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We wrote up the ballot and put it online – and you, our readers — responded with more than twice the number of votes we’ve ever seen, setting a new record for participation in our annual Best of Boulder™ poll. Thank goodness the votes are tabulated electronically, or we’d still be counting.
What this means, of course, is that actually winning any given category is an even bigger deal than it was before. A broader range of voters means a broader range of possible winners, after all.
Some of this year’s winners — like Laudisio Ristorante, Boulder Theater and The Peppercorn — came as no surprise, as they seem to win at least one category every year. But there were some new faces in the crowd, like The Essence Studio, the North Boulder perfumery, which won Best Independent Business, and Ellie’s Eco Home Store, which won Best Eco-Friendly Retailer.
Of course, Boulder County has an embarrassing number of outstanding restaurants, a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, and more than its fare share of creative, successful businesses, a reflection of the county’s educated, dynamic population. It’s no accident that Boulder County itself turns up repeatedly in various “Best of” lists.
In addition to the results of our poll, we’ve again included our own observations about the people, places and events that made this past year memorable, from the absurd — arresting naked joggers with pumpkins on their heads — to the sublime — listening to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
We hope you enjoy this year’s Best of Boulder™ edition, and congratulations to this year’s winners!
BEST BRIGHT IDEA
ClimateSmart Loan Program
The economy is in the crapper. The polar ice caps are melting. The world seems to be coming to a destitute, sweltering end. So why can’t someone come up with an idea that funnels lots of cash into the Boulder County economy, creates jobs, makes people’s lives more comfortable, gives them tax breaks and helps save the planet?
Sure. No problem, right?
That’s what Boulder County officials did when they came up with the ClimateSmart Loan Program. Based on an idea that a few local governments had experimented with, the program, approved by voters last November, enables property owners to borrow money at very low interest rates directly from the county for renewable energy and energy-efficiency improvements to their homes and business properties. The money, spent on insulation, energy-efficient windows, solar panels and other improvements, is pumped into the local economy, helping to grow the county’s budding green industries and keeping money that would otherwise go to big energy companies (read: Xcel) right here in Boulder County. With federal tax credits and savings in energy costs, it promises not only to reduce people’s carbon footprint, but also to save them money. Boulder County is the first government entity in the United States to undertake a program like this on such a broad scale. Yeah, we’re cool, and soon we’ll have the carbon footprint to show it. For more information about the program, go to www.ClimateSmartLoanProgram.org.
Roger Ebert at the Conference on World Affairs
Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert had been a fixture at the University of Colorado’s Conference on a World Affairs for 38 years. His arrival on campus was as sure a sign of the coming of spring as, well, blizzards and tulips. For 30 of those years, he hosted “Cinema Interruptus,” a weeklong participatory event, in which he, with questions from the audience, deconstructed a film of his choosing.
Then he fell ill with salivary gland cancer. A series of surgeries saved his life but robbed him of his ability to speak. Now cancer free, Ebert returned this spring after a two-year absence. And despite his inability to speak, he once again hosted “Interruptus,” discussing the 2007 independent film Chop Shop, written and directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani.
Because he couldn’t talk, Ebert had to improvise, communicating with his audience with the assistance of technology and Jim Emerson, a Seattle-based film critic and webmaster of RogerEbert.com. And it was as if he’d never been away.
Ebert has called Boulder his “home in an alternative world.” We happily claim him as native son, one who has inspired us all and helped redefine the meaning of the word “courage.”
BEST DEATH WITH DIGNITY
Rocky Mountain News
For 150 years, the Rocky Mountain News chronicled the unfolding history of Denver and the Rocky Mountain West. When prospectors arrived with gold dust in their eyes, the Rocky covered their booms and (mostly) busts. When the South seceded, the news ran on the Rocky’s front page. When Abraham Lincoln warned that a house divided could not stand, when 50,000 died at Gettysburg, when Robert E. Lee surrendered, the Rocky Mountain News ran with it. When an assassin’s bullet ended Lincoln’s life, the Rocky brought word to a grieving territory. When the ground ran red at Sand Creek as Boulder men and others slaughtered innocent Cheyenne and Arapahoe encamped under a flag of truce, the Rocky covered the grisly victory parades and celebrations. When Colorado became a state and, three days later, Custer made his last stand, Coloradans first read about it in the Rocky. When Billy the Kid died and Molly Brown refused to sink, when women won the right to vote and men marched off to the Great War, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream, when we finally left the earth behind for space, the Rocky was there.
So much history, so many deadlines, so many journalists, photographers and editors working together for so many years — it came to an end on Feb. 27, 2009, a victim of the economy and the shifting newspaper market. The Rocky’s staff, informed at the last minute by suits from Scripps, reacted with dignity, penning a poignant last-minute farewell to the city, state and people whom the paper had served for so long.
Though we rarely agreed with the editorial position of the Rocky Mountain News, it was painful to see a publication that was so intertwined with the history of this state perish. All of us were enriched by the diversity of opinion made possible by the presence of two big competing dailies, and it will be difficult for any of us to measure the impact of the Rocky’s demise. As Bill Johnson reminded us in his final column for the Rocky, when a newspaper dies there are no winners.
BEST MOMENT AT THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
Obama’s acceptance speech
It was the culminating event of the four-day convention and the first major step toward Barack Obama becoming the 44th president of the United States of America. After days of speeches, protests and traffic in Denver, Thursday, Aug. 28, was the day that made it all worthwhile. Oprah showed up to support her pick for president, as did other celebrities like Queen Latifah, Fran Drescher, Spike Lee and Jessica Alba. To help ring in the historic moment, John Legend performed his song “Yes We Can” and superstar legend Stevie Wonder foreshadowed the election results with a performance of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” But as much as the crowd of more than 70,000 delighted in the musical acts and celebrity speeches, the energy took on a completely different air when our future president stepped on stage to deliver his 45-minute speech in which he accepted the Democratic nomination for presidential candidate. Goosebumps, cheers and tears filled the stadium as the message of hope, that we all so desperately yearned for, filled the ears of all those in attendance. The only thing we can think of that rivaled the energy of the crowd during that speech is the energy during the speech a little more than two months later on the night Mr. Obama actually won the election. But it all started with Denver and the DNC.
BEST REASON NOT TO BE SAD THAT YOU WEREN’T AT THE DNC
It was the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and protesters (a mainstay throughout the week of the convention) were gathered at Civic Center Park. Most were walking around the park with signs or sitting in groups. Some had bandanas covering their faces so as not to be recognized in photos. Then, at a little after 6 p.m., a large crowd suddenly began running in the direction of the courthouse, with others following closely behind. Soon, the group was in the streets, and police in full riot-gear began lining up to force protesters out of the road. As protesters scattered, police sprayed teargas in the air. Several people got shot with the peppery stuff and even more got arrested that night. By 11 p.m., protesters and police had started to disperse, and the crowd was thinning, but for those who had been gassed, their eyes were surely still stinging. Oh, and traffic sucked, too. We rode our bikes.
BEST REASON NOT TO BITCH ABOUT THE SNOW
The Olde Stage Road Fire
On Jan. 7, when a cable line blew into a power line, an arc of sparks showered the ground. After a relatively dry beginning to the winter, the sparks started a wildfire on the west side of U.S. 36, which later jumped the road and spread over 2,500 acres before firefighters were able to contain it. Hurricane-force winds fueled the fire that ultimately charred more than 3,000 acres, damaged several homes, and threatened entire neighborhoods in North Boulder. Many folks spent the night in shelters or with friends while firefighters, who were at capacity, tried throughout the night to contain the fire.
While the fire was handled well, the star player was Mother Nature, who dumped just enough white stuff on the blaze to get it under control. In the end, only one person lost her home. It could have been worse. The fire was a fierce reminder to all of us that we are just one spark away from facing a devastating blaze. If that’s not a reason to rejoice in the rain and snow, we don’t know what is.
BEST REASON NOT TO JUMP THE GUN
Boulder High School tries for a new name
When Barack Obama was running for president, he campaigned on the message of change. Unfortunately, the students at Boulder High School must have misunderstood his platform. Instead of the political change that Mr. Obama desired, the students of the oldest high school in town decided that a change of name was in order. Just weeks after the inauguration of the 44th president, some students decided to try to rename their school “Obama High School.” While Boulder typically rallies around Democrats and, less than a month after the inauguration, most of us were still high on hope, not everyone loved the idea of renaming the school. Even many of the students were opposed — and rightfully so. The guy hadn’t even had a chance to prove himself yet. In fact, it’s still too soon to know whether he’s going to transform the nation or royally screw us (not that we’re counting on that — we’re rooting for you, prez.). We wish we didn’t have to, but since we obviously do, we’d like to formally propose a new rule: Don’t name anything after anyone until they’ve actually accomplished something. Thankfully, the students pushing for the change decided to pull back in the end, but they advised students to reconsider the name change in the future. You know, like after the guy has been president for more than, say, a month.
BEST LOCAL TEEN ADVOCATE
Each of us can look back on our pre-teen and teenage years and think of the handful of adults who made a difference for us. Maybe they listened when our parents couldn’t or wouldn’t. Maybe they understood our awkwardness and helped us feel that we belonged. Or maybe they believed so strongly in us that they enabled us to believe in ourselves. It’s a good bet that a decade from now there will be Boulder County teens who look back fondly at their memories of the first time they met Gary Lennox. Owner of Dog House Music, Lennox has made it his mission to help kids feel like rock stars, not just by hosting a cool rock ‘n’ roll camp, but by treating every kid who walks through his doors as if he or she already is a rock star who just hasn’t learned how to rock yet. He respects their imaginations, bending over backwards for every kid who comes his way. Parents feed, clothe and love their children. Teachers look out for children’s educations. Doctors watch over their health. But Lennox watches over kids’ dreams, believing in their abilities with every fiber of his very large heart. Rock on, Gary!
BEST WAY TO CELEBRATE BOULDER’S SESQUICENTENNIAL
Take an Indian to dinner
It’s been 150 years since a bunch of white people rode into Boulder on their high horses and claimed this land as their own, despite the fact that various American Indian tribes had been living on the Front Range for centuries. But whatever. The motto of the 1800s was “Whites rule and Indians drool,” and so the extremely clever white people looked around at all the boulders in the area and decided to name the city… wait for it… that’s right, Boulder! Genius. It’s a good thing the Front Range isn’t littered with giant mounds of gorilla feces; we probably wouldn’t attract so many tourists with a name like Poop City.
This year Boulder celebrates its “sesquicentennial,” which is a ridiculous word that someone made up because they were tired of waiting around for a bicentennial. If you want to celebrate this momentous event, take an American Indian out to dinner. Oh, wait. Our town is mostly filled with rich white people now. That’s OK — find a really tan white person and take them out to dinner.
But sarcasm aside — you have to admit Boulder is a pretty bitchin’ city to live in most of the time. We’re a socially conscious town with a powerful, forward-thinking environmental movement and some amazing scenery. We’ve been around for 150 years, and that’s a great thing, if for no other reason than the fact that we annoy the hell out of the people in Colorado Springs.
Boulder is a ridiculous city in so many ways. From the aging hippies noodle-dancing at the Dark Star Orchestra concerts to the white Rastafarians wandering around Martin Acres to the avid bicyclers with their skin-tight Lycra shorts showing off their crotch bulges and/or camel toes, Boulder is just an extremely funny place. Unfortunately, stand-up comedy has never really taken off in this town. While Denver has one of the best comedy scenes between Chicago and L.A., Boulder continues to take itself a bit too seriously, and comedians seldom flourish in the People’s Republic.
But there is one man who has been consistently putting a whoopee cushion under Boulder’s waxed, well-toned buttocks over the years. He is the bastard lovechild of Janis Joplin and Mitch Hedberg, and he goes by the name of Hippieman. Born and raised right here in Boulder, John “Hippieman” Novosad has been performing stand-up and improv for more than 20 years. Novosad has appeared on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Last Comic Standing, Short Attention Span Theater, Mania TV, and he’s a regular at Comedy Works in Denver. Over the years, he has toured all over the country promoting “Hippieman’s Plan for America,” which includes tie-dyed condoms and special brownies for everyone. We couldn’t ask for a better comedy diplomat, and it’s about time we gave Novosad a little appreciation for attempting to show the world the lighter side of Boulder.
BEST ACT OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
Flip on any national news station on April 20, and you’re bound to hear talk of Colorado. After the sad reports recounting the anniversary of the Columbine school shootings, the focus quickly shifts to Boulder and the big cloud of smoke hovering over Norlin Quad. What originated as a mass amount of reggae-fueled students, gathering around to openly toke on the CU campus has morphed into a full-fledged ritual. Every year at 4:20 p.m., students, locals and visitors light up for the sake of lighting up (and because the cops can’t really do a whole lot about it) amid onlookers and cameras. And though the appeal of this typically wanes once you make it past your junior year, recent efforts have revived the annual 4/20 smokeout into something worthy of celebration. In addition to just hanging out and getting high, the folks at pro-pot advocacy groups like NORML saw it as an opportunity to address marijuana laws. Forums and speakers were introduced to weigh in on something more than a scale — reasons why we should fight for the right to party.
BEST REASON TO HEAVE A (TEMPORARY) SIGH OF RELIEF
Voters trounce Amendment 48
When Amendment 48 hit the Colorado ballot this past voting season, it was as though a record scratched. For just the briefest of moments everyone was silent. Was this a nightmare? Are we all asleep? As people realized that, no, this was very real, and the possibility of a state without women’s rights was potentially on the horizon, people took up arms. And rightfully so. The language of Amendment 48 was constructed so that not only would abortions be outlawed, but certain methods of birth control, as well.
Organizations like Planned Parenthood (and anyone with half a brain) began to fight. And that crusade landed them at the front doorstep of the amendment’s main proponent — Kristi Burton. Like a blonde, eerie Barbie doll, this 20-year-old was, by all Christian accounts, perfect. She was cordial, photogenic and God-loving, if grammatically challenged. But those attributes might have actually contributed to the downfall of the amendment. By disingenuously downplaying the consequences of the amendment’s language beyond abortion, Burton allowed her campaign to look more like a high-school pep rally than a legitimate cause. And though the amendment was overwhelmingly shot down, it sent a chill down our spines. If an organization led by a ditzy 20-year-old can get such an appallingly medieval ballot issue that far, we still have some work to do.
BEST REASON TO RE-BELIEVE IN REPUBLIC ROCK
Rose Hill Drive
When Big Head Todd and the Monsters’ Midnight Radio album came out in the early ’90s, their single “Bittersweet” put our fair city on the airwaves in a big way. It was a hit and could be heard blaring from every dorm room speaker from USC to Ohio State. And Boulder finally had its post-’80s rock ’n’ roll moment in the sun. It was great and bright, and it lasted… and lasted… and lasted. Ten years later Boulder was still touting Big Head Todd as its main rock force. During all of this, the city’s musical focal point somehow shifted over to the neo-hippie bluegrass-inflected likes of the jamband scene. With the local fan base clearly focused on tie-dye Jerry Garcia mourners, rockers were forced to pine away at the Downer with their tattered leather jackets and pitchers of PBR. But, then, miraculously, something happened! Rose Hill Drive, named after a local road the trio used to rehearse on, climbed the the rock charts without having to first relocate down the hill to Denver. These Boulder boys have taken on national festivals and played alongside some of the best acts with their ’70s-inspired tunes. Rolling Stone named them a “Top Artist to Watch” in 2007. When they return for home shows at the Fox and Boulder theaters, they sell out, and for good reason — they allow Boulderites to revel in loud guitar riffs and rock the fuck out. And for that, we are relieved and proud. A word to our aspiring rockers out there: Please don’t wait another 15 years to put Boulder back in the heart of the rock ‘n’ roll scene (Ego vs. Id, we’re looking at you here).
BEST REASON TO BELIEVE WHAT HORROR MASTERS AND TV CELEBRITIES SAY
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
It started slowly, just like any author’s story. At 562 pages, writer and Westminster resident David Wroblewski finished his first novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It was a novel that was a long time in the making, but it was worth the wait. A few local bookstore appearances and write-ups here and there across the Front Range helped to promote the story about a mute boy, his dogs and his family. And then came the literary explosion. Stephen King was compelled enough to promote it with a write-up. Oprah picked it up and put it at the top of her book club. And Wroblewski became an overnight literary celebrity (which, to be fair, is the equivalent of taking the gold in fencing). One of the most inspiring stories to land in the laps of fiction readers, Wroblewski’s novel has inspired us all with the knowledge that, with a lot of hard work and a damned good story, anyone who can write really well actually can impress the nation’s top critics. Wait, that actually sounds difficult.
BEST WAY TO PISS OFF COPS AND COP A FEEL
Naked Pumpkin Run
So it’s Halloween night in Boulder, and you’re too old to trick-or-treat with the kiddies but too young to stay at home with the geriatrics handing out candy corn — what do you do? Why not strip naked, plunk a pumpkin on your head and streak down Pearl Street?
For 10 years, the least shy citizens of Boulder have been risking cold weather and unflattering shrinkage to participate in the appropriately named The Naked Pumpkin Run. In that time, no one has gotten physically injured and no property has been damaged. However, last year the local authorities decided that running around nude with vegetables on your cranium was a Class 1 misdemeanor. The police showed up to the event en masse and charged a dozen runners with “indecent exposure.” And, yes, there were definitely some people participating in the Naked Pumpkin Run who were a bit out of shape and certain parts of their anatomy were flippity-flopping all over the place, but is that really indecent? Here at Boulder Weekly, we don’t think so. In fact, we recommend expanding the event to all the yearly holidays. Why not start a Show Some Crack on Christmas event or perhaps Go Nuts on New Year?
Here’s the thing: While it might be kind of shocking to see all that naked, white flesh coming at you like a ton of bouncing bread dough, it’s not exactly a heinous crime. If you don’t want to see it, you have these cool little things called eyelids: shut them.
BEST REASON TO CHANGE OUR CITY’S NAME TO BOULDERWOOD
I’m Chevy Chase… and you’re not.” This was the line that turned Chevy Chase into a comedic icon when he uttered it in 1975 at the beginning of the “Weekend Update” segment on Saturday Night Live. Over the years, Chase has earned a reputation for being a talented and volatile actor/comedian who has entertained audiences and pissed off coworkers. This year, the Boulder International Film Festival presented Chase with a lifetime achievement award, and the actor showed up in person to graciously accept the honor.
After letting everyone know how much he deserved this award, Chase berated and entertained the audience with an impromptu stand-up performance. Chase has stayed out of the public eye for the past couple of decades, so this was a rare opportunity to see one of America’s funniest bipeds in action.
The Beeck sisters have been slowly building up the Boulder International Film Festival over the past six years, and their reputation is starting to reach around the world. Chase’s visit promises to be the first of many celebrity appearances in Boulder, although hopefully we won’t be stampeded with Sundance-like Hollywood cattle anytime soon.
BEST EXCUSE TO ACT LIKE A 5-YEAR-OLD
Trike Night at the Dark Horse
Let’s face it. Life is full of really boring adult responsibilities. You graduate from high school, go to college, get a job to pay back your student loans, and spend the rest of your life working for The Man, a cog whose weekends are spent doing yard work and changing diapers. Somewhere along the way you wonder why you bothered growing up at all.
Thanks to the world-famous Dark Horse you can relive part of your childhood — the three-wheelin’ part. Every Tuesday night, the Dark Horse breaks out the tricycle for a bit of crazy racing. Settle in behind the handlebars with your knees around your ears and see how fast you can go in the tricycle time trial. Be prepared to crash and to look ridiculous, because not only are you pedaling around on a contraption made for a toddler, you’re probably also more than a little inebriated, thanks to Trike Night specials like $3 Jager, $7 Miller pitchers and $2.50 Smirnoffs. (Why do you think you climbed on that trike in the first place, dumbshit?) Hey, the last time you had this much fun, you were still drinking Kool-Aid. Well, maybe there are some good things about being an adult after all.
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