Fire & Ice Chili Cook-Off gets better every year

Community, Festivals

Blue Ridge GA hosted the 9th annual Fire & Ice Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, February 16, 2019 in beautiful downtown City Park. Although it started out as a dreary, gray sky day, by afternoon the sun shown through the clouds for the estimated 7,000+ visitors who came to Blue Ridge from as far away as Douglasville, Augusta, Lafayette, and surrounding neighbor states.

The festivities began at 11 a.m. Chili cook-off judging was 4 p.m.

The Blue Ridge Business Association along with the Fannin Chamber of Commerce partnered to host this year’s event making it one of the largest and best the city has seen so far.

The judges for this year’s chili cook-off were:

  • Austin Ramsey, former head chef at Black Sheep.
  • Rick Skelton, Chair of Blue Ridge Planning and Zoning Board as well as Board of Appeals.
  • State Senator Steve Gooch.
  • Sarah Auman, owner of ‘Out of the Blue’.
  • Jane Waley, owner of Sycamore Crossing.

These esteemed judges voted in the following categories “on 5 attributes: aroma, color, taste, texture and aftertaste”:

  • Individual Adult.
  • Team Adult.
  • Civic Team.
  • Restaurants.

Visitors cast their votes for their favorite tasting chili in the ‘People’s Choice Award’.

This year’s contestants included:

  • Black Sheep.
  • Blue Jeans Pizza & Pasta.
  • Blue Ridge Brewery
  • Blue Ridge Parade of Homes.
  • Cameron Hall of Ellijay
  • Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar & Grill.
  • Chris Adgate.
  • Chuck’s Moonshine Chili.
  • Flying Trout Restaurant.
  • Grandpa Bill’s Wild Turkey Chili.
  • Grillin Gangsters.
  • Grumpy Old Men Brewing.
  • HempWorx.
  • Hot House Missionary Baptist Church.
  • Kevin Backus.
  • Mercier Orchards.
  • Pit Stop Chili.
  • Project Chimps.
  • Reggie Berry.
  • The Blue Coyote Bar & Grill.
  • Treo Blue Ridge.

Chili Cook-off tickets were $10 each. Beer and/or a glass of wine tickets were $6.

The businesses serving beer/wine with approved tickets were Grumpy Old Men, Fannin Brewing, Mercier’s Hard Cider, and Arches Brewing.

Placed around downtown Blue Ridge were carved rock ice statues. These beautiful pieces of art were created by ‘Rock on Ice’ Master Food Artist/ Professional Ice Carver, Titus Arensberg, from Sunbury, OH. He held several demonstrations throughout the event showing off his craft to an eager audience. All ice sculptures were carved with a chain saw making each one an amazing piece of art. In his 7th appearance for Fire & Ice Chili Cook-off, Arensberg stated he enjoyed coming each year.  

 Music was heard in downtown Blue Ridge for the duration of the festival. Rick Byers Band played a mixture of country, southern rock, bluegrass, and Americana tunes to the delight of many. Folks, young and old, were seen dancing under the pavilion while others sang along to their favorite tunes.




Even Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus took time out of their busy schedule in North Pole duties to visit.

As with many good things that come to an end on such a beautiful day and event, it was time to announce to winners in each category.

Civic Group:

  • 1st Place: Project Chimp (Morganton).
  • 2nd Place: Hot House Missionary Baptist Church (Mineral Bluff).


  • 1st Place: Pit Stop Chili.
  • 2nd Place: Reggie Berry (Atlanta).
  • 3rd Place: Chris Adgate.


  • 1st Place: Blue Ridge Parade of Homes.
  • 2nd Place: HempWorx.
  • 3rd Place: Chuck’s Moonshine Chili.


  • 1st Place: Black Sheep.
  • 2nd Place: Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar & Grill.
  • 3rd Place: Cameron Hall of Ellijay.

And this year’s People’s Choice Award goes to ‘Black Sheep’.  Congratulations to you and your team.

Well done, everyone. See you next year! attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month for ad server. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 to 60,000 per week Facebook page reach. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or visit


Fannin County Employees Receive New Health Insurance Plan


At the last Fannin County Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioners voted to contract a new health insurance plan for Fannin County employees.  Kevin Panter Insurance (see website)  out of Blue Ridge advised on the plan and will manage the plan.  Employees will start the new health insurance plan on July 1st, 2016.  Kevin Panter Insurance has experience in managing health plans for local large employers.  It has managed the health plans for Copper Basin Medical Center, which has approximately 140 employees.

The new health insurance will have the same benefits, coverage, deductible, co-pay, pharmacy coverage, doctors and maximum-out-of-pocket expenses.  According to Kevin Panter, the new plan duplicates the existing plan.  Any changes in deductible will come from the county.

The county government’s decision to change the plan came about during late May when the county received notification that the company currently providing insurance for Fannin employees decided to increase their cost to the county by $200,000.  This is on top of the tremendous cost increase that occurred in 2015.

Kevin Panter Insurance’s role in setting up the new health plan is to find the best health plan available to Fannin County.  Mr. Panter says that he has a personal investment in finding the best health plan.  “I am a Fannin County tax payer, so I have skin in the game, too,” said Mr. Panter.  Mr. Panter plans to discuss the health plan with employees at the end of this week or next week, as soon as the details have been finalized.  Mr. Panter welcomes employees who have questions about the health plan to contact his office with their questions as soon as the final details of the plan have been announced.  His insurance company will have a person in the office designated to help with the health plan.  This means employees can ask speak face-to-face with their health insurance company – a luxury that few people have.

Ms. Kirby decided to pursue a new health plan for county employees when the current insurer told her it would be raising in rates July 1st.  During the 2015-2016 insurance coverage year, the county paid $1,847,624 in health insurance but only used $1.7 million in claims.  With the price increase, the county stood to pay $300,000 more for health insurance than it would take out in claims.  Also, if the county kept the current insurer, it would have cost employees at least $1,000 more per year.

When Ms. Kirby put all the numbers together, she decided that there must be something better for Fannin County employees.  Ms. Kirby had heard from her colleagues in Union County about the partially self-insured program that Union County uses.  Union County government really likes how their program runs said Ms. Kirby.

A self-insured program runs a bit different from the traditional health insurance which Fannin County currently uses.  Most of Fannin County’s health care cost liability will be the responsibility of the county.  This means if employees remain relatively healthy, the county will be able to keep the difference between the amount of money employees pay in and the amount of money the plan must pay out.  For instance, in the 2015-2016 year, the health plan only paid out $1.7 million in claims; whereas, county employees paid $1,847,624 in premiums.  This means that the current insurance company was able to keep the approximately   $147,642 difference.  The company did not return any rebate to the county.

Under the new health plan managed by Kevin Panter Insurance, all premiums will go into an account specifically for Fannin County employee health care.  Ms. Kirby said that the county will set up a completely different account for health care that will not be attached to any other bank account which Fannin County has.  If there is money remaining in the health care account at the end of the year, this could result in reduced premiums for employees during the following year.

Ken Petty, Director of Maintenance for Fannin County, was at the Commissioners meeting.  Mr. Petty said, “[the plan] sounds good. I hope it works out.”

Post- Commissioner Earl Johnson said that he felt like Fannin County has been held hostage by the medical insurance company for the past few years.  Mr. Johnson is glad that county employees will have someone literally ‘right down the road” to ask questions to about their health insurance.  He said, “If everything [management of the insurance account] goes like it has been told us, sounds like a good idea.”

In other business at the meeting, Post-Commissioner Sosebee said that Fannin County should look for another Fannin bank to host the account for county health insurance.  He said that the county government already has many accounts with United Community Bank, and he would like to spread around the business to other banks in Fannin County.

The Commissioners met in Executive Session for one hour to discuss personnel issues.  They said that nothing was decided during Executive Session.  The Commissioners also began signing invoices for RDesign Works for its work as architect for the new fire station.



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