The Spirit of The Wright Award – Recapping 2019 & Looking to 2021

I started Mountain Town Magazine on the backside of the Subprime Mortgage Collapse and the Recession that followed to focus on emerging businesses in our Colorado mountain town communities. I wanted to create a space to share stories that celebrated the individuals who stepped out with their ideas and began assisting in building our communities back up with their ventures. The spirit of entrepreneurialism became a beacon of light when the gray mists of concern hung low at that time. I felt the need to tell those stories, to assist businesses and spread the word about their accomplishments to help our mountain towns shine.

Clearly, the idea of celebrating entrepreneurs was infectious as I discovered Something Independent and their clever Wright Award had been established to celebrate independent, outdoor-minded business leaders in Colorado. It was fascinating to watch newcomers break into the outdoor product arena, challenging big industry names, and making a product they are passionate about better through the producer’s own ideas and experiences.

Today the Wright Awards is a widely celebrated event embracing everything that represents our mountain culture in the US West. What was once a one-day award program has evolved into a 3-day summit illuminating the industry and culture of the outdoors featuring panel discussions, a keynote series, and special events. It is an event that I absolutely love. A place to gather, learn, and connect with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts.

Over the course of nine years, The Wright has recognized 117 peer nominated companies representing 48 communities across four Rocky Mountain states. This year’s celebration was postponed to 2021 and after mourning its loss it dawned on me how this is temporary and parallel to 2010. Like all good things, it will return, evolved, reimagined and bigger and better than ever.

We covered last year’s festivities in Mountain Women Magazine and thought it appropriate to recap it now, here on Mountain Town. In the beginning The Wright celebrated Outdoor-Inspired Colorado Entrepreneurs and their products but the event expanded and this past year included Wyoming and Montana businesses too.

The diversity of the contenders also expanded. This past year there were 8 Women Founders or Co-Founders and 14 Colorado, Montana and Wyoming Towns & Cities represented. Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate and learn about these businesses while connecting with a myriad of like-minded individuals – a Tribe of Something Independent enthusiasts – in the Ski, Bike, Art, Farm, Coffee, Beer, and Career categories.

This past year the 2019 Wright culminated it’s three-day dialogue with their much-anticipated Award Night celebration, recognizing peer nominated outdoor-inspired contenders from the Rocky Mountain region. As a requirement each nominee showcased their product and premiered their own short 90-second film to convey who they are and why they do what they do. In their stories, a portrait of real people, real work and real communities emerged for all of the attendees to discover.

2019 Wright Award Contenders:

Down River Equipment, Wheatridge, Colorado

NoSo, Jackson Wyoming

Feral –  Denver / Idaho Springs, Colorado

First Ascent Coffee Roasters-  Crested Butte, Colorado 

Harvest Skis – Steamboat Springs, Colorado 

Holidaily Brewing Company – Golden, Colorado 

JELT – Bozeman, Montana 

Mountain Careers – Vail, Colorado

Oveja Negra – Salida, Colorado

RockyMounts – Boulder / Grand Junction, Colorado

Root Shoot Malting – Loveland, Colorado 

The So-Gnar Creative Division – Denver, Colorado 

Tailwind Nutrition – Durango, Colorado

At the end of the evening Oveja Negra in Salida, Colorado took the prize home. In my eye, all of these brilliant companies are winners each setting themselves apart in their committed and honest approach to work. They make the things we love and help steer us more confidently on adventures from within our homes to destinations beyond those boundaries.

In January, Something Independent held a wonderful event, The Wright Retrospective at Dairy Block in Denver, that looked back on all of the nominees and winners since the award’s inception. It was there that the 2020 Contenders were announced. The field of nominees for the coming event is more diverse than ever with New Mexico joining into the tribe’s camaraderie.

This past week we should have been celebrating their hard work but instead, we have retreated into our homes to keep one another safe. So we will celebrate from a distance and come together again next year for one heck of a Big Bash.

For now, here is a shout out to the Contenders of the 2020 Wright Award: 

Big B’s Fruit Company, Hotchkiss, CO

BOCO Gear, Boulder, CO

Boneshaker Adventures, Grand Junction, CO

Bow & Arrow Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM

Castle Creek Guitars, Gunnison, CO

Guerrilla Gravity, Denver, CO

Jack’s Plastic Welding, Aztec, NM

MountainFLOW Eco-Wax, Carbondale, CO

Red Ants Pants, White Sulfur Springs, MT

Vartega, Golden, CO

Venture Snowboards, Silverton, CO

I look forward to sharing the hard work and passion behind these companies and do’ers by letting folks know about their accomplishments while we wait out and beat COVID-19 from our home town communities. This video is a perfect round-up of what makes this event an experience:

Cheers to Chuck Sullivan, Something Independent and everyone behind this heartfelt gathering. Mark your calendars for next MAY 5-7, 2021 where we will gather to celebrate everything Wright in Golden, Colorado. See you all then!

~Holly Battista-Resignolo

Publisher Mountain Town Magazine, Mountain Women Magazine, Mountain Town: Breckenridge

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