Tourism Tuesdays January 13, 2015

  • Newly released Selma wins Golden Globes’ Best Original Song award
  • State tourism leaders counting on Selma movie to change perceptions
  • Selma is a powerful, important and engaging movie
  • Alabama officials give reviews of movie Selma
  • Group ensures Battle of Selma not forgotten
  • Attendance figures needed from state attractions and events
  • New York Post features a tale of two cities: Florence vs. Florence
  • The Wharf to build hotel, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, in Orange Beach
  • Birmingham Zoo receives $1 million
  • MSN names Mobile one of America’s hottest cities for 2015
  • Yahoo rates the most iconic restaurants in every state
  • Belle Chevre goat cheese creamery in Elkmont to star in GAC TV show
  • The business of craft beer: Downtown Huntsville, Inc. and to host economic impact forum
  • Snowbirds officially land at Alabama’s Gulf Coast, hundreds flock to Snowbird Fest
  • 44th Annual National Shrimp Festival announces poster contest
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Newly released Selma wins Golden Globes’ Best Original Song award

By Hunter Robinson,, Jan. 12

The newly released movie Selma won the 2015 Golden Globes Award for Best Original Song for the song Glory.

Selma is a dramatization of the events leading up to Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 that brought about equal voting rights in the United States.

Selma is currently in second place in the box office, bringing in an estimated $11.2 million since opening nationwide on Friday. Taken 3 currently leads the box office, bringing in an estimated $40.4 million.

For videos in the news, go to: Tonya Terry’s and Valorie Lawson’s review of the film Selma.

Dr. Richard Bailey, historian is interviewed about the historical accuracy of the movie Selma in a video on:

Sheyann Webb Christburg, 8 years old at the time of the march, became Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s littlest freedom fighter when she walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge that day.  Her parents told her not to get involved in any of the civil rights activities.  To view the video interview with Ms. Christburg, go to:

To see this article online, go to:

The Alabama Dept. of Archives and History is sharing 10 photos from the march that have never been published.  Each is from the Montgomery swing of the march.  To view the images, go to:


State tourism leaders counting on Selma movie to change perceptions

Long before the movie Selma hit the big screen it had people from the Walton Theatre in Selma talking.

“I am hoping for some recognition for Selma and Dallas County from this film,” Willie Carlisle said.

Carlisle says he was among the original marchers during Bloody Sunday. Carlisle was 16-years old at the time.

Lee Sentell agrees. Sentell heads up the Alabama Tourism Department.  “What was depicted in the movie 50 years ago is not the Alabama of today,” he said.

This is the very message Sentell hopes the film gets across to audiences nationwide, a message that things have changed for the better.

“This is going to tell a lot of people about the history of civil rights and that what happened in Alabama literally changed the world because we had a third of the people in the United States not eligible to vote. It’s our job to communicate how Alabama has changed,” Sentell said.

Kathy Faulk manages the Alabama Film Office.

“Imagine having a blockbuster, feature film named after a town. What more could you ask for in a state. We believe this will draw interest,” Faulk said.

The entire movie was supposed to have been shot in Atlanta, but that all changed when Oprah Winfrey got involved. We’re told Winfrey insisted on having real backdrops such as the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

The movie opened Friday across the country. The film is being shown for free in Selma throughout the month of January.

To read this article online, go to:

Selma is a powerful, important and engaging movie
By Bob Carlton,, Jan. 9

Movies based on major historical events and the people who shaped those events have almost impossible standards to measure up to.

Every anecdote, every little detail — from the clothes the characters wear to the things they say and the way they say them — is critiqued and scrutinized, perhaps unfairly so.

And then there’s the challenge of turning a history lesson into a mainstream film that enlightens and challenges an audience that also expects to be entertained, not lectured to.

By almost every one of those standards, director Ava DuVernay’s powerful, poignant Selma is a resounding accomplishment — a film that, with few exceptions, is moving and captivating while remaining (mostly) true to the facts.

The movie — key segments of which were filmed in Selma and Montgomery early last summer — opened nationwide recently.

Selma should be a shoo-in to receive multiple Academy Award nominations — certainly for best picture and best actor (David Oyelowo’s memorable portrayal of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) and quite likely for best director (DuVernay) and best supporting actress (Carmen Ejogo’s dynamic performance as Coretta Scott King).

DuVernay’s film deftly dramatizes the events leading up to and culminating in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, a five-day, 50-mile journey that brought worldwide attention to that civil rights battleground and eventually led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a few months later.

The real dramatic power of Selma is not just in the big, historical moments — such as the nightmarish, almost surreal, re-creation of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge — but also in the little ones.

We see the cruelty shown to the sad-eyed Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey), who, on her fifth attempt, is denied the right to vote because she can’t name all of 67 county judges in Alabama. And we feel the shock and the loss of the 82-year-old Cager Lee (Henry G. Sanders), who is consoled by King after a State Trooper shot and killed his unarmed grandson Jimmie Lee Jackson (Keith Stanfield),

The movie’s greatest flaw, which has been well documented, is its exaggeration of a supposed rift between King and Johnson, a bit of dramatic license that former Johnson aide Joseph A. Califano Jr. has said has little basis in truth. While that kind of thing unfortunately often happens in historical dramas such as this, the real shame of it here is that Selma is compelling enough that the story doesn’t need any embellishment.

Oyelowo is absolutely amazing in the lead role as King, and he is surrounded by a terrific supporting cast that includes Wendell Pierce as Hosea Williams, Common as James Bevel, Stephan James as John Lewis, Colmon Domingo as Ralph Abernathy and Bessemer’s Andre Holland as Andrew Young. They each bring humanity, personality and even a little humor to the names and faces who played key roles in the struggle for civil rights.

Less developed are many of King’s white adversaries, the depictions of whom are serviceable at their best and cartoonish at their worst.

In the big picture, though, those are just minor quibbles.

Selma is an admirable achievement — a powerful film that that tells an important story in an engaging way.

To read the entire article online, go to:

Alabama officials give reviews of movie Selma
By Phillip Rawls, Associated Press, Jan. 8

Comments by Alabama officials who have seen the movie Selma and its portrayal of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march:

Gov. Robert Bentley, whose administration helped attract the movie company to Alabama: “It is very difficult to watch because of the remembrance of what happened 50 years ago. … The struggles that took place in that time changed America forever. It is our history. … It shows how far we’ve come, and I’m proud of how far we’ve come.”

State Sen. Hank Sanders, who helped start the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma and helps organize the annual march celebration called the Bridge Crossing Jubilee: “It is a very powerful movie, and it made the points well. It is a movie, not a documentary, and it had very powerful acting.”

Secretary of State Jim Bennett, who was a reporter in 1965 covering state officials’ efforts to stop the voting rights march and then appeared in the movie as an extra portraying a reporter: “It was good. I enjoyed it, and it brought back a lot of memories.” But he said he would agree with criticism that the movie contains a few historical inaccuracies, including how it portrays President Lyndon Johnson.

State Tourism Director Lee Sentell, who is using the movie and the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march to try to boost tourism: “People all over the world will see this film in the next four or five months. A lot of people are going to be intrigued about places where the events happened, and they are going to come experience learning about the civil rights movement in parts of Alabama and the rest of the South. … Because of this movie, Selma becomes one of the place names that stand for significant milestones in American history.”

To read this article online, go to:–Selma-Movie%20Comments/id-32a8a11dcfe04713a57db90927b848e4


Group ensures Battle of Selma not forgotten

By Alvin Benn, Montgomery Advertiser, Dec. 26

Unsure what to do next, a small group of Confederate soldiers stood at a Selma intersection just as Union troops spotted them and opened fire.

Horses with and without riders galloped down the street. Chaos seemed to control the night.

Thousands of burning cotton bales began to cast an eerie glow as darkness enveloped the little town that was being punished for its role as a major Confederate weapons manufacturing center during the Civil War.

It was about 7 p.m. on April 2, 1865, and Selma became the setting for one of the last battles of America’s bloodiest war.

Among the Rebel soldiers at the intersection of Washington Street and Alabama Avenue in downtown Selma that night was Sgt. Robert W. Patton, believed to have been one of the first to die.

A leader of Shockley’s Cadets formed at the University of Alabama, Patton also was the son of a politician who would be elected governor of the state seven months after his death.

“He was one of two Patton sons to die during the war,” said James Hammonds, after a historic marker was unveiled at the site a few days ago. “That’s the way it was during the war. We expect several more markers to be erected in the coming weeks.”

Hammond is president of the April 1865 Society which is sponsoring activities to commemorate the Battle of Selma that basically began and ended the same day.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the battle and Hammonds’ group has been working hard to provide as much historical data as possible for visitors who are expected to come to Selma to learn about the clash.

Known as the “Queen City of the Black Belt,” Selma is also a central site for the 50th anniversary of the historic march to Montgomery in March of 1965.

Hammonds said each historic marker costs about $3,500 “and we hope to find the funds for even more in order to provide a historic trail depicting events that happened here 150 years ago.”

Another marker will focus on the raid into Selma as well as the battle, said Hammonds, who indicated a brochure will be ready in April. He said at least a dozen markers are already paid for and ready for completion.

Creation of Shockley’s Escort Company isn’t as well-known as other Civil War developments and Hammonds said it provides an interesting aspect of the raid into Alabama.

Hammonds said students at the University of Alabama worked secretly in 1864 to enroll enough young men to form a cavalry company for the Confederate Army.

The “understanding,” Hammonds said, was that the volunteers would remain students until the term ended in July of 1864. More than 100 students eventually formed the independent unit and served under Brig. Gen. Daniel Adams until the war ended for them on May 10, 1865, and they all surrendered.

Robert M. Patton was basically a figurehead governor after being elected at a time when many Alabamians were not allowed to vote because of their service to the Confederacy, said Hammonds.

The third historic marker unveiled recently incorporates the same QR codes, video, local narration and map technology of the two previous markers, said Hammonds.

The first marker is located at the Battle of Selma re-enactment site while the second one was unveiled in front of the St. James Hotel, which was spared from destruction by Yankee troops who used it to house officers.

To read this article online, go to:

Attendance figures needed from state attractions and events

The Alabama Tourism Department is asking representatives from state attractions and events to turn in their attendance figures for 2014. These attendance figures are used by state tourism in economic impact studies and are the basis for the annual “Top 10” listings of tourism destinations. The figures serve as an invaluable guide for state government, local organizations and the media. They are also distributed in press kits to travel writers and group tour operators.

In order for you to be counted we must have your data by Fri., Jan. 23. The reporting process has been streamlined to allow you to enter your attendance figures directly online. The entire process should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Please follow this link to enter your attendance figures:

Note: There is only one event or attraction per online form and only one classification can be chosen.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right for final determination of classifications.

New York Post features a tale of two cities: Florence vs. Florence
By Libby Calaway, New York Post, Jan. 5

American towns with international names pop up in every state. Maybe it’s just an insider’s perspective, but they seem to be especially prominent in the South, where I grew up.

Chart the landscape from my hometown in southeast Tennessee, and you’ll find an Athens the next town over and cities christened Milan, Paris, Lebanon and Memphis a bit further west in the state — not to mention Versailles, Ky.; Rome, Ga.; Oxford, Miss.; and St. Petersburg, Fla., all within a half-day’s drive. I may not have had a passport yet, but before I left for college I’d visited many of the major cites of the world — or their facsimiles, at least.

Lately, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in Florence — wait for it — Alabama, where my employer, the fashion company Billy Reid, has its home base.

Florence is like many US cities with far-flung monikers, in that it was named by a European settler to honor their homeland. In this case, it was Italian Ferdinand Sannoner, an engineer who was brought to northern Alabama in the early 1800s to survey the land after the Chickasaw Nation ceded it to the federal government. Sannoner named the city after his Tuscan hometown, which, like his  “new” Florence, is located near a vibrant waterway — the Tennessee River is the stateside equivalent of the Florentine Arno — and surrounded by rolling countryside with rich agricultural preserves (“king” cotton against Tuscany’s crops of olives and grapes).

Despite Signore Sannoner’s best wishes, chances are no one is ever going to mistake the two Florences: the local accents alone are enough to guarantee that.

Still, the two cities do share more than a few similarities, many of them based on the value and pride the locals give to aesthetics. So when I booked a trip to the Italy earlier this year to get some face-time with some of our company’s Tuscan artisans, I made it my mission to suss them out in two categories: art and fashion.

Florence, Ala., is the largest quadrant of the four-city nexus known as The Shoals — a nickname derived from Muscle Shoals, the given name of one of the remaining three towns and one that’s familiar to anyone who cares deeply about 1960s-era R&B and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll.

Back in the day, two area recording studios — FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio — produced hundreds of recordings from greats like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Paul Simon, Etta James, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers and dozens of other bold-faced names in the annals of 20th century American music.

Though they didn’t record it at either studio, the Lynyrd Skynrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama” — the unofficial state anthem — namedrops not only Muscle Shoals, but also The Swampers, the nickname for the group of musicians who made up the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, several of whom still perform and live in the area.

The Swampers’ studio is located in Sheffield, another Shoals town, at 3614 Jackson Highway — for the record, an address that’s also the title of the Cher album recorded there. The Sound Studio offers tours, as does it local counterpart. FAME tours run $10 every weekday.

Live music from locally-bred troubadours like Jason Isbell and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers goes down at The Shoals Theater (you can’t miss the vintage light-up marquee at night) and 116 Mobile, a small show space booked by Single Lock Records, the label co-owned by John Paul White, a local better know as half of the Grammy-winning Civil Wars.

Another native son, W. C. Handy — a k a the Father of the Blues — is honored each summer at a popular weeklong music festival; fans can also visit his namesake museum, housed in Handy’s former home at 620 West College Street.

Florence, Italy, is better known for its visual art, of course, being the city most associated with the work of Leonardo da Vinci (his namesake museum is a testament to his creative legacy at Via de Servi, 66R) as well as Michelangelo (his David stands proudly in the Galleria della’Accademia, Via Bettino Ricasoli, 60) and Botticelli (“The Birth of Venus” hangs in the Renaissance-era Uffizi Gallery, one of Europe’s oldest, located at Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6).

Not to say you don’t run into some stunning music there, though. One evening, on my way back to my hotel, I was charmed to happen upon the Chiesa Santa Maria De’Ricci at via del Corso Piazza del Duomo, a small church near the Duomo, which has nightly 9:15 organ concerts that are free to passersby. Light a candle for someone you love or miss while you’re there.

Back at the hotel, I was reminded that even though music might not be front and center in the continuing legacy of this Florence, it’s definitely part of its history.

At the 24-room Relais Santa Croce on Via Ghibellina, an intimate luxury hotel inside the 18th-century Palazzo Ciofi-Jacometti, one of the architectural features is the lounge that was once a dedicated Music Room, with 39-foot vaulted ceilings surely designed with acoustics in mind, and frescoed walls with removable stucco panels revealing recesses where featured performers once entertained (from $333).

Reminders that you’re in one of the hotbeds of modern fashion abound while strolling around Florence. The main couture thoroughfares of Via Roma and Via Tornabuoni are elegant and almost a little intimidating, their sleek facades contrasting harshly with the ancient stone streets and sidewalks. Luckily, you don’t have to ever cross a store threshold (or spend a lot of dough) to get a fix of fashion.

It’s just a little ironic that comfortable shoes are a must in this flat, compact walking city, considering that one of its most notable fashion museums is devoted in large part to the art of the high-heeled shoe.

The Ferragamo Museo on the Via Tornabuoni has clothes, yes, but the biggest draw is archival footwear, including an iconic pair of strappy gold sandals with a rainbow striped platform made for, well, an icon: Judy Garland.

A few blocks away, the sleek Gucci Museo boasts three floors of exhibits broken down into categories that cover the Florentine fashion house’s key design points, like Bamboo, Logomania and Flora World (“Flora” is the name of the brand’s signature floral, created for the late Princess Grace, a client).

It also boasts a contemporary art gallery, an expansive bookstore, an “Icon Store” selling small runs of signature designs, and a café, where everything, from the china to the sugar cubes, is marked with the interlocking G motif.

Beyond the pleasantly flashy facades of these two hometown brands, there’s no questioning that quality is what’s allowed them their long-term success. And you’d expect as much coming from a city renowned for the artisan production of leather goods and textiles. This level of attention to superior craftsmanship and manufacturing is something the two Florences share when it comes to fashion.

Barring the years around the Civil War, when the local business infrastructure was damaged and subsequently rebuilt, Florence, Ala., was a leader in the textile trade of the Southeast from the early 1800s until the NAFTA laws of the 1990s sent local jobs overseas. In twenty-something years since, Natalie Chanin, founder and namesake of the fashion brand Alabama Chanin, has been hard at work finding ways to revive the local trade and employ what was a disenfranchised textile labor force.

These days she does this via The Factory, the name of the building that houses a busy vertical business including a space for cut-and-sew production, a design studio, a workshop area (Chanin has an international following of hand-stitching enthusiasts who come for day- to week-long classes), a retail store and cafe, where a staff serves up locally sourced dishes for breakfast and lunch.

The Factory is located just outside Florence proper, in an industrial park; a few miles away on Court Street, the charming main drag through downtown Florence, is the headquarters of Billy Reid, including a design studio, where Billy, who lives a few blocks away with his family in a Civil War-era house in an historic neighborhood, often arrives on his bicycle.

Like the other Florence, if you’re sticking close to downtown, there’s really no need for a car. The shop is a short stroll from the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, which offers the best in beds and body treatments in town (from $169).

The company has ten stores in the U.S., one of which is located on the ground floor of BR HQ.

Beyond a wide selection of the cool, classic clothing and accessories for men and women, much of it made in small artisan factories across America (including The Factory), Billy Reid Florence is notable for displaying quirky sculpture and paintings by Alabama folk artist Butch Anthony, who just happens to be Natalie Chanin’s beau.

To read the entire article online, go to:

The Wharf to build hotel, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, in Orange Beach
By Marc D. Anderson,, Jan. 7

New development is on the horizon at The Wharf as the owner of the 222-acre entertainment, retail and marina complex announced Tuesday that he plans to build a 140-room, all-suites hotel.

Art Favre, owner of Wharf Retail Properties LLC, has approved a franchise application with SpringHill Suites by Marriott for what is expected to be a five-story hotel on the Intracoastal Waterway, next to the Orange Beach Event Center off Canal Road. It would be built where the Bimini Bob’s restaurant is currently located.

Wharf General Manager Jim Bibby told that the development plans call for the restaurant building to be removed. Whether the restaurant will relocate is undetermined.

The news release states that construction is expected to begin in the spring.

The Wharf complex features a Main Street area lined with towering palm trees centered among 24 retail shops, 10 offices, 13 restaurants and a 15-screen movie theater. The nine-story, 190-unit Levin’s Bend condominium bookends the complex and overlooks a 208-slip marina on the Intracoastal Waterway.

The 9,600-seat Wharf Amphitheater is located adjacent to the retail and restaurant hub and hosts many high-profile concerts between the spring and fall seasons.

“Most destination properties begin with a hotel as the anchor, so this is a unique situation,” Favre said in a prepared statement. “We’ve seen a lot of pent-up consumer demand. The new SpringHill Suites by Marriott will give meeting planners options they’ve been asking for.”

“The Wharf’s extensive offerings have generated a demand for more room nights,” Favre said. “The Marriott brand commands the level of quality and reliable service our customers deserve. We’re delighted to bring the new hotel to the property.”

The location of the hotel will be between the Event Center and the marina, west of the Foley Beach Express toll bridge. The new SpringHill Suites will join four other Alabama locations in Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville. The new one in Orange Beach will include a resort-style pool overlooking the canal, meeting spaces, a fitness room and a market.

To read the entire article online, go to:

Birmingham Zoo receives $1 million
By Ana Todriguez,, Jan. 7

Plans to transform the front entrance of the Birmingham Zoo are well underway, thanks most recently to a $1 million grant from the Hugh Kaul Foundation.

The funds will be put toward the Zoo’s $15 million Capital Campaign project, designed to help transform the front entrance of the 59-year-old facility, create a Hugh Kaul entrance plaza complete with a state-of-the-art classroom, community park area, and build a new Asian Passage exhibit to house tigers, orangutans and siamang apes.

Additional major gift donations to the Zoo’s Asian Passage, and new arrival experience, include $7.5 million from the City of Birmingham, municipal support including leadership and support from Mayor William Bell and several private donors. The support and participation from the Board, the Zoo family and staff have helped raise a total of $10.1 million toward the Zoo’s fundraising goal.

BZI hired renowned zoo designer Ace Torre to help their vision come to light. Torre’s composite sketches include concepts found in the surrounding local community, said Foster, emphasizing stone and wood features.

“The Hugh Kaul Foundation is proud to join the City of Birmingham and other donors, in supporting this great community and world-class attraction,” said Sam Yates of the Hugh Kaul Foundation . “The Birmingham Zoo will continue to provide our youth with exceptional education and serve as a vibrant magnet for our citizens to enjoy.”

The Zoo has also received grants for $500,000 from the Linn-Henley Charitable Trust; $300,000 from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham; $300,000 from the Tom and Julia Crawford Foundation and $10,000 from the Walker Area Community Foundation.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Hugh Kaul Foundation for their continued support,” said Foster. “This is an exciting time for the Birmingham Zoo and the community. The Zoo’s transformation would not be possible without the support of the community and our donors.”

To read the entire article online, go to:


MSN names Mobile one of America’s hottest cities for 2015

Lagniappe, Jan. 6

Mobile was ranked as the 10th “hottest” city in America in a new survey, published by MSN Money.
MSN named Mobile among its 15 hottest U.S. cities for 2015. The popular website said that each of the cities “will be booming” in 2015 “thanks to new jobs, growing industries, burgeoning art and food scenes, and affordable real estate.”

The article highlighted Mobile’s thriving port, expanding international trade and prime location on the Gulf Coast as reasons for making the list.

“Mobile will become the Southern trading hub of the U.S.,” according to MSN.

The news outlet compiled its ranking using factors that included job growth, population growth, affordability, livability, and the health and well being of residents. It also took into account how “innovative and cool the city is.”

Other cities on the list included Austin, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Nashville and Pittsburgh, Pa.

“This is more proof that Mobile is on track to become the safest, most business and family-friendly city by 2020,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement. “We are no longer a city of perpetual potential. We are a city taking advantage of our potential, placing ourselves in the same league as other great cities across the nation.”

To read this article online, go to:

Yahoo rates the most iconic restaurants in every state
By Lee Breslouer, Yahoo! Food, Jan. 5

Alabama: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que
Decatur (Est. 1925)

Alabama’s place in the great lexicon of barbecue rests squarely on the shoulders of one man: Big Bob Gibson. Whild other BBQ regions were dancing with brisket and ribs and pork, in 1925, Gibson started smoking chicken in a hand-dug pit in his backyard and serving folks on a picnic table.  (He also served pork, but that’s such a side note to the chicken here.)  In addition to making chicken the star – rather than the weird, dry BBQ’d poultry coated in a congealed sauce that’s served at every company picnic ever – Gibson rolled out his now-famous, peppery mayo-cider vinegar-lemon white sauce that’s synonymous with “Alabama barbecue”.  North Alabama fervor means the family has relocated its physical space a number of times over the years – the current OG was opened in the ’80s with a second location in the ’90s – but the chicken is still smokey and juicy with crispy skin.  And the white sauce is still damn amazing.

To read the entire article, go to:


Belle Chevre goat cheese creamery in Elkmont to star in GAC TV show

By Lucy Berry,, Jan. 7

An artisan goat cheese business in rural Limestone County will star in a new TV show on the Great American Country (GAC) network this week.

Belle Chevre owner Tasia Malakasis said her goat cheese creamery and cheese shop in downtown Elkmont will be featured on GAC’s “Off the Map” at 7 p.m. Jan. 16 with hosts Shannen Doherty and Holly Combs.

“The show wanted to visit unique places across the country and chose Belle Chevre’s award-winning creamery to showcase,” she told “The famous hosts come and make cheese with the cheesemakers in Elkmont, Alabama.”

Malakasis said the episode was filmed last summer in about eight hours. A full crew of producers, directors, hair and makeup professionals, and actors (Doherty and Combs) took part in the production.

The Elkmont business was selected because it is a “cool, out-of-the way” place, Malakasis said. In the episode, Doherty and Combs milk a goat, make cheese and visit the nearby Cheese Shop and Tasting Room for a snack.

“There’s a lot of laughing and learning and exploring and eating,” Malakasis said.

Attempts to reach the show’s producer were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Belle Chevre was founded in 1989 by Tom and Liz Parnell. Malakasis, a Huntsville native, took ownership of the creamery more than seven years ago after working as an apprentice for six months.

Belle Chevre, which has garnered more than 100 national and international awards, was named one of the 50 Best Independent American Food Brands in 2013.

“It is my hope that more of the country knows about what we do here and will come visit us and the sweet town of Elkmont, that people will get ‘Off the Map,'” she said.

Malakasis recently made Southern Living’s list of 50 people who are changing the South.

To read the article online, go to:

The business of craft beer: Downtown Huntsville, Inc. and to host economic impact forum
By Lucy Berry,, Jan. 6

Could Huntsville become the craft beer capital of the South?

It’s not a far-fetched idea for Downtown Huntsville, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Chad Emerson, whose organization will celebrate the city’s budding craft brew scene during Winter Warmer Week Jan. 19-24.

DHI is also partnering with and The Huntsville Times that week to host a free craft beer forum at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 on 200 West Side Square to discuss the business of craft beer and its economic impact on the Rocket City and region. The public event will provide beer samples and light refreshments for attendees.

“We all know it tastes great and we all enjoy seeing the events at the different breweries and the different establishments, but let’s talk to the breweries and distributors and other people about how local craft beer is becoming an increasingly important economic driver in the Huntsville area,” said Emerson, who will moderate the forum.

The forum will include at least six panelists: Ethan Couch, general manager of Yellowhammer; Dan Roberts, executive director of the Alabama Brewers Guild; Matt Fowler, investor in Old Town Beer Exchange; Eric Crigger, owner of Rocket Republic Brewing Company; Matt Broadhurst, employee at Straight to Ale; and Charles Winters, executive vice president of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Shelly Haskins, director of community news in Huntsville for Alabama Media Group, said about a dozen craft beer professionals have been invited so the list of panelists may grow.

“We’ll spend an hour or two talking about the craft beer industry,” he said. “It’s a new thing for Huntsville and north Alabama. Where’s it going? Is it going to be something that really can provide jobs and even tourism to north Alabama and Huntsville?”

Madison County achieved several craft beer milestones in 2014.

Construction on the vacant Stone Middle School began in September to prepare for a new 40,000-square-foot brewery and taproom for Straight to Ale and a 6,000-square-foot facility, bier garten and tasting room for Yellowhammer. Contract brewers Rocket Republic Brewing Company and Old Black Bear Brewing also announced plans to open their first brick-and-mortar locations this year in Madison.

In 2013, statewide beer production grew 47 percent, while the number of breweries nearly doubled from seven to 13. The industry is expected to have “the most aggressive revenue growth of any alcoholic beverage” nationally as U.S. craft beer production expands 7.4 percent annually through 2019, according to research firm IBISWorld.

Emerson said DHI wanted the inaugural Winter Warmer Week to be about more than just enjoying Huntsville’s “great craft beer.”

“We wanted to bring a level of conversation that goes into the business of craft beer,” he said. “If you come to this event, you’ll leave being really amazed about how economically valuable the local craft beer industry is to the
Huntsville and Madison County area.”

To read the entire article, go to:


Snowbirds officially land at Alabama’s Gulf Coast, hundreds flock to Snowbird Fest

By Brian Kelly,, Jan. 10

If there was any question as to whether the snowbirds have officially arrived at Alabama’s Gulf Coast, one only need to have attended Saturday’s annual Snowbird Fest at The Event Center at The Wharf. A line stretched down the road even before the doors opened at 9 a.m. as Pleasure Island’s winter guests braved a slight chill.

“Oh, this is summer weather for us!” cried Angie Pinkerton of Milwaukee, Wis. Her comment brought on a flurry of laughter from the line of people. “We’re snowbirds and most of us are used to below zero this time of year.”

Inside the center hundreds of seniors roamed around, looking for a good deal or better than a good deal. “Free is the best deal,” said Carol Tonkin of Lansing, Mi. “But it’s fun just to see old friends, too.”

Running across old friends is a big part of the snowbird festival. “Some of us have been coming to the Gulf Coast for more than ten years,” said Ron Barrett of Cedar Rapids, Ia. “So we end up seeing each other for a few months each year.”

Some snowbirds took the opportunity to get check on their health, while visiting paradise. Linda Martorelli was with a nurse. “I’m getting my blood pressure checked and I’m happy to say it was very good,” Martorelli said with a laugh. “And I’m going to have some fun now that I know I’m going to live.”

Martorelli and hundreds of other snowbirds enjoyed free food samples from more than a dozen local eateries including The Hangout, Baumhower’s, Lulu’s at Homeport, Flora-Bama Lounge and Package, and Happy Harbor.

The free chow was a big draw for some hungry snowbirds. “Lot of small and tasty food,” said Stan Mueller of Michigan. “Always love this event. Nice way to welcome us here.”

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44th Annual National Shrimp Festival announces poster contest
GulfCoastNewsToday, Jan. 7

The Coastal Alabama Business Chamber is now accepting poster designs for the 44th Annual National Shrimp Festival.

Artwork that is submitted must incorporate a certain criteria.  Please visit the Shrimp Festival website,, for a list of rules and design criteria. The winning poster will become the property of the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber, and will be the official artwork for the Annual National Shrimp Festival merchandise at the festival.

The winning artist will receive a cash award of $1,000. You can submit artwork at the Chamber of Commerce office, 3150 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores.

Deadline to submit artwork will be Fri., March 6.  For more information please contact Owen Corcoran at (251) 968-4237 or

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Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Jan 16 – 18                       Cincinnati Golf Show – Cincinnati,OH
Jan 16 – 18 & 21 – 25      Cincinnati Travel, Sport & Boat Show – Cincinnati, OH
Jan 18 – 22                       National Tour Association (NTA) – New Orleans, LA
Jan 22 – 25                       Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow – Louisville, KY
Jan 27 – 28                       Snowbird Extravaganza Show – Lakeland, FL  



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