BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Once a year in the dead of winter, things get spicy in downtown Blue Ridge as residents and tourists alike experience a “chili” weekend in February.
The eighth annual Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off Festival, brought to you by the Blue Ridge Business Association partnering with the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, kicked off Saturday, Feb. 17, and brought in crowds despite the weather.
Visitors to the festival were welcomed to take part in the judging of the chili cook off where the contestant with the highest number of votes takes home the coveted People’s Choice award.
The Fire and Ice Festival also now holds the honor of being the largest ice sculpting display in the Southeast. Award-winning National Ice Carving Champion Rock On Ice created many unique sculptures sponsored by several area businesses and demonstrated their difficult art form firsthand with live ice sculpting demonstrations in the park.
Official Chili Cook Off judges were also on hand to judge this years 16 contestants and to award first, second, and third place in four different categories.
Among the guest judges were Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston, Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee, former celebrity chef Bob Evans, developer Doug David, and former chef and restaurant owner Kay Kendall.
“This is really one of the bigger events put on by the business association,” Blue Ridge Business Association President Cesar Martinez spoke about the festival.
Martinez explained that despite the unpredictable weather, this year’s festival saw a large turn out: “Better than last year. Last year, it rained actually more than this.”
Guest announcer Cindy Trimble took the stage at 3 p.m. for the moment that everyone had been waiting for, the announcement of 2018 Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off winners.
Trimble explained that judges were given five categories in which they had to rate each chili. These categories were aroma, color, taste, texture, and after-taste. Each category was rated on a scale of 1-to-10 and points from all judges were then added together to determine a winner.
The maximum number of points possible for a contestant to receive was 250.
The winners for each category were:
1. Grilling Gangsters with 176 points
2. Kelly Barton with 174 points
3. Pitstop Chili with 153 points
1. Boars Nesters with 175 points
2. Mercier Orchards with 162 points
3. Chuck’s Moonshine Chili with 155 points
1. Project Chimps with 178 points
2. Habitat for Humanity with 164 points
3. Hot House Missionary Church with 129 points
1. Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar and Grill with 168 points
2. Blue Jeans Pizza with 166 points
3. Blue Ridge Brewery with 165 points
Project Chimps, a sanctuary for chimpanzees, received the highest rating by the judges, and Trimble pointed out a uniqueness to their recipe: “This was a really unusually chili and you guys loved it.”
The recipe used by Project Chimps was “chimp friendly,” meaning that all the ingredients used were ingredients that the chimps could also eat and often do for their meals.
Finally, the coveted People’s Choice award was given. Out of 934 ballots turned in by visitors to the festival, Chester Brunnenmeyer’s received 185 of those votes, giving them the people’s choice chili award for a second year in a row.
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