Best Of 2014: Personalities 

Local Talk Radio Personality

SportsGuy Mike Luper


Mike Luper spent his childhood listening to his favorite voices on the legendary WFAN, and echoing their calls into a hairbrush in his Bronx bedroom. His own radio career began with a stint in Internet radio, then on terrestrial airwaves in Texas, and before too long he wound up on AM radio here locally. Today, you know him as the voice of The SportsGuy Mike Show on 890 AM and as the host of The Afternoon Groove (another Best Of winner) on 101.3 FM. He's actually more than just a personality, though: Luper also serves as 890's GM and handles a bevy of responsibilities. "I'm a jack of all trades," he says. As for his plans for the future, he says he's not going anywhere. "This is where I want to be." — CL

Radio DJ

Vicky Gregor, KRCC-FM 91.5

473-4801, krcc.org

When a morning deejay signs on as "your friend and neighbor Vicky," it's a safe bet this isn't going to be the kind of drive-time bro-fest you can find elsewhere on the dial. With an on-air personality that comes across as folksy but not hackneyed, KRCC music director Vicky Gregor is, first and foremost, a lifelong music fan. She also has the only radio show where you're likely to hear The National, Valerie June, Throwing Muses and The Changing Colors all in one program. And it's that same eclectic enthusiasm that continues to make her Colorado Springs' favorite friend and neighbor. — BF

Radio Station: Music

KRXP-FM 103.9

219-7625, 1039rxp.com

The Alternative RXP, as it's known today, is a much different breed of animal than classic rock station The Eagle, which occupied the 103.9 frequency up until its 2008 changeover. The current RXP format mixes contemporary acts like Sir Sly and Imagine Dragons with the occasional legacy artist like R.E.M. or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The station, which has won this category for its second year in a row, is also an active participant in the local music community, with its live showcases and Sunday night Colorado Native show. — BF

Cultural White Knight

Jon Khoury, Cottonwood Center for the Arts

427 E. Colorado Ave., 520-1899, cottonwoodcenterforthearts.com

Back in June, COPPeR hosted a morning coffee detailing the events of Arts Month, slated for October. Of the few to ask questions was Jon Khoury, who asked if it might be a good idea to donate money to COPPeR's cause. Executive director Andy Vick demurred, saying that while nice, money would preferably stay with the arts organizations themselves. The next day, Khoury marched into the COPPeR office and presented a check with the note: "This check represents both a symbolic and literal donation." This is how Khoury operates. Having accepted the executive director job at Cottonwood Center for the Arts just two years ago, Khoury has overseen numerous projects, like the recent $5,000 renovation of its new performance art space, Studio B, as well as free art classes for local teens through the Adduce Foundation and monthly Third Weekend festivities, which include Hear, Here! poetry slams, Toastmasters courses and open critique sessions. If you want something done, Khoury's your guy. — EA

Writer's Pick
Cultural White Knight: South/Pueblo

Gregory Howell

The man behind Kadoya Gallery and the Shoe Factory, who shows up almost everywhere in the Pueblo arts-and-culture scene, Gregory Howell is described by several people who know him as a force of nature. Or, to put it plainly, a guy who doesn't sleep. When he's not running between Kadoya and the Factory (the latter is part-gallery, part-studio space, with plans for expansion), he's working with the Pueblo Progressive Poetry Project or the Central Plaza Rejuvenation Project. Maybe he spreads himself thin, but the products thus far haven't betrayed as much. This year alone, he's brought the likes of Mathias Valdez and Rodney Wood, as well as the first international juried photography show in Pueblo, to Kadoya. — EA

Fundraising Event

Indy Give!


If you're reading this, chances are you know what Give! is: an annual, year-end fundraising drive that in 2013 raised $1.1 million for a huge selection of local and regional charities from generous, smart and attractive locals like you. But there are some things you might not know about it, like how for-profit companies support the campaign with donations or tie-ins. Bristol Brewing Company brews a special beer for local Old Chicago locations, and donates the proceeds to the drinker's charity of choice. Heuberger Motors provides a car to be raffled off to donors. And the Indy team helps teach nonprofits valuable skills like grant writing, event planning, marketing and social media. "We want them to be a more effective organization than when they started [with Give!] back in June," says Give! executive director Mary Lou Makepeace. "And they're saying they are!" — JK

Radio Station: Talk

KRCC-FM 91.5

473-4801, krcc.org

Who can beat Morning Edition and All Things Considered? Nobody, apparently. KRCC has been declared the winner in this category for all four years it's been part of Best Of. But those national NPR programs aren't the only reason KRCC comes out on top. The Colorado College-based public radio station, which marks its 65th birthday next year, continues finding new ways to inform and entertain. Besides offering locally generated news, earlier this year KRCC introduced a locally produced talk program called Wish We Were Here, the goal being to highlight unusual places and incidents in Springs history. The pilot program that aired in July revisited the saga of con artist Storme Aerison, a former Coronado High School cheerleader who wove a web of deception. Listen to the whole story at krcc.org. — PZ

Local Radio Show

The Afternoon Groove, KFEZ-FM 101.3

877/842-6336, easy1013.com; formerly weekdays 4-6 p.m.; now weekends TBD

Hosted by SportsGuy Mike, this year's Local Talk Radio Personality winner, The Afternoon Groove has flipped the script on the afternoon drive format. While other stations go heavy on music at the end of the day, this Easy 101.3 show delivers a balanced offering of general talk and tunes. Its talk-show style charm, off-the-cuff show segments, and easy-listening R&B for the drive home have become a hit just since launching in January of this year. But as it happens, 101.3 plans to move The Afternoon Groove to the weekends, with an additional Saturday Night Groove on the docket, too. Check easy1013.com for the latest. — CL

Local TV Newscast

KRDO NewsChannel 13

575-6285, krdo.com

Veteran TV journalist James Jarman anchors an award-winning staff at a station that offers more than pretty faces in front of a camera. "We've tried to instill the culture of aggressively pursuing the truth, holding the powerful accountable, and giving voice to the voiceless," says Jarman, who came to this market in 1996 and joined KRDO four years ago. KRDO broke the story in September about dead horses in Black Forest and has provided in-depth coverage of developing stories, such as the sheriff's scandal. Any given day, up to eight reporters will be on assignment anywhere from Denver to Trinidad, on the Front Range and eastern plains. And when mega stories emerge, Jarman says, such as the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, the parent company sends reporters from other TV stations and newspapers it owns to provide complete coverage of unfolding events. PZ

Local TV News Personality

Justin Chambers, KXRM FOX 21

596-2100, fox21news.com

Meteorologist Justin Chambers had been moving around from market to market, looking for bigger and better things, when he landed in Colorado Springs — just in time for the two worst wildfire seasons in state history. "It was such a crazy news cycle in my first two years, I was just floored," Chambers says. "I was like, 'Where did I move to?' Y'know, Waldo, Aurora, Black Forest, Royal Gorge and the floods ... I thought that was the norm." Well, consider this a show of gratitude, Justin. You've been through the fires, and shown yourself worthy. We love our meteorologists around here — just ask former KRDO weatherman Matt Meister, who'd won this category the past two years. — JK

Story of the Year

Sheriff Terry Maketa's scandal

The Independent began reporting on El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa's questionable decisions in regard to finances and staffing in March 2010, but it took until this year for allegations to pile high enough for the larger community to take notice. That's when county commissioners received accusations of preferential treatment of subordinates with whom Maketa's accused of having affairs. The commissioners coordinated an independent review and investigation (still ongoing), then asked him to resign. He refused. In June, a recall petition was approved, but volunteers failed to collect the necessary signatures. What's next is anyone's guess, but Maketa is term-limited. And though he once may have been the area's most popular conservative, he said back in March that he had no plans to run for office again, even gifting us some famous last words: "I haven't been a good little Republican." — KA

Local Politician

Colorado Springs City Councilor Jan Martin

385-5486, jmartin@springsgov.com

Ask Colorado Springs City Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin how she spends her free time, and she'll answer, "This is all I do." And though she's in the final year of her second term as an at-large member on Council, the 64-year-old Springs native is still committed to her work, and making sure all of her constituents have a voice. "The community has really become an important part of my life, and everything I do, is still relating to the city, to me." OK, OK. She does golf. But really, who doesn't do business on the greens? — KA

Hero of the Year

Colorado Springs firefighters

Our town emerged from the 2014 wildfire season relatively unscathed, but that hasn't stopped Indy readers from recognizing Colorado Springs firefighters as our Heroes of the Year for the third year in a row. And why should it? Structure fires over the past 12 months have damaged homes, apartment buildings, and even our own power plant, and firefighters have answered the call. They remain responsible for helping our town mitigate unnecessary fire threats, rendering first aid, and performing essential and dangerous rescue operations — all while standing at the ready to go forth and protect our homes and businesses from another big one. If the true definition of being a hero means never stopping doing good, then this award is another well-earned. — JK

Local Blogger

Whiskey Darling


First-place recognition has been a long time coming for this local blogger. Whiskey Darling (who prefers to go by her burlesque-performer stage name) says she started blogging four years ago to promote herself as a jewelry designer. "It eventually evolved into my odd interpretations of random events and topics," she says. Nowadays, she riffs on sandwich history, pet peeves and daily escapades, lacing all her words with smartass, self-deprecating comments. Though she refers to herself as "lazy, distracted and unmotivated," she took three second-place awards in a row before this year's top honor. All unmotivated bloggers (myself included) take hats off to you, Darlin', for writing with humble honesty, admirable regularity and eccentric style. — AP

Local Twitterer

Travis Ruiz


First-time Best Of winner Travis Ruiz is no stranger to the social media game. "I was that kid growing up with the most Zynga followers, the most MySpace friends, the most Facebook friends," Ruiz says. "But there's something different about Twitter." That something is the ability to share an inside scoop of his life as a reporter, and a quirky young professional, in the moment. Twitter is just an extension of his personal life, and Ruiz is adamant that interpersonal communication is the foundation of his social prowess. "I like to add a little pizazz to my tweets," he says. "People win on Twitter by being quirky." Soon he'll have a whole new city to win over: Ruiz is leaving the FOX 21 news team to become the assistant news director for KVII-TV in Amarillo, Texas. — CL

Writer's Pick
Local Twitter Hater

Mike Hostile


Working the Indy's Twitter handle wouldn't be the same if it weren't for the ever-loathing @MikeHostile berating us on a regular basis. "Red scum of a newspaper right here," he tweets at us. "Nothing but commie content." Mike, a "punk rockin', reefer smokin', vegan eatin', stock tradin', on-file libertarian" is certain that we here at the Indy are nothing short of the most heinous breed of commie-loving socialists, hell-bent on killing the free-market system with our red-laden propaganda, and he isn't afraid to tell us. "What a garbage weekly for freedom lovers," he writes in one of his latest tweets to us. Thanks for reading, Mike, and we beg you: Don't let this award affect our relationship in any way. — CL

Nonprofit Organization

Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado

2605 Preamble Point, 528-1247, careandshare.org

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs suggests that unless our physiological demands for air, shelter, water and food are met, the higher needs of love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization cannot be achieved. Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado partners with 300 agencies throughout Southern Colorado — 52,000 square miles and 31 counties — to ensure the need for food is met. Its efforts span the calendar, from the food drive with the U.S. Postal Service every May, when we can leave nonperishable items at our mailbox, to the Harvest of Love in November, when local schools compete in food and fund collection. As Care and Share marketing and communications director Shannon Coker says, "Hunger is a year-round issue." — LE


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