Tourism Tuesdays November 17, 2015

  • USA TODAY features Muscle Shoals video
  • Governor’s Mansion open for Candlelight Tours
  • Alabama tourism officials busy at World Travel Market
  • USS Alabama Battleship: 105-year-old veteran spotlighted during Al Roker’s stop in Mobile
  • Bellingrath Gardens and Home celebrates 20 years of Magic Christmas in Lights
  • PNC awards $25,000 grant to Exploreum’s “Little Discoveries” program
  • Montgomery hosts Mayor of Italian Sister-City Pietrasanta and Italian delegation for cultural exchange
  • Flora-Bama Yacht Club chefs finish third at world championship
  • Alabama Marine Resources partners recycling Hangout Cook-off oyster shells
  • Tall ship El Galeon to visit Mobile
  • Adventure on the Alabama Scenic River Trail
  • Welcome Center Holiday Open House
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


USA TODAY features Muscle Shoals video

The video Muscle Shoals, Alabama: Where The Magic Is In The Music produced by Carri Wilbanks is being featured on the USA TODAY website.  The video features FAME Studios, 3614 Jackson Highway, Tom Hendrix and the Magic Wall, W.C. Handy Home & Museum, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and Swampers Bar and Grill at the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa.

Wilbanks was on a recent media tour conducted by the Americana Music Triangle that included stops in the Muscle Shoals/Florence/Tuscumbia, AL area; Franklin, TN and Tupelo, MS.  Journalists on the tour included Wilbanks, Chuck Dauphin with Billboard Country, Tom Noga with WDR radio network in Germany and Lynne Margolis with and American Songwriter magazine.

To view the video please see:


Governor’s Mansion open for Candlelight Tours

Gov. Bentley will open the Governor’s Mansion for candlelight tours on the first three Monday nights in December from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

Designers from across the state have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours.  “The Governor’s Mansion belongs to the people of Alabama and I want to share it with them during this wonderful season,” said Bentley. 

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day.  The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Avenue across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The designers working on decorating the mansion include Jerry Thrash with Capitol’s Rosemont Gardens in Montgomery, Millie Radney with The Arrangement in Birmingham, Cathy Wayman with C. Wayman Floral & Events in Auburn, Evan G. Cooper with Evan & Company in Montgomery and Crystal Strickland with Southern Posies in Montgomery

Choirs scheduled to perform include the Trinity Presbyterian Children’s Choir from Montgomery on Dec. 7, Forrest Avenue Academic Magnet Elementary School Choir from Montgomery on Dec. 14 and Mobile’s Singing Children Choir on Dec. 21.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry Street in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951.  The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 7, 14 and 21.   More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours by going online at


Alabama tourism officials busy at World Travel Market

Alabama tourism officials held back-to-back appointments at the World Travel Market showcase in London, which was held in early November.  During the course of three days, the Alabama table at the Travel South USA booth was busy as a Alabama’s team met with fifty-six representatives of tourism and media companies from 45 different companies.

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell and Regional/International Director Grey Brennan was part of a team that consisted of Sara Hamiln of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, Judy Ryals of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau and In-Market representative Della Tully.

Teams from other southern states included; Grand Ole Opry, Tennessee, Nashville and Memphis Tourism;  Louisiana, Lake Charles, Lafayette, New Orleans, and Shreveport-Bossier CVB; Mississippi State Tourism; Kansas City, St. Louis and Missouri Tourism; North Carolina Tourism; South Carolina, Mytle Beach, Hilton Head, Coast South Carolina and Charleston Tourism; Georgia and Atlanta CVB; Kentucky Tourism.

Alabama’s appointments included representatives from:

Abercombie & Kent Tour Company, Air Race 1 Organizaiton, America As You Like It Tour Company, America Journal Magazine, AmeriCan and Worldwide Tour Company, Arrival Guides Company, Audley Travel Tour Company, Avanito Company, Barrhead Travel Company, Black Tomato Group Tour Company, BMI Publishing, Bon Voyage Travel and Tour Company, Brand Kiss Partnership Company, American Affair Tour Company, Discover North America Tour Company, Essentially America Publications, freelance journalist Neil Murry, Experience Holidays Tour Company, Flight Center Ltd tour Company, Food and Travel Magazine, Frontier Travel Company, Golfbreaks Tour Company, Holidays2USA Tour Company, freelance journalist Jools Stone, Link International Travel Agent, OTT Online Travel Training company, Platinum Travel company, Presige Holidays Tour Company, Smarter Travel Media, Keith Wright of Sweet Magnolia Tours, Tailor-Made Sports Tours, TeamAmerica receptive Tour Company, TexTrranser Communications, The Internet Traveller Company, THG Holidays Tour Company, Thomas Cook Tour Company, TourMapppers North America Receptive Company, Trailfinders Tour Company, Travel Bulletin Company, Travel Trade Gazette, Travelbound Tour Company, Travelpack Tour Company, Worldwide Motorhome Holidays Tour Company, Golf Travel Tour Company,  and TrekAmericaGrand America Adventure Tour Company


USS Alabama Battleship: 105-year-old veteran spotlighted during Al Roker’s stop in Mobile

By John Sharp,, Nov. 11

Al Roker’s whirlwind trip through the U.S. arrived into the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, with a stop at the 50-year-old USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile garnering enthusiastic greetings from “Today Show” fans like Ashley Lowry of Fairhope.

“It’s a personal dream of mine to be on the ‘Today Show’ in New York,” she said. “I thought this would be just as good.”

“They couldn’t pick a greater time and location for this,” she added.

The “Rokerthon 2” caravan zoomed into the park around 8:45 a.m. as part of the gregarious weatherman’s efforts in setting the fastest time ever for delivering forecasts from all 50 states. His one-week coast-to-coast trip is set to end on Friday in New York.

The trip comes one year after Roker’s record-breaking broadcast of the weather for 34 hours straight in during the inaugural Rokerthon challenge.

The stop in Mobile was part of a Veterans Day trip through the Gulf Coast that included stops in Slidell, La.; Biloxi, Miss.; Mobile and Pensacola. He was scheduled to make additional stops in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and West Virginia before moving East on Thursday.

In Mobile, Roker was serenaded with cheers from “Today Show” fans, patriotic music from the Spanish High School band, greetings from military veterans and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. He also got a special meeting with 105-year-old U.S. Army veteran John Jacobson of Point Clear.

“When Maj. Jacobson woke up this morning, he said ‘it’s one more day to serve,'” Roker said during his live national broadcast at the foot of the World War II battleship fondly referred to as “Mighty A.”

“You drive up, the majesty of this is amazing,” Roker said, looking up at the hulking, 680-foot long battleship that is half as long as the Empire State Building in New York City. “Without our veterans we don’t have a single day of freedom. God bless you. Thank you. We appreciate you.”

Chris Austin of Mobile said the timing of Roker’s visit was important, not only for its Veterans Day honor but also for spotlighting a tourist attraction in Mobile sometimes taken for granted.

“This gives it a boost,” she said. “People forget it’s here.”

Her son, 19-year-old Dominick Stokley, plans to enlist in the Air Force in the spring. “You want more people to come. The people who live in Mobile probably have been here already. But you want more people to experience it. It would be cool for folks in Louisiana and Florida to come here and visit it.”

Aside from the historic military vessel, the park houses the USS Drum submarine as well as historic aircraft, tanks and a Vietnamese patrol boat. In addition, a host of memorials are scattered throughout the park’s grounds including the recently added Fallen Heroes memorial honoring veterans who sacrificed during the War on Terror and recent foreign conflicts.

The park surpassed 320,000 visitors last year and has been named as one of the “All-American Vacation Destinations” by the Travel Channel. It’s a self-sustaining facility, which means that it doesn’t receive any governmental funding to operate and relies annually on admission charges and special event fees.

“It’s one of the biggest tourist attractions (Mobile has),” Stimpson said. “With the backdrop of the Battleship, not everyone can have that kind of backdrop.”

On Veterans Day, the park is especially active. “Anyone who is riding down the Causeway (on Veterans Day) can see those America flags waving. To me, it’s heart-warming and it’s an emotional deal.”

Said Angel Bosarge of Bayou La Batre, “We just need to spotlight this beautiful place and what it means. It’s fantastic. Why not do it with Al Roker?”

Roker agreed, telling a national audience: “It’s their 50th anniversary so what better place to be on Veterans Day than at the USS Alabama here in Mobile, Alabama.”


To read this article online, go to:


Bellingrath Gardens and Home celebrates 20 years of Magic Christmas in Lights

It’s one of the nation’s best holiday light shows, and it’s right here in south Alabama.  Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Magic Christmas in Lights in 2015. The dazzling nighttime display features more than 1,000 set pieces, 3 million lights and 15 scenes, set out in a walking tour throughout the 65-acre Garden estate.

Opening Night is Friday, Nov. 27.  There will be a special fireworks show at 7 p.m. on the Great Lawn. The public is invited to join us as we kick off our 20 Years of Magic.

Magic Christmas in Lights has become a must-see tradition for visitors from the Gulf Coast region and beyond. Attendance has doubled since 2000, rising from 35,309 that year to 73,260 in 2014.

Many guests do not realize that Magic Christmas in Lights is a made-in-Alabama attraction. Each year, the set pieces for the holiday lights are designed and handmade on site by members of Bellingrath’s staff. Two of our employees work full-time all year on the light display.

The 20 Years of Magic season has several enhancements, including new water lilies on Mirror Lake; animated snowflakes on the Great Lawn; and blue track lights to create the effect over flowing waves in the Underwater Garden.

“This year’s show will be more magical than ever,” said Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director of Bellingrath Gardens and Home.  “Magic Christmas in Lights is a perfect way for families to celebrate the holiday season.”

In 2014, Magic Christmas in Lights was ranked sixth in USA Today’s list of “10 Best Public Light Displays in America,” which was compiled with readers’ online votes. Click here for the link:

Magic Christmas in Lights, which will run from 5 to 9 p.m. from Nov. 27, 2015, through Jan. 2, 2016, also includes nightly choral performances on the South Terrace of the Bellingrath Home, which will be open for tours and decorated in full holiday finery. (The Gardens will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Days.)

The Gift Shop will be fully stocked for the season, and guests may also have their photos taken with Santa Claus in the Magnolia Café. The Magic Christmas in Lights Party Tent is available for holiday parties.

Discounts include Military Mondays, a 20 percent discount off regular Gardens admission for active duty military and their families on Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14; and Value Wednesdays, 20 percent off of regular Gardens admission on Dec. 2, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.

For details about Magic Christmas in Lights, or to order tickets, go to:


PNC awards $25,000 grant to Exploreum’s “Little Discoveries” program

The PNC Foundation has awarded the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center a $25,000 grant to support the center’s “Little Discoveries,” an educational program series for children five and under. 

“Little Discoveries” fuses science, technology, engineering and math, with creativity, art and reading. Each session begins with a story reading that serves as the launching pad for the day’s hands-on activities. Programs are held in the Exploreum’s expanded Wharf of Wonder area. Session topics include Constellations, Colorful Science, Ocean Science, Energy Science, Weather Science and Food Science just to name a few.

The program is also part of the Exploreum’s outreach initiatives and is offered at certain times during the year at the main branch of the Mobile Pubic Library. The PNC grant will also help provide program transportation, equipment and supplies.

“PNC has a long history of investing in high quality early childhood education through Grow Up Great, our company’s $350 million initiative to help prepare children for success in school and life,” said Brian Bucher, PNC regional president in Alabama. “We’ve funded the “Little Discoveries” program expansion as part of our continued commitment to supporting the Exploreum’s efforts to deliver engaging early learning programs to the Gulf Coast community”.

“A key part of the Exploreum’s mission is about sparking creativity and imagination which builds creative thinking skills and adds to an understanding about scientific and world concepts,” said Jan McKay, Exploreum Executive Director. “We are grateful for this generous grant from The PNC Foundation for the Little Discoveries program that is a vital part of that mission.”

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from the PNC Financial Services Group (NYSE: PNC), actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence.  The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture.  Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a $350 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.


Montgomery hosts Mayor of Italian Sister-City Pietrasanta and Italian delegation for cultural exchange

Montgomery hosted Italian Mayor Massimo Mallegni from Montgomery’s sister-city of Pietrasanta, Italy, as part of a week-long cultural exchange program Nov. 8 – 12.  During Mallegni’s visit, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitor Bureau Vice President, Dawn Hathcock introduced Mallegni and the Italian delegation that accompanied him to the River Region’s rich cultural and historic resources.

The visit included a luncheon with eleven local travel and tour operators who received a personal invitation from Pietrasanta’s mayor to bring their customers to enjoy the food, culture and hospitality of their city.

The delegation also visited numerous sites in Montgomery including the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama as well as taking in a performance by the Alabama Dance Theatre, the Veterans Day Parade and concert and even participated in the swearing in of Montgomery’s Mayor Todd Strange.

In remarks at Mayor Strange’s inauguration Mallegni said, “When I come to America, I want to come here. This is the real America. The message of unity and of the flag is real here.”  He went on to say that they will work to establish an exchange program that will allow young people under the age of 18 to travel to from Montgomery to Pietrasanta, and from Pietrasanta to Montgomery to learn about the things that have happened here, and to understand the meaning of unity.


Flora-Bama Yacht Club chefs finish third at world championship, Nov. 13

By winning the Shrimp Festival Restaurant Challenge presented by Zatarain’s, The Flora-Bama Yacht Club qualified to compete in the World Food Championships held in Kissimmee, Fla., the second week of November.

Upon arriving Chef Chris Sherrill, Chef Haikel Harris, and their team competed in the “Food Fight” Competition where they placed first with a score of 116 out 120 for their signature Lionfish Nachos. A few days later they competed in the opening round of the World Seafood Championship where they finished fifth with a score of 91.625.

Finishing in the top ten of the opening round secured their spot in the Seafood Finals. Chef Chris and Chef Haikel turned up the heat in the finals where they turned in a score of 91.125. The combined scores from both rounds earned the Flora-Bama Yacht Club a third place overall finish in the World Seafood Championship.

The journey for the Flora-Bama Yacht Club began back in August when they competed in the Eighth Annual Shrimp Festival Restaurant Challenge presented by Zatarain’s.

The event took place at the Faulkner State Culinary Campus in Gulf Shores where 25 Alabama Gulf Coast restaurants competed head to head for prize money, cookware, and the “Golden Ticket” to the World Food Championships. The Yacht Club won the competition with their Gulf Shrimp Pygmy Tacos.

“We couldn’t be more proud,” said Matt Mogan, Shrimp Festival Chairman. “Chef Chris and his team went down there and competed against some of the best chefs in the world and represented the Alabama Gulf Coast and its people well.”

Last year’s Restaurant Challenge winner, Chef Brandon Burleson also competed again in the World Seafood Championship and earned a 13th place finish.

With their top 10 finish, Chef Chris and the Flora-Bama Yacht Club are automatically qualified to compete in the 2016 competition.

The Ninth Annual Restaurant Challenge will take place in August 2016 and will once again be a preferred qualifier for the World Food Championships. For more information visit or call Owen Corcoran at 251-968-7200.

To read this article online, go to:


Alabama Marine Resources partners recycling Hangout Cook-off oyster shells, Nov. 12

The Eighth Annual Hangout Oyster Cook-Off on Nov. 6-8, boasted 70 chefs and restaurants preparing more than 60,000 oysters for seafood lovers.

And this year, the Alabama Marine Resources Division, City of Gulf Shores, Alabama Gulf Seafood, Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and NUISANCE Group worked together to recycle leftover oyster shells to aid in ongoing oyster restoration efforts.

This marks the first time that a multi-party, organized shell recycling effort has taken place after the conclusion of a Hangout Oyster Cook-Off event. Representatives say recycled shells are nature’s best material to grow new oysters.

“Oyster shells are a very valuable resources, and they belong back in the water – as opposed to a landfill – in order to grow more oysters,” Chris Blankenship, program administrator for Alabama Seafood and Marketing Commission and director of Alabama Marine Resources, said. “This is a great start of what we hope will be a much larger effort to engage restaurants in Coastal Alabama to implement a year-round shell recycling program.”

The recent recycling effort was aided by a grant to purchase onsite receptacles at the Hangout Cook-Off event in which festivalgoers could dispose of used shells.

“It was exciting to see this many people and multiple organizations working together to do the right thing for the environment,” Blankenship said. “I can’t say enough about the festival volunteers and the City of Gulf Shores Public Works Department.  Without their onsite coordination, this effort would not have been as successful.”

Shells are currently being stored at the Marine Resources Division Artificial Reef Staging Area and will be deployed for oyster restoration projects after six months of seasoning.

For more information on the Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Alabama oysters, please visit

For a gallery of pictures from the event and a list of the winners in the cook-off, please visit,

To read this online, go to:


Tall ship El Galeon to visit Mobile

El Galeon, a full-scale replica of a 16th Century Spanish galleon, will be docked in Mobile—at GulfQuest National Maritime Museum—from November 20 – 29, thanks to the Port of Mobile and a host of local sponsors with ties to Mobile’s maritime industry.

With daily tours providing access to interpretive displays and information about how 16th century galleons were designed, built and used by Spain to explore the New World, El Galeon tells the story of the first ships to explore the Gulf of Mexico. The ship is 164 feet long with a main beam of 33 feet, and has three masts and seven sails with 10,000 sq. ft. of sail. El Galeon has six decks and 3,400 sq. ft. of public space.

The ship will be docked alongside GulfQuest, and will be operated by its 16-man crew from Spain. GulfQuest will act as the host site for the ship during its Mobile visit.

“Just as Spanish galleons were the first ships to explore the Gulf of Mexico, it is only fitting that this faithful recreation of a galleon will be the first to dock at GulfQuest,” Tony Zodrow, executive director of GulfQuest said. “El Galeon will offer our visitors and citizens from throughout the area the opportunity to experience the Gulf’s history onboard a tall ship with ties to the region.”

El Galeon will dock on the north end of GulfQuest, giving visitors easy access to GulfQuest, Riverside Ice at Cooper Riverside Park and the ship. Admission to tour El Galeon is $10/adult and $5/children 12 and under. Children under five are free. Admission will be collected at the ship. The hours for tours will be 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily.

“The timing of the visit couldn’t be better,” Zodrow said. “The Mobile public schools are out of school for the Thanksgiving holidays, making it easier to local families to visit, and there will be plenty of out-of-town guests in the area for the holiday.”

Additionally, the Mobile International Festival is Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Mobile Civic Center, bringing more visitors to the downtown area.

Although GulfQuest is normally closed on Mondays, it will remain open on Monday, November 23 due to El Galeon’s visit.


Adventure on the Alabama Scenic River Trail

By Jimmy Creed, blog for Shorelines: the lake lifestyle, an Alabama Power publication, Oct. 19


For most folks, spending almost two months in an open canoe paddling some of the most scenic waters in all the United States would be the adventure of a lifetime. For Trevor Clark, it was nearly 60 days in the most wonderful classroom he could ever imagine.

Wait a minute! Canoeing. Adventure. Classroom. Those things don’t mix! They did for Clark, who in late July completed the 650-mile journey down the length of the Alabama Scenic River Trail (ASRT), en route covering dozens of miles on the waters of the Coosa River managed by Alabama Power Company.

Clark put in on Weiss Lake near Cedar Bluff, just a few miles from the Alabama-Georgia border, on May 20, and on July 15 he paddled into Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay at the Gulf of Mexico, his trek complete and his mind electrified with the knowledge he collected along the way.

“I wasn’t on the river (trail) to conquer it,” said Clark, who laughs when asked if he is an adventurer. “I had not been in a canoe in probably seven years before I went on this trip. I just really like to study plants, especially medicinal plants.

“I like being outdoors, but my interest for the last eight years or so has been studying medicinal plants after my life was saved by a medicinal plant.”

Rewind to when Clark, now 29, was a 17-year-old senior at Hoover High School and his car was rear-ended along the interstate and slammed into the back of a heavy-duty Ford F-450 pickup.

Immediately after the accident, Clark didn’t even go to the hospital because he didn’t think he was badly hurt. His neck was a little stiff, but he thought it was just a little whiplash that would soon get better on its own.

What he didn’t know until over a year later, when he started experiencing agonizing pain, was that he had suffered a complete fracture through his L-3 vertebra that day, a break that would change his life forever in many ways.

First came spinal fusion surgery from which he struggled to recover. Then came chronic pain conditions like neuropathy, which caused numbness and extreme burning in his hands and feet, and the syndrome fibromyalgia.

Muscle inflammation. Joint inflammation. His adrenal glands shut down. Then there were the medications, a total of 11 different kinds a day at one point.

The pain and the prescriptions engulfed Clark. In the midst of the fog, he went to bed and stayed there constantly for almost four years, struggling to rise, let alone walk, and subsisting mostly on Ensure milkshakes and a little Grape-Nuts cereal. Then came even more startling news.

“My rheumatologist told me, ‘This is only going to get worse,’” Clark said. “He said, ‘I have you on 11 medications and with the narcotics, the thyroid medication and the adrenal medication, you have to keep increasing the dosage because you get used to it. So we’re looking at liver failure in probably 10 to 15 years because the medications are so rough.’”

Fortunately for Clark, his doctor had grown up the son of a missionary in Guatemala, and he told how he had seen people using herbs in place of medicines. He suggested that Clark look there for possible relief.

“I think he was just trying to give me some kind of hope,” Clark said.

Still, Clark began reading ethno botany reports and by what even he describes as “dumb luck” found something that worked almost immediately. The third remedy he tried was from the bark of the pau d’arco tree and after using it a short time, he regained his appetite and his mobility, quit all his meds (without asking his doctor beforehand), and finally one day strolled into the doctor’s office without a walking cane.

Now, almost a decade later, he’s one of just two dozen people known to have paddled the entire ASRT – along the way sleeping in a hammock under the stars; shooting at copperheads with his .38-caliber pistol; having his campsite flooded in the middle of the night when a dam was opened and being detained in handcuffs by sheriff’s deputies while they checked his ID and determined what he was doing.

Still, it was the experience of studying herbs like the basswood – or American linden tree – the tulip poplar, the perennial flowering bloodroot and many others found along the way that Clark will remember most.

“It was a perfect opportunity to study in a bunch of different ecosystems,” Clark said. “Just to be able to paddle from the foothills of the mountains down through all those ecosystems is a really unique thing. It is an amazing resource we have.”

Another thing that impressed Clark was Alabama Power’s commitment to the ASRT.

“They went out of their way to help with the portage trails,” said Clark, referring to the paths paddlers take to move canoes and gear around APC dams on the trail. “For groups like Alabama Power and the Army Corps of Engineers to open up access on their land for portage and camping is very important.”

ASRT Executive Director Jim Felder agrees that APC’s support over the years to help develop, maintain and enhance the trail has played a great part in making a “life event” like Clark’s possible.

“A lot of the success of the trail in the northeast part of the state has to do with our relationship with Alabama Power,” Felder said. “They have a done a lot for us on a lot of fronts. We likewise think we are doing a lot for them. We are being good stewards. We are promoting it.”

Felder is proud the ASRT brought someone like Clark, with a unique purpose and mission in life, to see and enjoy what our great state has to offer.

“This is the kind of story that needs to be at the top of people’s minds when they see or hear the word ‘Alabama,’” Felder said. “It was a tremendous story in itself with his personal health aspect, but for us it’s the pinnacle of how a trail like the one we have created can be used as a platform for a story like his. And we’re proud to be a backdrop for a story that big.”

Clark earned an undergraduate degree in herbal medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle in 2011. He left the country just days after his journey ended to visit his father, a nondenominational missionary, in Brazil and study plants and herbs. Then he went on to Peru for more study. Upon his return to the U.S., he hopes to enroll in the University of  Mississippi School of Pharmacy to specialize in pharmacognosy, which is the “study of bioactive natural substances found in terrestrial and marine organisms.”

Clark certainly achieved much with his trip. He recruited national sponsors like Old Town Canoes & Kayaks and ENO Camping Gear to finance it. He publicized it worldwide through social media and a blog that now has about 132,000 readers. He joined the select group of 24 that, according to the ASRT’s president and founder, Fred Couch, has conquered the entire trail since its formal inception. In Clark’s mind, however, his greatest achievement was the simplest.

“The accomplishment for me is just that I kept going,” he said.

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Welcome Center Holiday Open House

Welcome Centers around the state are always helpful, friendly and welcoming to guests from around the world.  Our talented Welcome Center staffs also work with the communities where they are located.  During December they have a Holiday Open House to celebrate the holidays with food and fun. 

Dates for 2015 Welcome Center Holiday Open House are as follows:

In the North Region:

Cleburne Welcome Center – December 3; Lanett Welcome Center – December 8; DeKalb Welcome Center- December 9; Ardmore Welcome Center – December 10

In the South Region:

Sumter Welcome Center – December 3; Grand Bay Welcome Center – December 9; Houston Welcome Center – December 10; Baldwin Welcome Center – December 17

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

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

Dec 3                           Holiday Open House – Cleburne & Sumter Welcome Centers

Dec 7                           Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tour – Montgomery

Dec 8                           Holiday Open House – Lanett Welcome Center

Dec 9                           Holiday Open House – DeKalb & Grand Bay Welcome Centers

Dec 10                         Holiday Open House – Ardmore & Houston Welcome Centers

Dec 14                         Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tour – Montgomery

Dec 17                         Holiday Open House – Baldwin Welcome Center

Dec 21                         Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tour – Montgomery




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