Tourism Tuesdays June 9, 2015

  • Ten Alabama State Parks have earned the 2015 Certificate of Excellence award
  • Alabama State Parks Partners Coalition launches to support state parks
  • International PowWow sees record attendance, Alabama on a roll
  • U.S. seeks to boost international visitors to 100 million a year
  • Keith Richards reflects on ‘Sticky Fingers’ – USA TODAY
  • 10 great Frank Lloyd Wright home tours
  • Birmingham’s ‘Zoo, Brews and Full Moon Bar-B-Que’ event set for June 20
  • Sweet Rack Rib Shack named in ‘The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America’
  • The South’s Best Ballpark Bites
  • Majestic 3, in Marshall County, makes Food and Travel’s homepage
  • Marine Mammal Center opens at Dauphin Island Sea Lab
  • Gadsden now has walking tours of the Black Creek Trails
  • Canoeist traveling Alabama Scenic River Trail
  • America’s top 100 family fishing and boating spots
  • Malbis Plantation District named to state endangered historic sites list
  • Dr. William E. Barrick receives Liberty Hyde Bailey Award
  • Alabama Makers Marketplace: selling Alabama a souvenir at a time
  • Nominations are open for the 2015 Tourism Awards
  • 2015 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
  • Search is on for Alabama Barbecue Restaurants
  • Alabama artists and craftspeople
  • 2016 Vacation Guide & Calendar of Event deadlines
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Ten Alabama State Parks have earned the 2015 Certificate of Excellence award

The Alabama State Parks is proud to announce that 10 parks have earned the 2015 Certificate of Excellence award.
Now in its fifth year, the award celebrates excellence in hospitality and is given only to establishments that consistently achieve great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor. Certificate of Excellence winners include accommodations, eateries and attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a superior customer experience.

The State Parks that earned this award are: DeSoto, Gulf, Joe Wheeler, Monte Sano, Cathedral Caverns, Cheaha, Chewacla, Lake Guntersville, Oak Mountain and Wind Creek State Parks.


Alabama State Parks Partners Coalition launches to support state parks
WSFA-TV 12, June 3
From the Alabama State Parks Partners coalition:

Alabama’s State Parks Partners is a new coalition that has formed to support the State Parks system. Alabama State Parks Partners have one mission – to highlight Alabama’s beautiful state parks and the important role they play in the quality of life in Alabama. The coalition is comprised of businesses, park user groups, nonprofit organizations, tourism boards, and others that have an interest in seeing the Alabama State Parks System flourish.

Much of Alabama’s beauty is preserved within its incredible 22 State Parks. The Alabama State Parks Partners will work to help keep Alabama, “Alabama the Beautiful,” and ensure that these parks are still available for future generations to enjoy.

“We have come together because the park system relies on its guests and volunteers to sustain their operations,” said steering committee chair Philip Darden. “We wanted to find people across the state and throughout the country who support Alabama’s state parks and connect them to assist the parks in fundraising efforts, special events, promotions, volunteer efforts and more.”

Alabama State Parks Partners encourages people to visit their website to learn more about the organization ( Any businesses or organizations interested in joining the coalition can join at

Over the past two years, the Alabama Parks Partners Coalition has been working to formalize and launch the campaign throughout the state and recently did so with the creation of a Facebook page ( The page received over 22,000 “LIKES” in less than two weeks. The coalition shared news and helped thousands of people connect with other parks partners throughout the state to share important information regarding our state parks.

The Alabama Parks Partners have begun a social media campaign to share the importance of the parks and raise awareness of the continued budget crisis. Alabama State Parks Partners are asking people to share a video, photo and/or post about why Alabama’s State Parks are important to them with the hashtag #ALParksPartners, and tag three friends to share their experiences at Alabama’s state parks and why the parks are important to them.

“Our State Parks are special to the people of Alabama,” said steering committee member Bob Baumhower. “They are much more than just places that conserve Alabama’s natural beauty and provide citizens of this state an outlet to our great outdoors. These parks bring hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact to our state – about $375 million each year. The parks attract millions of visitors to our state and about half of the visitors to the state parks are from out of state.”

The steering committee is composed of long time park supporters including Bob Baumhower with Aloha Hospitality, Philip Darden with the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers (CAMP), Sandra Killen-Burroughs with Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism, Natalie Kelley with Sustain and My Green Birmingham/Montgomery, Jade Patollo, a professor at Jacksonville State University, and Bee Frederick the Southeastern States Manager for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Alabama State Parks Partners plan to host meetings throughout the state to engage other businesses, organizations and individuals that would like to become involved in this effort to support the State Parks system. The location of those meetings and other details will be released in the coming weeks.

“This was something that was a no brainer for us to support,” says Sandra Killen-Burroughs with the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association. “Most anyone that lives in Alabama is in some way impacted by a state park – whether it be in the form of the economic impact these communities receive from the parks to the quality of life benefits our citizens enjoy. We are proud to be a part of this diverse, broad and statewide coalition”

Alabama State Parks Partners coalition has one mission to highlight Alabama’s beautiful state parks and the important role they play in the quality of life in Alabama Composed of businesses, nonprofit organizations, tourism boards, student groups, park user groups and other communities and municipalities that want to help grow a successful State Parks System. Learn more at

To read this article online, go to:

International PowWow sees record attendance, Alabama on a roll

This year’s International PowWow (IPW) tourism trade show in Orlando has broken all previous attendance records.  Roger Dow, head of US Travel Association, announced to delegates at the show that more than 6,500 delegates from 74 countries had registered for the four-day show.  The total included 550 journalists.

Dow told a press briefing that tourism is an important part of the U.S. economy.  He said 15 million jobs in the U.S. would disappear without the international segment


During IPW, a delegate of tourism officials from Alabama met with 81 companies to discuss travel to our state.  Several of the tour operators reported that the South, as a region, was now generating more interest from their clients than the New England region.

This confirmed the announcement by Liz Bittner of Travel South USA that preliminary data showed visitation to the Travel South region increasing.  Bittner said exact numbers would be released later this summer.

Alabama Tourism Department Regional Director Grey Brennan called the marketplace a success, “This year we not only saw increased appointments, but the discussions that were held showed an increase in tour operators wanting to have Alabama destinations in their product offering.  The addition of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center at our booth showcased Alabama as an international educational destination.”

Brennan is looking forward to 2016. “IPW will be in New Orleans next year. The Alabama Tourism Department is already making plans on how best to capitalize on having so many international tour operators and journalists nearby.”

Grey Brennan and Della Tully from Alabama Tourism Department attended IPW and were joined by Sara Hamlin of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jennifer Moore of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tom White of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp, and Tami Reist of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association.

The group met with tour operators, journalists and other tourism officials over a course of 3 days of appointments.
For more on Alabama’s International marketing, contract

U.S. seeks to boost international visitors to 100 million a year
By Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY, June 3

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker says the U.S. is on the path to welcome 100 million international visitors annually by 2021 because of efforts such as expanding the visa waiver program and decreasing visa wait times.

In an interview with USA TODAY at the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW travel industry conference in Orlando, Pritzker outlined the Obama administration’s plan to attract international visitors. It includes increasing the number of countries whose citizens don’t have to get visas, improving the arrival process at 17 U.S. airports, and expanding a program that allows travelers from other countries to go through customs before boarding their flights to the USA.

“We’re trying to improve our positioning because it’s a competitive landscape,” she said.

The administration launched the National Travel and Tourism Strategy in 2012. Last year, there were about 74 million international visitors to the USA, who spent an estimated $222 billion.

Pritzker, whose father co-founded Hyatt Hotels, outlined the administration’s strategy for increasing tourism from other countries.

The highlights are: Expanding the visa waiver program, decreasing visa waits, increasing the number of countries with preclearance, upgrading 17 airports, boosting tourism from China and reauthorizing Brand USA, a marketing organization made up of public and private partnerships to promote the USA

President Obama signed a bill into law in December that included federal funding for Brand USA through fiscal 2020.

Brand USA generated more than 2 million incremental international visitors in the last two years, according to a new study by Oxford Economics, a global forecasting firm. Those visitors spent $6.5 billion.

“I think it got off to a bit of a rocky start but now I think jt’s doing a bang-up job,” Pritzker said, “and there’s so much potential when you bring the private sector and public sector together to promote the United States as a destination.”

To read this entire article online, go to:


Keith Richards reflects on ‘Sticky Fingers’ – USA TODAY
By Brian Mansfield, USA TODAY, June 8

The Rolling Stones released Sticky Fingers in 1971, but the classic album began a year and a half before in a small Alabama town.

The Stones started recording Sticky Fingers, which is being reissued Tuesday, in early December 1969 at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Ala. At the time, the Muscle Shoals region was developing a reputation for producing great R&B and rock records by artists such as Aretha Franklin, Joe Tex and Wilson Pickett.

“A lot of good music was coming out of there,” guitarist Keith Richards says. “Every record, you’d say, ‘Where was that recorded?’ It would turn out to be Muscle Shoals. We took a little week off and said, ‘We’ve got to try this room out.'”

The Stones cut three songs in Sheffield: Wild Horses; You Gotta Move, by bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell; and Brown Sugar, a song the band debuted the following Saturday at the infamous concert at Altamont Speedway where four people died. The Stones completed the album over the next year and a half at London’s Olympic Studios and at Mick Jagger’s countryside English home using a mobile unit.

Sticky Fingers was the first Stones album without guitarist Brian Jones, who was dismissed from the band in June 1969 and drowned several days later. It was also the first on which Mick Taylor, who played guitar for the group until 1974, appeared throughout. Richards and Taylor developed a syncopated two-guitar give-and-take that Richards calls “the ancient form of weaving,” a style that has become a distinctive part of the band’s sound.

On songs like Brown Sugar, Bitch and Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Richards says, “I’m bouncing a lot off (drummer) Charlie Watts. Then, at certain points, Mick and I will swap roles.”

Richards now has the same kind of interaction with Ronnie Wood, who joined the group after Taylor’s departure. “We swap between rhythm and lead,” Richards says. “You do it instinctively. You just look at each other and turn. That’s the way it is with the guitars. You can’t really tell who’s doing what.”

Richards isn’t credited on the recording of Moonlight Mile, Sticky Fingers‘ final song and one shaping up to be a regular part of the Zip Code Tour set. “I always wished I was on it,” he says. “I’ve found myself a little niche in it for the stage.”

The new reissue includes alternate takes of Brown Sugar, Bitch, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking and Dead Flowers, as well as an acoustic mix of Wild Horses emphasizes the open-tuned 12-string guitar Richards played on the song. “You get these resonations and harmonics going on with the 12-string,” he says. “It’s quite a powerful machine, especially if you use slide on it. There’s that lovely octave split between the strings.”

The deluxeSticky Fingers also has alternate versions of Bitch, Dead Flowers and Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, along with five live performances from The Roundhouse in London. A super-deluxe configuration also features a 13-song live recording of a March 1971 concert at Leeds University and a DVD with video of a pair of performances two weeks later at London’s Marquee Club, the group’s final performance before going into tax exile in France.

Unlike recent Stones reissues of 1972’s Exile on Main Street and 1978’s Some Girls, the Sticky Fingers project doesn’t unearth songs the band left unfinished. Richards says there was a good reason: “The stuff from Sticky Fingers that didn’t get on there spilled over onto Exile when we cut that a year later.”

To read this article online, go to:


10 great Frank Lloyd Wright home tours
By Larry Bleiberg, USA TODAY, June 5

Although Frank Lloyd Wright died more than a half century ago, he remains one of the world’s most popular architects. His work still has a distinct, modern style using natural materials and light, and harmonizing with nature. “He was way ahead of his time,” says Thomas Heinz, author of the Frank Lloyd Wright Field Guide (Northwestern University Press, $39.95). With Wright’s 148th birthday on Monday, June 8, it’s a perfect time to visit his creations. Heinz shares some favorite Wright buildings open to the public with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Rosenbaum House

Wright’s only building in Alabama has been called the purest form of his Usonian design, the name he gave for affordable homes within the reach of middle-class families. This one features plenty of glass, blurring the distinction between indoors and outdoors. It also has a carport, a phrase Wright popularized. “These were made for the common man. It’s a quiet house and that’s what they wanted,” Heinz says. 256-718-5050;

To read this entire article, go to:


Birmingham’s ‘Zoo, Brews and Full Moon Bar-B-Que’ event set for June 20
By AnaRodriguez,, June 3

This month promises to be plenty tasty as the all-new Birmingham Zoo, Brews and Full Moon Bar-B-Que event kicks off Sat., June 20.

The event will be held in the Junior-League of Birmingham – Hugh Kaul Children’s Zoo from 5-8 p.m. and will celebrate the Zoo’s 60th Anniversary as well as the Year of Alabama Barbeque.

Guests will enjoy live music by The Whigs, Full Moon Bar-B-Que and brews provided by Good People Brewing Company. During the family-friendly event, younger guests will also be welcome to enjoy animal greetings and walkabouts, a bouncy castle and train rides. The first 1,000 guests, ages 21 and up, will receive a complimentary memorabilia cup.

“Full Moon BBQ is proud to team up with the Birmingham Zoo to help bring families and communities together to celebrate and raise funds for an organization that is not only a must-see attraction of Birmingham but brings great joy to many,” said Joe Maluff, owner of Full Moon BBQ. “It is through sponsorships and partnerships like this that we continually give back to our community at large.”

Food, tea and water are included in the ticket price. Brews and soft drinks are an additional price. For members and non-members, adult event tickets are $15 and event tickets for children ages 2-12 are $10. All proceeds will benefit the care of the Zoo’s animals and educational programming.

Guests planning to visit the Zoo on Saturday, June 20 are reminded that the Junior-League of Birmingham – Hugh Kaul Children’s Zoo will close at 4 p.m. on June 20. All attractions will close at 3:45 p.m. on June 20. The Zoo will close at 4 p.m. on June 20.

For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit

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Sweet Rack Rib Shack named in ‘The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America’, May 29

Sweet Rack Rib Shack is now listed as one of the top barbecue restaurants in America.

Johnny Fugitt, author of The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America, visited 365 restaurants in 365 days in search of the top 100. He contacted Chris and Amanda Dickens, owners of Sweet Rack, to schedule a visit at their Tallahassee location on March 21, 2014. The book was published May 12 and included Sweet Rack, which expanded to Troy earlier this year.

“We started from nothing,” Amanda said. “No one in Tallahassee knew who we were, what we were, what we served or anything, and because of the reviews and comments our guests wrote between our opening date and the day Johnny found us online, he chose to visit Sweet Rack.” Customers had posted great reviews for Sweet Rack on social media and review sites such as Yelp and Urbanspoon.

“We were very nervous to even be considered to become a part of a list of top 100,” she said. “At the time it seemed like it would just be a memory of just having him in the store.”

Fugitt sampled everything they offered from the ribs and pulled pork down to the desserts and even their homemade sauces. Chris said that Sweet Rack is “dedicated to serving meats that are hormone and antibiotic free,” even though at times that means some items aren’t available to customers because owners have difficulty sourcing ingredients.

“He raved over everything, and we can honestly say we did not do anything different in the preparation or the cooking,” Amanda said.

Now, one year later, Sweet Rack has moved from Tallahassee to Troy, giving The Square a dose of stardom. However, Sweet Rack has made some changes since the move. The atmosphere is no longer a “Hooters” theme, as Amanda described, and Sweet Rack offers full table service as opposed to counter service.

“We had two years to build our restaurant in Tallahassee before he visited and then when we moved to Troy, other than the name and the recipes, we had to basically start over,” Amanda said. “We had to retrain an entire new staff.  We went from counter service to full table service, which is a huge difference in training.  We have a two-floor restaurant and this may seem small but it is like running two restaurants in one. We had such high expectations already set for Sweet Rack in Troy and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. However, we would like to address that we are still on the path to those same results like we developed in Tallahassee.

“We are proud to be back in Troy,” she continued. “We have had some hard critics but to those who may have not been in to visit since we opened, we invite you back in.  Bring in your friends and family and you will join the majority of our regular guests and new guests as loving what we offer at Sweet Rack Rib Shack.”

The book is available on for $15.99.

“Being named as the Top 100 BBQ restaurants in America is like a dream come true for us,” Amanda said.

To read this entire article, go to:


The South’s Best Ballpark Bites
By CJ Lotz, Garden & Gun Magazine, June/July

There’s nothing minor-league about the food at these five ball fields

Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium

At this old-school park where trains still rumble past just along the left-field wall, crowds chant “Hey, Butter, Butter” at opponents, and cannons shoot hot biscuits into the stands.  If you didn’t bring your glove or prefer food that doesn’t fly, head for concessions and try the biscuits and gravy, strawberry shortcake biscuits, or the award-winning chicken biscuit with local cane syrup.

To read this article online and see the complete list, go to:

Majestic 3, in Marshall County, makes Food and Travel’s homepage
Food & Travel Magazine

From the dark tunnels and pathways of a natural cavern to the wooded trails and peaceful shoreline of one of the nation’s largest lakes to the sweeping views atop the mountains, Marshall County’s natural beauty can tempt both the outdoor adventurist and those just looking for a peaceful and relaxing escape.

Nestled at the base of the Appalachian Mountain range, Marshall County, Alabama is located in the northeast portion of the state. It is home to Lake Guntersville, a 69,000-acre reservoir famous for its largemouth bass. The lake has been a draw for anglers for many years, yet the tributaries that weave in and out of the base of the mountains have some of the most challenging whitewater in the United States, and thrill-seeking kayakers come year round to pit their skills against nature.

A beautiful and peaceful scene is created by the lake, which draws many who are searching for a relaxing getaway. Lakeside cottages, ridge top chalets, traditional hotels, and a beautifully-appointed Lodge with a view beyond comparison offer a variety of options for individuals, couples, and families. It also draws some of nature’s most majestic creatures. In the winter months, the lake becomes the nesting ground for a large population of bald eagles. They can be seen diving into the dark waters of the lake for food and even observed in their nests as they nurture and feed their young.

For those looking for an adventure down under, Cathedral Caverns is a natural wonder, boasting two miles of underground trails and one of the largest natural cave openings in the world at 126 feet wide and 25 feet high.

Archaeological excavations at the cavern’s mouth indicate that human use of the cave by Native Americans dates back 8,000 years. Inside the cavern, visitors will find Big Rock Canyon, Mystery River, and some of the most amazing natural rock formations ever discovered including Goliath, a huge stalagmite column that reaches to the ceiling of the cave some 45 feet.

Local entrepreneur and cave explorer Jay Gurley owned and operated the caverns as a private venture from 1955 to 1974. He gave it the name Cathedral Caverns after his wife commented that the cave’s soaring ceiling, with its dramatic stalactites and stalagmites, looked like a cathedral.  In 1972 Cathedral Caverns was declared a National Natural Landmark and it wasn’t until May 2000 that it opened as a state park. Access to Cathedral Caverns is provided by a paved and lighted pathway, and the temperature remains around 60 degrees year-round.

For those who prefer to hike above ground, Marshall County has many miles of wooded trails, some designed for the novice as well as more challenging trails for the experienced hiker. The most popular trails are located at Bucks Pocket State Park, a canyon surrounded by soaring bluffs that boasts breathtaking views from the trail head and allows visitors to see the mountains and valleys in all their natural splendor. It’s best to visit the park during the changing of the seasons when the fall colors explode across the mountain ridge.

Marshall County is not just for the outdoor enthusiast but also for the food lovers. From world famous barbecue to fresh seafood shipped in daily from the gulf, to fresh fish prepared by local chefs and featuring the finest in locally grown ingredients, the area plays host to an eclectic mix of restaurants.

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Marine Mammal Center opens at Dauphin Island Sea Lab
By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,, June 4

Marine scientists on the Alabama Gulf Coast who work with marine mammals were beaming last week as the ribbon was cut on the new Marine Mammal Center at Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

In the past, when stranded marine mammals were studied and necropsied, it was done under tents that were pitched to keep the scientists out of the blazing sun but offered little relief from the heat and insects attracted to the decomposing animals.

Ditch the tent: They’re moving on up to the inside. The new facility will give those scientists state-of-the-art technology to study species like the West Indian manatee and the bottlenose dolphin, an animal that has suffered a significant increase in mortality in the past five years.

Dr. Ruth Carmichael of the Sea Lab traveled around the country and cherry-picked ideas from other marine research facilities to design the Marine Mammal Center.

“We’re all very excited about the opportunities and capabilities this facility is going to provide us to enhance marine mammal stranding response, but also to enhance research and education opportunities here at the Sea Lab,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael explained what this facility means to the state of Alabama: The Gulf of Mexico is home to up to 29 species of marine mammals, which means the Gulf ranks in the top 25 percent for marine mammals in the world.

“Despite this, we’re among the least studied of any place in the world,” she said. “If you look at it, these are enormous animals. They are large consumers. They feed everywhere from the base of the food web all the way up to some of them being top predators. Because they move around, it necessarily is going to affect adjacent ecosystems. So that is very important to our coastal ecosystem.

“Another thing that is an important point to consider is they are the closest analogs to humans that we have in the oceans. So we understand what affects them, what stresses them, what may cause them harm or injury. That may help us better understand human health risks in the environment as well.”

Carmichael said that back in 2007, when she first worked with a stranded West Indian manatee at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, she never imagined it would develop into the Marine Mammal Stranding Network or the ongoing tagging studies of manatees.

“At that time, I figured it would be a one-off thing. I would collect a little bit of data and move on,” she said. “I had no idea of the extreme data gap that existed in our region for any marine mammal. And I certainly never imagined how this need for data would grow in the last few years.”

Carmichael said in the 100 years prior to 2007, only six manatee fatalities were reported in the state of Alabama. Since 2007, there have been nine manatee fatalities, and there were three live-animal strandings last winter alone.

“That means we went from less than one manatee fatality per decade to more than one a year here in Alabama alone,” she said. “That doesn’t include what’s been going on in Mississippi. To put this in perspective with bottlenose dolphins, since 2010 we have been in and continue to be in the longest-running mortality events for bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico’s history. We’ve had more than 1,000 animals die, 200 in Alabama.

“What that means for us in operating the Marine Mammals Stranding Network and being interested in causes of death, is that the number of animals that we’ve had to respond to since 2010 is double what they were prior to 2010. That’s huge.”

Carmichael said the state of Alabama has also recognized the need for increased data and the need for an increase in stranding response.

“That support has been in the form of funding the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and also the support for the building of this facility, helping us build capacity to improve stranding response, but also to have more robust science and informed decision-making,” she said.

“I want to thank the state of Alabama and all our supporters for providing a strong foundation for ongoing marine mammal stranding response. I think we can all see how marine mammals serve as charismatic ambassadors for science and conservation. We also need to recognize that these animals are an important part of our history and heritage here in Alabama. We’re really excited about being able to collect this information and data that we can share for generations to come.”

State Lands Director Patti Powell told the grand-opening crowd she was representing the other divisions of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr.

“I’m also here on behalf of Gov. (Robert) Bentley,” said Powell, who helped the Sea Lab procure funding for the project through the Governor’s Office. “What our Department has done is because of the Governor’s support of our efforts. We are thrilled and excited to be a part of this center.”

Powell also said Dr. Carmichael’s tenacity was crucial to the state in obtaining the $1 million in funding to build the facility.

Noel Wingers, coordinator of Alabama’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network, gave guests at the ribbon-cutting a quick tour of the facility.

The main examination room is equipped with walk-in coolers, two stainless steel examination tables and a heavy-duty electric hoist that rolls along a steel beam to transport the large marine mammals from a vehicle outside the facility onto one of the examination tables, one of which is specifically designed for manatee research.

Wingers said during the past five years, besides having to literally pitch tents to collect samples from stranded marine mammals, marine scientists have had no access to walk-in coolers. They have had to transport stranded marine mammals to any facility available, like fire departments, to pack the animals in ice to preserve the integrity of the data collection.

“So this is huge,” Wingers said. “I’m very excited.”

Carmichael added, “This facility is mainly going to be dedicated to marine mammal strandings, but it will provide a clean lab and dedicated analytical facility. So if we do collect data from those live animals as part of our tagging studies, we will be able to process data in this building. We’ll also be able to process biological samples. It’s an additional perk to have this facility that is designed for stranding response to benefit our other ongoing programs.”

To read this article online, go to:

Gadsden now has walking tours of the Black Creek Trails

The City of Gadsden’s Park and Recreation Department began hosting tours of the Black Creek Trail system at Noccalula Falls, with the first tour on June 6.

The Black Creek Trail, completed in 2011 is a 1.7 mile crushed-stone path that winds from the Wedding Chapel at the Noccalula Falls Campground down the Black Creek gorge to Black Creek Road.  Last year, the City completed several more miles of multi-use trails that interconnect with the main trail.  The trails are becoming popular with events like the Barbarian Challenge and the Noccalula Falls Spring Trail run using large sections of the trails in their races. Mountain-bikers are frequenting the trails as well, including the Etowah County Composite Team, a team of high school student mountain-bikers who use the Black Creek Trails for their practices.  Hikers, fitness enthusiasts, and outdoor lovers are also among users of the trails. The color-coded trails are marked with kiosk signage with a trail map at strategic entry points and with arrows at various intervals and intersections. Trail maps can be obtained at the Campground office, the Parks and Recreation office at the Senior Activity Center, at the Greater Gadsden Area Tourism Visitors Center at 90 Walnut St. in Gadsden, or can be downloaded from the “Download” section of the tourism website at

The tours will run the second and fourth Saturday of each month through October, except for June, which will be the first and fourth Saturday. The tour will cover several sections of the trails and will involve about 2.5 miles of walking and take approximately 1.5 hours. Appropriate shoes and clothing for the walk should be worn. The tours will start at 9 a.m. at the Honeymoon cabins and all attendees should check in at the Campground office prior to 9 a.m. Bottled water will be provided. For questions, please call the Campground office at 256-543-7412.

Canoeist traveling Alabama Scenic River Trail

The Alabama Scenic River Trail has captured the imagination of another adventurer.  Trevor Clark is currently on a quest to paddle the entire length of the trail which runs from northeast Alabama to the Gulf of Mexico.  The Alabama Scenic River Trail Association is monitoring Clark’s progress.  As of June 8, he was just north of Montgomery.

The Alabama Scenic River Trail was developed during the Alabama Tourism Department’s Year of Outdoor Alabama and since then has seen several paddlers take on the trail, one of whom traveled both up and down the trail and announced the length, by water, was an amazing journey of 650 miles each way.

The trail is the longest single state canoe trail in America and includes the Coosa and Alabama rivers before trekking through the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and ending at the opening of the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay.

The Alabama Scenic River Trail is a National Water Trail and a National Recreational Trail.

The Alabama Scenic River Trail Association provides paddlers with information knowledge and guidance over 5,000 miles of Alabama waterways that offer every type of paddling from whitewater to salt water. For more information, visit,


America’s top 100 family fishing and boating spots

Take Me Fishing with the help of state fish and wildlife agencies identified more than 250 family-friendly places to fish and boat across the country. The list was then voted on by more than 23,000 outdoor enthusiasts to select the top 100 places to fish and boat in the U.S. Check below for the Top 100 voted places.

Getting out on the water to fish and boat is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with your family. Sometimes finding the time and the right place to fish can be a challenge. But now, planning is easy with the 2015 top 100 family fishing and boating spots in the U.S.

Oak Mountain State Park and Guntersville State Park were both named to the list.

To read the entire article online, go to:


Malbis Plantation District named to state endangered historic sites list, June 3

Among Alabama’s most imperiled places of historical and architectural significance are those on the 2015 Places in Peril list.

Neglect, redevelopment pressures, and disregard for the importance of Alabama’s heritage threaten to rob Alabamians of distinctive buildings, bridges, and cultural landscapes, thereby depriving citizens and visitors of irreplaceable elements of the state’s heritage.

To raise awareness of historically and architecturally distinctive places that face immediate risks to the character-defining features that make them special—or risks to their very existence—the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation and the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) have published a list of those places annually from 1994 through 2014.

This year, in the wake of reduced state appropriations to the AHC, the Alabama Trust has assumed sole responsibility for the Places in Peril program.

The Alabama Trust’s 2015 Places in Peril listing brings public attention and support to the preservation of these important pieces of the state’s heritage. Nominations for the 2015 Places In Peril were made by local organizations wishing to preserve important historic places in their communities.

The Alabama Trust presents the following 2015 Places In Peril—significant historic sites to be preserved for telling Alabama’s history.

Urgent action is needed to save one of Alabama’s earliest extant homes, one 19th-century and one 20th-century public building, the last of 15 memorial highway bridges built around 1930, and the remarkable cultural landscape of Malbis Plantation, a communal farm outside Daphne that was established by Greek immigrants to Alabama in the early twentieth century.

With continued education of community leaders regarding the value of historic preservation and strategies for economic development that protect the character-defining features of historic places—like the agricultural buildings and historic landscapes of Malbis—the value of this imperiled place can be protected for future generations.

For more information about the preservation of the Malbis Plantation, Inc., contact the Malbis Plantation office, 251-626-3050, or the Baldwin County Historical Society, Joseph F. Baroco, Jr, President, 251-626-9746,

To read this article online, go to:


Dr. William E. Barrick receives Liberty Hyde Bailey Award

Dr. William E. Barrick, Executive Director of Bellingrath Gardens and Home, received the American Horticultural Society’s most prestigious honor, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award, in a ceremony on June 4 at River Farm, the AHS’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

The award is one of the Great American Gardeners Awards that the AHS presents annually to individuals, organizations and businesses that represent the best in American horticulture. The Liberty Hyde Bailey Award is given to an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to at least three horticultural fields: teaching, research, communications, plant exploration, administration, art, business and leadership.

Dr. Barrick, Bellingrath’s Executive Director since 1999, manages the 65-acre historic estate and serves as a trustee for the Bellingrath Morse Foundation, the estate of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. Under his direction, the Gardens and Home have become a major tourist destination on the Gulf Coast, attracting 125,000 visitors each year.

His initiatives include the development of a master plan for renovations and infrastructure improvements, and the redesign of the annual Magic Christmas in Lights attraction, which will mark its 20th anniversary this year. In December 2014, USA Today included Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s Magic Christmas in Lights in its list of the “10 Best Public Light Displays in America.”

“The transformation of the garden’s outdoor holiday light show into one of the largest such displays in the region have contributed to Bellingrath’s rising profile as a public garden,” the AHS noted in its news release.

The award is Dr. Barrick’s second major honor in 2015. On April 16, he received the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Outstanding Alumni Award for the Horticulture Program, which recognizes Auburn University College of Agriculture graduates who have made a significant contribution to their professions and have a record of outstanding personal and professional accomplishments.

His additional honors include the Arthur Hoyt Scott Medal and Award in 1994 from the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania; the AHS’s Meritorious Service Award in 2011; and the 2012 Governor’s Tourism Award from the Alabama Tourism Department.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home is operated by the nonprofit Bellingrath Gardens and Home Foundation. Bellingrath Gardens and Home is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the 65-acre garden and estate home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath.

For more information, visit or call 251.973.2217.


Alabama Makers Marketplace: selling Alabama a souvenir at a time
By Rick Harmon, Montgomery Advertiser, June 5

The problem is people don’t want to go into an Alabama gift shop and buy something from Florida, New York or China.

Brian S. Jones, Alabama Tourism Department public relations director, said it was a problem that became apparent when feedback the department received from tourists who shopped at Alabama gift shops showed they wanted more products unique to Alabama.

So the tourism department recently held the its first Alabama Makers Marketplace to help Alabama businesses market their products, help Alabama gift shops find products unique to Alabama and help Alabama by having tourists take home products that will remind them of the state.

There were 30 vendors in the RSA Activity Center, selling everything from spicy pickles and sauces made from recipes that were famous in downtown Montgomery during the ’40s to Alabama-made soaps and jewelry.

Eastaboga Bee Company was selling 17 products made from Alabama honey, from wood polish and lip balm to leather cream and candles

“We were extremely happy not just with the number of vendors — and 30 is just about all this venue could comfortably accommodate — but with the diversity of the products,” Jones said.

Ryan Bergeron was one of the 20+ vendors. The former construction worker is now building a business producing Revival Coffee that he is creating and packaging in Selma.

In a way Bergeron is literally on a mission. After spending a decade in the construction industry, he was laid off after the economic downturn devastated the Alabama construction industry. He said he kept applying for jobs, kept almost getting hired, but each time for one reason or another it just wound up not working out. Dispirited, Bergeron asked for help — from God.

“I prayed, and I said ‘God, I’ve tried everything I know to do, now it’s up to you,'” Bergeron said.
Shortly after the prayer, someone mentioned to Bergeron that there was a wonderful business opportunity in the area if someone would create gourmet coffee. But there was a problem — Bergeron didn’t know anything about coffee.

“I drank it, but if you are a construction worker you basically drink whatever coffee someone hands you,” he said laughing. “I never really drank gourmet coffee.”

He called up one of the world’s greatest coffee experts — a coffee quality-control connoisseur working with the coffee association and asked if he had any ideas how to learn about coffee. Although the expert said he never trained people, Bergeron said that for some reason he decided to train him.

Bergeron started his coffee company in October 2014. The results can now be purchased in four different types of Revival Coffee. Bergeron said he is also working with churches and each type of coffee results in a 10 percent donation to a different charity, such as helping children in Kenya or helping those with substance-abuse problems in the U.S.

“This is the first time I’ve sold it outside Selma,” he said. “This event has really gone well. I’m making some great contacts.”

He will probably have opportunities to make a lot more.

“We’ve gotten great comments from the vendors,” Jones said. “It’s been very successful, and we’ve already heard from some businesses who couldn’t make it this year, asking if they can do it next year.

“I think this event is just going to continue to grow.”

To read this article online, go to:

In addition to the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop, vendors who attended the event are: Aunt Bee’z Delicious Desserts, Montgomery; Berdeaux’s Vintage Sauces, Wetumpka; Carrie’s Kitchen, Huntsville; Dayspring, Gallant; Earthborn Studios, Leeds; Eastaboga Bee Company, Lincoln; Emma Jane Designs, Auburn; Fox Point Farm, Kellyton; Iron City Trading, Huntsville; Jala Jala Foods, Huntsville.

Left Hand Soap Company, Tuscaloosa; Lindsey Farms, Pike Road; Magnolia Belle Designs, Leeds; Regina K’s Cobblers, Leighton; Stately Made, Vestavia; To Your Health Sprouted Flour, Fitzpatrick; Todd Farms, Headland; Wickles Pickles, Dadeville; Candye Lundy Pottery, Columbiana; Jeffery Long Designs, Alexander City; G Mommas, Selma.

Nominations are open for the 2015 Tourism Awards

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

There are 14 categories that nominations are accepted they are: Director’s Award, Tourism Hall of Fame, Attraction of the Year, Governor’s Tourism Award, Organization of the Year, Event of the Year, Rising Star, ATD Employee of the Year, Welcome Center of the Year, Tourism (Advocate) Media, Tourism (Advocate) Government, Tourism Executive of the Year, Tourism Employee of the Year and Tourism Partnership of the Year.

For each nomination submit a one page statement explaining why the nominee is deserving of the award (required). Supporting material such as a binder/notebook with letters, memos, press releases or other documentation to support your nomination (optional).

It is permissible to nominate your attraction, event, organization or co-worker for an award. You may also nominate yourself for an award.

The deadline for nominations is June 19.

Please send nominations to: 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:

2015 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism

The 2015 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is being held at the Renaissance Battle House Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Aug. 1 – 4.  The group rate of $125 per night is good from July 28 through Aug. 6, 2015.  The last day to be able to take advantage of the group rate is June 30.

To reserve a room at the host hotel, go to: Book your group rate: Alabama Governors Conference on Tourism 2015 >> or call 866-316-5957.  When calling be sure to refer to the Alabama Governor’s Conference in order to get the group rate.

For those who arrive early, there are plenty of sites to see and activities to do in Mobile, such as:
the country’s second largest delta is just minutes from downtown and offers sightseeing cruises, airboat rides and plenty of water for kayaking and canoeing.

There are numerous historic homes to tour and museums to visit as well as Bellingrath Gardens and Home, which is just a short drive away.

To learn about these and other opportunities, go to:,, or

To register for the conference and see an agenda, 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 artists and craftspeople

Alabama is home to a vast number of talented and creative artists and craftspeople 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 crafters 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.

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

June 30                       Deadline for Calendar of Events
July 9                          Alabama Tourism Workshop in Montgomery
July 10                        Deadline for Vacation Guide
Aug 1 – 4                    Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism – Mobile
Aug 8 – 12                  Alabama Motorcoach/SCMA/GMOA Regional Meeting
Lake Lanier, GA


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