Alabama Tourism Department News July 29, 2014

  • Alabama Restaurant Week deadline Friday
  • Chez Fonfon burger named one of nation’s best
  • ‘Bamawise’ entrepreneurial collective promotes Alabama-made goods, employs workers from Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind
  • The New York Times features Native American’s journey home
  • World’s Longest Yard Sale promoted by Mapquest
  • Historic Chattahoochee Commission unveils new stop on the Creek Heritage Trail
  • Neeley inducted to Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Alabama Restaurant Week deadline Friday

With an Aug. 1 deadline for restaurants to sign up for Alabama Restaurant Week, the number of restaurants participating is nearing the 200 mark.   One hundred forty-seven restaurants have signed up directly with the Alabama Tourism Department and an additional 50 are participating through Birmingham Restaurant Week, bringing the total to 197 as of Mon., July 28.

Restaurants who wish to sign up for the 10 day Aug. 15-24, promotion have until Fri., Aug. 1, to do so at    Participating restaurants should also go to that website to review their webpage.

Restaurants who have requested promotional items should begin to receive their material in the next 10 days.

As of Mon., July 28, restaurants from the following 46 cities and towns are participating:
Albertville, Anniston, Athens, Auburn, Bay Minette, Birmingham, Cedar Bluff, Centre, Daphne, Decatur, Demopolis, Dothan, Elba, Fairhope, Fayette, Foley, Fort Payne, Greenville, Grove Hill, Gulf Shores, Guntersville, Heflin, Homewood, Hoover, Huntsville, Leesburg, Madison, Mobile, Montevallo, Montgomery, Mountain Brook, New Market, Northport, Orange Beach, Prattville, Rogersville, Saraland, Selma, Sheffield, Spanish Fort, Theodore, Thomasville, Trussville, Tuscaloosa, Tuscumbia, Union Springs.

Participating restaurants offer pre-fixed two-course lunch and/or three-course dinner offerings at an attractive set price.  A three-course dinner meal should include a starter, main course and dessert while the two-course lunch meal should include a main course and either a starter or dessert. Specialty restaurants with very limited menus may have pre-fixed meal offerings that are not multi-course.

There are no coupons or discount books to buy or bring.  Those dining at a participating restaurant during the promotion time period just ask for the Alabama Restaurant Week special.  The Alabama Restaurant Week pricing is fixed at $10, $20 and $30 for dinner and $5, $10 and $15 for lunch. In all cases, the price does not include tip or tax, and in most cases, does not include drink.

Restaurants may offer meals at all or just one of the preset prices.  A restaurant’s regular menu will also be available.

This is the 5th year for Birmingham Restaurant Week and the 3rd year for Alabama Restaurant Week.

For more information on Alabama Restaurant Week, contact Grey Brennan, Alabama Tourism Department,

Chez Fonfon burger named one of nation’s best
By Ty West, Birmingham Business Journal, July 21

The Hamburger Fonfon at Frank Stitt‘s Chez Fonfon has long been regarded as one of the best in Birmingham.

Now, it’s being called one of the best in the nation.

Thrillist’s list of the nation’s 33 best burgers highlights Chez Fonfon’s much-celebrated burger.

Here’s a snippet of what the site had to say about Stitt’s creation: ‘The sole frou-frou touch comes from Comte, but the cheese’s nutty-sweetness melts into the beef amping the patty’s flavor. Topped with grilled red onion, lettuce, tomato, and pickle, it’s hard to believe this burger could’ve started with escargots or foie gras paté.”

The recognition is just one of many that have been flowing in lately for Birmingham’s restaurant scene, which Stitt kick-started several years ago by mentoring a generation of chefs that have turned the Magic City into an up-and-coming food town.

To read this article online, go to:

‘Bamawise’ entrepreneurial collective promotes Alabama-made goods, employs workers from Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind

By Kathryn Jacoby,, July 25

In today’s economy, most small business owners are doing all they can to make a good product and stay afloat—they simply don’t have the time or money to seek out distribution channels and work on branding.

That concept is what motivated a trio of distribution and marketing experts from around the state to start Bamawise, a collective of Alabama-based small businesses with products to sell, just no time to sell them.

“I don’t have time to travel around the state meeting with stores,” explains Meredith McMillan, founder and CEO of Birmingham-based Merry Cheese Crisps, one of Bamawise’s businesses. “I’m a one-woman show hand-baking everything from scratch. They have the contacts and expertise to do in a month what it would take me 10 years to do.”

McMillan says she feels strongly about exposing and elevating southern products to the entire nation. Her products are currently sold at Western, V. Richard’s and other specialty shops around the state. She hopes to be in several more stores around the Southeast by the end of the year.

For small businesses, there is definite strength in numbers, explains Jeff Gentry, who founded Bamawise along with Melissa Hinds and Patrick Davis.

“There are amazing, incredible products being made right here in Alabama, but it’s not easy for people to access them,” Gentry says. “Our goal is to become the number one distributor for all Alabama-made products, and we want to get them nationwide, worldwide.”

The Bamawise collective currently has 12 small businesses, but Gentry says that number is likely to grow exponentially by the end of 2014. Although the small businesses pay nothing to become part of Bamawise, the company isn’t a nonprofit—when a product is sold to a store, Bamawise makes a percentage of those sales, Hinds explains.

For the last several months, the products made by Bamawise entrepreneurs have been sold separately, but that’s about to change thanks to a new partnership with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. The institute will be packaging a selection of Bamawise-distributed products into gift baskets and gift trays, making the packing materials out of recycled notebook pages and wrapping the trays in plastic.

Additionally, Bamawise will look to distribute some of the products currently made at the institute’s Talladega-based facility, including paper products, mops, and neckties. The institute currently employs 277 individuals, 75% of whom are legally blind or have another significant disability.

Jonathan Sherbert, accounting manager for the Alabama Industries for the Blind, which is a division of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, says that there was a “mutual attraction” with Bamawise.

To read the entire article, go to:

The New York Times features Native American’s journey home
By Jennifer Crossley Howard, The New York Times, July 22

Tom Hendrix spent a quarter-century stacking eight million pounds of sandstone and limestone to honor a woman he never knew.

In the autumn of his life, Mr. Hendrix now sees his Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, a few steps from the Natchez Trace Parkway in northern Alabama, beckoning wanderers, spiritual leaders and artists.

Dedicated to his Native American great-great grandmother, Te-lah-nay, the wall, recorded in the Library of Congress, ranges in height from four feet to almost six feet in some spots and is the largest unmortared wall in the United States. It commemorates Te-lah-nay’s five-year walk home from Oklahoma to Florence after she was displaced during the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans from the Southeast following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

The wall also exemplifies an eccentric American tradition of individuals who devote their lives to highly personal monuments. In nearby Cullman, Ala., for example, a Benedictine monk carved the Ave Maria Grotto, a miniature collection of buildings from Europe and Jerusalem.

During much of his own project, Mr. Hendrix labored in relative obscurity. “I love it when the master stonemasons come and ask me how many helpers I had,” he told a group of visitors recently. “I wore out three trucks, 22 wheelbarrows, 3,700 pairs of gloves, three dogs and one old man.”

The wall is still not an official stop along the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway, the historic path running roughly from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville that was first created by Native Americans. But Mr. Hendrix’s inclusion in “Muscle Shoals,” the 2013 documentary on the Alabama city famous for its music, added an international dimension to the word-of-mouth attention he had picked up over the years.

Wesley and Shelaine Powell of Collinwood, TN, visited the wall recently with their two children, Cayden, 10, and Saydee Mae, 6.

“This is going to be here long after he’s gone,” Ms. Powell said. “It makes you want to do more and try harder, no matter what it may be.”

Such responses reflect Mr. Hendrix’s aspirations for his project.

“She made an incredible journey,” he said of his ancestor, Te-lah-nay. “I wasn’t going to build her an ordinary memorial.”

To read the entire article, go to:

World’s Longest Yard Sale promoted by Mapquest

The internet site, Mapquest, is posting 99 Summer Travel Quests for 2014.  Number 79 on the list is the World’s Longest Yard Sale that runs from extends from the upper Midwest to Gadsden, Alabama.   The maquest trip suggestion was released on their popular website under the Discover tab, viewable under articles.

To see the story, go to

Historic Chattahoochee Commission unveils new stop on the Creek Heritage Trail

July 25, the HCC, Russell County Commission, and the Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Association unveiled three interpretive panels at the Old Russell County Courthouse in Seale as part of the Creek Heritage Trail. The courthouse is located a short distance from the junction of Highway 431 and County Road 26 in central Russell County. The project was made possible by the support of the Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development Council and the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development.

A brief program featuring recognition of elected officials and a short presentation focusing on Russell County during the Second Creek War was given by Dr. John Ellisor of Columbus State University. Ellisor is a member of the board of the Chatahoochee Indian Heritage Association and author of The Second Creek War: Interethnic Conflict and Collusion on a Collapsing Frontier.

The Creek Heritage Trail is a major new heritage tourism resource being developed in the 18-county Chattahoochee Trace region served by the HCC. The trail will focus on regional Creek Indian culture, the causes and consequences of the Creek Wars, the saga of Creek Removal, and the transition of the Chattahoochee Valley from Creek domain to Old South heartland. This is the second trail stop developed in Russell County. Panels were placed at the Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center earlier this year. The unveiling of the panels in Seale are part of a three-day long series of events being staged by the HCC and several partners and sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, entitled “The Creeks and Their Trail of Tears: Life and Legacy”. On July 24, nationally-known Creek Indian scholar Dr. Robbie Ethridge of the University of Mississippi spoke and signed books at CVCC. On the morning of July 26, Dr. Ellisor and Dr. John Beaver, former Director and Curator of the Muscogee Nation Museum and Cultural Center in Oklahoma spoke at Fort Mitchell Historical Park Visitor’s Center about the process and legacy of Indian Removal. Tours of the Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center, located adjacent to Fort Mitchell, will follow.

All events are free to the public. For more information, contact the HCC at 334-687-9755 or email

Neeley inducted to Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame
By Matt Okarmus, Montgomery Advertiser, July 24

Mary Ann Neeley, well-known locally for her knowledge of Montgomery’s history, has been recognized on a statewide level.

Neeley on Thursday was presented with a plaque signifying her induction into the Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame.
Lee Sentell, state tourism director, made the presentation during a media briefing at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex.
“It is indeed an honor and a privilege, and I appreciate it very, very much,” Neeley said.

Although it was an individual accolade, Neeley said she shared it with all the people who have helped her over the years.

“We’ve had wonderful support and wonderful help over the years to make Montgomery’s history the most diverse and certainly the most interesting of anywhere that I can name in this country,” she said.

Neeley said she felt “privileged” to be a seventh-generation Alabamian.  “And I have children and grandchildren who are following along as good Alabamians,” she said.

To read the article online and view the video, go to:

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Aug. 15 – 24               Alabama Restaurant Week
Sept. 7 – 14                 World Leisure Congress, Mobile
Nov. 3 – 6                   World Travel Market, London, England
Dec. 2 – 4                    Travel South International Showcase, New Orleans
Dec. 5 – 8                    Travel South International Super FAM to Alabama


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