BlogCon 2011: Denver (45 Pics)

BlogCon 2011: Denver (45 Pics)

Freedomworks had the 2nd annual Blogcon 2011 in Denver, Colorado this year.

Happily, they flew me in to….I don’t know really. They didn’t have me teaching anything. I like to think it’s because I’m just that much fun to hang out with, but I tend to doubt it.

Day 0: Arrival
People started arriving on Thurday night and a lot of us ended up on the 17th floor of the hotel, including Sarah Rumpf.

Things kicked off with everybody pouring into the Falling Rock Bar to hang out. It was a great event to kick things off with,the company was grand, and there was a surprising number of bloggers who made it into town early for the event.

April Gregory and Kathleen McKinley
Holly Bacon and Red Red Head
Celia Bigelow and Kristina Ribali
James Skyles and Emily Zanotti
Unfortunately, the food at the Falling Rock was a a dry, tasteless war crime against humanity and so when things started to wind down, several of us set out for another bar.

We walked past this piece of “modern art” on our way to the event.

An artist’s representation of a glowing turd pile?

Fun Fact: The public art in Denver is a weird mixture of wholesome retro paintings on walls and bizarro world art that looks like it was created by inmates locked in insane asylums.

In an all too typical turn of events, the original set of directions we were supposed to follow to the bar was something like, “Walk two blocks, take a left, walk another block, and you’re there!” In reality, we had to walk roughly a mile and a half and we crossed three bridges before we found the place. During the walk, we kept picking out buildings far in the distance and joking, “Yeah, I bet we have to go THAT FAR to get there — but we did have to go that far each time. Then, when we got there, we found out that the kitchen had closed two hours earlier, which was a problem since a couple of us just wanted a hamburger. So, Glenn Asbury and I bounced out of there, somehow found a hipster sandwich shop (don’t ask) that was still serving food late, and we scarfed down some dinner.

From there we bounced over to the legendary traditional late night gathering for blogging events, Kruiser Cabana. The event consists of everyone heading to Stephen Kruiser’s room and drinking iced beers out of the sink until the early hours of the morning. Although I don’t drink, it was still a good time.

Irina Moises and Kurt Schlichter.
Amelia Hamilton, Stephen Kruiser, and Galt’s Girl
mosesmosesmoses, Andrew Staroska, and Red Red Head
mosesmosesmoses, Sean Hackbarth, and April Gregory
After staying at Kruiser Cabana way too late, I called it a night and headed back to my room to crash. After all, I had to be up bright and early for…

Day 1: The Dirty Hippie Invasion
There were some particularly good seminars on the first day of Blog Con. I especially enjoyed Lee Doren talking about YouTube, Cord Bloomquist discussing Word Press, and William Beutler discussing Wikipedia.

Here are some snaps from that morning.

John Hawkins and Bethany Mandel.

Fun Fact #2: Bethany Mandel’s tagline used to read “Orthodox Jew w/ tattoos.” The number of tats that Bethany actually has? Three.

Chris Loesch, Steven Crowder, Kristina Ribali, Dana Loesch, and Tabitha Hale.

Fun Fact #3: In heels, Kristina Ribali is roughly 6′ 2″

John Hawkins and Tabitha Hale
The Denver Occupy movement was supposed to show up at 5 PM to…I don’t really know, be pains in our behinds? Well, at about 2 PM, 15 scruffy looking protesters arrived early in the lobby with, as far as I can tell, no intention other than disrupting the conference. They tried to get through the doors into the conference, yelled, and generally made nuisances of themselves.

From there, things didn’t go as they expected because after they started chanting, bloggers poured out of the conference to take pics and videos. Soon, there were 30 bloggers surrounding 15 Occupy people and chanting things like “We love Koch money,” “Breitbart, Breitbart,” and “We paid for your student loans!” There was lots of chanting, lots of yelling, and Steven Crowder got shoved by one of the female Occupiers.

The police showed up maybe 15 minutes after the protesters started raising a ruckus and I managed to get this fantastic snap outside:

Sarah Rumpf got this raw footage of the event:

Javier from The Shark Tank also took this video of the Occupier being hauled off to the back of a police car:

Fun Fact #4: The Occupy Denver protesters voted a dog named Shelby as their leader. Yes, really.

After the fun was over, the conference went on. Here are a few more snaps from the afternoon.

Katie Favazza and William Beutler.
Ed Morrissey and Kathleen McKinley
Tina Korbe and Lee Doren
At 5:30 PM or so, Occupy Denver came back with about 30 people. This time, they were outside the hotel. It started off quasi-friendly, sort of like a Thanksgiving dinner with an uncle you hate, where you’re trying to keep peace for your mother’s sake. I even got a pic with Emily Zanotti right there in the Occupy crowd.

John Hawkins, Emily Zanotti, random dirty hippie
The Occupiers chanted that they didn’t like Barack Obama and invited us to join them at Occupy Wall Street. We chanted back at them and started to mix in. In a gesture of kindness for the ages, Jim Hoft from Gateway Pundit even brought out a bag of soap and offered it to some of them as a gift.

Then, as they started to leave, the same out-of-control, loony chick who started trouble earlier shoved Steven Crowder again and bellied up to him like she wanted to fight, which was perfectly ridiculous. At this point, a death threat was yelled out and several Occupiers made nasty comments as they walked off.


Anywho, that was the end of the Occupy excitement for the night and it was time for the Iconoclast Media & Message and Naked DC after party featuring Michelle Malkin.

My good friend Emily Zanotti, who’s the head honcho over at Naked DC, kicked things off.

Here are a few more pics from the party.

Nice Deb, Andrew, Red Red Head
Alyssa Nicole, John Hawkins, Kira Ann Davis
Michelle Malkin, Tabitha Hale, and Emily Zanotti.
John Hawkins and Carol Wehe
Holly Bacon and Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin and John Hawkins
After the party ended, people broke off and went to get food. Then, a lot of people went to a Tony Katz blogger cigar event. Personally, I don’t smoke, I didn’t want the smell in my clothes, and I find women smoking cigars to be kind of gross; so I decided to pass.

Some other people thought the same way and we had a group of bloggers hanging out in the bar.

Fun Fact #5: If you’re looking for bloggers at an event when there’s no free food or booze available, the bar is always the first place you should look.

Incidentally, Michelle Malkin came back from dinner and hung out for a full two hours just talking to other bloggers.

John Hawkins and Dana Loesch
People were slow to come back from the Katz event, Kruiser Cabana started late, and so I called it an “early night” around 2 AM.

Day 2: Occupying the Occupiers

Saturday started with some controversy. The Occupy crowd was supposed to be back again, but the police told the Crowne Plaza Denver Downtown Hotel that they didn’t want us engaging with them. So, the hotel’s solution was to say that anyone who went outside and said anything to the Occupiers would be kicked out of the hotel.

Some people got upset about this and blamed the hotel, which really wasn’t fair. It’s a great hotel, the folks there worked hard to accommodate us, and it wasn’t really their fault that our presence was drawing a group of dirty hippie huns into their midst. We’re the one group of people on the planet, other than the police, that moves to engage with people like that and naturally, that alarmed the hotel which has to worry about lawsuits, bad publicity, the reaction of the other guests, etc., etc.

Personally, I think it wasn’t the hotel’s fault, the hotel folks handled it the best way they knew how, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Crowne Plaza Denver Downtown Hotel (PS: Make checks payable to John Hawkins and don’t tell the Koch Brothers or they’ll take it out of my weekly stipend 😉

In any case, it all proved to be a moot point because there was a heavy police presence in the front of the hotel when the Occupiers came by and they apparently decided discretion was the better part of valour and kept on marching. (More on that in just a moment)

My fave panel of the day was Blogging As Activism featuring Jim Hoft, Pamela Geller, Moe Lane — and it was moderated by Dana Loesch. It was just a free-wheeling fun panel.

Dana Loesch, Pamela Geller, and Sarah Rumpf
After realizing that the Occupiers weren’t going to come to us today, I decided to go to them and scope out their camp. Emily Zanotti and Bethany Mandel decided to go with me. I didn’t expect any problems and if there were, well, I didn’t think that anyone would recognize Bethany or Emily, so I thought they’d be safe.

The park where the Occupiers were camped out was only a few blocks away and, as it turns out, there were maybe 25 Occupiers on location — and that’s being generous. There was a church feeding several hundred people on the other side of the park and originally, we thought they were part of the Occupy movement. Apparently not.

While there wasn’t much of anything going on (besides a deeply disturbed homeless man having a loud, angry conversation with himself), there were a number of slogans scrawled in chalk on the ground. Here are a few of the more interesting ones.

Here are the sleeping accommodations — and let me tell you, they really STUNK.

Last but not least for this excursion, here’s the leader of the Occupy Movement himself, Shelby the dog.

Fun Fact #6: Shelby is a perfect leader for Occupy Denver. He’s sort of an odd dog and doesn’t pay that much attention to any of the humans around him unless they’re giving him free food.

After our little foray, we figured there was nothing really going on and headed back to Blog Con. However, late in the afternoon, we got word that the police had massed in numbers and were about to clear the park and dispose of the tents. Since that sounded like a newsworthy event, a bigger group of us beat feet back to the park.

This time, there were roughly 300 Occupiers in the park and about the same number of police across the street putting on riot gear. Still, it turned out we had more than an hour before things started breaking down.

Fun Fact #7: A lot of the protesters did in fact stink, either of marijuana or body odor.

So, we had a little fun first.

John Hawkins, Occupy Denver protester, mosesmosesmoses
Emily Zanotti tries and fails to tempt an innocent baby bunny over to the dark side
About half of us posing in front of the main Occupy area
We were all sort of just getting the lay of the land, but Javier from The Shark Tank went over to the hippies yelling at the cops and got a bit more proactive.

There were actually a lot of Occupiers there who had gone to our hotel over the last two nights, including the guy who got arrested. This girl was there, too, and she stuck out because she apologized for how they behaved in a vague, but sincere way.

This is where things started to get a little hairy. We had finally gotten to the point where we thought the police were about to storm the Occupy campsite and most of us decided to move a safe distance away to try to avoid getting caught in the middle of a potential riot. On the other hand, I wanted to get right in the middle of it and get some snaps, although honestly, I didn’t want anyone else to risk it.

My friend April Gregory wanted to come, too. I tried to talk her out of it, not because she can’t handle herself, but because I thought it would be dangerous and I would have felt terrible if something had happened to her. In the end, I couldn’t talk April out of it, but she did promise to stick right with me so I could look out for her.

Of course, she might have been safer in the crowd because when the riot police started pouring towards the park, I moved right up front, hoping to get a fantastic up-close shot of them in an intimidating line.

Right about the time the cops started coming down, the two of us looked back and there was no one left up there but us and some guy in a bandana yelling at the police. At that point, we were standing between 300 hyped up, pissed off cops in riot gear and 300 yowling, volatile hippies who were only separated by a 4 lane road.

Almost the second the cops lined up, they started charging ahead towards us yelling, “Get Back!” We were only about 10 ft ahead of them and they were coming fast; so we didn’t have much time. I grabbed April’s hand and we started moving rapidly away from them. We made it to the other side of the street, where all the hippies were.

Smoke started billowing out of the crowd and I’m not sure whether it was a flaming grill that was put out or the cops firing fire extinguishers into the crowd. Either way, some of the cops were putting on their gas masks.

The hippies were yelling at the cops and a couple of them crossed their arms backwards and just walked into the policemen, who responded by shoving them away hard.

That’s when I backed us away from that group to make sure we didn’t get caught in the line if the cops decided to plunge in swinging batons.

We moved away from the main mass a bit and back from the riot line. That’s where we ran across this guy screaming at the police. In fairness to the Denver Occupy crowd, although he wasn’t the only one being abusive, he was by far the worst one we heard. Near the end, you’ll hear him say, “I got a gun, too!” and I say “Don’t yell that” because I was afraid the cops would hear “gun” and a dozen of them would fly in and dogpile everyone in the area on general principle. Right after that you hear a cop tell us to move — and we did — for a bit.

Just a couple of minutes later, right after that cop moved on, we went back to the general vicinity. Then, for reasons I can’t quite fathom (Maybe the cop saw the two of us near the front when the riot line started moving and assumed we were really hard core? No idea), a cop leveled his gun on us. You can only see the flashlight on the gun in the picture, but you can also see his elbow in position.

Of course, our hands went up and I snapped a pic as we started backing away. We saw some other bloggers then and we all looped maybe 50 feet behind the protest. We would have gotten closer, but the police were starting to seal off the area to our left and we were worried that if we moved up any farther and they moved ahead in a hurry, we’d get swept up and pinned in with the Occupiers. This is when I noted that the only people left in the park at that point were “homeless people, crazy people, angry cops and us.” Still, we were in a fairly safe spot and felt like we should wait until the cops made one more push into the crowd to see what would happen.

However, before that could happen, one of the Occupiers shouted something like, “Let’s go Occupy the mall!” and roughly three fourths of the crowd broke left past the cops, flew across the park, and headed into the street with the police trailing them.

We thought about following them, but I had no intention of chasing a bunch of hippies around all night on my last day in Denver. So, we ended up heading back to the hotel and a large group of us went out to a killer Vietnamese restaurant.

John Hawkins and Tami Nantz
Amelia Hamilton and Glenn Asbury
Sarah Rumpf and John Hawkins
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel bar for awhile before bed, which came early since I had to be up at 5 AM to make my flight out.

John Sexton and Exurban League
That is a wrap, my friends!

There were a lot of other fantastic people who were at the event that didn’t get mentioned in this post because I either didn’t happen to get a pic of them or we didn’t spend much time hanging out. Although I can’t name them all (Don’t get mad if I leave you off — it was unintentional), just a few that immediately come to mind are:

Ace, Lori Byrd, Melissa Clouthier, Elizabeth Crum, Meredith Dake, Datechguy , Jeff Dunetz, Steve Egg , Mr. Fastbucks, Jeff Goldstein, Labor Union Report, Thomas Laduke, Fingers Malloy, Amy Miller, John Nolte, Larry O’Connor, and Erik Telford.

Let me once again thank Freedomworks and in particular, Tabitha Hale for putting on such a phenomenal event. This would have been a great blogger conference under any circumstances, but combine the outstanding job Freedomworks did with the havoc caused by Occupy Denver and it will make this conference the standard that other blogger events will be judged by from this point forward.

Also see,

The First Inaugural BlogCon 2010 (27 Pics)

Update #1: Chad Kent sent in this fantastic pic and video from karaoke Saturday night. The video featuring Fingers singing “Kiss” is a particular treat. Lol.

Also, loved this pic of Michelle Lancaster and Kathleen McKinley.

Update #2: A couple of more pics courtesy of Mr. Fastbucks, here are a couple of more pics from the conference. Both of these come from the time right before the Denver PD swept down on Occupy Denver and drove them out of the park.

April Gregory
April Gregory, John Hawkins, Kira Ann Davis

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