Best Of 2016


2016 Best Of Colorado Springs: Community 

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
Media Personality

Justin Chambers, Fox21

• On-air highlights include singing an off-key rendition of Soul 4 Real's not-altogether-memorable New Jack Swing anthem "Every Little Thing I Do" and dressing up as Fred Flintstone

• A West Coast transplant who started in broadcasting as a junior high school deejay, Chambers started at Fox21 in 2012 and last year was promoted to chief meteorologist

• Has an Alaskan malamute named Nika Louise Chambers

• Closest brush with fame: "I was in a movie with Brad Pitt," he says, "but my part got cut out." (The movie was Cool World; Chambers played a kid on a bike)

click to enlarge RILEY BRATZLER
  • Riley Bratzler
Local Record Release (tie)

'Weight of Matter' by Eros and the Eschaton

• Frontwoman Kate Perdoni used to tour as Katey Sleeveless, playing polemical folk originals like "The Government Seems to Have a Hard Time Passing Bills About Things That Are Free"

• After Perdoni and Adam Hawkins formed the more indie-rock-inclined Eros and the Eschaton, she stopped doing that

• They got lots of comparisons to Low and My Bloody Valentine (these things can't be helped)

• The duo moved to Colorado Springs in 2013 and evolved into a proper band featuring former members of El Toro de la Muerte and The Flumps

• Sophomore album Weight of Matter is on the legendary Bar/None label, which means they get to see their promo photo alongside heroes like Petra Haden and Yo La Tengo

Local Record Release (tie)

'Borrowed Time' by Grass It Up

• Their six albums include an homage to the late Earl Scruggs, as well as this year's Borrowed Time, which was recorded live and local at Western Jubilee

• Singer/mandolinist David Jeffrey, who's an Indy ad rep during daylight hours, began performing with guitarist Shannon Carr in 2000 while growing up in Alabama

• Perform at venues ranging from Front Range Barbeque's patio to upscale events at The Broadmoor, as well as MeadowGrass and other festivals

• Jeffrey describes himself and his band mates: "the most doughnut-lovin', fried chicken-eatin', banjo-playin', 3-part-harmony sort of singin', pickin' and grinninest hicks from the sticks you've ever met"

Original Band/Artist

The E.T.'s

• Local jam band formed by high school friends Jordan Thaddeus White, Garrett Buxton and Alex Buxton

• Favorite musicians include Bob Marley, Steel Pulse, Radiohead, Thievery Corporation and, of course, Phish

• The band started out as the Thaddeus White Trio, but changed their name to The E.T.'s. after returning from a five-year hiatus

• The E.T.'s is short for The Emerald Thadlanteans, and their mission is to "emulsify the word with love and peace and share light on this shadow filled world"

  • Ginger Selleck Brotography
Cover Band/Artist


• Local hard-rock band formed in 2011 by members of -itis, Sanguine Addiction and Last Supper

• Perform covers of Guns 'n' Roses, Pantera, Quiet Riot, Cinderella and Soft Cell. "We're learning new material all the time," says guitarist Dave Zahara

• Especially well-known for their full-set Halloween homages, which in years past have included Pantera, AC/DC and Rage Against the Machine

• The band is currently rehearsing a set of Alice in Chains, which they'll perform at Rocks Sports Bar and Grill on Oct. 29

• Strangest thing that's happened live? "We see a fair bit of interesting scenes from stage," says Zahara, "but we won't incriminate anyone"

click to enlarge CHRISTIAN MURDOCK
  • Christian Murdock
Music Festival


• As of this writing, the 2017 festival is just 33 weeks, 34 days, 22 hours, 50 minutes and 33 seconds away

• The three-day Americana and roots-music festival has been held each Memorial Day weekend on the lush green grounds of the La Foret Conference and Retreat Center since 2009

• Past highlights include sets by Elephant Revival, Blue Rodeo, Caitlin Rose, Kristin Hersh, and Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, along with campfire performances, artist workshops and Sunday Morning gospel shows

• Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band have played it twice, bringing audience members onstage to play washboard and drink hot sauce

• Recipient of a $13,000 grant from Colorado Creative Industries to support the 2017 and 2018 festivals

Local Radio or TV Station

KRCC-FM 91.5

• One-stop shopping for NPR faves, including Terry Gross' insightful Fresh Air interviews.

• Vintage Voltage host GT knows more about obscure psychedelic and garage music than all the clerks in High Fidelity combined

• Morning music host Vicky Gregor has been, as she puts it, "your friend and neighbor" for more than a decade — she's also KRCC's music director and conducts on-air interviews with artists ranging from local hip-hop heroes The ReMINDers to soul legend Booker T

• KRCC organizes the annual Blues Under the Bridge festival and presents shows at venues ranging from CC's Armstrong Hall to Ivywild School

Radio Show or TV Program

'RXP Morning Show with Chris & Coba'

• Chris Austin's first-ever concert was Monsters of Rock at Mile High Stadium

• Coba Hoban's was Three Dog Night — her parents took her to it when she was 4

• The morning drive-time show began in 2010 as "RXP Mornings with Anderson & Coba"

• Hoban's radio spot for the Indy's 2014 Best Of landed her a Colorado Broadcasters Association Award of Excellence

Cripple Creek Casino

Bronco Billy's Casino

• "A real Colorado-style casino" means they're serious about not taking things too seriously

• 2016 payouts tallying over $24 million — and growing — plus cash drawings every day and cash back on points

• 49-cent breakfasts in the Home Cafe, a 100-year-old eatery

• Among the first casinos to open in Cripple Creek, celebrating 25 years this month

• Supporter of local events, including Cripple Creek Ice Fest and nonprofits in the Springs, Denver and Teller County

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
Theater Company


• Started with seven people sewing curtains at a kitchen table in 1975

• Artistic director Murray Ross was one of those people, and has been in his current role since '76

• Once produced the medieval play Everyman on a touring bus, performing a scene at each stop and ending at a graveyard

• A rare partnership between a professional community company and an educational institution

• Prologue Series brings in big-name theater folks, and town hall discussions address issues of race and gender onstage

• Working on getting out into K-12 schools

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
Dance Company

Ormao Dance Company

• Director Jan Johnson founded Ormao in 1990

• Mathtastic! Ormao performs a traveling math-based dance show for local schools

• Offers dance, choreography and yoga classes to the public

• The company frequently collaborates with local artists, musicians and unique venues for their performances

• Season passholders can enjoy a rare look at final rehearsals for major productions

Artist, Gallery, Place to Buy Art

Liese Chavez/Chavez Gallery

To clue you in to the kind of person Liese Chavez is: She started learning magic tricks just to entertain folks at Chavez Gallery's legendary First Friday celebrations, and recently took up the art of Spencerian penmanship — just for fun. She and her husband Kris co-own and operate Chavez Gallery, which exists for the purpose of getting the public excited about art. "We want to engage people," Liese says. "Art isn't a part of everyone's life, so we wanted to create an environment that was fun and playful and gave them permission to interact." Far more than just a gallery, this cozy space in OCC boasts art puzzles, a shadow-puppet play area and even a magic button on the wall that doles out everything from sage advice to costume props. Of course, the Chavezes still exhibit and sell their more traditional art, creating whole new bodies of work every two months to fit a new theme. Prolific, talented and community-minded, they are peerless local ambassadors for the arts.

Yoga Studio

Cambio Yoga

• Siblings Amber and Austin Richman began Cambio in 2008 with a goal to make yoga accessible to everyone

• Cost is never a barrier, with all classes donation-based

• Cambio embraces individuals with disabilities, mobility issues and struggles such as PTSD

• Offers 10-week teacher trainings so you can take your practice to new heights

• Don't be fooled: The studio's nondescript exterior belies the soothing yoga paradise found within

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
First Friday Destination

The Modbo/S.P.Q.R

• Located in an alley — the cool kind where hip urbanites hang out

• Open till midnight on First Fridays so patrons can check out other art too

• First Fridays often feature music, dance or other interdisciplinary arts

• "We pride ourselves on being able to create a home for newer artists," says co-owner Lauren Ciborowski

• The annual Small Works show, timed around the holidays, features affordable options ideal for gifting

click to enlarge BRIAN TRYON
  • Brian Tryon
Cultural Attraction/Museum, Art Exhibition

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center & 'Springs Surreal' at the FAC

It would have been easy for former FAC executive director/chief curator Blake Milteer and curator of modern and contemporary art Joy Armstrong to subordinate the regional contributions to last winter's Springs Surreal show. After all, three pieces by René Magritte will draw a sizable audience on their own. But instead, they gave artists Lorelei Beckstrom, Aaron Graves, Kay Williams Johnson and Chris Sedgwick a very even-handed treatment, displaying their weird works with the same dignity as the beloved Magrittes. And that attitude is part of what has made the FAC a bona fide blessing for Colorado Springs. Over 80 years, it has hosted countless museum exhibitions, taught art to the masses, and hosted and staged an array of live performances. Indeed, the FAC is an icon of Springs history and culture rivaled only in significance by Pikes Peak itself.

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
Community Advocate

Richard Skorman

• Credited by former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace with keeping progressive politics alive in Colorado Springs

• Named his business after Poor Richard's Almanac, which was published by Ben Franklin, one of his activist heroes

• Served seven years on the City Council, and two as Vice Mayor

• Played a key role in the Trails, Open Space and Parks measure, which helped preserve Red Rock Canyon, Iron Mountain, and other spaces

• Conducts tours of Strawberry Fields to support a ballot initiative campaign against the city's land-swap deal with the Broadmoor

• His prescription for improving our reputation in the outside world: "I would say that if we could become the most bicycle-friendly city in the United States, that would change it. Because that would bring young people and millennials, and it wouldn't have the reputation of being for just retired military or social conservatives."

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent

Urban Peak

• About 150 people per year benefit from the shelter, the only one in the Springs specifically for youths ages 15 to 20

• It's not just a shelter — Urban Peak's housing program serves 45 to 50 per year, and its outreach team reaches 400

• Core belief: "the transformational power of acceptance"

• Ninety percent of youths entering the housing program remain in a stable housing situation

• Now seeking volunteers for its housing and outreach teams

Bed and Breakfast

Blue Skies Inn Bed & Breakfast

• Owner Sally Thurston has deep roots in Colorado, having descended from a beaver trapper who came here in the 1830s and covered-wagon pioneers

• Thurston designed and built Blue Skies using the property's 1870 carriage house as inspiration

• Rooms are hand-painted by Thurston and each has a theme: Starlight, Sunset, Blue Skies and more

• Over the last 20 years, Thurston has baked more than half a million muffins for guests

• Hosted 600 weddings since opening the garden to events 15 years ago

Special Event Venue

Pinery at the Hill

• Stress-free event planning thanks to in-house baker, chef, florist and deejay

• Chef Ben Hoffer has a background in both banquet and fine dining restaurant service

• Rumor has it that Hoffer can recreate any dish, which comes in handy for the Pinery's themed events

• Hosts nonprofits like Koats 4 Kids and Children's Hospital Colorado

Local Politician

Electra Johnson

• Her volunteers are so passionate, they've been canvassing every weekend (you should see the maps)

• Says her greatest accomplishment is her 4-year-old son, who was her motivation for getting into politics

• If elected, she will be the first Democrat to hold the District 3 County Commission seat in 42 years

• Primary focuses include children and family health (mental and physical), the health of our local water resources and the various issues connected to the housing crisis

• Because we couldn't resist quoting her on this: "In 30 or 50 years, I hope my impact is bigger than Doug Bruce's"

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

The Mining Exchange

• Provides nonprofit rates and services when hosting local charitable events — and they host a lot of 'em

• New(ish) spa is open to hotel guests and the public, and it's got a little of everything

• Chef Jason Miller of Springs Orleans, the in-house restaurant, pretty much always wins the Manitou Springs gumbo cookoff

• The hotel opened in May 2012, a month before the Waldo Canyon Fire

• A certain presidential candidate may have gotten stuck in its elevator, but Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had a lovely stay here

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Tourist Attraction

Garden of the Gods

Big, beautiful red rocks. Well-cared for trails (some even paved). A rich geological and cultural history. Pikes Peak as a backdrop. FREE. All of these factors consistently place Garden of the Gods high on lists of things to see or places to go in Colorado Springs. Pro tip: Get up early for breathtaking sunrise pictures.

Easy Hiking Trail

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

That Red Rocks isn't a trail, but a park with a system of trails, seems to escape Indy voters, but there is no denying its popularity. On this broad, deep piece of land in between Colorado Springs and Manitou, there are easy and moderate trails of enough varying lengths to satisfy any hiker. Go on weekdays to avoid crowds.

Difficult Hiking Trail

The Manitou Incline

A perennial winner in this category, the Incline is the definition of difficult hiking. It's almost straight up for a mile, and a false summit has been known to inflict psychological damage on the unsuspecting. It's closed until December for improvements that likely won't make it any easier. Take advantage of free parking and two shuttles — one of which is seasonal — since parking nearby is sparse and expensive.

Easy Biking Trail

New Santa Fe Trail

The 7-mile section of this trail that runs through the U.S. Air Force Academy was recently re-opened, allowing cyclists a route devoid of almost any vehicle traffic. A quick ride when going south, and a gentle incline when going north, the Santa Fe Trail is enjoyable and scenic. Just don't wander off the trail while on AFA property.

Difficult Biking Trail

Captain Jack's

A winding trail that skirts around Mays Peak before crossing High Drive and heading up Mount Buckhorn, Captain Jack's offers a variety of challenges for cyclists: steep climbs, blind curves, narrow eroded sections. Throw in the occasional hiker or equestrian, and the challenges increase.

click to enlarge BRIAN TRYON
  • Brian Tryon
Climbing Spot


• Interior murals reference classic movies to honor the building's past as a theater

• Physically handicapped people can climb using a specialized chair and pulley rig

• Adult bouldering league pairs teammates of various experience levels

• The Ute & Yeti, inside the gym, serves recovery food tailored for post-workout, but craft beers too

• Wrapping your shredded hands around a cold beer after a killer sesh is good for calluses and it's good for you

Martial Arts Studio

Tai Chi Association of Colorado Springs

• Sifu Michael Paler, a Buffalo transplant, opened the Tai Chi Association 17 years ago and is also a consulting trainer for Olympic ice skaters

• His father and grandfather were both boxers, and he began studying martial arts 32 years ago at the age of 8

• Paler is a Seventh Generation Lineage Holder in the Imperial Yang Family style of Tai Chi

• Beginner classes focus on movement and relaxation techniques that can be carried over into everyday life

Gym/Fitness Center

YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region

• Promoting youth development, healthy living and social responsibility locally for 138 years, and reaching over 100,000 people annually through programs and memberships

• Recipient of 2015 El Pomar Award for Excellence

• Annual Support Campaign ensures wide access to YMCA memberships and programs

• The 7th Grade Initiative provides a safe, fun space after school for teens and tweens

• Sign up for the new adult triathlon team, or ease yourself into activity with the Couch-to-5K training series

Adventure Company

Adventures Out West

• Rafting, ziplining, hot air ballooning, horseback riding and Segway tours galore

• Refunds are guaranteed if customers get cold feet

• School, church and corporate groups, tourists and locals all welcome

• Ziplining on far west side of Manitou makes for unique views of the foothills

• Hot air ballooning through the cloud layer makes for a Zen experience as the sun rises

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Place to Buy Skis/Snowboards

The Ski Shop

• Co-owners Rick and Scott Uhl are brothers and of the two, Rick is the better skier (according to Rick's wife)

• Staff personally tests every piece of gear they sell

• Free boot adjustments because customer's comfort is king

• Recommended age to first try skiing: 3

• Recommended age to give up on ever learning to ski: never

Bike Shop

Old Town Bike Shop

• More than 100 years of combined mechanical experience in its repair department

• Every bike is adjusted to fit the rider perfectly before it leaves the shop

• Free bike clinics are offered on everything from regular maintenance to fixing flats and first aid

• Most expensive bike in the shop: $6,000

• Bicycle newbie? The staff is happy to educate you on all things bikes so you can get off to a great start

Sports Store/Outdoor Outfitter


• Building more mountain bike trails along the Front Range by supporting the Colorado Mountain Bike Association

• Free in-store classes and hands-on field trainings

• Most popular outdoor item this year: lightweight Eno brand hammock

• Conservation efforts include support to RMFI, TOSC and the Colorado 14ers Initiative

• Celebrated National Parks Service centennial by offering special classes at park sites, and donating 10 percent back to the Parks Service


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