaches a ridge along Highway 36 as several wildfires burn in the state Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, south of Lyons, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Centennial State is accustomed to damaging wildfires, especially over the last 20 years as climate change has caused our summers to become drier, warmer, and longer. But in 2020, the blazes were so extreme, that three of the wildfires sparked this year—the Cameron Peak fire, the East Troublesome fire, and the Pine Gulch fire—topped the list of the largest wildfires in Colorado history.

(Read More: How 2020 Has Affected the Way We Should Manage Forest Fires)

Local & Independent Restaurants Pivot for Public Health Measures

Meats and Cheeses
Meats, cheeses, and more from Goed Zuur. Photo by Joni Schrantz

Faced with reduced dining capacities, and eventually a ban on indoor dining, Colorado’s independent restaurant industry has been pummeled by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Front Range culinary pros have inspired us—and kept us fed—with countless creative pop-ups, takeout options, and more.

Cory Gardner Was “Yeeted”

Yeet Cory Gardner
Courtesy of YeetCoryGardner

Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper unseated incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado’s hard-fought contest for the U.S. Senate this past November. And it was in no small part because of a hyperlocal satire account, @yeetcorygardner, that coined the call to action for ousting Gardner back in September.

(Read More: News & Results from Colorado’s 2020 Election)

Fishers Peak as Our Newest State Park

Fishers Peak
Fishers Peak. Photo by Cameron Davidson

As social distancing became a necessity and Coloradans overwhelmingly took to the outdoors to escape the cabin fever of quarantine, we were provided with a much-needed gift: a new state park. Beyond just being a new outdoor playground, Fishers Peak’s goal of balancing conservation and recreation could set a new standard for parks everywhere.

El Chapultepec Closed Permanently

El Chapultepec
El Chapultepec. Photo by Lucy Beaugard

Owners of El Chapultepec announced in early December that the beloved 87-year-old jazz club and bar would be closing permanently. Denverites mourned the closure as yet another tragedy in a year of relentless loss—and possibly the most poignant example of both the challenges the pandemic posed for the hospitality industry, as well as the changing face of Denver.

COVID-19 Vaccine Comes to Colorado

COVID-19 vaccine Colorado
Dr. Jason Murphy, right, an emergency room physician with UC Health, is one of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo by Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette via AP

The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in Colorado this month offered a glimmer of hope in what’s been an otherwise dark and difficult year. And while all willing residents will likely get vaccinated by summer 2021, that doesn’t guarantee the end of COVID-19 in Colorado.

Editors' Picks

Newsletters

Keep me up to date on the latest trends and happenings around Denver. 5280 has a newsletter for everyone.

Sign Up