Alabama Tourism Department News April 2, 2014

  • Nominations again being accepted for National Geographic project
  • Washington Post reports Alabama’s April Walking Tours program returns
  • Tour Muscle Shoals Sound Studios before renovation
  • John Dersham selected the Times-Journal’s Citizen of Influence for 2014
  • AMLA launches new mobile app and responsive design website
  • Montgomery plans 50th anniversary of completion of voting rights march
  • Montgomery nominated for Best Historic City
  • Alabama Preservation Conference to host documentary Muscle Shoals
  • Documentary tells of a town, a tornado, and twenty men named Phil Campbell
  • The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street brings exhibit to Wetumpka
  • Bob Baumhower’s ShrimpFest at Gulf State Park
  • Condé Nast Traveler wants you to vote for the state with the coolest license plate
  • Foley hires Don Staley as Executive Director of Sports
  • Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
  • Alabama Welcome Centers celebrate 2014 May Tourism Day
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Nominations again being accepted for National Geographic project

On March 25, the Alabama Tourism Department and National Geographic unveiled a new four-state project; U.S. Gulf Coast States Geotourism. Some 341 Alabama sites nominated by 121 Alabamians are part of the interactive website and mobile app. There is also a printed brochure listing as many of the sites as space permitted.

The Alabama sites joined those from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida in the four-state ecotourism collaboration with National Geographic.

Now that the website,, is active nominations are once again being accepted.

Organizations are encouraged to nominate their own locations.

For instructions on how to nominate Alabama events and special places that you feel should be part of this geotourism project, click on this direct link:
Washington Post reports Alabama’s April Walking Tours program returns

By Associated Press,, March 28

More than 30 Alabama towns will be participating next month in the April Walking Tours program.

The Alabama Tourism Department coordinates the tours, which include historic districts and courthouse squares.
Department spokesman Brian Jones says more than 1,800 tours have been conducted since the program began 11 years ago, and the program keeps growing each year. The tours are at 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings in April.

Towns participating include: Albertville, Arab, Ashland, Athens, Atmore, Bessemer, Birmingham, Columbia, Columbiana, Courtland, Cullman, Decatur, Dothan, Eufaula, Fairhope, Florence, Greensboro, and Heflin.

Also participating are: Huntsville, Madison, Mobile, Monroeville, Montevallo, Montgomery, Mooresville, Phenix City, Prattville, Selma, Sheffield, Sylacauga, Troy, Tuscumbia and Wetumpka.

To see the article online, go to:


Tour Muscle Shoals Sound Studios before renovation

By Lucy Berry,, March 26

Alabama music lovers have an opportunity this weekend to see the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in its original form before California-based Beats Electronics transforms the building into a fully-functioning recording studio.

The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation purchased the facility in June 2013. A few months later, Beats Electronics announced it would allocate proceeds from all Beats products sold from Nov. 29 to Dec. 25 to restore the studio in “an effort to preserve the rich history and culture that is represents,” according to a news release.

Bonnie Bak, marketing director for the foundation, said they opened up the studio for three days in early March the same weekend as the Alabama Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony. More than 700 local and out-of-town music fans toured the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Most of them have such a connection in a real way to the studio,” Bak said. “They either worked there, have lived here their whole life or they just have this connection with the music. They want to come see all of it.”

The studio, which is on 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, will be open for walk-through tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a $5 donation to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. T-shirts will also be available for purchase.

Bak said Beats Electronics, which is investing between $700,000 and $1 million in renovations, plans to kick off the restoration process this fall.

Built in 1945, the iconic structure operated as a recording studio from 1969-79 and saw during its reign hundreds of established musical artists, including The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Percy Sledge, Art Garfunkel and more.

Beats Electronics, co-founded by hip hop icon Dr. Dre and Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine, will also use proceeds to renovate FAME Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals.

Frequented recently by artists like Alicia Keys and Band of Horses, FAME Recording Studio recorded soul-defining classics, such as “Mustang Sally,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and “Funky Broadway.” The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio went on to produce “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones, “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon and “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger.

“Too many of America’s greatest recording studios are falling into commercial disrepair or falling prey to the pressures of real estate development,” said Beats president Luke Wood in a statement. “We are extremely happy that we can leverage Beats’ success to help return Muscle Shoals to a level befitting its rich history and create a program that will provide the next generation of great producers, engineers and recording artists with access to free studio time and the opportunity to learn the trade from experienced recording professionals, and we are especially pleased to launch this project during the holiday season.”

To read the article online, go to:

John Dersham selected the Times-Journal’s Citizen of Influence for 2014

By Lew Gilliland, Times-Journal, March 29

About a year into his job as executive director of the DeKalb County Tourism Association, John Dersham began to feel like the organization needed to make a change. “I started noticing what people were saying,” he said. “They were saying we love your website, but when they went to the website it looked like there were only three places to eat in the whole county because there were only three restaurants that were members. “A lot of little things that people like to go do, [those places] weren’t members. The tourists deserve full knowledge of all the things they have to do and see in DeKalb County.”

So Dersham began a push to transition the membership association into a destination marketing organization. That effort proved successful, and in 2012 the DeKalb County Tourism Association became simply DeKalb Tourism. And Dersham got a new title — president and CEO.

For his efforts in spotlighting DeKalb County and growing its tourism industry, John Dersham was selected the Times-Journal’s Citizen of Influence for 2014.

The reorganization was just part of Dersham’s efforts to promote tourism here. According to state figures, visitors were spending $48 million annually in DeKalb when Dersham was hired in 2008. Today, that number is $71 million.

Dersham is not a DeKalb County native. However, he said that’s probably helped him be a better promoter for the area. “When I interviewed for this job, the board really liked the fact that I came here as a tourist,” he said. “That was a really big deal to them. So often people who live here don’t get around on their own turf. Here, I found a destination where I wanted to live. We handpicked this place. We did it because of all the tourism attractions.”

AMLA launches new mobile app and responsive design website

The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) has rolled out a brand new mobile app and a new version of its website to offer a better browsing experience on mobile devices. The mobile app, North Alabama Road Trips, is free to download and the website has been redesigned to feature a responsive design allowing visitors to view the full version of the website on any mobile device.

The North Alabama Road Trips app, now available for download on iTunes and Google Play, offers 14 different road trips through the northern region of Alabama. Along with a description of each attraction as well as lodging and dining options, the app offers contact information and website links for visitors to click on for even more information. “The new mobile app is a handy tool for visitors to use either when they are planning a visit to North Alabama or for easy access to travel information once they arrive,” said AMLA President/CEO Tami Reist. The mobile app was designed by Populace, Inc. ( and is free to download.

Built and designed on an entirely new platform by Paramore (, the North Alabama website,, can easily be viewed on different browsers and on all smartphones and small tablet devices. Features of the website include a responsive design that is optimized for all mobile devices and small tablets, an easier reading experience, playable videos, a faster download speed, sharing capabilities with social media sites, and menu access from any page.

“We strive to provide our visitors the best experience regardless of what type of device they are using to access information on North Alabama,” said Reist. “Today, people are planning their trips using various devices and having a responsive website will allow our information to flow seamlessly across different screen sizes and software platforms, providing an optimal viewing experience.”

For more information, contact Reist at 800-648-5381 or 256-350-3500.

Montgomery plans 50th anniversary of completion of voting rights march

By Mike Cason,, March 25

Montgomery County Commissioner Elton Dean was a 10th grader at Carver High School in 1965 when marchers completing the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march reached the school in west Montgomery on their way to the State Capitol.

Dean said the school principal implored students not to join the march, but he did anyway.

“If it wasn’t for voters’ rights, I would not be where I am today and other black politicians would not be because we did not have representation at that time,” Dean said.

Today, 49 years later, Dean joined Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Alabama State University President Gwendolyn Boyd in announcing plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march in 2015.

They held a news conference at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, walked a block to place a wreath on the steps of the state Capitol, prayed and joined a small crowd in singing “We Shall Overcome.”

On March 25, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr., spoke to 25,000 people at the foot of the Capitol steps to end the march. The march helped convince Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, ending literacy tests and other schemes used to keep blacks from voting.

Officials said planning for the 50th anniversary is under way now to make sure the event lives up to its historical significance.

“The world will be watching next year,” Strange said. “The world will be coming here.”

Strange wants the city to coordinate events that are part of next year’s celebration. The mayor said he met with Birmingham Mayor William Bell to get ideas about how Birmingham commemorated the 50th anniversary of historic civil rights events there in 2013.

ASU’s Boyd said she would collaborate with leaders at other universities in Montgomery to get them involved.
Another marcher, the Rev. Robert S. Graetz, led prayers at today’s events. Graetz was pastor to a black congregation at a Lutheran Church in Montgomery from 1955 to 1958. His house was bombed twice during that time.

In 1965, he traveled to Montgomery from Ohio to complete the last leg of the march from Selma. He recalls hearing jeers from people as marchers passed, protected by National Guard troops.

“No matter what they said and what they thought about us, they hadn’t stopped our movement from going on to succeed,” Graetz said. “We haven’t finished yet but we’re on our way. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Graetz and his wife, Jean, moved back to Montgomery in 2005. He said he was glad to see the planning for next year start early. He said the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott in 2005 was not a unified celebration.

Strange said the city is also planning for the 60th anniversary of the bus boycott next year.

Officials put out a call for organizations and people to submit ideas for next year’s voting rights march anniversary.

“We want all you to buy in like Alabama State, like the county, like the city,” Dean said.

People are asked to email their ideas, suggestions or plans to:

To see the article online, go to:

Montgomery nominated for Best Historic City

By 10Best: a division of USA TODAY Travel Media Group

Your market is represented in the nominee list for a 10Best Readers’ Choice contest category which has just launched.

The nominees for Best Historic City were announced at noon today, and Montgomery, AL is one of 20 finalists competing for a spot in the winners list.

Prior campaigns have seen a full range of social media influencers: a US Senator, a Governor, a mayor, and of course those already loyal to nominee. I’m sure Montgomery, Ala. would appreciate the support of Alabama during its campaign to win.

Voting is open now, runs for four weeks only and ends Mon., April 28, at 11:59 a.m. EDT.

You can see the entire list of nominees and vote at Nominee supporters can vote once per day, per category.

To follow live voting action and discover the most active campaigns for the award, search #10BestChoice on Twitter (we are @10Best). You can also find us on Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

Alabama Preservation Conference to host documentary Muscle Shoals

The 2014 Alabama Preservation Conference will host A Night at the Movies, on Fri., April 25, 9:00 p.m., at the Communications Building – Room 131, on campus of the University of North Alabama, Pine Street. The documentary “Muscle Shoals” will be screened and will include a Q&A session with David Hood, an original member of the famed Swampers.

“The theme of this year’s conference is Preserving Alabama: Finding Your History Rhythm. What better way to examine the history of the Shoals area than to look at the role the music industry has played in the tradition and development of this area,” stated Bo Osborn, a member of the Alabama Trust For Historic Preservation board of directors and this year’s conference co-chair. “We are so pleased to be able to offer this documentary to attendees and to the community.”

The film screening is open to the public and admission is free of charge. A Night at the Movies is sponsored by the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area and the University of North Alabama.

The 2014 Alabama Preservation Conference will be held from April 24 through 26 in the Shoals Area. The conference is presented by the Alabama Historic Commission, Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation and the Black Heritage Council of Alabama. Conference registration is open to the public.

For additional information and a registration form, please visit


Documentary tells of a town, a tornado, and twenty men named Phil Campbell

I’m With Phil is a feature length documentary about a group of people, all named Phil Campbell, who spontaneously decide to help the town of Phil Campbell after it is struck by a deadly tornado.

The film just met its $20,000 base goal on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter at and now they are trying to reach new fundraising goals before the campaign ends on April 6.

To see the video for more information on the second phase of their campaign, go to:

For the film trailer, go to:

I’M WITH PHIL website:

The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street brings exhibit to Wetumpka

The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street will bring the exhibition entitled “The Way We Worked” to Wetumpka on May 23, for its final Alabama appearance. The exhibition, made possible by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, will be shown in the Elmore County Museum located at 112 South Main Street through July 6. Hours for the “The Way We Worked” will be Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Working by the River”, a joint endeavor of the Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce and the Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery, encompasses a series of special events that will take place in downtown Wetumpka and throughout the River Region this summer. The Smithsonian exhibition, “The Way We Worked,” has been the impetus and inspiration for a series of other events and exhibitions that will run concurrently.

“Alabama at Work” and “Dixie Art Colony: a Look at Its Legacy” hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays at the Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery in the City of Wetumpka Administrative Building located at 408 South Main Street.

“Dixie Art Colony: a Look at Its Legacy”, the retrospective exhibition will explore the life and work of famed Wetumpka artist Kelly Fitzpatrick who was a founder and mainstay of the Dixie Art Colony on Lake Jordan. The Dixie Art Colony was a place for struggling artists to work, study and play during The Great Depression and into the 1940s. Fitzpatrick co-founded the DAC with Sallie Carmichael of Montgomery, the financial backer. Carmichael’s daughter Warree LeBron was among the artists who worked there, along with Arthur Stewart, Frank Applebee, Mildred Nungester Wolfe, Karl Wolfe, Louise Smith Everton and others. The exhibition will include loaned original artwork by many of these artists as well as storyboards, which will chronicle the history of the Colony and the life of Kelly Fitzpatrick. This is believed to be the first retrospective ever done on the Dixie Art Colony.

While “The Way We Worked” focuses on the history of work in the United States, “Alabama at Work” will focus on the history of work in Alabama and specifically Elmore County. The exhibition will feature competitively chosen original artwork depicting the theme and a series of storyboards which will include the history of work in the 180 years of Wetumpka’s history.

Both “Alabama at Work” and “Dixie Art Colony: a Look at Its Legacy” will also explore President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s depression era economic stimulus program the WPA Federal Art Project. Docent tours of “Dixie Art Colony: a Look at Its Legacy” and “Alabama at Work” will be available to the public on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Art Walk” in historic downtown Wetumpka will also be available for viewing at leisure. The works of art are copies of original work submitted by artists and placed in downtown storefront windows. At the same time these exhibitions are in place an extensive calendar of special events is planned, including special tours available in Tallassee and Millbrook, a night of storytelling in Wetumpka and a series of lectures.

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Art will host a special showing of Kelly Fitzpatrick art from its collection.
Beginning April 15, a calendar of events will be available at:

Bob Baumhower’s ShrimpFest at Gulf State Park, March 29

A huge crowd turned out to celebrate Alabama State Parks System’s 75th anniversary at the Gulf State Park Saltwater Pavilion. Visitors paide $3 and got to sample Conecuh sausage, a shrimp boil and barbecue. In addition there was live music from the Jay Williams Band and inflatables for the kids.

To see the article and images on line, go to:

Condé Nast Traveler wants you to vote for the state with the coolest license plate

We know you’ve got a ton of state pride, and we want you to share it! is currently running a contest to find out which state has the coolest license plate in the U.S. To celebrate road trip season, we’re asking travel lovers to vote for their favorite state. Help us spread the word—and show your local pride—by sharing the news on your social media networks and to your fellow state fans.

You’ll find the story here:

And here are some sample social posts to share with your followers:

Twitter: Show your local pride! @CNTraveler wants to know: Which is the coolest state license plate in America? Vote at

Facebook: Show your local pride! Condé Nast Traveler wants to know: Which is the coolest state license plate in America? Vote at

Foley hires Don Staley as Executive Director of Sports

Foley officials announce they have hired Don Staley as executive director for a planned multi-use sports complex that will provide the city with the capacity to host large indoor and outdoor sports tournaments. Staley is the former executive director of sports for the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission.

“I’m very excited to have Don Staley join our team,” said Mayor John Koniar. “He is highly respected in his profession and brings a wealth of experience to the job. Don will enable us to hit the ground running and help us maximize our potential for this project in a much quicker time frame. Great to have an individual of his caliber join us.”

Staley was instrumental in forming the Tuscaloosa Sports Foundation, where he served as executive director. The organization later merged with the Tuscaloosa Convention and Visitors Bureau to create the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission, where he served as executive director of sports.

Foley’s new outdoor sports complex, to be built by the city, will consist of 12 state-of-the-art outdoor fields that can be used for soccer, football and lacrosse, and a 100,000-square-foot sports and events center that will accommodate volleyball, basketball and other indoor sporting events.

Construction of the $27 million complex could begin as early as March, with completion slated for 2015, according to city officials. The economic impact of the complex is estimated at $38 million annually, based on an economic impact study commissioned by the city.

A multi-lane entrance into the new facility will be created off Alabama 59 with the extension of Pride Drive, as part of a $12 million federal transportation grant which Foley received last year. The new roadway, which will extend Pride Drive east past Juniper Street, will lead directly into the new sports complex and ultimately connect to Baldwin County 20.

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism

The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism (AGCT) will be at the Hotel at Auburn University in Auburn, July 19-22. The Auburn-Opelika CVB and the AGCT staff are each doing a mystery incentive for some of those who register early.

Awards nominations open April 11. For awards listings and more information, contact Cynthia Flowers,

For more information and to register as well as make hotel reservations, go to:

Alabama Welcome Centers celebrate 2014 May Tourism Day

During the month of May each of Alabama Tourism Department’s eight welcome centers will celebrate Tourism Day between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. For the listing of dates for each center, see the calendar below.

For contact information, please visit:

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

April 3 ATD Workshop in Tuscumbia
April 5 Annual Spring Walking Tours begin
May 1 Sumter Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 2 Cleburne Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 3-6 Alabama League of Municipalities, Mobile
May 8 Lanett Welcome Center Tourism Day
May 9 Houston 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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