Tourism Tuesdays February 24, 2015

  • ‘Selma’ nomination put spotlight on Alabama-made films
  • Birmingham, Mountain Brook, Alex City restaurants and chefs among 2015 James Beard semifinalists
  • McWane Center to open $5M early learning exhibit in May
  • Red Mountain Park receives new Sloss Mine site, more green space for visitors
  • APT will host ‘Antiques Roadshow’ sneak preview; here’s how to get tickets
  • Huntsville/Madison County CVB launches blog –
  • Alabama Tourism Department Workshop
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


‘Selma’ nomination put spotlight on Alabama-made films
By Lee Sentell

History was made in Hollywood on Sunday night when, for the first time, a movie filmed in Alabama about Alabama competed for the Best Picture Oscar. “Selma,” starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., has been rewarded with near universal rave reviews. The Golden Globes nominated the film, star, director Ava DuVernay and song for four awards, winning one. Time magazine called it “The movie of the year.” Although celebrities such as Robert De Niro, Nicolas Cage and Bruce Willis have starred in some of the 25 movies made in Alabama since financial incentives were available, “Selma” has gotten the most attention.

As movie fans know, “Birdman” won for Best Picture, but musicians Common and John Legend brought the Oscar audience to their feet with their performance of “Glory,” which was rewarded with the Best Original Song Oscar. The backdrop for their performance, seen by nearly 38 million viewers, was a stunning replica of Selma’s historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The last year has been a wild ride for Oyelowo and DuVernay, the African-American talents who starred in and directed “Selma.” It was during last year’s red carpet interviews at the Oscars that Oyelowo, who played the son in “The Butler,” said his next role would be as Dr. King in “Selma” that would be filmed in Atlanta.

That came as news to Alabama Film Office Manager Kathy Faulk who had been working with various directors over five years for just such a project to be filmed in, well, Selma. She tracked down the production company and persuaded two location scouts to visit Montgomery and Selma, winning their endorsement. Soon, the director visited the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the State Capitol and agreed to find extra dollars to film on location where the actual Selma to Montgomery marches occurred in 1965. Oprah Winfrey came on board as actor and producer, bringing celebrity star power to the project.

After filming in the Atlanta area during May and June, the 200-person crew shifted to Alabama to re-stage the marches in Selma, including the infamous attack on the bridge, and to capture King’s speech in front of the State Capitol that concludes the film. Oprah got applause when she told a crowd at Selma High School that she wanted “the authentic bridge” in the movie.

DuVernay fast-tracked the editing, music and marketing to meet the Dec. 25 deadline to qualify for the Oscars. The critics’ glowing reviews generated serious Oscar buzz for a while. A controversial opinion piece by a former Lyndon Johnson staffer over LBJ’s portrayal was the pin-prick that deflated the Oscar balloon. Even while nominating “Selma” for Best Picture and Best Song, Academy members snubbed both DuVernay and Oyelowo for individual honors. Outraged film critics responded by giving the film and its star and director an unprecedented amount of coverage for non-nominees.

Nomination Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures’ publicity machine continued to roll as the film reached more screens in January. A major event staged on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Jan. 18 brought Oprah and other luminaries back to Selma. Musician John Legend, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated song “Glory” with singer/actor Common, performed the song under colored lights bathing the famous Selma bridge. That same night a local screening generated massive coverage on CNN, CBS “60 Minutes,” BET and Entertainment Tonight during the King holiday.

“Selma,” which cost $20 million to make, is approaching $50 million in box office receipts. It is the first race-themed movie not an outgrowth of a book (“The Help,” “The Butler”) to fare so well.

As a show of appreciation to the state film office and the Alabama Tourism Department for supporting the film, British distributor Pathe Films invited Alabama to co-sponsor the London premier three weeks ago. The phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” appeared on photo backdrops during the red carpet arrivals of the stars and other celebrities. Also, Pathe ran a 30-second tourism commercial about Alabama in London movie theaters for three weeks.

“Selma” was not the only story from Alabama to be in the British popular culture this winter. A critically acclaimed musical “The Scottsboro Boys,” which had a short run in New York in 2010, played to packed houses who gave standing ovations from October through this week. British actor Colman Domingo, who portrays Montgomery’s Ralph David Abernathy as King’s collaborator in the movie, had a major role as a minstrel song and dance man in the play that was written by the creators of “Chicago” and “Cabaret.” Special screenings have been held in Paris, France, and Sydney, Australia, for tour operators and travel journalists to promote travel to Alabama and Selma.

Birmingham, Mountain Brook, Alex City restaurants and chefs among 2015 James Beard semifinalists
By Bob Carlton,, Feb. 18

Birmingham’s Highlands Bar and Grill and its pastry chef Dolester Miles, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q co-founder Nick Pihakis, Mountain Brook chef Chris Newsome, and Alexander City chef Rob McDaniel have again made the James Beard Foundation’s preliminary list of semifinalists for its 2015 culinary awards.

Highlands Bar and Grill is a semifinalist for the country’s most outstanding restaurant. Highlands has gone on to be a finalist for the top restaurant award in each of the past six years but has yet to win.

For the second year in a row, Miles, Highlands’s longtime pastry chef, is one of the semifinalists for the country’s most outstanding pastry chef.

McDaniel, of SpringHouse restaurant in Alexander City, is a semifinalist for the third straight year for best chef in the South.

Newsome, chef and co-owner of Ollie Irene in Mountain Brook, is also among the best chef in the South semifinalists. In 2012, Ollie Irene was a semifinalist for the country’s best new restaurant.

And for the sixth year in a row, Jim ‘N Nick’s Pihakis is a semifinalist for the country’s outstanding restaurateur.

There are 20 semifinalists in each category, and the field will be narrowed to five finalists on March 24.

The winners will be announced at the annual James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony on May 4 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Previous Beard winners from the Birmingham area include:

Highlands Bar and Grill’s Frank Stitt, for best chef in the Southeast in 2001

The Bright Star in Bessemer, the America’s Classic award in 2010.

Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, for best chef in the South in 2012.

For a complete list of all of this year’s semifinalists, go here.

To read this article online, go to:

McWane Center to open $5M early learning exhibit in May
By Bryan Davis,, Feb. 17

Construction on the $5 million early learning center project at the McWane Science Center should be completed by spring.

McWane President and CEO Amy Templeton said the 9,500-square-foot Itty Bitty Magic City project will be unveiled in early May at the center – one of the state’s top tourist attractions.

Templeton said the center, which typically draws around 350,000 visitors per year, should see a surge thanks to the project.

“We’re anticipating in 2015 we’ll draw an additional 70,000 (visitors because of the new feature),” Templeton said, adding that number will likely level off but should remain higher than the current average draw.

The project will have a Birmingham and Alabama theme, which will include a main street with a grocery store, diner, auto garage, home, barn, vet and fire station.

“It really is about Birmingham itself,” Templeton said. “All of this is very themed around a sense of place.”

The project was made possible through a public-private partnership that received $2 million from the city of Birmingham and $3 million through corporate sponsorships and donations.

“This has really been embraced by the community. It’s not like one person dropped in and gave us the money for this,” Templeton said. “The corporate community has really embraced this, along with the foundations.”

The focus of the project is on early childhood education, with displays for children ranging from birth to 6.

“It’s birth to age 6, but the abilities of a child who’s 18 months is so different than a child who’s 3 or 6,” Templeton said. “So we’re trying to make graduated activities so that when you come at one age, you can do some of the things, and when you come later you can do some more, and by the time that you’re 6, you can do all of them.”

The centerpiece of the display is a 1,500-square-foot climbing structure. There will also be two classrooms, which will be accessible to Birmingham-area teachers for field trips and activities.

McWane is also undergoing some capital improvements thanks to a $1.6 million new market tax credit that was awarded when the center purchased the property from the city for $1 in 2013.

Brasfield & Gorrie is the general contractor for the Itty Bitty Magic City project. KPS Group is the architect of record.

To read this article online, go to:

Red Mountain Park receives new Sloss Mine site, more green space for visitors
Walter Energy Contributes 23 acres to Birmingham’s Red Mountain Park

Red Mountain Park’s 1,500 acres has grown by 23 acres with Walter Energy Incorporated’s $285,000 in-kind donation of the historic Sloss No. 2 Mines.  Walter Energy CEO Walt Scheller said of the gift “We’re pleased Red Mountain Park is the recipient of such an important piece of Birmingham’s history.  Walter Energy’s investment will provide long-term educational, environmental and health benefits to our community and throughout the region.”

Gaining the Sloss No.2 Mine property boosts Red Mountain Park mining sites to include the “Big Four” mining outfitters that were vital to the creation of America’s industrial boom: Tennessee CoaI and Iron Company (US Steel), Woodward Iron Company, Republic Steel, and Sloss Sheffield Steel and Iron Company.

The Sloss property is located atop Red Mountain, approximately 1 mile West of Red Mountain Park’s current Frankfurt Drive entrance.  Sloss Iron and Steel Company began iron ore mining there in 1890 and continued until 1959. The property contains the last known example of a steam mine hoist and its housing in the Birmingham area, and features a beautiful decorative mine portal entrance. The Sloss property also includes a mining community’s cemetery, making Red Mountain Park the proud steward of three historic graveyards.

“We are grateful that Walter Energy, Inc. had enhanced the Park’s Master Plan with this one-of-a-kind contribution”, said Red Mountain Park Executive Director David Dionne. “Walter Energy’s generosity not only helps the Park tell a more complete story of Birmingham’s mining history, but also helps the Park direct more of its financial resources to other areas of development.

Red Mountain Park, a nonprofit organization, offers a 1,500 acre wooded site located in Birmingham, 3 miles west of I-65 (Lakeshore Parkway Exit #255).  Visitors enjoy 12 miles of walking, hiking and mountain biking trails, Remy’s Dog Park and four unique outdoor adventures: the Red Ore Zip Tour (a 1 ½ hour zip line adventure), the Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest (20 unique rope and cable treetop challenges), the 80-foot climbing/rappelling Kaul Adventure Tower and the 1,300 foot Mega Zip.  Beautiful destination sites – the historic ‘Redding Hoist House’, three Treehouse views (SkyHy, Riley’s Roost, & Rushing Rendezvous) and glimpses of iron ore mine entrances – both surprise and delight Park guests.  Upon completion of Phase 2 Development in 2016, the Park will deliver trails totaling 20 miles; picnic pavilions; event facility; formal entry and parking; and the Robert R. Meyer Activity Center.

To read the entire press release, go to:

APT will host ‘Antiques Roadshow’ sneak preview; here’s how to get tickets
By Bob Carlton,, Feb. 19

Alabama Public Television will host a sneak preview of the upcoming “Antiques Roadshow” episodes that were taped in Birmingham last summer.

The 30-minute screening, which will feature highlights from all three Birmingham episodes, takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center at 1200 10th Court South in Birmingham.

Admission to the screening is free, but tickets are required.

Those interested in attending should email and include a name, address and phone number, along with the number of tickets they would like to order. In return, they will receive an email with a ticket that they will need to print out for admission.

Among the special guests at the screening will be Deborah Barnhart from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Barnhart will talk about the collection of memorabilia from NASA rocket scientist Wernher von Braun that she brought to the “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal event at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex last June.

While the von Braun collection will not be featured on the show, a “Roadshow” appraisal expert said two of von Braun’s desk calendars from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 lunar missions are “priceless and then some.”

Also expected to attend the preview screening is Marvin Walberg, who is the father of “Antiques Roadshow” host Mark L. Walberg and who lives in the Birmingham area.

To read the entire article, which includes air-times for these screenings, go to:

Huntsville/Madison County CVB launches blog –, Feb. 14 aims to woo visitors and meeting planners to the Rocket City

On the last day of its #iHeartHsv social media campaign, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) announced the launch of a new blog inspired by the now two year old #iHeartHsv social media campaign  ? The blog will feature original content from over 10 local contributors as well as CVB staff. All content will target potential and current visitors as well as meeting planners who are considering bringing convention business to Madison County. New blog posts on will be published each Wednesday.

“Our community helped put men on the moon, has four of Alabama’s top ten tourist attractions, the second largest research park in the nation, a state-of-the-art convention center, beautiful outdoor recreational offerings and a thriving food and craft beer scene,” President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County CVB Judy Ryals said. “We are harnessing the talent of local writers to tell those stories and more on so that we may ultimately increase travel and tourism to Madison County.”

The new blog,, will feature several regular series including but not limited to:
Attraction Pro Tips, My Madison County, HuntsvilleMade, Gotta Try This Food, ‘Little’ Known Huntsville, MeetHuntsville Pro Tips.

To read the entire article, go to:

Alabama Tourism Department Workshop

The Alabama Tourism Department will host a Tourism Workshop Tue., April 21 in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Avenue and Wed., April 22 in Birmingham at the Vulcan Park and Museum, 1701 Valley View Drive.  Times for both days will be 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  There is no registration charge.

These workshops are for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Come and learn about the many programs and services the Alabama Tourism Department offers.

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Feb 20 – Mar 1           Louisville Golf Show – Louisville, KY
Feb 20 – Mar 2           Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show – Indianapolis, IN
Mar 4                          Ft. Rucker Extravaganza – Ft. Rucker, AL
Mar 4 – 8                    ITB/International Tourism Exchange Berlin (Trade & Consumer) – Berlin, Germany
Mar 6 – 8                    Dallas Golf Show – Dallas, TX
Mar 13 – 15                Milwaukee Golf Show – Milwaukee, WI
Mar 13 – 15                Memphis Southern Women’s Show – Memphis, TN
Mar 22 – 25                Travel South Showcase – Shreveport, LA
Apr 14                        Alabama Tourism Bash – Montgomery, AL
Apr 21 & 22               Alabama Tourism Department Workshop – Montgomery/Birmingham
Apr 22 – 24                WTM Latin America (Trade) – Sao Paulo, Brazil
Apr 30 – May 3          Nashville Southern Women’s Show – Nashville, TN


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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