Boar’s Nesters (#17) are officially the Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off defending champs. Fresh off their 2015 1st place for individual teams win, this year they won the People’s Choice Award. For this year’s competition, they prepared 30 gallons of chili and ran out within two hours. Boar’s Nesters from Talking Rock are a group of friends led by Kelly Barton. The secret to their chili is the economy: turkey and chicken are cheaper than beef. Barton’s biggest worry in the competition was out-tasting T-Swizzle’s chili (#14). The cook behind T-Swizzle is Barton’s 17 year-old daughter. “Hey,” Barton says, “someone has to take over the business of chili cook-offs.” Indeed, they were right to be worried. T-Swizzle took 1st place in the Under 17 category.
Grandpa Bill’s (Bill Fry) chili (#6) won 1st place in the individual category. It is his second year in the chili cook off. Last year he won 2nd place in the individual category. No secrets coming out about his chili. FetchYourNews asked Cathy Welch, one of Grandpa Bill’s helper, about what made the chili so successful. She laughed and said it was a secret she would take with her.
Blue Ridge’s A2B Transit(#12) took home 1st place in individual teams. Their chili secret is a smoked twist on Elliot Wilborn’s grandma’s chili. They smoked everything, vegetables and beef, before stirring them into their secret chili pot. Wilborn also thanks local butcher Dean Bryant who stocks organic meat for the meat in A2B’s chili. Bryant’s store is in the Hammond Square building.
Hillbilly Chili’s, first year at the Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off saw them taking home 1st place for Best Table/ Tent Decoration. This group of three friends out of Ball Ground use five kinds of meat in their chili. They brought 15 gallons of chili to the cook off and ran out in one and one-half hours.
Best Bosses’ Chili (category added by Laura Love) is FetchYourNews.com. Saturday finally gave me a chance to find out the secret spice in Lisa Pritchard’s chili. But, since Brian Pritchard likes to talk, I will mention what he said, hopefully, briefly. First off, Brian said that they (he and Lisa) had won first place before they even got to the cook off, and, if the judges didn’t agree, well he would present himself with one of his old bowling trophies and stick it on his mantle. Brian said that cooking the chili was stressful for him because he cooked he stayed up until 1:30 cooking the chili himself. When FetchYourNews asked fact-checked Brian’s claim with Lisa Pritchard, she rolled her eyes. According to Brian, the secret in the chili is wine from Cartecay Vineyards and 100% fresh, hand cut vegetables. Lisa kept in the theme of Valentine’s Day. According to her, secret ingredient is love.
Judges for People’s Choice – You!
John Thompson of Morganton like Blue Ridge Brewery’s because it had a little bit of spice, not too much. It is his third year attending Fire and Ice. What he likes about this years’ cook off is the expanded space; it let people really enjoy being downtown without being jostled around. Thompson has competed in the cook off before. In 2015 and 2014 he cooked with Faith Presbyterian.
Mike and Tawanna Jones of Charleston, South Carolina were visiting Blue Ridge last weekend. They came to the cook off because, as Mike Jones said, “Chili is good for the soul.” Their choice was blue Ridge Brewery’s chili (#11).
Connie Sue Shelton of Blue Ridge likes Blue Ridge Brewery’s (#11) chili. Shelton, speaking like an experienced chili taster described the Brewery’s chili as veggie, meat, with strong undertones of beer and maybe cinnamon, but definitely beer. This year is Shelton’s first year at Fire and Ice and she loves it, especially the sculptures. Lynn Dwyer of Blue Ridge is a turkey fan, so her favorite chili is Twisted Turkey from Dial. Dwyer has been watching Fire and Ice grow during the four years that she has been attending the event. She likes seeing everyone coming downtown and being together.
Francis Young had just a tiny window to taste the chili because she was working at Faith Presbyterian’s tent. Young says #3’s chili was just perfect, not too spicy, not too bland with plenty of condiments like sour cream and cheese to mix in. Blue Ridge’s Faith Presbyterian didn’t enter the cook off this year having established themselves as superior chili chefs with last year’s 1st place win in the non-profit category. This year their tent served up necessities – water and tortilla chips. Their tent was the only place to easily find water. They were serving these up for donations to their Seamless Summer program. Seamless Summer provides over 9,000 lunches every summer to Fannin County children who miss out on healthy lunches because the schools are closed. The program also gives the children school supplies and books.
Michael Banner and Titus Arensburg of Rock on Ice carved the ice sculptures displayed downtown. All of the downtown businesses and organizations ordered the sculptures from them. It took them 10 days to prepare all the sculptures. Michael Banner, the owner, was displaying his skills for the crowd, carving three sculptures in 2 hours. He said that the weather at the cook off was perfect: cold enough to keep the sculptures from melting but warm enough not to turn people into ice sculptures themselves. When Arensburg was asked what advice he would give to future ice carvers, he said, “Stick to practice and wear a lot of layers.” Next weekend, Rock on Ice is travelling to the National Ice Carving Championships.
Firecracker stepped out in style with her glittery heart hoofs. Her herds mate Noah is something of a celebrity in Blue Ridge because he pulls Santa’s sleigh in Light Up Blue Ridge parade. Noah is a Percheron and Firecracker is half-Percheron. Percheron’s are the French equivalent of American Clydesdales of Budweiser Fame. Both horse are part of Nottingham Shire’s theme-based horse and carriage business.
Blue Ridge Community Theater members showed up as Storybook couples: Toni Creed as Belle, Rick Siefken as Beast, Everret Irvine as Wolf, Alison Tingley as Little Red Riding Hood.
FetchYourNew’s cub reporter Joseph checks out the sights from the height of a pony. Jubilee Farms of Opelika, Alabama. Beverly Miracle, owner of Jubilee Farms travels all over the southeast doing festivals. In fact, she stops in Blue Ridge two other times during the year: at Mercier’s Orchard during the fall and Light Up Blue Ridge in December.
Kyle Vincent played a good mix from today’s pop music to yesterday’s classics at Fire and Ice. This was his first year playing the event. Other venues he plays at are Blue Ridge Brewery, Fannin Brewing Company, Christie Lee’s, Chester’s and River Street Tavern in Ellijay.
Water bill, road ownership, book exchange, water infrastructure grant, East Main Street crime and sidewalks, and a rooster took up most of the time at the January 12th Blue Ridge City Council meetings.
A $695 residential water bill is causing Blue Ridge City Council to revisit how to adjust for incorrect bills. Mountain Tops resident Mrs. Keen received the $695 bill in December. Her usual water bills average between $30 to $50 per month. The exorbitant bill is due to a leak in a water line resulting from last year’s water line repairs in Mountain Tops subdivision. Mayor Whitener said that all evidence points to the city’s responsibility for the leak and not Mrs. Keen. Currently, city regulations state that if a bill is over $1000 above a customer’s average bill, then the city will look into adjusting the bill. Councilwoman Rhonda Thomas suggested reviewing the city’s bill adjustment policy so that decisions can be made about adjusting water bills on a case-by-case basis.
Who owns Willingham Circle and how can Lynn Kemp, owner of the building at 1425 East First Street, buy the road that divides her property? The problem is Willingham Circle existed at one time, probably in the mid-1900s, but is just an asphalt slab to nowhere now. Theory is that it was an extension of Summit Street and was going to be developed as a residential street. Those plans never evolved and who owns the “street” still isn’t resolved. Mayor Whitener is hesitant to say that the “street” belongs to Blue Ridge. However, determining where the street is and who owns it has cost attorney fees. Another consideration is how selling the “street” to Mrs. Kemp will increase her property value. Mayor Whitener is concerned about striking a balance between getting rid of a “street” headache and assigning a fair value to the property. Councilwoman Thomas suggested having the “street” appraised. However, appraisal for a commercial property, which the street is zoned as, costs $1,000, potentially more than the value of the “street”. The Council decided to come back with better evidence for what is a fair price at the next Council meeting. This will make the third time that the Council will discuss what to do with the street that isn’t a street.
A new library is coming to Blue Ridge’s downtown park. Miriam Foster and her family will place and maintain a Little Free Library box in the park. The Little Free Library is a grassroots, internationally available book exchange. Users of the Little Free Library users exchange books by taking a book from the box and leaving a new one in its place. The Little Free Library book exchange will appear on the map for over 36,000 Little Free Libraries world-wide. Visitors can access this map on a phone app.
The Council is still working on gathering facts and documents to apply for a Community Development Block Grant, the money from which will fund the beginning stages of the downtown water infrastructure improvement. Still missing from the grant materials are economic surveys which downtown businesses were asked to complete. Not having these surveys means that the Council cannot present the project as a help for economic growth in the downtown area. If the City cannot get the grant, the various water projects cannot start. Also, the yearly deadline for submission is coming up soon.
Shoplifting and scams have been on the rise in downtown Blue Ridge says Blue Ridge Business Association Vice-President Caesar Martinez. He asked the Council if Blue Ridge could assign more beat cops to walk the street during the weekends and hours that store owners have documented as being the worst for theft. He also asked, with great hope in his eyes, if the uneven sidewalks would be repaired by spring tourist season. No is the answer. The Council members did say, though, with great hope in their eyes, that the sidewalks will be ready in time for the fall leaf fanatics.
Finally, an ice rooster will once again be Blue Ridge’s representation at the 2016 Fire and Ice Festival. This year, the festival is on Feb. 13.