Tourism Tuesdays November 18, 2014

  • Governor’s Mansion open for candlelight tours
  • Alabama Barbecue book: Road trips to more than 75 restaurants in 52 cities
  • Marker to recall ’69 Rolling Stones session in Shoals
  • Jason Isbell to share ‘Art of Songwriting’ at Alabama Music Hall of Fame
  • Birmingham’s Saw’s Soul Kitchen makes GQ’s list ’50 Things to Eat Right Now’
  • Selma history organization unveils second in series of historic markers
  • 101 Inventions That Changed the World–Which do you think is number one?
  • History museum receives honors for community partnerships and Ark of India exhibit
  • Dauphin Island one of’s Reader’s Choice Award winners
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Governor’s Mansion open for candlelight tours

Gov. and Mrs. Robert Bentley will open the Governor’s Mansion for candlelight tours on the first three Monday nights in December from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Designers from across the state have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours.  “The Governor’s Mansion belongs to the people of Alabama and we want to share it with them during this wonderful season,” said Mrs. Bentley.

Author Annette Thompson and photographer Art Meripol will sign copies of their new book, Alabama Barbecue at the Governor’s Mansion gift shop on each of the three nights. Thompson will sign copies of the book on Dec. 1 and 15 and Meripol will sign on Dec. 8.  The colorful 128-page hardcover book features more than 75 barbecue restaurants in 52 cities across the state.

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day.  The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Avenue across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry Street in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951.  The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

Each tour night will feature choirs from different areas of the state to entertain guests.  The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, 8 and 15.

More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours by going online at


Alabama Barbecue book: Road trips to more than 75 restaurants in 52 cities

By Bob Carlton,, Nov. 12

Barbecue is so big in Alabama, you could write a book about it.

And the Alabama Tourism Department has done just that, with the new book and travel guide “Alabama Barbecue: Delicious Road Trips.”

Former Southern Living travel editor Annette Thompson writes about more than 75 barbecue joints across the state, and former Southern Living senior photographer Art Meripol complements her tasty tales with his mouthwatering photos.

If just reading about the heavenly smell of smoked meat makes your stomach growl, guests at Friday’s book signing may also enjoy barbecue and fixings from the Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q food trailer.

The 128-page hardcover book was produced by the Alabama Media Group in cooperation with the Alabama Tourism Department, and it covers the state by geographic regions, from North Alabama to the Gulf Coast.

The book features such legendary Alabama barbecue places as Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que in Decatur, Leo & Susie’s Famous Green Top Bar-B-Que in Dora, Full Moon Bar-B-Que in Birmingham, Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q in Cahaba Heights, the original Dreamland Bar-B-Que in Tuscaloosa, Archibald’s Bar B.Q. in Northport, Sam’s Bar-B-Que in Montgomery, Chuck’s Bar-B-Que in Opelika, and The Brick Pit in Mobile.

A tribute to Alabama’s “Top Ten Barbecue Folks” features, among others, Nick Pihakis of Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, Van Sykes of Bob Sykes BarB-Q in Bessemer, Mike Wilson of Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, Jonathan “Rusty” Tucker of Rusty’s Bar-B-Q in Leeds and Jeff Carter of Smokin’ on the Boulevard in Florence.

Recipes include macaroni and cheese from L.A. Barbecue in Summerdale, potato salad from Hog Wild BBQ in Gulf Shores, vinegar-mayo slaw from LawLers Barbecue in Athens, fried corn from Smokin’ S Bar-B-Que in Wetumpka, camp stew from Fat Boy’s Bar-B-Que Ranch in Prattville, cornbread from Byron’s Smokehouse in Auburn, and peanut butter pie from New Market BBQ in New Market.

“Alabama Barbecue” is available at Books-A-Million stores throughout Alabama, as well as at the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop and the GoatHill Museum Store in Montgomery, and online at and at The book sells for $20.

To read this article online, go to:


Marker to recall ’69 Rolling Stones session in Shoals
By Robert Palmer,, Oct. 9

The Shoals is getting a new state historic marker commemorating its world-renowned music industry.

The marker will be placed at the site of the former Holiday Inn on South Court Street, where the Rolling Stones stayed during their Dec. 2-4, 1969, recording session at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield.

State tourism director Lee Sentell made the announcement at a recent Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Board meeting.

The English rock band’s stay was documented in the movie “Gimme Shelter.” During the course of three days, the Stones recorded three songs, the No. 1 “Brown Sugar,” Top 30 hit “Wild Horses,” and the blues standard “You Got To Move.”

A week ago, a state historic marker was unveiled at the site of the former Norala Recording Studio in Sheffield, where Leighton native Percy Sledge recorded “When A Man Loves A Woman” in 1966, the first No. 1 record to come from the Muscle Shoals music industry.

Sentell said the marker commemorating the Rolling Stones visit will be unveiled during an upcoming First Friday in downtown Florence. The site is now occupied by Hampton Inn.

“This December is the 45th anniversary of the Rolling Stones recording here,” Sentell said.

Their recording session was somewhat clandestine because their work permits did not allow for recording, only live performance. The Stones worked at night while the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, which owned the studio, worked by day on an R.B. Greaves session. Greaves’ Top 5 hit “Take A Letter Maria” was the studio’s first significant hit after opening in April 1969.

Sentell has been instrumental in getting the state historic markers for the Muscle Shoals music sites. The state tourism office has also played a significant role in the reopening of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia. He said the documentary movie “Muscle Shoals,” which was released in 2013, has brought renewed attention to the area’s music heritage.

To read this article online, go to:


Jason Isbell to share ‘Art of Songwriting’ at Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Jason Isbell, who swept the 2014 Americana Music Awards, capturing, “Artist of the Year,” “Album of the Year,” and “Song of the Year” honors, will share his knowledge of the “Art of Songwriting” during a special benefit event at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Thur., Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. He will discuss songwriting and his career as a performer and songwriter.

A native of Green Hill, AL, Isbell has released four studio albums and two live albums and plays to sold-out venues both domestically and abroad. In addition to his most recent success at the Americana Music Awards, Isbell won the 2012 Americana Song of the Year, with his tune “Alabama Pines.”

“We appreciate Jason’s generosity in conducting this event for the benefit of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame,” said Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell, who also serves as treasurer for the AMHOF board. “It is an honor to have a songwriter and performer of this caliber leading an AMHOF event. Jason is a credit to Muscle Shoals music and the entire state.”

Birmingham’s Saw’s Soul Kitchen makes GQ’s list of ’50 Things to Eat Right Now

By Bob Carlton,, Nov. 17

The pork, grits and greens at Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale has fast become a favorite dish among Birmingham diners.

Now, the folks at GQ magazine have taken a liking to it, too.

GQ has included the Avondale soul food restaurant and its most popular dish on a new list of “The 50 Things to Eat Right Now,” which appears on the magazine’s website.

The magazine asked Edward Lee, the chef and owner of 610 Magnolia and MilkWood restaurants in Louisville, for his recommendation, and this is what he had to say:

“Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama, is one of the few places with beautifully presented barbecue. You know they’re really thinking about the food. And the pork shoulder with grits and greens was some of the best I’ve ever had. I couldn’t stop eating it.”

To see GQ’s complete list of “The 50 Things to Eat Right Now,” go here.

Brandon Cain, the chef and co-owner of Saw’s Soul Kitchen, told this morning that his customers have told him about the GQ write-up, but he has yet to see it.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on it,” Cain said. “Any time we get any press like that, people come in and talk about it, which is really awesome for us.”

Last year, Parade magazine included Saw’s Soul Kitchen, which opened in 2012, on its list of the best new barbecue joints in America.

Also, earlier this year, the original Saw’s BBQ in Homewood was No. 1 on Cooking with Paula Deen magazine’s list of the 10 best barbecue places in the country.

To read this article online, go to:


Selma history organization unveils second in series of historic markers

To commemorate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma, the event’s official sponsor, The April 1865 Society, Inc. a [501(c) 3] charitable organization, will unveil the second in a series of Battle of Selma Historic Markers on Tue., Nov. 25 at 10:00 a.m. at the historic St. James Hotel, 1200 Water Avenue in downtown Selma.

All April 1865 Society, Inc. members, Society Board, local officials and businesses that support the “Battle” every year are welcome to come to the unveiling.

“Our second marker tells two stories: first of the St. James Hotel serving as the headquarters of
General J. H Wilson, whose occupation protected it from arson and looting of downtown that immediately followed the Battle of Selma. The second is of Benjamin Sterling Turner, former slave and self-made businessman, who managed this building, then known as The Gee House Hotel. After the war, Turner became a successful businessman, got involved in politics and later was elected as the first African American U.S. Representative from Alabama” said Chairman of the 1865 Society James Hammonds. “We are excited that the series of markers allows Selma’s history to be accessible to locals and visitors alike at any time, no pre-scheduled tour appointments necessary.”

This second marker shows the flexibility of the design to present many topics in Selma’s history.  The QR codes, video, and map continue to be a part of one of the most advanced historic marker designs in the state. The first marker in the series, unveiled in July, is located at the entrance of the annual Battle of Selma Re-enactment site at #1 Satterfield Street in Selma.

The April 1865 Society plans for nine additional markers to be erected by the Battle of Selma Re-enactment event date of April 23-26, 2015.  The series of historic markers comes just in time for spring of 2015, which promises to be a high traffic time for Selma.  March brings the 50th anniversary of the 1965 ‘Civil Rights Movement’ annual crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the 150th Anniversary of the 1865 Battle of Selma follows in April.

101 Inventions That Changed the World–Which do you think is number one?

By John Corrigan,, Nov. 13

If you have family visiting Huntsville during the holidays, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center has added two new exhibits for showing your loved ones the “Smithsonian of your neighborhood.”

“101 Inventions That Changed the World” is a multi-sensory experience through the use of SENSORY 4™, a system that uses 40 high-definition projectors, multi-channel motion graphics and cinema-quality surround sound. Developed by Australia-based Grande Exhibitions, the traveling exhibit explores the creations and discoveries that have altered mankind through a 33 minute video blasting all around you. If you’re so awestruck that you lose count or happen to miss one, there are several interactive monitors throughout the exhibit which provide the ranking and increased information on each invention.

“101 Rocket City Inventions” features local patents that track the history of a cotton town turned Rocket City. The exhibit reflects Huntsville’s culture of invention and innovation for products, services and technologies. More than 10,000 local patents from 1900 to the present day were narrowed down for display.

101 Inventions

Richard B. Hoover worked at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center from 1966 until 2012. He developed the X-ray telescope, obtaining 25,000 X-ray photos of the Sun as well as the multilayer X-ray telescope which obtained the first high resolution picture of the Sun.

“You’re standing in the midst of the history of science and technology in the planet Earth,” Hoover said. “The small contributions I’ve made have been very helpful because now when you see pictures of the Sun on television, many of those were made with telescopes based on the multilayer optics we developed back in the late 1970s and early 80s.”

Ken Fernandez, who has also worked at Marshall for more than 40 years, holds the patent for the 3-D X-ray scanner. Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, NASA put a call out for technologies that might help Homeland Security so Fernandez began developing the scanner to increase safety precautions at airports and schools.

“I feel unworthy,” Fernandez laughed. “Most inventors say, well, why didn’t somebody else think of that? But I’m glad I did.”

There are children’s activities such as a play area with LEGOS (one of the inventions that changed the world) and foam building blocks as well as a desk where kids can write what they would invent.

“It’s like a new born baby,” Hoover joked. “Someone says ‘what good is this invention?’ You say, well, perhaps we’ll have to wait and see.”

“101 Inventions That Changed the World” runs until March 15, 2015.

“101 Rocket City Inventions” is on display until December 31, 2015.

To read this article online, go to:


History museum receives honors for community partnerships and Ark of India exhibit

It has been a month of recognition for the History Museum of Mobile’s participation in the Mobile-area community, and praise for its newly-opened Ark of India exhibition.

The History Museum of Mobile is building community ties through its newest exhibition, Ark of India: An Alabama Artist Explores Southern Asia.  The exhibit, which opened Oct. 16, chronicles Mobile artist Roderick D. MacKenzie’s time in India at the turn of the twentieth century.

Members of the museum’s staff recently placed a small version of the exhibit at the Diwali Festival of Lights, a global celebration of light and knowledge.  The annual event, organized by the Southeast Asian American Store Owners Association (SAASOA) was held in Daphne.

Scotty E. Kirkland, the museum’s curator of history, has been invited to lecture about MacKenzie’s Indian sojourn at a symposium at the Bristol Art Museum and Gallery in early spring.  The two-day symposium is sponsored jointly by the museum and Yale University’s Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.  It will focus on new interpretations of the artwork produced in India during the British occupation, including MacKenzie’s 1907 mural depicting the coronation of Edward VII as king of England and emperor of India.  The original of MacKenzie’s imposing eighteen-foot painting is the centerpiece of the Bristol Art Museum.  A replica of the piece is included in the History Museum’s exhibit.  Kirkland, the author of Ark of India’s accompanying book, will discuss Roderick MacKenzie’s commission of the painting, as well as his other notable contributions during his time in southern Asia.

“It’s a great honor to be invited to discuss MacKenzie’s time in India, and especially to be asked to do so in the country of his birth,” Kirkland said.  “I’m anxious to see the original Durbar painting, and to hear the perspectives from the other participants about MacKenzie and the artists of the British Raj.  It’s always a pleasure to share Mobile’s rich history to broader audiences.”

In addition, the University of South Alabama Faculty Senate recently honored David E. Alsobrook, Ph.D., director of the History Museum, as the university’s 2013-2014 Outstanding Teaching Partner.

Dauphin Island one of’s Reader’s Choice Award winners 

Dauphin Island made the number 7 spot on USA TODAY Travel’s 10 Best Bird Watching Spots Reader’s Choice Awards. During spring, exhausted neo-tropical birds that have just crossed the Gulf of Mexico “fall out” on coastal Dauphin Island to find food and shelter.  Before the fall migration, shore birds gather on the island in preparation for the return flight.  A total of 347 species have been spotted on Dauphin Island making it a top Southeastern bird watching destination.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Dec. 1              Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Christmas Tour & Barbecue book signing with Annette Thompson at the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop
Dec. 8              Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Christmas Tour & Barbecue book signing with Art Meripol at the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop
Dec. 15            Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Christmas Tour & Barbecue book signing with Annette Thompson at the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop
Dec. 2 – 4        Travel South International Showcase, New Orleans
Dec. 5 – 8        Travel South International Super FAM to Alabama


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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