Alright, the drum beats are pounding away, and cannons are ready for a renewed loading. It’s onto Part 2 of the “Best Of The High Country 2021,” sponsored by TMJ News
In an earlier issue, we gave you the top winners for Best Of for casinos, eateries, popular hangouts, many businesses and other acclaimed titles. Hope you had the opportunity to review the top picks of TMJ readers and Best Of voters. If not, just check out our website at www.mountainjackpot.com.
Now, we move to some of our special niche competitions, individual titles and various miscellaneous showdowns, and even some more fun categories.
Needless to say, the following list of winners and finalists produces some expected winners, along with some impressive upsets. So, without further delays, enjoy Best Of 2021, Part 2.
Special thanks to everyone who participated, as the number of votes cast online crashed all previous records. Also, congratulations to all winners and finalists, as the competition was grueling, even with the COVID menace hanging over our heads.
And look for future stories in TMJ celebrating some of this year’s top winners and finalists.
Best New Lodging Project
Gold – Wildwood Hotel
Silver – Bronco Billy’s Expansion
Bronze – Microtel
The new Wildwood Hotel & Casino venture is the first real step in turning Cripple Creek from a day-trip spot into a destination area (see related story). Voters heavily lauded the Wildwood for pursuing this much needed lodging addition during the COVID era, and look forward to partaking in the festivities there and booking a room. The Bronco Billy’s huge $100 million-plus expansion also was warmly welcomed, especially after an extended absence of action. Best Of fans say want to see the actual construction start as soon as possible. But the opening of Microtel, right next to the Country Lodge in Woodland Park, was warmly embraced.
Best Local Entertainment
Gold – The War Over the Salute to American Veterans Rally
Silver – Woodland Park City Council Meetings
Bronze – Decisions to Eliminate Special Events
Last Year’s Champ – Butte Theater
In past years, the Butte Theater won this title by a long-shot. How can you compete with a place that does melodrama, comedies, Broadway musicals, community theater, Christmas shows and much more? Well, then came COVID, the temporary forced closure of the Butte, the cancelling of events and all kind of craziness. The ongoing fight over staunch supporters of the Salute to American Veterans Rally and a chorus of critics from certain area organizations took top prize as the best entertainment of the year. Just make sure you stay away from the verbal gunfire, as you may be wounded for life. Most, though, were entertained by the battle, often voiced in pages of TMJ and on social media. Of course, both sides blame TMJ for the entire battle. Finally, the city of Cripple Creek tried to call a truce by issuing a formal position statement on the Rally. The Woodland Park City Council shows, a new modern version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, attracted much attention in the entertainment showdown. (Yes, author Ken Kesey and Jack Nicholson, who played the hero role in the movie, would be proud of our fine city.) Meanwhile, many of our voters cited the city of Cripple Creek’s decision to cancel events and the inability of the region to host festivals.
Best Family Entertainment
Gold: Gold Hill Theatres
Silver – Cripple Creek District Museum
Bronze – The North Pole
Last Year’s Champ – Gold Hill Theatres
The reigning champion for the best thing to do as a family remains to be the Gold Hill Theaters. Since the pandemic struck, the theater has struggled to keep its doors open due to restrictions and the fact that movies just have not been produced like they were. The local theater lately has been keeping folks entertained by showing the new movies that do come out as well as offering showings of old classic films. Gold Hill has recently shown “Rook” that was shot in Victor and Cripple Creek. Last winter the theater also had the film version of Charis’ The Heart of Christmas live performance. The museum in Cripple Creek snagged second best due to the fun educational experience it offers. The North Pole came in close behind because it is known as a popular place to take kids in the summer and Christmas seasons.
Best Pawn Shop
Gold – Woodland Park Pawn
Silver – Mr. Money Pawn
Bronze – A&B Pawn
This year the people chose Woodland Park Pawn as the number one spot to pick up some used items or to sell unneeded ones. The local shop winning the vote proves that people would rather stay local than take a trip down the pass for their purchasing and selling needs. Those that do choose to go down the hill, tallied up votes for Mr. Money and A&B in Colorado Springs.
Best Auto Repair
Gold – Schumacher’s Alignment & Tire
Silver – Vahsholtz Automotive
Bronze – Cripple Creek Automotive, Tire & Towing
Schumacher’s took the title for the best grease monkey in the area as they have been satisfying local customers since 1989. The shop boasts good affordable service that does not lack on quality. Vahsholtz Automotive led by famous race car driver Clint Vahsholtz pulled closely into second place. The auto shop was started by Leonard, Clint’s dad ,and many choose the family-run shop for all of their auto repair needs. This shop can constantly be seen hustling and bustling cars in and out every day. Cripple Creek Automotive seems to be a favorite for those who live in the southern part of the county.
Best Bed and Breakfast
Gold – Hotel St. Nicholas
Silver – Cripple Creek Hospitality House & Travel Park
Bronze – Edgewood Inn
The top spot this year for those wanting the bed and breakfast experience goes to Hotel St. Nick. This gorgeous historic hotel used to function as a hospital and it now is a favorite place to stay. The hotel is located close to the main strip of Cripple Creek and it has its own bar called The Boiler Room. The Cripple Creek Hospitality House is also a local favorite and it too used to be a hospital in the early 20th century. In third place, voters elected the beautiful Edgewood Inn that is nestled in the Rampart Range Mountains just east of Woodland Park.
Best Manitou Springs Bar –
Gold – The Keg
Silver – Armadillo Ranch
Bronze – The Townhouse
For Manitou-goers, plenty of options are now available with the area getting lifted from its Level Orange COVID restrictions. When the votes were tallied, The Keg, a popular local spot in the main drag of town, won top laurels as the best bar in Manitou Springs. This is frequented on many occasions by TMJ staffers and friends and family members. Armadillo Ranch, meanwhile, snagged the runner-up position. Formally known as the Ancient Mariner, the Armadillo Ranch continues the tradition of live music, great drinks, and a place for folks and Manitou unusual characters (yes, there are plenty of them) to gather. With COVID restrictions easing, look for livelier bar and restaurant happenings in Manitou, especially when the capacity limits end.
Gold – Dr. Greg Cooper
Silver – Woodland Park Animal Medical Center
Bronze – Dr. Kevin Conrad
Dr. Cooper with the Compassion Animal Hospital has been serving local pet needs in the area for over 30 years. Many choose to keep returning to Dr. Cooper and he is one of the most well-known and respected vets in the area. The Animal Medical Center of Woodland Park located on Highway 24 west of Woodland Park has a team of vets that serve pet and equestrian needs. The clinic entertains locals by posting jokes on the sign outside of their clinic. Dr. Conrad’s Woodland Veterinary Clinic has also been a long-time local favorite. This last year, Dr. Conrad expanded his shop and moved to the old Catamount Motorsports building right on Highway 24 next door to Papa Murphy’s.
Best Pet Groomer
Gold – Purple Mountain Paw Care
Silver – Clearwater Grooming
Bronze – Blues Pet Market
Tracy Shovar of Purple Mountain paw Care was shocked when she learned of winning the gold this year mainly because she no longer offers full-service pet grooming. Shovar currently only offers mobile nail trimming services. However, the people have spoken and Shovar was elected the best due to her kind and gentle personality. Clearwater Grooming is also a local favorite and it is a spot that is off the beaten path. Located near the high school, this groomer is considered a local hidden gem. Blues Pet Market also scored a large number of tallies due to the unique self-washing services they offer.
Gold – Dr. Stephenie Kaufmann DDS PC
Silver – Forest Edge Dental Care
Bronze – Jonathan Bayne
Honorable mention: Dr. Robert Yardumian
Dr. Stephenie Kaufmann, whose office is located downtown Woodland Park at 400 W. Midland Avenue, grabbed the gold in a heavily contested competition. Dr. Kaufmann has been a fixture in the community, offering premiere dental services for 15 years. Both she and her staff are lauded for the personal attention they give to their patients, and in providing great service. Dr. Kaufmann, who snagged the silver last year, credits the latest Best Of triumph as a team effort. Forest Edge Dental Care, located on Rampart Range, snagged the runner-up spot. Their office offers comprehensive service in both Woodland Park and Cripple Creek. Also, local dentists’ Jonathan Bayne and Robert Yardumian were heavily lauded. For a small city, Woodland Park abounds in a variety of dental options.
Best Medical Provider
Gold – Dr. Jeffrey Snyder
Silver – Dr. Casie Chen
Bronze – Dr. John Torrent
Medical services have changed rapidly in the Teller High Country, with many new corporate transitions. When the dust was settled, Dr. Jeffrey Snyder, of the Mountain View Medical Group, now owned by Optum, finished on top. Dr. Snyder has been providing local medical services locally for many years. For a number of years, his office was located at the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital. Their current office is located at 700 W. Hwy. 24, across from the Gold Hill Square Shopping Center. But this emerged as a tight contest, with Dr. Casie Chen and Dr. John Torrent, also in the running. Medical services have greatly expanded in the area.
Best Pavement Company
Gold – Blackfoot Pavement Maintenance
Silver – Divide Asphalt
Bronze – Pikes Peak Asphalt
Todd DeRemus with the locally owned Blackfoot Pavement Maintenance Company took the top spot when it comes to seal coating or repairing driveways. DeRemus has been in business for over 30 years and many locals have him seal their driveways every two to three years. Divide Asphalt is also a local favorite and they specialize in laying the asphalt for driveways. Each year the company does asphalt work for both commercial and residential properties all over town.
Gold: Alysha Kimier, Blue Moose Tavern
Silver: Rhonda P. Ladley, Historic Ute Inn
Bronze: Kayla Martini, Peak View BBQ
Honorable Mention: Jewels Jewett, Peak View BBQ
Best Casino Manager Eric Rose –
This year the gold for best bartender went to Alysha at the Blue Moose Tavern in Green Mountain Falls. Every week Alysha deals with the shenanigans brought about by the TMJ crew’s staff meetings. She works hard to serve us while trying not to laugh at all of the stupid things we say. Rhonda Ladley at the Ute was a close second and she remains a local favorite due to her quick service and friendly attitude. Rhonda has been concocting a slew of favorite cocktails including the famous “Rhonda” and her invention of the blood orange margarita. On most weekend nights Rhonda can be seen at the Ute moving fast back and forth across the bar slinging drinks. The area’s newest hot spot Peak View BBQ also did well in the best bartender category. Kayla Martini has been with the establishment since they opened and works hard full time to please her thirsty customers. Jewels Jewett just recently joined the staff at Peak View after being well-known as a bartender and other water holes in the county.
Best Casino Employee
Gold – Brandi Hultberg (Double Eagle)
Bronze – The employees at Johnny Nolon’s
Silver – Employees of all casinos
In a strong verdict, leaving absolutely no question marks, Brandi Hultberg, the casino ambassador and a key employee for Double Eagle, snagged the gold. She has worked for Double Eagle for nearly a decade, and is known for her personable style. If you talk to Brandi for any length of time, you can see why she won this award. “They are our customers,” says Brandi, in discussing her role in greeting and helping Double Eagle patrons and hotel guests. “We want to make their experience here enjoyable.” Brandi says she prides herself in getting to know the patrons, and their specific preferences. That said, Johnny Nolon’s employees and those of most casinos were heavily praised for the customer service they provide. When it comes to this genre, Cripple Creek far rivals their competitors north of Denver.
Best Public Servant
Gold – Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell
Silver – Cripple Creek Police Department
Bronze – Former Woodland Park Mayor John Carr
Last year’s Champ – Cripple Creek Police Department
In a slight changing of the guard, Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell got the top nod as the region’s premiere public servant. As the sheriff and a veteran of the department for decades, Mikesell has faced many challenges during his reign. But the sheriff has taken major steps to boost department morale, and has put a halt to the revolving door syndrome that plagued past administrations.
Mikesell also was complimented on how he handled the coronavirus epidemic, and urged officials to open up the county more. Then, there has been the agency’s strong response to an unprecedented hike in drug-related cases and criminal activity occurring in the High Country. The times have definitely changed for Teller County. The Cripple Creek Police Department once again snagged many tallies. Cripple Creek PD has become an integral part of the community. Many voters cast tallies for former Woodland Park Mayor Val Carr, who recently died following a courageous fight with COVID-19.
Best Trouble Maker
Gold: Meghan Rozell, Cripple Creek City Council Member
Silver: Stephanie Alfieri, Woodland Park City Councilmember
Bronze: Jim Pfaff, Woodland Park City Councilmember
When Meghan Rozell was told that she was in the running as the best trouble maker of the high country she responded, “What? I thought I thought I behaved myself this year!” Well, sorry Meghan I guess the locals tend to disagree. Rozell is well-known in the area for being strongly opinionated and fighting hard for her beliefs. She is not afraid to back down to a political debate and enjoys making herself heard whenever possible. Rozell was one of the main voices behind saving Cripple Creek from a second round of shutdowns last fall.
Stephanie Alfieri (also known by some as “The Lauren Boebert of Teller County”) is the council’s most recent addition after she won the special election in November. Alfieri brought new light to the council after they had no tie-breaking vote for several months. During meetings Alfieri voices her opinion on just about every topic and makes her conservative beliefs clear. Her big claim to fame recently is that she was the main driver behind the recent controversial resolution that officially frowns upon Governor Jared Polis’ public health orders. Alfieri prides herself in being a voice for local small businesses.
Jim Pfaff has pretty much brought about controversy and caused heaps of trouble since he was elected last April. During council meetings, Pfaff finds a way to preach his strong conservative opinions at any time possible. He is well-known for his speeches against taxes and how all forms of tax are theft. Pfaff made headlines last fall when he infamously got into a verbal shouting match with former city manager David Buttery during a council meeting. Since then, a group of citizens have put forth a movement to recall Pfaff. Do you remember the movie, “What About Bob,” starring Bill Murray? Well, in Woodland Park, the new melodrama is: “What about Jim?” Jim Pfaff just can’t stay out of trouble for a single council meeting. Stay tuned for more information regarding a public boxing match between Pfaff and Buttery.
Best Rumor Monger
Gold – Tanner Coy
Silver – TMJ News
Bronze – Social Media Pages of Woodland Park and Green Mountain Falls
Tanner Coy, the president of Tweeds, and the treasurer of the Downtown Development Authority, gained the illustrious title of the best Rumor Monger in the region. He is known for some of his famous talks at Woodland Park forums. But the staffers of TMJ didn’t fall too far behind, led by the colorful stories of Rick, Trevor, Cindy and John, along with some of the area’s prime social media outlets. Rumors run rampant in the High Country.
Too many to list. Here are a few highlights.
Ralf’s Breakroom is going to sell to a California corporate company next week.
Green Mountain Falls will have a new parking garage by this summer.
Cripple Creek will have a new veterans’ rally group doing the annual event, led by leaders of the Gold Camp Association and American Legion.
The Woodland Park City Council will soon have complete live meetings, but will charge for admission and offer popcorn, beer/wine and refreshments, especially when their meetings extend until midnight and 2 a.m.
Best Local Personality
Gold – The Donkeys
Silver – Mel Moser, Butte Theater
No competition. The Cripple Creek town donkeys, informally cared for by the Two Mile High Club, rank as the region’s most popular personality attraction. Where are the donkeys is a familiar question that echoes across southern Teller, when visitors enter the area? Mel Moser, the manager of the Butte, is also a big hit. Hopefully, we will get a chance to see more of Mel’s antics this year.
Best Local Controversy
Gold – The local fight against the coronavirus mandates
Silver – What happened to our local events?
Bronze – The fight over paid-parking and the possible trail closings in Green Mountain Falls.
Honorable mention: Anything involving the Woodland Park City Council
Best Local Sports Team
Gold – Woodland Park High School Hockey
Silver: Woodland Park High School Wrestling
Bronze: Woodland Park High School Volleyball
Honorable Mention: Woodland Park High School Golf
This year the gold went to the WP Ice Panthers. The team was last place in their division last year and this year they turned it around and won their division. Unfortunately, the Panthers missed a playoff spot due to changes made by COVID restrictions. During a normal season the Panthers would have been able to play in the post season. The wrestling team also got hit by COVID scares, but Brady Hankin won state for the third time in a row and Adam Garner was a runner-up at regionals. The team to watch this year is the girls’ volleyball team as they have had very successful seasons the last two years in a row. The golf team also has some rising stars that will be fun to watch in the future. Last year, the golf team did have one golfer that qualified for the state tournament.
Best Local Sports Star
Gold – Brady Hankin, WP High School Wrestler (Boys’)
Silver – Clint Vahsholtz, Pikes Peak Racecar Driver
Bronze – Alex Vonderharr, WP High School Football Punter/ Kicker
Honorable Mention: Trinity Diamond, WP High School Wrestler (Girls’)
Brady Hankin takes the gold as he is the first wrestler in Woodland Park history to win the state championship his freshman, sophomore, and junior year. Hankin now looks towards winning the top spot again during his senior year. Clint Vahsholtz made history last summer when he got the fastest time up the course on Pikes Peak and earned the title “King of the Mountain.” The local mechanic may return this year in a different racecar because his son Codie Vahsholtz is slated to race in the Vahsholtz racing open wheel car. Alex Vonderharr scored the bronze due to his excellent field goal and extra point kicking on the gridiron last fall. In fact, Vonderharr earned more points than any other player proving that he is one player to watch in the future.
Trinity Diamond came in as an honorable mention after finishing her second year as a wrestler. This year she wrestled other girls for the first time and did well at the regional tournament.
Best Craziest Criminal
Gold – David Strang, “The Arsonist Shooter” Crimes: Attempted Murder, Felony Menacing
Silver – Chancey Colwell, “The Meth-head Cop Shooter” Crimes: Aggravated Assault, Vehicular Eluding
Bronze – Robert Gieswein, “Machine Gun Bobby, Capitol Rioter” Crimes: Assault on a peace officer, destruction of federal property. David Strang wins the craziest criminal award after he shot at someone in their car and then barricaded himself in his house. He then set his own house on fire and ran out of it once the smoke got too thick. Chancey Colwell came in second after fled from police in Canon City and led them on a chase over Shelf Road and into Victor. During the chase, Colwell fired multiple shots at the police officers and deputies pursuing him.Robert Gieswein took the bronze after he made international headlines for his role in the capitol riots on Jan. 6. The arrest reports say that Gieswein forced himself into the capitol building and then assaulted capitol police officers with a baseball bat and bear spray.
Gold – Reason Chiropractic
Silver – David Powell Chiropractic & Wellness Center
Bronze – Dr. Scott Little
The Teller High Country is a mecca for chiropractic services, especially with the infusion of more retirees and senior citizens, who just need those back adjustments. The Reason Chiropractic folks, located at Gold Hill Square South, took the gold. They are known for their quality services and ability to accommodate new patients. David Powell, meanwhile, has been a fixture for years, and many enjoy his amazing gym facility, located on Rampart Range Road, just past the high school. He also takes a unique health-oriented approach to chiropractic needs, and over the years, has tended to the ails of many TMJ staffers Believe us, that’s a tough unhealthy breed to cure. And Scott Little offers a special niche, in providing services for people and animals of a variety of species. What special pet doesn’t need a tune-up, other than you or someone in your family.
Gold – McDivitt Law Firm
Silver – Bart DePalma
Bronze – Frank Azar
McDivitt, which is well-known in the region through their high-profile television campaign, grabbed the gold as the attorney of choices, especially for people encountering personal injuries. They have many resources at their disposal and service a wide area. Bart DePalma, located right here in Woodland Park, also gained many favorable tallies, and is quite accessible. He deals a lot with criminal cases, driving under the influence violations and civil defense. Bart was also praised for his common-sense communication skills, something you don’t always find in the current legal arena. And not surprisingly, Frank Azar, the strong arm, rated quite well.
Best Tattoo Shop
Gold – Academy Star Tattoo Company
Silver Above the Clouds
Bronze – Demon Tattoo
In another special niche craving that is gaining in popularity locally, Academy Star snagged the gold. The Academy Star is owned by Cam Brooks, who has tattooed since 1982 in Colorado Springs. Cam is a tattoo artist of the highest caliber. Their shop is now located in Woodland Park at 500 E. Midland. But many voters favored the local tattoo hub, Above the Clouds, 730 U.S. Hwy. 24, which is known for their unique designs. The bronze was awarded to Demon Tattoo in Colorado Springs.
Other Notable Finalists
Gold – Cnr Mechanical
Silver – Hardcastle
Bronze – Teller Plumbing and Heating
Gold – Ace Electric
Silver – Hedges Electric
Bronze – Woodland Park Electric
Best Heating and Air Conditioning Service
Gold – Hardcastle
Silver – Harris Heating
Bronze – Above the Clouds Heat and Air
Best To-go Orders
Gold – Mayflower
Silver – Fortune Dragon
Bronze – Serrano’s