Tourism Tuesdays June 18, 2019

Professional anglers group gets $150,000 in Alabama budget

Gulf State Park receives recognition from National Geographic

Birmingham and Mobile ranked among the top American Cities of the Future

Alabama State Parks earn 18 TripAdvisor awards for a record year

Alabama celebrates July 4 with a Bicentennial television special and events across the state

Southern Baptist meeting drew 12,000, biggest convention at BJCC this century

The Hoover Met posts record numbers for SEC Baseball Tournament

Reality TV show about Alabama barbecue set to return

Birmingham Zoo completes phase two of three renovations

‘Mystic Mansion’ ride opens Friday at OWA in Foley

Alabama pastry chef works her charm in Duke’s mayonnaise TV spots

Alabama Restaurant Week 2019

2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Alabama Welcome Center Retreat 2019

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Professional anglers group gets $150,000 in Alabama budget
From the article by Mike Cason on

The Major League Fishing Anglers Association, part of a larger organization that holds made-for-television bass tournaments, will receive $150,000 from Alabama taxpayers in the state budget next year, one of about a dozen entities receiving money passed through the state Tourism Department.

Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, said the money was an incentive to bring the Anglers Association’s headquarters to Lake Guntersville.

“The hope is having that headquarters there will help draw more fishermen, more anglers to not just Lake Guntersville, but every lake in the state,” Scofield said. The senator said he requested that the money be added to the budget.

Major League Fishing is a seven-year-old organization based in Tulsa that launched a new pro bass tour this year.

Boyd Duckett, a professional fisherman from Alabama and one of the founders and owners of Major League Fishing, said the Anglers Association headquarters will be part of a new City Harbor development in Guntersville. He said it’s a natural fit for Alabama because the state has long promoted bass fishing and the associated tourism.

“[It is] a real feather in our cap to further extend the message to the rest of the country that hey, we’re all about bass fishing,” Duckett said. “Major League Fishing, which is the highest level of bass fishing, has chosen to house its Anglers Association here in Alabama, which will draw attention nationally. It should help our tourism, our fishing, use of our waterways and all of those things that have such a tremendous economic impact on all the local economies close to the waters.”

The Anglers Association will function in some ways like players associations in professional sports and will raise money to promote initiatives such as environmental protection and teaching kids to fish, Duckett said.

The 2020 General Fund budget, passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, provides a total of about $3 million from the General Fund and the state lodging tax to organizations or events through the Tourism Department.

The largest is $1 million to the USS Alabama Battleship Park to help fund a project to repair the ship’s main deck.

The budget allocates $500,000 to the World Games, scheduled for 2021 in Birmingham.

Other recipients of General Fund dollars are the Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, $300,000; the Alabama Scenic River Trail, $234,663; the Alabama Bass Trail, $224,437; the SEC baseball tournament in Hoover, $50,000; and the Regions Tradition golf tournament in Birmingham.

From state lodging taxes, the budget allocates $500,000 to the Talladega Superspeedway; $100,000 to the Bicentennial Commission; $50,000 to the Dothan Area Botanical Gardens; and $50,000 to Red Mountain Park.

The $3 million total amounts to a little more than one-tenth of 1 percent of the $2.2 billion General Fund next year.

Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund committee, said the appropriations start with requests from individual legislators. Clouse said the state benefits by increased business and revenues from hotels, restaurants and shops.

“The whole tourism purpose is to create more tourism,” Clouse said.

Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, chairman of the Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee in the Senate, said there is no shortage of requests to add projects to the budget. Albritton said the committee tries to do its homework and determine the most valid. He said most requests are turned down.

“You can always find a place to put money in,” Albritton said. “The question is, where is that money going to go to. Is it really going to be a help? Is there something that this is only a part of, you’re not footing the whole bill, the state? How much does the local or the legislator know about it or not know about it? Those are the questions that come up.”

Duckett said Major League Fishing aims to expand the appeal of bass tournaments with a revamped format that is more entertaining and better for sustaining the health of fisheries. For example, Major League Fishing eliminated the practice of anglers storing their bass in a live well for weigh-ins at the end of the day. Fish are weighed immediately after they’re caught and released.

Duckett said Major League Fishing is reaching a large audience through its partnership with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and will air 860 hours of television on five networks this year.

“It gives us an opportunity to showcase and promote bass fishing, and showcase us in the most environmentally friendly way,” Duckett said.

The appropriations to the Anglers Association and others are legislative initiatives that are separate from the Tourism Department’s regular operating budget, which is used to promote tourism across the board.

Lee Sentell, director of the Tourism Department since 2003, said bass fishing has been an important component for tourism. The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society was founded by Ray Scott of Montgomery and is now headquartered in Birmingham. The 50th annual Bassmasters Classic will be held at Lake Guntersville next year. The state also has the tournament series on the Alabama Bass Trail.

“Anything that elevates Alabama’s image for professional fishing is good,” Sentell said.

For the complete article please see

Gulf State Park receives recognition from National Geographic
From the article by Brandon Moseley on

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced Thursday that Eagle Cottages at Gulf State Park is the newest member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World Program. Eagle Cottages is the seventh in the U.S. to be so recognized. There are only 55 lodges in the program worldwide.

The National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World is a collection of Lodges that invites guests to discover some of the most treasured places on the planet while helping to protect those places for future generations. Each property is hand selected and must share a strong commitment to sustainable practices and to protecting natural and cultural heritage. The guest experience at each lodge must be intimate and exceptional while inspiring guests to connect with the destination in a meaningful way and also to play a part in safeguarding it for future generations.

Eagle Cottages at Gulf State Park is a collection of 11 cottages contributing to ADCNR’s commitment to define Gulf State Park as an international benchmark of environmental and economic sustainability demonstrating best practices for outdoor education, recreation and hospitable accommodations.

“I could not be more excited about Eagle Cottages becoming part of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection,” said ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “This is an affirmation of Gulf State Park, the Department of Conservation and the state of Alabama. Teaming with National Geographic will help highlight the natural resources, culture and heritage of our state, and it will benefit the people of South Alabama. National Geographic is a way to further expose all that we have to offer in Alabama including the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, the Red Hills Salamander habitat, the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge and many other unique treasures. Sustainable tourism is the fastest growing segment of tourism and will be a game changer for our state.”

For a generation of Alabamians, Gulf State Park was a favorite vacation destination. The facilities however were destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. Gov. Kay Ivey was tasked with rebuilding the facilities as a world class luxury resort. Ivey and ADCNR were tasked with restoring and enhancing the greatness of the state’s most popular state park while minimizing the impact on the fragile coastal ecosystem.

The cottages were part of that overall rebuild effort that included miles of boardwalks through the wetlands, a new state fishing pier, four restaurants and the new Gulf State Lodge and Conference Center that opened last winter after a 14 year absence.

National Geographic Travel creates authentic, meaningful and engaging travel experiences through National Geographic Travelermagazine, National Geographic Expeditions, National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, digital travel content, travel books, maps and travel photography programs.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions — Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

For the complete article please see

Birmingham and Mobile ranked among the top American Cities of the Future
From the article by Hailey Auglair on

Birmingham and Mobile were among the top American Cities of the Future in the 2019-2020 ranking by fDi magazine, a news and foreign direct investment publication based in London.

Mobile was ranked No. 5 in the top 25 American Cities of the Future for Foreign Direct Investment Strategy. New York City, Chicago, Greater Montreal and Medellin (Columbia) were also among the top five.

The magazine stated that Mobile “is home to several high-growth sectors including a thriving aerospace cluster, and Mobile Area Chamber attends a variety of global air shows to promote the region alongside Team Mobile, a group of local economic development partners. Mobile is also known for its extensive transportation infrastructure, including a deep-water port, two major interstate connectors, five class-one railroads and two Federal Aviation Administration-certified airports.”

Bill Sisson, president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce said in the magazine that “while our logistics and infrastructure are unparalleled, our team oriented approach and business-friendly policies are even more impressive. I invite everyone to see why more than 50 international businesses representing 19 counties are thriving here.”

Birmingham ranked No. 9 in mid-sized American Cities of the Future overall and in human capital and lifestyle, No. 10 in connectivity and No. 4 in business friendliness.

“Birmingham is open for business,” Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a press release. “We are committed to making Birmingham a hub for qualified, diverse talent. fDi’s ranking shows that our hard work isn’t going unnoticed as we continue to fulfill our promise of innovation and inclusive growth.”

Other mid-sized American cities ranked in the top 10 overall are Raleigh, North Carolina; Salt Lake City, Utah and Richmond, Virginia. Cities in both North and South America were included in the rankings.

For the complete article please see

Alabama State Parks earn 18 TripAdvisor awards for a record year
From the article by Erin Dunbar on

Alabama State Parks earned a record of 18 Certificate of Excellence Awards for 2019.

These honors only go to about 10 percent of the attractions listed on the travel website and a record of 10 Alabama State Parks earned TripAdvisor Hall of Fame honors.

“We are very proud of all of our parks that received this recognition, especially because it is based on visitors’ impressions. It’s exciting that our parks received three first-time Certificates of Excellence and that Cheaha State Park was inducted into their Hall of Fame after earning a certificate for the fifth straight year. It is impressive that we have been able to maintain these positive impressions with guests even during periods of renovation and repairs to many parks’ amenities. It’s truly a positive reflection on the attitude and performance of these parks’ staff and leadership,” said Greg Lein, Director of the Alabama State Parks Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

In 2018, 16 Alabama State Parks received Certificates of Excellence and nine Hall of Fame awards.

The Alabama State Parks and attractions honored with Certificates of Excellence this year:
• Cathedral Caverns State Park (Hall of Fame)
• Cheaha State Park (Hall of Fame)
• Cheaha State Park restaurant, Vista Cliffside (first award)
• Chewacla State Park (Hall of Fame)
• DeSoto Falls
• DeSoto State Park (Hall of Fame)
• Gulf State Park (Hall of Fame)
• Gulf State Park Campground (Hall of Fame)
• Gulf State Park Pier (Hall of Fame)
• Gulf State Park Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
• Joe Wheeler State Park (Hall of Fame)
• Lake Guntersville State Park
• Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge
• Lakepoint Resort State Park (first award)
• Lake Lurleen State Park (first award)
• Meaher State Park
• Monte Sano State Park (Hall of Fame)
• Oak Mountain State Park (Hall of Fame)

To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, an accommodation, restaurant or tourism experience must maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five, have a set minimum number of reviews and have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.

No application process is required to receive TripAdvisor recognition.

Certificate of Excellence winners for five straight years earn Hall of Fame recognition.

For the complete article please see

Alabama celebrates July 4 with a Bicentennial television special and events across the state
The new television special “Alabama Bicentennial: The Stories of Our People” will air July 4 on Birmingham’s WBRC-FOX 6 at 8 p.m. and on Huntsville’s WAFF-NBC 48, Montgomery’s WSFA-NBC 12 and Dothan’s WTVY-CBS 4 /WRGX-LD at 9 p.m. The special will feature people from throughout the state telling stories of their region and the Bicentennial.

Fireworks, great summer food and live entertainment highlight some of the many events happening across the state on July 4. Local families and visitors can choose from more than 20 Independence Day events and firework shows.

The celebrations include the Spirit of America Festival at Point Mallard in Decatur, Thunder on the Mountain at Vulcan Park & Museum in Birmingham and Independence Day 1776 at the American Village in Montevallo. Families can also see a baseball game in Montgomery, enjoy a free concert in Guntersville or watch reflections of fireworks on the waves at Gulf Shores.

The Alabama Tourism Department suggests the following July 4th events. For a complete calendar of events listing see

Alexander City – 4th of July Boat Parade
Decorate your boat and join the patriotic crowd at Kowaliga Marina as boats of all sizes, shapes and decoration “parade” from Kowaliga Marina to Children’s Harbor circling just past the lighthouse. Spectators line the shoreline along the parade route to applaud their favorite patriotically decorated boats and contestants. Free.

Athens – Red, White & Boom
Fireworks will be shot above the Athens High School stadium. Free.

Birmingham – Thunder on the Mountain 
Vulcan Park & Museum. Birmingham’s annual fireworks display with Vulcan as the centerpiece of the program. It will be the biggest show Vulcan has put on to date with a unique score featuring artists such as James Brown and Jimmy Buffett choreographed to the fireworks display. Free.

Decatur – Spirit of America Festival
Point Mallard Park. Celebrate the nation’s birthday at one of the state’s largest patriotic festivals, featuring children’s activities, live music and a fireworks show. This year is the festival’s 53rd year. Free.

Eclectic – 4th of July Fireworks and Concert
The AMP on Lake Martin. Watch fireworks over the lake from the lawn of the amphitheater after enjoying music concerts. Admission charged.

Florence – Spirit of Freedom Celebration
McFarland Park. The event will include a musical performance by local band Deja Vu for two hours before the fireworks show, which traditionally starts at 9 p.m. Vendors will be at the park all day. Free.

Foley – Downtown OWA
Celebrate with family-friendly activities in the streets of admission-free Downtown OWA, dance to GLOWA at night, then enjoy a fireworks show over Lake OWA.

Gulf Shores – Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration
Fireworks will be shot from Gulf State Park Pier at 9 p.m. Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores Public Beach and surrounding areas will be ideal for viewing. Free.

Guntersville – Fourth of July Fireworks on Lake Guntersville
Free concert featuring Soul Survivor at Civitan Park, sponsored by the Mountain Valley Arts Council from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Then enjoy the fireworks show over Guntersville. Best viewing for the fireworks will be at Civitan Park and along Lurleen B. Wallace Drive. Free

Henagar – Sand Mountain Potato Festival
Celebrate with live music, arts and crafts, entertainment, games and fireworks. Event begins at 10 a.m. and culminates with a firework display at dark. Free

Huntsville – U.S. Space & Rocket Center July 4th Celebration
Enjoy special, family-friendly patriotic activities during regular museum hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Rocket Center will close at 7:30 p.m. The Center will launch its largest fireworks display ever for the city of Huntsville at 9 p.m. Admission charged for the Rocket Center. Fireworks show will be free

Mobile – Fireworks on the Fantail at USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
Fundraiser for Battleship Memorial Park. Enjoy an evening of music, barbeque, drinks, ice cream buffet, children’s activities and fireworks viewing from the bow of the ship. Event begins at 7:30 p.m. with fireworks at 9 p.m. Admission charged.

Montevallo – Independence Day 1776
The American Village. See the stories of America’s founding with period re-enactors, play Colonial games, patriotic music, fireworks and more. Gates open at 11 a.m. Admission is $5 per person. Veterans, active military, and children 4 and under are free.

Montgomery – Montgomery Biscuits vs. Tennessee Smokies
Enjoy baseball at Biscuits Stadium with a fireworks show following the game. Admission charged.

Opp – July 4th Celebration
Family fun event held at Frank Jackson State Park in Opp beginning at 10 a.m. with live entertainment during the day and fireworks at dark. Free.

Oxford – Oxford Freedom Festival
Held at McCullars Lane. A patriotic parade, tricycle and bicycle races, pet shows, free carnival games and more. Fireworks display at 9 p.m. Free.

Pennington- 4th of July Celebration
All day BBQ and family games. Large fireworks display that night. Free.

Pike Road – Summer Fest
Family fun, food and live entertainment. Held at The Waters with gates opening at 4:30 p.m. Fireworks spectacular overlooking Lake Cameron. Admission charged.

Prattville – Prattville Independence Day Celebrations
Events kick off with a parade through downtown at 9 a.m., followed by a Lions Club BBQ fundraiser at Pratt Park, Cardboard Boat Races at Pratt Pool and a concert at Stanley Jensen Stadium at 6 p.m. followed by fireworks. Free.

Troy – City of Troy 4th of July Celebration
Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. Fireworks show at the stadium on the Troy University campus at 8:30 p.m. Free.

Tuscaloosa – Independence Day at CHOM!
July 3 from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Children’s Hands-On Museum of Tuscaloosa. Zeigler Hot Dogs and Lemonade will be served from 11 am – 1 pm. Crafts, Games, and Civil Air Patrol Demos. Admission charged.

Wetumpka – 4th of July Celebration
Gold Star park. Fireworks show at 8:30 p.m. Free.

Southern Baptist meeting drew 12,000, biggest convention at BJCC this century
From the article by Greg Garrison on

There’s an old joke that when the Southern Baptist Convention comes to a city, they bring a copy of the Ten Commandments and a $20 bill and don’t break either one.

But Southern Baptists spent generously and Birmingham responded with great hospitality for 12,000 people, the biggest convention hosted at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex this century.

“I think it was a big success and everybody should be very proud,” said Steve Pierson, director of convention sales for the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear set the tone early when he urged Southern Baptists to tip generously when they came to Birmingham.

Despite the ongoing presence of an ambitious highway construction job – the entire interstate is being replaced right in front of the BJCC Legacy Arena – Birmingham played its role smoothly as major convention host.

Birmingham hadn’t hosted the convention since 1941, and really wasn’t sure it could handle it. That World War II-era convention only drew a little more than 5,000.

“The question we had leading up to this was, ‘Can we really handle a convention this big?’” Pierson said. “The answer is, ‘Yes, we can.’ We proved it this week.”

About 12,000 people attended Southern Baptist-related events this week, including 8,100 voting messengers who did the convention’s annual business. There may have been as many as 14,000 Southern Baptists who visited downtown Birmingham this week, Pierson said.

“This stretches all of our facilities,” he said.

Southern Baptist officials were impressed.

“Birmingham was very hospitable,” said Roger Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. “The City of Birmingham was great to work with. The city and the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau did a wonderful job of working with our team.”

Baptist officials met with city convention officials today to go over how it went.

“They told us it’s one of the best conventions they’ve had, in terms of service, facilities and hospitality,” Pierson said. “Total cooperation and hospitality was the overall flavor.”

The only bigger convention the BJCC has hosted was the September 1995 National Baptist Convention, which drew more than 20,000 people.

“It’s the second-largest of all our conventions,” Pierson said. “It’s given us new life in going out and recruiting big conventions. The Southern Baptists are going to give us a testimonial.”

Birmingham took some extra steps to accommodate the large downtown crowds, such as organizing food trucks to park at Linn Park.

“I saw a lot of families walking over to Linn Park where we had food trucks the last two days,” Pierson said. “The Sheraton was maxed out. They did a great job; Uptown and the Westin did a great job. We felt adding food trucks only a block away would help.”

Southern Baptists braved walking past the construction area to experience all of downtown.

“They were walking downtown,” Pierson said. “They would venture out for meals. They are a bunch of nice people, nice families. They seemed to fill the restaurants when they weren’t in prayer meetings and business. They made use of what we had.”

Overall, the construction project did not seem to be much of a hindrance, he said.

“Everybody pitched in and helped with transportation,” Pierson said. “There were church vans and shuttles, there were park-and-ride spots in Gardendale, Trussville and Bessemer. Everybody stepped up.”

Once Southern Baptists arrived at the BJCC, the nearby construction didn’t hinder the convention.

“Once the delegates are downtown, it’s not bad,” Pierson said. “The issue is more for people traveling through Birmingham. Once you’re here it’s fine.”

The Convention and Visitors’ Bureau takes a long view on the interstate construction.

“The look of it from our standpoint is progress,” Pierson said. “We’ve got a high-tech first-rate construction project going on. We are making do and finding ways around it. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”

Other cities are used to dealing with big conventions in the midst of highway construction, Pierson said.

“We kind of feel like a big city now,” Pierson said. “We’re getting a taste of what it’s like.”

For the complete article please see

The Hoover Met posts record numbers for SEC Baseball Tournament
From the article by Tyler Patchen in the Birmingham Business Journal:

The Hoover Met Complex has posted record numbers for the 2019 SEC Baseball Tournament.

The event attracted a record 162,699 fans, producing an economic impact of $15 million. The SEC Fan Fest event at the new Finley Center also drew 32,000 fans.

“Three years ago, we were intentional in seeking a host site for our baseball tournament that would enhance the fan-friendly experience that is important to multi-day championship events. After reviewing numerous proposals and visiting a number of potential sites, it turned out that Hoover, our long-time home, could provide everything necessary to make it the right venue for SEC Baseball.” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “The City of Hoover really stepped up with a large investment into the area surrounding the Hoover Met, namely the addition of the Finley Center to house the SEC Fan Fest, the construction of on-site practice fields and this year the addition of a new video board.”

The SEC had previously cited the Finley Center as one of the reasons the tournament stayed in Hoover amid competition from other cities.

“The 2019 SEC Baseball Tournament was a tremendous success at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex,” Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said. “The City of Hoover was able to welcome a record-setting number of baseball fans throughout the week and attendees had many options for activities around the baseball tournament once they arrived at the complex. It is certainly our privilege to have hosted this tournament for the past 22 years.”

For the complete article please see

Reality TV show about Alabama barbecue set to return
From the article by Matt Wake on

At typical backyard cookouts it’s commonplace to use tongs while grilling, but competitive barbecue can get so detailed some teams deploy tweezers as part of their process.

“A good presentation, you have to have tools,” Suzanne Burton says. Burton and husband Scott Burton, of Madison, compete together as the barbecue team South Pork, named after long-running Comedy Central animated sitcom “South Park.” (Scott’s been known to imitate “South Park” character Eric Cartman’s distinctive voice.)

South Pork is one of 11 teams featured on “Bama-Q ” a reality TV show going behind the scenes of the Southeastern barbecue competition scene. The show returns for its third season 7 a.m. (yep, a.m.) Oct. 6 on the Destination America channel, part of the Discovery Channel network. Other teams include the likes like Smokin’ Butt Crew of Birmingham, Jiggy Piggy of Decatur and the fantastically dubbed Fat, Drunk and Stupid of Huntsville. “Bama-Q” follows teams as they work their dead animals magic at competitions including Gadsden’s Smoke on the Falls, Winchester, Tenn.’s High on the Hog and Montgomery’s Capitol City Cook-Off.

Lisa Blackwell is the host of “Bama-Q.” A former TV news broadcast journalist, the Ohio native and Montgomery resident says until working on this show she had no idea how much work barbecue teams put in. “They can take a whole week actually getting things just prepped and ready to go before they actually compete,” Blackwell says. “The other thing about it is there’s a lot of camaraderie in barbecue. They’re very competitive but they also are friends. If somebody forgets their pork or they drop a brisket on the ground or whatever someone will help them out so they can still compete. And I think that’s great.”

A 10-person production crew works on “Bama-Q.” Typically while filming at a competition, the crew divides into two groups, one following Blackwell and the other filming other teams she’s not with at that time. Some of Blackwell’s favorite TV hosts include Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Fallon and the late great Anthony Bourdain. ” I’ve always enjoyed his stories and the way he connected with people through food and travel,” she says of Bourdain. Blackwell has fond childhood memories of her dad grilling out for the family, and since she began hosting “Bama-Q” when the series started she’s become particularly fond of beef brisket.

As many TV enthusiasts know, many reality shows contain a certain amount of unreality as well, staged situations and artificial conflicts cooked up by producers, etc. However, Blackwell asserts, “Our’s is mostly what you see is what happens. It’s rare they cook up something, no pun intended, to be additional drama.”

Seasons one and two of “Bama-Q” can be streamed via Amazon Prime and Country Road TV. For season three, the show expands from 30-minute episodes to an hour.

In addition to filming competitions, which can draw around 100 teams and award cash prizes totaling $40,000 or so, “Bama-Q” season three features home cooking advice segments with recipes for three or so items. Of grilling’s nearly universal appeal, Blackwell says, ” Everyone can afford a grill even if it’s a $20 one.”

The Burtons spent a little more than 20 bucks for the smoker they use at competitions, where they do battle in four categories: chicken, pork ribs, pork and beef brisket. Submissions are typically presented in white Styrofoam boxes.

They transport their smoker on a cargo trailer towed behind an RV. Suzanne says South Pork typically cooks their proteins for competitions at around 275 to 300 degrees. Scott handles a lot of the cook prep and grilling while she’s the self-described “presentation queen.” The Burtons got into competitive barbecue in 2004, encouraged by day-job coworkers at a textbook-tracking software venture, after Scott grilled out at a company picnic to rave reviews. Their first competition was at Huntsville festival WhistleStop that year, where Suzanna says South Pork placed fifth in a pro category for pork. She believes consistency is the key to barbecue success, so South Pork adheres to a strict timeline for their competition day process. “There’s a lot to be said for staying with it the whole time,” Suzanne says.

For the complete article please see

Birmingham Zoo completes phase two of three renovations
From the article by Coleman Martinson in the Birmingham Business Journal:

The Birmingham Zoo recently completed the second phase of its $18.6M in capital improvement project.

Phase two aimed to make guests’ experiences easier and safer.

The front of the zoo was renovated with a welcoming new entrance. A large gift shop, membership office, first aid station, and modern bathrooms were included in this round of renovations. Also completed was a new Altec/Styslinger Learning Center and Hugh Kaul Plaza. Offices and event rental spaces were also completed.

Guests are able to visit the zoo and see the changes starting June 29.

Phase three of the project is projected to open in 2021 to 2022. This will include renovations to the predator building, which features Asian species such as the Malayan tiger, red pandas and others.

Other projects down the road include a new golden eagle habitat, a new treetop ropes course and renovations to the flamingo habitat.

For the complete article please see OiJOc0FcL3pPcjFHandhOGM5dDNaT1pYYUI5V2lqMldNWGlobVlNQmlaXC9GQ1lPZURieXNIbm9ZWDNy M05vN1FJZEplYXFtT0g0Vmd0MEF5Nlk4bG82ZXhZTFgxVXdkSjRvS1ZoUHlQOGRzTkFoVW9qVmVn OXRQQ01tXC8xbXFmOW4xWSJ9

‘Mystic Mansion’ ride opens Friday at OWA in Foley
From the article by Lawrence Specker on

Consider, if you will: An amusement park in coastal Alabama where you can beat the heat … if you’re willing to step inside a haunted house.

The Park at OWA in Foley opens Mystic Mansion on Friday, giving the amusement park its first indoor, air-conditioned ride. The ride is the latest in a series of new attractions coming to OWA, an entertainment destination being developed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

According to information provided by park officials, Mystic Mansion is a family-friendly “dark ride” with an interactive side: As patrons ride “Doom Buggies” through more than a dozen scenes inside the haunted mansion, they use “ghost blasters” to combat the spirits inhabiting the place.

The Mystic Mansion opened for business on June 14.

“Mystic Mansion is truly one-of-a-kind for The Park,” said Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s Director of Marketing/PR. “We searched long and hard for what would be the next addition to our amusement park, and this particular attraction checked every box.”

OWA recently opened its “Legends in Concert” attraction. Other developments in progress include a Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen restaurant and a Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar. Both those venues are expected to open by fall.

For the complete article please see

Alabama pastry chef works her charm in Duke’s mayonnaise TV spots
From the article by Bob Carlton on

Dolester Miles usually fast-forwards through the commercials when she’s at home watching TV, but one night recently, she heard a familiar voice on her television and paused to watch.

“It brought a tear to my eye,” she says. “Just to see me on TV in a commercial — can you imagine? That’s something I never thought I would be a part of.”

Miles — the James Beard Award-winning pastry chef for Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, Bottega Café and Chez Fonfon in Birmingham — is starring with fellow Southern chef Jason Alley of Richmond, Va., in a series of national TV spots for Duke’s mayonnaise that began airing in mid-May and will continue through Labor Day.

“Duke’s mayonnaise has been in our family ever since I was small,” Miles says in one of the commercials. “It’s nice and smooth and tangy, and you don’t have to worry about any sugars.”

In another, Miles, who is best known for her legendary coconut pecan cake, prepares a chocolate espresso cake using Duke’s mayonnaise instead of butter in the recipe.

“Who thought you could do a dessert with it?” she asks Alley.

“It’s crazy moist,” he responds. “Is there anything that Duke’s can’t fix?”

The “chef testimonials,” as Duke’s marketing department calls them, also include commercials featuring chefs Mason Hereford of Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans and Katie Cross of Husk in Nashville.

Miles, who won the James Beard Award for the most outstanding pastry chef in American in 2018, was an obvious choice to sing the praises of Duke’s, says Erin Hatcher, director of marketing, retail brands, for the C.F. Sauer Company, which owns the Duke’s brand.

“We are not interested in anybody promoting the brand unless they are true users of the product,” Hatcher says. “I saw how much care and love she puts into her desserts, and I thought, ‘I wonder if she uses Duke’s?'”

Hatcher contacted Miles’ publicist, Amy Corley of Nashville, and found out that Miles, like a lot of Southerners, did indeed grow up with Duke’s on the kitchen table and remains a big fan.

They filmed the commercials earlier this spring in the kitchen of Pasture, one of Alley’s three Richmond restaurants.

After she met Alley at dinner the night before, Hatcher says, Miles quickly got over her natural shyness.

“We put her in the kitchen, and she just went to town putting together that gorgeous cake,” Hatcher says. “I mean, it was stunning. Between the natural conversation and banter between Dol and Jason, it was as though she was not being filmed. They were just having fun in the kitchen.”

Miles says her fondness for Duke’s mayonnaise is genuine.

“It’s getting to be tomato season, and I love it on a tomato sandwich,” she tells “There’s nothing like it.

“It’s something I really use at home,” she adds. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do a Duke’s commercial.'”

Miles, who has been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post since winning the James Beard Award last year, says she’s heard from friends old and new since the Duke’s spots began airing last month.

“Oh, I get so many phone calls every day: ‘I’ve seen your commercial,’” she says. “Long-lost friends, close friends, people I went to high school with I’m not going to say how many years ago.”

While the other chefs featured in the Duke’s commercials used it to enhance such savory selections as potato salad, a fried bologna sandwich and a ham-and-cheese sandwich, Miles was the only one to make a dessert with it.

“Her dish — this chocolate espresso cake with the buttercream frosting and those beautiful chocolate pearls she put on it — represents an unusual use for mayonnaise,” Hatcher says. “It’s not unusual for us because we make Duke’s chocolate cakes all the time, but for most consumers, that’s kind of a surprise use.”

It was something new for Miles, too.

So, in the commercial, when she wonders out loud that she didn’t realize she could make a dessert with Duke’s, she’s being real.

“Actually, that was my first time baking with it,” she says, “but it won’t be my last. The cake turned out amazing. Everybody was praising it. It was nice and moist. It even surprised me.”

For the complete article please see

Alabama Restaurant Week 2019 starts 
It is not too late to sign up. This year, the more-than-weeklong event will be held Aug. 16- 25.

With close to 150 participating restaurants last year, Alabama Restaurant Week 2019 looks to be bigger and better than ever before. This year more delicious food, flavor and fun will be spotlighted. Plan on being a part of the locally owned and operated restaurants who participate.

This year, participating restaurants will receive in-store promotional items and be listed on the website along with their meal offerings. (Late entries will only receive website listing.) Participating restaurants set meal prices at $10, $20, $30 and $40 for dinner and $10 and $15 for lunch. In all cases, the price is per person and does not include tax, tip and drink. Restaurants have the choice of offering one or more meals at the preset prices.

There is no cost for restaurants to participate in this statewide promotion. For more details and sign-up information, please see or contact Courtney Austin at 334-242-4674

2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
The 2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 17-20, at the Von Braun Center and Embassy Suites in Huntsville. The conference provides tourism professionals a chance to gather and learn about the economic impact of the industry on the Alabama economy, learn new strategies for marketing local Alabama attractions and amenities to visitors, raise money for scholarships through silent auctions and celebrate achievements.

Registration and Reservations at

Alabama Welcome Center Retreat 2019
Alabama Welcome Center Retreat 2019 will be held at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, Oct. 27-29. The Alabama Welcome Center Retreat gives the Alabama Tourism Industry the opportunity to showcase our communities with the devoted staff of the Alabama Welcome Centers. The Welcome Centers close so each employee can participate in this educational retreat.

Information and Registration coming soon!

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
The Alabama.Travel website is designed to promote our state and local businesses and encourage tourists to stay in Alabama. Keeping photos, videos, events, etc. up to date on your Partner page drives engagement and creates a better user experience. We rely on partners like you.

Need to update your Partner page? Head over to today.



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