• Governor Bentley signs Gulf State Park legislation, discusses restoration projects
• Alabama Tourism holds BBQ sauce championship at Pepper Place
• Alabama Gulf Seafood serves up local catch at Hangout Music Festival
• Dauphin Island Sea Lab Designated as Alabama’s Restore Research Center of Excellence
• LPGA’s second stop in Alabama on schedule for 2014
• UK competition comes to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for the first time
• Helen Keller Festival celebrates 35 years
• Museum feels benefit of Gatsby, movie has increased visitors to museum
• Birmingham Botanical Gardens wins one platinum and three gold Hermes Creative Awards
• Helicopter tour company expanding reach in Orange Beach with second heliport
• History, music &the river: NHA directors visit northwest Alabama
• Americana Music Triangle marks the spots of roots music
• Ain’t nothin’ like ’em nowhere . . . Dreamland Bar-B-Que celebrates 20 years in Birmingham
• Prove which state has the best food in America
• Tourism Day Celebrations at Welcome Centers, and Motorcycle Motorist Day
• Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism 2013
• Alabama Tourism upcoming events

Governor Bentley signs Gulf State Park legislation, discusses restoration projects
May 14
Governor Robert Bentley on Tues. signed Senate Bill 231, which will lead to improvements at Gulf State Park, including a lodge and meeting facility that will help attract more visitors.
“My vision is for a lodge that everyone can visit and enjoy,” Governor Bentley said. “I want more families to come to the Gulf State Park and explore our natural resources. I want the Alabama Gulf Coast to have a facility that can host meetings and gatherings that currently have to be held in other states. This lodge will help us share the natural beauty of the Alabama Gulf Coast with more people while also supporting more jobs and strengthening the coastal economy.”

Improvements to Gulf State Park are part of a series of proposed Gulf Coast restoration projects announced by Governor Bentley earlier this month. Funding for the projects will come from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration process. The projects were negotiated with BP and Alabama’s federal and state partners as part of the ongoing recovery from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The projects were approved by the NRDA Trustee Council and BP.

Approximately $85.5 million in NRDA funding is allocated for Gulf State Park enhancements. From that total, roughly $58 million is set aside for the lodge and meeting facility. More than $27 million is allocated for a series of environmental improvements throughout the park.
Those environmental improvements include an environmental research and education facility for Alabama students, trail development and enhancement in the park, dune restoration along the park’s beachfront and the establishment of a coastal ecosystems interpretive center.
In addition to the Gulf State Park improvements, other recently-announced early restoration projects include a living shoreline project in Baldwin County as well as oyster reef restoration in Mobile County. Additional early restoration projects include the Marsh Island Restoration Project, the Alabama Dune Restoration Cooperative Project and “Restoring the Night Sky” – a project that will reduce artificial lighting impacts on nesting habitats for sea turtles. Many of the environmental injuries from the spill are still being assessed. Based on those assessments, future projects are expected to continue the ongoing environmental restoration of the Coast.

Senator Trip Pittman and Representative Steve McMillan sponsored the legislation that establishes a framework for the lodge and meeting facility.
“This bill establishes a transparent system of developing a good project for the Gulf State Park, a project that will support tourism and allow us to share this wonderful resource with more visitors,” Senator Pittman said. “I am excited about what this project will mean, not only for the Gulf Coast but also for all of Alabama.”

The lodge itself is still in the conceptual stage. It will be designed in an environmentally-friendly manner in order to compliment the coast and the surrounding park. The lodge is expected to include visitor orientation and interpretive exhibits in public spaces in order to share the history of the Alabama Gulf Coast with visitors.

“This will be a tremendous benefit to the Gulf Coast and to the entire state,” Representative McMillan said. “That will be a facility that so many Alabamians will enjoy. I am pleased with the provisions that assure the public’s right-to-know and a transparent process as we continue with this vital project. I’m thrilled to see this project moving forward.”

Any net revenues generated by the lodge and meeting facility will support the work of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The department manages the Alabama State Parks system. The system is a network of more than 20 parks designed to provide quality recreation services and resources to the public throughout the state.


Alabama Tourism holds BBQ sauce championship at Pepper Place

A panel of celebrity judges will decide the state “BBQ Sauce-Off Champion” Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Pepper Place Market in Birmingham. The judges will sample winning barbecue sauces from a series of regional competitions held this month across the state by the Alabama Tourism Department.

Cindy Martin CEO/President of, Vanessa Rocchio of Southern Living magazine and Clare Huddleston of WBRC-Fox 6 will serve as judges for the championship.
The sauces in the championship include LawLers from Athens representing the North region, Costas from Birmingham representing the Central region, Phil’s BBQ from Eufaula representing the South region and Viper from Fairhope representing the Gulf region of the state.

“Alabama has a great barbecue culture and we had some really close regional competitions,” said contest coordinator Brian Jones. “Southern travelers love their barbecue. When visitors come through an area they want to take some of that love home with them and these sauces are like barbecue passion in a bottle,” he said.

Thirty-four sauces were gathered from restaurants and grocery stores across the state for the regional competitions, Jones said. Sauces in the contest included: Bailey’s, Baumhower’s, Berdeaux’s, BBQ Shack, Big Bob Gibson, Bishop’s, Bob Sykes, Bryant, Carlile’s, Costas, Crusty Butts & Bones, Dale’s BBQ, Demetri’s, Dreamland, Fat Boy’s, Full Moon, Golden Rule, Jim ‘N Nick’s, Johnny’s BBQ, LawLers, Mike & Ed’s, Mike Elliott’s, Moon Hollow, Noodie’s, Ollie’s, Perfect Bite BBQ, Phil’s, Rob’s, Saban Sauce, Saw’s, Saucy Q, Slaphappy BBQ, Thomas Rib Shack and Viper.

The BBQ Sauce-Off championship will be held in Birmingham on May 18 at Pepper Place Saturday Market at the Chef Demonstration area located in the middle of 29th St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave S. Pepper Place Saturday Market is located in Birmingham’s Lakeview District on the Southside.

Learn more about Alabama food products, chefs, culinary destinations and events at and at


Alabama Gulf Seafood serves up local catch at Hangout Music Festival
Refrigerated tent to offer fresh Gulf shrimp, oysters and fish for festival goers
May 14

Flanked by an unmistakable two-story entrance, built on ship containers, this year’s Alabama Gulf Seafood tent is back at the Hangout Music Festival. More than 3,000 pounds Alabama Gulf Seafood will be served at the event.

The Alabama Gulf Seafood refrigerated tent, located between the Mega Drop and VIP area, will be open all three days of the Hangout Music Fest (Fri: 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat and Sun: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.). The menu will include Gulf peel and eat shrimp, half dozen oysters on the half shell, yellowtail tuna tartar and fried gulf grouper sandwiches. Plus, picnic tables provide a place to sit and cool off while you eat.

“Part of what makes the Hangout Music Festival so popular is its location – right next to the water on the white sands of Alabama’s Gulf coast,” said Chris Blankenship, director of Marine Resources and program administrator for the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission. “We believe the coastal experience isn’t complete without enjoying fresh seafood from Alabama’s waterways. We look forward to sharing the best Gulf product with the tens of thousands of people coming to Gulf Shores this weekend.”

With just 53 miles of brief but beautiful coastline, Alabama is historically the No. 1 processor of oysters in the U.S., one of the largest processors of crab and is also known as the red snapper capital of the world. The Alabama Gulf seafood industry provides jobs for more than 10,000 people in coastal Alabama alone, eager to provide fresh seafood to consumers. From oysters to shrimp, Alabama’s seafood industry has a statewide economic impact of approximately $445 million.

This year’s Festival is expected to draw record-breaking crowds, with headliners like Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

For more information about Alabama Gulf Seafood and the 2013 Hangout Music Fest, please visit


Dauphin Island Sea Lab Designated as Alabama’s Restore Research Center of Excellence
May 13, 2013
The Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council named the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the home of Alabama’s Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium (MESC), as the RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy) Research Center of Excellence for the state of Alabama. The designation was awarded by unanimous vote on Friday, May 10, 2013, during the Council’s meeting at Five Rivers Delta Resource Center.

Congress established the RESTORE Act following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to direct 2.5 percent of Clean Water Act penalties to the states affected by the disaster. As directed by the RESTORE Act, the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council is comprised of The Governor of Alabama; the Director of the Alabama State Port Authority; the Chairman of the Baldwin County Commission; The President of the Mobile County Commission; and the mayors of Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Mobile and Orange Beach.

Founded in 1971 to reduce program redundancy in higher education , the MESC is comprised of twenty-two colleges and universities located throughout the state of Alabama, and serves as the state’s longstanding marine science education and research institution.

The MESC has been in the forefront of research immediately after and since the BP Oil Spill. In 2010, Governor Bob Riley granted the MESC responsibility for the $5 million Rapid Response Funds for immediate research following the disaster. In just four months, the MESC efficiently dispersed funds to over 100 scientists located throughout the state, rigorously using prestigious extramurally reviewer resources found throughout the Gulf of Mexico. A large number of research studies and published papers resulted from those funds, increasing scientists’ understanding of the early effects of this unprecedented tragedy on the state’s resources.

“We are gratified by the Council’s thoughtful and thorough decision-making process designating the MESC the state’s RESTORE Research Center of Excellence,” said Dr. John Valentine, MESC Executive Director.

“The MESC was in a unique position when the BP oil spill occurred, having already collected decades of ecosystem data in the areas where the spill would have its effect.

“We were established by the Alabama legislature forty years ago as a consortium, establishing strong partnerships with twenty-two of the state’s colleges and universities. Also, we are uniquely situated in the Gulf of Mexico, and have worked long and hard with government and local agencies on both sides of the Mobile Bay, in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

“The DISL will continue to use those strengths and resources which we’ve honed over the years and we look forward to deepening our understanding of how we can better conserve the state’s natural resources for our children’s children and beyond,” Dr. Valentine concluded.


LPGA’s second stop in Alabama on schedule for 2014
by Steve DiMeglio, USA TODAY Sports, May 14
The LPGA tour continues to add tournaments to its schedule, further climbing out of the abyss created a few years ago by fleeing sponsors and a downtrodden economy.

On Tuesday, the tour announced it is returning to Prattville, Ala., and the Senator Course at Capitol Hill in 2014 for the Alabama LPGA Classic presented by the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which will also be the presenting sponsor of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic beginning in 2014. The dates are to be determined.

The announcement was made in a press conference at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. The LPGA, which will play next week in the inaugural Pure Silk-Bahamas Classic, has 28 events this season. In 2011, it had 23.

The Alabama LPGA Classic will mark the tour’s seventh visit to Prattville, a suburb of Montgomery. Past winners include Stacy Lewis (2012), Lexi Thompson (2011) and Lorena Ochoa (2008, 2009).

“I am excited that we will get to play (in Alabama) twice again next year,” said Lewis, who also has won the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. “The courses on the Trail provide a true test of golf and do a great job of showcasing the talent on tour.”

The RTJ Golf Trail opened in 1992. It was established to bring increased tourism and expanded economic investments in Alabama. In 2012, the economic impact of the LPGA events in Mobile and Prattville exceeded $30 million.

“It is great to hear that Alabama will again host some of the most talented golfers in the world twice next year,” Lee Sentell, director of Alabama Tourism, said in a release. “In a short time, Alabama went from not being a golf state to become a destination that attracts some of the best tournaments and lots of fans. The substantial economic impact is important to our tourism industry.”


UK competition comes to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for the first time

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is gearing up for a major announcement this Fri., May 17, inside the Saturn V Hall. It’s time for the 2013 Greenpower Championship Circuit. This is an electric car challenge based in the United Kingdom that has students from across the UK designing, building and racing their own electric cars each year. The Huntsville Center for Technology is the only team in the United States ever to receive an invitation to compete in the race. Students from the Huntsville Center for Technology will bring their vehicle to the Space & Rocket Center for the unveiling of this year’s vehicle. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is heavily involved in a GREEN Initiative and recently welcomed the City’s Energy Huntsville Initiative to its location.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Huntsville School Superintendent Casey Wardynski are supporting this year’s effort. Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO and Executive Director with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center will welcome the students into the facility Fri. for the news conference at 11:00 a.m.


Helen Keller Festival celebrates 35 years

In 1979, the city of Tuscumbia launched an annual event as a tribute to one of its heroic natives, and thirty-five years later, the celebration has grown to be a five day festival attracting thousands of visitors from across the country. In honor of the life of Helen Keller and her remarkable achievements to overcome a world of silence, the 35th annual Helen Keller Festival is set for June 26-30 in the heart of downtown Tuscumbia in Spring Park.

The annual event is centered around the Helen Keller Festival Arts and Crafts Show featuring original artwork and activities for children on the North Bank of Spring Park. Opening on Friday, June 28th, festival-goers can shop for original works of art and limited edition reproductions by accomplished jury-selected artists from across the Southeast. For children, the Imagination Station offers fun, creative hands-on activities. On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., children can create their own works of art with a little imagination and some unexpected materials to take home as a souvenir.

An admission fee of $5 will be charged for festival events in Spring Park on Friday beginning at 4:30 p.m. and $5 on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. For a complete schedule of events, map of downtown Tuscumbia, or more information, visit


Museum feels benefit of Gatsby, movie has increased visitors to museum
by Teri Greene, The Montgomery Advertiser, May 10

For a while now there has been a frenzy at the museum, said director Willie Thompson. The big movie, The Great Gatsby, is a major reason the number of visitors to the museum, at 919 Felder Ave., has tripled from the same period last year.

“Per month, there have been about 300 to 350 visitors to the museum,” Thompson said Thursday as he prepared to lead a tour for a group of women on a day trip from Birmingham. “Usually, that number is around 100 to 150. It has been an enormous upswing. There are about 15-plus visitors a day.”

It’s not as if the museum needs a boost from director Baz Luhrmann’s film, with its estimated $127 million budget. But Thompson said at the museum — the only museum dedicated to the famed couple — some recognition of the film was in order.
Zelda (neé Sayre) Fitzgerald grew up in Montgomery as a privileged judge’s daughter. She was a debutante at the Montgomery Country Club when she met Scott, who was stationed here in the military at the time.

Thompson said the increased activity at the museum also had a lot to do with this year’s four-day Gatsby Museum celebration, extended this year from a one-night gala to a four-day extravaganza in early March. The event included exhibitions and auctions of Zelda’s art and screenings of the little-seen 1947 film version of “The Great Gatsby” and the Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris,” which features Scott and Zelda as characters.

For the entire article, go to:–Gatsby-?source=nletter-news


Birmingham Botanical Gardens wins one platinum and three gold Hermes Creative Awards

For the fifth consecutive year, Birmingham Botanical Gardens has won a Platinum Hermes
Creative Award. The 2011 Annual Report won the Platinum award; The Gardens also took home Gold Awards for the 2012 Antiques at The Gardens Show Catalog, Antiques at The Gardens Marketing Materials and the Board of Directors Orientation Manual. Over the last five years The Gardens has received a Platinum Award for the Brand Management Standards & Policies, Garden Dirt newsletter, Antiques at The Gardens show catalog, the Marketing and Communication Plan and more than seven Gold level awards.

Hermes Creative Awards is an international awards competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of traditional and emerging media; winners are chosen from more than 4,000 entries each year. Platinum awards winners are recognized for their excellence in quality, creativity and resourcefulness and are presented to those entries judged to be among the most outstanding in the competition. Gold awards are presented to those entries that exceed the high standards of the industry norm. The Hermes Creative Awards is administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.
For more information contact Andrew Krebbs, Director of Marketing & Membership, at 205.414.3959 or


Helicopter tour company expanding reach in Orange Beach with second heliport
By Marc D. Anderson, Huntsville Times, May 9

A helicopter tour and charter business continues to expand in the city with the council’s approval of a second heliport this week.

Peachtree City, Ga.-based Corporate Aircraft Solutions, operating as Oasis Aviation Services, first gained approval to do business at Gulf Shores’ Jack Edwards National Airport in Februaryand received the green light the following month to build a heliport at The Wharf. Now, the company, which operates under the standard state and Federal Aviation Administration safety permits, is poised to increase its visibility with a helipad on Perdido Beach Boulevard near the Caribe towers.

Mayor Tony Kennon sees it as a great amenity for tourists and locals.
“I went up in one of the helicopters and went down the beach and from 300 feet the view is absolutely phenomenal,” Kennon said. “You’re low enough that you can see things that you can’t see from an aircraft but high enough to get a really good view. So it is a really nice amenity that I think is going to be welcomed.”

For the entire article, go to:

Americana Music Triangle marks the spots of roots music
by Kevin Walters, The Tennessean, May 7

The music that changed the world started as the music of slaves, plowboys and outlaws in five states along the Mississippi River.

Today, that roots music carries a host of names, such as Americana, which Grammy-winning songwriter Rodney Crowell can define succinctly, if a bit mysteriously.

“I always say when people ask me, ‘What is Americana music?’ ” said Crowell, who is an Americana Music Association board member, “I would say it’s poetry driven.”

It is the poetry of hardscrabble lives encompassing blues, folk and rock ’n’ roll.

While worldwide love of the music brings people to hot spots such as Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans seemingly without effort, the biggest potential challenge could be mustering cooperation across the Americana Music Triangle’s five states, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

“Unfortunately, in today’s world we seem to be so protective of our territory and not necessarily willing toshare,” said Florence, Ala., Mayor Mickey Haddock. “The more resources that you share, the better opportunity you have to be successful.”

Florence leaders are already supporting the project. One of the first smaller trips along the Americana Music Triangle will be a Franklin-to-Florence trip, which would tie into the cultural interest in Franklin and Leiper’s Fork and the Florence, Ala., region, which includes Muscle Shoals, which blossomed in the 1960s and continues to be a musical recording destination that has attracted artists as diverse as Wilson Pickett, Elton John and The Black Keys.

To read the entire article, go to:


History, music &the river: NHA directors visit northwest Alabama

From Wilson Pickett to Chickasaw Indian Chief Tuscumbia, from cotton fields to the Tennessee River, National Heritage Area directors explored the history and culture of northwest Alabama during recent meetings hosted by the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area.

MSNHA director Judy Sizemore invited members of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas to the six MSNHA counties for the group’s annual spring meeting, April 23-25. Before ANHA activities began, National Heritage Areas in the National Park Service’s Southeast Region met in a business session.

Sponsors for the ANHA meeting included the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association, Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Florence-Lauderdale Tourism. University of North Alabama president William Cale also hosted a reception for the NHA directors at Rogers Hall on the UNA campus.

During the three-day ANHA meeting, Sizemore led the group on field study to historic and cultural sites in the MSNHA: The main lock at Wilson Dam, on the Tennessee River, Florence; FAME Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals, where Pickett and other musicians recorded; Tuscumbia Landing, an American Indian site on the Tennessee River; Village One, Sheffield, built in 1918 by the U.S. government to house personnel at a nearby nitrate plant; Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s birthplace, Tuscumbia; GAS Design Studio and downtown Tuscumbia; Pond Spring, the home of Gen. Joe Wheeler and his daughter Annie, Courtland; Old State Bank, Decatur; and music and dinner on the paddlewheel boat the Pickwick Belle, Ingalls Harbor, Decatur.

The MSNHA promotescultural tourism by education, preservation and conservation of the heritage and culture in Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties with the themes of American Indians, the Tennessee River and local music.


Ain’t nothin’ like ’em nowhere . . . Dreamland Bar-B-Que celebrates 20 years in Birmingham
by Bob Carlton,, May 14

Dreamland Bar-B-Que will celebrate its 20th anniversary in Birmingham on Saturday with a block party that includes live music, a kids’ zone and, of course, a rib-eating contest.
Big Daddy’s Block Party takes place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. outside the Southside location of Dreamland at 1427 14th Ave. South.

“Big Daddy” was the nickname of the late John Bishop, who openedthe original Dreamland in Tuscaloosa in 1958.

The Southside location, which opened on May 15, 1993, was the first Dreamland outside of Tuscaloosa. Others have since opened in Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Northport and in Georgia.

“Birmingham is a wonderful home for Dreamland, and we look forward to many more decades in the Magic City,” Betsy McAtee, CEO of Dreamland Holdings, said in a press release.
The block party will feature appearances by the UAB mascot Blaze and the Birmingham Barons mascot Babe Ruff, as well as Miss Alabama 2012 Anna Laura Bryan.

Guests are also invited to join in a rib-eating contest, a banana-pudding-eating contest, a children’s coloring contest and a costume contest in which competitors are asked to dress up as their favorite items from the Dreamland menu.

Admission is free, but Dreamland barbecue and sides and draft beers from Birmingham breweries will be available for purchase.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Camp Smile-A-Mile.

See the article at:


Prove which state has the best food in America

Vote with your taste buds and support your state by choosing your favorite regional cuisine – Alabama’s favorite dessert-pecan pie. Every year, we go to the states themselves to pick foods with an official state designation or origin.
To vote, go to:

Tourism Day Celebrations at Welcome Centers, and Motorcycle Motorist Day
Celebration time at all Welcome Centers is: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
May 17 – Baldwin Welcome Center
May 18 – Houston Welcome Center
May 18 – Motorcycle Motorist Awareness Day at all Welcome Centers
May 24 – Grand Bay Welcome Center
May 30 – Dekalb Welcome Center
May 31 – Ardmore Welcome Center

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism 2013
Mark your calendars for the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Aug. 17-20, at the Westin Hotel in Huntsville.
Nominations for the Tourism Awards are now open. Please use this link to nominate a tourism professional:
The last day for nominations is June 21.
For information and registration, go to:

Alabama Tourism upcoming events
Jul 29 – Aug1 Alabama/Georgia Motorcoach – Stone Mountain, GA
Aug 17-21 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism – Huntsville, AL (Westin)
Sept 19 Alabama Mountain Lakes Annual Meeting

The Alabama Tourism Department News is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry. The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to: