By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer
An estimated 7,500 attendees rolled into downtown Blue Ridge Sept. 21 for the ninth annual Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival.
Eighty-seven volunteers along with the Blue Ridge Lodging Association (BRLA) organized five bands who performed dozens of rocking blues tunes in downtown Blue Ridge for more than nine hours of musical entertainment.
“The Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival has an incredibly positive economic impact on the City of Blue Ridge and Fannin County,” BRLA President Paul Gribble said.
Last year the festival weekend that starts on Thursday generated around $2 million in sales from lodging, dining, shopping, gas sales and more.
“We expect those numbers to be equally impressive this year,” Gribble added.
The weekend celebration began Thursday with a Business After Hours hosted by Grumpy Old Men and the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce. Friday the Rotary Club of Blue Ridge took guests on the “Rotary Blues Train” where ticket holders enjoyed live music, dinner and a street dance later in the evening.
The focus of the entire event is to support economic growth and local nonprofits such as the Boys & Girls Club of North Georgia who served around 170 children at the festival “Kids Korner” and sold 160 ducks for their annual “Great 515 Duck Derby” taking place this Saturday, Sept. 28 at Horseshoe Bend Park.
BRLA Secretary Dena Martin said, “Last year the Boys & Girls Club received $6,850 from the BRLA as a result of the festival.”
While exact figures are not known yet for this year’s donation, over the past nine years between the BRLA and the Blue Ridge Rotary Club nearly $100,000 has been donated to the local community and children’s charities including the Boys & Girls Club, Snack-in-a- Backpack and the Ferst Foundation to support literacy efforts locally.
Gribble said, “Organizing and running this festival takes an incredible amount of work, but it’s worth it in our eyes when we can give back to the local community.
It makes living in Blue Ridge better for everyone.”
Bands performing last Saturday included chart-topping artists like the Chris O’Leary Band, Crossroads Band with Carl Pruitt from Macon, Ga., Men in Blues, Frankie’s Blues Mission and Garrett Collins with harp legend Benny Mobley all from Atlanta.
For the third year in a row a football toss contest also took place due to the generosity of North Georgia Ford. Four tickets were drawn from a box of tickets that were collected from individuals who have donated to the Boys & Girls Club at a variety of locations. No one took home the truck but they plan on holding the toss again at the 10th annual event.
Among those coordinating the event were BRLA board members Gribble, Vice President CJ Stam, Secretary Dena Martin and Treasurer Tabetha Whitaker along with Emcee Rob Kaser and BRLA and Festival Committee member Greg Spencer who handled the stage, sound, lights, stage hands, back stage and green room and bands for loading and unloading.
Dozens of food vendors packed the streets along with two new seafood trucks “A Little Nauti” and “Island Chef.” By offering quality blues music and barbecue along with giveaways and contests, the BRLA sponsored event sets itself at a level hard to beat. There was also a Sports Zone for enthusiasts who might want to watch the big game with barbecue and a favorite beverage while listening to musical entertainment.
“We had so many attendees that even returning barbecue vendors started running out of food,” Martin said.
The 10th Annual Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival was held Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020 with headlining act “Georgia Blues Brothers.”