Tourism Tuesdays January 6, 2015

  • Alabama Tourism Department names Top 10 events for 2015
  • Gov. Bentley to attend preview screening of Selma
  • The biggest Oscar races, up for grabs
  • Why Oprah was convinced to make Selma
  • The New York Times reports film shows a Selma some would rather not revisit
  • Selma movie to screen for free at historic Selma theater
  • Alabama’s Gulf Coast — a different kind of beach
  • Lake Guntersville celebrates 30 years of Eagle Awareness
  • U. S. Space & Rocket Center, NASA hosts first Robotics Kickoff for 2015
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Alabama Tourism Department names Top 10 events for 2015, Jan 3

The Alabama Tourism Department is releasing its top 10 events for 2015 ranging from the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March to the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores and the Iron Bowl in Auburn.

The top 10 events in chronological order are “Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough and the Golden Age of Painting in Europe” at the Huntsville Museum of Art, the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March in Selma/Lowndes/Montgomery, the Eufaula Pilgrimage in Eufaula, the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, the Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame Kickoff in Birmingham, the Barbasol Championship in Opelika. Major events late in the year are the Moundville Native American Festival in Moundville, “Come Home It’s Suppertime” Folklife Play in Brundidge, Bellingrath Magic Christmas in Light in Mobile and the Iron Bowl in Auburn.

The state tourism department selects the top 10 events based on significant anniversaries and the uniqueness of the event. The events listing is featured in the 2015 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events that will be available at state welcome centers and local tourism bureaus the first week of January.

You can find more details about each event in the Tourism Department’s Top 10 list here:

Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough and the Golden Age of Painting in Europe, Huntsville Museum of Art, Feb. 15-Apr. 26
Celebrating the golden age of painting in Europe during the 17th and 18th century.

50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, Selma/Lowndes/Montgomery, Mar. 5-9
Weekend of events commemorating of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March.

Eufaula Pilgrimage, Eufaula, Apr. 10-12
Eufaula hosts Alabama’s oldest tour of homes and has more than 700 structures listed on the National Register. Each spring the city of Eufaula opens its doors to share this historical wealth.

Hangout Music Festival, Gulf Shores, May 15-17
Weekend music festival featuring an impressive lineup of bands and musicians performing on the white sand beaches of Gulf Shores.

Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame Kickoff
Honoring barbecue restaurants in the state that have been in operation more than 50 years.

The Barbasol Championship, Opelika, July 13-19
A new PGA TOUR tournament sponsored by Barbasol will debut in 2015 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National in Opelika.

Moundville Native American Festival, Moundville, Oct. 7-10
Experience live cannon fire, the lives of Creek and Cherokee Indians, hunting camps and demonstrations of traditional skills of the early 1800s.

“Come Home It’s Suppertime” Folklife Play, Brundidge, Nov. 5-14
Alabama’s Official Folklife play featuring depression-era stories of life in the rural south. The play will be celebrating its 20th season.

Bellingrath Magic Christmas in Light, Mobile, Nov. 27-Dec. 31
Stroll through the gardens with more than three million twinkling lights in over 928 custom designed set pieces in 13 scenes. Tour the Bellingrath Home decorated in its holiday finery.

Iron Bowl, Auburn, Nov. 28
The Southeast’s biggest college football rivalry pits two SEC powerhouses, Auburn University and the University of Alabama, against each other for the next year’s bragging rights.

The 2015 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events will be available the first week of January at the eight state welcome centers, local tourism bureaus and online at

To read this article online, go to:

Gov. Bentley to attend preview screening of Selma
By Jim Stinson,, Jan. 5

Gov. Robert Bentley will attend a Montgomery preview of the movie Selma, at a cinema on Vaughn Road.

Bentley’s office said the governor will join Lee Sentell, Alabama Department of Tourism and Travel director, and Kathy Faulk, manager of the Alabama Film Office for a special preview screening of the movie Selma.

The movie Selma is directed and co-written by Ava DuVernay, and is scheduled to be released nationwide on Friday. The film, whose producers include Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey, is based on the 1965 voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery that was led by Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders.  Last June, Bentley met some of the producers during the filming of Selma at the Alabama Capitol.  The movie producers shot scenes in Montgomery and Selma.

Bentley’s office said the governor has prioritized movie production in Alabama. The Alabama Film Office, a division of the Alabama Department of Commerce, works to increase economic opportunities by building and promoting film and the related media industries in Alabama. Since Governor Bentley has been in office, 25 movies have been filmed in Alabama, along with 10 full-season reality shows.

The governor will speak to guests attending the preview screening on Tuesday at a theater on Vaughn Road.  His remarks will begin at 6:45 p.m. with the movie beginning at 7 p.m.

To read this article online, go to:

The biggest Oscar races, up for grabs

By Cara Buckley, The New York Times, Dec. 17

Psst. Wanna know who’s going to win an Oscar? The answers are here!

Check that. The possible, dare we say semi-likely-at-this-stage-of-the-game answers are here. Here being nine and a half weeks before the Academy metes out its gold-plated, britannium statuettes on Feb. 22.

A lot could change between now and then, but, realistically speaking, a lot probably will not. Still, while there are favorites and front-runners, unlike last year, there are no locks for three of the four biggest categories yet.

Storming his way into the race in tandem with the meteoric rise of Selma is a Brit, David Oyelowo, who put in a rousing performance as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Then there is Steve Carell for his creepy performance in “Foxcatcher” (could he win by a nose?). And Jake Gyllenhaal has been gaining awards steam for his equally creepy, bug-eyed performance in “Nightcrawler.” Strong year for the boys, and as of yet an undecided race.

Which brings us to this season’s surprise belle of the ball.

For most of the year, Paramount had been heavily backing Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” as its top Oscar contender. But while that film has been a box-office winner, it has gained little awards traction. It has also been wholly eclipsed by the studio’s Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, who has been greeted with standing ovations at screenings and last week became the first black woman to earn a Golden Globe directing nod.

Not only has Selma brought desperately needed frisson to the best-picture race, but its release also coincides with explosive real-time racial unrest. The cast and crew have taken a definitive stand, donning T-shirts reading “I Can’t Breathe” at the film’s premiere. What might this mean for the Oscar race? Unclear. At the very least, it looks certain that Selma will receive a best picture nomination.

To read this article online, go to:

Why Oprah was convinced to make Selma
By Sasha Bronner, HuffpostCelebrity, Jan. 5

An unfinished cut of the upcoming civil rights film Selma screened to a capacity audience at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and the film received an emotional standing ovation at its conclusion — and that was before Oprah Winfrey even came out on stage.

Winfrey produced the film and plays the small supporting role of protester Annie Lee Cooper on screen, but she wasn’t always so keen on being so involved. Winfrey told director Ava DuVernay and producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner (“12 Years A Slave”) that she would do whatever she could to help Selma get made. They eventually wore her down.

“I was already putting my two cents in all the time and they said why don’t you just join us as a producer?” Winfrey told the audience. She had become fast friends with Selma star David Oyelowo while working on Lee Daniels’ The Butler together — they play mother and son in that movie — and his presence in the role of Martin Luther King Jr. was almost immediately evident. It convinced Winfrey the film would work.

“He showed me a tape that he had done and I said, ‘Yeah. I could see King in you. It’s not quite there. But I can see it’s on its way there,” Winfrey said. “That’s what got me to say yes.”

And who could resist the deeply inspirational, oftentimes brutal and viscerally human story of King and hundreds of protestors marching across Alabama, asking for the simple right to vote?

The year is 1965 and the civil rights movement is electrifying the country. Martin Luther King Jr. is a household name. So is Malcolm X. President Lyndon Johnson is in office and King is putting pressure on him to do more to address racial tensions in the country — all while war rages on in Vietnam.

Selma, Alabama, is the perfect symbol for King. The county it belonged to was more than half black, but less than 1 percent of its black citizens were registered to vote. More than 80 percent lived below the poverty line. The laws in Alabama made it quite literally impossible for black voters to register to vote.

King arrives and organizes a march from Selma to Montgomery — but is met with extreme violence and resistance. The government watches his every move, taps his phones and logs all of his activities. He has consistent phone calls and meetings with President Johnson.

The story is bloody and it is heartbreaking. But DuVernay has delivered a nearly perfect film about protest and progress. It breathes life into shocking true events that many audience members were not alive for — or have only heard about anecdotally — if at all. Some might think the title of the film refers to a woman, not knowing the significance of the place Selma, Alabama.

DuVernay, who won a wide range of indie awards for her 2012 film Middle of Nowhere, told the AFI crowd she never thought about tackling this kind of material. She never even found herself interested in historical dramas. “I’m more of a black indie hipster romance kind of gal,” she quipped, to much laughter.

But Oprah recalled with tenderness DuVernay’s keen ability to nourish every single person on the expansive set. “That is what she did best,” she said. “Including the day that we had hundreds of extras wearing wool clothes in 104-degree heat walking across that bridge over and over again. I watched her walk through the crowd and ask every extra if they were okay and bring water to everyone. I said, ‘Ava, someone else can bring water to the people. You don’t have to be the one to bring the water to the people.’”

Like Winfrey, DuVernay said the project started and stopped with David Oyelowo. The 38-year-old actor plays Dr. King with fierce strength, quiet ease and a confidence you don’t often see in an actor under 40. (No wonder he’s already on the receiving end of a good amount of Oscar buzz.) British born with Nigerian roots, Oyelowo said he felt a cosmic connection to the material.

“Soon after my wife and I moved to this country, I was taught from above that I would play this role.  On the 24th of July, 2007.  I couldn’t believe it, so I wrote it down — that’s how I know the date,” he said. “The director at the time didn’t agree with that higher power. And a process of my birth, my experiences, my faith, time and these incredible people led me to this moment.”

Oyelowo wasn’t the only person waiting to tell this story. Gardner and Kleiner of Plan B (Brad Pitt’s production company) have been dreaming about this film for more than eight years. According to Gardner, its delayed maturation was simple. The film never had the right director. (Lee Daniels, who directed Winfrey and Oleyowo in The Butler, was once attached.)

But now that Selma is coming soon — Paramount will release the film on Christmas Day before a nationwide bow on Jan. 9, 2015 — the filmmakers are eying the finish line. Not that the road is clear of potential obstacles: Actor and activist Alfre Woodard, who moderated the post-screening Q&A (which also included cast member Common, who flew from London just to be in L.A. for a few hours for the unveiling), bluntly asked Gardner and Kleiner how they were going to sell the film overseas — touching on the long taboo topic that black films do not do well with international audiences.

But Kleiner, who is white, did not bat an eye. “We don’t believe in the mythology or the false ideology that certain films are predetermined to succeed in some markets and not others.” Clearly referring to last year’s powerhouse Oscar film 12 Years A Slave, he continued: “We have had some specific examples that have told us that that’s not the case. We have high hopes for this film and many films that will come in its path.”

Hope itself is a character in Selma. As is perseverance. The bloody marches that took place under Dr. King’s watch led to death and sorrow and frustration. But they also led to President Johnson passing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Movement.

Oyelowo told the audience that he has had the privilege of living on three continents as a black man: in Europe, Nigeria and now in the United States.

“The thing I learned living in Nigeria is exactly what is said in the film — that we are born of kings. We are a people of deep pride, incredible culture and indescribable power,” he said. “And unfortunately, on the continents of both Europe and America, that has been denigrated over time. I don’t think it’s any accident that somehow this great man’s name was King.”

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The New York Times reports film shows a Selma some would rather not revisit
By Richard Fausset, The New York Times, Dec. 24

Like many residents here this summer, Josh Wilkerson eagerly signed up to be an extra in the film “Selma.” But when he was asked to play a member of the sheriff’s posse that beat civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, he respectfully declined.

“I said, ‘This is my city, and that’s not in my heart,’ ” Mr. Wilkerson, 29, an office administrator, recalled recently. “I knew that would open doors that I’ve shut.”

Today, in this small city still struggling to emerge from the shadows of Jim Crow, the attack on the bridge on March 7, 1965, is incessantly rued, revisited, and marketed as a tourist attraction. It was the dramatic apogee of the tense and violent period when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers took to the streets of Alabama to convince lawmakers of the need for a voting rights act. And it is the key moment in the film, which opens Thursday in a nation freshly embroiled in anguish about race and policing.

And so, along with excitement and curiosity, the coming release of “Selma” has also stirred a host of complex, though familiar, emotions here, as the city’s 20,000 residents are again forced to consider the relationship between Southern history and the Southern present — and measure the distance between the two.

For some, “Selma,” the film, will be a moment to celebrate how far the city — with its black mayor, majority-black City Council and black police chief — has come since the days of segregation. But others, particularly some white residents, are more wary.

“There’s no reason to make a movie like that,” said Harvey King, 64, a Selma native and the owner of HK Custom Guns, a shop just outside of town. “It’s like if you cut your hand, and you keep messing with it. It’s not going to heal up.”

Such reaction is unsurprising to George Patrick Evans, 70, Selma’s second black mayor. Many of the major players depicted in the film have died, including Jim Clark, who as sheriff led his posse to join state troopers in beating back marchers on the bridge in the confrontation known as Bloody Sunday. But other participants still walk Selma’s streets.

“Those were difficult times,” Mr. Evans said. “Some of these families were a part of that difficult time. A lot of them are concerned now about what the movie is going to depict.”

Long before the movie cameras arrived in Selma, the city’s past felt inescapable. The bridge over the muddy Alabama River is still the city’s most prominent landmark. On the north bank is Selma’s quaint downtown, which hosts a civil rights interpretive center operated by the National Park Service.

On the south bank is the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, founded by local activists who, since 1993, have hosted a yearly re-creation and commemoration of Bloody Sunday called the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

Like much of the rest of the South, Selma’s story since 1965 has encompassed change and stasis, accommodation and intransigence. Today, 80 percent of the population is African-American, and while blacks dominate local government, white residents retain much of the economic power. Selma High School, once all white, is today nearly all black; this year the local school district was taken over by the state because of poor management.

Many white children attend private schools like John T. Morgan Academy, founded three months after Bloody Sunday. The United States senator after whom it was named was also a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

But even Morgan has some black students now, and well-off black residents can be found living alongside white ones in the handsome, woodsy, suburban-style neighborhoods just beyond downtown.

Residents noted other signs of progress: Black and white churches have been forming partnerships and intermingling. Mr. Wilkerson, who eventually took a job playing a National Guardsman in the film, noted that his twin brother, Paul, owner of a local institution called the Tally-Ho Restaurant, is swift to boot out customers who pepper their speech with racial slurs.

If the slurs endure in some quarters, so, too, does a grinding destitution: In Dallas County, of which Selma is the county seat, 36 percent of residents live in poverty, nearly double the statewide rate. The city lacks a dedicated cinema, and as of Tuesday, had not decided where it would host a screening of Selma. (The film, directed by Ava DuVernay, has been talked about as an Oscar contender.)

In the long term, many here are hoping that the film, along with the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday this March, will spur a boom in tourism.

“We say it’s harvest time in Selma,” said Faya Rose Toure, a lawyer and activist and a founder of the both the Jubilee march and the voting museum. “We need a company to come in and say, ‘You know what? Considering what Selma did for democracy, I’m going to put my industry here.’”

Ms. Toure, who is African-American, is intent on keeping the spirit of Bloody Sunday connected to the struggles of the present day. Last week, she walked onto the Edmund Pettus Bridge to draw attention to the fatal shootings nationwide of African-American men by the police — including one in Selma involving a 74-year-old black man whom officers accused of wielding a hatchet. No officers were charged with a crime.

“This is the bridge where Bloody Sunday took place,” Ms. Toure said. “Because of that, we’ve got a black district attorney and black judges. But there’s a police culture built upon the premise that black life isn’t valuable.”

Many here say Ms. Toure’s outspoken style is one reason that many whites do not participate in the yearly bridge crossing event. There is talk this year of a separate march of blacks and whites, organized by the churches.

It remains to be seen if such efforts will lure white Selmians like Jamie Henderson, 65, across the bridge for the first time.

“There’s a lot of people who recognize the importance of it, but don’t want to be an agitator,” he said.

But would he go see the movie? “I doubt it,” he said. “If it comes on TV, maybe.”

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Selma movie to screen for free at historic Selma theater

By Amber Sutton,, Jan. 2

Residents of Selma will get to watch the upcoming Golden Globe nominated film named after their city for free.

Selma will show for free at the Walton Theater for the town’s residents beginning Jan. 9 until Jan. 31. Paramount Pictures said the free screenings are to show the city the film producers’ appreciation to the city of Selma and its citizens.

“With deep gratitude to the people of Selma, Alabama, we are proud to share this powerful film depicting the historic events that took place there 50 years ago,” said Oprah Winfrey, according to Variety. “I hope generations will watch the film and share their stories of remembrance and history together.”

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.

While most of the movie was filmed in Atlanta, Ga., several scenes were shot in Alabama, such as the Selma-to-Montgomery march. In addition, filmmakers shot a scene where King leads civil rights demonstrators down Dexter Avenue toward the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.

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Alabama’s Gulf Coast — a different kind of beach

By Nicole Pensiero, South Jersey Times, Jan. 4

Like many other New Jerseyeans, when someone mentions heading to a southern, warm-weather destination, my brain automatically flashes one word: Florida. But that mental image has now shifted, thanks to a recent, eye-opening visit to Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where it’s all about relaxation, good food and communing with nature. Despite our off-season visit to the adjoining Gulf Coast cities of Orange Beach and the much-larger Gulf Shores (population 9,900), the November weather was mild enough to make outdoor activities enjoyable and tempting enough to have me pondering a return trip in the heat of summer.

Located at the southernmost tip of Alabama between Mobile and Pensacola, Florida, the Gulf Shores region is an easy 50-minute drive from Pensacola Airport. Crossing over from Florida into Alabama, we passed a popular bar and nightclub whose very name – the Flora-Bama – is an homage to its on-the-border location ( We would return later during our stay to enjoy a surprisingly tasty, gourmet quality meal at its neighboring open-air restaurant, which boasts the tongue-in-cheek name of the Flora-Bama Yacht Club ( The Flora-Bama — with its expansive menu (specializing in seafood, of course) and relaxing vibe — is a must-do for any Gulf Shore visitor; music fans may want to check out its popular “Shindig on the Sand” music festival held each June.

There are plenty of lodging options in the region, which draws more than five million visitors annually to the 16 miles of beach front that make up Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. We opted for a spacious, upscale condominium, which — because of the time of year we arrived — ended up costing less than $150 per night ( Our eighth-floor unit was based at The Wharf, a sprawling complex of luxury condominiums, high-end shops, several restaurants, a movie theater, and an amusement pier/concert venue (

It was there that we enjoyed one of the best meals of our three-day visit, and got to meet a local celebrity in the process. Former Miami Dolphin defensive lineman (and Alabama native) Bob Baumhower owns an array of popular restaurants located throughout Alabama, with one of his newest – The Compleat Angler – a few floors down from our Wharf condominium. There, we enjoyed an array of southern-style seafood appetizers – including Alabama seafood gumbo – and a killer bacon cheeseburger (  While we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at The Compleat Angler – named for the classic book that inspired the historic hotel and bar in Bimini, Bahamas — I found myself equally interested many photos adorning the walls of Baumhower fishing over the years, some of which he kindly explained the stories behind.

While it wasn’t warm enough to take a dip in the ocean during our Gulf Shores visit, that didn’t stop us for enjoying a stroll on the beach. I was as impressed by the expansive powdery stretch of white sand and Caribbean-like blue water as I was by the majestic pelicans and herons relaxing there. We also enjoyed more natural wonders during a guide golf cart tour of the Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail (, where we traveled along 11-miles of trails and heard plenty of stories about the alligators residing nearby. We even explored nature on the water, too, by way of a Wild Native boat tour (, where we took in the sights of Oyster Bay, Bon Secour Bay and the Bon Secour River.  In the warm weather months, paddle boarding, kayaking and deep-sea fishing are all major draws to the areas. There’s even a popular zoo in Gulf Shores.

Another highlight of our off-season getaway was a stop at Orange Beach’s Coastal Arts Center & Hot Shop. There, we watched two resident glass-blowers make various items, and wandered around the well-manicured grounds, where local artisans sell their wares (

Our November visit to Alabama coincided with the popular Frank Brown International Music Festival (, which next year is set for Nov. 5-15. We were able to catch more than a few great gigs, scattered throughout the region in various clubs, restaurants, and outdoor venues. We were especially taken with the famed Hangout (, where we enjoyed a performance by popular southern folk-rock band, The Mulligan Brothers.  The Hangout is such a fun and vibrant setting — there are both indoor and outdoor seating areas – that I could hardly imagine what a warm-weather visit must be like here. (Fantastic, I’m sure). The Hangout also hosts a massive beach-front music festival each year; the 2015 event – which will feature more than 70 bands performing on six stages – is set for May 15-17th (

I found the vibe in both Orange Beach and Gulf Shores to be charmingly laid-back and I was especially impressed by the physical beauty of the place. Despite the many hotels and condominiums along the beaches, there’s a sense of “wide-openness” about the region, which thankfully doesn’t appear to be overdeveloped.

Even eating at a very busy place like LuLu’s – which can draw more than 4,000 people a day in the summer months — was surprisingly relaxing, offering beautiful views of the adjoining Homeport Marina ( Buffett, I should mention, is the younger sister of singer-songwriter Jimmy, and grew up in Alabama. I should also mention that Lulu’s was one of several eateries where I sampled the region’s famed Bushwacker alcoholic drink. Because the Bushwacker was found on the menu of every eatery we visited along the Gulf Coast – and so seemingly unheard of in the Northeast – I did a Google search to learn about its origins, which date back to 1975, when it was first served at a Pensacola nightclub. A sort of creamy, chocolate piña colada, this drink’s informal origins mean there’s no “official” recipe, which translates into varying levels of potency. As a near-teetotaler, I was surprised at how appealing a Bushwacker was – and I’m certain even more so when the steamy-hot summer takes hold.

While I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the Gulf Coast, I was especially pleased to see no traces of the hardships faced by the region in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill. 2013, in fact, ended up a record year in terms of tourism, with 2014’s numbers expected to be even better. Now that I’ve seen it for myself, I can understand why: this unique destination offers a balanced mix of fun, sun, great dining, and nature. There seemed to be something for every age group and every interest. No doubt, I’ll be back.

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Lake Guntersville celebrates 30 years of Eagle Awareness

In 2015, Lake Guntersville State Park will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its popular Eagle Awareness Weekends. Each weekend from January 2 through February 21, the park will feature live bird demonstrations, programs delivered by notable speakers, and guided field trips for viewing eagles in their natural habitat. The park is located at 1155 Lodge Dr., Guntersville, Ala., 35976.

The Eagle Awareness events are free to the public. There is no registration needed to attend the programs or field trips. However, the sessions can fill up fast so participants are encouraged to arrive early for the events. For a complete list of scheduled Eagle Awareness events, visit the Lake Guntersville State Park page on

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Eagle Awareness at Lake Guntersville, the park is offering several overnight accommodation packages and dining specials. From cabins to hotel rooms, each package includes passes to Cathedral Caverns. For more information about the Eagle Awareness packages or to make reservations, visit the Lake Guntersville State Park page on or call 256-571-5440.

Eagle Awareness attendees are also encouraged to share their photos on social media using the hashtag #EagleAwareness2015. To get updates and see photos of the events, follow Lake Guntersville State Park on Facebook ( and Twitter (

The Eagle Awareness Weekends began in 1985 to coincide with a bald eagle restoration program in Alabama. A loss of habitat, pesticide use and poaching had pushed eagle populations to the brink of extinction nationwide. Alabama’s restoration project was started in 1984 by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Nongame Wildlife Program. Between the years 1985 and 1991, 91 bald eagles were released throughout the state. Today, bald eagles are a more common site in Alabama than in decades past.

The Alabama State Parks Division operates and maintains 22 state parks encompassing approximately 48,000 acres of land and water. These Parks rely on visitor fees and the support of other Partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations.  To learn more about Alabama State Parks, visit

U. S. Space & Rocket Center, NASA hosts first Robotics Kickoff for 2015

By Kay Campbell,, Jan. 3

The mechanical challenge for the 2015 game, Recycle Rush, will be to design a remotely controlled robot that can manipulate three objects: a plastic garbage can, a hard-sided crate, and – what many players expect to be the spoiler of this year’s game – a swimming pool noodle. Extra points can be scored if the robot can place the noodle into the slotted lid of the garbage can – a little like inserting a straw into the top of a to-go cup. Points are deducted for litter left on the playing field at the end of play.

Teams will also be able to partner to work their side of a field of “litter” as they race to get as much as possible stacked up in the time allowed. View the game description at

Hetrick said the Mech Tech team will head back to Brewer High School Saturday, the headquarters for the team drawn from all five of Morgan County high schools, for a day of analysis and concept development. Beginning Monday, the team will begin the schedule they’ll keep for the next six weeks: from about 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and most of the coming Saturdays.

“It’s like a full-time job,” Hetrick said.

But it’s worth it, she said. Morgan County’s team was able to get to the national competitions last year after placing second in one of the two regionals they attended.

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Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Jan 10 – 13                       American Bus Association Annual Meeting – St. Louis, MO
(America’s Center Convention Complex)
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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Alabama Tourism Department