Tourism Tuesdays September 15, 2015

  • Alabama Tourism Department presents 2015 Alabama Road Trip Video contest
  • Alabama organizations win Southeast Tourism Society awards
  • Airbus celebrates opening of its first U.S. plant in Mobile
  • Alabamians wow as surprise musical guests for debut Late Show with Stephen Colbert
  • 50th Anniversary – “Mustang Sally” was recorded in Muscle Shoals
  • Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook eyes October opening
  • Spice up your tailgate with Alabama Gulf Seafood
  • Newest Oyster Trail statue unveiled in Orange Beach
  • Food Network’s BBQ Blitz.
  • Blockbuster exhibit to hit Mobile: Chocolate! The Exhibition
  • Irish tourism newsletter highlights Johnny Depp announcement on Muscle Shoals
  • Tentsile tree camping coming to Oak Mountain this fall
  • Alabama artists and craftspeople
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Alabama Tourism Department presents 2015 Alabama Road Trip Video contest
Winning entries could receive up to $10,000 for video submission

Alabama is a destination worth driving for – and the Alabama Tourism Department has the road trips to prove it, which is why it is happy to announce the 2015 Alabama Road Trip Video Contest. From rocket ships to rock ’n’ roll, the state of Alabama is full of adventures for those ready to take the wheel. Contestants may submit a video of the ultimate Alabama road trip for a chance to win $10,000 or other prizes, such as a GoPro camera or copies of the books Alabama Road Trips and Alabama Barbecue Delicious Road Trips.

Those interested in participating in the contest may submit entries three ways:

  1. Take an Alabama road trip and create a video of your journey.
  2. Submit a video of an Alabama road trip you took in the past.
  3. Create a video telling us why you want to take your dream Alabama road trip and where you want to go.

Judges are looking for high-quality, creative entries that highlight all the best Alabama has to offer. From local dives to famous destinations, the Alabama Tourism Department wants to see it all. Contestants may narrate their submissions, add music or include other personal touches. All winning entries will be announced by October 12, 2015.

“We want to show the variety of travel destinations that our wonderful state has to offer,” said Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell. “From Huntsville to Gulf Shores and everything in between, Alabama truly has something for everyone. We look forward to seeing the entries and the Alabama experiences that inspired each one and sharing them with others.”

Prize package descriptions, complete rules and instructions on entering are available at To learn more about Alabama Road Trips, visit or download the Alabama Road Trips app, available on available on the App Store or Google Play.


Alabama organizations win Southeast Tourism Society awards

Florence/Lauderdale Tourism was honored as the Tourism Office of the Year, the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association received the Chairman of the Board Award and Tigers for Tomorrow was named the Travel Attraction of the Year by the Southeast Tourism Society (STS).

The awards were presented during the STS Fall Forum in Charleston, WV last week.  The STS Shining Example Awards recognize tourism industry excellence in the member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

“We’re so honored to win this Shining Example Award in a year that has been one of our busiest and most challenging to date,” said Assistant Director Alison Stanfield. “The staff has put forth tremendous effort to achieve the success of opening a new Visitor Center, implementing new programming and welcoming over 15,000 guests in the past 15 months since the Center’s opening.”

Accepting the award were former director Debbie Wilson, Assistant Tourism Director Alison Stanfield, Sports Marketing and Special Events Planner Suzie Shoemaker, and Communications Manager Georgia Turner.
The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) headquartered in Decatur received the Chairman of the Board Award for its long time support of STS Marketing College, the Top 20 Events program and STS advocacy work in Washington, D.C.

“AMLA is honored to be recognized by such a prestigious organization,” said President/CEO Tami Reist. “This recognition is a reminder that not only do we focus on tourism and travel within North Alabama but we are also committed to helping our state and the region be successful in reaching and attracting visitors.”

Tigers for Tomorrow is a non-profit exotic animal park and rescue preserve located in the North Alabama town of Attalla.  It is home to more than 140 animals including tigers, mountain lions, African lions, bears, wolves, and black leopards. A no-kill facility, Tigers for Tomorrow accepts animals from all over the world.

“Tigers for Tomorrow feels very blessed and excited to be receiving the Travel Attraction of the Year award, especially with our ten year anniversary of moving the preserve to Alabama just a few months away,” said Founder and Executive Director Susan Steffens.

This is the 30th year of the Shining Example Awards.

Airbus celebrates opening of its first U.S. plant in Mobile
By John Sharp,, Sept. 14

With a workforce dressed in blue polo shirts serving as a back drop, Airbus Group executives and Alabama politicians ceremoniously opened a $600 million assembly plant Monday on company’s 116-acre footprint south of downtown Mobile.

The one-hour long ceremony, held inside a massive 210,000-square-foot hangar where commercial aircraft will be built, served as the inauguration of the French-based company’s first North American manufacturing operation.
The ceremony also offered Airbus executives a chance to serve notice to the aerospace industry, including competitor Boeing, of their intent to bolster its presence in the United States.

“Today marks a significant increase in our role and commitment to the U.S.,” Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said.
Airbus Group Chairman and CEO Tom Enders agreed, “Many thought it was too risky to sell in the U.S., much less even consider manufacturing here. Some thought we were overstepping our bounds.”

The event also allowed Airbus officials the chance to praise Alabama leaders, past and present, for their persistence and teamwork over the past 11 years toward making the new assembly plant a reality.

Enders and others, more than once, referenced the struggles of a journey that suffered a brief setback in 2011 after Boeing prevailed in securing a lucrative contract for an Air Force refueling tanker.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., then Airbus’ parent company, had originally won the contract to build the tanker jets in Mobile, only to see it challenged and eventually seized by Boeing.

Enders said the relationships formed with Mobile and Alabama officials during that struggle helped lead to the current reality in which the Mobile plant is expected to add 1,000 employees in the coming years.

By the end of 2017 Airbus is expected to be making four A320 aircraft a month in Mobile. A Reuters report on Monday indicated that production at the plant is several weeks behind schedule, but that delivery of the first airplane to JetBlue Airways was still on target for the second quarter of 2016.

“We saw a place that made business sense, but also because we saw a like-minded community,” Enders said.
Airbus’ entry into Mobile is also made possible by $158 million in tax incentives. An economic analysis prepared for the Alabama Department of Commerce, which oversees the incentives, pegs Airbus’ additional gross domestic product to the state at $409 million.

“We’ll see more investments in jobs and suppliers into our region,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, said. “It will continue an upward movement for our entire area.”

Airbus’ workforce was also recognized throughout a ceremony. The Mobile facility has 260 currently employed, 89 percent of which are from Alabama. An additional 75 people are being trained overseas.

“We are dedicated to quality and we take pride in what we can accomplish,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said. “The Alabama workforce is strong.”

Ryane Dedeaux, 27, of Robertsdale was the only Mobile-based Airbus employee to speak during the flashy ceremony that kicked off with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” blaring over loudspeakers.

Dedeaux, a Long Beach, Miss., native was hired in March to work in the plant’s tool room while she pursues an engineering degree at the University of South Alabama. “We’re feeling especially excited about how Airbus keeps its commitments,” she said. “I think I can speak for Airbus employees … we are so proud to be part of this global team.”
Dedeaux, who said her goal was to someday become the Airbus CEO, joined  Bregier in placing a decal on the side of the first aircraft that will be made in Mobile. The decal read, “This aircraft proudly made in the USA by the worldwide team from Airbus.”

“Clearly, this new group of Airbus (employees) are ready to get started here in this beautiful new manufacturing facility,” Bregier said. “What Airbus is doing in Mobile is a successful extension of what we seek to do everywhere to design and make great aircraft to serve people.”

To read this article online, go to:

Alabamians wow as surprise musical guests for debut Late Show with Stephen Colbert
By John James, Yellowhammer, Sept. 10

While last week’s inaugural episode of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” which now airs on CBS weeknights at 10:35/11:35c, was memorable night for fans of comedian and political jokester Stephen Colbert, Alabamians may have recognized a couple of familiar faces jamming on stage during the epic musical performance ending.

That’s right, the surprise all-star musical lineup, which was fronted by Mavis Staples, included Alabamians Paul Janeway, lead vocalist for St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Brittany Howard, lead singer and guitarist for Alabama Shakes. The two joined Colbert’s house band to cover Sly and the Family Stone’s 1968 hit “Everyday People”.
The surprise lineup also included Buddy Guy, Ben Folds, Derek and Susan Tedeschi.

“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” replaces long running “The Late Show With David Letterman” which aired on August 30, 1993 coming to a conclusion in May of this year.

GOP Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush and actor George Clooney were Colbert’s first guests, a format spectrum that may hint to what kind of show Colbert wants to bring to the network talk show genre.

Both Janeway and Howard, with their explosive bands, are turning heads toward the Yellowhammer State and its rich musical history in rock n’ roll, soul, rhythm and blues.

The full episode of Tuesday night’s debut can be watched on here.

To read this article online, go to:

50th Anniversary – “Mustang Sally” was recorded in Muscle Shoals
English version of article in September edition of the Italian Visit USA Association newsletter sent to Italian tour operators and travel journalist

The rhythm and blues song “Mustang Sally” was recorded by Wilson Pickett released in 1966 and will have its 50th anniversary in 2016.   Pickett was born in Alabama.  His career spanned four decades.  Some of his other hits at the time were “Land of 1000 Dances”, “Funky Broadway” and “634-5789.”   Wilson recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals.  This recording studio is still active and allows tours.  Pickett’s song is just one of the many hits from recording studios in the area.  So many hit records were released that in the 1960s, the area was known as the “hit recording capital of the world.”

The four small Alabama cites of Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals are clustered together and were the location of a recording studio industry.  Florence is also where W.C. Handy, the father of the blues, was born as well as record producer Sam Phillips, who discovered Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf.

A historic marker commemorating the site where “When A Man Loves A Woman” was recorded has been unveiled in Sheffield, Alabama.  The marker’s site is where Quin Ivy’s North Alabama Recording Studio (NORALA) was located. The song, which was recorded on 17 February 1966 launched Percy Sledge to international fame. FAME studios in Muscle Shoals and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios are two of the other well-known recording sites.

Another historic marker was recently placed at the site of the former Holiday Inn in Florence to commemorate the place where the Rolling Stones stayed during their Dec 2-4, 1969 recording session at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield.  During the course of three days, the Stones recorded three songs, the number one Brown Sugar, the Top 30 hit Wild Horses and the blues standard You Got to Move.   The Holiday Inn has been replaced by a Hampton Inn. FAME studios is still in operation and conducts tours twice a day each weekday.

Visitors to the area can tour FAME studios, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the W.C. Handy Home and Museum and take a photographic outside Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

To read this article online, go to:

Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook eyes October opening
By Brent Godwin, Birmingham Business Journal, Sept. 8

The luxury 100-room Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook is aiming for a Oct. 15 opening.

The new hotel will bring new hotel rooms and meeting space to the growing Lane Parke area of Mountain Brook.

The boutique hotel is Kessler Enterprise Inc.’s first property in Alabama and is a part of the $130 million master-planned Lane Parke development that includes retail tenants and apartments. Richard Kessler, chairman and CEO of The Kessler Enterprise Inc., previously told the BBJ that the hotel will create about 130 to 150 jobs. Birmingham firm Robins & Morton is the contractor on the hotel.

As previously reported, eight tenants have signed on for the retail portion of the project, including CharBar and Yeah! Burger among others.

Located near the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the hotel will feature a full-service spa, farm-to-table dining options and can host social events at a rooftop restaurant.

To read this article online, go to:

Spice up your tailgate with Alabama Gulf Seafood

The old carol will tell you that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.”

But here in the South, it’s pretty unanimous—football season brings everyone together, for better or for worse, in cooperation or in rivalry.

And no matter which team you pull for, there’s one place where we can all gather together as one: the dinner table. Specifically, the glorious spread of gridiron grub that serves as the centerpiece of every well-done tailgate.

Just ask Bob Baumhower, former lineman for the University of Alabama and the Miami Dolphins, now the owner of Baumhower’s Restaurant and The Compleat Angler.

“When you combine the love of football and the entertaining nature of Southerners as a whole, and throw in Southern Hospitality, you get a melting pot of experiences that makes tailgating as big as life itself,” says Baumhower. “In many cases, the football game takes a back seat to the tailgating experience.”

Chicken and pork are game-day standards in most circles. But if you’ve got a reliable portable grill and you’re willing to get a bit more adventurous with your eats, Alabama Gulf Seafood makes for a fresh, one-of-a-kind tailgate treasure.

“Folks should consider using Alabama Gulf Seafood for their tailgate party because it is literally in our DNA,” says Baumhower. “Whether you are making a seafood dip, steamed shrimp or grilling a great piece of fish at the game, Alabama Gulf Seafood lends itself to being used in a host of ways that are convenient, and more important, delicious!”

If you’re eager to try some Alabama Gulf Seafood at your next tailgate, here are a few of our suggestions for incorporating your seafood favorites.

For a sure-fire crowd pleaser, start with shrimp. Once you’ve peeled and deveined the shrimp (unless you’re following a recipe that tells you not to), it’s just a matter of marinating the shrimp in your favorite concoction, grilling them up just right and pairing them with a side or two.
If you’re looking for a grilled shrimp recipe, try the Junior League of Mobile’s Citrus Grilled Shrimp or Chef Chris Hastings’s BBQ Grilled Alabama Head On Shrimp with Hot and Hot Spice Rub, Lemon Zest and Butter.

For anyone tailgating near the Gulf Coast (or anyone with a trustworthy oyster supplier in town), Chargrilled Oysters can really bring the heat. Just make sure you’ve got a reliable grill, someone who knows the proper technique for shucking an oyster, and of course, a plethora of oysters.

For those who’d rather make something ahead of time, you can’t go wrong with anything crab-based. Try the Junior League of Mobile’s Crabmeat Dip or Unbelievable Crabmeat Spread—just make sure you keep it cool, and bring plenty of crackers to help finish it off.
And if you’re looking to indulge a bit while staying healthy, try Baumhower’s Compleat West Indies Salad with fresh lump crabmeat. Just make sure you make it in advance.

Keep it Cool and Enjoy
If you’re serving Alabama Gulf Seafood at your next tailgate, keep in mind that fresh seafood can spoil quickly. If you bring a cold dish, make sure it stays on ice, and don’t let any of your seafood dishes sit out in the sun for too long.

And make sure you bring more than enough for everybody. “Goodness knows,” says Baumhower, “tailgating leftovers are even better the next day!”

So when the next game rolls around, don’t settle for the standard tailgate fare—try Alabama Gulf Seafood. Your friends and family will thank you (and come back for seconds).

Newest Oyster Trail statue unveiled in Orange Beach, Sept. 9

The newest addition to The Oyster Trail is a statue entitled “Waters, Ways & Wildlife” by Orange Beach artist Nick Cantrell.

The oyster, which portrays the route of Alabama’s Coastal Connection National Scenic Byway amid a beautifully depicted coastal scene, was unveiled last week at the Orange Beach Welcome Center at 23685 Perdido Beach Blvd.

The Oyster Trail is a fun and educational public art treasure hunt throughout coastal Alabama. It is a project of the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program with partners including the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

“We are proud to partner with many tourism, attraction and natural resource protection entities along the byway, promoting the authentic assets of the region,” Colette Boehm, special projects director for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and byway coordinator, said. “The Oyster Trail is a great example of how we can work together to share the importance of our natural resources to our visitors and locals in a way that is both fun and informative and encourages people to travel to other areas of the byway – and beyond – to see them all.”

Additional oysters are on display along the byway at the Alabama Marine Resources Division office and The Original Oyster House in Gulf Shores, as well as in Dauphin Island, Bayou La Batre and on the Eastern Shore.

Each statue along the trail is created by a local artist and sponsored by a partner with proceeds going to the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program to continue its restoration work in Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound. Trail maps can be found in hotels, shops, visitor centers and more or can be downloaded at

For more information about Alabama’s Coastal Connection National Scenic Byway, visit or download the Coastal Byway mobile application. Visit for more about the artist.

To read this article online, go to:

Food Network’s BBQ Blitz.

Hosted by former NFL player, and winner of Next Food Network Star, Eddie Jackson, Food Network’s BBQ Blitz is coming to Montgomery Sat., Sept. 19.

Filming will take place at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and some of the top chefs in the area will be competing.

For those interested in participating as an audience member the times they will be needed is from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Check-in is approximately 8:00 a.m.  Minimum age to attend is 15 and anyone under 18 will need to be accompanied by a legal guardian.

To attend the free taping e-mail ASAP.

Blockbuster exhibit to hit Mobile: Chocolate! The Exhibition

Beginning Sat., Sept. 26, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center will bring to Mobile and the Gulf Coast region a unique and educational exhibition for young and old alike.  Chocolate! The Exhibition explores the rich natural and cultural history of one of the world’s favorite treats, tracing chocolate from its origin in the rainforest to its status as a global economic commodity.

Chocolate! and its national tour were developed by the Field Museum of Chicago and was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

This well-received exhibition has traveled throughout the United States and will visit the Southeast for the first time.

Visitors will discover chocolate’s impact on human cultures and tropical ecosystems through scenic elements, original video, interactive displays, rich imagery and graphics, and approximately 150 objects.

This major exhibition includes replicated pre-Columbian ceramics and other decorative objects, European silver and porcelain servers, as well as examples of nineteenth- and twentieth-century advertising and packaging, vintage chocolate molds, and detailed botanical replications. ?

Chocolate! The Exhibition runs through Jan. 17, 2016 and features the real story of chocolate beginning with the discovery of the cacao bean in the rainforests 1,500 years ago.  The Mayans created a spicy drink and the Aztec civilization actually used the beans as currency.

The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center is located at 65 Government Street in downtown Mobile.  Hours are Tues. – Thur. 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Fri. – Sat. 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Sun. Noon – 5:00 p.m.  Closed Mondays.

For more information of admission and the exhibits, call 251-208-6893 or visit

Irish tourism newsletter highlights Johnny Depp announcement on Muscle Shoals

The Visit USA Committee in Ireland featured the Muscle Shoals announcement by Johnny Depp’s company in its September E-Newsletter that is sent to Irish tour operators and journalist.

The Sept. 10, published article reads as follows:
Muscle Shoals, Alabama in the spotlight as Johnny Depp develops TV series based on music documentary
Muscle Shoals, situated in northwest Alabama on the Tennessee River and known for its famous music studios, is set to be in the spotlight once more as Johnny Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil teams up with Richard Branson’s Virgin Produced and City Entertainment to develop a series based on the music documentary Muscle Shoals.

The Grammy-nominated documentary celebrates Rick Hall, the founder of Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, and the signature sound he developed in songs such as “I’ll Take You There,” “Brown Sugar,” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.”  The production team made a visit to Alabama last month and the TV drama will go behind the music to tell the stories of Muscle Shoals, Alabama which birthed the iconic “Muscle Shoals Sound”.

Tentsile tree camping coming to Oak Mountain this fall

This fall Alabama State Parks is partnering with Birmingham-based Idlewild Adventure Company to offer a new camping experience at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham.  Campers can now reserve a Tentsile tree camping adventure at the park. Tentsile sites are located in the park’s main campground and backcountry camping areas. Reservations through Idlewild are required.

Tentsile camping allows campers to sleep suspended approximately four feet above the ground in a tree tent system, a cross between a tree house and a large hammock. For the Oak Mountain camping experience, Idlewild offers two Tentsile models: the Stingray, which comfortably sleeps up to three adults (or two adults and two children) and the Connect, which sleeps up to two adults. These models can be combined to create a tree tent village that sleeps up to 12 people.

“We are constantly looking for new ways to provide our visitors and overnight guests with exciting outdoor adventure options,” said Kelly Ezell, Oak Mountain Superintendent. “Idlewild and Oak Mountain State Park are happy to offer our guests the chance to test-drive the latest in camping equipment without spending a fortune on new gear.”

Tentsile tree camping at Oak Mountain can be experienced in two ways: as a guided overnight trip led by Idlewild staff or as a do-it-yourself adventure in which campers are trained to set up the tents. Currently, Idlewild can accommodate any number of campers from one to 12. For reservations and pricing options, call (256) 273-9596 or visit Idlewild’s website at

“The Tentsile system is a great way to introduce your family to a new kind of camping at Oak Mountain,” said Ryan Cavender, Idlewild’s founder. “Our staff can guide you through the set-up process and teach you all about Tentsile, or we can just have it ready for you when you arrive at the park.”

According to Alabama State Parks Assistant Director Rob Grant, the parks system has expanded its offerings in recent years in response to requests from the public. From the Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park to Flip Side Watersports at Oak Mountain, visitors are finding more activities, entertainment choices and overnight accommodations at their favorite parks.

“By partnering with concessionaires such as Idlewild, we are able to provide our guests with new and exciting outdoor recreation venues without having to add more staff, or purchase and maintain expensive gear,” Grant said.

Idlewild Adventure Company is a fully insured outdoor guide service that leads climbing and rappelling trips, backpacking excursions and team-building courses. Idlewild also offers rental programs including Tentsile portable treehouses, slackline gear and a mobile rock climbing wall.

For more information about Idlewild services, call Ryan Cavender at (256) 273-9596 or visit

The Alabama State Parks Division operates and maintains 22 state parks encompassing approximately 48,000 acres of land and water. These parks rely on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. To learn more about Alabama State Parks, visit

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

Nov. 8 – 10                              Welcome Center Retreat, Embassy Suites, Tuscaloosa


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