Obama honors victims of 1963 Birmingham church bombing
• Alabama Restaurant Week sign up
• Sign-Up period for April Walking Tours 2014 begins
• Only 6 weeks left to enter nominations for National Geographic project
• Alabama celebrates sinking of ‘The LuLu’ off coast of Orange Beach
• Gulf Coast states get creative with BP oil spill money
• Point Mallard Water Park opens with new Lazy River
• Chattahoochee whitewater opens with grand ceremony
• TripAdvisor 2013 Certificate of Excellence winner
• Lee County Lake to reopen Tues., June 11
• Mrs. Jefferson Davis’ silver bowl going up for auction
• Herb Malone’s father dies
• Hotelier John Q. Hammon dies
• Tourism Day Celebrations at Welcome Centers
• Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism 2013
• Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events
Obama honors victims of 1963 Birmingham church bombing
Families of 2 of 4 slain Birmingham girls attend White House signing ceremony
by Darlene Superville, AP – with contribution from Associated Press writer Henry C. Jackson, May 25,
President Barack Obama signed legislation Friday to award Congress’ highest civilian honor to four girls killed in an Alabama church bombing during the civil rights movement. He called it a tragic loss that “helped to trigger triumph and a more just and equal and fair America.”

The Congressional Gold Medal will go to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair.

Addie Mae, Carole and Cynthia, all 14, and Denise, 11, were killed when a bomb planted by white supremacists exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on Sept. 15, 1963. Twenty-two others were injured.

Denise’s mother and sister and Carole’s sister were among those who stood around Obama’s desk in the Oval Office as he signed the bill.

“For us to be able to be in this Oval Office with so many people who have worked hard to make this day possible, and understanding that that tragic loss, that heartbreak, helped to trigger triumph and a more just and equal and fair America, that’s an incredible thing for us to be able to participate in,” he said.

September will mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing, which helped spur passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Past recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include George Washington, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

To read the entire article, go to:

Alabama Restaurant Week sign up
Email notices went out Tuesday May 28th to over 100 restaurants that participated in last year’s Alabama Restaurant Week to sign up for this year’s promotion. Already eighteen restaurants have signed up for a second year.

The Alabama Tourism Department is asking CVBs, Chambers, and the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance to remind restaurants of this free promotion available to them through the Alabama Tourism Department.

The 2nd year of Alabama Restaurant Week is right around the corner (August 16-23), so it’s time to ask if you would sign up again.

The process for a restaurant to sign up is similar to last year – just go to and click on “Sign up your Restaurant, It’s Quick and Easy.” Then please enter your basic information.

The campaign has also similar to last year’s, with a few minor changes. The lunch entries must be two course meals and dinner three course meals. Prices remain the same, your choice to offer all or just one meal pre-set prices; which are $10, $20 and $30 for dinner and $5, $10 and $15 for lunch, all excluding tax, tip and beverage.

The process for entering those meal offerings is easy. A restaurant only have to offer one special price meal to qualify, but may offer both lunch and dinner and at all pre-set prices.

To participate, a restaurant located in Alabama, locally owned and operated or important to the tourism trade (most national chain restaurants would not qualify).

You can see a summary of the rules at
A restaurant may enter their Alabama Restaurant Week meal offering(s) when they enter their restaurant information or anytime up to the deadline, which is Monday, July 15th, 2013.

There is no cost to the restaurant or the diners to participate. Alabama Restaurant Week is part of The Year of Alabama Food tourism promotional campaign.

Sign-Up period for April Walking Tours 2014 begins
Towns interested in participating in the 2014 April Walking Tours should respond with an email giving their town’s name, starting location, and shipping address to

The hour long tours will start at 10:00 a.m. each Saturday morning in April. Dates for the 2014 April Walking Tours are April 5, 12, 19 and 26. “These tours are an excellent way for towns and communities of any size to be involved in a state-wide tourism campaign,” said Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department. “There is no cost to participate and state tourism provides all the posters, brochures and collateral materials. More than 20,000 people have participated in the tours since the beginning of the program ten years ago” he said.

Some 23 towns across Alabama hosted the tours across the state in 2013. Towns with the most participants included Decatur with 230, Florence with 185 and Cullman with 169. Participants in the 2013 tours included: Athens, Atmore, Birmingham, Butler, Courtland, Cullman, Decatur, Eufaula, Fairhope, Florence, Huntsville, Madison, Mobile, Monroeville, Montevallo, Montgomery, Phenix City, Prattville, Selma, Sheffield, Sylacauga, Tuscumbia and Wetumpka.

Only 6 weeks left to enter nominations for National Geographic project
As of Tuesday May 28th, twenty Alabama nominations had been submitted for tourism points of interest in a four state National Geographic Maps project, but more from Alabama are needed. The project includes a website, mobile application and printed Geotourism MapGuide.

Nominations received from Alabama include:
Alabama Museum of Natural History
Anniston Museum of Natural History
Battle-Friedman House and Gardens
Boll Weevil Statue
Captain Jack Charters
Downtown Fairhope
Fort Mitchell Historic Site
Fort Morgan State Historic Site
Gees Bend on the Alabama River
Gulf State Park
Gulf State Park Lakeside Cabins and Cottages
Guntersville Museum
Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum
Largest Craft Mall in West Alabama – the makers market
Mobile Mardi Gras
Olde Towne Daphne
Paul W. Bryant Museum
Pickens County Alabama Courthouse
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge on the Tennessee River  To see the submitted nominations from Alabama, got to and click on the interactive map.

Nominations will be accepted through July 15 at the same website, and can be entered by clicking on “Start Nominating Here” or “Add Nomination”.

You do not have to complete your nomination in one session. Once you have established your log on, you may sign back in to continue working, just be sure to finish and change your nomination’s status to “submit” before the July 15th deadline.

In early fall, determinations will be made as to which nominations are included in the project.  Jim Dion, sustainable tourism program manager, National Geographic Maps says “The MapGuide will celebrate the four U.S. Gulf Coast states’ abundant scenic, cultural and historical attributes from the unique vantage point of those who live there.” The U.S. Gulf Coast States Geotourism map and website will highlight sites and attractions that are unique, such as local restaurants, wildlife and scenic trails, bed and breakfasts, historic attractions, fishing destinations, museums, artist galleries. The website and printed MapGuide will present to the public a variety of growing travel niches, including adventure, nature, cultural heritage and agro-tourism.

For more information on Alabama nominations, contact Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department. or 334-242-4459.

Alabama celebrates sinking of ‘The LuLu’ off coast of Orange Beach
by Marc D. Anderson,, May 26
Surrounded by nearly 200 boats and the Wet Willie Band playing, Alabama’s first whole-ship diving reef, The LuLu, was sunk amid great fanfare early Sunday afternoon.

It was only fitting that the 271-foot retired coastal freighter went down in fewer than 10 minutes, as the entire effort to create a recreational diving mecca off Alabama’s shores found fast results in less than a year.

“It’s just hard to believe that it’s all coming true,” Vince Lucido, president of the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef & Restoration Foundation, said of the group’s effort to start a diving reef program. “We’ve been blessed.”

The LuLu is now at the bottom of the Gulf about 17 nautical miles south of Perdido Pass in Orange Beach (latitude/longitude coordinates: +29° 59′ 50″/-87° 33′ 00″). The Orange Beach-based Walter Marine crew pulled the plywood off the pre-cut holes and jumped off the ship about 12:45 p.m. It was fully submerged five minutes later.

With studies in neighboring Florida showing that for every dollar invested in artificial reefs there was a return of $130 to the local economy, the foundation sprouted after David Walter of Walter Marine towed the ship from south Florida last June and pitched the idea to officials with $100,000 in seed money from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Division.

Kevin Anson, a biologist with the state conservation department, said the money it pledged was appropriated from Congress to help restore fisheries after the onslaught of hurricanes in the last decade. Anson said while The LuLu reef will benefit the diving industry it also has significant value in habitat restoration.

About 7 p.m., the foundation confirmed on its Facebook page that the ship is open for diving: “It’s official – the LuLu has been cleared for diving! Safety team reports that she is sitting perfectly upright, visibility was already improving, top starts at 60 feet. And snapper were already hanging out! Pool’s open & I suspect there will be a good crowd there in the morning!”

For the entire article, go to:

Gulf Coast states get creative with BP oil spill money
by Debbie Elliott, May 28, NPR
Gulf Coast states are lining up to spend $1 billion from BP on coastal restoration. The money is part of BP’s legal responsibility to restore the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources in the aftermath of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.

But the nature of some of the state projects, including boat ramps and a beachfront hotel, is raising questions about just what counts as coastal restoration.

Earlier this month, Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley stood on a sugar white state park beach to announce plans for an $85 million lodge and conference center. The event had all the trappings of an economic development announcement. State lawmakers, local mayors and business owners were all smiles to hear that the Legislature had finally, after years of stalemate, given the go-ahead for a hotel on state park property near Gulf Shores, Ala. The state can contract with private companies to build and run the facility. What pushed the hotel through this year, as noted by Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, is that BP is footing the bill.

Without costing the taxpayers a dime,” Ivey said at the announcement earlier this month.
All five Gulf states are sharing in the $1 billion from BP. It’s a down payment on what the oil giant will be forced to pay under a lengthy process called Natural Resources Damage Assessment, intended to restore the Gulf ecosystem to the condition it was in before the 2010 oil spill.
For the entire story, go to:

Point Mallard Water Park opens with new Lazy River
by Rachel Keith, WAAY TV, May 27
Point Mallard Water Park opened for the season Memorial Day weekend and they’ve got a new attraction for their summertime guests.

The park debuted its new Lazy River. On top of fan favorites like the Pro Bowl Slide and American’s First Wave Pool, guest can now float on an inner tube through a quarter mile of winding water-filled track.

Eleven-year-old Kelsey Hogan spent the weekend at the park with her family. Hogan says she’s spent a lot of time at the Lazy River.

“It’s pretty awesome. It’s really cool” says Hogan. “It’s just where you can get wet and just be as relaxed as you can.”

Chattahoochee whitewater opens with grand ceremony
by Chuck Williams, May 25
Mayors, businessmen and environmentalists took bows Saturday morning as the Chattahoochee River whitewater course opened for rafters in grand style.

There were trumpets, cannon volleys and people running a rapid recently named Heaven’s Gate.
John Turner, a W.C. Bradley Co. executive and the driving force behind the nearly 13-year project to blow up two dams and reverse 150 years of industrial history, summed it up.

“There is one star of this great, big story — and that is this river,” Turner said as rafts plunged into a man-made rapid just behind him. “It was amazing when we got here 150 years ago, and it will be amazing a thousand years from now.”

It has taken $24.4 million and years of sorting through governmental red tape to knock down the Eagle & Phenix and City Mills dams and craft a whitewater course in the Chattahoochee’s rocky bed. The main work left to do on the 2.5-mile course is the launch pad on the Georgia side just below the North Highlands Dam. It should be completed before the end of the summer. A temporary launch site has been set on the Alabama side.

But Saturday morning’s celebration was not about what was left to be done. It was about what had been accomplished against long odds.

Whitewater Express, an Atlanta-based outfitter that operates on three rivers in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, had more than 400 customers paying between $32.50 and $48.50 to run the river between 11 a.m. and sundown.

While many saw rafts and people in the river, Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe and Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson saw the start of a two-city economic development project they hope will pay off in visitors and additional tax dollars.

“We’re going to ride this tide together,” said Lowe, a former University of Alabama football player.
One person who agrees is Lee Sentell, the director of the Alabama Tourism Department. He had no official part in the ceremony but made the drive from Montgomery to see what everyone in Phenix City has been talking about.

“I am blown away by the potential of this project,” Sentell said. “We are going to sell this as an Alabama tourist attraction.”

Never mind that the water belongs to Georgia — Sentell sees a golden opportunity for Phenix City and the people on the west bank.

“Tourists don’t care about city limits and state lines,” he said. “You are going to have people come here who are used to the whitewater experience in West Virginia and other states, and they are going to be delighted to have such a great experience in a cosmopolitan setting.”

Read more here:

TripAdvisor 2013 Certificate of Excellence winner
TripAdvisor is delighted to recognize U.S. Space and Rocket Center with a 2013 Certificate of Excellence.

This prestigious award, which places U.S. Space and Rocket Center in the top-performing 10% of all businesses worldwide on TripAdvisor, is given to businesses that consistently earn high ratings from TripAdvisor travelers.

Lee County Lake to reopen Tues., June 11
Lee County Lake will reopen to the public for fishing beginning at sunrise on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The lake has been renovated and restocked by the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) to provide excellent fishing. The lake will be open from dawn to dusk six days each week, closed on Mondays.

Lee County Lake will be worth the trip for anglers from across the state, but the lake is most convenient for fisherman in east and central Alabama as well as west Georgia. From exit 60 off I-85, the lake is four miles south on Alabama Highway 51, and then three miles east on Stringfellow Road (County Road 146). From Phenix City and Columbus, GA, take US Highway 280, then north on Alabama 169 to Stringfellow Road.

During 2011, the fish population in Lee County Lake deteriorated to the point that draining and restocking the lake was necessary. “We determined that largemouth bass had become so abundant that they were not growing very fast,” said Graves Lovell, WFF Fisheries Biologist. “The bass were also eating most of the small bluegill. Adding to the problem for anglers, the edges of the lake were too shallow for quality fish to be caught by bank anglers. In the summer of 2011, the lake was drained so the edges could be deepened and the earth piers reworked. Lots of fish-attracting structures were also added to the lake.”

“Probably the first thing anglers will notice is the amount of timber in the lake,” said Lovell. “Nearly 100 large oak trees were pulled onto the lake bottom to attract fish. Most of the trees are visible above the surface. Both boat and bank anglers should have plenty of targets to cast to now.”

Initially, no bass longer than 14 inches may be kept, but anglers will be encouraged to harvest up to 10 smaller largemouth bass. “We want to avoid over-population by bass, and angler harvest would be very helpful to us,” said Jack Turner, WFF State Lake Coordinator. “Not only does bass harvest help the bream fishing, but it actually helps the bass fishing too. When bass are harvested, more food will be available to the remaining bass, so they can grow to a larger size. There’s another good reason for anglers to take their smaller bass home — they’re delicious. There’s not much that tastes better than a fried bass fillet.”

Lee County Lake will be run by onsite lake manager Dwight Lake. The lake manager offers bait, fishing tackle and snacks for the public to purchase. Boats, life jackets, paddles, trolling motors and batteries may be rented. Personal boats may be launched for $3. Only trolling motors are permitted on the lake, but outboard motors may be used to launch or load your boat. Anglers must weigh and record all fish at the concession building.

Cabins are also available at Lee County Lake for overnight stays. Anglers wishing to stay overnight should call the lake manager at 334-750-0546 for reservations.

Daily permits ($3) are required for all anglers age 12 and older. Anglers age 16 and older are required to have a fishing license unless the angler is 65 or older and a resident of Alabama. A fishing license is not required for Lee County residents fishing with a pole and line (no reel) from the bank or pier. State fishing licenses will not be for sale at the lake. Fishing licenses are available from probate offices, some sporting goods retailers, online at, or by telephone at 1-888-848-6887.

Mrs. Jefferson Davis’ silver bowl going up for auction
A silver bowl that once belonged to Mrs. Jefferson Davis is going up for auction and the First White House of the Confederacy would love to have it. The Samuel Kirk & Son castellated, coin silver bowl in the Repoussé pattern was presented to Mrs. Davis by the Citizens of Macon, GA. in 1887. The value is estimated at $4,000+. This could be a large tax donation for someone.

For information on the auction, a description of the bowl and pictures, go to: OR get in touch with Anne Tidmore at or 334-242-1861.

Herb Malone’s father dies
Tourism sends its condolences to Herb Malone on the death of his father, Herbert J. Malone, Sr., who passed away May 26th at his home in Citronelle. He was 93 years old. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Michael L. Malone Memorial Law Enforcement Scholarship Fund at PO Box 1600, Foley, AL 36536. Online condolences may be given at Freeman Funeral Home, Citronelle, AL.

Hotelier John Q. Hammon dies
Mr. John Q. Hammon, who built Embassy Suite hotels in Montgomery and Huntsville as part of his hospitality empire, died Sunday at age 94.

He built 200 hotels nationwide, including Embassy Suites, Marriotts, Radissons, and Holiday Inns. Hammons also developed an expansive real estate portfolio associated with those hotels of golf courses, restaurants, convention centers, a casino, and riverboat gambling. He avoided big-city locations in favor of properties in college towns and state capitals.

“He would say, ‘The kids will always go to school, and you can’t fire the damn politicians,'” former company executive Scott Tarwater said in a March 2011 interview.

Tourism Day Celebrations at Welcome Centers
Celebration time at all Welcome Centers is: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
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 Department (ATD) 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

August 4-7, 2013  The Alabama Motorcoach/Georgia Motorcoach Operators/South Central Motorcoach Association will have their regional meeting in Birmingham.  This is the first time all three associations will meet together.

ATD is currently registering and planning for the following 2014 Consumer Shows:
Cincinnati Boat and Travel Show – Jan 17-19 & January 22-26, 2014
Louisville Boat Show – Jan 22-26, 2014
Indianapolis Boat and RV Show – Feb 14-23, 2014
Nashville Southern Women’s Show – Mar 27-30, 2014
If you are interested in working in the Alabama Tourism Department’s booth, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or


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: