Best of Cripple Creek Part II- TMJ Readers Pick Their Favorites

TMJ Readers Pick Their Favorites
In a continuation of our annual Best Of showdown, here are more winners and finalists. In our January 26 issue, we focused primarily on casino and business winners.

This time, we will highlight some of our individual and employee champs, along with a few other interesting categories. Again, we appreciate all the great support we received from our readers who turned in Best Of ballots in a record volume. (We wouldn’t be surprised if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton lobby some of you during their forthcoming caucuses and primaries, based on your voting enthusiasm.) Also, special thanks to Tieva Simpson of the TMJ family for toiling over thousands of ballots in the final tabulations.

Best Restaurant for Fine Dining
1.Down Under (Triple Crown)
2.The Steakhouse (Bronco Billy’s)
3. Winfield’s (Double Eagle)
Honorable Mention: Mucky Duck

Many readers opted to cast tallies and make comments on their favorite spot in the Creek and outside the area for dine dining. And in a close vote, the Down Under, with its Australian fair, known for great entrees, buffets and even some ideal Greg Norman wines, prevailed as the top favorite, followed by the Billy’s Steakhouse and Winfield’s at Double Eagle. A hefty amount of readers also boasted of the Mucky Duck in lively Green Mountain Falls, a town with as many political woes these days as southern Teller in the early post-gambling days.

Best Wait Staff
1. Pint and Platter (Triple Crown)
2. Wildwood
3. Johnny Nolon’s
Last year’s Champ: Pint and Platter

Once again, the vast majority of Best Of participants favored the wait staff of McGills’ Pint and Platter. After all, Cripple Creek has quite an Irish heritage so it only makes sense that patrons enjoy the friendly service inside the town’s prime Irish pub. Meanwhile, the Wildwood snagged the silver, receiving for the service provided as a diverse selection of eateries.

Best Teller County Event
1.Cripple Creek Ice Festival
2. The Cripple Creek Rodeo
3. Cruise Above the Clouds
Honorable Mention: Old Fashion July 4th Celebration in Woodland Park

No big surprises here. The Cripple Creek Ice Festival, which also won the gold as the best Cripple Creek event, prevailed as the county’s premiere festival. TMJ Best Of participants apparently love outdoor artistic splendor and fun in the wintertime. This year’s festival actually kicks off next weekend with an Old West theme. And based on current weather patterns, it should be fantastic. But many folks enjoy the summer rodeo, which has gotten better every year. And the Cruise Above the Clouds is a spectacular fall gala that unites the communities of Cripple Creek and Woodland Park. This year’s festival is really going to hit the jackpot, as it may receive national cable television coverage.

Best Local Attraction
1.Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine
2.Cripple Creek District Museum
3.The City of Victor

In another new competition this year, Best Of voters clearly favored the CC&V mine for their incredible tours, providing probably the best inside look into the modern and past eras of gold mining. Plus, the Mine Shots updates at the CC&V Visitor Center in Cripple Creek are extremely informative. Many, though, rave over the Cripple Creek District Museum, one of the best-kept tourist secrets in the area. And if you really want to get a flavor of the district’s past, then spend some time in Victor, a favorite spot ironically among many state officials, including the folks that run the Department of Local Affairs.

Best Public Servant
1.Steve Zoellner
2.Bruce Brown
3.Cripple Creek Police Department
Last Year’s Champ: Debbie Blevins

Steve Zoellner, the city’s mayor pro tem, prevailed as top public servant. Steve has been involved in city government for a long period, and serves with a number of influential groups such as the Gold Camp Victorian Society. He has won this title previously, and has played a big role in the town’s new focus towards more special events and its love affair with Deadwood, South Dakota. Mayor Bruce Brown, who recently was re-elected to another term, snagged the silver, while the Cripple Creek Police Department received many high marks.

Best Personality
1.Mel Moser – Butte Theater
2.Donkeys – Two Mile High Club
3.Stephanie Eagan – Bronco Billy’s
Last Year’s Champ: Empress

Mel Moser, regarded in many circles as the heart and soul of the Butte Theater, won the gold in this heavily contested competition. Cripple Creek is a town of personalities to say the least. And Mel Moser is a hard act to follow whether he is playing a ruthless, mean-spirited villain on stage, or a beloved Scrooge-like character, or just serving you a drink at the Butte. The town’s donkey herd, a familiar mainstay during the summer, finished a close second, while many favored Stephanie Eagan of Bronco Billy’s.

Best Casino Manager
1.Marc Murphy – Bronco Billy’s
2.Eric Rose – Century
3.Kevin Werner – Wildwood
Last Year’s Champ: Marc Murphy

In another repeat victory, Marc Murphy, a managerial mainstay of Bronco Billy’s since Oct. 1991, easily won this title. Murphy first held the casino’s managerial reins when Billy’s was a tiny place with a few bar stools and a few machines. Over the last two-plus decades, he has overseen more than eight major expansions and played a key role in maintaining the casino’s reputation as a true Colorado casino. In addition, Marc is heavily involved in the community, with the Aspen Mine Center and various civic groups.

Both Eric Rose and Kevin Werner, recipients of the silver and bronze titles respectfully, meanwhile, are familiar faces at council meetings and aren’t shy about outlining the gaming industry’s point of view on various issues.

Best Casino Employee
1.Stephanie Eagan – Bronco Billy’s
2.Meghan Morehead – Triple Crown
3.Richard Smith – Double Eagle
Last Year’s Champ: Monica Weller

It only makes sense that an employee who finished in the top three as the best personality would prevail as the top casino employee. Snagging the silver was Meghan Morehead of the Triple Crown

Best Casino Card Dealer
1.Christian Pool – Wildwood
2.Doug Fox – Brass Ass
3.Rocky Diorio – Wildwood
Last Year’s Champ: Monica Weller – Bronco Billy’s

Several employees from the Wildwood snagged the gold and bronze respectfully in the prestigious Best Card Dealer championship, a new competition we added several years ago, with the popularity of card games. And not surprisingly, Doug Fox of Brass Ass snagged the silver.

Best Bartender

1.Melissa Lincoln – Bronco Billy’s
2. Mo Zelewski – Johnny Nolon’s
3.The entire Billy’s crew
Honorable Mention: Triple Crown
Last Year’s Champ: Jennifer Eustace – Colorado Grande

Cripple Creek, with the advent of gaming, has gained quite a reputation for its great assortment of bartenders ready to cheer up local winners and losers. Melissa Lincoln, a bartender of Bronco Billy’s, won this title in a tight competition that featured many contestants. Many voters favored the entire bartending crews of a number of local casinos. It appears that our voters definitely have their favorite drink servers in this town. In fact, the town now has round-the-clock cocktail service in most casinos, another factor that gives more credence to this competition.

Best Rumor Monger
1.Lou Goldman
2.Melissa (Missy) Trenary
3.Cripple Creek City Council
Last Year’s Champ: Lou Goldman

Let’s face it, Cripple Creek is a town that thrives on rumors, and prides itself on some amazing creators and circulators of these always accurate stories. By a landslide margin, and we mean a landslide, Lou Goldman, the owner of Cripple Creek Candy and Variety, is once again the official Rumor Monger King. No questions, whatsoever. And Lou faced some hefty competition from the ever personable Missy Trenary, who can tell a good story on many occasions, especially when she holds court inside a few acclaimed local establishments (no details will be released to protect the guilty). As Missy once said, try starting a rumor on one side of town, and see how it evolves several hours later on the other section of Bennett Avenue. The Cripple Creek City Council, meanwhile, snagged the bronze. Even with a few changing members, the CC Council isn’t too shabby at crafting colorful stories.

Best Rumor Haven (in Southern Teller)
1.Aspen Mine Center
2.Ralf’s Break Room
3.Local Casino Bars

With the arrival of needed culinary changes at the Aspen Mine Center, capped by the landing of A&J’s Colorado Café, this is a great and friendly spot for learning the inside scoop on area-wide cultural developments, local happenings, employee shake-ups and much more. It’s also a prime hangout for the court staff and for many government employees. You would be surprised what you can learn at lunchtime at this fine abode.

Ralf’s, not surprisingly, fared quite well. That’s not unexpected since one of the prime rumor circulators in town, the CC City Council, hangs out there on occasion. But local casino bars are always a favorite spot for rumors, as noted in this vote.

Best Rumor Hub Outside Cripple Creek
1.The Pantry
2.Carmen’s Tapas Bar and Grill
3.TMJ Staff Meetings at Historic Ute Inn

The Pantry in Green Mountain Falls, a classic establishment with a colorful history, was voted as the top rumor spot (outside Cripple Creek). The Pantry is an absolute crown jewel for town gossip and political updates regarding the lower Ute Pass and Teller County. If you wonder why, just head down there, and while sampling a hearty meal, enjoy one of owner Ben Stephens’ many stories. Several years ago, this spot emerged as a place where some Green Mountain Falls’ political candidates declared their intentions to run and even organized campaigns and held rallies. Of course, Carmen’s in Woodland Park, especially the bar area, ranks as a close second. Here experts on virtually every subject in America congregate, including local journalists who keep co-owner Carlos honest with his stories. And some readers touted the TMJ staff sessions. These latter gatherings, which occur weekly at the Historic Ute Inn in Woodland Park (please don’t hold it against them) have been the source of many candid soap opera-like and entertaining exchanges and debates. No one is spared the sword of criticism. We wish we could release more details, but this scenario can get far worse than Hillary Clinton’s e-mails at certain times.

Best Non-Gaming Employee
1. Corporal Brandon Blanchard, Cripple Creek Police Department
2.The Meat Department of Cripple Creek Venture Foods
3.Staff of Ramblin Express
Last Year’s Champ: Bill Burcaw – 9494

In a changing of the guard in the non-gaming employee showdown, Corporal Brandon Blanchard of the Cripple Creek Police Department, a popular figure of the CC PD for several years, won top laurels as the town’s best non-gaming employee. The entire PD Department, under the reign of Chief Mike Rulo, fared quite well in the latest Best Of readers’ survey. Meanwhile, the meat carving crew of Cripple Creek Venture Foods, led by Tim “The Butcher Man,” recorded a close runner-up spot. However, a number of our readers lauded the staff of Ramblin Express, the popular charter bus between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek, and the way they handle sometimes obnoxious gambling patrons.

Best Local Rumor
There are too many for final votes, but here are a few highlights:

The city of Cripple Creek ran a fair election.

Les Batson is actually the real mayor of Cripple Creek.

This Best Of contest is fair.

When is the best time to talk to Judith, the owner of virtually every vacant building on Bennett Avenue?

Why do officials of Teller County and the city of Woodland Park hate each other?

How many secret meetings did the city of Woodland Park have to finalize their aquatic center location at the school?

What does promoter Jim Wear have on the city to keep getting mucho bucks for his veterans’ event?

Dumbest Tourist Question

When do the deer turn into elk?

Are the donkeys real?

Where is Hwy. 67?

Where can I gamble?

Where can I buy marijuana in Cripple Creek?

Answer Your Own Question
(Based on written comments we received)
The Best Controversy
1.The Woodland Park Aquatic Center Project
2.The Intergovernmental Feuds between Woodland Park and Teller County
3.Just about any problem in Green Mountain Falls, from Goose-gate to Clerk-gate.
Honorable Mention: The Heroin Ring in Woodland Park and its Links to a Mexican Cartel

No explanations are needed here.