Alabama Tourism Department News April 15, 2014

  • Alabama BBQ Bracket 2014: Little roadside joint knocks off the big boys
  • Meet the Florence folks whose ribs smoked the competition
  • “Muscle Shoals” makes debut on PBS and APT
  • names 10 best places to see amazing quilts
  • ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ other Alabama-set books draw tourists to state
  • New audio walking tour of Monroeville’s Historic Downtown Square
  • ‘I’m grateful to Alabama,’ Octavia Spencer says in Garden & Gun interview
  • Vote for Montgomery, Best Historic City
  • Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center developing Black Belt Quilt Trail
  • Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Alabama BBQ Bracket 2014: Little roadside joint knocks off the big boys

By Bob Carlton,, April 7

Smokin’ on the Boulevard, a little roadside barbecue joint in Florence, knocked off the big boys to win the 2014 Alabama BBQ Bracket championship, the Alabama Tourism Department announced this afternoon.
Voters in the statewide Facebook contest selected Smokin’ on the Boulevard’s smoked ribs as the state’s top barbecue dish.

The other Final Four entries were Bessemer’s Bob Sykes BarB-Q, which won for best sauce, and Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, which won for both best chicken and best pork.
Smokin’ on the Boulevard was voted the overall winner.
Located at 4080 Florence Blvd., Smokin’ on the Boulevard has only been open a couple of years, but has fast made a name for itself with its dry-rubbed meats, which are slow-cooked over hickory coals. The menu features Boston butts, St. Louis-style racks of ribs, whole chickens with white sauce, smoked bologna, stew, smoked cabbage and more.

Smokin’ on the Boulevard is open only three days a week, Thursdays through Saturdays, and the ‘cue often sells out. Especially now.

For a menu, prices, hours and more, go to the Smokin’ on the Boulevard Facebook page at

About 20,000 votes were cast in the three-week contest, which began with a field of 32 total entries – eight each in the four categories of ribs, chicken, pork and sauce. Voters went to the Alabama Food Facebook page to select their favorites.

To see the page, go to:


Meet the Florence folks whose ribs smoked the competition

By Bob Carlton,, April 9
The folks who own Smokin’ on the Boulevard — the little Florence roadside barbecue stand that just defied the odds to win the statewide 2014 Alabama Barbecue Bracket — aren’t about to let their sudden fame go to their heads.
They plan to keep doing things just the way they always have.
“As long as we have fun, we’re going to keep doing it and just see what happens,” pit master Jeff Carter says. “We’re very thankful for our customers who voted us through to beat Dreamland and Big Bob Gibson and Jim ‘N Nick’s and all the different ones. We’re just tickled to death to be here.”
If this were the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Smokin’ on the Boulevard would be like that the 14-seed that knocked off the three-seed in the first round, the little Mercer that ousted mighty Duke.
Except Smokin’ on the Boulevard kept pulling off the upset round after round to win the Alabama Tourism Department’s online barbecue contest — beating Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q in Warrior in the first round, Saw’s BBQ in Homewood in the second and Dreamland Bar-B-Que out of Tuscaloosa in the third.
Then, after winning in best ribs category, Smokin’ on the Boulevard topped the other Final Four entries – Bessemer’s Bob Sykes BarB-Q , which won best sauce, and Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q-, which won both best chicken and best pork – to capture the overall title of Alabama’s Ultimate Barbecue Champion.
“They’re all great restaurants,” says Doug Hill, who owns Smokin’ on the Boulevard along with his wife, Karen Hill, and Carter. “We’ve eaten at them, and they’re good places. We’re just blessed that the people voted for us and picked us out to win this year.”
The Hills, who sell lift machines used to transport and install mobile homes, and Carter, who perfected the fine art of cooking smoked meat from Lynchburg, TN, barbecue king Kerry Syler, opened Smokin’ on the Boulevard on a lark in December 2011.
And they’ve been smokin’ ever since.
“It was just an idea,” Doug Hill says. “We were driving down the road one day, and we thought, ‘Hey, if we got out there and started cooking meat, I wonder if anybody would pull in?’ And the first day, we probably had 35 cars pull into the parking lot, and we sold out that first afternoon. We went and bought some more meat the next day and sold out the next day. And the idea was born.”
To read the entire article, go to:


“Muscle Shoals” makes debut on PBS and APT

The “Muscle Shoals” documentary will make its debut on National Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and Alabama Public Television (APT) Mon., April 21, at 8 p.m. Thur., April 24, footage from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction banquet will air on APT at 7 p.m. and will be followed by another showing of the documentary.
In honor of the TV debut, all four local mayors have proclaimed April 21-26 as “Muscle Shoals Music Week.”
Also, several special events are planned for the week prior to the television debut.

Tues., April 15, State Tourism Director Lee Sentell visits the Shoals for a special presentation honoring Rick Hall and the Swampers at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. A 28-foot banner depicting the group will be unfurled in front of the Hall of Fame building at 10 a.m.

Wed., April 16, Hall and the Swampers will be guests on the Rick and Bubba Show at 9 a.m.
The documentary along with AMHOF banquet footage will also air on APT on the following dates:

Sat., April 26, 8 p.m. AMHOF Banquet and 9 p.m. Muscle Shoals Documentary
Sun., April 27, 4 p.m. Muscle Shoals Documentary and 6 p.m. AMHOF Banquet

APT will air the documentary without the AMHOF banquet footage on the following dates:

Wed., April 23, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Thur., April 24, 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Sat., April 26, 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Sun., April 27, 2 a.m. and 4 p.m.
(Times are subject to change. Check local listings.) names 10 best places to see amazing quilts
By Larry Bleiberg,, April 11

Quilts are hot — and not just for keeping toasty at night. The humble linen has evolved into an art form that’s as likely to be displayed on a wall as on a bed. “It’s pretty broad, from the extreme fine arts world to the grassroots,” says Ricky Tims, one of the world’s top fiber artists. The art form celebrates Quilt Week, one of its biggest annual events, April 23-26 in Paducah, Ky. Tims shares favorite places to see this “soft art”.

Gee’s Bend Quilting Cooperative
Gee’s Bend, AL

The famed African-American quilting community of tiny Gee’s Bend has been featured on U.S. postage stamps and in international museum exhibits. Visitors can meet the quilters and buy works from pot holders to full-size, abstract fabric murals. “Their designs have an amazing graphic quality,” Tims says. 334-573-2323;

To read the entire article and see the other nine places, go to:


‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ other Alabama-set books draw attention and tourists to state

By Cheryl Wray,, April 3

If you’ve ever made the trek to the small Alabama town of Monroeville, chances are it had to do with ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

And the same thing goes for the Irondale Café or the Bayou LaBatre area. It’s likely that your readings of the novels ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café’ or ‘Forest Gump’ inspired your travels.
Popular literature can have a tangible effect on interest in a particular area, and can in turn bring tourism money to a state or region.

That concept—that literature can increase tourism and make an economic impact—drives the SouthEastern Literary Tourism Initiative (SELTI) as it encourages writers to pen fiction focusing on place, and readers to engage in that fiction in an interactive way.

The organization, which was launched in 2009, has published two tourism-themed novels and holds an annual tourism fiction writing contest. It’s working with the Alabama Tourism Department, University of Alabama, University of South Alabama, Jacksonville State University and other agencies to promote tourism fiction.
SELTI founder Patrick Brian Miller said that today’s readers have the opportunity to interact with the stories they’re reading through technology.

“Today’s modern e-readers allow readers to instantly browse tourism websites related to fiction through links embedded into the story, but many writers and publishers have not thought to include that yet,” he said. “Part of our mission is to encourage writers, publishers, tourism attractions and governments to work together for a common goal of promoting tourism.”

He said that Alabama is in the lead in this, with SELTI publishing what ‘USA Today’ recognized as the first tourism novel published with an interactive tourism guide embedded with links.
“The novel ‘Blind Fate’ includes the Rosa Parks Museum, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, along with many other cultural attractions,” he said.

According to Guntersville’s Kathryn Lang, the winner of the first SELTI novel-writing contest, literature has a proven track record as a tool for bringing tourists into an area.

“To Kill a Mockingbird brings in thousands of tourists to Monroeville every year, especially during special spring events,” she said. “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil brought in millions of dollars of tourism revenue to Savannah. Forrest Gump drew tourists to Bayou La Batre.”

Lang said, though, that today’s technology brings added opportunities to combine travel and reading.
“Many who read the novel in school are not even aware of Monroeville’s literary tourism events. What if every student who read the novel on a Kindle or iPad was also able to click on a link that led directly to Monroeville’s courthouse museum? That would be reaching millions of potential tourists over the years instead of thousands,” she said.

To read the entire article online, go to:


New audio walking tour of Monroeville’s Historic Downtown Square

Some twenty-five historic sites, buildings and attractions in Monroeville’s National Register District are featured in “Walk Monroeville”, a printed publication by the Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce. These sites are now featured in an audio tour narrated by many different Monroeville voices.

Signage was made possible through a grant provided by U. S. Department of Transportation National Scenic Byways Program and Alabama Department of Transportation. Each sign displays a picture of the corresponding attraction, along with instructions as to how to access the respective audio recordings.

The tour includes the Old Courthouse Museum, the original jail, the Atticus Finch monument and the Truman Capote historic marker among many others.

For further information, please contact the Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce at 251/743-2879.


‘I’m grateful to Alabama,’ Octavia Spencer says in Garden & Gun interview
By Bob Carlton,, April 11

Hollywood is still stuck in the past when it comes to portraying Southerners, Montgomery native and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer says in an interview with Garden & Gun magazine.

“They are still hung up on the South we were before I was born,” Spencer tells Garden & Gun. “But we are more complex than what I often see on television and film. Just because we talk slower, we aren’t stupid. We are the sum of all of the parts.

“The thing about the South is we accept our history,” Spencer goes on to say. “We don’t push it under the rug. There is racism all over the United States. Most Southerners I know, we definitely find ourselves defending our heritage.

“But let me tell you something, whatever you think about the South, if your car breaks down in any Southern city, you’re only going to be sitting on the road five minutes, max. You don’t even have to pop up your hood. When my car broke down in LA, nobody stopped. They just kept whizzing by.”

Asked about thanking her home state in her 2012 Oscar acceptance speech for her role in “The Help,” Spencer, an Auburn University graduate, tells Garden & Gun: “I’m grateful to Alabama.”

Spencer recently reunited with her friend and “The Help” director Tate Taylor in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up,” which stars Chadwick Boseman of “42” as the Godfather of Soul. Spencer plays Brown’s Aunt Honey, who helped raise him after he was abandoned by his mother. “Get On Up” is scheduled for an August release.

To see this article online, go to:


Vote for Montgomery, Best Historic City

The current leaders on 10Best and USA TODAY’s Readers’ Choice contest for Best Historic City are:
Annapolis, MD
Montgomery, AL
Savannah, GA
Keep Alabama on everyone’s mind by rocking the vote at
Voting is open until 11:59 a.m. EDT, on Mon., April 28. To get a look at live voting action, look for

#10BestChoice on Twitter at @10Best, and also on Facebook and Google+.

Winners will be revealed on Wed., April 30, at 11:59am EDT on 10Best and promoted shortly thereafter on USA TODAY.


Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center developing Black Belt Quilt Trail

Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center (BBTCAC) is currently seeking volunteers to assist with the development of a Black Belt Quilt Trail – Alabama’s first of its kind. This trail will ultimately include stops in all nineteen counties that BBTCAC serves to include historic sites, quilting guilds, audio and cell phone tours, public artworks, fabric stores, and more. While the trail will serve as a tourism and economic development opportunity for these counties, it will also highlight historic and contemporary quilting, along with historic sites and local Black Belt Artists.

Interested persons should contact Kristin Law (, Art Programs & Marketing Manager, or Jennifer Smith (, AmeriCorps VISTA & Educational Programs Coordinator, at BBTCAC.


Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Join tourism professionals from around the State of Alabama for the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, July 19-22, Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center. Educational sessions, tourism vendors trade show, silent auction, tourism industry updates, legislative update session and networking opportunities will be offered over the 2.5 day conference. Networking opportunities with tourism professionals as well as suppliers to the tourism industry will be offered.

Visit to view the full agenda, hotel reservations, and registration. Full conference registration is $350.00.

Awards nominations open April 11. For awards listings and more information, contact Cynthia Flowers,
Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

April 12, 18 & 25   April Walking Tours
May 1   Sumter Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 2   Cleburne Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 3-6   Alabama League of Municipalities Conference, Mobile
May 9   Houston Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 15   Lanett Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 22   Baldwin Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 23   Grand Bay Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 29   DeKalb Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 30   Ardmore Welcome Center Tourism Day
July 19-22   Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Auburn
Sept. 7-14   World Leisure Congress, Mobile

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