Alabama Tourism Department News May 27, 2014

  • ‘Selma’ movie under way, will film in Selma and Montgomery
  • Al Hutchinson to lead Mobile area tourism efforts
  • Chef Hastings opening new restaurant: Food & Wine has already noticed
  • Birmingham Zoo plans $15M renovation
  • Alabama’s top paid destination in Huntsville gets accolade from TripAdvisor
  • Decatur’s Point Mallard makes 14 Greatest Water Parks list
  • McWane Science Center to participate in Blue Star Museums program
  • Billy Reid’s big fashion from small Alabama town
  • Ave Maria Grotto is one of 10Best / USA TODAY Readers’ Choice nominations
  • ‘Muscle Shoals’ documentary film streaming on Netflix
  • Muscle Shoals legends open Tennessee music festival
  • ShrimpFest comes to Lakepoint Saturday
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


 ‘Selma’ movie under way, will film in Selma and Montgomery in June

By Bob Carlton,, May 22

Filming began this week in Atlanta on the civil-right drama “Selma,” Paramount Pictures and the Pathe production company have announced.

Portions of the movie also will be filmed in Selma and Montgomery in late June, Kathy Faulk, manager of the Alabama Film Office, told

“Selma” stars David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and it culminates with the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march that eventually led President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Oyelowo previously appeared as one of the Tuskegee Airmen in the 2012 film “Red Tails.” Bessemer native Andre Holland, who appeared in Jackie Robinson biopic “42,” plays Andrew Young.

The film crew is scheduled to be in Selma on June 23-26 to film on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Faulk said. On June 27, the filmmakers are scheduled to shoot a pivotal scene where King leads civil rights demonstrators down Dexter Avenue toward the Alabama State Capitol, Faulk said.

“We are really excited and proud,” Faulk said. “As briefly as they are going to be here, it’s going to have a big impact.”

“Selma” is directed by Ava DuVernay, whose 2012 drama “Middle of Nowhere” won the directing award at the Sundance Film Festival.

“This story will resonate deeply with not only those brave men and women who fought for voting rights alongside Dr. King, but also the countless millions of people who continue to fight against discrimination in voting today,” Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, said in a statement.

Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt are among the producers of “Selma.”

To see this article online, go to:

Al Hutchinson to lead Mobile area tourism efforts

Al Hutchinson has been appointed to the position of President/CEO of the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Hutchinson, who has 25 years in the hospitality and destination marketing arena, begins July 1, with his first responsibilities being to assess the current organizational vision and strategies of the Mobile Bay CVB.

Chef Chris Hastings opening new restaurant and Food & Wine has already noticed

By Bob Carlton,, May 21

Birmingham chef Chris Hastings hasn’t even started building his new restaurant, but it’s already made Food & Wine magazine’s list of  8 Amazing New Grill Restaurants in America.

The list appears in the June issue of the magazine, which is on newsstands now.

Hastings, who co-owns Hot and Hot Fish Club with his wife, Idie, told that they are in the early stages of building a casual, rustic, 60-seat restaurant that will adjoin Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery at Pepper Place.

The restaurant, which will feature a wood-fired oven, will be called Ovenbird, named after the national bird of Argentina and Uruguay.

The menu will reflect Hastings’ farm-to-table philosophy, incorporating local and seasonal Southern ingredients with the flame-grilled cooking styles of South America, Hastings said.

Hastings said Food & Wine contacted him about his new restaurant several months ago, and at the time, he thought it would be open this summer. Now, though, it looks more like November, he said.

He is still awaiting a building permit, and once that is approved, the restaurant should open in another 16 to 18 weeks, he said.

“Ovenbird is a reality,” Hastings said. “It is not an ‘if’ question. It is a ‘when’ question.”

The menu will feature small-plate meals that will encourage diners to pick and choose from a number of selections, he said.

“It will be a place to go for a quick bite to eat and a glass of wine — no reservations,” he said. “It’s going to be very unique, certainly for Birmingham.”

The restaurant will be nestled in the gardens and bordered by the wrought-iron fence outside Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery.

To see the complete Food & Wine list of 8 Amazing New Grill Restaurants, go here.

To read the article online, go to:

Birmingham Zoo plans $15M renovation

Birmingham Business Journal, May 20

The Birmingham Zoo is launching a $15 million capital campaign to fund a massive renovation project.

The project would involve a significant facelift for the entrance to the attraction, a new plaza and a new Asian Forest exhibit that would house tigers, orangutans and siamang monkeys.

As part of the project, the current entrance would be transformed into a new entry plaza with classrooms and a focus on education.

According to the Birmingham News, the Birmingham City Council voted to raise $7.5 million in bonds for the project. The nonprofit will raise the remainder of the funds through private donations.

Construction on the project is expected to take three years, following a 12-month design phase, according to the report.

The Zoo drew nearly 575,000 visitors in 2013, which was a record total and a 5 percent increase from the previous year.

The capital campaign comes on the heels of another multimillion-dollar renovation at the Zoo: the Trails of Africa exhibit that opened in 2011 and has been credited with boosting attendance at the attraction.

Capital improvements at the Zoo have totaled more than $30 million since 1999.

“The Zoo has been a distinguished attraction for the Birmingham community for nearly 60 years. The new renovations will be an exciting opportunity for the community to come together and watch this landmark grow and develop into an even greater institution,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell.

To read this article online, go to:

McWane Science Center to participate in Blue Star Museums program

McWane Science Center recently announced its participation in Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2014. Leadership support has been provided by MetLife Foundation through Blue Star Families. The program provides families an opportunity to enjoy the nation’s cultural heritage and learn more about their new communities after a military move. The complete list of participating museums is available at

“Blue Star Museums has grown into a nationally recognized program that service members and their families look forward to each year,” said Blue Star Families Chief Executive Officer Kathy Roth?Douquet. “It helps bring our local military and civilian communities together, and offers families fun and enriching activities in their home towns. We are thrilled with the continued growth of the program and the unparalleled opportunities it offers.”

“McWane Science Center is happy to be a part of this program for another year.  The opportunity to welcome our military and their families is one we as an organization feel is important and we look forward to it, “said Amy Templeton, President and CEO of McWane Science Center.

To find participating museums and plan your trip, visit:

Decatur’s Point Mallard makes 14 Greatest Water Parks list

By Kelly Kazek,, May 27

Decatur’s Point Mallard, which claims to be home to America’s first wave pool, was named No. 11 on a recent BuzzFeed list of 14 of the Greatest Water Parks in America. No criteria were given for the parks listed but Point Mallard was described as “a great outing for the whole family. There’s a sandy beach, speed slide, and even a campground where you can park your RV.” See the full list here.

Point Mallard Waterpark

Point Mallard in Decatur added a lazy river at the beginning of the 2013 season. From its website: “The Point Mallard Waterpark is home of America’s First Wave Pool. Named for the late J. Gilmer Blackburn, the park opened in August of 1970 after years of dedication to build an attraction for all ages in North Alabama. The park features America’s First Wave Pool, Pro Bowl Slide, Towering Sky Pond and Speed Slide, three flume tube rides, Olympic pool, sandy beach with complimentary beach loungers, kids area featuring the Squirt Factory and Duck Pond, concessions and gift shop, and a scenic lagoon.”

Decatur City Council President Gary Hammon said he was at the park several times over the holiday weekend. “Jeff Dunlap and his team at Parks and Recreation have brought back the luster to one of the crowning jewels of Decatur through their hard work and vision,” he said. “To see it nationally recognized by a neutral third party is just another reason I am thankful to be living in our wonderful city. It always fills my heart with pride to see so many good people enjoying the events and attractions with their family and friends.”

Get pricing and directions at or call 256-341-4900.

To read the entire article, go to:

Alabama’s top paid tourism destination in Huntsville gets another accolade from TripAdvisor

By Lucy Berry,, May 22

It was named the state of Alabama’s most frequented paid tourism destination with more than 584,000 visitors in 2013.

This month, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center received a Certificate of Excellence award from TripAdvisor for the second straight year.

TripAdvisor, which recognizes establishments and businesses with consistently positive traveler reviews on its website, uses a proprietary algorithm that looks at reviews and ratings of the award winners.

Businesses must maintain a TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five and have a large number of recent customer reviews. An establishment’s tenure and popularity ranking on the website are also taken into account.

“This award reflects the pride and passion I see in the Center’s employees every day,” said Deborah Barnhart, chief executive and executive director of the USSRC, in a statement. “This is a well-deserved recognition of the work they are doing to ensure visitors to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center have the experience of a lifetime every time they visit.”

To read the entire article, go to:

Billy Reid’s big fashion from small Alabama town

CBS Morning Show, May 23

The fashion designer has expanded his eponymous line to a multi-million dollar, global fashion brand. CBS News national correspondent Jan Crawford sat down with Reid to discuss his past failures and finding success by embracing who you are.

To see the video, go to:

Ave Maria Grotto is one of 10Best / USA TODAY Readers’ Choice nominations

10Best / USA TODAY Readers’ Choice recently launched a new category, Best Quirky Landmark.  Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman is one of 20 finalists competing for a spot in the winners list.

Voting is open now, runs for four weeks only and ends Mon., June 23, at 10:59 a.m.  To see the full list of nominees and cast a vote, go to:  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 follow on Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

‘Muscle Shoals’ documentary film streaming on Netflix

By Matt Wake,, May 20

At first you had to go to Park City, Utah’s Sundance Film Festival to see it; then it came to the University of North Alabama’s George Lindsey UNA Film Festival; then there was a special Florence screening followed by a stage-melting all-star jam featuring Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and Civil Wars’ John Paul White; then there was a limited theater release in markets including New York, Chicago, Nashville, Miami and Atlanta; then it became available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and video on demand; then it screened in Decatur; then Huntsville; then Huntsville again in place of a buzzed-about band’s show; then it hit DVD; then PBS aired it.

And now, acclaimed music documentary “Muscle Shoals” is available for streaming on Netflix. Netflix’s streaming service costs $7.99 per month.

Helmed by first-timed director Greg “Freddy” Camalier, the 111-minute “Muscle Shoals” depicts the story of Alabama recording studios FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound, where artists ranging from Aretha Franklin (“I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”) to The Rolling Stones (“Brown Sugar”) recorded high-water tracks. “Muscle Shoals” includes sit-down interviews with music glitterati including Franklin, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bono, Gregg Allman and Alicia Keys.

In the Marriot Shoals Conference Center lobby before the aforementioned February 2013 Florence screening, John Paul White told me, “Everything I am stems from these guys here, and the things this documentary touches on. These are my ancestors and peers.”

To read this article online, go to:

Muscle Shoals legends open Tennessee music festival

A spotlight on Northwest Alabama’s music industry, including a screening of the acclaimed “Muscle Shoals” documentary and a performance by local musicians, highlighted the opening of a 10-day Americana music festival in Franklin, Tenn.

FAME Studio founder Rick Hall, guitarist Jimmy Johnson and bassist David Hood addressed an overflow audience after the documentary was shown at the historic Franklin Theater on Friday night. The following night, Hood headlined eight musicians and singers performing as the Muscle Shoals All-Stars at an outdoor theater in the village of Leiper’s Fork. Florence Tourism director Debbie Wilson organized the spotlight to Muscle Shoals music. Alabama tourism director Lee Sentell and Tennessee tourism director Susan Whitaker introduced the acts both nights. Franklin and Muscle Shoals are part of a multi-state Americana music triangle that stretches from New Orleans and Memphis to Nashville.  Hank Williams owned an estate near Leiper’s Fork on the Natchez Trace west of Franklin.

ShrimpFest comes to Lakepoint Saturday

Eufaula Tribune, May 24

As part of its 75th anniversary celebration in 2014, Alabama’s State Parks system is hosting the Baumhower’s ShrimpFest and BBQ Series at a number of state parks around the state.

The third of these celebratory events will be held Sat., May 31, at Lakepoint State Park in Eufaula from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. These events are open to the public and promise to be a good time with fresh boiled Gulf shrimp, seafood gumbo, BBQ, kids inflatables, live music and much more. Tickets are $3 per person and ticket availability is limited. Visit the Baumhower’s ShrimpFest and BBQ Series web site here: for more information.

“This series is a prime example of why we chose this year – our 75th anniversary – to focus on our partners who allow the parks to function and continue to meet the needs of our visitors,” says Greg Lein, Alabama’s State Parks Director. “From our park visitors who spend countless hours improving our parks by volunteering their time, to the communities where our parks exist, to the First Lady and Bob – these partners pay the way, and this series is a way for us to recognize them for all they do.”

To see the entire article, go to:

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

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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