Tourism Tuesdays August 4, 2015

  • State tourism awards presented at Tourism Banquet
  • Alabama Restaurant Week Tops 100
  • Stable and sound, AL Music Hall of Fame enjoys resurgence
  • Gee’s Bend Quilters featured in BOOM! Magazine as recipients of NEA National Heritage Fellowships
  • Long-lost Fitzgerald story finally published
  • An unforgettable inaugural Nat King Cole Fest
  • Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson makes America’s most influential BBQ pitmasters and personalities
  • Alabama Oyster farming boom could boost a Gulf Coast tradition to new heights
  • Gulf Shores lifeguards win $10,000 Good Morning America ‘showdown’
  • Family vacation sparks city pride
  • Alabama artists and craftspeople
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


State tourism awards presented at Tourism Banquet
By Kelli Dugan,, Aug. 3

Thirteen individuals, attractions and organizations were recognized as 2015 Alabama Tourism Award winners during an Aug. 3 gala, which was part of the three-day Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism held at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa.  The event marked the first time in 13 years the Azalea City has hosted the annual industry forum and trade show.

Touted as the first museum dedicated to the Gulf Coast’s rich maritime traditions and only the third interactive maritime museum in the world, Mobile’s own GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico was honored a little ahead of schedule as the 2016 Attraction of the Year by the Alabama Tourism Department. The 90,000-square-foot museum – shaped like a vessel and located next to the Alabama Cruise Terminal on Water Street – is slated to open Sept. 26 and attract an estimated 300,000 visitors annually.

In addition, the following 12 people, places and events took home top honors during Monday’s ceremony:

  • Lawrence J. Pijeaux, who retired in May after serving for 20 years as the president and chief executive officer of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, was inducted into the Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame.
  • Boom Days Heritage Celebration in Fort Payne was acknowledged as the Event of the Year after growing in only 10 years into a leading music, arts and heritage event.
  • Gulf Shores-Orange Beach Tourism, following four consecutive record-setting years marketing the state’s top tourism destination, was named Tourism Organization of the Year.
  • Heiko Einfeld received the Tourism Executive of the Year award for his longstanding leadership role in the state’s tourism industry and his “continued commitment to excellence” as executive director of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce.
  •‘s Kelly Kazek received the Media Award for her weekly Odd Travels feature.
  • The Coastal Alabama Partnership accepted the Tourism Partnership Award for its continuing work in bringing regional leaders together to advocate for the coastal area’s top priorities.
  • Selma Mayor George P. Evans was presented with the Government Advocate award for his leadership in the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March.
  • JoJo Terry of the Alabama Tourism Department received the Employee of the Year award for her work as digital marketing director and regional director for the Gulf Coast area.
  • Carmen Bishop with the Dothan Area Convention and Visitors Bureau received the Rising Star Award for her work in rebranding and promoting the Dothan area.
  • The Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s #iHeartHsv campaign was presented with the Alabama Themed Campaign Award for its success in using social media to raise destination awareness.
  • The Monroeville Chamber of Commerce received the Director’s Award for its work in organizing the Monroeville launch of Harper Lee’s book “Go Set A Watchman.”
  • The Governor’s Tourism Award was presented to the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “Majestic 3” marketing campaign. “Majestic 3” highlights the best assets of the three state parks located in the county: Lake Guntersville, Cathedral Caverns and Bucks Pocket State Park.

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 Alabama Restaurant Week Tops 100
Alabama Restaurant Week promotional material being mailed

The number of participating restaurants in Alabama Restaurant Week reached 100 on July 30.  All during July, restaurants across the state visited and registered their plans to participate in the August 14-August 23, 2015 promotion.

Grey Brennan, coordinator of Alabama Restaurant Week, says there is only a limited time left for restaurants to enter.  With the event only two weeks away, it is important for any restaurants who wants to participate to go ahead and sign up.

This week the Alabama Tourism Department’s mailroom is busy sending off the first batch of free promotional material requested by the participating restaurants.  The free Alabama Restaurant Week material will be sent to restaurants as long as supply lasts.

Brennan said it is also important for restaurants to showcase their special Alabama Restaurant Week special, “We have many restaurants who decide their special menu items at the last moment.  I would encourage them to decide this week what their specials will be so they can post them to their restaurants webpage on  This will allow the public to see and start making decisions on which restaurants to visit.

The entire Alabama Tourism Department pitches in to make the 10-day program a success.  In addition to Brennan’s efforts and the work of the Mail Division, the Art Department also assists in the preparation.  During the active campaign, Alabama Restaurant Week will also be supported by a public relations effort by Brian Jones and a social media splash by JoJo Terry, two other Tourism Department staff members.

“Alabama Restaurant Week is a tourism department wide promotion.  From our mail center to our public relations efforts, the entire Alabama Tourism Department pitches in to make the 10 day program a success,” said Brennan.

Stable and sound, AL Music Hall of Fame enjoys resurgence

By Marie Waxel, WAFF 48 News, July 28

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame has seen its share of turmoil in recent years.

State budget cuts even forced the doors to close for a 9-month period back in 2013.

Nearly two years later, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame is back in business and showing no signs of slowing down.

“We have been so excited and so happy with the response we’ve had in our community and all over,” said manager Dixie Griffin.

The 12,500 square-foot music hall is home to some of Alabama’s most iconic music memorabilia, and with the release of the “Muscle Shoals” documentary, it’s become a must-see stop on the music tour in the Shoals.

“We have visitors, close to 100, several days a week, and our numbers just continue to grow,” Griffin said.

These visitors come from all over the world, Griffin explained, helping to stimulate a once dying museum, bringing it back to life and keeping it financially afloat.

“We’re definitely on our way out of the hole this year because of the numbers and our monies,” said Griffin. “We’re looking great.”

Griffin said the hall’s location in Tuscumbia helps to feed a music lover’s appetite.

“We sit at the doorstep where all the music and the recordings have taken place.,” she said.

The staff is busy working on the induction banquet, which is set for February at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center.

They say it’s the Hall of Fame’s biggest fundraiser.

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Gee’s Bend Quilters featured in BOOM! Magazine as recipients of NEA National Heritage Fellowships

The community of Boykin, known to many as Gee’s Bend due to its proximity to a bend in the Alabama River, is home to some of the most highly regarded quiltmakers in America.  These include Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway, three of the chief quilters from the oldest generation of quilters who represent this profound cultural legacy.  Described by The New York Times as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced,” the quilts are known for their improvisational and inventive quality, often being compared to 20th century abstract paintings.

To learn more visit

The three quilters are featured in BOOM! Magazine as recipients of the National Heritage Fellowship. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships recognize the recipients’ artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage.

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Long-lost Fitzgerald story finally published
By Hillel Italie, The Associated Press, Montgomery Advertiser, Aug. 1

A year before F. Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack, he completed a short story about a hard-drinking writer diagnosed with cardiac disease.

“And as for that current dodge ‘No reference to any living character is intended’ — no use even trying that,” Fitzgerald warns at the start of “Temperature,” an 8,000-word piece dated July 1939 that is receiving its publishing debut in the current issue of the literary quarterly The Strand Magazine.

Presumed lost for decades, “Temperature” was written while the author known for “The Great Gatsby” struggled to find work in the movie business and hoped to revive his fiction career. His screenwriting contract with MGM had expired and twice in 1939 he had been hospitalized because of alcoholism.

“He felt anachronistic and was trying to find a voice that didn’t echo with the Jazz Age,” Kirk Curnutt, author of “The Cambridge Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald,” wrote in a recent email. “To this end he experimented with more hardboiled tones and sardonic comedy.”

Set in Los Angeles, “Temperature” is an antic story of failure, illness and decline, common themes in Fitzgerald’s work. The narrative is consciously cinematic, with such lines as “And at this point, as they say in picture making, the Camera Goes into the House.” The protagonist is a 31-year-old writer, Emmet Monsen, whom Fitzgerald describes as “notably photogenic,” “slender and darkly handsome.” Circling around the self-destructive Monsen are medical authorities, personal assistants and a Hollywood actress and estranged lover.

Andrew F. Gulli, managing editor of The Strand, came upon the manuscript earlier this year while looking through the rare books and manuscript archive at Fitzgerald’s alma mater, Princeton University.

“Fitzgerald … couldn’t help using his satirical abilities to mock everyone from doctors, Hollywood idols and the norms of society,” Gulli said of the story. “When we think of Fitzgerald we tend to think of tragic novels he wrote such as ‘Gatsby’ and ‘Tender is the Night,’ but ‘Temperature’ shows that he was equally adept and highly skilled as a short story writer who was able to pen tales of high comedy.”

Fitzgerald’s stories had run in Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, but by the late 1930s he no longer had a wide following and was unhappy with his literary agent, Harold Ober, who in the past had supported him financially. In a letter sent to Ober in August 1939, Fitzgerald writes he was feeling so neglected that on his own he mailed submissions of “Temperature,” which was turned down by the Post.

“Sending a story direct may be bad policy but one doesn’t consider that when one is living on money from a hocked Ford,” he told Ober. “I don’t have to explain that even though a man has once saved another from drowning, when he refuses to stretch out his arm a second time the victim has to act quickly and desperately to save himself.”

Curnutt was amazed to learn that a copy of “Temperature” still existed and called the discovery a “great find.” Fitzgerald bibliographies list the story (sometimes referred to as “The Women in the House”) as unpublished or lost.

Fitzgerald called Hollywood a “hideous town” but also “the history of all aspiration.” It was the author’s literary setting for the rest of his life. By early 1940, he was turning out his self-deprecating “Pat Hobby” stories, dispatches about a failing screenwriter that ran in Esquire. He also worked on a Hollywood novel he left unfinished, “The Love of the Last Tycoon,” released posthumously as “The Last Tycoon.” Fitzgerald died in December 1940 at age 44.

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An unforgettable inaugural Nat King Cole Fest
By Andrew J. Yawn, Montgomery Advertiser, Aug. 1

The inaugural Nat King Cole Society Jazz Festival was held at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival park Saturday night, and Candy Capel, station manager for festival sponsor WVAS, said the night couldn’t have been any better.

If Nat King Cole was around for the event, he might have said it was “unforgettable.”

Until this year, WVAS hosted Jazz on the Grass, an annual jazz festival that was well received by locals. After nine years, however, Capel wanted to put a name to the festival and approached the Nat King Cole Society about partnering to honor the Montgomery-born jazz legend. The NKCS “leaped” at the opportunity, and Capel already likes what she’s seen.

“I see nothing but growth,” Capel said. “This is just the beginning of a great new festival in what would have been the 10th year of Jazz on the Grass.”

Ron Handy kicked off the night at the festival, and his energy set the tone for the evening.

Handy is a devout Cole fan and also knew NKCS founder Amos Harris for 20 years. Although neither Cole nor Harris is alive to see the event, Handy said he felt honored to pay homage to those he admired and respected.

“It’s an honor to play here,” Handy said. “I think the legacy, the genius of (Cole’s) music, is something that I think people will realize was something big. And for him to be born in Montgomery, Alabama, is something special.”

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Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson makes America’s most influential BBQ pitmasters and personalities
By Nicole Rupersburg, FOX News, July 29

Humans being smart, the first thing they probably did after discovering fire was to throw some meat over it. So America may not be the birthplace of barbecue. It’s just the place where barbecue become perfect.

A handful of people have shaped American barbecue into what it is today. They’ve elevated our primordial instinct into something amazing, and they’re in a class of their own.

One of the most influential pitmasters and BBQ personalities in the country is Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Barbecue.

Lilly is the only five-time champion of the Memphis in May BBQ cook-off – aka the “Super Bowl of Swine” – and the author of Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets From a Legendary Barbecue Joint. The title is no joke: The Alabama BBQ joint is considered one of the most important and most influential in America.

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Alabama Oyster farming boom could boost a Gulf Coast tradition to new heights
By Michael Tomberlin, Alabama Newscenter, Yellowhammer, July 30

Alabama’s oyster reefs have historically harvested an average of one million pounds of oysters per year and have made it one of the top oyster producing states in the nation for more than a century.

But changes to water temperature, environmental impacts, parasites and other issues have made the reefs unpredictable and, at times, unproductive.

Oyster farming – with the help of the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory – has emerged as a more controlled way of continuing Alabama’s oyster producing traditions. The video story put together by Joe York for the Southern Foodways Alliance based at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture talks about how oysters have a strong future through farming in the state.

“In 2009, not a single oyster farm operated on the Alabama coast. By 2015, there were eight oyster farming companies, all determined to prove that the world’s best oysters come from this Southern state. Lane Zirlott, of Murder Point Oyster Company, calls it an oyster revolution – one that focuses on presentation as much as taste, and enables hard-working families to make a consistent living on the Alabama waters,” York wrote in the introduction to the video.

Officials want to see farming grow alongside increases in reef harvesting to boost oyster production in Alabama to new heights.

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Gulf Shores lifeguards win $10,000 Good Morning America ‘showdown’
By Marc D. Anderson,, July 31

After riding the community’s support to the finals of Good Morning America’s “Lifeguard Surf & Turf Showdown” this week, Gulf Shores lifeguards swept the competition to win the $10,000 grand prize on Friday.

Lifeguards Tony Overstreet, Justin Pearce and Brook Hopkins competed on live television as part of the ABC morning show’s contest.

On Thursday in Times Square, despite Pearce slipping on an inflatable tube and Hopkins getting tripped up while running with flippers, Overstreet pulled out the victory, knocking Austin, Texas’ Barton Springs Pool Lifeguards out of the competition.

“It’s very exciting,” Brown said. “Lots of people played a role in this.”

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Family vacation sparks city pride
By Andrew J. Yawn, Montgomery Advertiser, Aug. 1

It’s not often that one family’s vacation sparks city-wide pride at their destination, but then again, Taminika Walker didn’t take her nieces on any ordinary vacation.

Taminika Walker, an English teacher in Tyler, Texas, had a family reunion planned in New Orleans for the end of July. A month before that, however, she decided she was going to take her nieces on a vacation following the reunion.

She had only taken one of her nieces on a trip before – to Tennessee – and Walker wanted to take them all somewhere she had been before. Somewhere with history to learn from and fun still to be had.

Walker decided to take them to Montgomery.

“I wanted them to see the civil rights history,” Walker said. “And besides the educational part I wanted to find some fun things to do.”

Walker’s goals were simple. She wanted to visit the important historical sites, only eat at local non-chain restaurants, and experience the fun the city has to offer. She couldn’t have known that by the end of the week, she would be called “family” by Montgomerians and eat lunch with the mayor.

It all started with a bus.

With an eye for budgeting, Walker and her four nieces left New Orleans on a Megabus on Monday. Once in Montgomery, they continued to ride solely on the city buses.

After resting from their journey on Monday, the five kicked off the trip with a visit to the Rosa Parks Museum. They then went to paint and eat cool, summer treats at Nancy’s Italian Ice, but that’s when the week took a turn for the better.

Barbara Grimes was teaching art at Nancy’s when she met the family. They all spoke after and Grimes was touched by the family’s pure intentions of having a fun, educational and frugal vacation. And she was simply smitten that they chose to come to Montgomery.

“They took a Megabus and came to Montgomery without a car,” Grimes said Thursday before the family departed. “Can you imagine traveling without a car for four days? And to rely on the city bus?”

Grimes couldn’t. She decided to become their personal tour guide and to drive them places so as not to waste time.

“I’ve adopted them,” Grimes said. “They’re my new family.”

Grimes showed them the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and ended the day by playing in the sand by the river and watching the sunset.

Grimes posted pictures of her day to her Facebook along with a story detailing how she met her new family and it spread like Italian ice on a hot summer sidewalk.

“I just wanted to share their story,” Grimes said. “I had no idea it was going to get this much attention. I was just sharing how we need to reach out to people that are visiting Montgomery. We need to show Montgomery.”

Not only did her Facebook friends “like” and “share” the story – 373 times collectively – but the story was eventually emailed to Mayor Todd Strange by Grimes’ good friend, Stephanie Stone, on Thursday. Montgomerians were finding out how much they loved their city by sharing it with a humble stranger, and Strange wanted to make the vacation as special as possible.

“See if they are still here,” Strange emailed on the last day of the family’s vacation. “We can pick them up. Have to act fast.”

The whirlwind week ended with a lunch with the mayor at Chappy’s Deli, another local restaurant, and Taminika and her nieces could not be happier.

Also in attendance was Paige Morrow and her friends and her children. Morrow had seen Grimes’ post and felt touched by Grimes’ welcoming heart.

“I was just really touched by the way (Grimes) opened herself up to these kids,” Morrow said at the lunch. “I just wanted to meet them today before they left and tell them how happy I am that they came to our city.”

Before Thursday, Walker also managed to take her nieces to the Archives, the zoo, the ice skating rink and other local attractions.

Attractions Mayor Strange doesn’t want locals forgetting about.

“They took public transportation to all of the great events,” Strange said. “They took the tour that people who live in Montgomery need to be taking.”

Grimes agreed that local attractions are underappreciated by those who live close by.

“We take our city for granted,” Grimes said.

Walker and her nieces do not.

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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.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Aug 8 – 12      Alabama Motorcoach/SCMA/GMOA Regional Meeting

                                        Lake Lanier, GA

Aug 14 – 23                Alabama Restaurant Week

Aug 27 – 29                Connect Marketplace – Pittsburgh, PA

Aug 28 – Sept 1          SYTA Annual Conference – Branson, MO


Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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Alabama Tourism Department