Best Of 2023, Part 2

More Winners In the Teller High Country  Declared

Rick Langenberg and Trevor Phipps

Yes, it’s the final announcements of our annual Best Of 2023 contest, a competition featuring no lack of contenders and voters, with close to 10,000 ballots filed online. Amazing!

Before proceeding further, we  want to thank all of our readers, social media viewers, fans, critics or whatever, as participation records were completely shattered.  One fact remains certain:  TMJ Best Of participants are quite passionate about what they like (and hate) in our beloved High County and aren’t short of opinions. This is a trend that continues to escalate from the time we started this contest, shortly after slots started ringing down Bennett Avenue on Oct. 1 1991.

Many changes have occurred since that historic date, and we hope this contest will help give visitors and locals a feel for prevailing views on the Best of the Best. Of course, these opinions always change, so if you disagree with any of the results, there is always next year.

In our March 14 issue, we mainly focused on the heavily contested casino and gaming competitions, food contests and other business retail/service highlights. For this week (March 21 issue), we present the finalists for more area-wide competitions, special niche business categories and the infamous individual showdowns, showcasing the best personalities on the mountain, best troublemakers, public servants, sports heroes and more. Please, no punches or nasty social media posts, as virtually all the finalists are winners in our humble TMJ view.

In the future TMJ News will focus on some of the winners in more detail.  Stay tuned too in the near future for more Best Of highlights by TMJ staff members.

With no further delays, enjoy The Best Of 2023, Part 2.

Individual Awards

Best Casino Manager

Gold – Eric Rose (Century)

Silver – Matt Andrighetti (Wildwood)

Bronze – Jerry Berger (Triple Crown)

In an overwhelming verdict again, Eric Rose, the head skipper for Century Casinos, snagged the Gold. Eric often provides a much-needed breath of fresh air to the often mundane Cripple Creek council meetings, offering the gaming industry perspective. His past talks on lodging, recreational marijuana and special events are pretty much right on the mark.  Matt Andrighetti, the general manager of Wildwood, who has experienced the ups and downs of gaming for years, recorded an impressive runner-up finish. And Jerry Berger, the assistant director of operations at Triple Crown Casinos, was a top pick among managers. Jerry, is a long-time Creek casino veteran,  working with  Triple Crown since the late 1990s, and many like his managerial style.  And David Minter, the head skipper of Johnny Nolon’s, is also a frequent secret attendee at council meetings, and isn’t afraid to tell city leaders his favorite line: “Show me the money.”

Honorable mention: David Minter (Johnny Nolon’s)

Best Casino Employee

Gold – Tabithia Boney (Triple Crown Casinos)

Silver – Wildwood  Ambassadors

Bronze – Johnny Nolon’s bar staff

In the ever competitive duel for the top casino employee, Tabithia  Boney of Triple Crown Casinos came out on top. That’s no small feat as close to 50 contenders received an impressive amount of tallies for this contest. In fact, quite a few members of the Triple Crown staff were mentioned. Tabithia works with the marketing department and has received much praise for dealing with the public. Many liked the ever-friendly casino and hotel ambassadors of the Wildwood. And the bar staff of Johnny Nolon’s received much support.

 Best Public Servant

Gold – Cripple Creek Police

Silver – Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell

Bronze – Woodland Park Mayor Hilary LaBarre

Teller County is infamous for their high quality of public servants, with virtually  no losers in this genre. In a highly competitive contest, the Gold has once again returned to Cripple Creek Police Department. Being small town law enforcement officers, when they are not busy fighting crime, they take time to get to know the community, and are often the first public servants in which visitors come into contact with.  Like most agencies in the region, they have dealt with considerable turnover, but veteran Chief Bud Bright has handled the changing dynamics for small  law agencies, such as Cripple Creek,  quite well. And more notably, the department has survived difficult digs with their headquarters located in a historic building named after the famous Bell Brothers.  They definitely need a new facility.

The silver was snagged by Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell as many community members admire how he fights for the rights of local citizens. The sheriff has recently spent a lot of time at the state capitol fighting against bills that limit the powers of law enforcement agencies. Woodland Park Mayor Hilary LaBarre has also won of the hearts of her constituents this year, possibly due to the fact that she is the city’s first woman mayor. People watching the council meetings on Zoom love the expressions on her face during certain discussions.  Many observers can tell that she is trying hard not to roll her eyes, and call out the stupidity of a few of her fellow council members. No names will be mentioned here to protect the guilty.

Best Local Personality

Gold – Edie Smith (Creations Everlasting)

Silver – Dennis Zerull (This  Week in the Bear Cave Podcast )

Bronze – Melissa Trenary (Cripple Creek Mayor Pro Tem)

Honorable mentions:  Erin O’Connell (RE-2 School Board Critic)/Jessica  Skokan

No competition whatsoever. In a complete landslide triumph, Edie Smith, the personable owner, operator and story teller,  of Creations Everlasting, located in the Double Eagle casino complex, snagged the Gold again. Edie beat out the donkeys, colorful area politicians, fellow business operators, wild podcast  personalities, journalists and an entire slew of competitors. Let’s face it. Cripple Creek and the entire Teller region is not lacking in personalities. Edie has been a big community asset for 15-plus years and warmly greets visitors to our fine burg. Snagging the runner-up spot was the colorful host of This Week in the Bear Cave podcast, Dennis Zerull while Cripple Creek Mayor Pro Tem Melissa Trenary emerged as a top finisher. And Erin O’Connell, known for taking a strong stand on school board issues in Woodland Park and serving as the lead singer for Tava Blue, received many votes. Jessica Skokan, a flamboyant  member of the community, also fared quite well as a leading personality.

Best Bartender

Gold –  Jewels Jewett (Russ’ Place)

Silver –  Paige Fulghum (Peak View BBQ)

Bronze –  Jill Colten  (Thai Good Eats)

Honorable Mention: Loriann Bentzler (Crystola Roadhouse)

The top prize for best bartender goes to the one and only Jewels Jewett who can be seen slinging cocktails and calling bingo at Russ’ Place. Jewels wins the hearts of her customers with her friendly personality and the fact that she takes the time to personally get to know everyone she serves at the bar. She also was one of the main cheerleaders for the TMJ Best Of Contest, as she worked very hard to get people to participate.  Paige Fulghum has been a staple as a bartender for many years in the community and people enjoy her fast service and bright attitude. If you are lucky, you might get to hear one of Paige’s many stories of her skiing and hiking adventures while enjoying a hand-made cocktail. Just don’t follow Paige’s antics in climbing steep cliffs where humans, and especially TMJ skiers and staff members, don’t belong. Jill Colten became well-known in the area through her years-long tenure at the Historic Ute Inn. Now that she bartends at Thai Good Eats, customers enjoy the quick, attentive service she gives them.

Our reigning champion Loriann Bentzler also  votes this year and people absolutely love it when she is behind the bar at the Crystola Roadhouse.

Best Hair Stylist

Gold: Elizabeth Crismore (Glam Salon)

Silver: Heidi Kessler (The Salon)

Bronze: Christa Wibstad/Emmy Ratliff   (A Wild Hair Salon)

The owner of the Glam Salon, Elizabeth Crismore, took the top prize for best hairstylist this year as her services are sought after by many in the community. People who go to her say she is the best with unique hair styles and her coloring services.

Heidi Kessler from The Salon Hair Studio in Woodland Park also received many  tallies in this first-ever TMJ Best Of individual contest. Both Christa Wibstad and from A Wild Hair Salon in Divide also gained many popular comments from  customers, who say they are “amazing.”

Best Political Troublemaker

Gold –  Erin O’Connell

Silver –  Jerry Penland

Bronze – “Machine Gun Bobby”

When it comes to stirring the political pot, Erin O’Connell earns the top prize this year. She has been one of the main voices in the charge against the new Woodland Park RE-2 School Board, as she spearheaded a lawsuit against the board and a recall of three board members.  And from a more fun standpoint, she is the lead singer for the eclectic, Tava Blue band, that has taken the area by storm with their amazing performances.

Jerry Penland, a former Woodland Park planning commissioner and ace golfer, though, snagged a close runner-up spot, as he led the charge to fight Woodland Park’s short-term rental ordinance, (allowing an infusion of STRs in residential neighborhoods) by legally repealing this new law. It was the first successful citizens’ referendum mounted against a council-approved law recorded in recent history, with the group garnering an incredible number of signatures from valid WP voters within a several-week period.  Talk with Jerry about this subject at others at the Shining Mountain clubhouse bar and you will learn quite a bit about city operations. Meanwhile, Robert Gieswein, AKA “Machine Gun Bobby,” made international headlines when he followed his political beliefs and was involved in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Gieswein has been locked up for over two years, but after his recent guilty plea he could see the light of day in the next year or two.

Best Troublemaker

Gold – Jessica Skokan (Every local establishment in the region)

Silver – Bobby Kerr (Russ’ Place)

Bronze –  Dennis Zerull (This Week in the Bear Cave)

This year’s Gold for who causes the most trouble in the area goes to the locally famous Jessica Skokan. Jessica can often be seen at several local hang-outs, and she is well-known by just about everybody. However, while she may seem bubbly and friendly at first, trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes. The second place title goes to co-owner of Russ’ Place Bob “Bobby” Kerr Jr. With his quick-witted antics, it is fair to say that Bobby pretty much stays in trouble around the clock. Rumor has it that Bobby has a quota of 10 troublesome incidents per week. Dennis Zerull is the host of the local podcast, “This Week in the Bear Cave,” and despite winning the silver for best local personality, his opinions often wind up getting him in trouble. His show is centered on calling out stupidity when he sees it ,and living in Teller County he always has plenty of material for his weekly radio show.

Best Rumor Mongers

Gold – Melissa Trenary (Cripple Creek Mayor Pro Tem)

Silver – TMJ Staff

Bronze – The Creek regulars

No need for explanations here, as there is no shortage of creators of the infamous rumors and wild tales that go from one side of town to the other, with different variations along the way.

Best Local Sports Star

Gold –  Trinity Diamond, High School Girls Wrestling

Silver –  Bryce Broeker, High School Football Quarterback

Bronze – Sydney Roshek, High School Volleyball

Girls’ star wrestler Trinity Diamond takes home the Gold this year as best local athlete. Diamond has been wrestling for several years and this year she qualified for the state championship tournament and she is the first girl grappler to make it to state in school history. Diamond also signed on to wrestle at the college level next year. During the 2022 fall high school sports season, the Woodland Park Panther football team made it to the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years. Junior Bryce Broeker proved that he is a good leader and star quarterback on offense and stellar lineman on defense. Also, last fall, the girls’ volleyball team won their regional tournament for the first time in several years and they earned a spot at the state championship tourney. Sydney Roshek broke several school records during her career and she greatly contributed to the team’s success

Best Local Sports Team

Gold –  Woodland Park High School Cheerleaders

Silver – Woodland Park High School Girls’ Basketball

Bronze –  Woodland Park High School Volleyball

Honorable Mention: Colorado University Buffalos and Coach Prime

Hands down, the best team award this year goes to the Woodland Park High School Cheerleading team. For the first time in school history, the cheerleaders took home the state title and earned a seat at the National Cheerleading Championship Tournament. The girls’ basketball team made a huge turnaround from last year and they did well enough to make it to the state championship tournament. The team hadn’t made it to the playoffs since the early 2000s and they earned their way to the second playoff round with a one point win in the first round. For years, the high school volleyball team has been one of the school’s best and the last two years they qualified in the regional championship, but then lost before they could make it to state. This year though, the Lady Panthers won the regional tournament and brought home the trophy for being the best team in the region.

Area-wide Winners/Part Two

Best Grocery Store

Gold – City Market

Silver –  Venture Foods

Bronze –  Safeway

When it comes to shopping for food to make at home, everyone seems to love the City Market in Woodland Park. Their fresh selections and low prices could be their key to being number one. Venture Foods in Divide was also picked as another favorite and locals love the convenient location. Safeway in Woodland Park is a bigger store with a broader selection of votes, earned them many votes.

Best Building Supply

Gold – Foxworth Galbraith

Silver – Woodland Hardware

Bronze – Lowe’s

When it comes to remodeling houses or building things, locals enjoy Foxworth Galbraith’s selection of lumber and building accessories. The store has a large lumber yard and they sell other items like clothes and tools. Woodland Hardware is also a favorite when looking for supplies for that project. Others said they prefer to travel down the pass to Lowe’s for their home improvement needs.

Best Hardware Store

Gold – Woodland Hardware

Silver – Ace True Value, Cripple Creek

Bronze – Foxworth Galbraith

When it comes to needing nuts and bolts and other hardware, folks love Woodland Hardware, the first major business that occupied a key site in Woodland Station.  Their friendly staff will help you find that one strange item that they stock. Ace True Value in Cripple Creek has also been a key hardware hub for southern Teller County, Foxworth Galbraith is more known for t

Best Antique Store

Gold – Brazenhead Vintage Market

Silver – Creations Everlasting

Bronze – Maudie’s Incredible Emporium

For the second year in a row, the Brazenhead Vintage Market, in Woodland Park, has snagged the Gold for their large selection of art and antiques. The business offers a little bit, everything  and folks love buying their wagons and visiting their food truck events. Creations Everlasting is also an amazing gem for the goods they offer. Maudie’s is another place to find unique art items, with an antique flavor.

Best Clothing Store

Gold – The Cowhand

Silver – Creations Everlasting

Bronze – Miss Priss Boutique

The famous Cowhand, a Woodland Park institution with roots linking back some 50 or so years, won hands-down, as visitors love their selection of cowboy-style attire and many other items. Creations Everlasting was also picked high in the best clothing competition, and it’s safe to say their selection of NFL gear contributed to this fine showing.  Miss Priss  Boutique is also another favorite when looking for ladies’ attire.

Best Bank

Gold – Park State Bank & Trust

Silver – Vectra Bank

Bronze- Community Banks of Colorado

Locals enjoy Woodland Park’s popular Park State Bank & Trust as the best place to keep their money and to handle investments. The bank is the only one in existence that is still owned by a local family. They are renowned for their strong community ties, and their head CEO, Tony Perry, is quite involved in local business/development action, serving as the chairman of the Woodland Park DDA. Vectra Bank is also a popular place people choose for their banking. Community banks of Colorado wins the convenience award as they are the only bank to have a location in both Cripple Creek and Woodland Park.

Best Liquor Store

Gold – Banana Belt

Silver –  Divide Liquor

Bronze –  Gas N’ Roll  (Wildwood Casino)

When looking to buy adult beverages for a get together, voters love the prices and selection at Banana Belt Liquors in Woodland Park, who has won this title on many occasions.  Their frequent buyers discount program is also a local favorite. Plus, their wine, beer and liquor tastings, one of the new changes under their new ownership, are quite popular.  When traveling west many seem to enjoy stopping at Divide Liquor. When in Cripple Creek, locals prefer the Wildwood’s Gas N’ Roll store off Hwy. 67,  with the convenience of the sole convenience outlet at the entrance to town, equipped with a quality liquor store. Teller County thrives in independent liquor outlets.

Best New Business

Gold: 315 Survival

Silver: Gold Camp Cafe

Bronze: Zebz Outfooter

315 Survival won the Gold in the ever fierce New Business competition, as the Teller region has featured bombardment of new businesses.  Voters love the theme of their store. If you go there, you are almost tempted to pick up some items and hike to the top of a rigorous mountain.   Owner Eric Walker is quite the mountain/touring  guide and expert on outdoor survival tips.  The business also offers ski and snowboard tuning services for winter sports enthusiasts, and a wide assortment of camping and outdoor gear. The Gold Camp Café in Cripple Creek also quickly became a popular spot shortly after they opened, becoming a legendary spot for sandwiches and coffee.  Zebz  Outfooter is downtown Woodland Park’s newest retail hub, and shoppers enjoy their unique selection of footwear. Moreover, it is one of the more unique new businesses for our mountain hub.

Best Area Gift Shop

Gold – Colorado Trade and Transfer

Silver –  Creations Everlasting

Bronze –  Lowell Thomas Museum

For gift items, voters said that they really like everything the gift store at the Cripple Creek District Museum has to offer. The selection of gifts makes the museum a must visit location while enjoying a day in Cripple Creek. Creations Everlasting also is a place that has something for everyone. Locals also seemed to like the gifts offered at Victor’s Lowell Thomas Museum.

Most Unique Business

Gold – Santa’s Workshop

Silver –  Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine

Bronze – Creations Everlasting

Honorable Mention:  The Painted Bear in Green Mountain Falls

The Santa’s Workshop or the North Pole in Cascade has been pleasing people since they open over half a century ago. Residents in the area enjoy spending summer days there and they like to visit the park to get themselves into the Christmas spirit during the fall.

Best School District

Gold – Woodland Park/RE-2 District

Silver –  Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 District

Bronze – Manitou Springs

People in the area overwhelmingly chose the Woodland Park RE-2 School District as the region’s best, despite all the controversies and highly volatile school board meetings. Nothing like a little Wednesday night entertainment to soothe the soul. Just stay in the back to avoid any stray punches.  The sports teams the district has produced this year could be the reason why so many voters gave them the tally as they featured many successful high school sports teams this year. Those in Southern Teller County though said they like everything that the Cripple Creek-Victor School District does for the kids in the community, and excitement grows regarding the development of their new trade school facility, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for mid-May.  Others chose Manitou Springs as being the best place in the area education.

Best Chiropractor

Gold: Powell Chiropractic

Silver: Scott Little

Bronze: Wiley Chiropractic

The Teller County area is a mecca for chiropractic services, especially with the infusion of retirees and senior citizens who just need those frequent adjustments, or encounter a bad back for no good reason. For chiropractic care, Best Of fans made it clear they favor the Powell Chiropractic and Wellness Center, the most, with a prevailing victory this year.  Dr Dave (Powell) and company have served the region for more than 30 years.  Several others said that they prefer Dr. Scott Little and people enjoy the fact that he can work on both humans and most pets, which is becoming more common in chiropractic circles.  Dr. Wiley is an award-winning chiropractor and many choose to use him for chiropractic adjustments.

Best Hair Salon

Gold- A Wild Hair

Silver –  Glam

Bronze – Pearl’s Place

The Teller County area probably has more hair salons than any other type of business, and Best Of participants clearly voted for A Wild Hair in Divide. Located behind the Market, if the Wild Hair isn’t the friendliest hair salon on the mountain, then this title doesn’t exist. The salon is known for their great service, specialties and amazing staff and ability to adjust to the COVID epidemic. Not to mention their longevity.  Glam in Woodland Park also was a favorite amongst voters. Those in Cripple Creek, though, love Pearl’s Place Day Spa, located just off Hwy. 67.

Best Jewelry Store

Gold – Lane Jewelers

Silver –  The Mercantile

Bronze – Luisa Graff

When it comes to shopping for jewelry Lane Jewelers took the number one spot. The  Mercantile, one of Cripple Creek’s newest business, also made the list with their jewelry selection. Luisa Graff, a popular jewelry outlet in Colorado Springs,  got enough votes to pick up the bronze.

Best Furniture Store

Gold – Tweeds Fine Furnishings

Silver –  Williams Log Cabin Furniture

Bronze – American Furniture Warehouse

When it comes to buying furniture for the home, locals overwhelmingly picked Tweeds Fine Furnishings. The sales they offer during the city-wide “Moose Is Loose” event could have been what makes this store so popular.

Williams Log Cabin Furniture is also a local favorite with their log cabin-style merchandise. Others said they like the cheap prices at American Furniture Warehouse down the pass.

Best Cannabis Dispensary

Gold – Maggie’s Farm

Silver – Cannabis Depot

Bronze – Emerald Fields

When it comes to reefer, the voters decided to pick Maggie’s as their favorite cannabis outlet for another year. Their convenient location in Manitou Springs is ideal, and people like their selection of edibles, flower, and extracts. They received a slight scare, when voters in Colorado Springs considered legalizing retail marijuana, but voters in the Springs said  no way in quite convincing fashion. The impact of  future pot shops in Cripple Creek, approved by the voters this last November, hasn’t been determined, but it will take a while for that to evolve. For those not afraid to take the trip down to Pueblo, Cannabis Depot seems to be the number one place to stop for some hippie grass. Emerald Fields in Manitou is also a favorite place for residents of the high country to stop while they are on their way down the pass.

Best Local Entertainment

Gold – Butte Theater

Silver  – Gold Hill Theatres

Bronze –  Crystola Roadhouse Karaoke

When it comes to entertainment, Best Of voters made their opinions quite clear.  They love the amazing array of plays, holiday shows, community performances, musicals  and melodramas at Cripple Creek’s Butte Theater. And this strong asset in Cripple Creek, sometimes overlooked,  will only get better, as a contract was announced at last week’s council meeting with the Colorado Springs-based  Funky Little Theater Company for shows this summer, fall and winter. This combined, with an active schedule for community shows, make the Butte one of the best theater venues in the Pikes Peak region.   When wanting to catch a movie on the big screen, locals like to go to Woodland Park’s Gold Hill Theatres, which has overcome a number of financial obstacles.  Other locals said they prefer to take the mic during the Crystola Roadhouse’s karaoke night on Saturday nights, including  Trevor Phipps.  Crystola Roadhouse Karaoke is always a good time.

Best Family Entertainment

Gold – Gold Hill Theatres

Silver –  Butte Theater

Bronze – North Pole Theme Park

For those looking for something to do with the whole family, they also picked the local movie theatre in Woodland Park. The theatres also have an option to rent out a theater for private events. The Butte Theater is another place that is locally famous for family-themed entertainment. The Santa’s Workshop Theme Park was also picked as a top place to bring the kids.

Best Place for Live Music on the Mountain

Gold – Blue Moose

Silver – The Creek

Bronze – Crystola Roadhouse

Live music is gaining much momentum these days in the Teller/Ute Pass High Country. And the place that offers an intimate and fun place to catch a live band, with some prime regional and national  musicians, is the  Blue Moose in Green Mountain Falls. Whether you like old 60s and 70s tribute acts, blues, punk, folk, dance tunes, Deadhead reenactments  or whatever, the Moose is the place. You almost feel like you are part of the band due the unmatched environment.  Other top choices are The Creek and Crystola Roadhouse. In fact, the latter place offers the best place for dancing.

Best Business Events

Gold – Woodland Park Chamber After Hours

Silver – Community Fund-raisers

Bronze – Charity golf tourneys at Shining Mountain

We are back. That is the theme of the Woodland Park Chamber’s After Hours, gatherings that sometimes attract several hundred people, held at a local business, and offering plenty in the way of updates, give-aways, great food, gifts and more. These events took a beating during COVID, but have returned to their full vigor-style and the return of After-Hours has been well received. Meanwhile, many favor the various community fund-raisers, hosted by several local establishments, 110 Reserve, McGinty’s, Russ’ Place,  Peak View BBQ, Blue Moose and more, benefitting a slew of nonprofits. These have turned into great get-togethers and a way to pay tribute to worthy causes and old-time members of the community, who have recent passed away.  The charity tourneys at Shining Mountain, though, are also a big hit for raising money and having a great time on the links, regardless of your skill level.

Best Bed & Breakfast

Gold –  Cripple Creek Hospitality House

Silver – St. Nicholas

Bronze –  Rocky Mountain Lodge

For those who like the bed and breakfast-style amenities, they picked the historic Cripple Creek Hospitality House. The beautiful Victorian-style building has plenty of charm and people also enjoy the Doc’s food truck parked on the grounds.

Hotel St. Nicholas is also a favorite probably mainly due to their unique Boiler Room bar. The Rocky Mountain Lodge also got enough votes to make the list.

Best Firearms Dealer

Gold: Armament Evolved

Silver: 315 Survival

Bronze: Freedom 30

Teller County is one of the best-armed areas, per capita in the nation.  This is a trend that will escalate further with the controversy over state and national gun control legislation.. And for the contest for the top place to purchase firearms, locals enjoy the selection at  Armament Evolved in Woodland Park, off Hwy. 24. 315 Survival, located in the Safeway shopping center, also gained much support with their air powered rifles. And, voters once again chose Freedom 30 as another top gun store.

Best Area Non-Profit

Gold – Community Partnership

Silver – Aspen Mine Center

Bronze – TCRAS

In a new competition this year, Community Partnership captured the gold in a contest that featured no lack of contenders. Community Partnership recently had a ribbon cutting for their  new location in Woodland Park’s Gold Hill Square, and their visibility and  their combination of services, enabled them to take the top spot. Community Partnership has emerged as a top hit among locals. The Aspen Mine Center in Cripple Creek is also popular due to their broad variety of services. Many laude their new facility at Aspen Mine West, representing an amazing revitalization of the old Madame June’s casino.  The TCRAS animal shelter in Divide was also a favorite among nonprofits, as  they take care of the area’s animals in need. Those in Southern Teller County though said they like everything that the Cripple Creek-Victor School District does for the kids in the community. Others chose Manitou Springs as being the best place for education.

Special Niche Business Winners

Best Internet Provider

Gold –  TDS Internet

Silver – Peak Internet (Vero Networks)

Bronze –  Xfinity Internet

Local competition is getting heated, when it comes to connecting to the world wide web, especially in Teller County where service levels and select packages are increasing.  In the 2003 vote, TMJ participants choose TDS as their top pick.  The internet company, which has a Woodland Park office, and does business in a variety of states, has competitive rates. Locals say they provide the best service without interruptions, and some like their combination of phone, high-speed internet and television packages.  Peak Internet, now known as Vero Networks under the latest sales acquisition is also a favorite with their high speed fiber optic connections. Others, though, say that they like Xfinity’s internet the best. Xfinity is quite well known through its television commercials.

Best Real Estate Agent/Company

Gold – Carrie Miller/Your Neighborhood Realty

Silver – James Dean/James Dean Mountain Real Estate Team

Bronze –  Josh Dorsey/Adobe Real Estate

The high country also has a slew of real estate agents, a trend that accelerated with the return to a robust housing market, following the Great Recession of 2007/2008. Best Of readers have opted for Carrie Miller, who has a familiar track record in the area. James Dean, who heads the James Dean Mountain Real Estate Team, also seems to have a good following, along with Josh Dorsey, of Adobe Realty.

Best Electrician

Gold: Hardcastle Plumbing and Heating

Silver – Hedges Electric

Bronze – Timberline Electric

For electrical work at home, TMJ voters strongly voted for Hardcastle Plumbing and Heating. The locally- owned business can help with everyone’s plumbing, HVAC, or electrical needs. Others picked Hedges Electric and Timberline Electric for their top choices.

Best Heating and Air Conditioning Company

Gold – Harris Heating and Air

Silver –  Hardcastle Plumbing and Heating

Bronze – HVAC Solutions

If locals need help with their heating or air conditioning systems, Cody Harris with Harris heating was a local favorite. No question about it.  Hardcastle also received many votes and easily snagged the runner-up spot. HVAC Solutions was another company that fared quite well in this competition.

Best Auto Repair

Gold – Vahsholtz Automotive

Silver –  Big Sky Auto

Bronze – Cripple Creek Auto

When the vehicles of local residents need repairing, they love the family-owned Vahsholtz Automotive company.  Vahsholtz Automotive is one of the longest-running businesses in the area, and locals say they trust them the most in tending to their vehicles.  They have vastly expanded their operations in the last few years. In addition, the Vahsholtz family has gained much notoriety for their top finishes in the Pikes Peak Hill  Climb auto races over the last few decades.  Big Sky Auto in Divide is also a favorite place to get repairs done. Cripple Creek Automotive in Divide is another well-known repair shop that locals picked.

Best Car Dealer

Gold –  Phil Long

Silver – Mike Maroone

Bronze –  McClosky Auto

Those that need a new ride prefer to go to the Phil Long Dealership for their new whip. Mike Maroone and McClosky Auto were also picked as number two and three choices, respectfully.

Best Lawyer

Gold: Justin Fish

Silver – Bart DePalma

Bronze –  Frank Azar

Justin Fish, who is based in Colorado Springs and known for his work in estate planning, wills and trusts and Medicaid assistance, took the top prize this year.  Meanwhile, Woodland Park lawyer Bart DePalma snagged the silver.  DePalma has worked with many locals regarding drunk-driving, driving while intoxicated   and various criminal defense cases. His office is located in Woodland Park. Frank Azar grabbed the Bronze, a fact that is probably true due to his regular bombardment of television ads.

Best Web Design

Gold –  Ghettifish

Silver – Spiders

Bronze – Woodland Web Designs

When it comes to designing a website that meets the current business environment,  voters liked Ghettifish the most. Ghettifish is located in Woodland Park. Spiders and Woodland Web Designs were also high on the approval list.

Best Tattoo Shop

Gold –  Academy Star Tattoo

Silver – Westside Tattoo

Bronze –  Fallen Heroes

When locals choose to get a new tattoo, most said they love going to Cam at Academy Star Tattoo in Woodland Park. Cam has a good reputation and many love is unique artistic style. People also like the fact that Cam offers screen printing as well. Other voters said they like to drive down the pass and get tattooed by Westside Tattoo or Fallen Heroes.