Best Of Cripple Creek Part Two

photo by Judy Horton


Best Of Cripple Creek Part Two

Without any further delays, here are the remaining winners and finalists for the TMJ’s annual Best Of Cripple Creek contest. In our Oct. 23 issue, we focused on mostly casino and gaming-related winners. In this issue, we deal with non-gaming categories and individual contests. We appreciate everyone who participated and especially thank Erin

Kunitz for her hard work in tallying the ballots.

Best Non-Gaming Retail Store

1. The General Store

2. Ace Hardware/Venture Foods

3. Family Dollar

Whoever said gambling and retail hubs just don’t mix. Although the pickings are slimmer from the good old days, prior to gaming, the town’s retail core still prevails as one the town’s best kept secrets, with a variety of options for non-casino folks and families and those in quest of needed items without having to go down the hill. The nay-sayer critics have been silenced. In our latest competition, the store that sells just about everything and is a prime hangout for locals, gamblers and tourists won in a fairly convincing fashion. The General Store has become a Cripple Creek institution and is an amazing non-gaming survivor. However, many of our readers enjoy the hardware/grocery store shopping prospects off Teller One, and with the conveniences of the new Family Dollar store.

Best Entertainment

1. The Butte Theater

2. Donkeys

3. Watching Tourists

Honorable Mention: The Creek/Ralf’s

In another repeat crown, the Butte Theater, known for a diversity of shows that rival Colorado Springs and many top theatrical hubs, received a standing ovation for their regular entertainment offerings. Despite a few controversies in the past over the city’s role in manning this facility, the Butte and the CC City Council have now reached a solid truce. As a result, residents have a true winner when it comes to musicals, melodramas, Scrooge revivals and community shows. In fact, we once thought the political soap opera happenings in town had a chance of making a Broadway debut. And fret not, if live theater is not your thing, plenty of options abound such as watching the town’s famous herd play havoc with local gamblers. And there always is the constant comedy associated with watching tourists. A TMJ favorite is still the after-council affairs (no names will be mentioned to protect the innocent or guilty) at The Creek and Ralf’s. Yes, the world’s affairs (even those in Cripple Creek) are completely solved during these famous sessions.

Best Cripple Creek/Victor Event

1. Donkey Derby Days

2. American Salute to Veterans

3. Gold Rush Days

The people have spoken in a competition that has always generated much local controversy. TMJ readers apparently favor an age-old tradition when it comes to special events. The veterans rally, capped by a huge motorcycle precession, also snagged many tallies. Most enjoy the combination of veteran festivities and biker pageantry, without some of the excesses of the past. Some, though, said they were thoroughly entertained by the constant fights between TMJ journalists/photographers and the Salute’s personable promoter, often aired on our website (No names will be released to protect the guilty). Securing the bronze was the Gold Rush Days in Victor, which featured a much richer lineup than past years.

Many also complimented the town for bringing back the Chili Cook-Offs and a few other smaller events. But some wondered about idiots from Colorado Springs who want to race on foot from one mine to another. Bad craziness.

Best Event You Would Like to See Return

1. Concerts at the Palladium

2. Smoking

3. Rodeos/Staged Gun Battles in the Street

The verdict is in and Jackpot respondents would like to see concerts return at one of the more unique outdoor venues in the state, which once featured such acts as Steven Stills, The Starship, Little Feet and much more, and even the legendary wet T-Shirt contests of the bikers rally (before the city council shut them down) and even great historic preservation contests. With the emergence of The Rush, the re-opening of the Palladium could become a reality. And not surprisingly, many laud the former days when they could smoke freely while playing their favorite game of chance. But quite a few of our respondents put a word in for more rodeos and old fashioned staged gun fights in the streets of Cripple Creek.

Best Casino Employee/Manager/Owner

1. Marc Murphy/Bronco Billy’s

2. Chad Carlson/Century

3. Russell Marquette/Triple Crown

Honorable Mention: Monica Weller/Bronco Billy’s

In another repeat victory, Marc Murphy, who has held Bronco Billy’s managerial ropes since the first week of gaming (the only casino manager in town who can say that), has been declared as town’s top casino manager. Marc has overseen the evolution of Billy’s from a tiny gaming hall and small bar to one of the larger establishments in towns, courtesy of nearly 10 expansions. In addition, he has played a big leadership role with a variety of local community and economic development groups. His involvement with Billy’s is one reason why the casino has gained a niche as one of more community-oriented casinos. Marc has his share of stories regarding the ups and downs of Cripple Creek gaming.

Many readers, though, favored Chad Carlson of Century and Russell Marquette of the Triple Crown. In addition, another popular favorite in the voting was Monica Weller of Bronco Billy’s.

Best Non-Gaming Business Employee/Manager/Owner

1. Chris Hazlett/Ralf’s

2. Jennifer Combs/Venture Foods

3. Missy Trenary/Cripple Creek District Museum

Honorable Mention: The friendly staff of The Creek

Chris Hazlett, the owner of Ralf’s, who also serves on the CC City Council, succeeded in snagging this championship title once again. Chris has gained a reputation as a business-friendly guy and someone well-versed in the district’s tradition. That is one of the main reasons why he won a seat on the city council. He is a long-time resident and once served as the police chief. Chris knows what it takes to run a business. And snagging the runner-up spot was Jennifer Combs of Venture Foods. And not surprisingly, Missy Trenary, known for her ghost tours, colorful historic tales and even holding court at Ralf’s on occasion, received many tallies. A number of our Best Of respondents also favored the staff of The Creek.

Best Local Personality

1. Empress/Bronco Billy’s

2. Donkeys

3. Les Batson

Yes, the battle for the crown as the town’s local personality champ, featured a tense competition. But after the tallies were cast, Empress (Paradise Emperatriz) of Bronco Billy’s clearly emerged as the town’s clear personality victor, even beating out the donkeys. That takes some doing, in a town where the main question most visitors ask when they enter the district is: Where are the donkeys? This popular herd, a top hit for tourists, families, kids, gamblers and even politicians, snagged the runner-up spot. For several years, Empress, has gained quite a following for the way she greets customers. Les Batson, who often leaves our fine CC Council members on the edge of their seats regarding what he plans to say during public comment session, won the bronze.

Best Public Servant

1. Les Batson

2. Larry Manning/City of Cripple Creek

3. Mary Bielz

Honorable Mention: Kathy Stockton

Les Batson clearly prevailed as the town’s premiere public servant. He has gained quite a following for manning the Fire Station #3, conducting great tours and conversing with tourists and locals in a rather colorful manner. Les, who serves on the Cripple Creek Historic Preservation Commission, also is one of those public servants who isn’t afraid to voice his opinions on contested issues in Cripple Creek, even if it lands him in hot water. Many Best Of respondents, though, voted for Larry Manning, Cripple Creek’s Development Director, who has held the reins of the planning and historic preservation departments since the beginning of time. His prime assistant, Kathy Stockton, also fared quite well in this competition. And once again, Mary Bielz of Community of Caring, a true advocate for those who need assistance, garnered much support.

Dumbest Question Asked by a Tourist

1. When do the deer turn into elks?

2. Are the donkeys real?

3. Where are the casinos?

Name a category we forgot

1. Best Bar

2. Best Tour

3. Ugliest Donkey

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