Tourism Tuesdays March 31, 2015

  • Travel South showcase a success for Alabama attendees
  • April Walking Tours Start
  • Mobile Apps will be featured in 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide
  • It’s not too late – come learn how to work with the Alabama Tourism Department
  • Alabama Tourism Department attends statewide bike summit
  • Inaugural Alabama Bicycle Summit promotes bike tourism
  • How bicycle races became a thing for Anniston area
  • American Songwriter Magazine offering immersive Muscle Shoals experience
  • Public input welcomed on Gulf State Park project master plan
  • Huntsville/Madison County CVB launches meeting-oriented Twitter account
  • Daphne Homewood Suites earns third “Hotel of the Year Award”
  • Alabama’s Gulf Shores named one of the best coastal towns in the country
  • More than 2,000 attend Mobile of Museum special events recently
  • ‘Antiques Roadshow’ discovers $800,000 painting in Birmingham
  • Road tripping through Alabama
  • features Dreamland: An Authentic Alabama Experience
  • Central named one of best restaurants in Alabama
  • ‘How long, not long’: Hundreds march to Alabama State Capitol to hear Martin Luther King’s words
  • Montgomery officials call Selma march celebration a success
  • Huntsville volunteers talk about disaster makeup for Be Ready Camp
  • Robot Zoo at the Space & Rocket Center
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Travel South showcase a success for Alabama attendees
Year of Alabama BBQ promotion at showcase a hit

The Alabama aisle at the Travel South Showcase in Shreveport, Louisiana was busy with tour operator and journalist appointments last week.  For two days the more than 100 tour operators and 37 journalists held meetings with representatives from southern destinations at the tourism showcase designed to increase group tour business to the southern region of the United States.  Each of the Travel South member states had tables of industry leaders and tourism representatives at the showcase promote their destinations.

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell and staff member Grey Brennan met with the journalists prior to the beginning of the showcase appointments.  Afterwards, Brennan held one on one meetings with them at the Alabama booth.

Rosemary Judkins of the Alabama Tourism Department met with tour operators looking for group tour destinations during the event.  She also gave out special Alabama BBQ gifts during the Taste & Tunes of the South Tuesday promotion.

Year of Alabama BBQ promotion a hit

All of the more than 100 Alabama gift boxes of Alabama BBQ sauce and Alabama BBQ aprons were handed to tour operators.  These gifts were a hit at the show and drew attention to the Alabama Tourism Departments Year of Alabama BBQ promotion.

Other tourism products promoted and representatives attending

Also promoted during the group tour showcase was the Alabama Garden Trail.  Jim Inscoe of Jasmine Hill Gardens discussed the trail with tour operators.

On hand to promote the Alabama Civil Rights Trail was step-on-guide Ann Clemons of Tripe E Group based in Montgomery and Aviva Muhammad of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.

Additional step-on-guides were at the showcase to discuss their services and areas of the state; Jan Weiler of Landmark Tours based in Fairhope and Jacque Reeves of Avalon Tours based in Huntsville.

Both Tuscaloosa and Mobile had a full table of tourism representatives.  In the Tuscaloosa booth were Candace Johnson, University of Alabama Center for Economic Development; Kelli Harris, University of Alabama Museums and Tina Jones, Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission.  In the Mobile booth were Ron McConnell, Mobile Bay CVB; Nick Patel, Quality Inn & Suites, Mobile and Lydia Jones, Battle House & Riverview Hotels, Mobile.

Other tourism industry leaders taking appointments at booths along the Alabama aisle were Mary Patchunka-Smith, Anniston; Bob Hendrix, Dothan CVB; Tara Walton, Birmingham CVB; Pam Williams, Huntsville CVB and Ashley Mason, Selma/Dallas County Tourism.

For more information on Travel South, contact, or


April Walking Tours Start

Some 27 towns across Alabama will be on display during Saturday mornings in April as part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours.

A variety of community leaders will lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns.  The hour-long tours will start at 10 a.m. on April 4, 11, 18, and 25.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Atmore, Heritage Park; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Brundidge, Studio 116; Columbia, Old Bank Building (April 4 & 18 only); Columbiana, M & F Bank, Cullman, Cullman County Museum Decatur, Old State Bank Building; Demopolis, Public Square; Dothan, Wiregrass Museum of Art; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center; Greensboro, Hale County Courthouse; Greenville, Historic Depot/Chamber of Commerce.

Huntsville, Constitution Village (April 4 & 11 only); Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 18 & 25 only); Mobile, Cathedral Basilica; Montgomery; Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Mooresville Post Office; Phenix City; Amphitheater; Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Troy, Chamber of Commerce; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

The tours are being coordinated by Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department.  “Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours.  These walking tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather and find out about the history of our state.  We have done more than 2,000 walking tours since the beginning of the program twelve years ago and they keep increasing in popularity every year,” Jones said.

More information about the April Walking Tours is available on the Alabama Tourism Department website at

Mobile Apps will be featured in 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide

We need your help.  We are compiling a list of mobile apps offered by our Alabama Tourism Industry Partners.  A section in the 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide will be dedicated to mobile apps promoting the Alabama Tourism Industry.

If your organization has developed mobile apps to promote your area/attraction/business/event, please send a description and link to Jo Jo Terry,  Please send information regarding mobile apps that are even in the development stage.   If you have any questions, please contact Jo Jo Terry by email or phone, 334-353-4716 direct line.

It’s not too late – come learn how to work with the Alabama Tourism Department

The Alabama Tourism Department will host a Tourism Workshop on Tue., April 21 in Birmingham and Wed., April 22 in Montgomery.  These workshops are for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area.

Many of ATD’s staff members will be in attendance at these workshops and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them.  You will also be able to meet Jay Lamar, Executive Director of the Alabama Bi-Centennial Commission, and find out how you can be a part of Alabama’s bi-centennial.

On Tue., April 21 the workshop will be held at the Vulcan Park and Museum, 1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham and on Wed., April 22 the workshop will be at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Avenue.  Times for both days will be 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  There is no registration fee.

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

Alabama Tourism Department attends statewide bike summit

The Alabama Statewide Bike Summit last week began with a panel discussion featuring Alabama Tourism Department and the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department discussed cycling tourism in Alabama and encouraged the group to work with their local chamber and convention and visitor bureaus.  ALDOT discussed highway bike travel and lane warning strips along roadways.

The Eastern Shore and the Chief Ladiga bike trails were two examples of cycling vacation destinations currently promoted by Alabama Tourism.  Brennan also sited mountain bike trails in Alabama has another example of current cycling tourism.

The bike trails at Oak Mountain State Park and those at Coldwater Mountain in Anniston are two of the top examples of destination mountain bike trails in Alabama.

Brennan said a recent consumer event in Canada, in which Alabama Tourism participated, was a good example of the numbers of people from far distances that will consider an Alabama cycling vacation.  Twenty-six thousand attended the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto with many looking holding discussions with Brennan at the event on Alabama cycling destinations.

This year’s bike summit was subtitled “Wallet on Wheels” and those attending where updated on a number of ways the State of Alabama is either currently or could be attracting more cycling tourism.

Other speakers at the conference included Russ Roca & Laura Crawford, two bicycle tourism specialists from The Path Less Pedaled; Robin Elliot, President of the Georgia Bicycle Adventures presenting “Package, Produce, Promote What You Already Have”; Pete Conroy of Jacksonville State University spoke about Bike Trails Success in North East Alabama; Jim Felder updated the group on his efforts with the Alabama Scenic River Trails and as a member of the Alabama Trials Commission; Robert Smith of Montgomery spoke on Montgomery area bicycle and pedestrian transportation planning.

For more on the summit, see the story from the Montgomery Advertiser, Inaugural Alabama Bicycle Summit promotes bike tourism, by Kym Klass, March 27,

For more information on Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts to promote outdoor vacations, contact


Inaugural Alabama Bicycle Summit promotes bike tourism
By Kym Klass, Montgomery Advertiser, March 27

Bicycle tourism in Alabama would make cycling relevant not only to cyclists, but economically, to the business community.

That message was shared at the inaugural Alabama Statewide Bicycle Summit in Montgomery today, which brought groups together interested in bicycle transportation and recreation, including engineers, state tourism representatives, trail builders and planners.

“We’re trying to create a dialogue and conversations in communities all over Alabama, between neighbors, riders and policy makers,” said Tracy Hale, vice president of the Alabama Bicycle Coalition. “What we have in Alabama, especially with our weather, is a real jewel of an opportunity to attract people to come year round to ride.”

The summit, sponsored by The Montgomery Bicycle Club and the Alabama Bicycle Coalition, included discussion of bicycling as tourism, and as an economic driver — as a means to entice visitors from out of state or around the state to different areas to spend money and cycle, said Russ Roca. Roca and Laura Crawford, both of The Path
Less Pedaled, and who both are bicycle tourism specialists, were keynote speakers at the summit on Friday, held at the RSA Plaza.

Making bicycle tourism successful in Alabama, Roca said, is a three-prong attack: “make it a place worth bicycling by making it safe, comfortable and scenic. You have some great country roads.

“Second, is working with hospitality, and getting hotels and restaurants on board on how to welcome cyclists, and third, marketing. Bring that message to the state through institutions including Alabama State Tourism and the local chambers.”

Before the summit in Montgomery, Roca and Crawford took the opportunity to cycle roads throughout the state, including Birmingham and and Fairhope, while meeting community leaders and bike advocates and seeing the opportunities the state has to make it a bicycle tourism destination.

“I think Alabama as a state has good bones for bicycle tourism,” Roca said. “It might not be there yet, but with a fair amount of tweaking … such as getting cycling advocates up to speed … it could definitely be a cycling destination. We went on a 20-mile ride near the John Hall store (on Vaughn Road in Cecil) and we saw horses, cows … great terrain. There’s opportunity there.”

Mike Munk of Prattville understands that.

While attending the summit on Friday, he said the economic impact of cycling and bringing in tourists is important. Munk, who has led rides for America By Bicycle since 1997, and who is a Transcontinental Bicycle Ride Leader/Mechanic, completed his 51st ride across the country in May, when he took 30 cyclists 2,900 miles from Costa Mesa, Calif., to Savannah, Ga.

Part of the trip took the group through Alabama.

“When we came through here last year, just the two days we spent in Alabama, we spent almost $3,000 in motels and food,” Munk said. “They are getting an impression of Alabama.”

To read this article online, go to:


How bicycle races became a thing for Anniston area
By Joe Medley, Anniston Star, March 24

Three subtle and not-so-subtle signs point to the growth of Anniston’s annual cycling weekend.

One, Mike Poe, the event’s principal organizer until last year, was enjoying a spring-break beach trip with his family.

Two, the Greenville, S.C.-based firm that Poe and other local organizers chose to run the event starting last year added a press conference this year. Start Smart Events has also launched plans to go big on the Fort McClellan Road Race, with a goal to attract a Union Cycliste Internationale 1.2 road race designation.

Three, look around downtown Anniston during the Sunny King Criterium races, which anchor the Noble Street Festival.  There’s a not-so-subtle shift in emphasis.

Fans line the barriers, reach over and pound the sponsor signs to make noise for the racers. It’s not just about the food any more.

To read the entire article, go to:


American Songwriter Magazine offering immersive Muscle Shoals experience
By Matt Wake,, March 25

For such a famous address, the building located at 3614 Jackson Hwy. in Sheffield is a modest, L-shaped concrete thing.

At least on the outside.

Judy Hood – wife of iconic bassist David Hood, who co-founded Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at that location – thinks this is a big reason grown men sometimes weep when they finally see 3614 in person. Judy leads Swampette Tours, which celebrates Shoals area music.

“There’s just not much to it structurally,” Judy says. “And when people walk in there and see what a humble place it is I think it’s mind-boggling to them that building became one of the most important recording studios in the world.”

Judy will lead a Saturday bus tour of Muscle Shoals landmarks including 3614 Jackson Hwy., FAME Recording Studios  and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, as part of American Songwriter Magazine‘s  March 27-29 “Live and In Person” event.

Other programming includes Single Lock Records co-founder John Paul White hosting a showcase spotlighting acts from his Florence based label, including Donnie Fritts, Belle Adair, The Bear and singer/songwriter Dylan Leblanc at intimate venue 116 E. Mobile. Participants will also get to meet the absolute patriarch of Muscle Shoals music, FAME owner/producer Rick Hall, and receive a signed copy of his new autobiography “The Man From Muscle Shoals.”

“You can’t tell the story without telling a little bit about the music history,”Judy says. “But I think you can see that in the (‘Muscle Shoals’) documentary or read that in the book. I’m going to give you an experience that’s very hands-on. We’re going to go to FAME Recording Studio, of course, and spend some time in Studio A where Aretha Franklin and Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and so many great artists performed. And from there we’ll go over to 3614. People like to stand in that room.They like to kind of hang out where Mick Jagger recorded and see where Bob Seger did his thing.”

“Live and In Person” also involves a Singin’ River Brewery beer tour and dinner at Florence contemporary Southern fusion restaurant Odette.

Tickets ($750 single, $1,250 double) include a two night stay at the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, as well as a personalized wooden gift-box loaded with such items as the 2013 documentary film “Muscle Shoals,” American Songwriter subscription and Single Lock Records merch. You can purchase tickets online at

“The thing I liked most about it when I saw the actual lineup,” Judy says of “Live and In Person,” “is these folks who participate in this event are going to get to see Muscle Shoals music legends all the way to the newest of the new. And that excites me.

“Because the Muscle Shoals music story isn’t just history. It’s very much present and future.”

To read this article online, go to:

Public input welcomed on Gulf State Park project master plan
By Jeff Dute,, March 27

“Gulf State Park will be an international benchmark of environmental and economic sustainability demonstrating best practices for outdoor recreation, education and hospitable accommodations.”

So reads the Gulf State Park Restoration Project vision statement revealed during an open house at the Orange Beach Community Center Thursday.

The open house gave stakeholders and members of the public an early look at elements of an emerging master plan that will ultimately govern a planned $85 million project to build a lodge and meeting spaces as well as other improvements throughout the park.

The old lodge was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

The project was approved in October 2014 and being funded through Alabama’s $93 million share of the $1 billion first round of Natural Resource Damage Assessment penalties BP agreed to pay to compensate states for environmental damages caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The project is still in the design and planning phase, and architects, planners and civil engineers were on hand to give attendees the opportunity to have input on all of its elements.

During a short presentation on the process of developing the master plan and how people can get involved, Jill Allen Dixon, project manager for the Gulf State Park master plan team from Sasaki Associates, said of the 6,150-acre park,”There’s almost nothing like Gulf State Park anywhere on the Gulf Coast.”

Dixon based her statement not only on the park’s uncommonly large total acreage,but also because on its diversity of habitats and ecology.

Dixon said the master plan recommendations will address topics such as conservation and ecosystem management, ideas for new programs and activities, educational opportunities, park operations, how to make the park better for pedestrians and bicyclists and marketing and branding.

Conceptual drawings of what the new lodge would look like are still several months off, said Bob Harris, a partner with lead design firm, Lake Flato Architects, based in San Antonio, Texas.

Harris said his team’s goal is to design “site-sensitive architecture” that will sit lightly on the Earth and engage the surrounding dune system.

“We’d like to design it so that we are changing the dune system as least as possible,” — Bob Harris, Flato Lake

The lodge will be built on pilings that will elevate it above storm surge while also allowing the dune system underneath to continue performing its natural function as a barrier to high waves moving inland and s the basis of a complex ecosystem.

Unlike most of the rest of Alabama’s beach, Harris said this stretch of state-owned land has not had any dune enhancement work performed, so that will likely be part of some of the earliest work done at the site.

Though the lodge is the largest, most noticeable and with an estimated $58.5 million price tag, the costliest aspect of the project, it is just one of five key elements.

The other four, estimated at a combined $27 million to complete, are improvements to trails and other visitor facilities; dune restoration along the beach; building an environmental information center near the existing beach pavilion; and building a research and education center on Middle Lake that would include classrooms, laboratories and dorm rooms for overnight educational programming.

Planners have begun surveying the park and the dune restoration work could begin soon, once planners are satisfied the restored dunes would not be imperiled by future construction projects.

People will have two more opportunities to have input on the master plan as it takes shape later this spring and again in late summer. It is scheduled to be finalized sometime this fall.

Leon Barkan, vice-president of construction management with Vokert Inc., said ground could be broken on the lodge construction in the first quarter of 2016.

The lodge will take about two years to complete, but other components of construction and enhancement within the park will likely come online much sooner.

In addition to the Gulf State Park project, the trustees approved a $5 million living shoreline project in Bon Secour Bay and a $3.2 million project to create oyster reefs in Mobile County.

Opponents of the plan to build the lodge, including the Gulf Restoration Network, which has sued to block its construction, believe the NRDA process dictates the money be used on projects that restore habitats and/or protect land damaged directly impacted by the oil spill.

Those in favor of the lodge project claim it meets NRDA’s loss-of-use standard that states projects qualify if people were prevented from enjoying state resources and facilities because of the oil spill.

Gulfwide the total complement of projects approved by the trustees totaled $627 million, with the largest amount, $313 million, going to rebuilding barrier islands in Louisiana. Louisiana totaled $340 million in approved projects, with Mississippi receiving $69 million, Alabama getting $93 million, Florida with $103 million and Texas $18 million.

To check out the vision for the Gulf State Park project, click here. People can add their recommendations to the master plan by completing a survey here.

To read this article online, go to:

Huntsville/Madison County CVB launches meeting-oriented Twitter account

The Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched a meeting-oriented Twitter account, @MeetHuntsville, to promote the community as a meeting destination to strengthen relationships with national, regional and local meeting planners and to provide information on Huntsville/Madison County’s unique meeting offerings via social media. @MeetHuntsville will complement the efforts of the Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Convention Sales Team in recruiting new meeting business to the Rocket City as well as fostering relationships with current meeting planners.

“The @MeetHuntsville Twitter account will be another valuable tool in our arsenal to ensure we
continue to regularly and openly communicate with meeting planners and let them know we want their business and we’re here to assist,” CVB President/CEO Judy Ryals said. “Few places in the world can you host off-site events both underneath an authentic Saturn V moon rocket as you can at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center or gazing out at the beautiful Tennessee Valley atop picturesque Monte Sano Mountain at Burritt on the Mountain’s Baron Bluff.”

The meeting and convention industry is big business in the U.S. In 2009 alone, it generated $115 billion to the U.S. economy, according to a study by the Convention Industry Council. The industry’s economic impact is felt locally when groups such as the Gold Wing Road Riders Association brings more than 10,000 attendees to the Rocket City for Wing Ding 37 (September 2015) or the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) holds its Global Force Symposium (March 2015) with 6,000 attendees.

In 2014, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau assisted over 1,000 conferences and meetings, providing over 228,000 promotional materials to visitors and traveled to more than a dozen trade shows and events to promote the area as a meeting destination.

Vice President of Conventions Bob Rogers explained that CVB efforts to recruit new business spans mediums. “From complimentary planning and coordination services to providing registration assistants to the new blog and the @MeetHuntsville concierge service on social media, we’re always looking for ways to get the word out about our community.

“Hosting a meeting in Huntsville is not only good for the local economy, it ultimately results in a great event for conference attendees,” Rogers said.

Rogers touted the Von Braun Center (VBC) as one of the nation’s best venues for conventions, meetings and trade shows as well as great fodder for the @MeetHuntsville Twitter account.

“With @MeetHuntsville, we’ll explore the many reasons meeting planners should choose Huntsville /Madison County for their next meeting site. For example, the (VBC) charges no tax or gratuity, boasts 170,000 + sq. ft. of flexible meeting space and can accommodate everything from 13-ton Chinook helicopters to 18-wheelers within its walls,” Rogers said. “True to the ideals of Dr. Wernher von Braun himself, if you can dream it for your meeting, chances are good that the VBC can make it happen.”

According to the latest report from the Alabama Tourism Department, in the span of one year, the travel industry (including leisure and business travelers along with convention groups) pumped $997 million into Madison County’s economy and was responsible for 14,255 local jobs.

For more information, please contact Jessica Carlton, Marketing Manager at the Huntsville/Madison County CVB, at or by phone at 256-551-2294.


Daphne Homewood Suites earns third “Hotel of the Year Award”

Homewood Suites by Hilton® Mobile East Bay/Daphne was recognized in March as the brand’s top performing hotel for 2014, winning the highly coveted “Hotel of the Year” award for the third time in the past five years. The Daphne property—consistently ranking in the brand’s top five hotels since 2010—was selected from among 350 Homewood Suites, Hilton’s international brand of upscale, all-suite, extended-stay hotels.

The Hotel of the Year award—also known as the Connie Award, named after the company’s founder, Conrad Hilton—is based on scores in three key areas: 1) Quality Assurance (QA) evaluations measuring cleanliness, condition and brand standards; 2) Satisfaction and Loyalty Tracking (SALT) scores, which indicate product quality based on thousands of guest surveys conducted throughout the year; and 3) the quality of the hotel’s physical accommodations.

In addition to the Connie Award, the Daphne property also received national and regional performance awards for 2014: General Manager National Merit Award; Exceeded Expectations Problem Resolution National Merit Award; Highest Food and Beverage Quality Score for Evening Reception Regional Award; and Highest Loyalty Score Regional Award. These awards are based on specific components of the QA evaluations and SALT scores.

Chuck Cuff, General Manager of the Daphne Homewood Suites, said, “We are extremely proud and humbled to be the recipient of this year’s Connie Award. It has always been our mission to provide our guests with the best experience possible. Being awarded the Connie is a result of the outstanding team effort of our associates, management, and owners in fulfilling this mission. This is what we do, every day for every guest.”

Daphne Homewood Suites is an upscale residential-style hotel featuring spacious suites and home-like amenities. Guests enjoy a daily complimentary hot breakfast as well as an evening “Welcome Home” reception Mondays through Thursdays featuring a dinner buffet with beer and wine. The facility provides guests with an on-site business center, complimentary internet service, Suite Shop® convenience store, exercise gym, outdoor saltwater pool, laundry facility—and even a putting green! A complimentary grocery shopping service is also available.

Located only ten minutes from downtown Mobile, the Daphne Homewood Suites provides convenient access to South Alabama, Mobile, Fairhope, Gulf Coast beaches, and numerous outlet malls.

Homewood Suites by Hilton participates in Hilton HHonors®, the only hotel rewards program that offers Points & Miles® and No Blackout Dates.

The Homewood Suites by Hilton® Mobile – East Bay/Daphne is located at 29474 North Main Street, just off I-10. More information is available by calling 251-621-0100 or at

Alabama’s Gulf Shores named one of the best coastal towns in the country
By Elizabeth Beshears,, March 26

A ranking compiled by USA Today and the website lists Alabama’s beach town Gulf Shores as one of the best coastal towns in the country.

“Visitors to Gulf Shores, at the heart of the Alabama Gulf Coast, will be met with sugary-white sand beaches, Southern-style fresh seafood, championship golf courses and nearly any water sport you can imagine, thanks to the many nearby back bays and rivers,” the ranking says of Gulf Shores. “Preserves and state parks protect much of the region make Gulf Shores an ideal base for a natural coastal escape.”

Alabama’s Gulf Coast is known for its soft sand, clear water, and family-friendly atmosphere, making it a go-to destination for vacationers from across the country.

Coastal Living also named Gulf Shores one of the best beaches in the country in a recent ranking.

With Spring Break season here, take a trip to Alabama’s Gulf Coast for one of the best vacation spots in the South.

According to the town’s website, this spring and summer will be filled with a wide variety of events, including a Zydeco and Crawfish festival in April, and Hangout Fest in May.

To read the entire article and see the complete list of bests, go to:

More than 2,000 attend Mobile of Museum special events recently

Special events held in the space of four days attracted more than 2,000 visitors to the History
Museum of Mobile and Fort Condé last week. These numbers add to an already impressive
month of March for the museum under its new free admission policy.

On Thur., March 19, the museum hosted the University of Mobile’s tenth annual Hinson
Lecture, which featured noted Civil War historian Elizabeth Varon, Ph.D.

Fri., March 20 was the annual Colonial Day at Fort Condé. More than 1,000 students from
throughout the region attended the event, which featured demonstrations of Colonial cooking,
weaponry, and living history educators dressed in period clothing.

On Sat., March 21, the History Museum of Mobile, in partnership with the Indian Student
Association of the University of South Alabama, hosted the first city-wide celebration of Holi,
the festival of colors. More than 600 people attended the festival, which filled the corner of
South Royal and Church streets with Indian music, dancing, and the traditional “throwing” of
colors to celebrate the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil.

On Sun., March 22, the History Museum held an opening reception for What’s at Stake? the
newest exhibition in its Community Gallery. Designed as a commemoration of the upcoming
fifth anniversary of the Gulf Oil Spill, this exhibition features works by two dozen local artists in
a visual representation of the uniqueness and beauty of the Gulf region. Local artists were asked
to loan the History Museum pieces of their work that best represented what was at stake during
those fateful months when oil flowed freely into the Gulf of Mexico. The exhibit runs through
the summer.

“The overwhelming number of visitors attending the History Museum is as much a testament
to its diverse series of exhibits and activities as it is to its new, free admission policy,” said
Mayor Stimpson. “The secret is out about this world class attraction, and I am confident that
citizens and tourists alike will continue to take advantage of all the History Museum has to

All of these events were free and open to the public.

“I’m thrilled with the community’s robust response to this wide variety of offerings,” said David
E. Alsobrook, Ph.D, Director of the History Museum of Mobile. “I feel that it is our
responsibility to continue to provide exciting, diverse, and free programs to the citizens and
visitors of the region, and to expand the traditional definition of a local history museum. Events
like those held over the past week certainly demonstrate the diversity of the area, and the History
Museum’s commitment to reflect the community that supports us.”

Located in the Old City Hall/ Southern Market at 111 S. Royal Street in downtown Mobile, the
History Museum of Mobile documents the 300-year history of Mobile and the surrounding
region. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. –
5 p.m. Admission to the museum is now free.


‘Antiques Roadshow’ discovers $800,000 painting in Birmingham
By Bob Carlton,, March 30

Ty Dodge showed up at the “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal event carrying his cherished family heirloom in a cardboard box bundled with string.

He knew the nearly 120-year old Frederic Remington painting might be worth a lot.

He just had no idea how much.

“I really didn’t,” Dodge, who lives in Mountain Brook, says. “We had it appraised for insurance purposes back in the ’60s, and it was appraised at $7,500.”

Turns out the Remington painting — which depicts Dodge’s great-grandfather, Army officer Lea Febiger — is valued from $600,000 to $800,000 at auction, according to “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal expert Colleene Fesko. The painting comes with a personal letter from Remington to Febiger.

“So when the appraiser at the ‘Roadshow’ said the painting and the letter together would be worth about $600,000 to $800,000, frankly, I was pretty shocked,” Dodge says.

The Remington painting was by far the top find at the “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal event in Birmingham last June, and it will be featured tonight when the show airs the first of three Birmingham episodes at 7 p.m. on PBS.

The second and third episodes will air April 6 and April 13, respectively.

Dodge’s great-grandfather was a friend of Remington, the painter and sculptor famous for his depictions of the late 19th century American West.

Part of a series of paintings that Remington created to represent each branch of the Army, the Febiger painting represents the infantryman. Remington painted it in El Paso, Texas, in 1896.

Remington wrote the letter that goes with the painting — which he addressed to “My dear Febiger” — three years later. In it, he commends Febiger on his military accomplishments and suggests the two get together for a drink soon.

Febiger, who later oversaw the Army’s relief efforts following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, died in 1920 at The Presidio in San Francisco. According to family history, Febiger was going blind and was likely getting dementia, so he took his own life because he did not want to become a burden on his family.

The painting hung in the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, N.Y, until 1938, when Febiger’s daughter (Dodge’s grandmother) worked out a deal with the museum to acquire it for the family.

While the Remington museum was unwilling to sell the Febiger painting, it was willing to trade it for another painting it wanted for its collection.

“So she made the trade and the Remington came back into our family,” Dodge says. “That was in 1938, so it’s been hanging on our walls since then.”

Until recently, the painting has been hanging in Dodge’s living room. But he has donated it to the Birmingham Museum of Art to include with its collection of Remington bronze sculptures.

“I think they’ve got one of the largest collections of Remington bronzes, but no paintings,” Dodge says. “So this will be the only painting. I just thought that would be a great place to let others see it, as well.”

Dodge, who recently retired as CEO of Birmingham real-estate broker RealtySouth, says he has no big plans for the “Antiques Roadshow” airing tonight.

“My wife, Florence, and I will watch it,” he said. “A lot of our friends know about it, so they will either watch it or tape it. I guess we ought to have a big reveal party, but we didn’t plan on that.”

To read the entire article and get the schedule of showings, go to:


Road tripping through Alabama
By Jess Simpson,, March 30

My husband and I recently hosted a family of three from San Francisco through the home rental site Airbnb. The parents planned a week-long visit to take their 13-year-old son on a rolling journey through history with visits to Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery. Yep, you read that correctly. These travelers from California — a state with the country’s most beautiful stretches of coastal road — came to Alabama for a road trip.

With sights set on breathing in Southern culture and inhaling some barbecue along the way, they embarked on what would later be reported back as an “epic” trip. Their travels made me think of road trips I’ve taken in my home state, but maybe more importantly, ones I haven’t. I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Never been wowed at Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center.  Moundville has long been on my list of places to visit. And Muscle Shoals still calls my name.

Since spring break is quickly approaching and gas prices are in our favor, now is the time to embark on an Alabama road trip and see the state like thousands of visitors who roll through our cities and towns each year.

Tourism is big business in Alabama. The Alabama Tourism Department estimates the industry to have an annual economic impact of more than $11 billion, providing approximately 165,000 jobs statewide. “Visitors have become increasingly more interested in three- to four-day trips that offer a diversity of activities,” says state tourism director Lee Sentell. This led the department to create “Alabama Road Trips,” a program of uniquely crafted trip itineraries designed to encourage people from across the country — as well as within the state — to take to Alabama’s highways.

The department set out to chronicle getaway suggestions — one for every week of the year — in each corner of the state and for every interest, from history and culture to sports, music, and food. The trips became so popular that a book, “Alabama Road Trips: 52 Great Getaways,” soon followed and a travel app is now available at

To read the entire article, go to: features Dreamland: An Authentic Alabama Experience

Three things come to mind when people think of the state of Alabama. The first is obviously that song. You know the one. The first line is probably already on loop in your head. The second, and more legendary connection, is collegiate football, specifically at the University of Alabama, beginning with the legacy of Paul “Bear” Bryant (because he might as well be the mascot instead of the elephant). We kind of made a big deal out of him and his hat. Finally, “phenomenal bar-b-que” is the thought that’s usually right on the heels of “college football fanatics.”

People know we do it right (football and bar-b-que).

In 1958, stars fell on Alabama, legends were born, and blessings were dispensed. Dramatic flare aside—important stuff happened. Bear Bryant, started coaching at the University, and John “Big Daddy” Bishop, started cooking in his yard. As advised by God in a dream, he built the first Dreamland Café in front of his house in Jerusalem Heights. Kudos to the Big Guy, this has proven to be solid investment advice. Wearin’ a bib and gnawin’ on ribs at this dive is an Alabama tradition.  I’m glad he went with a restaurant instead of a mortuary, something he was considering before his divine intervention. Bar-b-que is less depressing. God must have thought so, too.

The original location is two miles from the intersection of Hwy 82 and Interstate 59. From McFarland, turn onto Jug Factory Road and look for a sign on the right. Turn there. The small back road where the cinderblock building sits isn’t one you’d happen on by chance. To me, this navigational quirk adds to the charm. Finding this hidden gem had to be a satisfying victory (diminished by our fancy technology, of course), and a testament to the reputation of the food over the years. Before the Internet could tell everyone about it, and a GPS could tell everyone how to find it, this place survived on word of mouth—probably, dirty bar-b-que stained mouths.

It’s always nice when a restaurant stays in the family, and Big Daddy’s legacy lives on through his children. Dreamland’s fame has led a franchise with locations throughout Alabama and Georgia. Tide fans that don’t live in Tuscaloosa now have a local place to congregate and worship Alabama football and the bar-b-que that goes hand-in-hand. The other restaurants have an expanded menu, too. Good for them, but I want the authentic experience, and so do a lot of people. Famous people. It wouldn’t be unusual to pull into the parking lot and see a tour bus.

There are four things you need to taste at the original Dreamland Bar-B-Que. You don’t need a menu. Sides are stupid. It’s all about meat (1) and sauce (2)—and a stack of Sunbeam white bread (3). Order a slab of ribs. They’ll be grilled and probably a little tougher than you expect because most people expect fall off the bone smoked ribs. I love smoked ribs too, but I don’t discriminate. These ribs just need a little tug and tease to get the meat off the bone (in bar-b-que competitions they actually deduct points if it’s fall-off-the-bone because that means it’s over cooked).

Things will get messy because ribs come covered in Big Daddy’s spicy orange secret sauce. Use the bread like a napkin and a sponge, and dip it in the saucy mess of your plate. Wash down the meal with some sweet tea or a beer. Say yes sir or ma’am. Say please and thank you. Clean yourself up, and before you leave, order some banana pudding (4) even if you don’t have room because only crazy people say no to banana pudding. Say thank you at least seven times on the way out, and then go yell belligerently at the game for a few hours. Boom! The Alabama

Experience in a nutshell.

See more at:

To read this article online, go to:


Central named one of best restaurants in Alabama
By Matt Okarmus, Montgomery Advertiser, March 30

One local restaurant has made a name for itself outside the state.

Central, located at 129 Coosa St., was named one of the three best restaurants in Alabama by the popular South Carolina food blog Charleston Food Bloggers. The website has a list of the three best restaurants from Southern states such as Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana.

Scott Wink, a founder of the blog along with his wife Crystal, said they chose the restaurants based on the “criteria of taste, quality, experience, local influence and uniqueness.”

“I love what Chef Leo Maurelli is doing at Central,” Wink said by email Monday. “The space is beautiful. The food is delicious.”

Wink said he frequents the area as a meeting point with his family and he went on to praise the restaurant scene in Montgomery.

“Birmingham has been known in the food community in the past 20 years as one of the only places that would support fine-dining restaurants in Alabama, but Montgomery is really starting to get on board,” Wink said. “Places like Central and True (will) hopefully continue to get local and visitor support that will encourage other chefs and business owners to take some more risks in Montgomery.”

Maurelli, who serves as executive chef at the restaurant, was proud to have Central praised.

“I felt excited, humbled and honored to know Central’s reaching outside the borders of Alabama and to have our work, myself and the entire staff, recognized as one of the best alongside renowned chefs and restaurants in Alabama,” he said. “It’s gratifying and helps us stay motivated!”

The other two restaurants on the list from the Charleston Food Bloggers were The Highlands and Hot and Hot Fish Club out of Birmingham.

To read this article online, go to:


‘How long, not long’: Hundreds march to Alabama State Capitol to hear Martin Luther King’s words
By Erin Edgemon,, March 25

Fifty years ago today, the last Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights ended at the Alabama State Capitol with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. leading a group of 25,000.

Today, fifty years later, was another historic day as hundreds of marchers began a short journey from the City of St. Jude in west Montgomery — the first integrated hospital in the southeast and the last campsite for the Selma-to-Montgomery march – and finally reaching the front steps of the state capitol.

The Rev. Bernice King spoke for her father today reciting his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech and sounding more and more like her father as the speech continued.

“Today, I stand where (my father) could not stand,” she said, urging Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act marchers fought for and encouraging everyone to register to vote.

A long-list of speakers, including Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, spoke largely of how the state of Alabama and the nation has changed over the last 50 years. They echoed the need to register to vote and go to the polls.

Speaking passionately from the capitol steps, Sewell said marching today isn’t enough.

“What matters is what Congress will do now,” she said. “We must restore the Voting Rights Act.

“We must remember we are here not just because they fought and they marched (50 years ago). We are here to make sure that doors are open and broke down so others can walk through,” Sewell continued later.

Hundreds of marchers and spectators bared the warm sun to hear King speak her father’s words. And just like so many years before, the crowd responded back to those words.

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
How long? Not long, (Not long says the crowd) because: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

King shared a hug with Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, on the steps of the capitol.

Kennedy said if Dr. King could see her and his daughter today she believed he “would smile and say amen.”

She recounted her father’s apology to marchers, which took place 30 years after the march.

In 1995, at 75 years of age, Wallace apologized to marchers in Montgomery, but he was too sick to give a speech.

An aide read the speech for him.

“On that day (50 years ago), my father did not know he was on his own road to Jericho,” Kennedy said.

To read the entire article, go to:

Montgomery officials call Selma march celebration a success
By Drew Taylor, Montgomery Advertiser, March 29

A little more than 50 years ago a march from Selma ended at the Capitol in Montgomery, and it was deemed a success after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. Less than a week ago a reenactment of that march ended at the Capitol in Montgomery and area officials deemed it a success because the marchers arrived at a different place.

At the conclusion of the march events last week, officials with both the city of Montgomery and Montgomery County felt that the festivities were not just successful, but portrayed the area in a positive way. Last week’s festivities marked the last leg of the march.

Elton Dean, chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, said although Montgomery and the surrounding area likely received an economic impact from the anniversary, the ultimate goal was not about making money.

“We just wanted to make sure that when the people came, they were treated well, they were safe, they were comfortable in Montgomery and (they would) come back,” Dean said. “What we were doing was not for that particular day, but for the future so that people could understand that Montgomery was a different place, and they could come back and bring their families.”

City and county leaders spent more than a year planning for the event and took pride in it coming off so smoothly.

“It’s been a long process, and we’re just glad that it was a success,” Dean said.

Anita Archie, chief of staff for Mayor Todd Strange, said that looking back over the city’s preparations, she was glad there were no troublesome incidents to deal with and that the celebration was something everyone could take part in.

She also commended the students who spent their spring break taking part in interactive classrooms to learn more about the march and the civil rights movement.

“For me, these kids have made me a better person by them taking away their spring break to be with us,” Archie said.

Archie said that in preparing for the anniversary, which started in March 2014 and intensified in January with planning for last week’s events, the city raised an estimated $375,000 through donations and sponsorships to cover costs of celebration activities, not using any city funds in the process.

“Right now, we feel confident that our fundraising efforts were successful and we will not have to use city dollars,” Archie said.

While the march celebration wasn’t about money, it did prove to be a boon for tourism in the city, county and state.
Brian Jones, public relations director for the Alabama Department of Tourism, said that following the acclaim of the film “Selma,” Alabama was able to capture the momentum of the anniversary by updating to the state’s civil rights history brochure and affiliated websites. Jones said civil rights locations are one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions.

“Instead of just seeing history under Plexiglas, you’re able to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge or able to be in front of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached,” Jones said. “The influences are felt around the world and we saw that in Selma.”

Jones said it would be months before the department could gauge the economic impact from the anniversary celebration, but that the coverage it received indicated that it would be significant and would likely represent millions of dollars.

“When you’re looking at major events like this that generate so much coverage, it’s not just how many people were there that day at the event, it’s when you get all the newspapers, magazines and TV,” he said. “You reach so many more people that see it and find out about it and plan trips around it later.”

The next major anniversary the city will be preparing for is the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, where black residents refused to ride the buses for more than a year after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus and give up her seat to a white man.

“If it wasn’t for the Bus Boycott in 1955, the Voting Rights Act probably would’ve never taken place,” Dean said.
Strange said he was appreciative of all the hard work from the city and county to host the celebrations and that they would continue that same work for the Bus Boycott anniversary.

“Montgomery has played a significant role in the history of civil rights,” Strange said.

To read this article online, to go:



Huntsville volunteers talk about disaster makeup for Be Ready Camp
By Jonathan Grass,, March 28

Blood, guts, maybe a baseball crushed into a face here and there. Sometimes this is what it takes to teach kids how to handle a disaster. And what’s a disaster without a rebar pipe jutting out from a hip now and again?

Of course none of it was real, but the kids at Serve Alabama’s Be Ready Camp got an eyeful when they saw the bodies scattered around the Aviation Challenge grounds Friday night.

This was all part of the mock disaster portion of the annual camp. Sixth graders from around the state attend classes at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center on disaster preparedness, survival, first aid, rescue and other emergency tactics. They train with real first responders using a modified Community Emergency Response Team curriculum.

More about what the actual mock disaster entailed can be found in this story. This post tells a little about what it took to make the victims look real.

What it took was four hours of makeup and prosthetic application. About 60 volunteers and four makeup artists pitched in to get everyone ready to play the burned and bloody victims.

“All the research that’s out there says the more real that you can make it, the better we react,” said Marlena Primeau, who was lending her skills in the makeup department. “That authenticity during simulation is one of the things that the research says is enormously important to make sure that they learn it and retain the learning.”

The volunteer victims agreed. One of them, Brittany Shane, commented on how much this helps the kids learn.

Last year, she mimicked smoke inhalation and the kids had to help her because the mock injury rendered her unable to obey commands. She told how the kids learned that shaking hands was a way they determined if a victim could understand simple commands.

Students experience mock disaster during Be Ready Camp at USSRC After spending the week learning how to prepare and respond to a disaster, 80 students from across the state put their skills to the test during a mock disaster on the Aviation Challenge campus.

Shane’s injuries last year consisted of few scratches and charcoal dust, but this year consisted of a giant burn on her face and lots of blood everywhere.

“Hopefully it will be very theatrical,” she said, laughing.

Primeau explained how they use moulage makeup. This refers to theatrical makeup usually used in trauma or disaster simulations.

Although Primeau isn’t a makeup artist by trade, the work is a natural fit for her. She’s a nursing professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and also does disaster simulations for her students. She’s also worked with a moulage artist before as part of a research grant. Her nursing students have even played victims over the years.

“Because they understand, like if he’s got glass then how do you react to that. Like anatomically what’s that do to you,” she said.

Primeau’s thoughts on keeping the makeup accurate reflect on things Aviation Challenge program manger Ruth Marie Oliver said during the disaster training. Oliver remarked how the teams there strive for realism, which is part of the advantage of working with Space Camp.

Among the makeup leaders was Steve Morgan, who is a CERT instructor who also has background in community theater. Victim volunteers usually consist of current or former Space Camp employees, or those they recruit into it.

For example, there was Jason Parker, who decided to have debris applied to his arm as one of his final acts with Aviation Challenge. After three years, the ropes course manager is leaving Space Camp but wanted to “go out with a bang.” This could even be interpreted literally, as a pair of explosions kicked off the mock disaster Friday night. Parker will be leading a YMCA sport shooting program in St. Paul, Indiana.

“I wasn’t sure it was going to look this realistic so it kind of weirded me out a little bit, but I like it” he said of the prosthetic adhered to his arm.

Hopefully it will be very theatrical

Parker’s makeup only took a few minutes. Others, like Anthony Greer, had to sit still for an hour. His character’s backstory is that he was playing baseball when an explosion put the ball into his face. Greer enthusiastically stuck to this story as the kids rendered aid. This was the Space Camp night manager’s first time participating in Be Ready Camp and he relished the enjoyment of playing the character.

“It’s a new experience. It’s not every day you get a baseball painted into your face,” he said.

Shane was asked to volunteer because she’s previously been a crew trainer for Space Camp and Aviation Challenge. The people in charge knew she could handle the effort, not to mention the screaming and pain-faking.

When talking about some of the extreme appliances, like screws in necks and such, Shane said, “I think some of the kids get kind of scared at first, like it feels really real to them. But as soon as they get over that initial shock factor they just five right in.”

She said once kids have been though this, with the advanced level of authenticity, they feel more confident they could handle it if it happened in real life.

The hard work paid off in the realism of the scenario. One camper, Adam Holtzscher of Prattville Intermediate School, commented on how good the effects looked. He was then rushed off to help aid more of the mock victims he was talking about.

To read this article online, go to:

Robot Zoo at the Space & Rocket Center

Visitors explore the biomechanics of complex animal robots to discover how real animals work, thanks to a touring exhibit, “The Robot Zoo.”

The 5,000-square-foot exhibit reveals the magic of nature as a master engineer. Eight robot animals and more than a dozen hands-on activities illustrate fascinating real-life characteristics, such as how a chameleon changes colors, a giant squid propels itself and a fly walks on the ceiling.

The larger-than-life-size animated robots include a chameleon, a rhinoceros, a giant squid with 18-foot tentacles and a platypus. Also featured are a house fly with a 10-foot wingspread, a grasshopper, a bat and a giraffe whose head and neck alone stretch 9 feet tall.

Cutaways expose the animals’ insides as a host of easily recognizable machine parts and gadgets, such as shock absorbers and pumps, that demonstrate what makes animals work. By comparing anatomy, environments and size of the actual creatures to the mechanic counterparts, The Robot Zoo provides fantastic new insights and hands-on fun for discovering just how animals work.

This exhibit is on display March 28 – September 13.

For more information, go to:

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Apr  4                          April Walking Tours

Apr 11                         April Walking Tours

Apr 14                         Alabama Tourism Bash – Montgomery, AL

Apr 15                         Alabama Tourism Advisory Board Meeting & Update, Montgomery, AL

Apr 18                         April Walking Tours

Apr 21 & 22                Alabama Tourism Department Workshop – Birmingham/Montgomery

Apr 22 – 24                 WTM Latin America (Trade) – Sao Paulo, Brazil

Apr 25                         April Walking Tours

Apr 30 – May 3          Nashville Southern Women’s Show – Nashville, TN

May 6                          Sumter Welcome Center, Tourism Day Celebration
I-20/59 East of MS Line
May 7                          Cleburne Welcome Center, Tourism Day Celebration
I-20 West of GA Line
May 14                        Lanett Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration
I-85 West of Georgia Line
May 15                        Houston Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration
U.S. 231 North of FL Line
May 14                        Baldwin Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration
I-10 West of FL Line
May 7                         Grand Bay Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration
I-10 East of MS Line
May 14                       DeKalb Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration
I-59 West of GA Line
May 28                       Ardmore Welcome Center Tourism Celebration
I-65 South of TN Line


Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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Alabama Tourism Department