BLUE RIDGE, GA – Thousands descended upon our beautiful downtown area for a weekend of fun as Blue Ridge kicked off its annual Blues and BBQ Festival.
The festivities began Friday evening with the 12th Annual Rotary Blues Jam. Live music was held at the Train Depot where residents and visitors alike stopped to enjoy the music and partake in the street dance.
Others opted for an evening of fine dining and adult beverages as businesses throughout downtown opened up their doors for the Blues Crawl. Ten establishments took part in this event and live music from these venues filled the streets.
Saturday, September 15, saw the main event of the festival. The streets were lined with Barbeque vendors and artists. The beautiful weather helped make for the largest turnout in the festival’s seven year run.
Barbecue vendors got to experience this large crowd first hand, with many vendors selling out during the day. Elliot Wilborn, owner of Smokin’ E’s BBQ, was among those vendors that sold out in the beginning half of the day.
When asked what drew him to setting up as a vendor he laughed and said, “Well, it’s a Bar-B-Que festival.” He then went on to add that, “he wanted to represent Blue Ridge and show visitors what our town has to offer.”
Visitors were not disappointed as couple visiting from Memphis, a city known for Blues and BBQ, were heard saying, “Now this is real barbeque” as they sampled a selection from Smokin’ E’s.
The main stage was set up on West Main Street, near the Art Center, and the music was met with as much enthusiasm as the food being offered. People began setting up chairs early in the morning to make sure they were front row for the entertainment.
Crowds filtered in and out as the music played. Some set up camp in the yard of the Art Center to enjoy the shade while others danced in the street. Fun was had by all as the music went on into the evening.
Blues and BBQ wasn’t just for the adults this year, as an impressive Kid’s Corner was also set up near the Park along East Main Street. Children were able to take part in face painting, balloon animals, bounce houses equipped with giant slides, and Blue Ridge’s renovated city park equipment.
The festival was dubbed a success with the Blues and BBQ Facebook page exclaiming that it was the biggest one yet.
The Blues and BBQ Festival is presented by the Blue Ridge Lodging Association and the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce. While it is a day of fun and entertainment, the event itself helps to provide for children in our community.
Proceeds go to Snack in a Backpack. This organization provides healthy food items for our local children who receive their meals at school, but might have little to no food in their homes during the weekend. Snack in a Backpack delivers food to our schools during the week for these children to take home with them over the weekend.
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Amidst all the talk among Democrats and the Media that the Trump election and presidency is a one off that will soon be remedied by a Democrat wave — there is actually evidence to suggest that just the opposite will ring true in 2018. For example, look at upstart Pennsylvania Congressional candidate Justin Simmons, who is running to be the GOP nominee in the 15th District. Simmons, 31, currently represents PA State House District 131 and was planning to mount a Conservative challenge to seven term incumbent Rep. Charlie Dent in the Spring 2018 Primary. That was until Dent abruptly announced his retirement, opening the door for 35 year old Ryan Mackenzie to enter the now open race, a race that could prove to be a battle between conflicting wings of the Republican Party.
Simmons recently called in to FYNTV’s Good Morning from the Office for an exclusive interview regarding his initial decision to run, the surprise of Dent’s retirement, and the differences between himself and Mackenzie.
Simmons made it clear from the beginning that his motivation to run was the dissatisfaction among Conservatives in the 15th District with Dent, as evidenced by the recent rally in protest of the seven term Congressman. According to Simmons, “just his voting record alone is bad enough… then going on MSNBC, CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times… being the go to Republican to rip Donald Trump and Conservatives,” had angered voters in the district won by both Donald Trump and Charlie Dent. However, Dent had spoken out aggressively against Trump during the campaign, refusing to endorse him and frequently criticizing him after his inauguration.
“I was never fully on board with Charlie, I always knew he was pro-choice and supported taxpayer funded abortion… but he was fiscally Conservative at first,” said Simmons, adding “as time went on he just got more Liberal.”
The news of Dent’s sudden announcement to retire was a surprise to the Simmons team, although he insists they were “ecstatic” and this it was a “victory” because it creates a chance to elect a Conservative representative. However, it has created a brand new dynamic with the entry of Mackenzie, setting up a race described by The Morning Call as a “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s race” between what they described as two longtime rivals. Although Simmons dismissed the “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s” comparison he did elaborate on what he sees as the differences between him and the only other declared candidate.
Ryan and I have worked together on a lot of good issues. The difference between Ryan and I, is Ryan is establishment and I am not. I got my foray into politics by taking on a Liberal Republican, I took on the party and I took on the establishment. Ryan Mackenzie, he came into politics, his Dad was the former chair of the party, he was very connected. When he first ran for State House in the 134th District… there was a special election and the party hierarchy greased the skids for Ryan, they cleared the field in the special election for him, he hasn’t had an opponent since.
Simmons also described Mackenzie as Charlie Dent’s hand picked successor, which means he will be the beneficiary of the PA GOP fundraising network. However, Simmons described it as a negative because it means Mackenzie would be beholden to the moderate Republican structure of the state party and not the Trump Coalition that delivered PA to a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in a generation.
This race will be one of many that pits establishment Republicans against the new, Trump Republicans. In his recent interview with 60 Minutes, former White House strategist Steve Bannon made clear his intentions to target establishment Republicans in the 2018 Primary races. This has already manifested itself in races like the special election for Senate in Alabama, where incumbent Sen. Luther Strange was leading in polling until Bannon endorsed his opponent, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore.
What’s more, the race in Pennsylvania will pit two millennial candidates, Mackenzie is 35 and Simmons is 31.
You can see Simmons’ entire interview here:
The Georgia Sixth District Congressional Forum, hosted Sunday, March 12th in Roswell,GA by ‘Needles in a Haystack,’ had over 500 attendees. The democratic voters and candidates hope to ‘flip the sixth,’ by changing the historically, congressionally Republican led district to a Democratic district.
According to a straw poll taken at the forum, Jon Ossoff is the most supported candidate by a landslide. Yet, the other candidates; Ragin Edwards, Ron Slotin, Rebecca Quigg and Richard Keatley made clear they are still in the race.
Not only does Ossoff have the expressed support from the Sixth District according to the straw poll; but according to Ossoff, his campaign has raised over three million dollars in only seven weeks. Further, he is covered more than any other Democratic candidate by national media; including the New York Times, Esquire and Heavy.
While other candidates at the forum expressed the need for unification among the Sixth District Democrats, Ossoff stated he believes the effort to flip the sixth district has unified the Democrats already. Evidently, Ossoff is not on the same page as the other candidates.
Slotin has extensive political experience. He has served two terms in the State Senate, was involved in the passing of the HOPE Scholarship, has volunteered for various organizations in the sixth district for over fifteen years and more.
Slotin stated, “I have the best chance to beat the Republicans in the runoff in this election.” Slotin then threw a curveball when he asked the audience, “I want to know if anyone is here from the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) or the National Democratic Party? Because I want to ask them, why are they getting involved in this election?” Slotin said “You don’t see the RNC (Republican National Committee) getting involved with Republican Candidates” Slotin brings up interesting points.
Further, Slotin attacked Ossoff at the forum for not yet filing his federal campaign finance reports. Slotin stated, “Jon did not turn in his financial statements.” Ossoff replied by stating that the deadline for finances is not until April 18th.
(Pictured 6th District Congressional Democratic Candidate Ron Slotin)
Meanwhile, Keatley encouraged voters to stay open-minded to all candidates by stating, “Suspend your judgement, there are many forums coming up.” He also stated, “The people in this district should decide who wins this election,” and finally, “It’s about communicating with people and having a face that they know is not bullshitting them.”