Reporting From Denver: The Kickoff Parties

Garrett Graff is in Denver all this week, reporting live from the Democratic National Convention. Keep checking back in for his coverage.

By: Garrett M. Graff

Conventions in modern-day are little more than the excuse to throw a party — or more accurately lots and lots of parties. Sunday night in Denver, even before the actual convention got under way at the Pepsi Center on Monday, the party scene was already in full force. Outside of the city at the Red Rocks amphitheater, global warming activists Laurie David led a green event for thousands, headlined by Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, and Sugarland. At the pre-reception, hosted by Dominion Power for delegates from Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, Western food was in abundance —  bison sliders and venison sausage, along with baked beans, corn on the cob, and make-your-own s’mores.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt that he would absolutely not been allowed to wear had he been named the Democratic vice presidential nominee on Saturday, worked the reception. His Virginia state troopers mingled at the edge of the audience with the Pennsylvania troopers assigned to protect Ed Rendell, who was also greeting the members of his delegation. Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., was a big hit with the crowd, although his smart suit made him look out of place with the casual audience.

Actor David Keith, perhaps best known for Behind Enemy Lines,  was raving about Joe Biden as the vice presidential pick.  He serves on the advisory board for the National Association to Protect Children invite and was instrumental in a new bill is working its way through Congress to provide more than $1 billion in additional funding to catch child predators. As for what Keith is looking forward to in Denver? “Harold Ford, Jr., throws the best party of anyone I’ve ever known, including the Rolling Stones,” he said, referring to tonight’s party headed by the head of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Denver Mayer John Hickenlooper opened the concert for a packed, but chilly, amphitheater crowd, saying, “There is no greater place in the world to host a green concert than Red Rocks.”  Behind him, a stunning vista, lit with the last light of day, showcased downtown Denver, some 20 miles away. In the crowd, Arianna Huffington wandered and Democratic Senate candidate former Virginia Governor Mark Warner worked the audience before taking a seat many rows up in the theater. As Sheryl Crow began her first song, the hopefully non-ironically titled “God Bless this Mess,” a rainbow spread in the sky off to the right.

Back in Denver, the party of the night was the Friends of New Orleans “Jam-Balaya,” organized by DC PR Maven Gloria Dittus, and featuring tray after delectable tray of Creole food goodness. As the crowd in the Fillmore Auditorium dined on Crawfish Monica, barbecue shrimp, po boys, and even fresh Bananas Foster, a Ray Charles cover band and the New Orleans brass bands played on stage. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius, another one-time vice presidential hopeful, danced away on the floor as Dem heavyweights like Donna Brazile enjoyed the New Orleans brews and potent hurricanes, the drink of the night.

Garrett Graff is in Denver this week, reporting from the Democratic National Convention. Check back in to washingtonian.com every day for his coverage of DNC parties, people, and politics. 

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