BADGER: Gail Higgins
‘She really works on making Badger a pretty place’
BADGER — Gail Higgins’ involvement in the Badger community started decades ago.
She was on the committee that started the first Badgerfest in 1984. Badgerfest is the Webster County town’s annual celebration.
“It started with a few kids games on the sidewalks and people donating prizes,” Higgins said. “Next year we did it again and it got bigger.”
The event continued to grow for the next several years.
“The Lions Club did it one year and they kept it going for years and then it just stopped because people lost interest,” Higgins said.
But about five years ago, Higgins was there again to help bring it back.
“After 10 years of being dormant, we started it and have left it to the younger generation and they have done a great job with it,” Higgins said.
Although she’s no longer active with Badgerfest, Higgins’ enthusiasm for Badger has continued in other ways.
One of her proudest accomplishments is helping to bring a Veterans Memorial to the town that honors Badger’s military heroes. In 2005, a committee was formed to plan the memorial.
“So many people pitched in and helped,” Higgins said. “Everyone did their part and the next thing you knew we had a Veterans Memorial.”
The memorial features monuments with the names of the men and women who served inscribed in the stone.
“For those that didn’t return, they have the star by their name,” Higgins said. “It’s to pay and honor and respect to all of those who served in our area and gave the ultimate service.”
Higgins has two sons who served their country: Randall Matter who served in the U.S. Army, and R.J. Higgins who served in the U.S. Army National Guard.
Gail Higgins’ daughter, Rayme Matter, recalled how hard her mother worked on the memorial.
“She had flowers over there,” Matter said. “She was over there all the time. Trees planted. She did a lot for that memorial.”
“I don’t let anyone touch it,” Higgins added, “I just go and mow it.”
Higgins has also been a longtime business owner in Badger. She used to own a beauty salon in the 1980s and 90s.
She’s owned KnuckleHeads Bar and Grill since 2005.
Higgins said her husband, Mickey Halverson, named the bar.
“His family always called him a KnuckleHead,” she said. “It’s a family-run business.”
Higgins actually took ownership from her husband after he was ready to try something else.
“The history of this bar goes way back,” Higgins said. “After two years he didn’t like it and was going to close the doors and walk way.”
Higgins was selling insurance at the time.
“I said you can’t do that and he gave me the keys and said take it,” Higgins said. “I had no clue. It was quite an experience.”
“She jumped in with both feet,” Rayme Matter said.
Since that time, Higgins has expanded the bar to include a game room, outdoor patio, and yard games.
In 2014, she bought a building connected to the east of the bar and had it remodeled.
The building used to be a gift shop owned by Jerry and Joyce Olson.
“Everyone knew Joyce,” Higgins said. “She was so nice. A lovely lady.”
But the building had deteriorated in the years prior to Higgins acquiring it. After about a year of renovations, it opened in 2015.
“It was a wonderful community project because so many people hauled brick and rubble,” Higgins said. “They’d come in for a beer and do a load. My family helped a lot in building it. It helps to have sons who are roofers.”
Higgins will be the first to admit she isn’t the best bartender.
“I like visiting with the people,” she said. “Listening to them and their stories. I am lousy bartender. I get to talking to people.”
When Higgins isn’t busy running the bar, she makes her presence known at Badger City Council meetings.
“Right now I am fighting with the council to put garbage cans on main street,” Higgins said. “And I’m asking for a tree in front of City Hall. It never stops.”
“She likes to have a lot of trees planted around town,” Rayme Matter said. “She has done a lot. She really works on making Badger a pretty place.”
Her next project?
“I want to open a beauty salon again,” Higgins said. “I have all the equipment and am looking for the right spot. I think it would be nice to have one over where that empty lot is (across the street from the bar), but the firemen won’t sell it to me.”
Eventually, Higgins said she might take a break.
“After we get the salon, maybe I’ll go sailing after that.”