• Alabama Makers Market
  • April Walking Tours Continue
  • Sunset Festival brings a part of Key West to The Wharf in Orange Beach
  • White House seeks millions for civil rights sites
  • TVA visitor area opens
  • Birds & Blooms magazine features Alabama gardens in top ranking list
  • Harper Lee’s new novel set to go digital
  • ‘The Man From Muscle Shoals’ On Shame And FAME
  • Swampette Tours guide Judy Hood’s unique perspective on Muscle Shoals music
  • Alabama Public Television explores state’s culture with Journey Proud
  • Sony to distribute Hank Williams movie
  • Renaissance hotel salutes French war hero with toast, bell ringing
  • Reclamation project turning Civil War fort into memorial park in Spanish Fort
  • Nominations open for the 2016 Top 100 Events in North America
  • Attention CVBs and attractions: ATD needs pictures by May 29
  • Mobile Apps will be featured in 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide
  • It’s not too late – come learn how to work with the Alabama Tourism Department
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Alabama Makers Market

The Alabama Tourism Department will host the first Alabama Makers Market Thur., June 4, at the RSA Activity Center in Montgomery. The market will showcase the talented artists and crafters of Alabama for the gift shop owners and managers in Alabama. Hours of the market will be 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Setup begins at 8:30 a.m. The RSA Activity Center is located at 201 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104. Artists and crafters should register now for free booth space where they will be able to display their items and meet with buyers from Alabama Gift Shops in order to wholesale their product(s) to them. For an application, contact Leigh Cross: OR by phone, 334-242-4416. Deadline for applications is May 1. Gift shop owners/managers should RSVP to Leigh Cross: OR by phone, 334-242-4416.

April Walking Tours Continue

Some 27 towns across Alabama are on display during Saturday mornings in April as part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours. A variety of community leaders are leading the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns. The hour-long tours start at 10 a.m. on April 11, 18, and 25. Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Atmore, Heritage Park; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Brundidge, Studio 116; Columbia, Old Bank Building (April 4 & 18 only); Columbiana, M & F Bank, Cullman, Cullman County Museum Decatur, Old State Bank Building; Demopolis, Public Square; Dothan, Wiregrass Museum of Art; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center; Greensboro, Hale County Courthouse; Greenville, Historic Depot/Chamber of Commerce. Huntsville, Constitution Village (April 4 & 11 only); Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 18 & 25 only); Mobile, Cathedral Basilica; Montgomery; Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Mooresville Post Office; Phenix City; Amphitheater; Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Troy, Chamber of Commerce; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

The tours are coordinated by Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department. “Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours. These walking tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather and find out about the history of our state. We have done more than 2,000 walking tours since the beginning of the program twelve years ago and they keep increasing in popularity every year,” Jones said. More information about the April Walking Tours is available on the Alabama Tourism Department website at

Sunset Festival brings a part of Key West to The Wharf in Orange Beach

Set to rival Mallory Square in Key West, FL with their nightly Sunset Celebration, the local restaurateurs and tenants at The Wharf in Orange Beach have created a weekly Sunset Festival that will cater to crowds of all ages. Every Thursday night beginning April 9th, the Wharf, along with Aloha Hospitality and other sponsors have partnered together to create an atmosphere of fun and entertainment with live music, street performers, drink specials and games for the whole family. Bob Baumhower, CEO of Aloha Hospitality says “There’s no better combination of entertainment, good eatin’, natural beauty and amazing facilities than what we have to offer here at The Wharf with the Sunset Festival.”

Top regional bands such as SugarCane Jane, the Modern Eldorados, Vibe Irie and many other poplar acts are scheduled to highlight this year’s Sunset Festival. Professional street performers straight out of Key West, South Beach and New Orleans will also be on site entertaining folks with their tight roping dog acts, fire breathers, jugglers, magicians, face painting clowns, sword swallowers and more. The Wharf also features a SPECTRA Sound & Light Show that fills the sky with vibrant colors and sounds every night. The Hot Spot, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, Ginny Lane, The Cigar Bar, Compleat Angler, Bimini Bob’s and Baumhower’s at the Beach are just a few of the contributing partners to offer Sunset Festival food and drink specials as well as hosting their own live music acts.Bimini Bob’s Raw and Rum Bar will be the focal point for the Sunset Festival. Located directly behind the Marlin Circle on Main Street at The Wharf, this dockside one-of-a-kind outdoor Boat Bar features tropical drinks, raw oysters and local peel and eat shrimp.The Amphitheater at The Wharf will also set showcase some of the top musical acts this summer including Jimmy Buffet, Dave Matthews, Boston, Eric Church and The Steve Miller Band.

White House seeks millions for civil rights sites

By Deborah Barfield Berry, USATODAY, April 4

Communities and historically black colleges that played a key role in the civil rights movement would get millions of dollars under an administration plan to upgrade and preserve the movement’s most important sites.

Administration officials want to spend $50 million on the initiative as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of key milestones in the civil rights movement.

Sites in the South, the heart of the civil rights movement, are the most likely candidates.

“We need to be reminded of the struggles that have happened in this country so that nobody forgets,” said civil rights veteran Charles Hicks, 70, a native of Bogalusa, La.

The $50 million President Obama seeks in his fiscal 2016 budget includes $30 million in competitive grants to preserve stories and restore sites related to the civil rights movement and the African-American experience.

Obama’s proposal faces an uphill battle in Congress, where Republicans have vowed to reduce federal spending. The National Park Service expects to award 160 to 375 grants focusing on efforts to document, interpret and preserve stories and sites. The grants would require a match from groups and communities.

The initiative also would include:

— $10 million for “high priority” projects to improve facilities at National Park Service sites, including the Selma-to-Montgomery (Ala.) National Historic Trail.

— $2.5 million in grant money for historically black colleges and universities. Black schools such as Tougaloo College in Mississippi served as bases for students involved in the civil rights moment.

— $6 million for civil rights-related cultural resource and education projects. Some projects could include digitizing archives at places such as Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

— $1.5 million in operating fund for parks focused on the Civil War and African American history.

Sites that would benefit from the money include the Carter G. Woodson Home Historical site in Washington, D.C., the Selma-to-Montgomery National Heritage Trail interpretive center in Alabama, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland.

Activists hope the administration’s proposal spurs national conversations about race relations and civil rights.

“If you don’t understand the history, it’s hard to have the conversation,” said Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. “How could you have a conversation about, ‘Why would I get upset about you having a confederate flag on your license plate?’ Well, if you have historic amnesia, you don’t understand why that’s problematic.”

The administration has acknowledged the civil rights movement’s importance before, such as when Obama joined civil rights veterans in Selma, Ala., last month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 voting rights marches there.

Hicks said it’s important for the public to learn about civil rights efforts that didn’t make national headlines, and about activists who worked in small communities, mostly in the Deep South.

“So many of them have not gotten the attention that they should get,” he said. “It’s not just Selma, but there are places throughout the country in America (where) people have struggled for freedom.”

To read this article online, go to:

TVA visitor area opens

By Robert Palmer,, April 6

For almost 14 years, visitors to the Tennessee Valley Authority reservation in Florence found little in the way of information about the history of the agency’s birthplace.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the federal agency closed access to its power generation and river navigation facilities as a safety precaution.

Recently, TVA and the Corps of Engineers began allowing visitors to watch barges lock through Wilson Dam on weekends. Now, there is an outdoor visitor center at the south end of the dam where visitors can read a brief history of the agency and enjoy a view of the Tennessee River. It opens today.

“We wanted to give folks a flavor of what went on here,” said Kristine Shattuck-Cooper, a TVA spokeswoman.

The visitor center is just off Reservation Road near to the hydropower building at the south end of the dam. It is next to a similar gazebo dedicated to the North Alabama Birding Trail.

Panels in the gazebo give an overview of the history, geography and culture of the region, and why Wilson Dam and the Shoals area were selected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help launch his New Deal initiatives to lift the country out of the Great Depression.

The Corps began construction in 1918 on Wilson Dam to supply hydroelectric power to make nitrates, a key ingredient in explosives, to meet the demand for munitions during World War I. The war ended that year, but work continued through the mid-1920s until it was completed. At the time, the dam was considered an engineering marvel.

Automaker Henry Ford offered to buy the dam in the late 1920s, but Congress ultimately turned down the offer.

When Roosevelt was elected in 1932, Nebraska Sen. George Norris convinced him to use it as the cornerstone of a new agency that would lift the region out of the depths of the Great Depression. Nitrate that had been intended to make explosives was used to make fertilizer.

The 3,000-acre Muscle Shoals Reservation is a popular recreation area with miles of paved walking trails and access to the river for fishing and boating. That means it’s also popular with tourists.

“That’s an amazing tourism product for us,” said Alison Stanfield, acting director of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism. “A visitor center is something we’ve lacked since the old one closed. We frequently have people ask if there is a visitor center there, so it’s nice to have one again.”

Shattuck-Cooper said the previous visitor center was housed inside the power production are of the dam. It had to be closed for security reasons.

Several visitor centers are opening today across the seven-state TVA service area, she said, some like the one at Wilson Dam and some that will be indoors.

To read this article online,

Birds & Blooms magazine features Alabama gardens in top ranking list

Birds & Blooms magazine has featured Birmingham’s Avondale Park Rose and Habitat Garden (named as an Urban Gem) and Huntsville Gardens’ Lewis Birding Trail (named as a Best Birding Trail) in its list of the “Birdiest” Botanical Gardens.

Urban Gem

Avondale Park Rose and Habitat Garden is getting a little help from a program called the Urban Bird Habitat Initiative. This space in Birmingham is being upgraded with 84 planting beds to attract birds. Volunteers also have installed a prairie garden in the Birmingham Museum of Art Prairie Habitat, where birds feast on plant seeds.

Best Birding Trail

Huntsville Gardens’ Lewis Birding Trail in Huntsville meanders past Little Smith Lake, an active purple martin colony, a bluebird trail and feeder stations. The purple martins return each spring and can be seen flying in and out of man-made nest boxes and feeding their noisy young. A local birder created the trail for visitors to learn more about the birds that inhabit the garden.

For the full list see:

Harper Lee’s new novel set to go digital

By Melissa Brown,, April 5

After years of resistance to digital mediums, Harper Lee relented and released her classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” in e-book and digital audiobook formats last summer. Readers won’t have to wait this time: Lee’s upcoming (and controversial) new novel will make a simultaneous debut in e-book, audiobook and old-fashioned paper forms this summer. “Go Set a Watchman,” set for a July 14 release, is already available for pre-order from many booksellers.

To read this article online, go to:

‘The Man From Muscle Shoals’ On Shame And FAME

NPR, April 4

“We don’t use arrangers in Muscle Shoals. … We do it from the heart.” — Rick Hall founded FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, and worked his magic to create a signature Southern sound and launch a string of hits dating back to the 1960s. At FAME, Hall produced career-defining records by Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Wilson Pickett, but those successes came after an humble upbringing in a poor, rural area of Alabama. He spoke with NPR’s Linda Wertheimer about his new memoir, The Man From Muscle Shoals: My Journey From Shame To Fame.

Hear their conversation at the audio link:

Swampette Tours guide Judy Hood’s unique perspective on Muscle Shoals music

By Matt Wake,, March 31

In a family containing both a studio-musician legend and respected indie-rock bandleader, the wife/stepmom might actually be the best raconteur. Not to say Swampers/Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section bassist David Hood and Drive-By Truckers mastermind Patterson Hood aren’t entertaining and insightful interviews. They are.

Judy Hood, David’s wife and Patterson’s stepmom, leads the Swampette Tours, which travel by trolley bus to such Muscle Shoals area music Meccas as FAME Studios and 3614 Jackson Hwy. – the storied address of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios’ original location – as well as the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

The Swampette Tours began in 2013, return April 4. Seating is usually limited to around 25, according to the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Office, and cost is $35 per person. Call 256-740-4141 for reservations. Tours depart from the Florence/Lauderdale Visitor Center, address 200 Jim Spain Drive, Florence, and are currently scheduled to run 12 – 4 p.m. Other upcoming tour dates include May 9, June 6, July 11, Aug. 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3 and Nov. 7

When called for this interview on a recent afternoon, Judy was in the sunroom of the lakeside Muscle Shoals home she shares with David. There were actually few questions asked during our conversation as Judy pretty much naturally moved from one subject I’d planned to cover to the next, never dwelling on the same thing for too long. It was one of the easiest interviews I’ve ever done.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation, in Judy’s own words:

“I like to give people an interactive tour experience, so basically I’m going to dip them right into the Muscle Shoals mojo. We’re going to go to FAME Recording Studio, of course, and spend some time in Studio A where Aretha Franklin and Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and so many great artists performed. And from there we’ll go over to 3614 (Jackson Hwy.). People like to stand in that room. They like to kind of hang out where Mick Jagger recorded and see where Bob Seger did his thing.”

“I’ve been doing these tours for a couple years now and it’s not unusual for a grown man to break down and cry when I take them into 3614. And I think it’s just they’re overcome. Because this was the soundtrack to our life. If you’re of a certain age – and I’m of that age, I’m 58 years old – this was the music we fell in love to. The music we broke up to. The music we did everything to growing up. So I think that’s what moves people about that studio.”

“Since we’ve reopened 3614 we’ve had visitors from I think 37 countries and every state in the union. Now on my tours, I’ve had people from places like Australia and New Zealand. The U.K. folks are rabid Muscle Shoals music fans. I’ve had people from Switzerland. I’d had some people from Sweden come and they actually put my tour on their Christmas card one year. Does that mean you’ve made it? I don’t know. I was kind of touched by that.”

“I never had any intention of being a tour guide. It was just a serendipity kind of thing. I retired from my job in corporate communications at International Paper when I was 55 and I thought then that I would write David’s book, because we’ve been wanting to do that, and start a consulting business. And maybe even have some time for David and I to spend together. Then, the ‘Muscle Sholas’ documentary came out and suddenly we were not in Kansas anymore. And I so spent the last two-and-a-half years working with Lee Sentell, who’s the state tourism director, who’s been very, very supportive of our efforts to maximize the potential of the documentary.”

“There’s just so much that needs to be done right now on the local music scene so we can capitalize on this because the documentary reignited the spark that made this the recording capital of the world. There’s no question about that. And Muscle Shoals music was always viable. It never went away, but it was not vibrant. Now it’s vibrant again. We’re well positioned for some serious success. But there’s not a minute to waste.”

“Right now we laugh and say I guess it’s still unfolding. I have humongous files of information and pictures and stuff we compiled and if Muscle Shoals music keeps at the pace it is now it will be a couple years before I do end up writing David’s book.”

“An album David played on that I really, really love is ‘Phases and Stages,’ the Willie Nelson album that got recorded here. I never get tired to listening to that because every song is different and it kind of tells a story. Of course, I love The Staple Singers stuff and I play that a lot. I’ll never get tired of hearing ‘I’ll Take You There’ or ‘Respect Yourself.’ I also play a lot of stuff that David’s done with Dan Penn and Spooner (Oldham). I never get tired of that because that’s Muscle Shoals at its core, that kind of soul. But I think I come to a lot he did a really cool thing with Tony Joe White called ‘Closer to the Truth’ a few years back that I like.'”

“David and I’ve been married for 29 years so Pat was in his teens when David and I got married, and was just beginning to think he wanted to do something with music. At that time Pat was in college and working for a pharmacist so I think David harbored a hope that Pat would want to go to pharmacists’ school or something but the music bug bit him. But it was scary for David. For every person that makes it in the music business unfortunately there are so many that don’t. But Pat had what it took and he had the drive. It’s funny because years ago when Pat was starting people would stop him and ask ‘Are you David Hood’s son?’ and now it’s all reversed. David will be walking down the street and someone will say, ‘You’re Patterson Hood’s father.'”

“So today David’s in Perth, with The Waterboys. He’s really excited about this tour. This is a departure for him and that’s very energizing for him. He’s 71 years old and touring with a British rock band all over the world. I just think it’s fantastic. It’s really been kind of inspirational to me and a lot of our friends who think once you get into your late 50s or even your 60s that somehow you can’t pursue your dreams or something. What David has kind of proven is dreams do not have an expiration date.”

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama Public Television explores state’s culture with Journey Proud

Journey Proud on Alabama Public Television highlights the people, customs, and traditions of Alabama. Director of the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture Joey Brackner hosts the series that airs on Thursday nights. Brackner canvases the state documenting Alabama’s diverse cultural heritage and unique people.

This week’s episode airing Thur., April 9 at 9:30 p.m. features the Frankville Fiddler’s Convention. Upcoming episodes will focus on: Bayou La Batre- April 16 at 9:30 p.m., Jubilee- April 23 at 9:30 p.m., May Day in Gee’s Bend- April 30 at 8:00 p.m. and Barbecue Clubs of Sumter County- April 30 at 8:30 p.m. Episodes of past shows are rebroadcast on Sundays at 12:30 p.m.

The series debuted in 2012 with an episode about Mobile’s Mardi Gras and is produced in partnership with the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

“What has been really exciting to discover is the level of pride everyone across Alabama takes in where they come from and their local traditions; but what’s also been encouraging is the amount of enthusiasm these folks express in learning about the other people, places and traditions around the state,” said Alabama Public Television’s Production Director Christopher Holmes.

Sony to distribute Hank Williams movie

Sony Classic Pictures will release the new Hank Williams movie starring Tom Hiddleston, best known as Loki in the “Thor” movies, the Hollywood Reporter says. “I Saw the Light” also stars Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford, David Krumholtz, and Cherry Jones.

Sony hasn’t yet set a release date, but it looks likely to get an awards-season run this fall or winter. The combination of a high-profile star and a high-profile subject is bound to attract awards consideration similar to the Johnny Cash movie “Walk the Line.”

Based on the biography by Colin Escott, the musical biopic chronicles Williams’ meteoric rise to fame in the 1940s and early 1950s, the increasing personal and health issues that came with it, and his untimely death at age 29. While his career was brief, it was highly influential, and he’s considered one of the most iconic musicians in American history. Marc Abraham (“Dawn of the Dead,” “RoboCop”) wrote and directed the film.

The filmmakers acquired the rights to Williams’ catalog, including “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Move It On Over,” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”

The actor, an accomplished singer, is aware of the pressures of portraying such a beloved figure. “Hank’s life has a tragic arc, but in simple truth, he was a genius: a star that burned twice as bright and lived half as long,” he said. “It’s a huge role for me and a huge responsibility. I gave it everything I’ve got.”

The film was produced by Brett Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment, along with Abraham, Aaron L. Gilbert, and G. Marq Roswell. Ratner professed to being “thrilled” with the deal. “This film is a perfect fit, especially given the Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents’ passion for country music, and we could not be in better hands.”


Renaissance hotel salutes French war hero with toast, bell ringing

The Montgomery Advertiser, April 5

While Montgomery has left its mark on the civil rights movement and even the Civil War, the time of fighting the red-coats for the nation’s independence from Britain sometimes gets overlooked. On Saturday, the Renaissance hotel decided to change that and give an ode to Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette of France.

According to Mary Ann Neely, local historian of Montgomery, the Renaissance hotel on Tallapoosa Street is the actual location of Freeney’s Tavern where a massive celebration was held on April 4, 1825, to honor Lafayette’s legendary visit to Montgomery after the war.

The hotel’s outside Exchange Bar displays a replica of the Freeney’s Tavern bell which was used to summon the town and warn of a fire. Saturday, it rung in honor of Lafayette and the debut of a new cocktail.

“Montgomery is such a historic city, we thought it would be a nice way to celebrate that, especially when we found out that 190 years ago today marked the day of Lafeyette’s visit,” said Bill Lang, a representative of the hotel. “It just made sense to mark that history with a salute to Lafeyette and start a new tradition for the hotel.”

As part of the modern-day celebration, re-enactor Michael McCreedy came in period costume as Lafayette and local residents retired Air Force Col. Larry Cornwell and his wife Leanne Cornwell, came representing General Richard Montgomery and Janet Montgomery, for whom the capitol city is named after.

Neeley said Lafayette visited Montgomery while touring the country he helped win independence. A festive dinner and ball was held at Freeney’s Tavern and cost Alabama $17,000 in 1825, an extravagant amount for that time period.

“Lafayette had arrived in Montgomery the day before and the grand ball was held at the same site as Renaissance Hotel and caused quite a stir. Freeney’s Tavern, at the time, was the local watering spot,” Neeley said. “They had facilities for eating, feeding and drinking of course and stables for the horses.”

“The ball was one of the first stellar events that took place in Montgomery,” Neeley added. “We were just a village then, only 6 years old when all this was happening … so the grand ball was quite an event for the size of Montgomery at that time and the ladies had gotten out their wedding dresses so they could come and dance with Lafayette.”

Neely said her great-great-grandmother was one of the women who danced with the French general that night.

The hotel hopes to continue the tradition in years to come. The debuted drink, appropriately called the Lafeyette, is a mixture of 27 Springs Gin, white burgundy wine and Sweet Vermouth. An expanded menu featuring Lafayette’s Bison sliders were also unique to the celebration.

Reclamation project turning Civil War fort into memorial park in Spanish Fort

By Marc D. Anderson,, April 3

Like silent guardians of ancient ruins, pine trees tower over a high bluff in Spanish Fort where 150 years ago Confederate soldiers manned Fort McDermott during the Union’s two-week siege of Spanish Fort.

Underbrush and a tangle of vines around the trees were cleared over the last year by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Raphael Semmes Camp 11, revealing the well-preserved earthworks of the former Confederate battery, once studded with Brooke rifles.

The donors of the three acres, the Fuller family, had the foresight to preserve the land while developing the sprawling Spanish Fort Estates all around it.

Remaining virtually untouched, the tract’s only recognition over the last 50 years had been a roadside plaque on Spanish Main, placed by the Spanish Fort Historical Society.

“Fort McDermott — Highest point along 2 miles of Confederate battle lines extending east and north. Here 200 soldiers from Georgia, Louisiana and Arkansas held off a numerically superior Union force for thirteen day and nights in the last battle of the War Between the States, April 1865.”

Beyond the sign, thick underbrush and trees concealed the remnants of history atop the knoll.

After much sweat and toil, spearheaded by Raphael Semmes Camp project leader Joe DuPree and volunteers, the acreage has become a path back through time. The top of the fort’s earthworks can now be seen from the road, along with a bridge over the former moat area and stairs up the upper parapet, built as an Eagle Scout project by Greg Haase.

About 40 yards in, a rifle pit that once bristled with Confederate sharpshooters is still intact, and volunteers built a small section of abatis, an entanglement of sharpened tree branches that served to dishearten and deter attackers.

April 11 is the dedication day for the new Fort McDermott Confederate Memorial Park. It will feature a wood-chip trail with over a dozen informational signs about the siege, the old fort and key figures during that time such as Maj. Gen. Dabney Herndon Maury, the Confederate commander of the District of the Gulf.

“It will be a private park but it will be open for people to walk through,” DuPree said.

He said, “In terms of historicity, the earthworks are essentially in pristine condition. You can see the embrasures and artillery positions. You can see where the magazine was and the parade ground and so forth. We cleared that; it was like a jungle.”

The work has drawn plenty of attention from folks in the neighborhood. “Of course, they knew there was a rise in the land, in general, but they’ve come up since it’s been cleared and a number of them have said, ‘Gosh, I had no idea this was up here,'” DuPree said.

Mayor Mike McMillan described the old earthworks as “the best I’ve seen in the city.”

“It’s amazing. I didn’t have a clue that was there,” McMillan said. “I don’t know of any earthworks that are that defined here. There are areas in the city where you can see the earthworks that were in place, but they’re scattered around.”

Fort McDermott was part of a network of Confederate strongpoints serving as the eastern defense line for Mobile: Spanish Fort and Red Fort and two forts on Blakeley River. The earthworks, redoubts, rifle pits and gun batteries stretched for about two miles.

After the Battle of Mobile Bay and the fall of Fort Morgan in August 1864, Union troops led by Union Major General E.R.S. Canby headed north along the bay’s eastern shore, first crossing Fish River and then toward Spanish Fort.

Facing over 30,000 Union troops — which is over four times greater than the city’s current population — 1,800 Confederates commanded by Brig. Gen. Randall L. Gibson repelled initial assaults. A siege began on March 27, 1865.

About 195 Confederates manning Fort McDermott, with land clear-cut all around it, had to endure bombardments from artillery entrenched with about 20,000 Union troops. The remaining Union soldiers headed north to nearby Fort Blakeley.

On April 8, 1865, most of the Confederates at the cluster of forts withdrew to Fort Blakeley and Mobile. Blakeley fell on April 9, just hours after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. The Battle of Blakeley was the last major battle of the Civil War,

Less than a month later, the Confederates abandoned their garrison in Mobile and the city fell without a fight.

Casualties of the siege were estimated at 1,401: 744 Confederate soldiers and 657 Union soldiers.

The dedication ceremony for Fort McDermott Confederate Memorial Park will take place at 1 p.m., Sat., April 11.

Dupree said it will include three period readings, the first being from someone who had friends at Fort McDermott and wrote about the disposition of the forces. “Reading two will be by a man named Stephenson, who at the time was a private serving in Spanish Fort,” Dupree said. “Number three will be the official report of General Gibson, the Confederate commander.”

The ceremony will have at least four artillery pieces firing — two Mountain Howitzers and two coehorn mortars. Similar artillery pieces were part of the fort’s armory. Re-enactors will also conduct a few raids on the grounds.

Due to location of the park around a residential area, ceremony attendees are being asked to park behind Cheryl’s Restaurant at 322 Spanish Fort Blvd/U.S. 31 in the Prodisee Center and shuttle to the site.

For more information, visit


Nominations open for the 2016 Top 100 Events in North America

American Bus Association’s (ABA) Top 100 Events in North America is an annual compendium of the best events for group travel in the United States and Canada. Each spring, a committee of ABA-member motorcoach and tour operators selects the Top 100 Events for the subsequent year; the list is unveiled in September. Winners are chosen from hundreds of celebrations, festivals, fairs, commemorative events, and more that have been nominated by ABA members.

If you have events that will be celebrating milestones or anniversaries for 2016, please contact Rosemary Judkins at to have them submitted. Deadline to submit is April 30.

Attention CVBs and attractions: ATD needs pictures by May 29

The Alabama Tourism Department will soon be working on a photo book. We need really great high res images from you. The deadline for getting these in is May 29.

Things are ‘greening up’ all over the state so grab your camera and go take beautiful pictures that you can share with the Alabama Tourism Department.

Great tourism images should include:

  • Identifiable locations indigenous to Alabama with plenty of colorful flora around.
  • Attractive people wearing bright, solid-color clothing – no jeans – and having a wonderful time. Images should be made when the site is in full sunlight, preferably early morning or late afternoon, but never between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Images also need to be:
  • High resolution – at least 4” X 6” and 300 dpi, but bigger is better.

For information on the best way to send your images, please contact Peggy Collins, or 334-242-4545.


Mobile Apps will be featured in 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide

We need your help. We are compiling a list of mobile apps offered by our Alabama Tourism Industry Partners. A section in the 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide will be dedicated to mobile apps promoting the Alabama Tourism Industry.

If your organization has developed mobile apps to promote your area/attraction/business/event, please send a description and link to Jo Jo Terry, Please send information regarding mobile apps that are even in the development stage.

The deadline is May 29. If you have any questions, please contact Jo Jo Terry, or phone, 334-353-4716 direct line.

There is still time to sign up for the Alabama Tourism Department Workshops

In just two weeks the Alabama Tourism Department will host a Tourism Workshop on Tue., April 21 in Birmingham. This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area.

Many of ATD’s staff members will be in attendance at these workshops and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. On Tue., April 21 the workshop will be held at the Vulcan Park and Museum, 1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham.  Time will be 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. There is no registration fee.

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

Apr 14 Alabama Tourism Bash – Montgomery, AL

Apr 15 Alabama Tourism Advisory Board Meeting & Update, Montgomery, AL

Apr 21 Alabama Tourism Department Workshop – Birmingham

Apr 22 – 24 WTM Latin America (Trade) – Sao Paulo, Brazil

Apr 30 – May 3 Nashville Southern Women’s Show – Nashville, TN

Tourism Day Celebrations at Welcome Centers

Celebration time at all Welcome Centers is: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

May 6 Sumter Welcome Center, Tourism Day Celebration I-20/59 East of MS Line

May 7 Cleburne Welcome Center, Tourism Day Celebration I-20 West of GA Line

May 14 Lanett Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration I-85 West of Georgia Line

May 15 Houston Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration U.S. 231 North of FL Line

May 14 Baldwin Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration I-10 West of FL Line

May 7 Grand Bay Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration I-10 East of MS Line

May 14 DeKalb Welcome Center Tourism Day Celebration I-59 West of GA Line

May 28 Ardmore Welcome Center Tourism Celebration I-65 South of TN Line


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: