The annual follow-up to the Gala on the Bridge offers a case study in philanthropic outreach to a younger demographic. The 2016 event takes place on Sept. 16.
The Historic 19th Street Bridge spans the South Platte River on the west side of downtown.
Every year, it's the apt venue for the Gala on the Bridge at Riverfront Park, a black-tie fundraiser for The Greenway Foundation.
After the glitz, the cool kids come out for a night for After Party on the Bridge, a more casual fundraising event that attracts a younger crowd with music, appetizers and an open bar.
From left, Willis Wood, Jr., Anna Bogler, Matt Filippini and Jorgen Jensen. It's been a hit. "More or less, every year we sell out," says Jorgen Jensen, co-founder of the event.
Attendance has increased from about 400 in 2013 to an expected 600 at the 2016 event, organized by co-hosts Matt Filippini and Willis Wood, Jr.
Don't dawdle in getting tickets: About 60 people were turned away at the bridge in 2015.
Recycling a gala
In 2012, Jensen and co-founder Anna Bogler were on the Gala on the Bridge's host committee. Dana Crawford charged the duo to bring in "some new blood," says Jensen, but the $300 price point proved a deal breaker.
It didn't pan out, so Jensen and Bogler brainstormed. "What costs money?" says Jensen. "Setting up and tearing down." So the pair conspired to take over the bridge the night after the gala for an after-party. "It's like our event doesn't even have a rental cost," says Jensen.
Music has been a big part of the After Party on the Bridge since it launched in 2013. Year one features Nathaniel Rateliff's Born in the Flood, followed by Paper Bird in 2014 and Jamestown Revival in 2015.
A DJ spins at After Party on the Bridge.
This year's headliners, The London Souls, "just look freaking cool," says Jensen. (They also sound pretty cool, delivering big riffs and classic rock sensibility.) A trio of DJs bolster the entertainment lineup, along with SoundDown Party's silent disco. "We're covering all the bases," says Bogler.
The silent disco has the obvious benefit of noiselessness. "You know how this came about?" laughs Jensen. "The city's noise ordinance."
Asks Bogler: "How do you keep the party banging after 11 p.m.?" Answer: A headphone-clad dancing horde.
The event also features an award for a changemaker on the South Platte and a silent auction.
The history of The Greenway Foundation was a big inspiration for Bogler and Jensen, and sharing its legacy to the younger demographic that's moving to Denver has been a goal.
Executive Director Jeff Shoemaker "loves this event," gushes Jensen. After the first year, Bogler and Jensen wondered if they'd get the green light for another party, but it was a no-brainer to Shoemaker and company.
The Greenway Foundation Development Director Ryan Aids has been to every edition of After Party on the Bridge; 2016 will be his second as a foundation employee.
"I was a big Nathaniel Rateliff fan, so that was the draw," says Aids. "I had no idea about The Greenway Foundation at that point. I feel that happens a lot."
In this context, catalyzing education and awareness among potential future volunteers and donors is more important than fundraising. "Any of those things are a win for us," says Aids. "It's a great venue to be able to do that. . . . I had a lot of people come up to me throughout the night [in 2015]."
As for Shoemaker, who's served as executive director of The Greenway Foundation since 1982, before many attendees were born, Aids can verify his affinity for partying with the cool kids. "He gets out of his Uber and has a martini in his hand -- true story," says Aids.
The big news on the South Platte is the nearly complete $30 million River Vision project involving river restoration and upgraded parks at numerous sites in Denver city limits. Denver Parks & Recreation finished work at Pasquinel's Landing Park earlier in 2016 as Grant-Frontier Park across Evans Avenue is under construction with a target opening date in late 2016. And Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Denver Water recently announced the acquisition of 2,100 acre-feet to help revitalize the river habitat with higher water levels.
It's the continuation of a vision to revitalize the river that started in the 1960s and a big milestone for the foundation.
"I for one have always lived and worked downtown," says Jensen. "You can't help but appreciate the greenways."
"The river itself is really the heart of Denver," adds Bogler. "The Greenway Foundation is an amazing connection to that."
The Blue Moon After Party on the Bridge takes place on the Historic 19th Street Bridge on Sept. 16, 2016, from 6 to 11 p.m.