2016 – Inductee
Carl is the reason the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival exists. He brought and idea in 2008, from his cabin in Blue Ridge to some people and the baby was born. Carl has a long, long and distinguished list of accomplishments. There is dumpster diving with some hungry guys (The Allman Brothers) out back of Ruby’s, to accidentally starting the first BBQ and Blues Festival in Georgia. “They pulled some tractor trailer beds together and we made a stage out of them”, the idea started as a chicken wing contest in 2003 in Barnesville, GA. At the event there ended up being a bunch of BBQ cooking, R & B music, and Blues music. Later on, Carl says, “There’s only one thing I like better than hot wings and that’s barbecue.” Carl has been in and around the music industry for decades. He has had bands open for The Kentucky Headhunters, David Allen Coe, and others. Carl was a huge help to the State of Georgia with helping to procure loads and loads of music memorabilia for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame grand opening of their building in 1996 in Macon, GA. Carl and one of his bands, either Crossroads or Rollin’ Bones, has played at every Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival since inception in 2010. in May of 2013 Carl was presented with the Georgia Music Legends Award, and for the first and last time Carl “was speechless”. Carl also has extensive experience in being the “Behind the scenes guy” but has been the backbone of some big events in the state of Georgia, including a show at the Lakewood Ampitheater with some very big names all for fundraising for March of Dimes. He currently helps with the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival with contracting for the musicians, stage, sound, and lighting. Carl was the inaugural member of the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Hall of Fame. His go for it attitude, dedication, and willingness to help are invaluable to this event.e BBQ, and most of all great friends.
2017 – Hall Of Fame Inductee
Joesph Martin, Angel Fire 7 BBQ
In 2010, the very first Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ FIn 2010, the very first Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival, Joseph was a part of a different BBQ company, Sam’s BBQ1. Since then, he has been a prime target of festival patrons at his own brand Angel Fire 7 BBQ. Angel Fire 7 BBQ has been winners of numerous awards; 1st Place Pork Butt Category 5th Annual Savannah BBQ Competition, 3rd Place Brisket 7th Annual Savannah BBQ Competition, and 2nd Place Overall Food Truck 3rd Annual Atlanta Food Truck Festival. Joseph’s love for food came at an early age while watching his dad cook steaks. This love was called “putting flame to meat”. That is something he can still smell after all the years. However, he started seeing some smokers, and this was intriguing to Joseph, thus starting his passion of southern style BBQ, made from the heart. As we all know, the support structure for a successful person must be strong and unwavering. With tremendous help from his wife Kelly, and some hot iron prodding, they have grown into one of “THE PREMIER” names for BBQ in Georgia. Joseph’s idea and tag line says it all “Smokin’ For You”. He has used his massive amount of success to support communities and the people that were and are in need. He has fed thousands of people at no charge when they needed it most, given jobs to people who were unable to find work, and taught them a skill for life. Many are successful restaurant owners now. With the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival Joseph supplied food for five Business After Hours events, at no charge, just to give back. Joseph’s affiliation with the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ festival has been phenomenal. He has recommended good quality people with great food to be vendors, he has even spoken to potential vendors who were unsure about the event and had questions that only a true hearted and honest person would answer for them, vendor to vendor. He has done this, while knowing it would have more competition for him, but would help the event and the community. We were able to surprise Joseph with this award, by luring him to the stage for a made-up electrical issue, and presented him with the award and induction to the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Hall Of Fame. And, let me tell you it was the BEST. It brought tears to his eyes and he was very suprised and overwhelmed. He immediately returned to his food truck, Thelma Jean, and proceeded to have the 2nd largest sales day he had ever had, only behind one event, by $100, but that event was three hours longer thank the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival. As of 2023, Joseph and Kelly have sold their truck Thelma Jean, Joseph has taken a job with the Dept. of Homeland Security with a role of being a leader of support to disaster ridden areas. Kelly has continued to grow the Angel Fire 7 BBQ brand with their custom catering services. They are great people in a community, great purveyors of fine BBQ, and most of all great friends.
Rob Kaser wears many hats in the Blue Ridge Community. He has been a banker, a business promoter, a Realtor, and one of the biggest hearted community advocator that can be found. Rob served and was the Chairman of the Fannin County Chamber Of Commerce, was a member of Fannin County Rotary Club, and a promoter of events in the Blue Ridge area for years. One year Rob was in charge of a charity train ride with Rotary, it was a “Wild West” themed event. It was the same weekend and same night of the 1st ever Blues Crawl in Downtown Blue Ridge. When the train returned from the short trip all the western themed attendees were having a great time up and down the street with the blues crawl. Rob and some of the festival coordinators met that night as well and over a few drinks the idea of the Blues Train came to fruition. Since then, the Rotary Club of Blue Ridge moved to the wayside and the Kiwanis Club of Blue Ridge picked up the Kiwanis Blues Train. This year is the 5th year of the Blue Train and Block Party event held on the Friday night prior to the Saturday’s festival. Rob has also been seen at every single Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ, but in 2023, this will make his 9th year of being the Emcee on the stage from start to finish of the festival. In 2019 Rob was actually living in Texas, and rather than missing out on the event Rob was driving all the way to Blue Ridge to Emcee the event. On Thursday afternoon Rob was on his way, when he was in a car accident between Memphis, TN and Nashville, TN and his car was totaled, he was admitted to the hospital at that time. Rob calmly called and said, “Hey man, I might need a ride to get there” then told the story of what had happened. One of his great friends from Blue Ridge hit the road and picked him up from Nashville, TN and Rob made it just in time for the opening announcement. It was truly a miracle that he was ok, and that he wanted to get to the event so bad there was nothing that was going to hold him up. Rob’s dedication to Fannin County, Blue Ridge, GA, and all else he does is heartwarming and inspiring. His dedication and enthusiasm from the stage is awesome. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Mr. Rob Kaser..
Dairy Queen Blue Ridge, GA
When you look in the dictionary for community supporters, you should find a photo of Dairy Queen Grill & Chill in Blue Ridge, GA. They have poured their heart and soul into the community of Blue Ridge, GA, and have supported the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival for years. Their generous contributions of food and time to our event are amazing. They bring over breakfast, lunches, and dinners for all volunteers, and not only do they bring it over to the event, the owners, Joe and Cilla Cipolla hand serve to everyone. They bring the most enthusiastic smiling faces that love to see you smile, and they are contagious with their love of the community. Dairy Queen’s mascot “Curly” is also at the event in the Kids Korner. Curly is available for photos, high fives, hugs, and also gives away free ice cream certificates for the children. Dairy Queen supports almost every organization in the area that asks. They have special nights where sales are donated to charitable causes, they go to events and are seen, the love and support for community is proven by their actions. The Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival is forever in your debt, and we could not have done all this with you, Dairy Queen. In 2020 some health issues arose for the Cipolla’s and they sold their franchise. The new franchisee, Fred Weir, has picked up exactly where the Cipolla’s left off and has continued to be a massive part of the community. From car shows, hosting fundraising dinners, and numerous other community events, Dairy Queen is and will long be an amazing partner in the Blue Ridge, GA community. Pictured are Joe and Cilla Cipolla, of Dairy Queen Grill and Chill Blue Ridge, GA.
2021 Hall of Fame Inductees-Jan Hackett
Fannin County Chamber of Commerce
Jan Hackett started a new job in 2001 with the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce. She brought a vast knowledge of economic development and the ability to create partnerships to her new role in Blue Ridge, GA. At that time not many people knew of Blue Ridge, GA. So, Jan started spreading the word. Also, at that time it was hard to spread the word as a lot of Fannin County did not have internet, so the word spread slowly…….but consistently. Jan headed a small staff and just wanted to help businesses thrive, and the one thing the businesses all wanted was more business. Slowly tourists were starting to show up, and the tourism lodging taxes started to grow. Jan strategically spent this money in some very wise places. She was branding Blue Ridge to travelers and showing them a very intriguing place. As the advertising grew, Jan’s vision grew, and more and more people were showing up, and the advertising kept growing as well, creating a very large economic impact in a town where people now travel to from all around the world. Jan helped the be a driving force to develop what Blue Ridge, GA tourism is today. She has been nominated and won numerous awards from across the country in the tourism industry. But Jan had some ideas that were not yet at fruition, she wanted events that were in times when people were not already coming to Blue Ridge, so that people would come when it was a little slower. She was an instrumental part in backing the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival. That is the reason that the festival is on the 3rd weekend in September. It falls between two very popular times, Labor Day weekend and October. Jan can be seen at the event, kind of sitting in the shadows, but we all know deep down she is marveling at an idea that came to be. After a very successful time in Blue Ridge and 20 years of service Jan retired as President of the Chamber of Commerce in 2021. She still remains as a consultant and aides in ad placements and helps to manage advertising budgets. Her thoughts, her work, and her visions have been growing for years, and has helped to create one of the most popular tourism destinations in the country. Thank you for all you have and are doing for Fannin County, and welcome the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival Hall of Fame, Mrs. Jan Hackett.
2021 Hall of Fame Inductee -Johnny Scearce
Blue Ridge Chief of Police
When the first Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival started, we really put Chief Scearce through some hoops. We were the first event to sell and have open container in a city park in Downtown Blue Ridge. For those that know and don’t know, there are laws behind this, there are permits behind this, there are rules behind this….All from the city and state level, plus there are other establishments within the area that the alcohol laws show respect to, as do we, the festival committee. Chief Scearce helped navigate all the rules and regulations with us, the city, and the community. Without his help there may have not been beer, and the only thing worse than not having beer at a BBQ festival would be not having BBQ!! Chief Scearce listened to our goals and what the community thought as well. He used his abilities, his education of the law, and his ability to work to common grounds to help make our festival a huge success. In 2018 we approached Chief Scearce to see if he would help us in a skit to pump up the crowd, Chief Scearce happily and enthusiastically accepted. Chief Scearce’s role was to arrest the Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood. He had to find them as they were trying to steal beer. Well, he found them and brought them to the stage in handcuffs. The Blues Brothers were found guilty, and their sentence was for them to come back to Blue Ridge and play in the next year’s event. It was AWESOME and so was their show. Later in the year, Chief Scearce contracted Covid-19. He had a tremendous battle on his hands keeping him in the hospital for months with the help of life-supporting machines. Finally, our Chief came out of the hospital and was on his way to recovery. We were able to honor Chief Scearce in 2021 with a Hall of Fame induction. Chief Scearce has since retired from his service with the City of Blue Ridge and was elected as a Fannin County Commissioner in 2020. He is still helping to pave the way for controlled progress and his service to the City of Blue Ridge and Fannin County continues. Commissioner Scearce has been a livelong servant of the community and a strong advocate of the Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival. Thank you Chief for all you have done to help our community.