Alabama Tourism Department Newsletter March 5, 2014

• U.S. Space & Rocket Center is Alabama’s #1 tourism attraction

• National Shrimp Festival earns awards at industry conference

• Red Mountain Park recognized as National City Park Leader

• Park hosted the first annual African American tour

• Travel to Mobile

• Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries announces Facebook fishing photo contest

• Gina Simpson to lead Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission

• American Bus Association (ABA) nominations for Top 100 Events are open

• Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


U.S. Space & Rocket Center is Alabama’s #1 tourism attraction

More than 580,000 people visited the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville last year, ranking it number one among state attractions that charge admission, followed by the Birmingham Zoo at second with 574,176 and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at third with 530,678, state tourism officials say. Five of the state’s Top Ten attractions charging admission showed an increase in attendance over previous years, spokesman Brian Jones said. Attendance figures were collected by the Alabama Tourism Department from local tourism organizations. The USS Alabama Battleship Park in Mobile placed fourth with 371,229 visitors and the McWane Science Center was fifth with 316,918. Point Mallard Park was sixth with 246,093. The Montgomery Zoo ranked seventh with 244,178 and the Huntsville Botanical Garden was eighth with 225,000. EarlyWorks Museums in Huntsville was ninth with 189,500. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was tenth with 177,055. The Alabama Tourism Department also released the Top Ten attendance figures for other categories. Beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast were the number one natural destination in the state, attracting 5.5 million visitors last year. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens attracted 350,000 visitors to make it the most attended free attraction. Almost 800,000 people celebrated Mobile’s Mardi Gras making it the most attended event. Bryant-Denny Stadium was the number one sports destination with 710,538 fans attending University of Alabama home football games. For more information contact the Alabama Tourism Department or visit:

National Shrimp Festival earns awards at industry conference, Feb. 26

The National Shrimp Festival was recently presented a Bronze award for “Best Overall Festival” and an additional Bronze for “Best Digital Media” at the Southeast Festivals & Events Kaleidoscope Awards, sponsored by RCS Productions. The awards were given out during the 11th Annual Southeast Festivals & Events (SFEA) Conference in Savannah, GA on Feb. 18. The Best Overall Festival was based on two categories; a budget over $75,000 and a budget under $75,000. The National Shrimp Festival fell in the $75,000 and over budget. Fifteen other events, including The Southern Fried Festival in Columbia, TN and The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Bristol, Virginia, were spotlighted. The categories, in which a festival/event can win recognition, range from Best New Event, Best Creative Idea, Best Volunteer, Best Cultural Event and many more. The event is one of the nation’s premier outdoor festivals attracting 250,000 people, featuring over 300 vendors, arts & crafts, a retail marketplace, outdoor village and of course the prime attraction, Gulf Coast shrimp. To read the article online, go to:

Red Mountain Park recognized as National City Park Leader

National organization picks Red Mountain Park for its innovative practices in partnerships and fundraising In recognition of its unique approach to partnerships and fundraising, Red Mountain Park has been named one of 12 “Frontline Parks,” a nationwide contest sponsored each year by City Parks Alliance. Red Mountain Park was selected through a peer review process from a field of more than 40 entries across the country. Being named a Frontline Park is extremely exciting for us”, said the Park’s Executive Director, David Dionne. “Our goal here is to build the Park in the community while building the community into the Park. We have everything we need to succeed. We have an award-winning design, an incredible place that combines history, the environment and spiritual significance into one place, surrounded by a community that invests time, resources and talent with enthusiasm. I want people in Birmingham to weave this park right into the fabric of their lives. I want them to play, move, relax, visit and grow with one another here. I will know we will have been successful when one day in the near future people will wake up and truly wonder how they got along for all these years without Red Mountain Park.” Red Mountain Park provides universally accessible recreational opportunities, and is a financially self-sustaining urban park that is not reliant on government funding. “We selected Red Mountain Park as a Frontline Park because it exemplifies the power of urban parks to build community and make our cities sustainable and vibrant,” said Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance. “We hope that by shining the spotlight on Red Mountain Park, we can raise awareness about the ways investment in our nation’s urban parks pays off.” The park is built on a mountain that was the main source of iron ore for Birmingham’s iron and steel industry. U.S. Steel ceased ore mining on the site in the 1960s, leaving the private land vacant for more than forty years. In 2005, the company sold 1,200 acres of land atop the mountain to the Freshwater Land Trust for less than half its value and contributed $1 million in seed money to develop a public park on the site, effectively doubling the amount of greenspace in the city of Birmingham.

Park hosted the first annual African American tour

By Sarah Robinson, Selma Times Journal, Feb. 27

Old Cahawba Archaeological Park commemorated the upcoming 49th Anniversary of Bridge Crossing celebration with a tour showcasing the African-American history of the park March 1. The tour was the first of what will be an annual event. Led by Old Cahawba tour guide Dr. Jack Bergstresser, the tour highlighted some of the sites that are associated with the African-American community during the Reconstruction period. “So little is known about the Black community here,” Bergstresser said.” We don’t want their voices and their lives to be forgotten, so this tour is an effort to provide a window into that time.” “I think that where Cahawba is concerned, this is the tour that will make people aware of the role of African-American history,” Bergstresser said. To read the entire article, go to:

Travel to Mobile By Chris Christenson,

Hear about travel to Mobile, Alabama as the Amateur Traveler talks to Carla Rountree from about her home state. Carla says, “I grew up on the gulf coast in Alabama. There is a very small sliver of the state that sticks down between Mississippi and Florida. It is a lovely area. There are beautiful beaches. It is an area that was founded in the early 1700s so there is lots of culture, lots of history and it is even the area where Mardi Gras actually started in the USA. Mobile throws just as great a party as New Orleans but it is family friendly.” Mobile is known as the Azalea City so a trip to the city in the spring will allow you to see the city bedecked in flowers and also enjoy the Azalea Trail Run Festival. Besides the beaches, some of the popular attractions include Battleship Alabama (they also have a collection of World War II planes including a B52 bomber and a submarine). The expansive Bellingrath Gardens and Home, beautiful antebellum homes, and Forts Morgan, Gaines and Condé. The city of Mobile is on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. “There are very complex ecological systems right near Mobile. There are boat tours you can take. You can take kayak tours, pontoon tours and even cruises around all the river deltas and see all the little inlets, the alligators and all different kinds of wildlife.” “Southern hospitality is very present down there. The deep south has that reputation and it really is true. When they say ‘hey how are you doing?’ they actually do want to know”. To see the article online, go to:

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries announces Facebook fishing photo contest

Fishing season is here and the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) invites anglers to share their fishing experience through a freshwater fishing photo contest on the WFF Facebook page. The contest has three categories: Youth, under age 16; Ladies, age 16 and up; and Big Fish, open to any age or gender and any species of freshwater fish found in the state. The winners with the most “likes” in each category will have their photos published in the 2014-15 Alabama Hunting and Fishing Digest. Photos must be received by May 14. To enter, anglers must email their freshwater fishing photos to Traci Wood at with the subject “Facebook Photo Contest.” Please include your name, address, phone number and where the photo was taken. If you have a story associated with the photo, please include it in the email — it may better your chances of getting more “likes.” For more information about the WFF Facebook Freshwater Fishing Photo contest and to view other wildlife photos, visit the WFF Facebook page at:

Gina Simpson to lead Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission

The Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission (TTSC) announced the appointment of Gina Simpson as its next president and CEO. TTSC works to increase economic impact to the City of Tuscaloosa by positioning Tuscaloosa as a destination. Mrs. Simpson has served on the board of directors since 2010 and was chair of the board in 2013. In 2009, Mrs. Simpson was awarded the Rising Star Entrepreneurship Award by the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce and in 2011 was presented with the Roots and Wings Award by the Women in Business Council. She is very active in the community, serving on several boards. Mrs. Simpson also serves on the TTSC Partnership Committee, as VP of the board of directors for the Alabama Cycling Association, a member of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Future PAC Board of Directors and the Tuscaloosa Downtown Entertainment District Committee. She is the 2015 chairperson for the American Heart Association Heart Walk.

American Bus Association (ABA) nominations for Top 100 Events are open

The American Bus Association (ABA) has officially opened nominations for the 2015 Top 100 Events in North America. These events bring group tours to your area so share this with all your networks. This is a free marketing opportunity for your area. E-mail your nominations to: All nominations are guaranteed to be presented to the nominations committee for review, but not guaranteed to win.

Alabama Tourism Department upcoming events

Mar. 11 2014 Legislative Tourism Bash, RSA Activity Center, Montgomery

Mar. 27-30 Nashville Southern Women’s Show, Nashville, TN

April 3 ATD Workshop in Tuscumbia

April 5 Annual Spring Walking Tours begin

May 3-6, 2014 Alabama League of Municipalities, Mobile 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:

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