Shoals again in Grammy spotlight
• Governor’s Mansion final candlelight tour for 2013
• Rick Bragg book signing at Books-A-Million on Friday
• Travel South International Showcase a Success
• Report: Alabama’s creative industries make $8.7B
• Award-winning entrepreneur Tasia Malakasis to give UAH commencement address
• There is another ‘she’ in Bill Tunnell’s life and she once packed a wallop
• Coastal Alabama Golf Notebook: Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is popular ‘buddy’ destination
• Alabama coast in line for more cash from BP fund; public invited to weigh-in on projects
• Let’s be civic about this
• Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events
Shoals again in Grammy spotlight
by Robert Palmer, The Times Daily, Dec. 8
Three Grammy nominees this year have strong connections to the Muscle Shoals music business.
The Alabama Shakes, The Civil Wars and the soundtrack to the movie documentary “Muscle Shoals” all are in the running for awards, which will be handed out January 26.

The Athens-based Alabama Shakes are nominated for Best Rock Performance with their “Always Alright.” The Shakes got one of its biggest breaks more than two years ago when the Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood heard the band during a Florence performance and added it as the opening act for his band’s tour.

The Civil Wars are nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance with “From This Valley.” Florence resident John Paul White is half of the duo. His singing and performing partner is Nashville-based Joy Williams. They won Grammy awards last year.

The soundtrack to the movie “Muscle Shoals” is nominated in the Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media category. The movie looks at the career of FAME Recording Studios owner Rick Hall and his triumphs as a Southern soul producer. It also spotlights the work of the Swampers, four studio musicians who started with Hall and later opened Muscle Shoals Sound Studios to great success.

In a related nomination, Alec Palao, of London-based Ace/Kent Records, is nominated for Best Album Notes for the reissue of Country Joe and the Fish’s “Electric Music for the Mind and Body,” an early psychedelic classic. Palao oversaw the compilation of a FAME Records box set two years ago, and has had a hand in issuing other FAME compilations by a variety of artists, including Leighton’s Jimmy Hughes.

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Governor’s Mansion final candlelight tour for 2013
Mon., Dec. 16, Gov. and Mrs. Robert Bentley will open the Governor’s Mansion for one last candlelight tour in 2013. Almost 1,000 people attended the hugely popular annual event Mon., Dec. 9.

Designers from across the state have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours. More than 500 Christmas ornaments sent in by Alabama fourth-grade students decorate displays around the mansion. “The Governor’s Mansion belongs to the people of Alabama and we want to share it with them during this wonderful season,” said Mrs. Bentley.

Alabama Tourism Department director, Lee Sentell, will sign copies of the new book, Alabama Road Trips at the Governor’s Mansion gift shop that evening. The hardcover book, produced by The Birmingham News and the Alabama Tourism Department, features stories on 100 cities across the state by geographic region, starting in North Alabama and ending with the Gulf Coast.

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day. The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Avenue across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.
The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry Street in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951. The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

The tour will feature choirs from different areas of the state entertaining guests. The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Dec. 16.

More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours by going online to:

Rick Bragg book signing at Books-A-Million on Friday
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg will sign copies of the new book Alabama Road Trips at the Books-A-Million location at Brookwood Village from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday.

Bragg wrote the foreword to the book and relates his own story about trips he took with his family growing up in Alabama. The vintage blue Cadillac featured on the cover of the book and in a series of road trip inspired print ads and television commercials produced by the Alabama Tourism Department will also be on display at the book-signing event.

Alabama Road Trips is available at Books-A-Million stores across the state and online at and The retail price of the book is $20.

Travel South International Showcase a Success
Three hundred travel professionals gathered in Nashville last week for the 2nd annual Travel South International Showcase.

Ninety-three of those attending were international tour operators and receptive company officials that held meetings with representatives from Alabama’s top attractions, hotels and destination marketing officials.

Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department called the event a success. “The appointment tables in the Alabama aisle where very busy with tour operators around the world interested in what Alabama has to offer.’ Those meetings will result in an increase in tourism to our state.
Among those from Alabama attending the show to promote the state this year was Alabama State Parks, in celebration of 2014’s tourism campaign “The Year of Parks.”

“I’m also pleased that so many of our hotels joined with Alabama attractions in attending the show this year,” said Brennan. Representatives from PCH hotels in Florence and Mobile attended as well as three Gulf Shores properties and one property each from Huntsville and Fort Payne/Gasden.
Alabama attractions attending included the USS Alabama Battleship, True Adventure Sports, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the National Parks Service Tuskegge/Selma to Montgomery National Historical Trail, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center/Space Camp.

Tourism marketing agencies from Alabama were also well represented. Tourism offices from Florence, Colbert County, Huntsville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Mobile and Phenix City were also at the show promoting their areas. In the Alabama Tourism Department booth were Grey Brennan and Alabama’s UK In-Market Representative Della Tully.
For the second year in a row, Alabama was able to bring a select group of tour operators to the state for a visit.

Twenty-six of the tour operators went on a research trip to Muscle Shoals after the showcase. They stayed at the Marriot Shoals where they dined at the revolving 360 Restaurant and were entertained at Swampers Bar. The group also visited the W.C. Handy Home, FAME studios, 3614 Jackson Highway recording studio building, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the 100 years of Christmas tour at Belle Meade Plantation, Coldwater Inn and enjoyed lunch at City Hardware. Judy Hood and Ninon Parker escorted the group during their visit in Alabama. The group was hosted by the Marriot Shoals hotel and the tourism offices in Florence and Colbert County.

Report: Alabama’s creative industries make $8.7B
by Brad Harper, The Montgomery Advertiser, Dec. 6
A new study paints a clear picture of the role the creative industries play in Alabama’s economy. That’s by design.

From architecture to theater, nonprofit and for-profit groups combine to employ more than 2 million people statewide and generate nearly $8.7 billion in revenue each year, according to a report released Thursday.
The Alabama State Council on the Arts released the study, in part to give policymakers and industry recruiters more appreciation for the creative industries beyond what they add to the quality of life.
“We have used a lot of adjectives in the past like ‘important,’ and ‘significant’ and ‘meaningful,’ but we want to start being able to talk about numbers,” ASCA Executive Director Al Head said.

The report by South Arts Research found that Alabama’s creative industries account for about 5 percent of all state businesses, led by the film and media sector and the literary and publishing sector. Head said Alabama’s numbers are “in the mid-range” among states in the Southeast across most categories, but that shows there is potential for them to grow.

“What this tells us is that this is also an industry where you can make an investment, and you can nurture this industry,” Head said. “It’s a huge growth area, and it’s a win-win proposition.”
No one had to sell Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange on the importance of the numbers. “This is big industry,” Strange said.

It’s also important to him as a recruitment tool. Strange recalled playing host to a group from Hyundai at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival before the auto manufacturer selected its Montgomery site.

“It is so critical for these companies not only to understand the labor force, to understand education, but also to see the cultural sides of the equation,” he said.

Among the state’s four largest metro areas, Birmingham’s creative industries generate the most revenue at $4.67 billion. That’s more than half of the statewide total.

The industries only generate $584 million a year in the Montgomery metro area, but Head noted that facilities related to government or education weren’t counted. That means Troy University’s Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts and Rosa Parks Museum, among other Capital City creative venues, were excluded from the study.

Still, Head said even ASF’s impact is often underestimated. “The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is a business,” he said. “They employ people, and people come in to see shows. You take that, and there’s a multiplier effect.

“People don’t realize the size and scope of that, and they sort of take that for granted. The big picture is what we’re trying to communicate.”

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Award-winning entrepreneur Tasia Malakasis to give UAH commencement address
by Evan Belanger,, Dec. 9
The owner of a popular provider of goat cheese will give the keynote address during commencement exercises for the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

UAH has announced that Tasia Malakasis, the owner and president of Belle Chevre, an award-winning artisan goat cheese producer in Elkmont, will speak during a ceremony to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Propst Arena in Huntsville’s Von Braun Center.

Malakasis, who graduated from UAH in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in English, started her career developing and marketing software around the globe.

After more than a decade in the tech industry, she switched career tracks and enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

She was stunned to find goat cheese for sale in Manhattan that was produced in her home state of Alabama and purchased Belle Chevre six month later in 2007.

Since then, the company has garnered the highest distinction possible from the American Cheese Society and received awards from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
And Malakasis has been recognized in numerous publications, including Cooking Light, Better Homes & Gardens, Forbes, Southern Living, O, The Oprah Magazine and Cooking with Paula Deen. She was also named Entrepreneur of the Year by Country Living magazine in 2009.
Malakasis is a member of the American Cheese Society, the American Dairy Goat Association, Southern Foodways Alliance and Slow Food International.

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There is another ‘she’ in Bill Tunnell’s life and she once packed a wallop
by Charles J. Dean, – (Connecting Alabama), Dec. 10
The towering grey ghost squatting peacefully in Mobile Bay testifies to the emotional power of some inanimate objects.

We believe they are alive because we shared our lives with them. We cherish them; care for them; hold them special in our hearts. They kept us safe during terrifying peril, and so we owe them allegiance for as long as we can remember the debt.

That’s why Bill Tunnell sits in the admiral’s seat aboard the USS Alabama. He cares for her and about her, both metaphorically and actually. He has a wife, four children, six grandchildren and “her.”
When he became executive director of the 155-acre Alabama Battleship Park in 1997, it started as a job in tourism development and resource management but seems quite more emotionally complex now. At the least, it’s more fun than running a Holiday Inn which he did at one time.

“She” is a battleship, a machine designed and built to kill the nation’s enemies 73 years ago. It was coldly efficient. Could toss artillery shells weighing the equivalent of a fully loaded Mini Cooper 21 miles to within a yard of the intended target.

But ships are always “she” in our minds, perhaps because they provided comfort and nurture. They are “she” just because we look at ships that way.

Tunnell’s “she” is a very big “she.” She weighs 42,000 tons. That’s 84 million pounds of steel, 2 ½ football fields long and 106 feet wide at the beam, just barely narrow enough to make it through the Panama Canal when “she” was towed home to Mobile in 1965.

There are other historically significant ships, aircraft and artifacts in the historical menagerie, but “she” is the star and will remain so forever.

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Coastal Alabama Golf Notebook: Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is popular ‘buddy’ destination
by Tommy Hicks,, Dec. 5
The Robert Trent Golf Trail has received a lot of love lately from various publications and The Golf Channel. It seems the RTJ Golf Trail is a popular buddy destination — and just as the Trail is touting its own buddy tournament.

Ten of the 11 RTJ Golf Trail sites were tabbed in Golf Digest as among the magazines’ Top 36 Buddies Destinations. The mention came in four selections, grouping the various RTJ Golf Trail sites together in four different places on the list by location.

At No. 16 on the magazine’s top 36 buddies destinations were Prattville and Auburn-Opelika. At No. 17 were Oxmoor Valley, Ross Bridge and Silver Lakes (Anniston-Gadsden), with Muscle Shoals and Hampton Cove (Huntsville) claiming the No. 23 spot. Mobile, Point Clear and Dothan are all put together at the No. 31 position.

The only RTJ Trail site not on the list is Greenville’s Cambrian Ridge.

The list is topped by 1. Scotland, 2. Oregon coast and 3. Carmel, Monterey and Pebble Beach in California. The Mobile-Point Clear-Dothan ranking is just in front of Oahu, Hawaii; Jacksonville, Pal Coast and St. Augustine in Florida and San Diego and Carlsbad in California.

The Golf Channel recently put together a similar list and tabs the RTJ Golf Trail as the No. 2 golf buddy trip in the country. It placed Northern Michigan as the top such destination.
In the recent issue of Golf Magazine, a page is devoted to highlighting four money-saving deals for the winter. Among the four is the RTJ Golf Trail’s Winter Unlimited Package which offers golfers a set price to play golf all day at most of its various sites, the price including unlimited range balls and cart fees. Contact the RTJ Golf Trail site you wish to play (Lakewood at Point Clear and Ross Bridge are not participating in the deal and The Judge at Capitol Hill is priced slightly higher) for more information.

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Alabama coast in line for more cash from BP fund; public invited to weigh-in on projects
by Michael Finch II,, Dec. 6
A group managing environmental restoration projects along the Gulf Coast to undo the damage done by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill released Friday a rough sketch of their plans for improving the region.

This would be the largest phase in restoration thus far. Projects range from restoring barrier islands, oyster beds and other habitats; to boat ramps to promote using some facilities again.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the department was dedicated to ensuring “that the Gulf is made whole” at an event to announce the $627 million proposal. The list of 44 projects would touch natural resources in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
“The Gulf of Mexico watershed is a large and diverse landscape that is critical to our nation’s culture, economy and environment,” Jewell said in a prepared statement.

“Today’s announcement is an important step as we work to not only restore the natural resources that were impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but to also build back the resiliency of the region.”

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees, a group that manages the rehabilitation of the from damage done by the oil spill. The public will be able to weigh in on their proposal at a meeting Dec. 16 at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel.

There are three projects in Alabama — the Alabama Swift Tract Living Shoreline, Gulf State Park Enhancement Project and the Alabama Oyster Cultch Restoration — which cost about $93.7 million combined.

In May 2013, Gov. Robert Bentley announced that Alabama would receive close to $100 million from the fund. Close to $85 million of that was being put toward improvements at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.

Jewell made the announcement after a two-day trip to see the Gulf of Mexico. She took an aerial tour of the Gulf and visited Breton Island National Wildlife Reserve and Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Reserve, both state parks in Louisiana.

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Let’s be civic about this, Dec. 2 – submitted to Alabama Tourism News by David Brewer, of the Friends of Rickwood Field
It’s made of rotting wood, broken plastic, overgrown grass and 75 years of history; and over the next few months, its future in the South Eugene neighborhood will be decided.

The object I am referring to is Civic Stadium, a 6,800-seat stadium adjacent to South Eugene High School that has been a part of Eugene’s landscape since it opened back in 1938. Civic, built and funded by the Works Progress Administration established as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, now holds a place in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, but that isn’t stopping current owners, Eugene School District 4J, from selling it off as surplus property.

Since the Eugene Emeralds baseball team, Civic’s main tenant from 1969-2009, announced plans to relocate their team to the University of Oregon’s newly built ballpark for the 2010 season, 4J has kept the future of Civic in flux, and, as recently as two years ago, begun taking bids from developers that seek to purchase the stadium.

In what might seem like a hard case to parallel, Dave Galas, managing director at Lane United Football Club and United Stadium Group (USG) are able to connect Civic Stadium and its placement in history with other ballparks built in that era that have been able to stand the test of time.

A prime example of this is Rickwood Field in Birmingham, AL. Opened in 1910; Rickwood was once home to the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues. Rickwood lost its main tenant in 1987 to a newer stadium in the city in the same fashion the Emeralds left Civic for PK Park. Owned by the City of Birmingham and located just west of downtown, Rickwood has been undergoing gradual restoration and is currently designated as a working museum.

David Brewer is a member of an organization known as Friends of Rickwood. The 501-c3 has been in charge of the park’s revitalization since 1992, and has since completed approximately two million dollars in reinvestment to the park; showing old ballparks still have life in this day and age. Rickwood Field has also been used to film scenes in the recent movie 42.

Galas and USG believe that, even though they might end up having the lowest big in terms of dollar figures, they believe a renovated stadium will provide the most benefit to the community, a figure you can’t put a price tag on. When asked if having the added benefit of Northwest Christian University’s soccer teams using the field as well as other local teams, Galas stated, “I think there is no question we bring a lot more community benefit in terms of city and public use of the facility.”

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Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events
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: