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Democratic National Convention in Denver: A look back 10 years later

Author: Mark Harden - August 23, 2018 - Updated: August 23, 2018

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Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is cheered after speaking during the Democratic National Convention at Invesco Field at Mile High on Aug. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu-file)

A decade ago, Denver stood in the national spotlight as never before. Tens of thousands of visitors and hordes of media representatives flooded the city as it hosted a four-day political extravaganza that helped propel a young Illinois senator to the White House.

The 2008 Democratic National Convention, Aug. 25-28, pushed Denver into the big leagues as a convention and tourist destination, and proved it belongs on the short list of major cities that know how to stage mega-events.

It also demonstrated that Denver’s government, political and business leaders — Democrats and Republicans — could come together to host a national party convention for the betterment of the city.

“I don’t know that we realized the magnitude of the task before us,” Steven Farber, founding partner of Denver law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and a leader of the city’s $61 million fundraising effort to host the DNC, told me a decade ago in an interview for the Denver Business Journal. “You have to face it to understand it. … (But) I always knew we would make it.”

There was no shortage of drama those four days. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had undergone surgery for brain cancer two months earlier, was being treated for kidney stones but left his hospital bed at the last minute to deliver an opening-night speech to the convention. Candidate Hillary Clinton, who had battled Barack Obama fiercely through the spring, interrupted the roll call of states and called for her one-time opponent’s nomination by acclamation. And Obama accepted that nomination under the stars before a full house at the Denver Broncos’ stadium.

Here are photos from those late-summer days 10 years ago when, briefly, Denver was the political capital of the nation.

Fireworks erupt over the media welcome party at Elitch Gardens on Aug. 23, 2008, before the Democratic National Convention opened. (Mark Harden / Colorado Politics)
Workers prepare the stage in Pepsi Center the day before the 2008 Democratic National Convention opened. (Linda Kotsaftis / KUSA-9News)
Media golf carts stream by CNN’s headquarters near Pepsi Center the day before the 2008 Democratic National Convention opened, Aug. 23, 2008. (Linda Kotsaftis / KUSA-9News)
Richard Ledford of Chicago protests against the George W. Bush administration while college Republicans from the University of Utah campaign for Republican candidate John McCain in the background at the corner of 14th and Lincoln Aug. 24, 2008, before the Democratic National Convention in Denver. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Outside the Pepsi Center on opening day of the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 25, 2008. (Mark Harden / Colorado Politics)
Opening night at the Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Aug. 25, 2008. (Mark Harden / Colorado Politics)
Then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper speaks to the delegates Aug. 25, 2008, on opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
View from the Colorado delegation on opening night of the Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Aug. 25, 2008. (Mark Harden / Colorado Politics)
The media center where journalists work at the Pepsi Center during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. (Marianne Goodland / Colorado Politics)
Colorado delegates Ben Taber, left, and Julia Hicks dance to the music Aug. 25, 2008 during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
“Radio row” at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, where broadcasters from across the nation cover the events for listeners back home. (Mark Harden / Colorado Politics)
Ted Kennedy gets a hug from his niece, Caroline Kennedy, after addressing the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado on Aug. 25, 2008. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett0
Protestors make their way past the Civic Center during the Democratic National Convention in Denver Aug. 26, 2008. (The Gazette, Kevin Kreck)
Vendors hawk Barack Obama items on the 16th Street Mall during the Democratic National Convention in Denver Aug. 26, 2008. (The Gazette, Kevin Kreck)
Hillary Clinton supporter and Colorado delegate Brenda Krause marches with other Clinton supporters from Civic Center Park to the University of Colorado Denver campus Aug. 26, 2008 during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Delegates and media line up to enter the Pepsi Center for the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 26, 2008. (Mark Harden / Colorado Politics)
Hillary Clinton, lower right, addresses the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 26, 2008. (The Gazette, Kevin Kreck)
Protesters by the hundreds shout out slogans out the Pepsi Center during day three at the Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. on Aug. 27, 2008. (The Gazette, Bryan Oller)
Riot police react to a tense moment when hundreds of protesters made their way to the convention perimeter during day three at the Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. on Aug. 27, 2008. (The Gazette, Bryan Oller)
Deleware delegates Helene Keeley, left, Karen Valentine and Hanifa Shazbazz cheer for Former President Bill Clinton at the Pepsi Center Aug. 27, 2008 during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
NBC News senior correspondent Tom Brokaw (right) is temporarily blocked by a security official from accessing the network’s anchor position at Invesco Field at Mile High on the final day of the Democratic National’s anchor Convention in Denver, Aug. 28, 2008. (Marianne Goodland / Colorado Politics)
Hawaii delegates cheer at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver Aug. 28, 2008 on the final day of Democratic National Convention. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Michelle Obama makes her way through the crowd at Invesco Field at Mile High, a few hours before her husband speaks on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Aug. 28, 2008. (Boots Gifford / Special to Colorado Politics)
John Legend greets members of the Agape International Choir after a rehearsal for the first night of the Democratic National Convention on August 25, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.(The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
The crowd at Invesco Field at Mile High waves flags on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 28, 2008. (Boots Gifford / Special to Colorado Politics)
Then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is interviewed by TV host Aaron Harber at Invesco Field at Mile High on the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Aug. 28, 2008. (Boots Gifford / Special to Colorado Politics)
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama speaks to the crowd of 84,000 at Invesco Field at Mile High on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 28, 2008. (Marianne Goodland, Colorado Politics)
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama speaks to the crowd of 84,000 at Invesco Field at Mile High on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 28, 2008. (Boots Gifford / Special to Colorado Politics)
Presidential candidate Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden wave to the crowd at the Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver Aug. 28, 2008 after Obama gave his acceptance speech on the final day of Democratic National Convention. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.