I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this, but…I’m the editor, so I’m doing it anyway. Every July for more than two decades, 5280 has published its Top of the Town awards honoring the best of Denver. We pay tribute to the hippest new restaurant, highlight the hottest local author, and give kudos to the coolest craft brewery, among countless other awards. Those who receive these accolades do so (hopefully) knowing that these bestowals are the result of robust and unbiased reporting by hardworking journalists who make it their jobs to know Denver so our readers can better enjoy the city. I am in no way unbiased, however, when I say I believe the 5280 team has earned its own Top of the Town award this year.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of admirable journalism going on in the Mile High City, despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges media outlets face today. The Colorado Sun. The Denver Post. Denverite. The Denver Business Journal. Westword. CPR. The area TV news channels, too. These outlets all deserve laurels for their commitment to the ideals of an independent, free press. But I am not inside those newsroom walls, and so I can only say, with more than a little favoritism, that our editorial staff has done praiseworthy work all year and particularly on this issue, which marks the magazine’s 31st birthday.

Every day I am in awe of the talent and commitment to craft displayed by our team. We have art directors who dream up fresh, beautiful, and true-to-the-journalism designs that draw readers into our stories. We have photo editors who collaborate with local photographers to sensitively and faithfully capture images of both Colorado and the people who call the state home. Our writers and editors, for the print magazine and for 5280.com, understand what makes a good story: thorough reporting, fairness and accuracy, compelling prose, and lots of editing and rewriting to get there. All of that work rarely fits into a 40-hour week, which means our food editors take notes during Saturday night dinners out; our digital team stages newsletters on Sunday mornings; and, during deadline, our deputy editor places changes to the magazine’s pages after the babies are tucked into bed.

I see—and am grateful for—their dedication every day. And maybe after working on 22 Top of the Town issues, I’ve earned the right to dole out this imaginary award. But better yet, maybe I should let you, the reader, scroll through the issue and let me know if you agree.

Spencer Campbell
Features Editor

Spencer Campbell. Illustration by Arthur Mount

Features editor Spencer Campbell was just a little bit busy this issue: On top of co-editing 2024’s Top of the Town awards, he reported on Colorado’s growing number of firms dedicated to pet law (“These Colorado Attorneys Are Your Pets’ Best Defense”) and wrangled a feature on the Centennial State’s long history of roping and riding (“Take a Ride Through Colorado’s Spur-Rattling Rodeo Scene This Summer” ).

He leaned on his colleagues to help identify the city’s best coffeeshop, spa, and jewelry designer and relied on seven attorneys to break down the animal law scene. But chatting with cowboys, cowgirls, and the folks behind the chutes in towns small and large across the state came naturally to the native Texan. “In high school, I wore boots, drove a pickup, and listened to country music,” Campbell says, even though he spent his weekends on a golf cart, not a horse. “This was my first chance, however, to really explore what it means to rodeo, and I quickly found that it was everything I thought it would be, only harder and much more important to the people who do it than I ever realized.”