Alabama Tourism Department Newsletter February 6, 2014

  • The Alabama Tourism Department and The Art of Alabama Food
  • Alabama beaches recover from Gulf oil spill to post third consecutive record tourism year
  • The Scottsboro Boys named Best Musical in U.K.’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards
  • The Alabama Music Hall of Fame hosts an introduction to the 2014 Class of Inductees to the Hall of Fame
  • Fairhope named one of ‘America’s Most Romantic Towns’ by Travel + Leisure magazine
  • Adweek selects Southern Living as top home magazine
  • Lonnie Holley, the insider’s outsider
  • Go Mobile, Get Social…Get Ready for a Mobile Only World
  • Digital Marketing Summit 2014
  • Joe Wheeler State Park Resort hosts “Focus on Nature” photography weekend
  • Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau launches new website
  • Retirement party for Frances Smiley
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


The Alabama Tourism Department and The Art or Alabama Food

The Alabama Tourism Department hosted an art-gallery-style photo exhibition from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 in New York’s Chelsea Market. Thirty-six images selected from the Alabama Tourism Department’s brochure “100 Dishes To Eat in Alabama Before You Die” enticed guests and informed them about some of Alabama’s best local restaurants.

Braving the elements during a winter storm, many Alabama chefs were able to travel to the exhibit for a special VIP event hosted by the Alabama Tourism Department on Thurs., Jan. 30. The gallery transformed into the ultimate tailgate experience for the New York media.  It featured Southern fare, lively jazz music and a contemporary vibe. The following chefs were able to contribute to the event’s success:

  • Bob Baumhower, Baumhower’s – locations throughout the state
  • James Boyce, Cotton Row – Huntsville
  • Lucy Buffett, LuLu’s – Gulf Shores
  • Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club – Birmingham
  • Chris Lilly, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q – Decatur
  • Tasia Malakasis, Belle Chevre – Elkmont
  • Wesley True, TRUE – Montgomery

Dishes such as Belle Chevre’s Chevre Cheesecake and Lucy Buffet’s Sassy Sliders were served, as well as Chris Hastings’ Bouillabaisse and Bob Baumhower’s Compleat West Indies Salad. More than 500 New York-based food and travel writers were invited to learn more about the Art of Alabama Food, download the new 100 Dishes mobile app and plan a visit to experience our cuisine first hand.

The Art of Alabama Food will tour the Southeast this spring with stops in New Orleans, Nashville and Atlanta. The full schedule is as follows:

The Art of Alabama Food: Gallery Tour
April 22 – 28: Hotel Monteleone; New Orleans
May 12 – 18: The Mall at Green Hills; Nashville, Tenn.
May 26 – June 1: Lenox Square Mall; Atlanta

The gallery features images from photographer Becky Luigart-Stayner and is organized by Luckie & Company. For more information on the Art of Alabama food, visit: or follow the hashtag #AlabamaFood on social media.

Alabama beaches recover from Gulf oil spill to post third consecutive record tourism year

Visitors to Alabama’s beaches in 2013 arrived in record numbers and left behind more money as they returned to their Southeast and Midwest homes refreshed and rejuvenated. Economically, the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area closed 2013 at $343 million in lodging revenue and at $683 million in retail sales. The 5.9 percent and 6.5 percent increases, respectively, officially establish the area’s third consecutive record year for tourism, further proving the industry’s recovery.

“These numbers show that more and more guests are choosing our beach destination and are spending more money as they enjoy all of the area’s amenities,” said Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (GSOBT), the area’s official destination marketing organization. “To see back-to-back-to-back record years is unprecedented, especially when you consider that the first record came immediately after the 2010 Gulf oil spill. We continued the upward trend with 2012 and now 2013 thanks to the synergistic effort of our local and state governments and tourism businesses, who all partnered diligently to welcome these guests with Southern hospitality.”

2013 was also a milestone at GSOBT as the convention and visitors bureau celebrated its 20th anniversary.

“Since 1993, we’ve grown a lot as we’ve seen nearly 9,000 lodging rooms added on the island, a $281 million increase in lodging rentals and $520 million jump in retail sales,” Malone said. “We’ve enhanced our product through the development of several trails –birding, Civil War and scenic byway, promoted the sinking of The LuLu and added a sports commission to serve this emerging market. But most importantly, we are still our true selves. Guests experience an authentic Southern beach destination that has grown tremendously over the years, but we still feel like a small town, and our best asset continues to be our people.”

To read the entire report, go to:

The Scottsboro Boys named Best Musical in U.K.’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards

By Andrew Gans, Playbill, Jan. 28

The London premiere production of John Kander and Fred Ebb‘s The Scottsboro Boys, seen at the Young Vic Theatre last year, was named the winner of The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical [new or revival] in this year’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, presented Jan. 28 in a ceremony at the Prince of Wales Theatre.  The award was accepted by Catherine Schreiber, who co-produced the London run with the Young Vic.

To read the entire article, go to:

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame hosts an introduction to the 2014 Class of Inductees to the Hall of Fame

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame museum curator and music historian Dick Cooper will present a multimedia presentation spotlighting the careers and accomplishments of those who will be inducted at the upcoming AMHOF induction banquet and awards show. Six music achievers with close ties to Alabama will be honored this year.   The presentation will take place at 1 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 22.

“One of the delightful aspects of my job is being able to delve deeply into the careers of exceptional people like we have in this year’s inductee class, and then be able to tell their stories,” Cooper said. “It is especially enjoyable when it includes long-time friends like Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn, artists like Candi Staton and Hank Locklin and unique individuals such as Charlie Monk and Sun Ra.”

“We encourage music lovers to attend the presentation,” said Museum Manager Dixie Connell. “You will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for these creative talents and the impact they had on the development of Alabama music.”
Admission for the presentation is $5 and includes a tour of the museum.

For more information call 256-381-4417 or email

Fairhope named one of ‘America’s Most Romantic Towns’ byTravel + Leisure magazine

By Marc D. Anderson, Travel + Leisure magazine, January issue

Fairhope was named one of America’s top 20 most romantic towns in the January issue of Travel + Leisure magazine.

The New York City-based magazine, with nearly a million paid subscribers and four million unique monthly visitors online, based its ranking on its “America’s Favorite Towns” reader survey.

Fairhope landed at No. 15 on the list of romantic destinations. The magazine describes the city as a quaint lower Alabama hamlet with historical significance:

“Five rivers converge at this scenic Gulf Coast town, which boasts plenty of Civil War history (even the nearby Marriott was the site of a Confederate hospital).  Fairhope also has its own small French Quarter, which is home to a dozen little shops and a selfie-ready photo op: the largest crepe myrtle tree in the South, called the Alabama Champion Tree.”

The publication goes on to say that Fairhope also made the top 10 list for town pride.

For the complete list and details on each city, go to:

Adweek selects Southern Living as top home magazine

Adweek magazine’s “Hot List” for 2014 named Southern Living as the publishing industry’s “hottest home magazine.”
“The South is hot – and nobody knows that better than Southern Living. Time Inc.‘s Alabama-based lifestyle title, with a circulation of 2.8 million, has built an empire that extends far beyond print. From retail lines to live events and an annual show house, the magazine has found a way to fuse every aspect of readers’ lives with its singular brand of Southern chic. And with its latest extension, the Southern Living Hotel Collection, readers can enjoy Southern Living experience when on the road.”

Lonnie Holley, the insider’s outsider

By Mark Binelli,, Jan. 23

One night in October, just a couple blocks from Harvard Square, a young crowd gathered at a music space called the Sinclair to catch a performance by Bill Callahan, the meticulous indie-rock lyricist who has been playing to bookish collegiate types since the early ‘90s. Callahan’s opening act, Lonnie Holley, had been playing to similar audiences for two years. A number of details about Holley made this fact surprising: He was decades older than just about everyone in the club and one of the few African-Americans. He says he grew up the seventh of 27 children in Jim Crow-era Alabama, where his schooling stopped around seventh grade. In his own, possibly unreliable telling, he says the woman who informally adopted him as an infant eventually traded him to another family for a pint of whiskey when he was 4. Holley also says he dug graves, picked trash at a drive-in, drank too much gin, was run over by a car and pronounced brain-dead, picked cotton, became a father at 15 (Holley now has 15 children), worked as a short-order cook at Disney World and did time at a notoriously brutal juvenile facility, the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs.

Then he celebrated his 29th birthday. And shortly after that, for the first time in his life, Holley began making art: sandstone carvings, initially — Birmingham remained something of a steel town back then, and its foundries regularly discarded the stone linings used for industrial molds. Later, he began work on a wild, metastasizing yard-art environment sprawling over two acres of family property, with sculptures constructed nearly entirely from salvaged junkyard detritus like orphaned shoes, plastic flowers, tattered quilts, tires, animal bones, VCR remotes, wooden ladders, an old tailor’s dummy, a busted Minolta EP 510 copy machine, a pink scooter, oil drums rusted to a leafy autumnal delicateness, metal pipes, broken headstone fragments, a half-melted television set destroyed in a house fire that also took the life of one of Holley’s nieces, a syringe, a white cross.

His work was soon acquired by curators at the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. Bill Arnett, the foremost collector (and promoter) of self-taught African-American artists from the Deep South — the man who brought worldwide attention to Thornton Dial and the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Ala. — cites his first visit to Holley’s home in 1986 as a moment of epiphany. “He was actually the catalyst that started me on a much deeper search,” Arnett says, adding bluntly that “if Lonnie had been living in the East Village 30 years ago and been white, he’d be famous by now.”

How to characterize artists like Holley and Finster has long been a source of controversy. Many bristle at qualifiers like “folk” or “outsider” — outside what, exactly? — and yet spending any time with Holley makes you realize there’s a genuine eccentricity that sets him apart, separate from any differences in class or geography or general background that might place him “outside” the social sphere of, say, Art Basel attendees. But the better I got to know Holley, the more I realized that the reason none of the old categories felt satisfying was that I was ignoring the one that was most apropos: The kind of artist Lonnie Holley is, first and foremost, is a performance artist.

This seems especially clear now that he’s releasing music. Holley began making home recordings after picking up a Casio keyboard in a pawnshop. Sometimes he sang, other times he just talked while making his work, explaining the significance of whatever salvaged objects he happened to be weaving into his vast tapestry. He multitracked the more musical numbers with a dual-cassette boombox and a karaoke machine. “Sometimes I’d have a video camera set up, recording my physical actions,” Holley recalled. (It’s a technique he still uses today at times.) “I’d be dancing and painting. Sometimes I’d go to a flea market and buy all these different garments, and I’d change my clothes all day. So I was almost doing a presentation.”

To see the entire article, go to:

Go Mobile, Get Social…Get Ready for a Mobile Only World

Join Main Street Alabama, Lee Sentell, Director, Alabama Tourism Department and an expert panel, Tues., Feb. 25, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Alexander City, for an opportunity to discover the economic impact of mobile apps, social media and tourism for your community.

Social media plays an intrinsic role in every aspect of the travel and tourism industry.
♦    52% “liked” Facebook pages specific to an upcoming vacation

♦    77% of travelers read hotel reviews
♦    62% check out activity/attraction reviews
♦    48% read restaurant reviews

Top 5 uses of Smartphones when traveling:

  1. Taking photos
  2. Using map features
  3. Searching restaurants
  4. Searching activities and attractions
  5. Checking in prior to flight

After traveling:

♦   46% posted hotel reviews
♦   40% posted activity/attraction reviews
♦   40% posted restaurant reviews
♦   76% posted vacation photos to a social network
♦   55% “liked” Facebook pages specific to a vacation

This process feeds into the desires of people around them – and so ‘e-word of mouth’ begins. Are you ready?

Lee Sentell, Director, Alabama Tourism Department – Keynote: Economic Impact of Tourism in Alabama

JoJo Terry, Digital Marketing Director, Alabama Tourism Department – Overview of Social Media & tips in getting started

Casey Woods, Emporia Main Street Executive Director – Etown Mobile Application – Example of a community mobile application and how to go about setting one up for your community.

Jennifer Gregory, CEO, Greater Starkville Development Partnership – Facebook, Twitter, Email Newsletters, Blog, Pinterest with Implementation Strategies.

Go Mobile, Get Social…Get Ready for a Mobile Only World is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 11, in Alexander City. Electronic registration is open. Contact Mary Helmer, or 205-910-8819.

Digital Marketing Summit 2014

Thursday, Feb. 20, 8:30 a.m., Orange Beach Events Center at The Wharf
Free of charge

Keeping up with all things digital is tough, so Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (CVB) is planning a full day of learning with presentations, panels, and discussion to assist our Industry Partners with their digital marketing initiatives.
Topics covered will include responsive design and the CVB’s new website; SEO and social media and what they mean to each other; email marketing; content marketing; and an update on what the state is doing socially. Breakout sessions include hands-on sessions for Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Foursquare, the CVB’s Extranet, and other topics. In addition, our Social Concierge team will be on-site to help you activate accounts, answer questions, and help with your mobile technical challenges—so bring your phone, tablet or phablet! In addition, a trade show area will feature many of our digital marketing partners.

To register by the Feb. 17, deadline, go to:

Visit the website at:

Joe Wheeler State Park Resort hosts “Focus on Nature” photography weekend

Joe Wheeler State Park Resort is hosting “Focus on Nature”, a nature photography weekend Feb. 28-March 2. There will be a series of photography workshops, featuring master photographer John Dersham, and field trips designed to provide excellent photo opportunities in beautiful places with the on-site naturalist and photographic instruction.  There are seminars suitable for beginners and children, as well as for the professional photographer who wants to learn new tricks and ideas.

To register for the weekend, go to:
or visit Facebook:

Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau launches new website

The Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau (MCCVB) has launched its new website,, which features an in-depth look at the cities of Albertville, Arab, Boaz, Grant and Lake Guntersville.  Offering a pictorial glimpse of Marshall County, the website also features an annual calendar of events which illustrates Marshall County truly is a year-round destination.

Information on the 2014 Bassmaster Classic that takes place Feb. 21-23, as well as a countdown clock can also be found on the new site.

Visit the new site at:

The Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau is a not-for-profit organization promoting tourism and economic growth in Marshall County. For information on special events and attractions in Albertville, Arab, Boaz, Grant and Lake Guntersville, contact the MCCVB at 800-582-6282 or 256-582-7015; or visit the all new website at

Retirement party for Frances Smiley

The Alabama Tourism Department is hosting a retirement party for Frances Smiley, who is retiring March 1.   Friends of Ms. Smiley are invited to attend the party on Feb. 20, 2 – 3:30 p.m. in the Hall of Flags at the Alabama Center for Commerce, 401 Adams Ave., Montgomery.
Please RSVP to: 334-242-4169.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events
Feb. 14-23                 Indianapolis Boat, Sports & Travel Show, Indianapolis, IN
Feb 16-20                   National Tour Association (NTA) – Los Angeles, CA
Feb. 20                        Retirement party for Frances Smiley, Alabama Center for Commerce, Montgomery
Feb. 23-26                 Travel South Domestic Showcase, Charleston, WV
Mar. 11                       2014 Legislative Tourism Bash, RSA Activity Center, Montgomery
Mar. 27-30                Nashville Southern Women’s Show, Nashville, TN

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.
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Alabama Tourism Department