Tourism Tuesdays November 10, 2015

  • NBC Today Show will broadcast from the USS Alabama on Wednesday
  • Gulf Coast Tourism continues four-year record breaking trend
  • Area leaders excited about Dega Jam at speedway next summer
  • How James Bond’s peacoat changed Billy Reid’s business
  • Little River Sock Mill in Fort Payne catches Martha Stewart’s eye
  • Back Forty, Belle Chevre partner for craft products event series
  • Big Daddy’s in Enterprise listed among several “Masters of Alabama BBQ”
  • Mobile area hotels win ConventionSouth’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


NBC Today Show will broadcast from the USS Alabama on Wednesday

Al Roker with the NBC Today Show will broadcast live from the USS ALABAMA on Wednesday during the 8 a.m. hour.  Roker will be broadcasting from four states Wednesday as part of Rokerthon 2.

Rhonda Davis said, “We are so honored that the USS Alabama and Battleship Memorial Park have been selected to represent the state of Alabama on Al Roker’s 50 state broadcast.  To be featured in a national television broadcast on Veterans Day is more than exciting for us.” 

Some of the participants invited to be a part of the broadcast are: Mr. Jacobson – 105 year-old veteran who was General Patton’s quartermaster, USS Alabama Crewmates, Patriot Guard Riders, as well as cheerleaders and a high school band.

The Today Show weatherman plans to visit every state in the nation and deliver a local forecast.


Gulf Coast Tourism continues four-year record breaking trend, Nov. 6

After four consecutive record-breaking years for tourism in Baldwin County, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism announced 2015 continues the trend with year-to-date increases and seasonal gains, sports updates, transportation improvements, a new beach initiative and more during the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber’s First Friday Forum at LuLu’s in Gulf Shores.

Through September 2015, lodging revenue is up 12.6 percent and retail sales are up 8.7 percent during the same period last year.

“Record revenue means good business and good business means more jobs for the local tourism industry,” said Herb Malone, president and CEO for the tourism bureau. “Record revenue from lodging and retail sales brings increased tax revenue for our cities, positively impacting the quality of services for local residents.”

Malone said each season in 2015 has seen double digit gains with winter (December 2014 through February 2015) up 16.4 percent, spring (March through May) up 13.4 percent and summer (June through August) up 11.8 percent.

“Based on a strategic marketing strategy to encourage travel outside of summer, we are pleased to announce major shoulder season increases,” Malone noted. “This has directly impacted our tourism-based economy by sustaining local businesses through typically slower months and providing steady employment for our workers.”

Looking forward, the future is bright for Alabama’s beach communities with a new Gulf Shores Welcome Center expected to open by the end of the year, the Gulf State Park lodge and meeting space project moving along, transportation improvements planned, improvements at Jack Edwards National Airport, major sports events and a new clean beach initiative.

To read this entire article online, go to:


Area leaders excited about Dega Jam at speedway next summer

By Elsie Hodnett, The Daily Home, Nov. 9

The first-ever country music festival at Talladega Superspeedway has a lineup that promises a rocking Fourth of July weekend.

“The Talladega Superspeedway is the perfect place to hold Dega Jam,” Talladega County Commissioner Jackie Swinford said. “This event will be a big boost, a shot in the arm for the economy. I don’t see a downside to it and I certainly plan to attend.”

Dega Jam will be held on three stages in the TSS infield over three days and nights, July 1-3.

“An event of this magnitude, with more than 30 popular and talented artists, is a tremendous asset for the region,” Talladega City Manager Patrick Bryant said. “We are excited about it.

Swinford said he believes the event will grow and possibly have a similar economic impact as seen on race weekends.

“This is huge for this area and the Interstate 20 corridor,” he said. “Not just Talladega County, but St. Clair and Calhoun counties will benefit as well, as they do during race weekends. I know Anniston, Oxford and Pell City do very well during the races.”

“From the opening-night strains of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd to Eric Church and his mega-hit ‘Talladega’ on Saturday night, to taking it home with Kid Rock’s ‘Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long,’ the Dega Jam will live up to its namesake,” he said. “A country festival like no other, Dega Jam has stars from all branches of country music. In the infield of the Superspeedway, on three stages for three days, country music will be celebrated.

“And a party it will be; for sure there is something for everyone.”

Just as it is for the races at Talladega, Dega Jam will allow fans to camp in the infield, literally inside the festival.

“Being the biggest race track in NASCAR and having nearly 3,000 acres of unlimited camping opportunities, Dega Jam is uniquely positioned to become one of the – if not the – biggest country music festival in the country,” Lynch said. “More than 70 percent of our NASCAR customers come from outside the state, generating more than $380 million annually for Alabama tourism, and we expect Dega Jam to add significantly to this economic impact.  

“When these fans make their journey to Dega Jam, they will find that ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ has lots more to offer, too. From delicious food delicacies to incredible road-trip destinations, Alabama has it all. We can’t wait for July 2016.”

To read this entire article online, go to:


How James Bond’s peacoat changed Billy Reid’s business

By Jake Woolf, GQ, Nov. 5

Halfway though the 2012 James Bond movie, Skyfall, the title character played by Daniel Craig is on a mission in Shanghai. The weather is a little chilly in the Chinese city, so 007 shows up in a sharp, slim-fitting peacoat. That coat, made by American designer Billy Reid, became one of the most coveted collectables for James Bond fans following the film’s release.  Reid, who was named GQ’s Best New Menswear Designer in America in 2010, says the “Bond” peacoat (actually named for the street of the brand’s flagship New York store—though the coincidence is nice) caused a demand unlike anything the brand had ever seen, with more than 800 being sold since January 2013. And since Skyfall, the coat has become a staple of Reid’s Fall-Winter collections season after season. It is perhaps the brand’s most successful garment ever made.

The fact that the jacket ended up in the film in the first place was actually a stroke of real world luck, it turns out. “Daniel was a customer and had purchased the peacoat, a couple of years before he started filming the movie,” says Reid. “And he just loved the coat. And when they started filming, he said, ‘I want to wear this coat in the movie.'”

Cut slim out of a particularly sturdy wool and accented with leather details beneath the collar, it’s certainly worthy of being worn by the world’s most stylish spy. At a reasonable $700, it was an automatic buy for James Bond completists across the globe. “I think we’ve sold it on five continents, over the Internet and to followers. And today, it’s still happening. I mean, people are still calling for that coat from the movie,” Reid says.

The takeaway of the Bond peacoat has been larger than just James Bond for Reid’s business. The brand has always made great American menswear staples, but it wasn’t until the Skyfall peacoat that Reid considered reissuing a past style. In fact, the success of the jacket, which Reid credits to its classic nature—”You want these great classic pieces to live with you,” he says—has shifted the way the company thinks about core pieces in collections. “There are certain things where, it’s like, okay, the white oxford shirt. It’s a white oxford men’s shirt. At some point you go, what else can I do to this shirt? Now, yes, we can do other things. We can explore that. But at some point you go, listen, you’ve literally worked on this for fifteen years—can’t that just stay like it is?”


For Reid, it looks as though the franchise’s impact is about to hit again. A new item is set to be in the latest James Bond movie, Spectre.  “I know there’s a lot of it. I want to say it’s a tweed coat, a similar situation,” says Reid. “It’s a coat that we’ve made season after season. But I’m not sure—I’ll have to double check that”. If the Bond effect is anything like last time, though, it won’t be long before Billy knows exactly which piece of his made it into the film.

To read this entire article online, go to:


Little River Sock Mill in Fort Payne catches Martha Stewart’s eye

By Anna Claire Vollers,, Nov. 3

Gina Locklear’s family started making socks when she was 12 years old.  It was the 1990s, when her hometown of Fort Payne, Ala. billed itself as the “Sock Capital of the World.”  One in eight socks that were manufactured globally came from the little Northeast Alabama town, she said.

“Even as a kid, you felt this buzz and energy because everybody in town was doing business with industries all over the world,” said Locklear.  Her parents opened their knitting mill in 1991, building the business from the ground up.

By the year 2000, around 8,000 of the town’s roughly 13,000 residents worked at 125 hosiery mills in the area.  More than half of America’s socks were made in Fort Payne, according to city leaders.  But within the next decade, everything changed.

Corporate outsourcing to cheaper labor overseas had a devastating effect on the little town.  In 2011, there were only about 20 mills left, employing around 600 people.

Today, that number has dropped to just seven mills currently in operation, said Locklear.

“In addition to my parents, I had family members and friends’ parents who lost their mills,” she said. “You watch that and you see how outsourcing hurts your family and your friends and you want to do something about it.

“I hated knowing there was a chance something my mom and dad worked so hard to make a success could go away because of outsourcing and cheap labor.”

After Locklear – born and raised in Fort Payne – graduated from Samford University in Birmingham, she had the idea to start a line of organic cotton socks.

“Once I decided I was going to make socks, I said they’d have to be organic,” said Locklear, “because at that point, I had incorporated organic living into all parts of my life.”

Little River Sock Mill was born, named after nearby Little River Canyon.  The company releases a collection of socks each season featuring modern designs tinged with Southern flavor. They’re sustainably made with low-impact dyed yarn that’s custom-produced for Little River in North Carolina.

While most of the socks made in Fort Payne – including those at her parents’ mill – were of the white athletic variety, Little River offers more fashion-conscious styles in a variety of heights and textures.

“We try to do little capsule stories within our collection for each season,” said Locklear. “For Fall 2015, you’ll see patterns like flying geese, and floral and star patterns that are based on quilt patterns. We’re always looking to plug in our Southern heritage when and where we can.”

The socks are sold in more than 150 shops and boutiques from California to New York as well as online at Locklear is working on opening a small storefront at the mill in Fort Payne, where people can buy the socks right where they’re made.

About a month ago, Locklear got a phone call.  “It was one of the best surprises I’ve ever received in my life, to be honest,” she said. The caller was a representative of Martha Stewart American Made, an initiative launched by the media mogul to spotlight local and handmade businesses run by American entrepreneurs.

Little River Sock Mill was selected as a 2015 American Made Award Winner, one of only 10 winners chosen nationwide.

“I was shocked,” said Locklear. “It’s emotional for me because since day one my goal has been to tell our story, tell the story of Fort Payne, to help my parents’ business to keep going so we could stay open. It felt amazing to be recognized for that.”

Locklear went to New York City last week for the sold-out American Made Summit.  Before leaving she said, “It’s a daylong event, with wonderful speakers,” said Locklear. “I’ll be on a panel and get the chance to talk about my business with Martha (Stewart) and the other honorees. They’ll even be selling a small selection of our socks (at the summit) as well.”

This year’s lineup of speakers included Martha Stewart, as well as personalities like Arianna Huffington and Emeril Lagasse, and industry leaders from companies like UPS and Facebook.  Networking mixers, seminars, demonstrations and displays rounded out the annual event.

Locklear has a passion for supporting local businesses and American-made goods. When her parents started their company, she said, there wasn’t as much of a cultural awareness about how outsourcing can hurt family-owned businesses and their communities.

“We felt alone, our business was suffering, and we didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said of the years after mills in Fort Payne began to close. “There were times we didn’t know if we would close. It was scary.

“I wanted to create awareness about that. Not just for us, but for other manufacturers across the country.

“I really look up to my parents and I’m so proud of what they did. I wanted to tell their story.”

These days, as business is steadily growing, Locklear wears “a lot more hats than I’d like to admit.” She’s involved in nearly every aspect of the business, from customer service to product development, and even stepping in to “help fill orders if we get slammed. It’s a little bit of everything, but I love it.”

She recently hired a designer to partner with her on creating new sock designs. They’re also working on adding men’s socks next fall.

Little River’s textured herringbone sock is her perennial favorite.

“It’s one of the most wonderful socks I’ve ever worn,” she said. “It’s a cross between socks and tights, and we have it in an over-the-knee version. It’s the perfect sock to wear with a cute little dress or boots. I adore it. We put it into our collection every season.” 

To read this entire article online, go to:


Back Forty, Belle Chevre partner for craft products event series

By Ryan Phillips, Birmingham Business Journal, Nov. 5

Belle Chevre and Back Forty Beer Co. have announced plans to collaborate on a six-week tour of select Piggly Wiggly locations to educate locals about artisan products made in Alabama.

Belle Chevre – based in Elkmont, Ala. – is a world-renowned creamery, specializing in artisan cheese. Back Forty Beer Co. needs little introduction around Alabama, after opening the first craft brewery in the state in Gadsden.

“The idea is that we are partnering with Piggly Wiggly and trying to reintroduce locals in our back yard to products that are made right under their noses and winning awards left and right,” said Brad Wilson, director of sales and marketing for Back Forty.

The 36-event tour runs through Sun., Dec. 6.

Six Piggly Wiggly locations will host food pairing demonstrations with Belle Chevre and Back Forty products.

Those in attendance can sample Belle Chevre goat cheese varieties such as Honey, Original, and Pimento paired with Back Forty’s Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale, Naked Pig Pale Ale, and their new winter seasonal, Trade Day Cuban Coffee Stout.

The first run of Trade Day Cuban Coffee Stout was bottled on the same day that the American flag went up in Cuba for the first time in more than half a century, Wilson said. The name of the brewery’s newest offering is also a nod at Alabama’s flea market hot spots.

Belle Chevre CEO Tasia Malakasis told the BBJ that their cheese can be found from New York to Paris, but the goal of the tour is to bring their Alabama-made products to local customers to show just what the state has to offer.

“Young entrepreneurs are working their businesses today and it’s moving away from competition,” she said. “We hold hands in the market now and are shifting to doing business the way people did it 100 or 200 years ago. It’s a collaboration.”

To read this article online, go to:


Big Daddy’s in Enterprise listed among several “Masters of Alabama BBQ”

By Valencia Jones,, Nov. 3

Many would agree there’s nothing like good barbecue. What makes it extra special? The story behind it.

When you walk into Big Daddy’s Real Pit Bar-B-Que in Enterprise, you will find pulled pork and tasty sides, all served up with a slice of toast and happy customers.

The owner, Madison “Big Daddy” Terry, is among several other barbecue restaurant owners represented as a Master of Alabama BBQ, as part of the Alabama Department of Tourism’s 2015 BBQ Trail Campaign.

“I’m very appreciative. I thank the Lord for all the blessings He’s given to me,” said Terry.

His face graces the cover of the state tourism department’s tribute to this year’s masters. Terry also joined others in the business this week at City Hall, when Mayor Kenneth Boswell proclaimed November as BBQ Month. Big Daddy’s is known to people from around the Wiregrass and Fort Rucker’s military, serving the area for nearly 15 years.

“When they leave, I want them to get enough, I want them to be happy,” Terry said.

He has had his share of struggles, including the loss of his mother, and one threatening his business and his very life.

“I had a stroke during the last year, and I’m trying to get myself back together. I’m thankful to the Lord I’m not paralyzed. There are lots of people that go through a stroke and get paralyzed or even worse,” Terry said.

When it comes to his recovery, good barbecue and life itself, he said he gives credit where credit is due.

“God was working with me. He told me there are a lot of things I am going to do, and I see things starting to develop, and I know it’s nobody but God,” said Terry. “I try to give my all. My mom always told me, if you’re going to do something, do it right, and put your best effort in there.”

Any of his customers will tell you that effort is freshly chopped and served up with lots of love.

Big Daddy’s Real Pit Bar-B-Que Sauce is sold in several states, and he hopes to one day sell it around the world.

To read this article online, go to:


Mobile area hotels win ConventionSouth’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards

The publishers and editors of ConventionSouth, the national multimedia resource for planning events in the South, two Mobile-area hotels with 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards.

ConventionSouth readers and fans have voted to decide the best meeting sites in the South, and it is no surprise to us that both the Battle House and the Grand Hotel have been selected to receive our annual Readers’ Choice Awards,” said ConventionSouth Publisher J. Talty O’Connor. “The value in receiving this prestigious recognition is that it comes from the United States’ top meeting professionals who hold events in the South. These planners demand the highest level of customer service and quality facilities, and they have contributed in determining that Battle House and the Grand Hotels indeed display the commitment to professionalism, creativity and service that they require.”

The Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Pt. Clear and the Battle House Renaissance Hotel & Spa are among 180 convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs), meeting facilities and hotels located across the South to receive this year’s Readers’ Choice Award. Part of the Resort Collection on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the Battle House and the Grand Hotel join two other RTJ properties also receiving this honor:  Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center and Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence.

“The Battle House and the Grand Hotel are historical icons along Mobile Bay and I am very pleased they were recognized by the meeting planners who read ConventionSouth,” said Tony Davis, CEO of PCH Hotels & Resorts (the Resort Collection on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.) “Both hotels opened in the mid-1800s and continue to do an outstanding job taking care of our business and leisure guests. Both hotels offer exceptional service for meeting planners and are well known for their Southern Hospitality,” said Davis. The Grand Hotel has received this award for the sixth time and this is the fourth time for Battle House.  “We are also pleased the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa and Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa from our Resort Collection were also award winners from ConventionSouth,” he said. The RTJ Golf Trail and its Resort Collection are owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Award recipients will be featured in the December 2015 Awards Issue of ConventionSouth magazine. This exciting issue will also showcase some of the most talented meeting professionals in the nation as ConventionSouth also presents planners with its annual “Meeting Professionals To Watch” designation. “Featuring peer advice and trade secrets from our Meeting Professionals to Watch in 2015, our Awards Issue is one of the most popular must-read resources within the meetings industry,” O’Connor said.

Throughout the year, meeting professionals nominated the meeting sites they believe provide exemplary service for group events. The nominated sites are then compiled onto an online ballot where meeting professionals and fans are asked to vote for the best of the best. More than 5,000 voters participated this year in the selection process – the highest vote count ever recorded.

Celebrating over 30 years as a leading meeting planning resource, ConventionSouth magazine is based in Gulf Shores, Ala., and is distributed to more than 18,000 meeting professionals located across the country who book meetings held within the South, according to O’Connor.

A complete list of award winners can be found online at:


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Nov 30 – Dec 3           Travel South International Showcase – Charlotte, NC


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