• Alabama Tourism names Top 10 Events for 2014
  • Attendance figures needed from state attractions and events
  • CNN highlights the Alabama Gulf Coast as part of its 50 States, 50 Spots for 2014 feature
  • State’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is No. 1 license plate slogan
  • Rock Atlas USA published in UK, coming soon to USA – Alabama featured
  • Alabama Music Hall of Fame gala tickets
  • Stellar year: while 2013 was good for music in Shoals, industry officials expect bigger, better 2014
  • No. 1 story of year ‘Muscle Shoals’ draws praise
  • Why Should The Bitter Southerner Put Out A “Top Albums” List?
  • Antiques Roadshow coming to Birmingham
  • International Food & Wine Travel Writers Association Annual Meeting & Conference to be in Montgomery, May 8-11
  • Cahawba ranks high on’s ‘Rad-o-meter’
  • Alabama Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Announcement
  • New road trips book features state’s top sites
  • 2014 Waterfowl Stamp Art contest
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Alabama Tourism names Top 10 Events for 2014

The Alabama Tourism Department released its top 10 events for 2014 ranging from the grand opening of the Museum of Alabama in Montgomery to the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the restoration of the 100-year-old Lyric Theater in Birmingham.

The top 10 events in chronological order are Eagle Watch Weekends at Lake Guntersville State Park, Mardi Gras in Mobile, the grand opening of the Museum of Alabama in Montgomery, the Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham and Guntersville, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction banquet in Florence, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Daviston, the 25th season of “To Kill A Mockingbird” play in Monroeville.  Major events late in the year are the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama Bass Trail Championship in Jasper and the Lyric Theater Reopening in Birmingham.

The state tourism department selects the top 10 events based upon significant anniversaries and the uniqueness of the event. In addition to listing more than 1,400 events tourism’s 2014 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events contains colorful photos, feature articles, and a city-by-city listing of attractions and accommodations.  Below are more details about the top 10 events for 2014:

Eagle Watch Weekends, Lake Guntersville State Park, Jan. 17-Feb. 23
See eagles in their natural habitat during Eagle Awareness weekends at Lake Guntersville State Park in North Alabama.  Eagle Awareness weekends feature guided field trips, knowledgeable guest speakers and talks from the parks naturalist.

Mardi Gras, Mobile, Feb. 1-Mar. 4
Mobile is known as home to “America’s Family Mardi Gras.”  The celebration last for more than two and a half weeks and culminates on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins.  The streets are filled with marching bands, float and crowds of parade-goers.  Masked riders in costume toss “throws” of beads, moon pies, doubloons and candy into the crowd.

Grand Opening of the Museum of Alabama, Montgomery, Feb. 15
The Museum of Alabama has been named the Attraction of the Year by the state tourism department. The new museum is located adjacent to the State Capital at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.  Displays will include Native American artifacts, Civil War weapons and photographs of the Civil Rights Movement.  The centerpiece exhibition of the museum is “Alabama Voices” containing more than 800 artifacts and hundreds of images from Alabamians telling the story of the state from prehistory to present.  Other permanent exhibitions include the “The Land of Alabama” and “The First Alabamians.”

Bassmaster Classic, Birmingham/Guntersville, Feb. 21-23
Competition takes place on Lake Guntersville, daily weight-ins and the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo held at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.,

Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction banquet, Florence, Feb. 28
Black tie banquet honouring those who have made exceptional contributions throughout their careers to Alabama’s musical heritage.

200th anniversary of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Daviston, Mar. 27-29
Experience live cannon fire, the lives of Creek and Cherokee Indians, hunting camps and demonstrations of traditional skills of the early 1800s.

 25th season of “To Kill A Mockingbird” play, Monroeville, Apr.-May, 

Monroeville’s 25th annual theatrical production of Christopher Sergel’s “To Kill A Mockingbird,” presented by the all-local Mockingbird Players. Tickets go on sale March 1. Performance dates are April 17-19, 24-27 and May 1-3, 8-10, 15-17.
National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores, Oct. 9-12
The Annual National Shrimp Festival is held each year during the second full weekend in October on the Gulf Shores public beach. The festival is one of the nation’s premier outdoor festivals attracting 250,000 people, featuring over 250 vendors that offer fine art, arts & crafts, a retail marketplace, outdoor world, live music performances and great shrimp.

Alabama Bass Trail Championship, Jasper, Oct. 10-11
Held on Lewis Smith Lake. With 21,200 acres spread over 500 miles of winding shoreline with large impounded creek systems, Lewis Smith Lake offers challenges for even the most experienced bass anglers.

Lyric Theatre Reopening, Birmingham, late December
This 1914 vaudeville theatre, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been restored and is reopening to the public as a world-class performing arts center in downtown Birmingham in late December.

The 2014 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events is available at the eight state welcome centers, local tourism bureaus and online at


Attendance figures needed from state attractions and events

The Alabama Tourism Department is asking representatives from state attractions and events to turn in their attendance figures for the year 2013. These attendance figures are used by state tourism in economic impact studies and are the basis for the annual “Top 10” listings of tourism destinations. The figures serve as an invaluable guide for state government, local organizations and the media. They are also distributed in press kits to travel writers and group tour operators.

In order for you to be counted we must have your data by Fri., Jan. 24.  The reporting process has been streamlined to allow you to enter your attendance figures directly online. The entire process should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Please follow this link to enter your attendance figures:

Note: There is only one event or attraction per online form and only one classification can be chosen.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right for final determination of classifications.


CNN highlights the Alabama Gulf Coast as part of its 50 States, 50 Spots for 2014 feature

“Enjoy 32 miles of white sand beaches and the fresh seafood found at the Alabama Gulf Coast beach towns of Gulf Shores, Fairhope, Orange Beach and Dauphin Island,” the CNN report says. “Visitors can soak up the sun during the annual Hangout Music Festival (May 16-18), the National Shrimp Festival (Oct. 9-12) or any time in between.”

To see the entire article, go to:


 State’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is No. 1 license plate slogan

by Bob Carlton,, Jan. 6

Alabama’s “Sweet Home Alabama” license plate, which was phased out at the beginning of the new year, is the country’s favorite license plate slogan, according to a new survey released today by the insurance consumer source

Also, the state’s plate design, which features a tranquil beach scene, was the fourth favorite overall. Wyoming, which shows a cowboy on a bucking bronco, had the No. 1 plate design.

The “Sweet Home Alabama” plates were introduced Jan. 1, 2009, and have been discontinued because Alabama law requires that the state’s standard-issue plates be re-designed every five years, according to an Alabama Department of Revenue spokesperson.

To see the Top 5 list, go to:


Rock Atlas USA published in UK, coming soon to USA – Alabama featured

Rock Atlas USA: The Musical Landscape of America has been released.  The book by UK writer David Roberts is a sequel to his popular Rock Atlas UK book.

A posting on the Facebook site Rock Atlas, Great music locations and the fascinating stories behind them, states the book has now been published in the United Kingdom and will be available in the United States in February.  Rock Atlas USA lists 650 music locations in America.

Alabama’s section in the Rock Atlas USA book begins with Gulf Shores and the Hangout Music Festival.  Featured in the opening page on Alabama is a photograph from the right hand side of the Hangout Music Festival stage, looking out on the crowd and the beach.  The opening line states, “Could a festival be any closer to the ocean?”

Hank Williams is Alabama’s star musician in Robert’s book.  The section on Hank showcases several locations in Montgomery and has the heading, “Montgomery, Hank’s statue, museum and gravesite.”  A full-page photograph of the Hank Williams statue across from Montgomery City Hall is on page 15 of the book.

Rock Atlas USA ends the Alabama section with the cities of Sheffield, Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia where rock stars The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart recorded.  Both Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and FAME studios are covered in the book as well as the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

The section on Muscle Shoals features three photographs, all of the original Muscle Shoals studio.  A small black and white picture of the outside of the building is in the upper left hand corner of the page.  A larger color photograph taken inside of the studio is spread across three columns at the top of the page, while an insert of the Cher album cover, which features the building, is on the right hand of the page.

Roberts traces FAME studios back to its humble beginnings above the City Drug Store in Florence before ending up in its current location.

Writing about the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Roberts says, “the variety of Alabama’s music output is conveyed through a giant jukebox, 16-foot guitar entrance to the county music area, an actual tour bus belonging to the band Alabama, jazz club, nightclub, exhibits and a working recording studio where visitors can cut their own tracks.”

The author attended an Alabama Tourism Department’s showing of the film, “Muscle Shoals” in November in London.  Afterwards he spoke with Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell and posted comments on the Rock Atlas website, “I was lucky enough to see a special screening of the Muscle Shoals movie recently. A fascinating story about an incredible town and studios in Alabama.  Got to meet David Hood – legendary bass player with the studio band of musicians, The Swampers.  This is where the Stones recorded ‘Wild Horses’ and Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge laid down their finest work…”


Alabama Music Hall of Fame gala tickets

General table sponsorships and individual tickets for the Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s black tie induction banquet on Feb. 28 will be available after the sponsor tables have been purchased and the organizers can determine how many seats remain, board treasurer Lee Sentell says.

Table sales and individual ticket sales for the event at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center should be completed by mid-January. Some additional seats in a theater-style setting where large-screen monitors show the action in the main hall will also be available, Sentell said.

“Since this is the first time the gala will be in the Shoals, we know the event will sell out.  The success of the ‘Muscle Shoals’ documentary has generated additional interest outside the region as well,” he said.

Goals of the evening are to raise money to sustain the Hall of Fame and celebrate achievements of the inductees and past and present Shoals musicians, he added.

“This is going to be a memorable evening that people will talk about for years,” said Sentell, who directs the Alabama Tourism Department.  Gov. Robert Bentley instructed the agency to fund the reopening of the museum in October.

Ticket sales will be managed at the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism office. The phone is 256-740-4141.


Stellar year: while 2013 was good for music in Shoals, industry officials expect bigger, better 2014

by Bobby Bozeman,, Jan. 1

When it comes to music, 2013 will be remembered as a good year.

It was specifically a good year for music from the Shoals.

Our area saw bands used to playing along Court Street head to the Austin, Texas, festival South by Southwest.

Homegrown musicians, including the Alabama Shakes and Jason Isbell, found themselves in New York performing in front national television audiences on shows such as “Saturday Night Live” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

All this came at a time when the documentary “Muscle Shoals” turned the nation’s eyes — and ears — to the sounds coming from the Shoals.

“Every year there has been one pretty big band that has had some ground-breaking work,” said Eli Flippen, owner of Pegasus Records in Florence. “This year, there has been a lot of ground-breaking work. Up until this year there has only been one or two big breakaway things.”

Flippen pointed to “Southeastern,” Jason Isbell’s most recent album, along with a new self-titled album from “The Civil Wars,” which may be the band’s last.

He said Isbell’s “Southeastern” and “Overseas then Under” by The Bear were the store’s two best-selling local albums. But the soundtrack to “Muscle Shoals” was far and away his best-selling record.

“I think that with the ‘Muscle Shoals’ documentary hitting theaters and coming out on DVD, this area is on the verge of breaking more into the mainstream,” he said. “Maybe this is our watershed type of year. There has been one or two things the past few years … We’ve seen more media interest and tourist interest.”

The year also saw the formation of a new local record label, Single Lock Records, headed by John Paul White, of The Civil Wars, and Ben Tanner, of Alabama Shakes.

“We feel pretty good,” Tanner said. “It was our first year, and The Bear and Belle Adair (“The Brave and the Blue”) records were released.”

Tanner said they also produced their first record from the ground up, an album by St. Paul and the Broken Bones. He said they expect that album to be released later this year.

“It’s been a great year for music here,” Tanner said. “I think everyone is trying to maintain that momentum and keep our collective foot on the gas and do as much next year if not more. I’m really optimistic about it when I look at that batch of records. It’s a stellar group of records and we’ve all been trying to step up our game and hopefully we can keep doing that.”


 No. 1 story of year ‘Muscle Shoals’ draws praise

Documentary helped shine positive light on Shoals’ musical history

by Russ Corey,, Dec. 31, 2013

Rick Hall said at first he laughed at the two men who approached him with the idea of making a documentary about the early days of the Muscle Shoals music business.  They had funding for the project, but neither Stephen Badger nor Greg “Freddie” Camalier had ever produced a documentary.

Roughly five years after shooting began, “Muscle Shoals” continues to ride a wave of popularity. The documentary has led to a renewed interest in the early days of the music business in the Shoals.

The success of “Muscle Shoals” is the TimesDaily’s No. 1 story of the year.

As of mid-December, “Muscle Shoals” has been shown in 192 theaters in 166 cities, said Neal Block, head of distribution for Magnolia Pictures, which owns the distribution rights to “Muscle Shoals.”

After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, “Muscle Shoals” continued to receive rave reviews on the festival circuit.

State Tourism Director Lee Sentell said the movie has helped shine a positive light on not only the Shoals and its music scene, but the entire state.  “After I met Steven Badger back in the spring and saw a bit of the documentary, I knew this was a two-hour advertisement for the state of Alabama,” Sentell said.

Several unforeseen consequences can be tied to the documentary.

“Muscle Shoals” provided the impetus for the Tourism Department to provide funding that allowed the dormant Alabama Music Hall of Fame to reopen, Sentell said.

“It shined a spotlight on us, and we’re trying to take advantage of it,” said Rodney Hall, president of FAME Music Publishing.  He said the documentary was responsible for Beats Electronics’ decision to invest in Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

When Shoals residents learned “Muscle Shoals” would not be shown at the local Carmike Cinemas Regency 12 Theater, they contacted the company and persuaded them to allow the film to be seen locally.

“I was thrilled to death when the theater here finally agreed to do it,” Johnson said.

Danielle McCarthy, manager of publicity and marketing for Magnolia Pictures called “Muscle Shoals” a “resilient little film.”  “So far we’ve grossed around $650,000, which is pretty strong,” Block said. “We weren’t anticipating it sticking around in theaters so long.”

The soundtrack to “Muscle Shoals” is up for a Grammy Award, and recently Rick Hall was selected by The Recording Academy to receive a Trustee’s Award for his work in the music business.

 Why Should The Bitter Southerner Put Out A “Top Albums” List?

The answer is simple: Because we can.  Among our lot are a former rock critic, a former musician and a couple of hardcore music fans. We are, for better or worse, those annoying music geeks who live for lists.

Near as we can tell, no other publication attempts to rank the best Southern albums of the year. So here, ladies and gentlemen, is the One True Ranking of the 13 Best Southern Albums of the Year Because We Couldn’t Settle on 10, put together especially for you by The Bitter Southerner, whether you wanted us to or not.

Lonnie Holley #10, Keeping a Record of It, Dust-to-Digital / Sept. 3, 2013

The Alabama folk artist may now call Atlanta home, but “Keeping a Record of It” quickly makes clear that Lonnie Holley exists in more dimensions than you and I. While not exactly a casual listen, “Keeping a Record of It” is more of an exploratory journey through time and space — touching on matters of the rural South, religion and nature — all with Lonnie at the helm of his self-designed spaceship. Atlanta rock royalty Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound) and Cole Alexander (Black Lips) lend their atmospheric talents to several of the tracks, including the final title track.

Holly Williams #6, The Highway, Georgiana Records, Feb. 5, 2013

To hell with Hank Jr. and Hank 3. The best songwriter in Old Hank’s bloodline is his granddaughter Holly. Every song on “The Highway” is strong, but the pièce de résistance here is an almost seven-minute epic called “Waiting on June,” written for Williams’ maternal grandparents, Warren and June White of Mer Rouge, La. The song traces their relationship from playing in the cotton fields at age 10 to … well … eternity. The first time I heard it, I started crying so hard I almost wrecked the car. I’ve listened to it dozens of times since then, and I still can’t do it with dry eyes. Rarely has a song of perfect love been written so perfectly. Hands down, song of the year — and it’s right up there with some of her granddaddy’s greatest.

 Jason Isbell #4, Southeastern, Relativity Records, June 11, 2013

In the four or so years since he left Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell got sober and became a more reserved married man. “Southeastern” documents his transformation in dozens of beautiful ways. John Hiatt’s landmark “Bring the Family,” which, like Isbell, he recorded after giving up the hard stuff in his 30s, is the only worthy comparison we can think of. Hiatt sang of adapting to family life: “And your missus wears her robe slightly undone, as your daughter dumps her oatmeal on your son.” But Isbell is feistier: “Girl, leave your boots by the bed, we ain’t leavin’ this room, till someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom.” The little girls (and the not-so-little girls) are swooning.

For the entire list, go to:


Antiques Roadshow coming to Birmingham

Antiques Roadshow, public television’s most-watched primetime series, has announced its Summer 2014 Tour destinations, and Birmingham is on the list!  Antiques Roadshow will be in Birmingham on Sat., June 21 to tape three episodes. Other cities on the tour include Bismarck, ND; Santa Clara, CA; Austin, TX; Albuquerque, NM; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; and Charleston, WV.  Programs recorded in those locations will make up the 11-time Emmy Award nominated production’s 19th broadcast season on PBS, airing in 2015.

Antiques Roadshow couldn’t be happier to embark on our second summer of a beefed up, eight-city tour,” said Roadshow executive producer Marsha Bemko. “We can’t wait to return to Birmingham where we found so many great treasures in 1999.”

Admission to Antiques Roadshow events is free, but tickets are required and must be obtained in advance. Ticket applications and complete ticketing rules will be available on or by calling 1-888-762-3749.

Ticket applications must be received by Mon., April 7.  Tickets will be awarded by random drawing. Additional information about the Summer 2014 Tour is available at

A limited number of tickets is also available for contributions to Alabama Public Television. Contact APT Member Services at 1-800-239-5233.


International Food & Wine Travel Writers Association Annual Meeting & Conference to be in Montgomery, May 8-11

The International Food and Wine Travel Writers Association (IF&WTWA) has announced its 6th Annual Meeting and Conference in Montgomery May 8-11.

The travel and culinary travel writers and photographers will be amazed at the diversity of culture and food and environment that awaits their discovery.  The conference is based in beautiful Montgomery, but the entire state has an opportunity to reach the writers.

The various methods for this are to: attend the conference to network and secure a Marketplace table to enable face-to-face visits.  Host a conference breakfast or meal to speak to the attendees (if a slot still available).  Host a post conference press trip for writers. The best part about this is that each destination can select qualified writer(s) from the applicants.  This way the writer(s) will fit marketing plan or strategy.   Further, the IF&WTWA policy is a strict “No clips, no future trips” and we enforce it. Your return on investment is our utmost concern.

To see more about the conference, and to register, go to:


Cahawba ranks high on’s ‘Rad-o-meter’

This town was the shortly lived state capital of Alabama until terrible flooding drove its residents away. What’s left behind are fading Gothic mansions, a graveyard, and abandoned homes. There are now, as with any good ghost town, stories about spectral sights disappearing behind the mansions and spending their afterlives in the graveyard.

Visit this website at:


Alabama Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Announcement

The Alabama Historical Commission is pleased to announce the Alabama Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program.  This new program offers up to 25% in an income tax credit for estimated qualified rehabilitation expenditures associated with the rehabilitation of an historic income-producing or owner-occupied residential property.  The program is capped at $20 million a year for three years.  Commercial property owners can request a maximum amount of $5 million per project and residential property owners can request a maximum of $50,000 per project.  The application process and requirements are modeled after the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program, and applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.  Property owners can apply for both the state and federal programs for a possible $45% in income tax credits for the rehabilitation of an historic property.   Since the program began in October 2013, the Alabama Historical Commission has received twenty-eight applications for projects in Birmingham, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, and Huntsville.  These projects represent $194 million in estimated qualified rehabilitation expenditures and $38 million in tax credit allocation reservation requests.

The legislation, regulations, application instructions, and application forms can be found on the agency’s website at  If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Jennifer K. Bailey, Coordinator of the Program, at or at 334-230-2643.


New road trips book features state’s top sites

by Lisa Singleton-Rickman,, Dec. 17

There’s a new book out that answers just about any question a traveler may have about hot spots, historical sites or other scenic adventures throughout Alabama.

With the recent release of “Alabama Road Trips: 52 Great Getaways,” The Birmingham News Company/Alabama Media Group teamed with the Alabama Tourism Department to produce a hardback book highlighting the sights, sounds, tastes and feel of Alabama, from Florence to Foley and in between.

“This was initially done as a website promotion but six months ago we decided to repackage it as a book, to reach those that might not be a part of that web audience,” Alabama’s director of tourism, Lee Sentell said.

Sentell said the idea is to feature a particular destination — in this volume it was Florence — and give the traveler the most in-depth information possible.

“It’s a great reference to show people our state through a different medium,” Sentell said. “This tells them where to stay, where to eat and even what to order.”


2014 Waterfowl Stamp Art contest

Alabama artists are invited to enter the 2014 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp art contest, which opened Jan. 1. The winning artwork will be used as the design of the 2015-2016 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp, which is required to be purchased when hunting migratory waterfowl. Entries will be accepted from Jan. 1 – Feb. 18. The competition is open to resident Alabama artists only.

All eligible entries will be on display Feb. 28, at the Richard Beard Building, 1445 Federal Dr., Montgomery. Following the showing, three judges from the fields of art, ornithology and wildlife conservation will select the winning waterfowl art. The public is invited to attend the judging.

“Like the federal waterfowl stamp, revenues from the sale of Alabama stamps are used to procure, establish or improve migratory waterfowl habitat,” said Keith Gauldin, contest coordinator for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “We encourage all Alabama artists to participate in this unique contest.”

Only original horizontal artworks depicting a species of North American migratory duck or goose will be eligible.  The Ring-necked duck, Ross’ goose and pintail — depicted in the winning artwork of the three previous years’ contests — are not eligible as the subject for the 2015-2016 Waterfowl Stamp.

The judging criteria emphasizes uncluttered design suitable for printing as a stamp, anatomical accuracy of the illustrated species, and artistic rendering.  Close attention must be given to tone and detail, since those aspects are prerequisites for printing artwork as a stamp. Wing and feather construction must be particularly well defined. Entries may be drawn or painted in any medium. Entries cannot exceed 9 by 12 inches (15 by 18 inches matted).

For contest information and entry forms, visit the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, or contact contest coordinator Keith Gauldin at 334-242-3469.


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Jan 17-21                    American Bus Association (ABA) – Nashville, TN

Jan. 22-26                   Louisville Boat, RV & Sport Show, Louisville, KY

Jan. 23-27                   Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show, Cincinnati, OH

Feb. 14-23                   Indianapolis Boat, Sports & Travel Show, Indianapolis, IN

Feb 16-20                   National Tour Association (NTA) – Los Angeles, CA

Feb. 23-26                   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