The Belly Buster is Back in Leadville
Strap on your feed bag and saddle up for some mouth-watering tasty treats from the grill! Sound-the-alarm, because Wild Bill’s has returned to historic Harrison Avenue. The restaurant that is! After nearly two years of upgrades and remodeling, the home of the Belly Buster is back!
Did you know that Wild Bill’s Restaurant is the longest continually owned-by-the-same person business in Leadville Today? That’s right, while some Cloud City eateries can claim generations in the same family, according to the Wild Bill’s Facebook Page, no one else has ever run or managed the restaurant but the original owner. So if you don’t know him already, meet Bill Zeisel, aka Wild Bill who created the long-standing burger joint on main street’s south end in September 1982.
“And to think I was only 21 when I started it!” Zeisel recalled. Of course, Wild Bill’s saw some good years in the early 80s as The Climax Mine had not seen its heartiest lay-offs yet. But by the 1990s, like many Leadville eateries, the crowds had thinned out along with local bank accounts and residents.
As the 21st century came into focus, Wild Bill’s was still holding on, endeared by locals who made the burger joint a must-stop for graduation days and birthday celebrations. And how many Leadville Trail 100 champions swelled with pride as they received their Belly Buster Burger certificate from Wild Bill’s as part of their podium prize back in the early days?!
But then came a downturn in the national economy in 2008. Most Leadville main street businesses were hanging on tight or hanging a For Sale sign and heading for greener pastures. By 2017, after years on the market, and a couple of price reductions, Wild Bill’s decided to close its doors. It was time for a major overhaul, it was time to regroup if the restaurant had any chance of survival.
Locals wondered if they would ever re-open. After all, the new hopefuls had moved in and were hanging their own restaurant shingles, promoting micro-brews and fancy foodie offerings. But as the months clicked by there was always some noticeable activity, indicating the flame had not gone out completely at Wild Bill’s. And then last summer the new paint job cast a ray of sunshine on the corner of E. 2nd and Harrison Avenue. Finally, two weeks into the New Year the small unassuming green letters spelled it all out: O-P-E-N. Wild Bill’s was back!
And so are many of your old favorites, from the Belly Buster Burger to their Shrimp Dinner Basket. The restaurant will still offer soft serve ice cream, including their signature shakes. But fans should note that their hard ice cream offerings are gone! New on the menu are some Texas Toothpicks and Fried Pickle Spears, both of which you’ll have to try and send in your review!
The restaurant has been completely remodeled but kept the big roomy booths and added some high-top, stand-alone tables for additional seating. The kitchen was completely overhauled with new equipment. And in the front of the house, Wild Bill’s now claims to have the only fancy new Coke machine in Leadville Today. You know the one-touch kind that has slowly been making its appearance in eateries on its way up the I-70 corridor.
Hey, sometimes you just have to celebrate the little things. And the BIG things – like the return of Wild Bill’s Restaurant to historic Harrison Avenue. Welcome back, Bill, Tammy – and crew! Wild Bill’s Restaurant is located at 200 Harrison Avenue in downtown Leadville. You can connect on the Wild Bill’s Facebook Page, or by phone at 719-486-0533. Their hours of operation are 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Daily.
Ice Fishing Derby Returns to Twin Lakes
Did you know that the Ice Fishing Derby at Twin Lakes is known as the longest, competitive ice-fishing derby not only in the state but across the region? That’s no fish tale either! There’s no break in the action, as competitors kick-off early this weekend on Saturday morning, Feb. 9 at 7 a.m. and continue overnight until noon on Sunday, Feb. 10.
If you think that sitting on a frozen lake plunking your line into a fishing hole carved more than 12 inches deep into the icy tundra is all there is to the sport of ice fishing, think again! There are good times with family and friends, not to mention the incredible views, fresh air, and mountain sunshine. Of course, the sport itself has its own rewards, but judging from the growing success of the Ice Fishing Derby at Twin Lakes in recent years, ice fishing is becoming increasingly popular across Colorado. So plan on checking out the action this weekend, as a competitor or spectator!
Sponsored by the Leadville Rod & Gun Club, the event marks its 21st year in 2019 and has a solid reputation for frozen fun that creates a shanty-town wonderland, bringing folks together for a mid-winter contest of cash and prizes. And no doubt, some of the fish being pulled from that glacial reservoir are impressive, setting the tone for bragging rights that keep local fishing men and women coming back for more; and yes, there’s a kid’s competition too!
Competitors can enter to win cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for Mackinaw, Rainbow, Brown and Cutthroat fish. Prizes will be awarded on the weight of individual fish caught. Last year’s competition saw a sizable jump in participants with well over 200 competitors vying for the top trout tales. And when you consider those big mackinaw monsters they’ve been drawing up to the surface, the competition is nothing to dismiss. Take the year that Charlie Black’s 30 lbs 5 ¾ oz mackinaw won the blue ribbon of the derby! And Chris Gonzales’ second place catch with his 27 lbs 3 5/8 oz catch was a worthy competitor as Twin Lakes definitely gives up some of the beasts its gained a reputation for in ice fishing circles.
Each fish category has several places. A contestant can enter as many fish as he wants but the LRGC limits each fisherman to winning one cash prize. In the event of a tie weight, the first weight fish in wins the highest-earned prize and the next in the tie would follow in placing. Fish weights and sizes will be posted at the official event headquarters and weigh-in station during the derby weekend is staged at the Twin Lakes Dexter Parking lot.
All competitors should note that all federal, state and county fishing rules apply. It is the responsibility of each fisherman to know the rules and abide by these rules. Fishing regulations will be on hand at the contest and headquarters for reference guides. A current Colorado fishing license must be shown to claim a prize except for youth under age 16.
This is also a great outdoor event for the children, passing down family traditions of winter recreation. And according to Derby Organizer Angelina Salazar, there is a change to the children’s competition in 2019.
“We are letting 16 years and under join as a child. Because if your 16 and older you have to buy a fishing license,” explained Salazar. Therefore children age 16 & under who participate and place in categories will be eligible for a 1st place belt buckle. Trophies will be awarded to 2nd and 3rd winners in each category. There is NO entry fee for the kids’ competition. However, please note that should the kids decide to enter the “big” competition they can, but once they select their category they cannot switch back (i.e. from trophy to cash prize) and they will pay the same entry fees as adults.
Also, new this year will be an award for the “Best Sportsmanship” and “Outstanding Angler.” Competitors can nominate their fellow fisherfolks at the official Leadville Rod and Gun Club weigh-in and registration trailer, located out at the Twin Lakes Dexter Parking Lot.
“We will be at the weigh-in station at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning for you early birds,” said Salazar. Competitors can also pre-register at the Leadville Sanitation District office at the corner of McWethy Drive and Highway 24 South and at Saturdays Mercantile, located south of Leadville at 12655 US-24, across from the Little Red Schoolhouse. The entry fee is only $40. For an application CLICK HERE.
For competitors motivated by great swag, the LRGC delivers, offering some top-of-the-line “bucket” prizes. Each paid contestant will be eligible to win those prizes. Last year, the club gave away over $8,000 in prizes, reported event organizer Angelina Salazar. The entry fee will make the fishermen eligible for numerous bucket prizes which will be on display at the contest headquarters. Drawings for donated items must be picked up the time of the drawing. Items that are not picked up will be drawn until given away. Last year, it seemed no one went home empty handed!
And don’t forget about the raffle which includes the top prizes of a portable ice shanty and an ice auger, as well as this year’s Ruger M77 Bolt Action .22-250 with a scope. Tickets are $5 each or take 6 for 20 bucks. You can hit up a LRGC member or contact event organizers Angelina Salazar at 719-293-0567 or Danny Gurule 719-293-5057 to purchase your tickets (available at the derby as well). For the raffle, winners need not be present to win those prizes, but they must be picked up within 30 days.
The Leadville Rod & Gun Club can be reached at P.O. Box 604, Leadville, CO 80461. Or contact LRGC derby organizers Angelina Salazar at 719-293-0567 or Danny Gurule 719-293-5057.
Leadville Today will be there, so stay tuned for all the fishing action, photos, videos, and results. It should be a fun winter weekend! So pull out your shanty, grab your pole and auger and head out for some winter fun – and what may be the biggest fish you ever catch.