Tourism Tuesdays May 19, 2015

  • Alabama throws down the barbecue gauntlet at Memphis in May
  • Attention: Alabama gift shop owners and managers
  • Sign-Up for April Walking Tours 2016
  • Alabama Tourism Department Workshop rescheduled
  • Alabama economy to be featured in special section of United Airlines in-flight magazine
  • UK travel agents visit Alabama
  • How Birmingham’s culinary scene is changing the city
  • In Birmingham, Southern Food Legend Frank Stitt Still Leads the Way
  • Birmingham’s Chef George Reis named Alabama Seafood Cook-off champion
  • BCRI celebrates Juneteenth’s 150th anniversary and the 20th Annual Juneteenth Cultural Festival
  • Experienced fly fisherman e-mails about his first time in Alabama
  • Unclaimed Baggage Center’s Brenda Cantrell to appear on the Today Show
  • Alabama Music Hall of Fame sees record number of visitors
  • The Historic Chattahoochee Commission announces the release of its 33rd book
  • Finding a groove in the Shoals
  • Baldwin County sees fourth consecutive record tourism year in 2014
  • Bandstand economic development
  • Brits tuck in during the Year of Alabama Barbecue
  • Montgomery Area CVB launches Capital Cool Cruisers
  • Soaring summer plans at Auburn/Opelika Marriott 
  • Update USA TODAY’s Readers’ Choice Contest for 10Best Southern Fine Dining
  • Nominations are open for the 2015 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism Awards
  • Search is on for Alabama Barbecue Restaurants
  • Alabama Makers
  • Mobile Apps will be featured in 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide
  • 2016 Vacation Guide & Calendar of Event deadlines
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Alabama throws down the barbecue gauntlet at Memphis in May
By Chris Chamberlain, Food Republic, May 18

You’ve gotta hand it to the state of Alabama. When it comes to bragging about their barbecue prowess, they’ve got a great, big ole set of Rocky Mountain Oysters. Because it takes some cojones to post a giant banner in the middle of Beale Street during the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest that proclaims “Welcome to Memphis: Home of the South’s Second-Best Barbecue.” (Emphasis theirs.)

For a week every May, Memphis becomes the center of the competitive barbecue universe as hundreds of teams compete for the Grand Champion title of the Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned event. So there may be no bigger opportunity for Alabama to shine the spotlight on its barbecue culture than with a tent housing a photo exhibit of its indigenous pitmasters, the premiere of a documentary film on barbecue in the state and, of course, that banner smack dab in the middle of the main tourist corridor of Memphis. The campaign is called “The Year of Alabama BBQ.”

The exhibit was a popular stop for competition visitors walking along the midway in Tom Lee Park on the Mississippi River. The tent was a shady spot to get out of the sun and a dry haven from the afternoon thunderstorms that almost inevitably plague Memphis in May. Once they ducked inside, visitors were presented with professional portraits of nearly 25 noted Alabama pitmasters and barbecue restaurateurs, including Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson’s, Nick Pihakis from Jim ‘n’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q and Betsy McAtee of Dreamland. In addition to screening the film in the tent, there were also educational displays describing the traditional sauces and side dishes of the Yellowhammer State and the debate between open-pit barbecue vs. enclosed smokers.

The exhibit will travel the country for the rest of the year, making appearances at various major barbecue events and film festivals. The Alabama Tourism Department has also created an Alabama BBQ Trail mobile app to guide tourists to the more than 300 barbecue joints around the state. In fact, the brochure that accompanies the touring exhibit claims that barbecue is served in 8.27 percent of the state’s restaurants, a statistic that puts Alabama at the top of the list of “pork palaces” per capita.

But at Memphis in May, the proof is in the banana pudding. Chris Lilly entered the competition as the returning Grand Champion in 2014, his fourth top prize since 2000. As a proud representative of his home state of Alabama, Lily’s four wins tied him with Tennessee and Mississippi for the most MiM championships in the 21st century.

However, this year Mississippi took the lead as the Shed BBQ & Blues Joint out of Ocean Springs took home the top prize. You might recall the Shed team, led by Brad Orrison and pitmaster Hobson Cherry, from their brief run as reality-television stars on the Food Network. While the show’s producers’ attempt to turn the Orrisons into the Duck Dynasty of barbecue might have been put on permanent hiatus after airing only a few episodes, there’s no question that the Shedheads know how to cook some hog.

Their “flying pig” presentation of whole hog relies on a custom armature they call a “RoboHog” to keep the animal upright as they smoke it in a cooker made out of a 1952 Willy Jeep. More than just a gimmick, this setup creates a dramatic presentation that is critical to winning at MBN competitions, where judges actually visit the pitmasters at their cook sites. It also creates a perfectly cooked hog with a beautiful mahogany crispy skin. So at least for this year, Mississippi seems to have a hock up on Alabama. But both states are worth visiting on your next barbecue odyssey.

To read this article online, go to:

Attention: Alabama gift shop owners and managers

All gift shop owners and managers have an excellent opportunity to see many of the amazing things that are crafted right here in Alabama at the first Alabama Makers Market.

The Alabama Tourism Department will host the event on Thur., June 4, at the RSA Activity Center in Montgomery.  The market will showcase talented Alabama artists and crafters of Alabama especially for the gift shop owners and managers in Alabama.  Registration is requested, but not required, and there is no charge to attend

Hours of the market are 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.  The RSA Activity Center is located at 201 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, AL  36104.

To register, contact Leigh Cross: OR by phone, 334-242-4416.

Sign-Up for April Walking Tours 2016

Towns interested in participating in the 2016 April Walking Tours should respond with an email giving their town’s name, starting location, contact person and shipping address to  The deadline to sign-up for the walking tours is June 1.

More than 1,600 people participated in the 2015 April Walking Tours. Some 27 towns across the state hosted the tours. Towns with the most participants included Huntsville with 240, Florence with 238, Fairhope with 170 and Mobile with 156.

The one-hour tours begin at 10:00 a.m. each Saturday morning in April. Dates for the 2016 April Walking Tours are April 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.

“These tours are an excellent way for towns and communities of any size to be involved in a state-wide tourism campaign,” said Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department.  “There is no cost to participate and state tourism provides all the posters, brochures and collateral materials. More than 20,000 people have participated in the tours since the beginning of the program twelve years ago” he said.

Alabama Tourism Department Workshop rescheduled

The Alabama Tourism Department Tourism Workshop that was canceled in April has been rescheduled for Thurs., July 9, in Montgomery.  This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area.

Many of ATD’s staff members will be in attendance at this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them.

On Thurs., July 9, the workshop will be at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Avenue, 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 economy to be featured in special section of United Airlines in-flight magazine
By Ryan Phillips, Birmingham Business Journal, May 12

Alabama’s place in the global economy will be a special section in the July issue of Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of choice for United Airlines.

The 32-page section, titled “Dossier” will feature different aspects of the state economy and major metropolitan areas, according to a release from Alabama Power.

Alabama business and economic development leaders will be interviewed in the profile, along with different entrepreneurs. Additionally, Hemispheres will feature an “Out Of Office” section, showing off different cultural attractions around Alabama.

The section will feature interviews with Gov. Robert Bentley, State Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power chairman, president & CEO, Allan McArtor, chairman and CEO of Airbus Group, Inc., and David Bronner, chief executive officer of the Retirement Systems of Alabama

The section is expected to focus completely on the state economy and business climate, appealing to business travelers, who make up a sizable portion of the United Airlines customer base.
To read this article online, go to:

UK travel agents visit Alabama

A group of 14 travel agents from top UK tour companies are in Alabama this week as part of a Brand USA Mega FAM.   The travel agents are touring the south, and visited tourist destinations in Louisiana and Mississippi before traveling to Alabama.

As Selma was their first Alabama stop, the group watched the movie Selma as they traveled from Mississippi to Alabama on a motorcoach provided by Dothan-based Southern Coaches.

In Selma the group walked on the Edmund Pettis Bridge, visited the Selma Interpretive Center, which is operated by the National Park Service, and had lunch at the Side Porch, a sandwich shop located across from the St. James Hotel.  Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell and local tourism officials welcomed the group to the state and the city of Selma.

From Selma, the group traveled to Montgomery where they were scheduled to take a Segway tour, visit the Rosa Parks Museum, see the Alabama Capitol and the Museum of Alabama and also enjoy a walk in historical downtown Montgomery.  Meg Lewis of the Montgomery Chamber, Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomed them to the city.  The group experienced the Montgomery Alley Entertainment District in the evening.

On Tues. May 19, the group is visiting the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, the 16th Street Baptist Church and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  They will lunch at Jim ‘N Nicks, as part of the Alabama Year of BBQ promotion before being transported to Red Mountain Park for a zip line adventure.   The group will have a special event at the rooftop bar of Southern Kitchens in Birmingham’s UpTown Entertainment District.  Cynthia McIntosh of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitor’s Bureau will welcome the group in Birmingham.

The travel agents on the Alabama visit are from tour companies; American Sky, Complete North America, Hayes And Jarvis, Avios, Midcounties Co-Op, Carnival UK, Dial A Flight, Tour America, Thomas Cook, Flight Centre, Kuoni, Hays Tour Operating, and Destinology.  Each of the companies represented bring visitors to the USA, with some companies representing more than $50 million in business to America each year.

Escorting the group is Jean Paul Zapata of Brand USA.  While they are in Alabama, Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department is with them.

How Birmingham’s culinary scene is changing the city
By Ryan Phillips, Birmingham Business Journal, May 8

The revival of downtown Birmingham in the wake of the recession has drawn national attention.

The Magic City’s ever-growing food scene has been a huge part of it.

Ask any notable chef around the city and they will tell you the last decade has been good to Birmingham. The revitalization of the city center and neighborhoods like Avondale has opened the door for new restaurants and eateries. It’s also brought in scores of new potential customers and national headlines.

Just last week, Zagat named Birmingham its top up-and-coming food city.

Chefs like Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings put Birmingham on the map. But they also paved the way for a new generation of culinary masters and entrepreneurs to open up innovative new eateries and raise the Magic City’s culinary cachet, as we noted in this week’s Cover Story.

But Birmingham’s culinary scene isn’t just changing the city. It’s also changing the palate of Birmingham diners.

Local food culture has had an indelible impact on the city as it has evolved, and the chefs making it possible are as colorful as the well-thought out and delectable dishes that continue to draw new tastebuds to Birmingham.

Those chefs say Birmingham’s culinary tastes are a far cry from where they were a decade ago. Customers are more open-minded.

“There are things we can do now we couldn’t do 10 years ago,” said Scott J. Cohen, a chef at Dyron’s Lowcountry. “When you see marinated Calamari salads on the menus in Birmingham, that’s not something people would have been quick to jump on.”

The infusion of unorthodox styles and cuisines has triggered strong support from local diners and attracted the attention of tourists and national media hoping to taste Birmingham’s increasingly unique culinary style.

Rather, innovative chefs from around the city have gained a foothold with their creativity – earning the trust and devotion of local patrons in the process.

John Hall, chef and owner of Post Office Pies in Avondale, said the city is poised to continue its culinary renaissance as new chefs with fresh ideas find an increasingly open-minded market in Birmingham.

“There are all these other great restaurants that are staples and very much in the DNA of our city and for the future, I see it as extremely bright. We are at the bottom of where we will be years from now,” Hall said.

Success in the restaurant business is not something that happens by chance.

Several chefs I spoke with for the Cover Story told me about partnerships with local farms, which bring fresh ingredients to eateries and promote sustainable farming and community gardening.

Hall, who previously worked at some of the top kitchens in New York, said Post Office Pies recently formed a partnership with Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

Hall said said the farm-to-table movement is nothing new, despite renewed interest in the practice.

“But now looking at everything that’s grown here, just as you want locals to support local restaurants, we need to support local farmers,” Hall said. “It’s great that we have this amazing land to grow things. In New York, you don’t even have a back yard, and sometimes we forget just how awesome we have it.”

Hall is right. Birmingham is an inherently-Southern city, surrounded by some of the best farmland in the world. Stitt, the dean of the Magic City’s food scene, has long been known for his devotion to securing the best ingredients from local farms.

It’s no surprise that the next generation of Birmingham chefs are following suit.

Jason Daniel, chef de cuisine at Ocean Restaurant and the soon-to-debut Five Point Public House Oyster Bar, said incorporating locally-grown products is the primary draw for his menu items.

“It’s about building relationships with local farmers, and being able to source all the products you want to showcase,” Daniel said. “It starts with great ingredients, so it’s about the business of working with those different individuals to get those products and at the price you need, so you can put it out to the public.”

The nuanced culinary ideas of Birmingham’s most notable chefs have changed the landscape in Birmingham, but at the root of all the success is the food.

Abhi Sainju, the current sushi chef at The Blue Monkey Lounge and soon-to-be partner and executive chef of Bamboo Sushi, is one example of an up-and-coming chef who has already left a major mark on the local food scene.

By fusing Southern-style dishes with tastes of his native country of Nepal, Sainju found an audience in Birmingham and soon became one of the most well-respected sushi chefs in the city.

His dishes include, among other items, Kathmandu Fried Chicken — a dish sure to appeal to even the most skeptical Southern palate. With no formal training, Sainju was able to find inspiration in the right places when entering the Birmingham culinary market.

“My background is from home,” Sainju said. “Seeing my mom is how I picked it up and when I got to America, there was no food like at home, so I had to learn to do it for myself.”

Cohen, on the other hand, has an approach to taste based on simplicity. He has worked in some of the top upscale restaurants in the city and trained under Stitt.

“I’m intrigued by the whole molecular gastronomy thing and it lends itself to some creativity for me, but I’m of the mindset if you take a great product and put love into it, the outcome will be something I can be proud of. Food doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said.

As the city grows and changes with each passing day, Cohen said he is optimistic that Birmingham will remain the cultural center of the state of Alabama.

“I think the potential is endless for Birmingham,” he said. “We have a very educated community currently and if I look back 20 years and look forward 20 years, I would have never assumed we would have gotten to this point.”

To read this entire article online, go to:


In Birmingham, Southern Food Legend Frank Stitt Still Leads the Way
By Bill Addison,, March 20

When talking about the foodways of Alabama, the discussion might center on specialties like barbecue swabbed with mayonnaise-based white sauce, or West Indies salad (a Gulf coast favorite of crabmeat with chopped onion and vinaigrette), or the penchant for orange-glazed yeast rolls served alongside steaks in the state’s chophouses. But when conversation zeros in specifically on Birmingham, the topic of dining always begins with one name: Frank Stitt.

Decades before Charleston and Nashville emerged as nerve centers for the Southern food furor, Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham was the place to taste regional cooking prepared with supreme finesse. He opened the restaurant in 1982. He was 28 and the city, struggling in the wake of steel mill closures and Civil Rights-era tumult, needed an identity reboot. The community took newfound pride in Stitt, an Alabama native, who bucked the Continental trappings of the times and coaxed the innate elegance from local ingredients. He gussied up baked grits by surrounding them with slivers of country ham and mushrooms. He lured the best Gulf fishermen inland and paired flounder with lady pea succotash and red snapper with a sauce of ham hock and red wine. He coached kitchen talent that would go on to enrich Birmingham’s culinary scene at every level, and he followed Highlands with two other restaurants, Italian-minded Bottega in 1988 and Chez Fonfon, a spot-on evocation of a French bistro, in 2000.

What inspired Stitt to adopt now-prevailing notions of cooking at Highlands so early? The mothership of American regionalism, of course: Chez Panisse. Stitt had been studying philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, when his fascination with food began boiling over. An unpaid stint at Alice Waters’ stoves led to her writing Stitt a letter of introduction to one of Chez Panisse’s spirit guides — Richard Olney, a lyrical cookbook author and American ex-pat living in Provence. Working as Olney’s assistant, Stitt saw how classical technique might uplift the sun-basted ingredients of southeastern France and the American South with equal élan.

Working as a critic in Atlanta in the early 2000s, I was forever disappointed by how my city’s most accomplished chefs largely ignored regional flavors. (That would finally change by the decade’s end.) I would occasionally drive the two-plus hours to Birmingham for immersion courses at Highlands: sweet potato-filled ravioli with mustard greens and ham; grilled quail served with bacon, spoonbread, and ramps; the single most perfect peach cobbler I’ve ever eaten, its biscuit cap rising golden above the ramekin’s rim like a textbook soufflé.

Almost five years had passed since I’d visited Highlands, but a dinner late last month proved the restaurant remains as timeless and relevant as ever. Servers in crisp white shirts and tapered black vests buzzed through the dining room that’s decorated with vintage French posters and doused in butterscotch lighting. The hospitality at Highlands has long been as distinguished as the food, largely due to Stitt’s secret weapon: his gracious wife Pardis, who oversees front-of-house for each of their restaurants. She sat my friend and I at a corner table in Highlands’ bar, full of dapper souls tossing their heads back in laughter without sloshing one drop of their bourbons.

Our seasoned server, Dawson Caudel, had the kind of assured timing that’s subtle and rare. He paced our meal beautifully and left us to our conversation, though we never for a moment felt abandoned. Baked oysters splashed with absinthe segued to gentle scamp grouper over a nest of sauteed spinach, crisp-silky sweetbreads in Madeira sauce, and a stunning seared Guinea hen leg perched atop pirlau shot through with oxtail meat and garnished with some preserved butter beans. The baked grits soothed with its gloss of white wine-butter sauce and fragrant hit of thyme. Salted chocolate cake with bourbon buttercream was easy sweet-tooth bait, but I preferred the pistachio financier with macerated strawberries and elderflower cream. The small financier cakes harkened to shortbread biscuits — small wonder, since pastry chef Dolester Miles was the same dessert guru who made the genius peach cobbler years ago.

Chez Fonfon sits right next door to Highlands, in the same 1920s building with a red-tiled roof. I’ve stopped there frequently over the years for lunch en route to Mississippi or New Orleans. Not to keep dogging my hometown, but Atlanta doesn’t have Gallic food like this. Nor do most towns in the Southeast. Stitt understands the soul of French cooking, its rich cadences and balancing twangs of acidity. A charcuterie platter shows unusual thought, with a spread of cured meats and homemade pâtés, sausages, and rillettes mindful of textural contrast and enough pickled vegetables alongside to keep the palate pert. Liberal amounts of capers and onions sharpen the beef tartare. Mustard aioli and a variation on sauerkraut made with collard greens animate a pork confit sandwich. For culinary xenophobes, the restaurant makes an outstanding cheeseburger.

At my most recent lunch, a dish of chicken thighs with carrots, pearl onions, cream, and tarragon warmed what was likely the last harsh day of winter in Birmingham. So did a simple, correct gratin of scallops and mushrooms. Only an omelet caused the French spell to falter. I favor the smooth, unblemished blond models that more chefs are flaunting these days. This one, brown and crinkled, resembled the homely versions served at all-American breakfast joints. The last sips of Chablis and a few bites of the signature coconut cake in a pool of crème anglais restored the reverie.

If the weather suits, request a table in Fonfon’s tranquil, shaded garden behind the restaurant. Right before walking through the door that leads from the dining room to the outside, look to the left and notice the small framed picture hanging on the wall: The wry-looking fellow in the image is Richard Olney, Stitt’s mentor.

At Bottega, the al fresco dining happens in front of the restaurant, flanking the building’s stately limestone façade. (Mid-twentieth century, it housed a grand department store.) Inside, the space divides itself between a casual cafe serving salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and pastas like rigatoni with chicken cacciatore, and a more formal, two-level dining room set with white tablecloths. The color of the walls recalls blood orange juice.
Stitt’s vigilance comes through in every aspect of his restaurants.

Being a Highland and Fonfon habitué, this visit was my first dinner at Bottega. I ate in the main restaurant, and when the server brought out the parmesan soufflé, I saw that Stitt was also a frontrunner in the now-vogue notion of mingling Italian and Southern flavors. (This idea, a smart one that highlights the agrarian traditions of both cultures, defines high-profile restaurants like Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis and Rolf and Daughters in Nashville.) The soufflé, resembling the baked grits at Highlands, also came surrounded by mushrooms, with prosciutto exchanged for the country ham. A parallel emerged again at dessert time, when Bottega’s strawberry-elderflower semifreddo with crushed pistachios mirrored the flavors of the shortcake-like financiers I’d relished at Highlands.

Mostly, though, the food at Bottega put forth its own distinctly Italianate personality. A wintry riff on cannelloni enfolded braised short rib, turnips, and goat cheese into pasta as delicate as crepes. Saffron broth perfumed flounder and grilled squid with its singular, distant-lands scent. Sweet, firm Mississippi redfish huddled against a jumble of roasted cauliflower, olives, and farro was a plate of straightforward pleasures.

Around the time our entrees arrived I spied Stitt surveying the dining room near the kitchen doors. At some point he appeared during service at each of my meals in his restaurants to shake hands with regulars, instruct servers, or confer with his wife. His vigilance comes through in every aspect of his restaurants.

Of course, after nearly 33 years in business, Stitt has protégés — and protégés of protégés — who have created their own successes. The most renowned among them is Chris Hastings, once a sous chef at Highlands, who opened Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham in 1995. I’ve savored meals at Hot and Hot in the past but recently had a relatively flat dinner there: Dishes like black drum en papillote and chicken fried rabbit over rice grits were strangely under-seasoned. The standout was a smooth bacon- and shrimp-studded version of gumbo z’herbes, traditionally a Lenten staple of mixed hearty greens served in Louisiana’s Creole communities on Holy Thursday.

Dinner at Springhouse, a clubby destination overlooking a lake in Alexander City about 90 minutes from Birmingham, proved worth the drive. Executive chef Rob McDaniel previously worked as a sous chef at Hot and Hot, and as a Southern cook he zips across the tightrope between tradition and invention. Deft execution and a simple presentation kept his hot sweetbreads with pickles and white bread, a take on Nashville hot chicken, from falling into parody. And the rolled-out, rectangular dumplings in his comforting chicken and dumplings came straight from the Dixie grandma playbook, but bits of crackly chicken skin gave the dish texture and edge.

Chris Newsome did stints with both Stitt and Hastings, and his gastropub Ollie Irene, in the Mountain Brook area of Birmingham where Newsome grew up, energized the city’s mid-scale dining scene when it launched in 2011. I sipped a punchy lime rickey with pickled grape brine while eating fried boudin swiped through grainy mustard. A pretty, refreshing citrus salad with fennel and feta preceded a rewarding bowl of tagliatelle tangled with braised duck ragout.

Beyond the pedigreed chefs, the subject of eating in Birmingham must eventually wind around to barbecue. Miss Myra’s in nearby Vestavia Hills specifically rocks the chicken with white sauce. Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, another close-by suburb, scores on both its smoked chicken with tangy, peppery white sauce as well as its fragrant pulled pork. At sister restaurant Saw’s Soul Kitchen, surrender to the pork and greens special: a mountain of cheese grits, turnip greens, and pulled pork capped with onion rings. A trip to the Magic City should always begin with a feast at one of Frank Stitt’s refined havens, but it might as well conclude with a downhome gut-buster.

To read this entire article, go to:

Birmingham’s Chef George Reis named Alabama Seafood Cook-off champion
Alabama Gulf Seafood Newsletter, May 7

Alabama Gulf Seafood is proud to announce that Chef George Reis, owner of Ocean in Birmingham, has been crowned the inaugural Alabama Seafood Cook-Off Champion.

Reis bested his culinary opponents at the inaugural cook-off event, held Friday, May 1, as part of Southern Makers in Montgomery. Chef Brandon Burleson of Voyagers Restaurant in Orange Beach was named runner-up. Other finalists included Miguel Figueroa of A&P Social in Montgomery and Brody Olive of Spectrum Resorts in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach.

Reis’ winning recipe integrated Cumin Coriander Crusted Grouper, Alabama Shrimp Sausage, English Pea Hummus, Sand Mountain Tomato Jam, Pickled Carrots and Radishes, and Preserved Lemon Oil.

In addition to holding this coveted title, Reis will now go on to represent our state in the 12th Annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off (GASCO), which will be held later this year. The annual cooking competition pits the finest and most celebrated seafood chefs from across the nation against each other in one of the country’s biggest seafood showdowns.

“The skill level exemplified by each chef was impressive on many levels, and we would have been proud for any of our finalists to represent Alabama at a national level,” said Chef Jim Smith, executive chef for the State of Alabama, current chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission (ASMC), and winner of the 2011 GASCO competition. “We congratulate Chef Reis on this outstanding career accomplishment and look forward to watching him compete on behalf of our state at GASCO.”

Reis, born in the Midwest and raised in upstate New York, moved to Birmingham and opened Ocean in 2002. The restaurant, which draws upon the flavors of the world and combines them with the freshest seafood, has won several awards including the AAA Four Diamond Award for 2007 through 2013 and the Wine Spectator Award for 2004 through 2012.

He followed Ocean’s success with the 2006 launch of its sister restaurant, 26, which was named that same year as “Birmingham’s Best New Restaurant” by The Birmingham News and won the Wine Spectator Award from 2009 to 2012. The restaurant is closed temporarily as it transitions to reopen as a public house and oyster bar later this spring.

To read more, go to:

BCRI celebrates Juneteenth’s 150th anniversary and the 20th Annual Juneteenth Cultural Festival

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) will hold its 20th annual Juneteenth Culture Festival on Sat., June 6, from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Kelly Ingram Park in the historic Civil Rights District.  BCRI is also commemorating the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, which celebrates the ending of slavery, with this free, family-oriented event that features music, food vendors, contests, free admission to BCRI galleries and other special activities.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States, dating back to June 19, 1865.  The BCRI celebration not only focuses on African American freedom, but also celebrates liberty and justice for all cultures.  For more information about BCRI Juneteenth Culture Fest, call 328-9696, x 234 or

Experienced fly fisherman e-mails about his first time in Alabama

James Brown, a self proclaimed well-traveled fly fisherman from Connecticut, visited Alabama for the first time this month.  Brown called his trip great fun with active trout.  Brown said in his email to Alabama Power Company Smith Lake Shoreline Manager Steven Fletcher, “I am a lifelong fly fisherman for trout and have fished throughout the U.S. and abroad but I can honestly say that the Sipsey Fork ranks among the best technical fisheries that I’ve tried.”

In that e-mail, Brown went on to compliment the fishing and ease of accessibility, “Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Brown Trout and Brook Trout added to the mix here for variety.  But I have only praise for the access stairs since I am retired now and my bank clambering days are past.

Also, I understand that quite a bit of rock work was done in the upper section of the river, if I hadn’t been told this I wouldn’t have known.  It looks very natural and provides great holding water for the trout and increases the river’s holding capacity.

The e-mail was also sent to the Riverside Fly Shop, a fly fishing outfitter listed on the Alabama Tourism Website

“My first trip to Alabama has been wonderful.  I came here for the trout fishing but in the process I’ve met many friendly people, tonight I’ll have my first catfish dinner, and when I point the rental car north I’ll have many great memories of this place,” wrote Brown in his May 12 e-mail.

Unclaimed Baggage Center’s Brenda Cantrell to appear on the Today Show

Be sure to tune in for this one.  Unclaimed Baggage Center’s Brenda Cantrell will appear on a live segment of The Today Show on NBC during the 8 a.m. hour on Mon., May 25.

For information about Unclaimed Baggage Center, go to:

Alabama Music Hall of Fame sees record number of visitors
By Carter Watkins, WHNT19 News, May 7

More than a year and a half after restructuring, the ailing Alabama Music Hall of Fame is posting some record-breaking attendance numbers.

The walls and displays depict the rich history of music in the state of Alabama. From Percy Sledge to the group Alabama, international visitors are drawn to Tuscumbia to relive the past. But what’s keeping visitors in the Shoals area is today’s music.

“We are a museum and we’ve got a great history here, but we have great music here still. We needed to do more to excite the people and to get them excited to bring them to the hall of fame,” said Dixie Griffin, director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Griffin explained they are tapping into the creative minds that call northwest Alabama home. She said many of the musicians here are putting on concerts and free events to get visitors in the door, and it’s paying off.

In the month of April, more than 1,850 people came to the hall of fame; it’s a record-breaking number.

“That really makes us want to work harder and tell the story more, and I think people are really glad the hall of fame is back open and back in this area,” Griffin said.

With all the recent success, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame board of directors has decided to move the annual induction ceremony back to the Shoals in February of 2016.

To read this article online, go to:

Finding a groove in the Shoals
By Chere Coen, Louisiana Road Trips, May 2015

Blame it on the singing Tennessee River or something enchanted in the water, but Muscle Shoals, Alabama is a vortex of musical magic.

It was here that Rick Hall created the “Muscle Shoals Sound” at his FAME Studios in 1959, attracting rock stars and unknowns alike, mixing races in the music and producing hit record after hit record. His studio band, The Swampers, would start their own studio, again producing and performing some of the greatest rock hits the world has ever known.

If you visit the sleepy town of Muscle Shoals, it’s difficult to imagine the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, Etta James and the Osmonds cutting hit albums here. And behind many building facades — including the original studios — hits are still being made today.

Visitors to the Shoals and nearby towns of Tuscumbia, Sheffield and Florence can tour both FAME Studios, still an operating studio, and 3614 Jackson Highway, the studio founded by The Swampers that’s currently being renovated. FAME offers tours to the public Mondays through Fridays and the 3614 Jackson Highway, now the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Museum, welcomes visitors Mondays through Saturdays through the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation (

At FAME, we were honored with a visit from founder Hall, who described the early days of rock ’n’ roll including his fight with Aretha Franklin’s husband and telling Duane Allman he couldn’t sing, which prompted him to join up with his brother Gregg.

“This is the oldest studio in the world that’s been owned by the same person,” Hall said proudly. “Fifty-two years. We’ve cut some of the greatest records worldwide.” Some of those hits include Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” Frankin’s “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You/Do Right Man)” Mac Davis’ “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” the Osmonds’ “One Bad Apple” and so many more.

When the Swampers — so called by Lynyrd Skynard in “Sweet Home Alabama” — opened their own studio at 3614 Jackson Highway, the studio owned by Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett saw the likes of the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Traffic, Rod Stewart, Cher, Cat Stevens, the Staple Singers, Levon Helm, Joe Cocker and many more walk through their doors. Visitors can view the signatures of these legendary rock ’n’ rollers on the studio walls.

“We were doing 50 albums a year for many years,” Johnson explained on a recent tour. “One a week.” And many of the hits were magic in the making. R.B. Greaves recorded “Take a Letter, Maria” in one take and the Stones wrote and recorded “Wild Horses” in the studio control room.

“At the time I wasn’t a big fan of theirs,” Johnson said of the Rolling Stones. “By the time they left I was.”
The only musician who failed to record an album at the studio was Louisiana’s Doug Kershaw, Johnson said. “We went all day (performing) without recording anything,” he said.

One of his favorite rock musicians was Bob Seger. “It was unbelievable to hear Bob Seger,” he said of the musician’s raspy voice. “On ‘Katmandu,’ his voice was so powerful I had to back him up three feet from the mic.”
In 1978 the Swampers moved their studio to Sheffield but some, like David Hood, still perform. Hood’s wife, Judy, takes visitors through these golden days of rock in her “Swampette Tours,” with its motto referring to a hit also made in Muscle Shoals, “I’ll Take You There.”

Judy Hood doesn’t know if it’s the Tennessee River that inspires so many hits from one small town; the Native Americans believed the river sang to them. There’s also a musical heritage here that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. W.C. Handy, the father of the blues, was born in Florence and visitors can view Handy’s birthplace and memorabilia at the W.C. Handy Museum.

In nearby Tuscumbia, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame spotlights the area’s over-abundance of musical greatness, but the rest of the state has more than its fair share as well. Some musical giants who emerged from Alabama include Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, Percy Sledge (who passed away last month in Baton Rouge), Sam Phillips, Lionel Richie, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffett and the bands Temptations and Alabama.

Perhaps there’s something in the water throughout Alabama.
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Baldwin County sees fourth consecutive record tourism year in 2014
By Marc D. Anderson,, May 12

Baldwin County and its beach cities notched another record year for tourism in 2014, attracting 5.7 million visitors who left behind an estimated $2.8 billion in the local economy.

The figures, based on an annual study conducted by the Alabama Tourism Department and Auburn University-Montgomery, were shared by Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism President and CEO Herb Malone during the 2015 Tourism Summit on Tuesday.

The numbers show an increase of 300,000 visitors over 2013 and a $300 million boost in spending.
“County-wide, 5.7 million invited guests who went home but left behind $3.5 billion,” Malone told about 250 people who attended the summit at the Erie Meyer Civic Center in Gulf Shores. “It ran through the cash registers of our retails stores, our restaurants, our golf courses, our charter boats, our lodging partners. All the way down the line, gas stations and what have you — $3.5 billion.

“One of the state’s leading industrial recruiter’s a few year ago referred to Baldwin County as Alabama’s cash cow. I think this is what he was referring to.”

Malone added that visitors should never be considered a number on paper.

“We look at them as a group of individuals that we have extended an invitation to come,” he said.

And that personal touch was driven home by the morning’s guest speaker Mack Collier, a social media strategist and author of “Think Like a Rock Star,” which was the theme of the summit.

Making a personal connection and empowering visitors, or “fans,” of Alabama’s Gulf Coast to share their experiences is the key to success, Collier said.

“Create something amazing for the people that love you,” Collier said.

Sharing tweets from visitors at the start of the summit, the tourism bureau showed the vacation industry is already tuned into visitors. One wrote, “We love this place.” in a selfie with her friends. Another wrote, “The most beautiful beach I’ve even seen.”

A photo caption contest drew words describing the area: paradise, pathway to heaven, tranquility, relaxation, serenity, among many others.

“That pretty much tells you when you talk about branding, I’m a firm believer we don’t brand ourselves, our guests brand us,” Malone said. “When I see this is the way they are branding us then I feel very good.”

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell said Baldwin and Mobile County make up about 35 percent of all travel expenditures in the state.

“This region is by far the number one destination in the state,” Sentell said. “There are a number of developments that are likely to be announced before the end of this year … that are going to make this an even stronger destination in terms of accommodations and attractions.”

The year-over-year trend shows taxable lodging rentals went from $280 million in 2011 to $375 million last year.

The growing tourism economy has seen travel-related job growth jump from 39,418 in 2011 to 46,320 in 2014.

“In 2014, our retail revenues were up 7.7 percent; our lodging revenue 8.6 percent,” Malone said. “This is pretty impressive when you look at the national GDP was up 2.4 percent, so we’re doing better than the national economy.”

And the trend is strong so far this year, according to Malone, with Gulf Shores and Orange Beach showing municipal retail and lodging revenues are up, 14 and 8 percent, respectively.

AAA is also predicting holiday travel for this Memorial Day weekend to be the busiest it’s been in a decade, thanks to gas prices that are about $1 less than this time last year and a few long winter months in the northern states.

Reading a statement from AAA President Marshall L. Doney, Malone said, “Following a harsh winter, many Americans are trading in their snow boots for flip flops.”

“So,” Malone added, “it’s great time to be a rock star.”

To read this article online, go to:


Bandstand economic development
By Scott Hutcheson, Purdue Agricultural Communication, April 14

Assistant Program Leader for Community Development, Purdue Extension and Senior Associate, Purdue Center for Regional Development.

Scott Hutcheson works with local and regional communities across the U.S. and abroad, helping civic leaders implement strategies to grow their local economies and ensure quality of life for residents.

“When a man loves a woman, can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else… .”  If you are like me you can’t even read those words without hearing the soulful sound of Percy Sledge.  The world lost him; but that song will live forever.

As fate would have it, I found myself in North Alabama a week after he died.  “The Shoals,” as it’s called, is a collection of four communities in close proximity to one another: Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia.  Together they offer a rich history of rock and roll, blues and R&B.

Sledge recorded right there in “The Shoals” as have other greats like Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones. Current performers such as Tim McGraw and The Black Keys still make their way to this region of North Alabama to get just the right sound.

As I drove into the area in my rented car, I swore I could hear Percy sing, “He’d give up all his comforts and sleep out in the rain if she said that’s the way it ought to be.”

One of my friends and colleagues, who also works with communities, once told me that when he goes to a new city or town, he listens closely for the music to give him a good idea about what’s going on in that place.  He went on to say that this music he’s listening for is both the literal kind that gets played on guitar and piano but also the metaphorical music you hear as you listen to conversation of locals sipping coffee at the diner or the chatter among parents watching from the stands as their little one’s play baseball.

Sometimes you hear harmony in their voices, other times dissonance. He says that if he hears what sounds like harmony, his job will be an easy one. On the other hand, if he hears mostly discord his work is likely to be difficult.

During my visit to North Alabama, all the sounds I heard were pleasant to the ear – many voices working together to design their own future, ushering in “what’s next” for The Shoals – a vibrant, growing economy and a high quality of southern rural life. One resident put it to me this way, “We just don’t tolerate ugly talk around here,” when I noted how positive the conversations were.

Perhaps there’s a connection between the region’s musical history and the health of their civic environment. Some recent research indicates that this may be the case. In January of this year, researchers Peter Pedroni and Stephen Sheppard from Williams College released findings from their study of 384 U.S. communities to see if there is a relationship between economic growth and the “local arts and culture production.”

They did indeed find a relationship. Higher levels of community investment in the arts are positively correlated with per-capita gross domestic product. Not only did they find correlation, they found causation. Investing more in the arts leads to long-term positive impact on the economy.

We’ve just had a primary election in the community where I live, and in one race in particular there was a lot of talk – “ugly talk” actually – between the candidates and among those supporting them, about what represents a “good” and “bad” investment in economic development.

Resources to invest in economic development are limited, so our civic leaders need to pick and choose. We can’t do it all. What a grand experiment it would be to go “all in” on the arts as a strategy for economic growth.
Bandstand Economic Development, if you will.

Imagine a community where music was being performed somewhere every single day, where inspiring murals and sculptures greeted you at every corner, schools in which art and design was as high a priority as math and science.

That might also be a community in which there wasn’t any “ugly talk” and we dealt with even our toughest issues in harmony with one another. If Pedroni and Sheppard’s research holds true, it just might also be a community that is growing economically. Maybe its time to give “bandstand economic development” a try.

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Montgomery Area CVB launches Capital Cool Cruisers

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau (MCVB) announced recently that a new bike rental program called Capital Cool Cruisers is available to visitors and residents. Sponsored by Regions Bank, four bright green bikes can be rented at the Montgomery Visitor Center located at 300 Water Street in Downtown Montgomery.  Rentals can be reserved by calling 334-262-0013.

The bikes are a stylish and efficient way to navigate through downtown to any of the historical sites, restaurants and must-see attractions.  All of the essentials are provided in the rental including helmet, basket, visibility lights and a bike lock.  Bikes are available Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Rates range from $14 for two hours, $20 for four hours or $30 for eight hours. The age restriction to rent or ride is sixteen years of age and anyone under the age of eighteen must have a parent or guardian sign off on the rental agreement.

The bike rental program is another exciting and active touring option that joins Blake’s Segway Tours, which are available by reservation, and the Meet Montgomery Gem Car tours which are also available by reservation at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays only.  All three begin and end their tours at the Montgomery Visitor Center.

“As visitor numbers continue to grow in Montgomery, we constantly look for new and exciting ways to show off our uniquely historic and fun city, and National Bike Month was a perfect opportunity to launch this program. We encourage everyone to take a spin around the city,” said MCVB Vice President Dawn Hathcock.

Brits tuck in during the Year of Alabama Barbecue
By Neil Davey, The Telegraph, May 15
Head to the Deep South during the Year of Alabama Barbecue – a celebration of all things smoked and grilled – to find out why it’s the state’s favourite food.

Alabama, according to Jake Adam York, of the Southern Foodways Alliance, is a state “only by cartography, law and convention”. Within its borders, he argues, you can find the influence of so many other places – and in this part of the world, that typically revolves around one style of cooking.

He writes: “The Appalachians give us a taste of the Carolinas, the Tennessee River guides a northern influence, the pine barrens continue the work of Georgia, the Black Belt gestures toward Mississippi… it’s no wonder that you can find, in Alabama, almost any kind of barbecue.”

And it is no wonder that, for its latest celebratory year, Alabama is also looking pitwards. As tourism director Lee Sentell told the state’s website, after two years of food promotions, one cuisine emerged as the clear preference: “It became obvious to us that the overriding favourite type of food in the state for an evening out is barbecue.

“There are other dishes that are indigenous to the South – namely, fried chicken and catfish and seafood – but there is a mystique about the different ways that barbecue can be prepared, seasoned and served.”

The result is the Year of Alabama Barbecue, which aims to champion all things smoked and grilled via a number of different media, from website to smartphone app.

A travelling photo exhibit of 26 experts called The Masters of Alabama BBQ will tour the state and there is also a documentary film, Q – Alabama Barbecue Legends, which features interviews with the cuisine’s leading players, such as Don McLemore and Chris Lilly, of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q. (It’s Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, incidentally, that lays claim to having invented the classic Alabama barbecue accompaniment of white sauce: mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice and black pepper.)

In addition, you can expect several of those featured to be among the first names into the newly launched Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame on May 18. It is not a tribute that comes easily though: only restaurants that have been open for more than 50 years are being considered.

The rather handsome website provides links to some of the region’s best food places, the quite remarkable number of local barbecue festivals and a number of road trips you can make to maximise your intake of pork, beef and chicken.

The app, on the other hand, distils much of the information from the book Alabama Barbecue: Delicious Road Trips by former Southern Living travel editor Annette Thompson, into more portable form.

She has listed more than 75 barbecue restaurants in 52 cities across the state. If that sounds like an impressive number, apparently since the 1920s about 500 barbecue restaurants have opened in Birmingham alone.  Given that the app also has the ability to notify users when they are within 20 miles of a barbecue spot, it sounds like it could be as tough on your smartphone battery as the state is on your waistline.

To read this article online, go to:

The Historic Chattahoochee Commission announces the release of its 33rd book

The Historic Chattahoochee Commission (HCC), in cooperation with Mercer University Press, announces the release of its 33rd book, The Triumph of the Ecunnau-Nuxulgee: Land speculators, George M. Troup, and the Removal of the Creek Indians from Alabama and Georgia, 1825–1838 by William W. Winn.

It is the first book to chronicle the tragic saga of Indian Removal with a specific focus on the Chattahoochee Valley of Georgia and Alabama.  With candor and objectivity, Billy chronicles the duplicity, political maneuvering, and military force through which the native Creeks ultimately lost their lands, illuminating latent issues of morality, sovereignty, cultural identity, and national destiny the affair brought to the surface.  Winn introduces readers to the key players on both sides of one of our nation’s most infamous dramas, which twice brought it to the brink of civil war, taking them into the resplendent halls of Congress, the smoke-filled backrooms of commercial establishments, and the earthy Native town squares where decisions were made that plotted the trajectory of both a region and a people.

The 564-page book includes maps, illustrations and notes as well as an index.  This hardback edition retails for $39 plus $5 for postage and handling.  Books may be ordered by calling (334) 687-9755 or online via Paypal at  They may also be ordered from the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, PO Box 33, Eufaula, AL  36072-0033.  Please add $1 postage for each additional book ordered.

Soaring summer plans at Auburn/Opelika Marriott 

While poolside games, family dining and golf are typical during a stay at the Auburn/Opelika Marriott, guests this summer are in for a real adventure. Camp Soaring Summer will return for its second year and offer a variety of free experiences for hotel guests and diners at the Marriott plus National Village residents.

“Where else can families enjoy a day by the pool, see magnificent eagles from the Southeastern Raptor Center, learn to play pickleball and end the evening with gourmet S’mores fireside,” said Kevin Cross, general manager of the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National. Having worked at Alabama’s Grand Hotel in Pt. Clear, the Grove Park Inn in North Carolina and other hotels, Cross brings a great deal of resort experience to his new position in Opelika.  “Camp Soaring Summer celebrates strong Auburn/Opelika traditions and has something for everyone from toddlers to seniors,” said Cross. The free program starts May 15 and runs through Aug. 30.

From weekly shows at the hotel with the Southeastern Raptor Program to pool games, tennis, campfires and live music, Camp Soaring Summer at the Marriott offers free adventures that change each month. “With visitors coming from around the region and nationally, we try to highlight the wonderful things from this area,” said Cross.

“Most of our guests have seen the spectacular eagles fly on television before Auburn football games and now they can see them in person on Thursday afternoons. For those over 21, we will have adult beverage tastings featuring locally produced favorites from John Emerald Distilling, High Ridge Spirits and Red Clay Brewing,” said Cross.

The adult beverage tastings and other Camp Soaring Summer activities will rotate each month to offer different guest experiences, but Southeastern Raptor Center show will remain a constant each Thursday afternoon at 4. Dive-in movies in the pool area will be shown each Friday and Saturday night. “Playing golf at RTJ Grand National is an extra expense, but gives our guests the chance to experience PGA-quality courses as we prepare for the Barbasol Championship on the PGA TOUR  in July,” said Cross.

Today’s savvy hotel guests are looking for fun experiences to share as a family or as a couple. “Camp Soaring Summer showcases different amenities that are appealing to couples or children and also partners with Auburn University and local businesses,” said Cross. “The concept of providing a variety of new activity options is a growing trend in the hospitality industry and we are leading the way in central Alabama. Through combining world-class golf, tennis, pools and other amenities, Camp Soaring Summer will reconnect families and bring new visitors to the area.”

The Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau is thrilled that our summer visitors will have even more activities to enjoy now in the beautiful Marriott setting, according to John Wild, president. “ It’s a great benefit to our community to have a destination like this where guests can enjoy everything from a tropical pool to pickle ball to interacting with rare birds of prey,” said Wild.  “We are proud to be a partner in promoting the variety of recreational opportunities they have to offer.”

Camp Soaring Summer activities will appeal to guests at the resort for meetings, those with them and traditional leisure travelers. The schedule of activities for hotel guests will be updated weekly. Activities do not require advance reservations. Camp Soaring Summer activities are led by local experts and members of the Auburn/Opelika Marriott team.

To make Camp Soaring Summer reservations, visit or call 334-741-9292.

Update USA TODAY’s Readers’ Choice Contest for 10Best Historic Hotels and 10Best Southern Fine Dining

Grand Hotel Marriott Resort finished at #6 for Best Historic Hotel in the US, according to USA Today. It is the only hotel in the South to make the Readers’ Choice 10Best list for historic hotels.

You can see and share the full list of winners at
The current leaders on 10Best and USA TODAY’s Readers’ Choice Contest for Best Southern Fine Dining are:

  1. Cotton Row Restaurant – Huntsville, Ala.
  2. River and Rail – Roanoke, Va.
  3. 404 Kitchen – Nashville

There’s still time to rock the vote or secure your nominee’s top spot by sending voters to  They can vote once a day, per category, and voting is open until Mon., May 25, at 10:59 a.m.

You can also follow live voting action at #10BestChoice on Twitter, where our account is @10Best.

Winners will be revealed Wed., May 27, at 10:59 a.m.

Nominations are open for the 2015 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism Awards

Awards nominations are open for the 2015 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.  For awards listings and more information, contact Cynthia Flowers,

The conference will be held at the Renaissance Battle House Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Aug. 1-4.
For registration and more information, go to:

Search is on for Alabama Barbecue Restaurants

The Alabama Tourism Department is conducting a search for barbecue restaurants around the state that might not have made it into the Alabama Barbecue book.  If you are or know of any barbecue restaurants in your area, please go to to sign in and join Alabama Tourism’s Year of Alabama Barbecue.

Alabama Makers

Alabama is home to a vast number of talented and creative people who produce a wide variety of items including, but not limited to, woodwork, paintings, ceramics, fabrics and a lot of food.

The Alabama Tourism Department is looking for information about these artists and their products.  We are interested in the home-grown cottage industries rather than the industrial giants.

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

Mobile Apps will be featured in 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide

We need your assistance.  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 that promote 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 JoJo 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 JoJo Terry by email or phone, 334-353-4716 (direct line).

2016 Vacation Guide & Calendar of Event deadlines

It’s time to submit information in order to have your attractions and events listed in the printed version of the Alabama Vacation Guide & Calendar of Events.  The listings must be entered into the website by June 30, for the Calendar of Events, and July 10, for the Vacation Guide.

The web address is:

If you have any questions, call Pam Smith at 334-353-4541.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

May 28                        Ardmore Welcome Center Tourism Celebration
I-65 South of TN Line
May 29                        Deadline to get images to ATD
May 29                        Deadline to turn in mobile app information to ATD
June 1                          Deadline to sign up for 2016 April Walking Tours
June 4                          Alabama Makers Market, RSA Activity Center, Montgomery
June 30                        Deadline for Calendar of Events
July 9                          Alabama Tourism Workshop in Montgomery
July 10                         Deadline for Vacation Guide

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