Tourism Tuesdays September 2, 2014

  • Labor Day weekend bookings strong along Alabama Gulf Coast
  • Muscle Shoals music tours visit recording studio of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Etta James
  • Helicopter that served disaster and combat missions for 50 years is on display at U.S. Space & Rocket Center
  • Big Spring Crush, new wine festival, coming to downtown Huntsville this fall
  • Conservation department launches new website
  • Attalla Treasures in the Streets inaugural event
  • Alabama Tourism Department welcomes Cody Eason
  • Heiko Einfeld, new ATC President and new chamber exec
  • Longtime tourism employee Patsy Faulk Pouncey dies
  • Support application deadline extended to Sept. 9
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Labor Day weekend bookings strong along Alabama Gulf Coast

By Marc D. Anderson,, Aug. 28

While it’s too early to call the 2014 tourism season another record-breaker, all revenue arrows are pointing that way as Labor Day weekend brings the summer to a close.  A new high for sales and lodging tax collections would mark the fourth straight for Alabama’s coast.

“How goes the summer is usually how goes the year,” said Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.

He said that June and July enjoyed record collections, and that he’s waiting now to see the final tally on August.

Representatives from the largest property rental management companies on the coast anticipate a strong Labor Day weekend.

Bill Brett of Brett-Robinson said bookings for the company’s inventory of just 2,000 properties are about 10 percent above last year.

He said that occupancies could rise to near 95 percent by the time all the tourists pour in. He said, “If they haven’t got reservations, I would suggest they get it while the getting is good.”

Brett said the company is encouraging tourists to take advantage of the new Beach Express extension and Interstate 10 exit to shorten travel times.

Missy Zak, vice president of marketing for Meyer Real Estate, said the company’s 1,360 properties already stood at about 75 percent occupancy as of Wednesday. She described Labor Day as “a last-minute booking type of holiday” as families with kids who’ve returned to school suddenly realize that they have a free Monday.

“It kind of just sneaks up on you,” Zak said.

On the other side of Mobile Bay, at Dauphin Island, Robin Linn of ACP Real Estate said that the Labor Day weekend bookings were trending ahead of last year’s record number.

“Things are looking good,” Linn said. “We are very excited about it. We had a big concert last weekend.”

On Saturday, the SeaGrass Concert Series on Dauphin Island featured acclaimed Alabama singer-songwriter Jason Isbell along with other musicians such as Marc Broussard and Amanda Shires. On Sunday, the Island’s summer Sunset Jazz Series wrapped up with performances by The Chad Fisher Group and The Mobile Big Band Society.

Overall, she said that ACP is enjoying a year that mirrors its best ever in 2004, prior to Hurricane Ivan.  “We really had a great summer season,” she said, noting that Dauphin Island offered a wave of events and had partnered in promotions with the Mobile area’s WZEW FM radio, better known as 92 ZEW.  “I didn’t analyze the numbers for the summer, but we were very busy all summer long.”  She said, “We’re just hopping down here.”

To read the entire article, go to:

Muscle Shoals music tours visit recording studio of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Etta James

By Courtney Rivette, Group Tour Magazine, Aug. 25

What started out as kind of a lark for Judy Hood in retirement has turned into a popular tour in Florence.
Hood’s husband is bassist David Hood, one of the original Swampers, the session musicians who developed the signature Muscle Shoals sound in the 1960s.

“We thought it would be fun to call them ‘Swampette’ tours since my husband is a Swamper,” Hood said. “The Swampette Tour concept quickly took on a life of its own and now they sell out faster than we can book them.”
Tours typically last about four hours, but the time frame can be adjusted to suit a group’s needs.

While there are public Swampette Trolley Tours, groups can be accommodated by special appointment. The tours can be booked through Florence/Lauderdale Tourism.

On the trolley of tunes, guests often sing along with the Muscle Shoals music playing through the speakers.

Tours start at the Florence/Lauderdale Visitors Center, which has an exhibit on the local music scene.

“We visit the studios, hear the music and share the magic,” Hood said. “Of course we talk about the history of Muscle Shoals music but more than anything I want our guests to experience the mojo. You can read the history in a book but you can’t feel the vibe unless you actually walk into the studios.”

The tour goes to FAME Recording Studio’s Studio A, to see where Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter and Etta James recorded.

There’s also a stop at 3614 Jackson Highway, the original Muscle Shoals Sound studio and home of the Swampers. The Rolling Stones recorded three of their biggest hits there. Bob Seger, Paul Simon and The Staple Singers made records in the space.

“There is a definite vibe, a feeling at both studios,” she said.

Hood provides an insider’s look at the Muscle Shoals music scene.

“I tell lots of stores,” she said. “That’s one of the things that differentiates this tour from others. Having been married to David for 27 years, I have some inside scoop.”

Hood said sharing the magic is the best part about conducting the tours. She also enjoys seeing the reaction from people when they step into the studios.

“They are excited, amazed and sometimes even get a bit emotional,” she said. “It’s hard not to feel something in those rooms if you are a music lover.”

Tours end at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia.

To read the article online, go to:

Helicopter that served disaster and combat missions for 50 years is on display at U.S. Space & Rocket Center

By Lucy Berry,, Aug. 27

A heavy-lift transport helicopter that served both humanitarian and combat missions for more than five decades is now a permanent hands-on fixture at the Rocket Park at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.  The CH-47D Chinook helicopter is a 51-foot, 23,000-pound government aircraft that was born, raised and lived its life at Redstone Arsenal and across the globe.

The Chinook, named after the Native American Chinook people, carried supplies, equipment and up to 44 members of the military, but it also assisted with disaster relief, search and rescue, firefighting and medical evacuation.

“When you see pictures on TV or in the newspaper of natural disasters, you see usually one of these big helicopters delivering comfort and aid to people on the ground,” said Peri Widener, vice president and general manager of integrated logistics for Boeing.  “It can also carry more cargo higher and farther than any other helicopter in the world.”

Built by Boeing, the helicopter was delivered to the Army in 1969 where it went on to serve during the Vietnam War through 1972.  The aircraft was loaned a year later to Air America, an airline owned and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, to be used for missions in Laos before being returned to the military in 1974.

Boeing upgraded the Chinook to a CH-47D model after Vietnam by adding new fiberglass rotor blades, engines, a redesigned cockpit and advanced avionics. The vehicle returned to the Army in the early 1990s before serving in various units in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  The aircraft was damaged beyond repair while deployed in Afghanistan with the South Carolina National Guard.

A tour of the vehicle is included in the admission to the Rocket Center.

Rocket Center Chief Executive Officer Deborah Barnhart said the Chinook is the first piece of military hardware added to Rocket Park in recent memory.

“This is the kind of vehicle and exhibit that a Smithsonian institution should have, and it’s part of our history and our heritage right here in Huntsville,” she said.

To read the entire article, go to:

Big Spring Crush, new wine festival, coming to downtown Huntsville this fall
By Matt Wake,, June 23

Ashley Ryals says Big Spring Crush will become Huntsville’s first-ever wine festival, when it’s held 4 – 9 p.m., Sept. 27, in Big Spring International Park East. The festival is a production of Ryals’ event planning venture Homegrown Huntsville, known for its Dine & Dash downtown restaurant-spotlighting tours and Brew Hop craft-brewery trolley tour.

Big Spring Crush tickets, which are limited, are available online via
Incentive-driven pricing will see the first 200 general admissions tickets sold at a $38 tier.  After that, the price increases to $43, and after a yet-to-be-determined number are sold at that tier, remaining advance general admission tickets will be sold for $48.  At the gate, tickets will be $55.  In addition to admission, a ticket includes a commemorative tasting glass, and unlimited samples of wines from 80 or so wine makers that will be at Big Spring Crush.  Sample sizes will be about one ounce or so.

Big Spring Crush VIP tickets are $65 and capped at 200 persons, and include access to exclusive wines not available elsewhere at the festival, and wine-and-food-pairings from Church Street Wine Shop owner Matt Mell and The Eaves Restaurant owner/executive chef Merle Phillip. Cooking with wine demonstrations will also be in the VIP mix.

“One of the things I’m pretty big on in making sure all vendors participating are successful,” Ryals says. “We’re looking at having three or four food trucks and two local restaurants. Wine inspired cuisine is going to be the catch – if you’re an on-site food vendor you have to come up with a menu that’s inspired by wine.”

Big Spring Crush is easily the biggest event Homegrown Huntsville has helmed thus far in its three-year or so existence. Their Dine & Dash and Brew Hop events draw about a 100 to a 150 people a pop. Ryals is hoping Big Spring Crush will attract a crowd of about 1,000 or 2,000. “We’re doing limited tickets for the first year just to make sure it’s well-organized. Our big concern is being able to get it out to the public and let them know about it.”

To read the entire article, go to:

Conservation department launches new website

It’s a new look and better functionality for the recently redesigned, the official website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. says the updated website will better serve the Department’s constituents. “The new site is mobile-friendly and will be easier for smartphone and tablet users to navigate,” he said.

Visitors will also notice a more contemporary look. “After more than eight years of having the same design, we felt it was time for a change,” Guy said. “We partnered with Alabama Interactive to develop a design for us that is both functional and visually appealing. Customers who go online to purchase a hunting or fishing license will find the process is the same although it may look a little different.”

Alabama Interactive is the official e-government solutions provider for the state of Alabama. The company builds websites, online services, and secure payment processing solutions on behalf of the state and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the e-government firm NIC. Alabama Interactive General Manager Barrett Gilbreath thinks the new site is a win for both the citizens and state government. “This website redesign project is a perfect example of the public/private and self-funded partnership between the state of Alabama and Alabama Interactive,” he said. “The new website, built to be responsive on any mobile device, is designed to be more user friendly and aesthetically pleasing, and no tax dollars were appropriated for its design, development, hosting or ongoing maintenance.”
In addition to online services such as license purchases and boat registration renewals, provides information on hunting and fishing seasons and bag limits; educational programs; wildlife descriptions and identification; outdoor events and more.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit

Attalla Treasures in the Streets inaugural event

Once heralded around the region as “Antique Alley” for the number of antique shops in the downtown district, Historic Downtown Attalla is aiming to revive that distinction with the Inaugural “Treasures in the Streets” antique show Sept. 5-7.

More than 50 vendors from Alabama and surrounding states will set up on 5th Ave. and 4th St. and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sat., along with the downtown antique merchants, rain or shine. A classic car show will take place during the same hours and various food vendors will have appetizing offerings alongside the local eateries.

“Treasures in the Streets’ will be a biannual show, taking place each April and September. The location of Attalla and the history of antiquing in the town make an antique show a logical step in showing off downtown Attalla.  Located on I-59 at the intersections of Highways 278/431, 11 and 77, Attalla is easily accessible for vendors and shoppers from near and far. Event Coordinator Theresa Hawkins, owner of Emma Kate’s Cottage Antique Mall, said “We wanted to show off our downtown area and our location has allowed us to attract dealers from several states.”

Registered vendors will be showing true antiques, such as fine furniture, glassware and classic collectibles, along with vintage-style painted furniture, retro, and primitives.  Vendors will come from as far away as North Carolina and Ohio.

Greater Gadsden Area Tourism executive director Hugh Stump III said, “We felt that Attalla, due to its history of antique shops in downtown and the Hwy. 11 Antique Alley yard sale, would be a natural place for this unique show. The organizers had done their homework on what would make the show attractive to vendors and dealers and since they would be traveling a good distance we knew there would be tourism impact.

Hawkins added, “This is the real thing, this is a true antique show. These are professional antique dealers that travel the antique show circuit throughout the U.S.”

For more information, visit, search “Treasures in the Streets” on Facebook or call 256-504-7810.

Alabama Tourism Department welcomes Cody Eason

Cody Eason, who graduated from Auburn University at Montgomery with a BA in Graphic Design, has joined the Montgomery staff of the Alabama Tourism Department.  He will be working closely with publications manager Tommy Cauthen.

Cody, who turned his favorite hobby, drawing, into a full-time career, enjoys outdoor activities such as biking and kayaking, and is also fond of photography.

Welcome aboard, Cody.

Heiko Einfeld, new ATC President and new chamber exec

“The Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce announces the selection of Heiko Einfeld as its next Executive Director.  Heiko is an experienced executive who has served the Eastern Shore business community for more than 18 years.  Although currently serving as Interim Director, Einfeld did not apply for the position.

“After the search committee interviewed the top candidates, it was determined unanimously that we could not ignore the passion, drive and commitment that were before us,” Board Chairman Contina Woods said.  “From engaging the staff and board to leading external relations and listening to member needs, Heiko has had the courage to roll up his sleeves, think strategically and make tough calls.  He has more than exceeded our expectations in the interim position.”

Prior to his current role, Heiko served the chamber as the Board of Directors Vice Chairman of the Tourism Council.  He has worked in the tourism industry for nearly 30 years where he last operated and held an ownership interest in Holiday Inn Express in Fairhope.  Boards Einfeld currently serves on include President of the Alabama Travel Council, Planning Committee for the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism and the annual Tourism Bash, and Baldwin County Education Coalition.  Heiko is married to Dr. Dana Einfeld, a native of Baldwin County.  Dr. Einfeld is a career educator employed by Baldwin County Schools.

“Heiko’s experience as a business owner, passion for tourism, and proven track record of strategy development and implementation is critical in moving our Chamber forward,” Woods said.

Longtime tourism employee Patsy Faulk Pouncey dies

Patsy Faulk Pouncey, a former employee of the Alabama Tourism Department, passed away Tues., Aug. 26, at the age of 63.  Patsy spent most of her life in the tourism industry for the state of Alabama, the city of Columbus, Georgia, and the city of Dothan, Alabama.  She also hosted a cable produced travel show for the state of Alabama for five years, and wrote a column for the south end of Barbour County for the Eufaula Tribune for several years.

Over the course of her career, Patsy generated widespread travel to the state of Alabama and far-reaching contacts for Alabama tourism industry.  She will always be remembered for promoting the state that she loved—Alabama.

Support application deadline extended to Sept. 9

“The application deadline for 2015 Tourism Product Development Grants has been extended to Mon., Sept. 9, since the deadline fell on the Labor Day holiday”, says Leigh Cross, program administrator at the Alabama Tourism Department.  Representatives of non-profit organizations may apply on a one-time basis to fund a tourism related project to attract tourists from outside Alabama, she said. To receive an email application, contact The application can be scanned and emailed back to her, but since an original signature is required, the application must also be mailed to Leigh Cross, Alabama Tourism Department, P.O. Box 4927, Montgomery, AL 36103-4927. All applications must be returned by 5 p.m. on Sept. 9.  A final progress report showing how grant monies were spent will be required.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Sept. 7 – 14                 World Leisure Congress, Mobile
Oct. 7                          Tourism Workshop, Montgomery
Oct. 9                          Tourism Workshop, Birmingham


Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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