Tourism Tuesdays February 3, 2015

  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center is Alabama’s number one tourism attraction
  • Movie ‘Selma’ sparks interest in historic Alabama city
  • Selma makes impact in London
  • Selma filmed on location in Alabama and Georgia
  • Shoals tourism officials promote local recording sessions
  • Honeywell presents Deborah Barnhart, CEO, U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Hometown Heroes Award
  • Second novel by Harper Lee to be published this summer
  • ConventionSouth magazine touts Bellingrath Gardens as top attraction for social events
  • When dinosaurs roamed: the Wetumpka Impact Crater
  • Fairhope’s old Fly Creek Fish Market building to become eco-tour hub for kayak, canoe rentals
  • Grand National renovations near completion for Barbasol Championship
  • Alabama grass provided playing surface for Super Bowl XLIX
  • Hilton Garden Inn named brand’s “Hotel of the Year” — again
  • State Parks offers free camping in February
  • Made in Alabama
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


U.S. Space & Rocket Center is Alabama’s number one tourism attraction

More than 625,000 people visited the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville last year, ranking it number one among state attractions that charge admission, followed by the Birmingham Zoo at second with 574,581 and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at third with 568,427 state tourism officials say.

Six of the state’s Top Ten attractions charging admission showed an increase in attendance over previous years, spokesman Brian Jones said.  Attendance figures were collected by the Alabama Tourism Department from local tourism organizations.

The USS Alabama Battleship Park in Mobile placed fourth with 381,192 visitors and the McWane Science Center was fifth with 332,492.

Point Mallard Park was sixth with 298,879.  The Montgomery Zoo ranked seventh with 236,100 and the Huntsville Botanical Garden was eighth with 236,000.  EarlyWorks Museums in Huntsville was ninth with 189,500.  The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was tenth with 161,000.

The Alabama Tourism Department also released the Top Ten attendance figures for other categories.  Beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast were the number one natural destination in the state, attracting 5.7 million visitors last year. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens attracted 350,000 visitors to make it the most attended free attraction. More than 1million people celebrated Mobile’s Mardi Gras making it the most attended event.  Bryant-Denny Stadium was the number one sports destination with 785,418 fans attending University of Alabama home football games.

For more information contact the Alabama Tourism Department or visit

Movie ‘Selma’ sparks interest in historic Alabama city
By Phillip Rawls, Associated Press, Jan. 20

The 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches in Selma and the movie that tells the story are expected to bring thousands of visitors to this historic Alabama city this year.

Visitors can still walk across the bridge where voting rights marchers were beaten in 1965 and see the churches where they organized protests.

“There are certain place names in American history where significant, history-making events took place, like Gettysburg, Valley Forge and Vicksburg, and I think because of this film, Selma becomes one of the place names that stands as a significant milestone in American history,” Alabama tourism director Lee Sentell said.

Oprah Winfrey, other actors from “Selma” and hundreds more marched to the city’s Edmund Pettus Bridge this past weekend on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But a bigger event is expected to attract more than 40,000 people — including present and former government officials — in Selma March 5-9 for the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, including a walk across the bridge March 8.

The event marks the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday,” when law enforcement used billy clubs and tear gas to rout marchers intent on walking 50 miles (80 kilometers) to Montgomery on March 7, 1965, to seek the right for blacks to register to vote. A new march, led by Martin Luther King Jr., began March 21, 1965, and arrived in Montgomery on March 25, with the crowd swelling to 25,000 by the time they reached the Capitol. Those events and others helped lead to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which opened Southern polling places to millions of blacks and ended all-white rule in the South.

The movie “Selma” won Oscar nominations for best picture and best song.

Today, the bridge and adjoining downtown business district look much as they did in 1965, except many storefronts are empty and government buildings are occupied largely by African-American officials.

Attractions related to the protests are all within walking distance of the bridge. They include the First Baptist Church, where many protests were organized, and Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, where marchers congregated before going to the bridge and where they sought safety after being beaten.

Near the bridge, a free tour of an interpretative center built by the National Park Service offers photographs of the events and emotional video interviews with people who were on both sides of the issues.

Nearby is the Ancient Africa, Enslavement and Civil War Museum, where visitors can see how slaves were captured, sold and exploited, including a depiction of what it was like to be on a slave ship bound for America.

“You have to know about slavery to know why we didn’t have the right to vote,” said Faya Rose Toure, one of the museum’s founders.

Then tourists can retrace history by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to a park and the National Voting Rights Museum on the opposite side. Museum artifacts include surveillance photos taken by state police. One feature that stands out is the white plaster footprints of the largely unknown participants in the march and their personal stories about being part of history, from facing danger to treating blistered feet.

“Everybody has seen pictures of Dr. King leading the march. Those people behind him are what we are focusing on,” historian Sam Walker said.

State Sen. Hank Sanders, Selma’s first black senator since Reconstruction and a founder of the National Voting Rights Museum, said Selma’s location an hour’s drive west of Interstate 65, a major route to Gulf Coast beaches, will help attract more visitors to the museum this spring and summer.

After touring Selma, visitors can drive the march route along U.S. 80 to the halfway point in White Hall, where the Park Service has a much larger interpretative center about the events. Then they can complete the 50-mile (80-kilometer) trip to Montgomery. There visitors can tour the Capitol, where King made the emotional speech that ends “Selma,” and see a monument and museum dedicated to civil rights martyrs. The Civil Rights Memorial includes three victims featured in the movie, Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot by a state trooper; James Reeb, who was beaten by white segregationists, and Viola Liuzzo, who was shot by Klansmen while taking marchers back to Selma.

Other sites include the Greyhound bus station where Freedom Riders seeking to integrate interstate transportation were beaten by a white mob in 1961, a museum commemorating Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott that King led in 1955, and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where King served as pastor before moving to Atlanta to lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Sentell, the state tourism director, suggests at least a day in each city. Visitors can also drive 90 miles (145 kilometers) to Birmingham to see the church bombing site featured in the opening of “Selma” and that city’s Civil Rights Museum.

Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, said the movie and the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act are opportunities to relive history and see how Alabama has changed.

“Alabama is a different place than it was 50 years ago. We need to always remember our history, but we can’t live in the past,” he said.

To read the entire article, go to:–Selma%20After%20Movie/id-e7f0d7e7f3d24db6b59f23a18732e7c0

Selma makes impact in London

With Selma movie advertisements posted in London subway terminals, on the famous London red double-decker buses, a red carpet primer for the movie, and a special 30-second promotion playing to an audience of 250,000 attending cinemas in the United Kingdom, Alabama’s awareness has increased in one of the world’s top traveling market.

More than 300 people, including all key United Kingdom entertainment and travel industry professionals and travel media, attended the UK premiere of Selma on January 27th in London’s prestigious Mayfair cinema.

The red carpet event was partly sponsored by the Alabama Tourism Department as a way to promote awareness of Alabama’s pivotal role in the United States Civil Rights movement.

An advertisement promoting the movie’s location and Alabama as a tourist destination played ahead of the movie.  Tickets to the event included the Sweet Home Alabama logo. Each attendee at the event had an Alabama travel guide on their seat.

The film, Selma, received a rapturous applause from the London audience.

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell attended the movie with Della Tully and Venessa Alexander, the UK In-Market representatives. Lead actor David Oyelowo and Director Ava Du Vernay were pictured in front of the leader board showing the Sweet Home Alabama logo and website address

While the London primer was a major media event, the subway advertisements for the movie and coverage of the film by London-based reporters should draw potential tourist to theaters across the United Kingdom.

Bon Voyage, a key tour operator in the UK, partnered with the Alabama Tourism Department on a competition targeted to Selma movie goers.   The prize is a free holiday to the state and promotes the actual places in the movie can be visited on a holiday.

The United Kingdom is a key market for tourist. The United States government reports 3,835,000 visitors from the United Kingdom came to America in 2013, making the United Kingdom the top overseas travel market to USA.

For more information on Alabama’s efforts in the United Kingdom, contact or

Selma filmed on location in Alabama and Georgia
By Sarah Le (RS), LocationsHub, Jan. 26

Being a film buff, the months between November and February is usually an exciting time for me – when the film awards season is in full swing. This year, two of my favorite films in 2014 have been nominated for awards and even took home the Golden Globe earlier in January: Boyhood for Best Drama, and The Grand Budapest Hotel for Best Comedy. As fond as I am of these two films, there’s another movie that also much deserves to bask in the spotlight this year – and it does. Selma, a feature film chronicling the three months in 1965 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. campaigned for equal voting rights, is an outstanding, important film in its own right.

At the Golden Globe earlier this month, Selma received four nominations:  Best Drama, Best Director (Ava DuVernay), Best Actor (David Oyelowo), and Best Original Song (“Glory”). It took home the Best Original Song award. At the AFI Awards, Selma won Best Movie of the Year. For the Oscars coming up next month, Selma has also been nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song.

Directed by the talented Ava DuVernay, the first African-American woman to win the 2012 Sundance Film Festival’s Best Director award, Selma was filmed in Alabama and Georgia – at locations where a few of the real events actually took place.

Selma was shot on a tight 32-day schedule, four of which was actually spent in … Selma, Alabama. The production was in its namesake town in June 2014 to film the movie’s pivotal scenes at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the real marches took place in 1965.

It’s hard to believe that Selma almost didn’t make its way to Selma, Alabama for the shoot. Originally, the film was to be made solely in Georgia. That was until Kathy Faulk, Alabama Film Office commissioner, suggested to Selma‘s publicist that the movie should have at least a few scenes filmed in Alabama. After all, the key events of the story actually took place in Alabama. Once the location scout team had a chance to visit Montgomery and Selma, the decision to film in these two cities was a no-brainer. “They saw the Capitol and the bridge, and said, ‘We don’t have anything like that in Georgia,’” said Faulk.

The decision to film in Alabama turns out to be the right move for Selma. The movie is powerful and poignant film partly because it was shot at many of the real locations where history actually took place. The Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing the Alabama River is one such important film location. Named after a former U.S. senator and (can you believe it?) a Ku Klux Klan leader, the Edmund Pettus Bridge is a major back-drop in the movie. Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” scenes were filmed there with hundreds of local extras, some of whom actually participated in the real march on the bridge in 1965. The authenticity of the settings is palpable, visually and emotionally. “Once they visited here [Selma], they realized they had to film here,” said Faulk.

The chance to film Selma in Selma was also important and meaningful to the director. “You’re in the real place, staging these scenes in places where black bodies have been broken and beaten and bloodied,” said DuVernay. “As a filmmaker with just four days to get it in, I was very focused on checking off my list of shots and getting things done, but also being very respectful to the people. Everyone on that bridge is a local to the community, and there’s some damage and scars there. It was a delicate four days, a very intense four days. But beautiful when I look back.”

“You’re in the real place, staging these scenes in places where black bodies have been broken and beaten and bloodied. . . . Everyone on that bridge is a local to the community, and there’s some damage and scars there. It was a delicate four days, a very intense four days. But beautiful when I look back.”
— Ava DuVernay on filming Selma in Selma, Alabama.

Selma’s film crew of more than 700 people also includes Oprah Winfrey who plays Annie Lee Cooper, an African-American civil rights activist in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement, and one of the producers of the film. To celebrate the movie and Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this month, Ms. Winfrey and many of the cast members of Selma marched along with hundreds of citizens across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the Sunday before Martin Luther King. Jr.’s day.

Because the bridge and nearby downtown business district in Selma still look almost the same as they did in 1965, today’s Selma is a perfect film location for the movie’s 1965 Selma. The main difference between the setting now and then is that many storefronts stand empty today and the government buildings are presently occupied largely by African-American officials. A much-needed change brought about by the Voting Rights Act.

In addition to Selma, the production was also in Montgomery for one day filming on Dexter Avenue in front of the State Capitol building. Alabama’s State Capitol plays a major role in Selma as it stands in as the backdrop of one of the movie’s final scenes in which Dr. King makes his speech after leading the epic 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march.

The pivotal march from Selma to Montgomery led by Dr. King was also portrayed beautifully and authentically in the film, down to almost every little detail such as Mrs. King’s outfit.

Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, saw Selma when the movie held its premiere in Montgomery and said the film is a history lesson and a commercial for Alabama landmarks, especially the Capitol in Montgomery and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. “Cultural tourists like to visit important landmarks where history has been made,” said Sentell. “This helps people understand the history once they’ve been to that location.”

The Alabama Film Office is proud to host the filming of Selma in their backyard. “It is very unique to have a major box office film named after a city. We are very proud and excited that this film bears the name Selma and are hopeful it will generate curiosity seekers and tourism for the city and our state,” said Faulk.

For me, I finally had a chance to see Selma this week and love this beautiful, poignant, important film. For a movie about an epic event in American history, Ava DuVernay interprets and retells the story in a quiet, thought-provoking, and personal way. Selma reaches deep inside each viewer and stays with us long after. The chosen film locations of Selma also add much authenticity to the movie. Once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to forget Selma.

To read the entire article, go to:

Shoals tourism officials promote local recording sessions
By Robert Palmer, Montgomery Advertiser, Feb. 2

Listening to the playback of his song “Swamp Thing” at NuttHouse Recording Studio, Jackson Nance asks producer Jimmy Johnson whether a fading slide guitar note can be turned up in the mix to achieve a classic blues effect.

“You know, like at the end of an old blues record, where the slide guitar makes that …” Here, Nance makes a sound that imitates the wavery, buzzing sound of an electric guitar string being stroked softly by a bottleneck.

Johnson, guitarist with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and a noted producer in his own right, smiles and says, “Don’t worry. We can do that in an overdub.”

The exchanges between Nance and the veteran session musicians, including bassist David Hood of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and legendary Memphis guitarist Reggie Young, would not be remarkable in this setting — except that Nance is only 15 years old.

Nance wrote the song with Rob Robinson, the lead guitarist on the session, and Eddie Wilson. The session was videotaped for use later by the Alabama Tourism Office to promote the state regionally and nationally, Lee Sentell, director of the tourism office, said.

“Swamp Thing” is a slow, syncopated blues that name-checks many of the hits and artists associated with the heyday of Muscle Shoals music, when the town was dubbed the Hit Recording Capital of the World.

“The market for Alabama is becoming more regional and international,” Sentell said. “Our food and our music are what people are looking for.”

By paying for the video portion of the session, the tourism office has a marketing tool that is less expensive because of copyright issues, he said.

Nance, a native of Mississippi and a Nashville, Tennessee, resident, said he has been singing since he was 8, and began writing songs and playing guitar at 12.

“The writing came along with the guitar,” he said. “To be respected, you must write your own songs.”
Nance came to the attention of Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, entrepreneur and music preservationist Aubrey Preston a few years ago. Preston is connected to the Muscle Shoals music and tourism businesses, and introduced Nance to many of the local players. Nance said Florence-Lauderdale tourism director Debbie Wilson also introduced him to Muscle Shoals musicians.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Nance said during a break in the recording at NuttHouse. “Reggie Young, David Hood — I’m really fortunate to work with them. It’s like being in the studio with Paul McCartney. They’ve been on so many hits.”

The Beatles are one of Nance’s biggest inspirations. He said he discovered them a few years ago and especially admires McCartney and his melodic gifts.

Hood, McCartney and Young are now in their 70s, and Hood has become a member of British band the Waterboys, who this month launched a world tour.

“David and Paul McCartney let me know I can still do this when I’m 80 years old,” he said.

To read this article online, go to:

Honeywell presents Deborah Barnhart, CEO, U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Hometown Heroes Award
Award recognizes individuals who improve the lives of people and communities Honeywell has partnered with U.S. Space & Rocket Center to educate and inspire teachers and students since 2004

Honeywell (NYSE: HON) presented its Honeywell Hometown Heroes Award to Deborah Barnhart, CEO, U.S. Space & Rocket Center, at the Inventor’s Ball at the center in Huntsville, Ala., recently.

The Honeywell Hometown Heroes Award is given to individuals who improve the lives of others and make their hometowns better places to live and work through long-term dedication, compassion and the desire to do the right work, right now.

“It gives us great pleasure to recognize a woman who has inspired so many students, teachers and families who have visited the center and changed so many lives over the years,” said Michael Bennett, president, Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company’s corporate social responsibility initiative.

Honeywell’s partnership with the USSRC began in 2004 with the launch of the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy, a scholarship program for middle school math and science teachers.  Since then, more than 2,100 teachers have attended the academy, and in turn, have inspired more than 2 million students around the world.

In 2010, Honeywell and the USSRC joined forces again, creating the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy, a program that teaches children of Honeywell employees leadership skills in science, technology, engineering, and math using innovative interactive technology, science-oriented workshops and team exercises. More than 1,450 students from 47 countries have attended this scholarship program.

Barnhart is a Huntsville native and University of Alabama alumna. She joined the U.S. Navy and rose to the rank of Captain. She earned an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in education from Vanderbilt University.

To read this entire article online, go to:–Rocket-Center-Its-Hometown-Heroes-Award.aspx\

ConventionSouth magazine touts Bellingrath Gardens as top attraction for social events
By Michael Finch II,, Jan. 27

A magazine geared toward party planners recently named the Bellingrath Gardens and Home to its list of the top 22 attractions in the South for social events.

ConventionSouth magazine, a publication that caters primarily to event planners, named the Theodore-based venue.

The magazine’s editors chose each of the locations based on reviews of more than 100 attractions from across 16 states in the South and the Caribbean, evaluating each based on “visual appeal, their ability to provide groups with a unique experience and their on-site meeting services.”

The estate home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath, Bellingrath Gardens stretches over 65 acres with more than a dozen unique spaces. Today Bellingrath is operated by the Bellingrath Gardens and Home Foundation, a non-profit organization.

“The attractions on this elite list offer some of the South’s most picturesque backdrops that enhance social events and create memorable experiences for groups of all types,” Marlane Bundock, the publication’s associate publisher and editor, said in a prepared statement.

To read the entire article and see a complete list of attractions chosen, go to:

When dinosaurs roamed: the Wetumpka Impact Crater

Beginning Feb. 20, the Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery in conjunction with the Wetumpka Crater Commission will present the exhibition: When Dinosaurs roamed: the Wetumpka Impact Crater. The multifaceted exhibition will include work by professional paleoartists Karen Carr of New Mexico, Jonathon Hughes of Thailand, Rick Spears of Georgia, Jerry Armstrong of Georgia and Ashere Eilben, a recent graduate of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Other professional artists will include Wayne Atchison of Titus.

The exhibition will also include work form a juried competition.  This portion of the exhibition will include original artwork related to the Wetumpka Impact Crater and the Cretaceous period generated by K–12 students, college students and adults.  The selection panel will include professional artists, scientists, members of the Wetumpka Impact Crater Commission and members of the Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery.  As of Jan. 16, KFMG has received more than 300 entries.  Award premiums in the amount of $1,000 will be awarded, courtesy of WindCreek Hospitality.

Additional components of the exhibition will include a series of oversized storyboards with images outlining scientific research about the Wetumpka Impact Crater and a display of Cretaceous Fossils and plants of Alabama.

Feb. 21 through April 18, free docent led tours of the exhibition will be conducted each Thursday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Group tours are available by appointment. To schedule a group tour of the exhibition please contact Sylvia McConnell at 334-567-6174.

Fairhope’s old Fly Creek Fish Market building to become eco-tour hub for kayak, canoe rentals
By Marc D. Anderson,, Jan. 27

The Fairhope City Council agreed this week to lease a rundown, city-owned block building on Fly Creek to a nonprofit focused on fostering an appreciation of the environment through education and guided tours.

In the one-year agreement between the city and Fairhope-based 17 Turtles Gulf Coast Outfitters, the nonprofit will provide at least $8,600 worth of improvements to the building and dock area on the north side of Fly Creek and pay $250 per month, beginning Feb. 1. The renovations must be completed within three months of signing the lease.

The old building had its beginning as an icehouse in the early 70s. Robert Jefferson Sr. operated the Fly Creek Fish Market out of it for a long time, but the building hasn’t had any steady tenants since he retired in 2001, according to officials. Over the last decade, the city struggled to lease the building and recently contemplated tearing it down.

Councilman Kevin Boone, who serves as council liaison to the Harbor Board, called the effort by 17 Turtles a win-win for everyone.

“I think this is a real good deal for the city,” he said, after the council voted unanimously — with Council President Jack Burrell and Rich Mueller absent — to approve the lease. “This group is interested in putting up their money to fix the place up and to pay for a lease with it also. It’s good, I think overall, for everybody.”

The group aims to run an inexpensive kayak and canoe rental business out of the building while working toward reviving a wilderness-based rehabilitation program that was run by Fairhope-based Outward Bound until it dissolved in 2013 due to funding issues.

During a work session in December, Elizabeth Tonsmeire of 17 Turtles said the nonprofit hopes to just break even with the rental business. It’s name is derived from the 17 turtle species that call the Mobile-Tensaw Delta home.

The group will offer two-person canoe rentals, kayak rentals and gear, such as a life jacket and paddle.

Guides will be available to give tours to areas of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Mobile Bay, Weeks Bay and Bon Secour Bay, among spots.

The staff at 17 Turtles is also open to meeting customers at various launch sites in Baldwin and Mobile County, up to a distance of 60 miles.

The city has been fixing up its neglected property along Fly Creek at the end of Sea Cliff Drive throughout the last year, and Mayor Tim Kant said 17 Turtles’ proposal will clean up the long-standing “eyesore.”

Kant called the Fly Creek area “a diamond in the rough” and sees the new project, along with continued upgrades by the city, rejuvenating the area. In recent months, the city has removed an old boat from the area and put up new fencing.

The mayor said he hopes to do a little paving at the entrance of the marina area, near Eastern Shore Marine.

“I think it’s an asset that the city should spend a little more energy on as we move forward,” Kant said.

To read this article online, go to:

Grand National renovations near completion for Barbasol Championship
By Ed Bailey, Opelika-Auburn News, Jan. 31

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National has spent the last six months getting ready for primetime.

The course’s renovation project is nearing completion, and according to Director of Golf at Grand National Scott Gomberg, the course will be at its best when it’s time for the Barbasol Championships to tee off in July.

The makeover has been going on since last September, and with most of the heavy lifting out of the way, Gomberg said all that’s left is to put the finishing touches on the course.

“Around the middle of February, we should be done,” Gomberg said. “That’s when we have our traveling golfers come in from out of state, and we don’t want anyone working on the course while we have our customers down there. We’ve done most of the massive work already.”

Over the past few months, Grand National has become a longer course, with several tee boxes being installed or spruced up as well as trees being cleared to make some of the back holes more playable. In addition, the staff cleared off some grounds so that the course would be able to accommodate TV crews.

With the PGA’s input during a course tour, Gomberg said the staff at Grand National had to focus on the changes that were most feasible, as well as ensure that Grand National would look the part of a worthy PGA event host.

“(The reason for the changes was) two-fold. We looked through (the PGA’s suggestions) to decide what was really manageable,” Gomberg said. “Then, you’ve got our side saying, ‘We’re about to put this golf course on TV and broadcast it all over the world. So, what can we do to put our best foot forward?’ You’ve got the PGA’s requests and us being proactive to make sure our golf course stands up the way we want it to.”

The 2015 Barbasol Championship will take place July 16-19, and tickets and sponsorships are still on sale now.

For more information, visit

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama grass provided playing surface for Super Bowl XLIX
By Mike Cason,, Jan. 9

When 100 million or so people tuned in to watch Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1, they were looking at green grass that was grown in Alabama.

Thirty refrigerated tractor-trailer trucks this week hauled the turf some 1,700 miles from Bent Oak Farm in Baldwin County to Glendale, Ariz.

Doug Lipscomb, co-owner of Bent Oak, said it’s the fourth time for the grass farm near Foley to provide the playing surface for what many consider the biggest sports event of the year.

The grass is a hybrid Bermuda grown on layers of dirt atop plastic.

Lipscomb said the NFL and other sports stadium customers want a field that’s both pleasing to the eye and tough.
It’s not good if the grass is a perfect shade of green but comes up in chunks when players plant their feet and turn.

“A lot of fields look good and play bad,” Lipscomb said. “A lot look bad and play well. It’s kind of hard to put everything in one package.”

Lipscomb, whose business partner is Mark Paulch, doesn’t reveal details on how Bent Oak’s turf, which they call Lay and Play, can meet those standards.

“Experience and failure teach us what we can and can’t do,” Lipscomb said. “There have been failures. We’re testing and trying new things all the time.”

Lipscomb said Bent Oak also provided the turf for Super Bowls XLII in Glendale, XLIII in Tampa and XLIV in Miami, the last three that were played on natural grass.

Bent Oak also provides the turf for Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa and Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, as well as the major league baseball stadiums of the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins and the NFL stadiums of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.

Alabama and Auburn replace their turf annually, Lipscomb said.

One reason Alabama has to is because the stands are so tall since the stadium was last enlarged that the grass only gets about two hours of sunlight a day, he said.

Lipscomb said he considers the repeat business from Bent Oak’s customers an affirmation that the company has a great product. He’s appreciative that the NFL is willing to use turf hauled almost all the way across the country.

“They’re going to go by a lot of grass farms between here and there,” he said.

To read this article online, go to:

Hilton Garden Inn named brand’s “Hotel of the Year” — again

For the second consecutive year, Hilton Garden Inn Mobile East Bay/Daphne has been named the brand’s top performing hotel. The Daphne property was selected from among 566 hotels across America, winning the highly coveted “Hotel of the Year” award for 2014.

Hilton Garden Inn, the worldwide brand of upscale yet affordable hotels, presents the prestigious award each year to the one Hilton property that best embodies the company’s standards in product and hospitality.

The Hotel of the Year award, known as the Connie Award, is named after the company’s founder, Conrad Hilton.
The selection is based on scores in Quality Assurance (QA) evaluations measuring cleanliness, condition and brand standards along with Satisfaction and Loyalty Tracking (SALT) scores, which indicate product quality based on thousands of guest surveys conducted throughout the year.

The Hilton Garden Inn Mobile East Bay/Daphne is located at 29546 N. Main St., Daphne, Alabama, just off I-10. More information is available by calling 251-625-0020 or at

State Parks offers free camping in February
Lodging discount also available

In a show of appreciation to its customers, Alabama State Parks is offering free camping during its Customer Appreciation Days from February 8-12. During the event, campers can stay for up to five nights based upon the availability of campsites. The free camping offer applies to both improved and primitive sites, but is not available to extended-stay campers. Prior or day-of reservations are welcome.

In addition to free camping, Alabama State Parks is also offering 50 percent off lodging at parks with hotels and cabins during its Customer Appreciation Days. The discount applies to regular seasonal rates on all lodge and hotel rooms, cabins, chalets and cottages. Lodging tax is not included in the Customer Appreciation Days offer.

“In recent years, our visitors and partners have continued to show their support for Alabama State Parks during tough financial times,” said Greg Lein, State Parks Director. “These Customer Appreciation Days are intended as a show of gratitude to everyone who enjoys the state’s park system. We appreciate their support.”

To take advantage of the Customer Appreciation Days free camping and discounted lodging offers, contact the individual parks for availability and to make reservations. For individual park contact information, visit or call 1-800-ALA-PARK.

Alabama State Parks Customer Appreciation Days are the first in a series of upcoming state park specials. In 2015, the park system’s theme will be “Bring a Friend,” which encourages regular visitors to invite a friend who has never explored an Alabama state park. For more details about Bring a Friend, visit in the coming months.

Alabama State Parks is proud to provide world-class experiences at each of its 22 state parks. Park improvements and accommodation specials such as Customer Appreciation Days are made possible only through the continued support of Alabama’s state park partners and the state legislature. At Alabama’s state parks, Partners Pay the Way.

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

Made in Alabama

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 5                           Alabama Lifestyle Expo – Gulf Shores, AL
Feb 6 – 8                     Kansas City Golf Show – Kansas City, KS
Feb 8 – 10                   Select Traveller (Bank Travel) – Nashville, TN (Renaissance Hotel Nashville)
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.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the weekly Alabama Tourism News, please contact Peggy Collins at:

Alabama Tourism Department