Wright Awards 2016 - Celebrating the outdoors, Colorado, and Commerce

"How did I get here?"

Last night I was sitting in a row of chairs at the Space Gallery in Denver, looking at the people, companies, personalities, and stories around me. Sometimes I just feel so lucky, so fortunate, so grateful that I'm sitting where I'm sitting.

I'm talking about the 2016 Wright Awards put on by Chuck Sullivan and his team at Something Independent.

When talking to Chuck he says that Something Independent is all about celebrating the intersection between lifestyle and commerce as it pertains to companies in Colorado.  And the Wright is simply an amplified extension of that celebration.  And it is so Colorado.

What does that even mean? So Colorado.  Distinguished guest and speaker, Luis Benitez, head of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (and celebrated climber) found a great way to say it.

Colorado is all about crazy.  Crazy ideas. A spirit that feeds off being told "you can't do that", "you shouldn't do that", "You're crazy to do that."  That's when Coloradan's shine. That's where the magic happens.

The program to The Wright says: "The Wright is about a mindset.  A belief that hard work combined with meaningful relationships establishes a foundation from which to forge ahead. A mindset that does not have to wither as a company scales, but instead has the power to unite across both time and place. Nowhere is this mindset better fostered than in the adventure found outdoors.  So is in the spirit of the Rocky Mountains that we proudly bring you The Wright."

It was incredible to experience12 contenders, from all over Colorado and representing a wide array of industries from: Zipline design, farming, backcountry safety gear, camping, clothing, manufacturing, cycling, standup paddling music, iceclimbing, and development.

The Wright 2016 Program - Judges & Contenders
The Wright 2016 Program - Judges & Contenders

Each contender puts on a 90 second video before the audience. A curated judging panel - of industry insiders, alumni, and journalists - grades the contender videos on 5 categories. My favorite being storytelling. How well did you tell your story? The level of creativity and connection in each of these videos was nothing short of fantastic. Each video made an emotional connection and proved why each of the contenders made it to the final 12. The event, emcee'd by the every enthusiastic Dave Bacon - this year with a cane - is an interactive affair and the contestants find out with the judges and everyone else the final 3.

All videos can be seen HERE.

The Wright - Emcee Dave Bacon
The Wright - Emcee Dave Bacon

Everyone was on the edge of their seats as the three finalists, Bonsai Design (Grand Junction), Ouray Ice Park (Ouray), and South Main (Buena Vista) were announced. The representatives of each company were then called to the stage and grilled (questioned) by the panel of judges.  Governor John W. Hickenlooper stopped by and asked the first question while enjoying a cold beer. The judges deliberate on the spot and a winner is chosen based on their live answers. In the end, Buena Vista's South Main was named the winner but as all the contenders said over and over again all 12 contenders are winners for making it this far.

Colorado Gov. Hinkenlooper on left, esteemed Judge Mike Arzt on right
Colorado Gov. Hinkenlooper on left, esteemed Judge Mike Arzt to his right

The Wright is unlike any other award and award night I've experienced. Chuck Sullivan described how The Wright is about re-framing what we believe. Looking at things through a different lens.  This night and award certainly embodies that.

Hopefully someday we'll be up there, competing for an iron hammer. I can think of any better dream come true.

Congratulations to all the 2016 contenders and South Main for taking him the anvil.  A special thank you to EO Colorado for being one of the sponsors of the night (and my sponsor for my ticket!)

Until next year. Feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts about The Wright or the outdoor industry in Colorado.

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