Tourism Tuesdays February 10, 2015

  • Tourism Department promotes discounted Southern Living ad rate
  • Attendance up at three overseas consumer travel shows
  • Selma has strong ticket sales in UK
  • Selma and the rise of Alabama tourism
  • Civil rights lawyer Fred Gray honored with historic marker in Montgomery
  • After Harper Lee novel surfaces, plots arise
  • Hank Williams wins Grammy
  • Grammy song inspired by Alabama stone wall
  • French company adds tour that includes Alabama
  • Trip Advisor shows increased interest in Alabama
  • Alabama musicians to be on stage in English festival
  • Alabama food blogger makes Southern Living‘s list of ’30 Bloggers You Should be Following in 2015’
  • Visitor center to reopen at Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance
  • ExxonMobil grants donations to Dauphin Island Sea Lab
  • Alabama Makers
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Tourism Department promotes discounted Southern Living ad rate

The Alabama Tourism Department is encouraging attractions and destinations to participate in a discounted  Travel Directory ad in the June issue of Southern Living, with the cost reduced from the open rate of $6,190 to a net rate of $3,500. The circulation is 700,000 copies in nine states in the South and Midwest, specifically Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. The ads are 1/6th of a page.

Director Lee Sentell said the offer is available for only six participants with a deadline of space reservations on March 27 and ad materials due on April 1. The publication will be on sale May 22. Sentell purchased the Southern Living ad space at the last Governor’s Conference silent auction and is spreading the benefits among the six ads.

He advised prospects to contact their Southern Living ad representative or Bill Dinan at Luckie & Company at 205-879-2121 for more information.

Attendance up at three overseas consumer travel shows

Alabama information available to more than 100,000

Alabama tourism destinations were promoted at three of the largest consumer travel shows in the UK and Ireland last month.  Attendance at each of these three tourism events was up 3% to 5%, for a total attendance of more than 100,000.

There was a constant stream of visitors enquiring about Alabama as a tourist destination at the Deep South USA booth that was at all three shows.

Alabama’s UK In-Market representative Della Tully reported The HolidayWorld Show in Dublin, Ireland received over 40,000 visitors while the Destinations Show in London had 38,688 visitors attend the show over it’s four day program in London’s Olympia. The Destinations Show in Manchester also saw an increase with 24,765 visitors attending over the four days.

The UK premiere of the Selma movie during the week of the Destinations Show helped draw special interest in Alabama at the travel show.

The Deep South booth at these consumer shows is part a marketing effort in the UK and Ireland of the tourism offices of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana.

For more information on Alabama’s tourism efforts in the UK and Ireland, contact and

Selma has strong ticket sales in UK

The movie Selma had a $1.2 million opening weekend in the United Kingdom.  Selma opening ticket sales in the UK were almost identical to The Butler, another American historical drama film which was released in the summer of 2013.

The Alabama Tourism Department is building on the Selma film’s popularity to promote tourism to the state. A thirty-second movie advertisement is playing in 200 cinemas across the UK including the leading UK cinema chains Cineworld, VUE, Odeon and Empire which invites movie viewers to visit Alabama.

To see the movie trailer ad, go to:

password: 3D2g7bzf9D

For more information on Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts in the UK, contact and

Selma and the rise of Alabama tourism
By Caryn Eve Murray,, Feb. 3

Fifty years later, they still cross the bridge: But the steps of resolve and determination once taken on Selma, Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge have long since been replaced by the footfalls of tourists who, this year, will again follow the path that led to the “Bloody Sunday” beatings of those original 1965 marchers.

Countless visitors will navigate that route themselves in person. Others, sitting in movie theaters around the world, will cross that bridge along with the actors portraying those who walked into history in the Bloody Sunday scene shot on location for the film, Selma.

America’s civil rights struggle long ago secured a place on history tourists’ itinerary for Selma, Montgomery and other parts of Alabama – as had the Civil War’s Battle of Selma, in 1865, and other events. Regional tourism has almost always been buoyant, local officials say. The release of “Selma,” however, also coincides with the 50th anniversary of many of Rev. Martin Luther King’s history-changing words and deeds, and all that flowed from those moments into the era’s streets of discontent.

The Pettus Bridge itself, where history happened, is marking its 75th year; the Civil War battle, its 150th.

Though no exact figures have been projected, this year of multiple anniversaries is expected to make even more history for a region rich in civil rights tourism.

“Hotels have been booked since last April,” said Ashley Mason, tourism director for Selma and Dallas County Tourism. “More people are coming. It is not just necessarily because of the movie. But the movie certainly helps.”

Many of the in–person bridge crossings will first involve ocean-crossings, as international tourists set their sights again on Selma and Montgomery, said Lee Sentell, director of the state’s tourism department. Although perhaps 5 percent of tourism to the region comes from overseas – largely Europe and Australia – he said these are visitors care deeply about what they’re coming to see.

Whether from home or abroad, Alabama’s tourists care deeply about what they come to see.

“We have seen in the last 12 years, tourism has grown by 70 percent, expenditures have grown,” he said. “During that time we have had recessions, several hurricanes an oil spill [in the Gulf] and the recovery.”

What’s known as the Alabama Civil Rights Trail has remain undimmed in the spotlight of tourism, he said – and not just for the 95 percent of the state’s visitors who arrive from around the U.S.

“I find that Europeans are much more interested in world history than say, Americans are,” Sentell said. “Maybe because their histories are a lot longer and they are kind of fascinated by things that America has done right and things America has done wrong.”

The movie, however, is one thing its American team members did right, he said, judging from the reception it got in London, where Sentell attended its premiere last month.

“It is a very well-told story,” said Sentell. “I was watching it for the fourth time, in London.” The world travel market has embraced the film as much as the civil rights trail, he said “and the awareness of the town of Selma is off the charts.”

One of Alabama’s strengths for tourists, according to Brian Jones, public relations director of Alabama’s tourism department, “is that these are where the events actually occurred. You are not just seeing history under Plexiglas; you are seeing the actual places. We have some great museums to go along with that but the main thing is that when you go to Selma you can walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And when you come to Montgomery we have the Rosa Parks Museum. But you can stand on the same street corner where Rosa Parks boarded the bus, and you can actually go and see Dr. King’s church and stand from there and look at our state Capitol where the marches ended.

“You get a whole feel that you can’t find anywhere else,” he said.

Local hotel bookings, however, were gobbled up long before Selma hit the screen, Mason said. With 13 hotels and one bed-and-breakfast in town, Selma officials have been directing visitors to Montgomery, about an hour away, or Prattville, about 45 minutes away. “I get emails every day about people asking to come to Selma and whether there are rooms available,” she said.

“Selma is a small town, that filled very quickly,” Jones added. British, German, Australian and French tourists – the top foreign visiting nations – will find their way, however, said Jones. As will Americans. “The movie has done a huge job in promoting the story in a very mass-media way. And that has been a great tool for reminding and touching younger generations and letting them kind of see the story for themselves.”

The film may detail, with painful local familiarity, the three months when King transformed American history by mobilizing for voting rights in Selma. King was a magnet for change and the media, as his legacy continues to be today, said Sentell. As for history – and tourism – both will continue to march in Selma for some time to come.

To read this article online, go to:


Civil rights lawyer Fred Gray honored with historic marker in Montgomery
By Erin Edgemon,, Feb. 4

Legendary civil rights lawyer Fred Gray’s long and storied career was honored recently with the unveiling of a historic marker at the corner of Dexter Avenue and Hull Street in downtown Montgomery.

Nearly a dozen elected officials, business leaders and friends reflected on the career of the Montgomery native who represented such legendary civil rights activists as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
Gray expressed his gratitude for the marker and to those who have helped and supported him over the years. He said he would be nothing without them.

Fred Gray landmark unveiling Legendary civil rights lawyer Fred Gray was honored Feb. 4, 2015 with a landmark sign at the corner of Dexter Avenue and Hull Street in downtown Montgomery. The landmark lists his accomplishments and names many of his significant cases including: victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange presented Gray with the key to the city during the ceremony.

Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford said it is fitting that the unveiling occurred on Park’s birthday.

“Fred surely, surely she is smiling down on you today,” Ford said. “Because of Mrs. Parks, it is possible for this plaque to be unveiled to you today. For what you did, in conjunction, with her courage that she displayed sitting down on the bus — yes, she was standing up for freedom everywhere. Thank you, Fred.”

Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, noted that Gray was the only person portrayed in the recent Paramount Pictures film Selma by an Academy Award-winning actor (Cuba Gooding Jr.). The movie depicted the efforts of King and others to give African-Americans the right to vote, which led to the Selma to Montgomery March and the passing of the Voters Rights Act of 1965.

Sentell was told by a financier of the movie not to “let the number of lines that Fred Gray gets to say in the movie define his importance because without Fred Gray the story would have had a terribly different ending.”

In 1955, Gray represented Parks and Claudette Colvin, who were both charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to give up their seats on Montgomery city buses to white passengers.  The action of Colvin and Parks led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.

Gray went on to represent and ask for protection for protesters in the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march. He filed a suit on behalf of survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, where the federal government withheld treatment from hundreds of black men.

The historical marker is located at the spot where Gray once had law offices. The Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building, home to Alabama’s top courts, is now located there.

The marker was sponsored by the Alabama Tourism Department and the Tuskegee History Center.

To read this article online, go to:


After Harper Lee novel surfaces, plots arise
By Alexandra Alter and Serge f. Kovaleski, The New York Times, Feb. 8

One morning late last summer, Tonja B. Carter was doing some legal work for her prized client, Harper Lee, when she found herself thumbing through an old manuscript of what she assumed was “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The characters were familiar, as they would be to millions of readers — the crusading lawyer, Atticus Finch, and his feisty daughter, Scout. But the passages were different. Atticus was much older. Scout was grown up. The story unfolded in Alabama during the racial turmoil of the 1950s, not the Depression of the 1930s.

Confused, Ms. Carter scanned the text, trying to figure out what she was holding. It was a novel titled “Go Set a Watchman.” It may be one of the most monumental discoveries in contemporary American literature.

“I was so stunned. At the time, I didn’t know if it was finished,” Ms. Carter recalled in an interview, her first extensive comments about the discovery.  She went to see Ms. Lee and asked her if the novel was complete. “She said: ‘Complete? I guess so. It was the parent of “Mockingbird.” ’ ”

The recovered manuscript has ignited fierce debate — much of it speculative — about why Ms. Lee waited so long to publish again, whether the book will stand up to her beloved first novel, and whether the author, who has long shied away from public attention, might have been pressured or manipulated into publishing it.

And as word of the new book spread in her hometown, the fog that long shrouded the enigmatic, publicity-shy author — known to most as Nelle — has only deepened.

Some close friends were shocked to hear of a second novel from Ms. Lee, who was often emphatic that she would never publish another book. But others in her inner circle long knew of its existence. At least one family member remembered reading portions of the manuscript for “Go Set a Watchman” in the mid-1950s. “It definitely was her writing, and it was never lost,” Hank Conner, Ms. Lee’s oldest nephew, said in an interview. “It obviously has been in the possession of the family.”

What should have been a triumphant literary discovery — a find that could significantly add to the legacy of one of the country’s most cherished authors — quickly morphed into a puzzling controversy. While there have often been debates about works that were discovered and published posthumously, including unfinished novels by masters like Vladimir Nabokov and David Foster Wallace, it is rare for a living writer’s literary intentions to be cloaked in so much uncertainty.

Residents of Monroeville gossip that Ms. Lee is mentally infirm these days, does not recognize old friends, could not possibly have signed off on the publication, never wanted to do a second book. But those who are closest to her scoff at such conspiratorial theories, saying Harper Lee, now 88 and admittedly frail, remains fully capable of making up her own mind.

The woman who has ignited such frenzied speculation remains tucked away in the Meadows, an assisted-living center, largely cut off from the prying public except for statements delivered through Ms. Carter, her lawyer, friend and gatekeeper.

After doubts surfaced, Ms. Lee said in statement on Wednesday through her lawyer that she was “happy as hell with the reactions to ‘Watchman.’ ”

Answering questions on Saturday through both emails and text messages, Ms. Carter said that Ms. Lee is “extremely hurt and humiliated” at the suggestion that she had been duped.

“She is a very strong, independent and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long lost novel,” Ms. Carter said. “Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision making.”

Others close to Ms. Lee, like two friends who visited her recently at the Meadows, attest to her excitement over the release of the novel.

Cynthia McMillan, a resident assistant at the Meadows who has taken care of Ms. Lee for several years, said in an interview that Ms. Lee was alert, understood what was happening with the newly found manuscript and seemed invigorated by the prospect of publishing again. “She seems excited about it, and it has given her something to focus on since her sister died,” Ms. McMillan said, describing Ms. Lee as “sharp as a tack.”

Nonetheless, the skepticism remains heavy here in this town of about 6,500 residents, where Ms. Lee has kept a home since childhood and where her aura looms large. The town square features murals depicting scenes from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and for several weeks each year, residents perform a play based on the book, acting out some scenes in the local courthouse. Residents were accustomed to seeing the famous author clad in sweatpants and brown glasses, hunting for bargains at the Dollar General and dining with her sister Alice — by all accounts a strict protector of Ms. Lee — at the back table of David’s Catfish House.

Over the years, though, Ms. Lee developed a somewhat prickly relationship with residents, particularly those who seemed eager to cash in on her fame. She stopped signing books for local stores when she learned that some were being auctioned on eBay.  In 2013, she sued the town’s museum, claiming that sales of “Mockingbird”-themed T-shirts, totes and coffee mugs infringed on her copyright. The case was settled last year.

The author’s reticence may have fueled the scrutiny over the new book, compounded by the silence, until this weekend, of Ms. Carter, and the dearth of information from Ms. Lee’s publisher, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins. The vacuum left Harper scrambling to rebuff suggestions that Ms. Lee had been cajoled into agreeing to do something she had resisted for 50 years.

“She used to say, ‘I wrote one good book and that was enough,’ ” said Starling Lawrence, the former editor in chief at W. W. Norton and a friend of Ms. Lee’s.

Karen Hare, owner of David’s Catfish House, said that on more than one occasion, Ms. Lee was explicit that she did not intend to publish anything else during her lifetime. “She always said she didn’t want anything done until she died,” Ms. Hare said.

The Rev. Thomas Butts, who was Ms. Lee’s pastor for many years at a local Methodist church, said he was surprised that the book just suddenly turned up after so many years. “It is sort of strange it had not been found before,” he said.

Some of the skeptics are longstanding friends of Ms. Lee’s who live in distant places and had not been able to speak to her of late because of her diminished hearing. Like most others, they found out through news reports recently, when Harper announced the discovery of “Go Set a Watchman” and said it would be released on July 14.

“I had no idea there was a book hidden away, and Nelle was always so insistent on not publishing anything else,” said Claudia Durst Johnson, an author, scholar and friend of Ms. Lee’s since the 1980s. “I was surprised and a little bit worried about how much control she has.”

Much of the scrutiny has settled on Ms. Carter, once an assistant at the law firm here where Harper Lee’s father and sister also worked, and where she is now a lawyer herself. Since her admission to the bar in 2006, Ms. Carter has increasingly been in charge of Ms. Lee’s affairs, offending some in town who feel she has restricted access to the author.

By many accounts, though, Ms. Carter has been a dutiful steward of the Lee sisters’ affairs.

“Tonja has the full confidence of Nelle,” said Diane McWhorter, a journalist and friend of Ms. Lee’s who visited her twice last summer. “And I can say with confidence that Tonja would not do anything that Nelle would not want her to do.”

Ms. Carter appears to have won the trust of Ms. Lee’s publisher, too. She was a key contact for HarperCollins as the deal for the new book was negotiated. “We talked to her through her lawyer and friend Tonja Carter,” said Jonathan Burnham, the senior vice president and publisher of Harper, adding that speaking with Ms. Lee directly “wasn’t necessary.”

Ms. Carter said she was distressed by the suggestion that she would exploit Ms. Lee. “Nothing can describe how I feel” about that, she said. Asked why she had not provided more detail about the discovery, which might have quelled suspicions, she said: “I am a lawyer, not a celebrity. The focus should be on the gift Harper Lee is giving the world.”

The publisher said the manuscript had been sent to several readers for review as Ms. Lee deliberated whether she wanted to publish it. The company declined to identify those readers, as did Ms. Carter, saying, “It is nobody’s business.”

Joy Brown, who with her late husband, Michael, had provided financial help in the mid-1950s to Ms. Lee so she could write “To Kill a Mockingbird,” said in an interview she had no idea that the manuscript existed until January.

Ms. Brown said Ms. Carter, Ms. Lee’s agent and her publisher came over to her Manhattan home for a meeting that lasted a couple of hours. “They did not want me to be surprised when they did announce it, and they swore me to secrecy,” Ms. Brown recalled.

Fifty-five years after its publication, “To Kill a Mockingbird” remains one of the most influential works in American literature, with global sales topping 40 million copies. According to court documents, in a standard six-month period, sales of the novel brought Ms. Lee nearly $1.7 million in royalties.

The new novel will no doubt be another commercial juggernaut. Shortly after the title was announced, a surge in preorders pushed it to No. 1 on Amazon. HarperCollins is planning a first printing of two million copies.

Go Set a Watchman” would have been Ms. Lee’s literary debut, if her editor had not rejected it. She finished the novel, which takes place 20 years after “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in the mid-1950s. But her editor, Tay Hohoff, told her to write a new version from Scout’s perspective as a young girl.

She cast aside the original book. She said in a statement last week that she thought it was lost.

When Ms. Carter revealed her discovery to Ms. Lee in August, the author was shocked, Ms. Carter recalled. Ms. Lee immediately asked her friend to repeat herself. Ms. Carter reiterated that she had found a novel, calling the book “Go Set the Watchman.” She was swiftly corrected: “It’s ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ ” Ms. Lee said.

To read this article online, go to:

Hank Williams wins Grammy

Omnivore Recordings won its first Grammy Award for Hank Williams’ The Garden Spot Programs, 1950, which was voted Best Historical Recording in Sunday’s 57th annual Grammy Awards.

The label, founded by four-time Grammy nominee Cheryl Pawelski, received the award for the previously unknown recordings. This was Omnivore’s first nomination.  She shares the award with engineer Michael Graves and music historian and re-issue producer Colin Escott.

The Garden Spot Programs, 1950, released May 20, 2014, features 24 performances, unheard for 64 years, from country music legend Hank Williams.  Rescued from obscurity, these shows originally aired more than six decades ago; The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 collects material from the four episodes now known to exist. From hits to standards to songs rarely (if ever) performed, the collection is pure Hank Williams, including playful between-song banter. Featuring fully restored audio, The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 was painstakingly transferred, restored and mastered from original transcription discs by Grammy Award-winning engineer Graves.

Omnivore Recordings, with its Historical Grammy win, has set the standard as the label to watch.  More projects are en route that will take listeners to places they may have missed, some they never even knew existed and to new musical horizons in the future.

Cheryl Pawelski, partner in Omnivore Recordings and co-producer of Hank Williams’ The Garden Spot Program, 1950, said, “Omnivore is thrilled to be recognized by the Recording Academy with the Grammy for Best Historical Album and is so grateful to Jett Williams for trusting us to present this previously unknown chapter of the Hank Williams story.  His is a towering and unparalleled legacy and we are honored.”

According to Jett Williams, daughter of Hank Williams, “I am thrilled to death that these recordings of my dad’s won the Grammy.  It’s such a wonderful tribute to him that the songs he recorded over 60 years ago are being discovered, enjoyed, and honored by a whole new generation of Hank fans.“


Grammy song inspired by Alabama stone wall
By Patricia Harris,, Feb. 9

I’m thrilled that Rosanne Cash won three Grammys last night — one for Best Americana Album (The River & The Thread) and one each for Best Roots Performance and Song for A Feather Is Not A Bird from the album.

Cash drew inspiration for the song when she visited “Tom’s Wall,” a remarkable labor of love outside Florence, Alabama, just off the Natchez Trace Parkway. Now in his 80s, Tom Hendrix (above) has spent the last 35 years single-handedly creating the largest unmortared rock wall in the United States. It’s a memorial to his great-great-grandmother Te-lah-nay, a member of the Yuchi tribe who traveled alone and on foot for five years to return to her roots near the Tennessee River after her tribe was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma.

Snaking more than a mile through Hendrix’s property, the Wall is constructed of more than 8.5 million pounds of stone. “I’ve worn out three trucks, 22 wheelbarrows, 2,500 pairs of gloves, three dogs, and one old man,” says Hendrix. And inspired one artist.

To read this article online, go to:

French company adds tour that includes Alabama   

The French tour operator La Maison des Etats-Unis has added the suggested fly-drive tour Sur Les Pas De Martin Luther King (In the Footsteps of Martin Luther King).  The 14 day, 12-night tour includes stops in Montgomery and Birmingham.  The tour also includes Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

The tour is promoted on the company’s website and features several photographs supplied by the Alabama Tourism Department including beautiful views of Dexter Avenue in Montgomery and the theater district in Birmingham.

This tour comes after the summer 2013 visit by a travel correspondent of the French “Good Morning America” show, an exhibition at the La Maison des Etats-Unis Paris office of Civil Rights photographs, a meeting with product manager David Chaumell of La Maison des Etat-Unis at Travel South Showcase in New Orleans, a press trip to Montgomery that included Chaumell and other marketing efforts by French representative firm Express Conseil.

La Maison des Etat-Unis is based in central Paris and is part of the GMDCO tour company. 

To view to tour, go to

For more information on the Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts in France, contact or Alabama’s Travel South shared representative Coline Chaaux of Express Counseil at

Trip Adviser shows increased interest in Alabama   

A report of 2014 viewership to TripAdviser web pages with Alabama content shows double digit increases from the previous year.   The report shows a 30% increase of Alabama page views on TripAdviser in the U.S. from 30-million to almost 40-million.  The count of webpage views includes Alabama hotels, restaurants and other points of interest on the web portal.

Views of a special Alabama page on TripAdviser, that serves as a gateway to the most popular destinations, increased by 12%.

Significant increases were also noted from overseas markets. Viewership to Alabama content webpages on TripAdviser were up 18.7% from Brazil, 17.3%, from the United Kingdom, 9.3 %, from France and 9% from Germany.

To see the Alabama TripAdviser gateway page, (click here to see it). 

For information on Alabama Tourism Department’s marketing efforts in the UK, Brazil, France and Australia contact 

For information on the TripAdvisor Alabama page, contact Scott Caufield

Alabama musicians to be on stage in English festival
Story published in East Anglian Daily Times in the U.K., Feb. 4

The sounds of the Deep South are coming to the east coast of England this summer as a celebration of Americana and roots music from both sides of the Atlantic returns to Suffolk.

The first acts announced for this year’s Maverick Festival at Easton Farm Park, near Woodbridge, include Alabama’s own Hannah Aldridge, Lisa Mills and Debbie Bond.

All three singer-songwriters will perform on the Sweet Home Alabama stage when the three-day event celebrates its eighth year of assembling top transatlantic country, folk, bluegrass and blues musicians, between July 3 and 5.

Labelled one of the “friendliest and most sincere festivals in England” by The Daily Telegraph in 2012, the event will be held across five indoor and outdoor stages. 

To read more, go to

For more information on the tourism departments efforts in the United Kingdom, and


Alabama food blogger makes Southern Living‘s list of ’30 Bloggers You Should be Following in 2015’
By Amber Sutton,, Feb. 4

We’re only a month in, but it’s already shaping up to be a good year for Alabama food blogger Stacey Little after being included in Southern Living’s list of “30 Bloggers You Should be Following in 2015.”

The list features southern bloggers that write about an array of topics, including style, gardening, travel and, of course, food. Considering the list includes some well-known and nationally-recognized bloggers, such as HGTV’s Fixer Upper host Joanna Gaines, Little said it was a huge honor to be in such good company.

“The group of bloggers they put together include folks that have hugely successful TV shows. Southern Living is an institution and to be one of only 30 bloggers they recognized is just overwhelming,” said Little.

While Little published his first book, Southern Bite: 150 Irresistible Dishes from 4 Generations of My Family’s Kitchen, in March of last year, the 32-year-old has been sharing family recipes and more on the popular Southern Bite blog since 2009.

A resident of Prattville, Little is the only blogger in Alabama to be included on the list, which featured southern blogs spanning from the east coast to Texas.

Little’s next appearance will be at the Montgomery Homebuilding and Remodeling Expo on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22.  The cookbook author will be signing books and performing cooking demos in the AllSouth Appliance Booth.

To read this article online, go to:


Visitor center to reopen at Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance
By Patrick Rupinske, The Tuscaloosa News, Feb. 4

Mercedes-Benz recently reopened its visitor center to the public.

The newly renovated visitor center at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance will be open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Admission is free. The center is closed on weekends and holidays.

The visitor center — located adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International’s auto assembly plant — was closed in March for a $3 million renovation.

“This place looks completely different from what it looked like three to four months ago,” MBUSI President and CEO Jason Hoff told invited guests at a ribbon-cutting for the center recently.

The center, which originally opened in 1997, has new exhibits tracing the 128-year history of the German automaker. It includes vehicles ranging from a model of the 1886 Benz Patented Motor Car, recognized as the world’s first car, to the new GLE coupe, Mercedes’ newest vehicle, which is being built in Vance and will go on sale this summer.

The center also features interactive displays, including one that allows visitors to build their own Mercedes.

The visitor center is divided into five areas that tell the story of Mercedes vehicles — innovation, performance, safety, vision and design. The facility will be a key component of Mercedes’ new brand immersion program. That program over the next several years will bring in about 26,000 people who work for Mercedes and its dealerships to Vance to let them learn about the company’s vehicles, history and culture, tour its facilities and test drive its vehicles.

“I think it will set a benchmark for the (auto) industry,” said Steve Cannon, president and CEO of MBUSA, the automaker’s marketing and sales company.

Greg Canfield, Alabama’s secretary of commerce, said the visitor center not only tells Mercedes’ story but also reflects the development of Alabama’s auto industry over the last 21 years.

“Rarely does one company have the opportunity to change a state and the economic fabric of a state,” he said. Mercedes “moved the economy of the state forward and created opportunity for the people of this state.”

Canfield said Mercedes, a brand recognized for quality and luxury worldwide, took a risk when it decided to build its first North American auto plant in Alabama. Many naysayers said it would not succeed, but MBUSI’s team members showed the world the type of products that are made in Alabama. It paved the way for industries that chose to come to Alabama.

Starting Monday, the visitor center will be open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. but closed on weekends and holidays. There is no charge to visit.

Tours of the auto assembly plant also will resume later this year. Mercedes said it will begin accepting reservations for plant tours in March. At that time, those interested in tours should call (888) 286-8762 or 205-507-2252 or go to online.

To read the entire article, go to:


ExxonMobil grants donations to Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Feb. 5

Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) announced donations from energy giant ExxonMobil totaling more than $78,000 directed at the facility’s educational programs.

In its press announcement, DISL stated, “For more than 18 years, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and ExxonMobil Corporation have maintained a partnership in providing coastal marine science education to students and the public.  Recently, ExxonMobil donated $35,000 to the DISL, providing support for Graduate Students fellowships; the Graduate Student organization; the Discovery Hall Program, DISL’s K-12 and teacher training program; and BayMobile.

“BayMobile is a mobile coastal marine science program that travels throughout the state of Alabama, bringing the coast to 10,000 students a year.

“ExxonMobil also generously donated $43,750 to the DISL’s public aquarium, The Estuarium. In 1997, ExxonMobil was a founding donor in the construction of this 10,000-square foot facility, a premier aquarium highlighting the ebb and flow of life within Mobile Bay and near shore Gulf of Mexico. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is currently constructing a new technology-centered addition to the Estuarium and, once again, ExxonMobil is the first contributor toward the hands-on exhibits that will be featured in this facility, scheduled to open in late 2015.

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama Makers

Alabama has a wealth of resources when it comes to items created right here in the state.  The Alabama Tourism Department is looking for information about products that are made here as well as the people who make them.  We want the home-grown cottage industries as opposed to industrial giants.

Please send information about people and their products, including contact information, to Peggy Collins, or call 334-242-4545.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Feb 13 – 15                 St. Louis Golf Expo – St. Louis, MO
Feb 13 – 15                 Grand Rapids Golf Show – Grand Rapids, MI
Feb 20 – 22                 Outdoor Adventure Show – Toronto, Canada
Feb 20 – Mar 1           Louisville Golf Show – Louisville, KY
Feb 20 – Mar 2           Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show – Indianapolis, IN
Feb 20 – 22                 Toronto Golf & Travel


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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Alabama Tourism Department