Tourism Tuesdays May 31, 2016

  • Alabama Tourism Department to host marketplace for local vendors
  • State tourism officials conduct group tour workshop
  • Shoals Gold Record Room opens Friday
  • Country Music Hall of Fame to open exhibit on group Alabama
  • Alabama Maker featured on NBC Nightly News
  • Jesse Owens receives highway dedication
  • White BBQ sauce declared Alabama’s most important food innovation
  • Nominations for Alabama Tourism Awards deadline extended to Friday
  • Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline June 30
  • Alabama Restaurant Week sign up in full swing
  • Alabama Tourism Department upcoming events



Alabama Tourism Department to host marketplace for local vendors

The Alabama Tourism Department will assist local vendors with getting their goods sold at gift shops across the state when it hosts the Alabama Makers Marketplace on June 9 in Montgomery.  The event will be open to the public.

“This is a great opportunity to bring producers of Alabama-made goods together with gift shop managers,” said marketplace coordinator Leigh Cross with the state tourism department.  “Travelers are always looking for things that are authentic and represent our state. We want to make sure that the gift shops at our top tourist attractions feature items from companies that are producing goods and creating jobs here in Alabama.”

The Alabama Makers Marketplace is 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 9 in the exhibit hall of the RSA Activity Center at 201 Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery.

Some 22 vendors have already registered for the marketplace including: AMaDe Accessories, Montgomery; Aqualime, Montgomery; Chip Ghigna Art, Homewood; Earthborn Studios, Inc., Leeds; Fox Point Farm, Montgomery; G Mommas, Selma; Hot Damn Jelly Co., Auburn; Innovative Logo Products, Montgomery; Jabez Enterprises, Opelika; Kudzu Kreationz, Arley.

Also coming are: Mighy Fine Print Shop, Montevallo; Naturally Rad, Prattville; Rebecca Koontz Studio; Greensboro; Wickles Pickles, Dadeville; Stately Made, Vestavia; The Cheek Collection, Notasulga; The Produce Wagon, Munford; To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co., Fitzpatrick; Todd Farms, Headland; Tuffets To You, Birmingham; Turnings by Bruce, Grand Bay; Tuskegee History Center, Tuskegee.

State tourism officials conduct group tour workshop

From the article “State official on local tourism: Offer a wow experience” by Lisa Singleton-Rickman in the Times Daily:

The state’s group travel/sales director had a piece of advice for tourism officials looking to increase that aspect of their market: “Offer authenticity and a wow experience with your destination.”

Rosemary Judkins and Alabama Department of Tourism Marketing Director Grey Brennan spent Wednesday morning meeting with tourism officials from north and central Alabama to discuss trends in the group tour market, and how to best capitalize on them.

“Tour operators tell me they’re looking for that experience for the tourist that no one else gives them,” Judkins said. “They want to see and do what the natives to the area enjoy, the things that make that place special.”

Brennan advised tourism staff to attend trade shows where questions can be answered directly by those who best know their cities. “The whole point is making those contacts and following through,” he said. “Now’s the time because more and more people know where Alabama is, and we have to start acting as if we’re a major destination.”

Judkins said shows such as “Travel South” appeal to those wanting the Southern experience, and now is the time to capitalize on it. “The South is really the hot ticket right now, and it’s great to connect states and join in on tours such as those to Nashville and Memphis,” she said. “You’re right down the road from those places, and you have the music and history, so make sure you’re a destination during that tour.”

“We’re putting group travel back on our radar,” Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association Director Tami Reist said.

Colbert County tourism officials strongly emphasize group travel, and now there’s a push by Florence-Lauderdale tourism officials to do the same. Group Sales Manager Georgia Turner, who handles group travel for Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, said the fresh emphasis on group travel means there’s more opportunity than ever to promote the Shoals area around the country and world.

Those opportunities aren’t lost on youth tours, an area that’s being more highly sought around the state. Student youth travel involves all ages and, according to Brennan, is the market that continues to be popular year after year. Likewise, it produces repeat business with group tours. He said a renewed focus on international travel has the state “moving more towards a presence in various places abroad.”

“Again, we’re going for the experiences, and no matter where people are from they want the experience that’s unique to an area,” Brennan said. “And it’s especially important to have locals (in tourism) who know their areas. A great guide who can give a visitor lots of interesting information is a very valuable thing.”

To read this article online, go to:  


Shoals Gold Record Room opens Friday

An upscale salute to the local music scene and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame (AMHOF) will open Friday, June 3, in Florence.  Spearheaded by local businessmen Marty Abroms and Bill Lyons, the Shoals Gold Record Room will be located in the ground floor lobby of the Suntrust Bank Building, also now known as the 201 South Court Building. After purchasing the facility last year Abroms and Lyons immediately partnered with AMHOF to develop a salute to the Shoals area’s rich music heritage.

“Marty and Bill have always been very generous in their support of AMHOF and both of them have an unwavering passion for the past, present and future of our area’s music.” said Judy Hood, AMHOF board member who directed the project with assistance from the No’Ala magazine team. “This room is a stunning reflection of their dedication.”

The room features 100 gold records, a giant mural of iconic music photos, a baby grand player piano loaded with 100 Muscle Shoals tunes, costumes from the AMHOF, guitar displays, vintage records autographed by local recording artists, a state-of-the-art sound system and a jukebox vending machine. The custom-designed flooring is inlaid with guitars and a large gold record.  Several musicians contributed to the project and many of the displays in the room are on loan from the private collection of Steve Price.

“We are fans and supporters of Muscle Shoals music,” said Lyons, CEO of Lyons HR. “This is our way of celebrating our area’s contributions to the world.  This has been a labor of love for us.”

“The renaissance of the Shoals music scene has boosted tourism and economic growth in our community,” said Abroms. “The Muscle Shoals documentary reignited the spark that made this the hit recording capital of the world and we believe it is important for local businesses to support the efforts of AMHOF and our local musicians. “

Abroms and Lyons pointed out that the room will be a “dynamic” tribute to music and that exhibits will be added in the coming months and years. “This is just the starting point,” said Lyons. “There are many more individuals, performers, artists and designers that we will honor and showcase over time.”

The room will be open to the public from 8 am until 5p.m., Monday through Friday, and will also be made available to nonprofits that support music, education, fashion and the arts. Abroms, who also serves as chairman of the UNA Board of Trustees, said: “Our vision is to see ‘many synergies’ developed with the Shoals Gold Record Room to benefit education outreach efforts by the university and the community college, tourism, the library systems and business and industry.

“Shannon Specialty Flooring designed the very unique floor and Mid South Vending provided us with a jukebox vending machine. Both are creative and functional additions to the room. Local artisan Robin Wade supplied some beautiful pieces to complement the décor.”

The grand opening will be held from 5-8 p.m. in conjunction with June’s First Friday event in downtown Florence.


Country Music Hall of Fame to open exhibit on group Alabama

From the article “Alabama Exhibit to Open at Country Music Hall of Fame” by Stephen L. Betts in Rolling Stone:

Alabama, the most successful – and certainly one of the most influential – bands in country music, will showcase the stories and events that have made them one of the most iconic acts in American music with an exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Opening August 25th and running through June 2017, Alabama: Born Country will feature an array of musical instruments, performance clothing, awards, childhood mementos, tour memorabilia, photographs and more, chronicling the group’s rise from their teenaged roots in Fort Payne, Alabama, to country-pop crossover success in the Eighties and beyond.

Ahead of the exhibit opening, the members of Alabama – Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook – are set to perform live in the Hall of Fame and Museum’s CMA Theater on July 6th, for the museum’s exclusive member concert, The Big Gig.

Playing together in their first group, Young Country, in 1969, cousins Cook, Gentry and Owen would showcase their blend of country and Southern rock at a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina bar called the Bowery beginning in 1973. They would serve as the house band there until 1980. That same year, shortly after adding drummer Mark Herndon from Massachusetts, they signed with RCA. More than 30 Number One singles followed, including signature songs such as “Mountain Music” and “Dixieland Delight,” with the band selling in excess of 70 million albums worldwide. In the early Eighties, they won CMA Entertainer and Vocal Group of the Year honors three times.

In 2005, not long after playing a Farewell tour, Alabama were elected the Country Music Hall of Fame. Their most recent Number One hit found the group name-checked on a tune they performed with Brad Paisley, “Old Alabama.” Today, founding members Cook, Gentry and Owen continue to record and tour, with their 2014 LP, Angels Among Us: Hymns & Gospel Favorites, earning a Dove award from the Gospel Music Association. Last year, they returned to the country charts with Southern Drawl, their first album of new material since 2001.

“I gave more of my heart and soul to this one than anything I’ve been a part of in my life,” Owen told Rolling Stone Country last year. “I approached this album as if it could be my best, my first or my last. We were so glad to be back in the studio, we didn’t take a moment of it for granted.”

In addition to their personal history the museum exhibit will shine a light on the group’s influential humanitarian efforts. Their June Jam in Fort Payne has raised millions of dollars for local charities, and they continue to be one of the most active supporters of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, inspiring countless other acts to follow suit.

 To read this article online, go to:

Alabama Maker featured on NBC Nightly News

From the article “Birmingham-based CEO featured on NBC Nightly News” in the Birmingham Business Journal:

Alabama’s sock queen recently found herself on national television.

Gina Locklear, the Birmingham-based founder of Ft. Payne’s Little River Sock Mill, was featured on the Inspiring America segment of NBC Nightly News.

“One thing that makes us unique from other brands, is we manufacture our own sock,” Locklear told the BBJ. “We’re putting the best product out there we can because we control it through design, manufacturing, packaging and fulfillment. We have a better sock because of it.”

Fort Payne, once considered the sock capital of the world, saw a significant downturn in hosiery industry during the mid-2000’s due to free trade agreements and international competition. Locklear’s family has owned a mill in Fort Payne since 1991, where the family made socks for companies like Russell Athletic during the height of Fort Payne’s textile boom. Now, the mill is used to produce materials for both Little River Sock Mill and its older sister brand, Zkano Socks.

Both brands source organic cotton from Texas and dyes from North Carolina.

To view the NBC Nightly News segment online, go to:


Jesse Owens receives highway dedication

A portion of State Highway 36 in Lawrence County is being dedicated in honor of Oakville native and Olympian Jesse Owens, one of Alabama’s greatest athletes. An official sign dedication and reception hosted by the Board of Directors of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) is set for Thursday, June 9, 2016, at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum.

The section of the highway being renamed Jesse Owens Parkway is a portion of Highway 36 beginning at I-65 Exit 328 and ending at the Lawrence County line, just west of Danville. The Alabama Department of Transportation has installed six signs – a sign on both the north- and south-bound lanes of Interstate 65 near the Jesse Owens Parkway (Alabama Highway 36) and signs in each direction marking the section of the Alabama Highway 36 named in his honor. Two signs will also be replaced on Alabama Highway 157.

“The Board of Directors for the Jesse Owens Museum greatly appreciates the dedication in honor of Jesse Owens,” said Nancy Pinion, co-director of the Jesse Owens Museum. “We would like to thank the North Central Alabama Regional Council of Goverments, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Senator Paul Bussman, Senator Arthur Orr and the City of Hartselle for recognizing the dedication and providing funds for the signage.”

On hand for the dedication and reception set for June 9, 2016, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum will be ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl, Governor’s ARC Representative Jim Byard, Jr., ARC State Program Manager Al Jones, representatives of state and local government including Senator Paul Bussman, regional and local tourism officials and family members of Jesse Owens.

For more information on the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum, go to:


White BBQ sauce declared Alabama’s most important food innovation

From the article “White BBQ sauce declared Alabama’s most important food innovation” by Mitchell Kilpatrick in Yellowhammer News:

Ever wondered what Alabama’s most important contribution to the world of food has been? According to the food and travel website Thrillist, it’s white barbecue sauce.

Thrillist listed the most important food innovations for every state, citing America’s long history of innovators, especially in the culinary world. According to the site, Alabama’s white barbecue sauce stands out from the rest because of its unique mix of ingredients, instead of using the boring tomato or mustard-based sauces famous in other states.

Here’s what Thrillist had to say about Alabama’s white barbecue sauce:

Barbecue sauce holds a precarious and little-regarded position in the world of barbecue. Many purists reject the use of the sauce, arguing (mostly correctly) that if the ‘cue is right and moist, it doesn’t need a sauce to cover its faults. The tomato- and mustard-based numbers popular in Texas, Kansas City, Memphis, and the Carolinas all play their part as a bit player in a big show. But only in the Yellowhammer State is that barbecue sauce the real damn star.

Thanks to Big Bob Gibson’s 1925 recipe, citizens of (mostly North) Alabama have been putting a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper on the most boring of barbecue specialties (chicken) plus a bunch of other stuff, for nearly a hundred years. And let me tell you, friends: the fact that this sauce isn’t as popular as the (crappy), thick, tomato-based junk you see in your condiment aisle is a damn national tragedy that changes today.

The rest of the list reveals where some of your favorite foods and restaurants were created. 

To read this entire article online, go to:

Nominations for Alabama Tourism Awards deadline extended to Friday

Deadline for nominations for the Alabama Tourism Awards have been extended to Friday, June 3.  Award categories include:  Attraction of the Year, Event of the Year, Organization of the Year, Welcome Center of the Year, Tourism Executive, Government Advocate, Media Advocate, Tourism Partnership, Rising Star, Themed Campaign, Governor’s Award and the Tourism Hall of Fame.

Please submit nominations to Cynthia Flowers via email at or mail to Alabama Tourism Department, Attention Cynthia Flowers, P.O. Box 4927, Montgomery, AL 36103. 

Awards will be presented at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism on Aug. 22 in Orange Beach.


 Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline June 30

It’s time to get your 2017 information in for the official annual Alabama Tourism Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events.  The deadline for submitting items for the printed version is June 30. 

Using the Alabama Tourism industry partners website will simplify entering and managing your events/attractions in the database at  Sign up for an account if you don’t already have one and then you will be able to create/update items for the Guide. 

 For assistance please contact Pam Smith at 334-353-4541 or email at

Alabama Restaurant Week sign up in full swing

Restaurants are being asked to sign up for Alabama Restaurant Week 2016.  The sign-up period began May 9 and will run through July 29. 

Last year 196 restaurants participated in the promotion. 

Courtney Austin with the state tourism department will serve as special coordinator for Alabama Restaurant Week.  She will be assisting with sign-up and formatting entries.

Alabama Restaurant Week is a marketing event that highlights restaurants in the state.  This culinary event unites the state’s diverse range of cuisine into a 10-day event.  

Participating restaurants offer two-course lunch and/or three-course dinner offerings at an attractive set price.  A three-course dinner should include a starter, main course and dessert while the two-course lunch should include a main course and either a starter or dessert. Specialty restaurants with very limited menus may have pre-fixed meal offerings that are not multi-course.

There are no coupons or discount books to buy or bring. Just ask for an Alabama Restaurant Week meal at a participating restaurant during the promotion time period and enjoy.  With the promotion’s pre-set prices, you know before making your plans what your cost will be. 

Participating restaurants are listed on the website with exact meal offerings once they are known.  The Alabama Restaurant Week pricing is fixed at $10, $20 or $30 for dinner and $5, $10 or $15 for lunch.  In all cases, the price is per person and does not include tax, tip and drink.  Restaurants may offer a meal at all or just one of the preset prices.  A restaurant’s regular menu will also be available.

When is Alabama Restaurant Week?  Alabama Restaurant Week is set for Friday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 21.

Which Restaurants Can Participate in Alabama Restaurant Week?  To qualify for participation, a restaurant must be a locally owned and operated restaurant in Alabama and/or a restaurant in the state that is important to the Alabama tourism industry.  Most chain restaurants do not quality.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right to include or deny any restaurant.  A restaurant does not have to be featured in the popular “l00 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die” brochure to participate. 

How Many Different Meal Preset Prices Must a Restaurant Offer?  A restaurant may participate in all three preset prices for both lunch or dinner, or just one or any combination.  It is not necessary to participate in both lunch and dinner. 

What about a Restaurant’s Regular Menu?  In addition to the Alabama Restaurant Week meal listings, a restaurant should still use their regular menu. 

Is There a Cost to Participate?  The Alabama Tourism Department does not charge a fee. 

How does a restaurant sign up?  Go to  Restaurants that participated last year should click on the highlighted area that reads “Already a member?  Click here” and update their entry form, paying close attention to check the box that reads “I want to participate this year.”  Restaurants that have not participated before, should click on the highlighted area that reads “Sign up your Restaurant It’s quick and easy.”

Restaurants may register to participate and later put in their Alabama Restaurant Week special. The Alabama Tourism Department will send promotional material to restaurants that sign up.

Can a local restaurant week be conducted during Alabama Restaurant Week?  Yes, Chambers, Convention and Visitor Bureaus and other destination marketing organizations who conduct a local restaurant week during the same period and with the same guidelines are requested to let the Alabama Tourism Department know.

For more information, contact or



Alabama Tourism Department upcoming events

June 9, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.          Alabama Makers Market                                            Montgomery

                                                RSA Activity Center, 201 Dexter Avenue, 36104

Aug. 20 – 23                           Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism            Orange Beach