• Alabama Music Hall of Fame reopens
  • Muscle Shoals all-star revue set for Oct. 23 at Birmingham’s WorkPlay soundstage
  • Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s scorecard has reached the 10,000,000 mark
  • The New York Times Magazine features Frank Stitt
  • Oak Mountain State Park celebrates new overlook and spillway bridge Oct. 24
  • Journey Proud series premieres this week on APT – starring Joey Brackner
  • New film about the hunchback monk who built Ave Maria Grotto premieres in Cullman
  • First annual songwriting workshop at the Hank Williams Museum
  • Tuskegee Institute NHS, Tuskegee Airmen NHS and Selma to Montgomery NHT re-open
  • Tourism workshop held in Troy
  • The 2013 Alabama Welcome Center Educational Retreat is set for Nov. 17-19
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Alabama Music Hall of Fame reopens

by staff, Oct. 18

In true Muscle Shoals fashion, some of the area’s biggest names in music helped reopen the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Oct. 18.  Several hundred people gathered and took part in the ceremony, including local lawmakers.

The international release of the documentary “Muscle Shoals” has helped put the Shoals back in the music scene, and re-opening the hall of fame will help the community and state continue to share their story to visitors worldwide.

State Tourism Director Lee Sentell said, “We believe the hall of fame is reborn with a new energy and with a new excitement. The state tourism department is certainly going to be aggressive in marketing the attraction and we’ve got some other ideas that we’re not ready to talk about just yet that are going to be very positive for the whole area.”

To see this report, go to:


Muscle Shoals all-star revue set for Oct. 23 at Birmingham’s WorkPlay soundstage

The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation is bringing their exciting live music series – “The Muscle Shoals Sessions” to Birmingham’s award winning Workplay music hall. This series has featured legendary artists and up-and-coming musicians to raise money for Muscle Shoals Music.

The Oct. 23, show will feature Alabama’s finest with Candi Staton, Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie, Gary Nichols from the Steeldrivers, Shawna P from the Voice, Carla Russell and Holli Mosley. Backed by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Johnson and David Hood of the Swampers, members of the FAME Gang, The Muscle Shoals Horns, and more.

Tickets are on sale now at  General admission is $35 online and $45 day of show.  VIP tickets are $75 and include priority table seating and a “Muscle Shoals” movie poster.

Proceeds will benefit the renovation of historic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, at 3614 Jackson Highway, which was recently purchased by the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. The studio is featured in the film “Muscle Shoals”.  Keith Richards refers to it as “Rock and Roll Heaven”!

Rodney Hall, Chairman of the Board of The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation says, “We are looking forward to bringing this show to Birmingham to coincide with the showings of the “Muscle Shoals” documentary at The Edge 12 theaters in Birmingham.

We have had several shows around the world celebrating the movie and we want to bring this special show to Birmingham’s WorkPlay, which has been an integral part of putting it all together.”

The award winning film “Muscle Shoals”, recently released to theaters, is also available on Itunes and On-demand. The “Muscle Shoals Sessions” live music series will continue the excitement surrounding Muscle Shoals music by featuring top artists and promoting up and coming musicians, while helping to raise funds for the historic 3614 Jackson Highway renovation project.

Tickets available online at:  For sponsor information contact: Bonnie Bak @ 256-394-3562 or


Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s scorecard has reached the 10,000,000 mark

by Tommy Hicks,, Oct. 19

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail will reach a significant number next week — at some point, the 10 millionth round will be played on one of its facilities.

That’s 10,000,000 rounds of golf.

Instead of attempting to pinpoint the exact round that reaches the milestone, RTJ Golf Trail officials are designating Wed., Oct. 20, as the 10 millionth round day at each of its facilities across the state. And of course, officials are inviting golfers to visit their nearest RTJ Golf Trail site and celebrate — how else? — by playing a round of golf.

The day will be observed at 11 RTJ Golf Trail sites — Florence/Muscle Shoals (Shoals), Huntsville (Hampton Cove), Anniston/Gadsden (Silver Lakes), Birmingham (Oxmoor Valley), Hoover (Ross Bridge), Auburn/Opelika (Grand National), Prattville (Capitol Hill), Mobile (Magnolia Grove), Greenville (Cambrian Ridge), Dothan (Highland Oaks) and Point Clear (Lakewood Golf Club/Grand Hotel).

“Instead of just honoring one person as our 10 millionth visitor, we are celebrating across the Trail and every golfer on Oct. 23 is part of the celebration,” said John Cannon, president of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. “Our golfers – local, regional, national and international – have been very loyal to the RTJ Golf Trail and this is a way of saying thank you while celebrating this significant milestone.”

The RTJ Golf Trail has proven to be one of the state’s most important tourist revenue endeavors since its inception by Dr. David Bronner, the CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, and the opening of the first Trail courses in 1992.

The golf course designs started with Robert Trent Jones after coming out of retirement and have continued with Roger Rulewich, Jones’ protégé. Now the Trail has 26 courses on 11 different sites across Alabama. Before the Trail opened in 1992, Alabama Tourism revenue was less than $2 billion. In 2012, tourism revenues exceeded $10.6 billion and the Golf Trail was the state’s top attraction.


The New York Times Magazine features Frank Stitt

by Sam Sifton, The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 18

Frank Stitt opened the Highlands Bar and Grill on a gritty street corner in Birmingham, Ala., in 1982, when most of the city’s elite still took its meals in country clubs and restaurant dining meant flambéed everything at the Hyatt downtown. His was a Southern cuisine married to French technique, which meant it was plain and simple as much as it was the exact opposite. Stitt, who was 28, intended the Highlands to evoke a classic worth-a-detour restaurant in a small European town, although transplanted to a fading American steel city.

Such restaurants are now common in the United States. You can find similar, farm-to-starched-tablecloth experiences in Portland, Maine, in Louisville, in Houston. Back then there was Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, Calif., which Stitt cites as an inspiration, and precious few others. In New York, the Odeon was starting its run as a Parisian brasserie devoted to style and substance, but the city’s big restaurant story that year was the refurbishment of an old-school chophouse, Keens.

The Highlands was a hit from the start, though Stitt had to work double shifts for a decade to make the success stick, occasionally tangling with customers shocked that no salad came with the entree, or that you couldn’t get a baked potato with your steak. Here instead was local country ham elevated to the status of jambon de Paris and Cullman County sweet potatoes treated as if they were chickens from Bresse — the simple French food of Richard Olney, one of Stitt’s mentors, translated into a drawl. The restaurant, expensive but not outrageously so, offered a kind of cosmopolitan élan for a city long associated with segregation and violence, the ugliness of industry and class.

More than three decades later, the Highlands is still crowded every night from 5 p.m. onward with ruddy-faced local salesmen in golf shirts and blue blazers, businesswomen in blowouts and Prada, lawyers in suits, gentlemen farmers and city councilmen, even the mayor, William A. Bell. White and black alike socialize at the Highlands, and have since the start, Stitt said. The restaurant is a kind of social bazaar, the town square, a club where the dues are paid nightly.

Such longevity is notable amid a dining culture slavishly devoted to the new. Most restaurants fail. “Thirty years is infinity,” said Alan Richman, the restaurant critic for GQ. “Old restaurants get eccentric, cranky, difficult, like old people. Like me.” Talented cooks move along to new positions. Talented waiters do as well. Lesser cooks use lesser ingredients, hoping no one will notice. The Highlands is one of a very few American restaurants that has managed to age with no discernible loss of quality in service, food or atmosphere. If you are from Birmingham and under 50, the Highlands has been the city’s best restaurant for your entire adult life.

This fact has required near constant attention, Stitt acknowledges. The Highlands has evolved with dining trends to a small degree over the years (these days, of course, there is a poached “farm egg” on the menu), but it also bucks them to a larger one. An appetizer of stone-ground baked grits, for instance, will never leave the menu. Stitt would remove it at his peril. The point has been to change carefully and ever so slightly, always and never. At no time can the restaurant be perceived as changing at all.

On the first night I was at the Highlands, Mayor Bell was holding court near the end of the marble bar, below a small television that is a necessity in this sports-mad city. He was fresh off the plane from Baltimore. “I’m here quite often,” he told me later in the dining room, laughing. He was there again the following night.

Matthew Dent, the president of Buffalo Rock, the largest privately owned Pepsi bottling plant in the country, was also present, as was Giles Perkins, formerly the head of the state’s Democratic Party and a force behind the building of the city’s new and heralded Railroad Park. There were doctors, still in their scrubs, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the city’s biggest employer, and sportsmen just back from fall hunts. Screwdrivers and bourbon-rocks lined the bar.

In the dining room, people waved to in-laws, colleagues, rivals. Goren Avery, a career waiter who joined Stitt right at the start in 1982, strode past with orders of beef carpaccio, a staple of the menu since Stitt began serving it on the restaurant’s first night. He leaned into tables to talk to customers he has served for decades. There were two birthday parties that night, and a 20th wedding anniversary. The flirtation back at the bar was palpable, all thrown hair and hands running up and down lapels.


Oak Mountain State Park celebrates new overlook, spillway bridge Oct. 24

Thurs., Oct. 24, Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham will celebrate the grand opening of a new overlook and a long-awaited improvement to the back entrance gate on John Findley Drive. After a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly renovated spillway bridge that leads into the back entrance, state, park and local officials will travel to the Peavine Recreation Area Overlook platform to show off the view.

The public and media are invited to attend the grand opening. For more information about the event, contact Emily Cook, Park Naturalist, at 205-620-2520 or by email at

Located atop the mountain, the new Peavine Recreation Area Overlook platform is approximately one-quarter mile from the Peavine Falls parking lot.

According to Adam Sample, Oak Mountain’s acting superintendent, views from the platform are spectacular. “This spot offers a panoramic view of Birmingham,” he said. “On a clear day, you can see from the Galleria to Vulcan and beyond.”

A new trail has been constructed in conjunction with the overlook. The Fire Pit Trail begins near the overlook and is approximately one-half mile long. Both facilities are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and offer people with physical disabilities access to the trail and the overlook.

Prior to its renovation, the spillway bridge on John Findley Drive that leads into the back entrance of the park was submerged under about a foot of water. The road has been elevated and leveled to better accommodate RV and pedestrian traffic to the Upper Lake section of the park, which includes the main campground.

“Both the spillway and overlook projects were accomplished in part thanks to the various partnerships that Oak Mountain has been fortunate enough to foster over the years,” said Greg Lein, Director of Alabama State Parks. “Our partners are not only our visitors, but community organizations such as chambers of commerce, civic organizations, and city and county governments that make these improvements possible.”

The spillway bridge project is a partnership between Oak Mountain State Park and Shelby County. The Peavine Recreation Area Overlook and Fire Pit Trail Project is a partnership between Oak Mountain State Park, Shelby County, the Birmingham Urban Mountain Peddlers and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs through a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant from the National Park Service.

“These partners are the ones who support Alabama State Parks’ efforts to provide recreational activities for all to enjoy, and we thank them,” Lein said.

The Alabama State Parks Division operates and maintains 22 state parks encompassing approximately 48,000 acres of land and water. These parks rely on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations.

To learn more about Alabama State Parks, visit:


Journey Proud series premieres this week on APT – starring Joey Brackner

The first two episodes of APT’s Journey Proud documentary series premier Sun., Oct. 27, at 6:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  The series features Alabama folk traditions and practitioners with Joey Brackner of the Alabama Fine Arts Council as host.

For episode descriptions, visit the following website:

New film about the hunchback monk who built Ave Maria Grotto premieres in Cullman

by Greg Garrison,, Oct. 17

A documentary film about a hunchbacked monk from Bavaria who built Ave Maria Grotto premiered in Cullman last week.

“Brother Joseph and the Grotto” tells the story of Joseph Zoettl, who used stones, cement, marbles and various other materials to create miniatures of Jerusalem, Rome and biblical scenes at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman.

A Birmingham screening and panel discussion will take place Nov. 9 at Samford University’s Planetarium, from 4 to 6 p.m. That event will also be open to the public.

“We still keep coming across native Alabamians who’ve heard of it and never been there,” said Cross, an assistant professor at Samford. “It’s a wonderful story of faith, perseverence and goodness. It’s a treasure of folk art and history in our state.”

The film was written and directed by veteran documentary-filmmaker Cliff Vaughn of Red Clay Pictures. Vaughn, a Baptist, got the idea for “Brother Joseph and the Grotto” from singer-songwriter Kate Campbell’s song “Ave Maria Grotto.” Campbell will perform the song before the movie.

Red Clay Pictures is based in Nashville, Tenn., with a satellite office in Birmingham that is headed up by Vaughn’s sister, Cross. “’Brother Joseph and the Grotto’ is a true fairy tale about a young boy who immigrated to the United States and helped transform a small piece of land in the Alabama woods,” said Cliff Vaughn. “It is also an inspiring tale involving folk art, Alabama history, perseverance, and a life of devotion.”

To read the entire article, go to:



First annual songwriting workshop at the Hank Williams Museum

Country Music Hall of Famer and legendary singer/songwriter Whisperin’ Bill Anderson will serve as moderator of the First Annual Hank Williams Songwriting Workshop, Nov. 7 – 10, at the Hank Williams Museum, in Montgomery. Core instructors include Bobby Tomberlin, Bradley Gaskin, and Arty Hill.

The concert on Saturday night, featuring Bill Anderson & friends, is open to the public.  Tickets are $20 per person.

For further information, contact Beth Petty at (334) 262-3600 or go to:


Tuskegee Institute NHS, Tuskegee Airmen NHS and Selma to Montgomery NHT reopen

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site and Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail have reopened. Visitors can access public areas and roads immediately while facilities and other public services are brought back online. Tuskegee Institute NHS, Tuskegee Airmen NHS and Selma to Montgomery NHT have been closed since Oct. 1, due to the lapse in Congressional appropriations.

“We are grateful to be back at work to provide services to our visitors and partners”, said Superintendent Sandra L. Taylor. “The employees are ready to perform the work they love and educate the public about the great American stories that make this country great. I invite everyone to come and see our Sites; it’s good reinforcement for the rich heritage we share.”

Tuskegee Institute NHS, Tuskegee Airmen NHS and Selma to Montgomery NHT hosted 95 visitors on average each day in October 2012. Visitors spend about $2,110,000 a year in the surrounding communities.

For upcoming fall interpretative programs, go to:


The 2013 Alabama Welcome Center Educational Retreat is set for the Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange Beach

The Alabama Welcome Center Educational Retreat is set for Nov. 17 – 19, in Orange Beach.  The retreat continues to be a unique opportunity to update the Welcome Center staff on organizations, attractions, accommodations and special events.  The host hotel is the Hampton Inn & Suites Orange Beach.

For registration, costs, and additional information please contact:

Betty Wood, with the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, 251-968-9319 or e-mail

OR Frances Smiley, Alabama Tourism Department, Welcome Center Supervisor, 334-202-2908 or e-mail:


Tourism workshop held in Troy

by Sarah Cantey, ABC Montgomery / Troy Newsroom, Oct. 16

The Alabama Tourism Department held a workshop last week at Camp Butter and Egg in Troy. Tourism leaders of cities across Alabama heard from state leaders.

The state agency holds two to three workshops a year. Tourism is a $10.6 billion industry in Alabama.

State leaders say that 23 million people visited the state last year and that the majority of visitors go to a variety of places. So the city’s highlighting what they have to offer is essential.

Director of Troy PR/ Tourism Sheila Jackson said, “It is also important for the restaurants, the hotels. Just trying to get people to come spend the night, get gas and buy food. So it is important for us to promote these attractions that we have here in Troy.”

State leaders were skyping with the group in Troy, talking about grant programs, distributing brochures, and also how to use social media for tourism.

To see the report, go to:


Alabama Tourism Department upcoming events

Oct. 28-30                   Alabama-Mississippi Rural Tourism Conference, Guntersville

Nov. 17 – 19               Welcome Center Retreat, Gulf Shores

Dec. 3-6                      International Showcase, Nashville

Dec. 12                        Welcome Centers – Open House

Feb. 23-26, 2014         Travel South Domestic Showcase, Charleston, WV



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:

Alabama Tourism Department