Magazine: Mile High Meeting

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Denver is known as the Mile High City for good reason. The capital of Colorado sits at an elevation of exactly one mile. There is a step on the State Capitol Building that is precisely 5,280 feet above sea level. In the city’s rarified air, golf balls go 10 percent farther. So do cocktails. Alcohol packs more punch at higher elevations. The sun feels warmer in the thinner atmosphere, but your coffee is cooler because water boils at 202 degrees, instead of 212 degrees at sea level.

But Denver is near the mountains, not in them. You can see 200 named peaks from the city, including 32 that soar to 13,000 feet and above. The picturesque mountain panorama visible from the city is 140 miles long.

Denver, however, is much more than a jumping-off point to the Rocky Mountains, as attendees to the 141st General Conference & Exhibition, Aug. 30–Sept. 2, will quickly discover.

This metropolis of nearly 3 million people boasts the 10th largest downtown in America and one of the most walkable. Within a mile radius, there are three major stadiums, the nation’s second-largest performing arts center, an assortment of museums, a mint that produces 10 billion coins a year, a river offering whitewater rafting, more than 8,400 hotel rooms, a theme park, an aquarium and 300 restaurants.

And if you’re a beer lover, it’s hops heaven. Denver brews more beer than other American city. Local tap houses, pubs, breweries and gastro pubs produce and serve more than 200 unique brews every day. In all, there are now more than 70 breweries in the city, over 100 in the metro area and 300-plus across the state.

Travel + LeisureConde Nast Traveler and USA Today have all selected Denver as the No. 1 Microbrew Beer City in the nation, an opinion shared by the New York Times. CNN.com also named The Mile High City as America’s Best Beer Town in 2015.

And two brand-new brews will be part of the fare during the Governor’s Reception, the conference’s premier social event, Aug. 30 at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver.

Left Hand Brewery in nearby Longmont, Colorado, will brew a Black Moose and a Honey Amber Ale from the recipes of two Colorado National Guardsmen. The two won a taste test conducted by host-state conference organizers of samples submitted by Guard home brewers in Colorado and Wyoming.

“We have a lot of home brewers in our force and we wanted to give them a chance to put their mark on the conference,” says Russ Kraus, a former executive director of the Colorado National Guard Association and a longtime meeting planner who is a host-state conference co-chair. “We think attendees will love these two brews.”

Kraus also thinks attendees will enjoy the museum. It preserves the history of Lowry Air Force Base’s operations in a giant, refurbished World War II hanger. Artifacts include iconic aircraft and space vehicles. Visitors can also experience flight simulators. The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum tops the list of the 25 best things to do in Denver at thecrazytourist.com.

For the first time in recent memory, two states will help host the conference — Colorado and Wyoming. The latter lacks the facilities to accommodate such a crowd, so Guard officials offered their assistance, according to Kraus.

Wyoming will be part of the official welcome during the First Business Session and supply a security platoon and volunteers to help spearhead the effort.

Conference events get underway with the Partners Golf Tournament and the NGAUS Golf Tournament on Aug. 29 and 30, respectively. Both are set for the Fossil Trace Golf Course in Golden, Colorado. The course gets its name from the prehistoric fossils visible on the 12th hole. Remnants of Colorado’s mining heritage dot the course.

The Aug. 30 agenda also includes a “fourteener,” which is a hike that covers the last 3,000 feet of a trek up to an elevation of 14,000 feet. Coloradans consider it a quintessential bucket-list item. The planned route is a “beginner” fourteener, with a gentle climb on a well-traveled, 4-mile trail.

Another option for attendees Aug. 30 is a motorcycle rally that will take riders from downtown Denver through the Peak to Peak Highway in the Rockies. Bring your bike or rent one. Rental plans will be available closer to the event.

Meanwhile, back in Denver, work will begin on the resolutions that will form the basis of the 2020 NGAUS legislative agenda. Evening events are strictly social: the Company Grade/Warrant Officer Mixer at Mile High Station and the Colorado Adjutant General/Partners Reception at The Pinnacle on the 38th floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel.

Business and officer-professional-development (OPD) sessions and the exhibition begin Aug. 31 at the 2.2-million-square-foot Colorado Convention Center. Look for the 40-foot high giant blue bear sculpture peeking into the convention center lobby. The business sessions will be in the 5,000-seat Bellco Theater.

The first big day concludes with the Governors Reception at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Organizers plan to provide plenty of food, drinks, and three stages of entertainment, including mechanical bulls.

A highlight Sept. 1 will be the Spouses Luncheon at the Hyatt Ballroom across the street from the convention center. Hospitality Night is that evening. The conference hotels are close proximity to rach other, making it easy for you to visit several state suites. Expect some states to take over establishments on the nearby 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian-friendly street lined with restaurants and bars. The business and OPD sessions and the exhibition conclude Sep. 2. The States Dinner at the convention center ends the conference.

Denim & Diamonds is this year’s recommended attire. Country-western artist Michael Martin Murphey will provide post-dinner entertainment.

The conference agenda provides only an appetizer to the city and the surrounding region. So Kraus says come early and stay late. That’s what 30 percent of people who attend conferences in Denver do, according local tourism officials. To make it more affordable, room rates at the official host hotels run three days before and after the conference.

The natural beauty of the area starts in the city. Denver has a unique city park system with more than 200 parks within the city limits and 20,000 acres of parks in the nearby mountains, including spectacular Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre.

Other points of interest include LoDo (Lower Downtown), Denver’s trendy historic district, and the RiNo (River North) Art District. Also in town are the Molly Brown House Museum, a grand mansionrestored to its original Victorian splendor; the History Colorado Center; The Cell, a counterterrorism education learning lab; the Denver Firefighters Museum; and National Ballpark Museum.

And if you didn’t get your fill of local beer during the conference, there is the Denver Beer Trail. In addition, several breweries in the city offer tours. There is also the Coors brewery in nearby Golden, Colorado. Visit Denver has information the trail and brewery tours at www.denver.org

Beer is also served at Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies host the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 27 and 28 and the Pittsburgh Pirates from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1. Baseballs also fly a little farther in the thin air.

Another big event downtown is A Taste of Colorado (Aug. 31 to Sept. 2). It features music, art, food and drink at the city’s signature Labor Day Weekend event. Admission is free.

The weather is almost certain to cooperate. Protected by Rockies to the west, Denver has a mild, dry and sunny climate with 300 days of sunshine a year. That’s more hours of sun annually than Miami or San Diego.

RICH ARNOLD is part of the NGAUS communications staff. He can be reached at [email protected]

Registration, Transportation, Exhibit & Hotel Information

Registration

NGAUS members should register through their state or territory association. The registration fee is $180. It includes the business sessions, the exhibition, refreshments during breaks, the Company Grade/Warrant Officer Mixer, the Spouses’ Luncheon, the Governor’s Reception and the States Dinner. Most other activities, such as golf and the annual 5K run, are extra. A website to facilitate exhibitor registration is now available.

Flights

The Denver International Airport (DEN) serves the city. It’s a hub for Frontier Airlines and United Airlines and a main operating base for Southwest Airlines. The airport is roughly 25 miles from downtown Denver.

Ground Transportation

Local conference organizers will provide contract transportation between the airport and official conference hotels on the main travel days (Aug. 29, 30 and Sept. 3) for $5 each way. Buses will also be available from the hotels to official events.

Exhibit Booth Sales

Prospective exhibitors should contact SPARGO Inc., the association’s exhibit sales and management team, at 888-215- 2241/703-995-2567. A prospectus and map of the exhibit floor are available at www.NGAUSExhibits.com.

Official Hotels

There are five official conference hotels. All are downtown and a short walk to the Colorado Convention Center.

Hyatt Regency Convention Center (The headquarters hotel) Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming

Hilton City Center Delaware, Michigan, Oklahoma

Hyatt Grand Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Vermont Sheraton Denver Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Westin Denver Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio Hashtag #NGAUS2019 Further details are available at www.ngaus.org. The association will update the site regularly with the latest conference information between now and the event. More information on Denver attractions can be found at www.denver.org