Tourism Tuesdays December 22, 2015

  • Dega Jam named 2016 Event of the Year, GulfQuest is Attraction of the Year
  • Year of Alabama BBQ promoted in Italian 
  • Redmont Hotel reveals opening date; what’s new for Bham’s oldest hotel
  • NASA changes Huntsville skyline with soaring new Space Launch System test stand
  • Korean Magazine has ten-page article on Alabama
  • Muscle Shoals musician Mitch Mann releases Blackwater Creek
  • Bald eagles return to nest at Gulf State Park
  • 350 pound Moon Pie to drop on New Year’s Eve in Mobile
  • Jackson and friends pack Crosby Theater recently
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events




Dega Jam named 2016 Event of the Year, GulfQuest is Attraction of the Year

The Alabama Tourism Department has named Dega Jam the 2016 Event of the Year and the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum the Attraction of the Year.

The GulfQuest National Maritime Museum in Mobile, which opened in September, is the first museum dedicated to the Gulf Coast’s rich maritime traditions and only the third interactive maritime museum in the world. Dega Jam is a new concert event featuring performances by more than 30 country music stars in the infield of the Talladega Superspeedway.

The state tourism department also released its complete list of top 10 events for 2016 ranging from the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores to the Spirit of America Festival 50th Anniversary in Decatur and the Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham. 

The top 10 events in chronological order are: Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, 80th Anniversary of the Bellingrath Home in Mobile, Slocumb Tomato Festival in Slocumb, 50th Anniversary of the Spirit of America Festival in Decatur, Dega Jam in Talladega, 50th Anniversary of the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Athens, Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham, Renaissance Faire 30th Anniversary in Florence, Magic City Classic 75th Anniversary in Birmingham and the Pike Road Arts & Crafts Fair 50th Anniversary in Pike Road.

The state tourism department selects the top 10 events based upon significant anniversaries and the uniqueness of the event. The events listing is featured in the 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events that is available at the eight state welcome centers, local tourism bureaus and online at  The 204-page magazine-size publication contains colorful photos and covers the state by geographic regions with an introduction section, a city-by-city listing of attractions and accommodations and profiles of the state’s major cities.  The calendar section lists more than 600 annual and special events from across the state. 

Feature articles include a profile of the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum, featured Alabama Road Trips, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the state’s culinary scene and a listing of free smart phone apps from different tourism organizations across the state.  There is also a special 10-page section highlighting Alabama Makers and products made in the state.

Below are more details about the top 10 events for 2016:

Hangout Music Fest, Gulf Shores, May 20-May 22

Weekend music festival held at the public beach in Gulf Shores featuring more than 65 artists including the Alabama Shakes, Jason Isbell and The Weeknd.

80th Anniversary of the Bellingrath Home, Theodore, June

Bellingrath Gardens and Home celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Bellingrath Home during the month of June.

Slocumb Tomato Festival, Slocumb, June 18

This annual festival features entertainment, parades, music, gospel singing, recipe contests and a Ms. Tomato Pageant.

Spirit of America Festival 50th Anniversary, Decatur, July 1-4

The Spirit of America Festival at Point Mallard Park in Decatur is one of the Southeast’s largest 4th of July celebrations. Activities include live entertainment, children’s activities, the Miss Point Mallard pageant, and a giant fireworks display.

Dega Jam, Talladega, July 1-3

Dega Jam boasts a huge music lineup over 3 days and nights and will be held in the infield of the Talladega Superspeedway. More than 30 country music artists will perform including Blake Shelton, Martina McBride, Eric Church, Kid Rock, Brandy Clark and Hank Williams, Jr.

Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention 50th Anniversary, Athens, Oct. 7-8

The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention is held on the campus of Athens State College and features old time music, judged competitions and authentic arts and crafts. Approximately 15,000 people are expected to attend the convention this year from more than 30 states.

Barber Vintage Festival, Birmingham, Oct. 7-9

This 3-day motorcycle festival includes road racing, motocross, cross country events, the Motorcycle Classics show and a swap meet with more than 250 vendors selling vintage motorcycles and parts.

Renaissance Faire 30th Anniversary, Florence, Oct. 22-23

Held in Wilson Park in downtown Florence, the Renaissance Faire features musical programs, public lectures, dramatic performances, art exhibits and dance programs.

Magic City Classic 75th Anniversary, Birmingham, Oct. 29

This is the largest attended HBCU Football Classic in the nation The game features Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University and consistently draws more than 65,000 fans.

Pike Road Arts & Crafts Fair 50th Anniversary, Pike Road, Nov. 5

The Pike Road Arts and Crafts Festival features more than 250 arts and crafts vendors on the grounds of the historic Marks house in the city of Pike Road.

The 2016 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events is available at the eight state welcome centers, local tourism bureaus and online at


Year of Alabama BBQ promoted in Italian 

The Alabama Tourism Department’s 2015 Year of Alabama BBQ continues to be well received.  One of the most recent mentions was on the Travel South USA Italian facebook page on Dec. 13 that posted our bright red and black Year of Alabama BBQ logo along with copy that mentions the founding of Jim’ N Nick’s by a father-son duo in 1985 and University of Alabama friends who founded Moe’s Original Bar B Q.  

To read the posing in Italian, go to the December 13 posting at

For more on Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts to promote internationally, contact


Redmont Hotel reveals opening date; what’s new for Bham’s oldest hotel

By Ryan Phillips, Birmingham Business Journal, Dec. 14

The historic Redmont Hotel in downtown Birmingham has served guests from all over the world since 1925, and it’s about to reopen its doors following extensive renovations to bring the skyscraper hotel into the 21st century.

The hotel – which turned 90 this year – will open to only walk-ins on Dec. 29. according to hotel spokeswoman Laura Bento.

Located on the corner of Fifth Avenue North and 21st Street, the Redmont was originally 250 rooms, but recent renovations have developed the floor plan for 120 rooms. The 4-diamond hotel will be managed as part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. Additionally, the Redmont will be the only Alabama hotel to be a part of the Curio Collection, which was announced in July.

“Part of the Curio Collection is that you have to be a 4-diamond hotel, so from the fixtures, paint and everything else, we wanted to make sure that once we were regulated, we came out with that,” said Nicole Schrader, general manager of the Redmont Hotel.

Bayshore Redmont Inc. owns the property, and – with the help of historic tax credits – has invested approximately $20 million into the redevelopment of the hotel.

Schrader said when the hotel opened in 1925, the rooms were similar to those seen on a cruise ship – small, with only the necessary amenities offered to the guest.

“In the rooms were you, the bed, a sink in the room and the toilet was the only thing not in the room,” Schrader said. “It was advertised as the first hotel with cold running water in all of the rooms.”

The rooms are now much more spacious and feature the thoughtful touch of an interior designer.

The plan is to offer one presidential suite to customers, while providing space for 11 other suites. The suite space was originally non-existent and was redeveloped from the previous floor plan.

“My favorite thing in the rooms is the blue velvet,” Schrader said. “Everything is custom, and the designer picked out great residential pieces.”

To read this entire article online, go to:


NASA changes Huntsville skyline with soaring new Space Launch System test stand

By Lee Roop,, Dec. 15

When it’s finished in 2016, the new rocket test stand NASA showed off at its Marshall Space Flight Center Monday will stand 225 feet tall. That’s 15 stories tall, skyline changing for neighboring Huntsville, Ala.

What NASA will hang from Test Stand 4693 is even more impressive: a large section of the cylindrical core of the Space Launch System, the rocket that will carry astronauts back to the moon and beyond in the next decade.

“We’re on a journey to Mars and, if you don’t believe us, look at what you see back behind us today,” Acting Marshall Center Director Todd May told reporters gathered for the first look at the stand. “This is a tangible example of real progress to building the most powerful rocket ever built to take humans back out into deep space … where we haven’t been for 40 years.”

The stand, now 184 feet tall, is built on the foundation of the test stand where Wernher von Braun tested his F-1 Saturn V engines and within sight of where von Braun’s team tested five F-1s together in a spectacle of fire and smoke that shook windows for 20 miles.

This stand will be completed by a horizontal head piece that will move up and down between its two towers. From it will hang a test version of the liquid hydrogen tank that will help lift the Space Launch System off the ground.

The tank will be “shaked, rattled and rolled,” astronaut Butch Wilmore said Monday, to give astronauts confidence that NASA’s computer models were right and the rocket is safe to ride. A similar but smaller stand is under construction nearby to stress test the liquid oxygen fuel tank.

The two stands will cost about $75 million together and be finished in the middle of 2016 with testing to start in late summer or early fall. SLS is scheduled to be ready for launch in 2018, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr., who was at the site Monday, said, “I have seen nothing today that causes me to have any doubt about that.”

Bolden praised the leaders and crews building the new test stand and particularly Jennifer Speers, the stand’s “structural engineer of record.”

Speers “stepped right up and said, ‘This is mine, I’m responsible,'” Bolden said. “I would love to go more places where more people stood up and spoke like that and said, ‘If something happens, it’s on me.’ You don’t see that very often. I personally appreciate that.'”

Work continued on the stand while Bolden spoke, and he said NASA’s preparation is also continuing to return Americans to space in American spaceships. Applications have just opened for the astronaut class of 2017, Bolden said, and he urged Americans to “go to, and you can apply. We’re looking for people from all walks of life.”

Construction on the new test stand is headed by Brasfield & Gorrie, the steel is being provided by NAFCO Fabrication, LPR Construction is doing the erecting, the Army Corps of Engineers is overall manager, and the design is a joint venture of the architectural firms Goodwin Mills & Cawood and Merrick and Company. 

To read this article online, go to:


Korean Magazine has 10-page article on Alabama

Korean travel writer Charlie Chul Jung has written an extensive article on Alabama for the Hyundai Glovis Plus Magazine.  The December 2015 issue contained both an overview of Alabama’s history and current travel information on both the Montgomery and Birmingham area.   

The article begins with a page and a half close-up photograph of cotton in the field and then shows a dramatic current skyline of Birmingham along with photographs of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  Montgomery’s photograhs include Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and Montgomery downtown as seen along Dexter Avenue.

The article calls Montgomery the holy land of the civil rights movement with many historical civil rights and civil war sites in the downtown area. Birmingham’s civil right district and  the city’s “Magic City” status are part of the vacation information for Alabama’s largest city.

While not featured in photographs, the article also includes information about Huntsville’s NASA and Mobile’s Airbus connections.

Hyundai Glovis is part of the worldwide Hyundai Kia Automotive Group.

Peggy Collins of the Alabama Tourism Department helped Jung with photographs.  The Korean travel writer will also be at the IPW Showcase in New Orleans in June 2016 where Alabama Tourism and representatives of several of the Alabama destinations will attend.


Muscle Shoals musician Mitch Mann releases Blackwater Creek

Mitch Mann is a member of the acclaimed Shoals area band Fiddleworms and his new album is a collection of mostly originals, based on his live acoustic shows. The album was recorded at the NuttHouse in Sheffield this fall and will be released on Crazy Chester Records in January.

Most of the songs were written or co-written by Mann. Some of songs have a strong reference to the area including a recording of “St. Louis Blues” by W.C. Handy and “Tom Clark,” a song about Mountain Tom Clark by Jake Berry.

Guests on the album include Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie, who contributes blues harp, Donna-Jean Godchaux McKay, Scott Boyer, Mickey Buckins and Charles Rose and Harvey Thompson of the Muscle Shoals Horns.


Bald eagles return to nest at Gulf State Park, Dec. 16

For the third consecutive season a pair of bald eagles has returned to their winter nest at coastal Alabama’s Gulf State Park. The appearance was confirmed Monday by photographer and naturalist Roger Reetz, who tracked progress at the nest last year.

Reetz shared his photos of the bald eagles on his social media channels last night: the female nestled in a rebuilt nest, the male standing guard atop a nearby dead tree.

The pair produced, nested and hatched two offspring last year. Only one of those eagles survived to eventually leave the nest on her own. That survival rate is typical for newly hatched bald eagles in the wild.

The bald eagle family captured the attention of the region last year, surviving common hazards of nature including strong storms which could have blown the babies out of the nest, record-setting freezing temperatures along the coast last February and would be attacks by hawks and other predators.

This marks the third consecutive season the bald eagle pair has nested at the state park. Bald eagles mate for life. This pair has produced a surviving female offspring each of the past two seasons. 

To read the entire article, go to:


350 pound Moon Pie to drop on New Year’s Eve in Mobile

The streets of Mobile, Alabama will be filled with revelers from across the country dancing to the music of En Vogue as the world’s largest Moon Pie falls from the sky to ring in the New Year.

In addition to the music, the evening will end in a laser light show and fireworks. It promises to be the best New Year’s in the South and the perfect time to visit Mobile. Weighing 350 pounds, the 12-foot-tall electronic Moon Pie will descend from the 34-story RSA Trustmark skyrise as the city welcomes 2015 and the beginning of Mardi Gras season.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Councilman Fred Richardson will make the first cut into the world’s largest, edible Moon Pie, baked by Chattanooga Bakery, to kick-off the festivities. Attendees are encouraged to decorate umbrellas to march in the second-line parade led by the historic Excelsior Jazz Band down to the main stage.

Moon Pie Over Mobile has been featured in the both Garden and Gun Magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine. Both have both named Moon Pie Over Mobile as one of the must do New Year’s Eve events in the country.

“Downtown Mobile is going to be the place to be this New Year’s Eve,” said Carol Hunter, President of Event Mobile, Inc. “Last year we had more than 60,000 people attend Moon Pie Over Mobile and we expect the streets to be filled again,” said Hunter. “We are extremely pleased to have the City of Mobile and the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) support this celebration.”

Mobile is the home of America’s first Mardi Gras celebration, and the Moon Pie is the favored “throw” of the hundreds of Mardi Gras maskers riding the floats during the extensive Mardi Gras parade season. Moon Pies were first thrown from Mardi Gras floats in 1952. Today, Mobile consumes more than four million Moon Pies annually, and has adopted the delicious treat as an informal emblem. For the Moon Pie Over Mobile celebration, this southern city has teamed up with Chattanooga Bakery, the maker of the iconic Moon Pie marshmallow sandwich, to create a giant edible Moon Pie at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza as the featured attraction for its New Year’s Eve celebration. Chattanooga Bakery is gearing up for next year’s 100th anniversary of the Moon Pie.


Jackson and friends pack Crosby Theater recently

By Jaine Treadwell, Troy Messenger, Dec. 16

Shelia Jackson took the stage of the Claudia Crosby Theater recently to the thunderous applause of a packed audience. At that same moment, she was thrilled and humbled by it all.

“It would be hard to put into words what I was feeling,” said Jackson, who headlined the Shelia Jackson and Friends Holiday Concert. “There was such a wonderful show of support from the community. It was exciting and humbling at the same time. It was overwhelming.

“All of us in the show were so appreciative of the opportunity to join the Troy Arts Council in presenting this holiday concert as a special gift to the community.”

Mack Gibson, Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center board chair, said “one more time, Jackson has blown it out of the ballpark.”

“It was an incredible night of music and entertainment,” Gibson said. “Shelia always amazes me with her ability to bring people together. The way she utilizes other talents is fantastic. Her willingness to bring others on stage for this concert and share her big moment with them just says a lot about Shelia Jackson.”

Each Christmas season, the TAC sponsors the Shelia Jackson and Friends Holiday Concert as a way of giving back to the community in appreciation for its support of the arts year round.

“Shelia Jackson and Friends is always packed,” said Ruth Walker, TAC president. “This year, people arrived long before the concert was to begin. The balcony had to be opened to accommodate the crowd. It was an unbelievable night.”

Walker said the TAC is always confident of a packed house when Jackson sings.

“Shelia is well-known in the community and beyond,” Walker said. “People love to hear her sing and they also know that she puts together an excellent concert. Shelia knows a lot of talented people and she brings them together in what is one of the best variety shows and holiday concerts anywhere around. We are never disappointed.”

The concert featured guest vocalists, musicians, University dancers and a children’s chorus in a two-act production that included Broadway tunes, jazz, R&B, pop and classical music and a Christmas concert that included the carols of Christmas and holiday songs.

Rue Botts of Brundidge has attended most of Jackson’s Christmas concerts and rated the 2014 production “one of the best.”

“It would be hard to say that one is better than the other because they are all excellent,” Botts said. “I really enjoy the variety of Shelia’s concerts. She opens with a lot of the popular songs and closes the concert with all Christmas songs. Shelia has an amazing voice and she surrounds herself with excellent talent and her concerts just get better and better.”

Radio personality Doc Kirby attended Jackson’s holiday concert for the first time and said, even for Shelia, the concert was “something.”

“Usually, I’m away performing so I haven’t had an opportunity to see Shelia’s concert,” Kirby said. “Of course, I know how well she sings. I’ve known her since she was in Jim Bell’s Junior High choir. But had no idea what an incredible extravaganza the concert would be. It reminded me of a Las Vegas show. I was impressed.”

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Jan. 9 – 12                    American Bus Association                                  Louisville, KY

Jan. 15 – 17 & 20-24   Cincinnati Travel Sport & Boat Show                Cincinnati, OH

Jan. 26 – 27                  Snowbirds Extravaganza Show                             Lakeland, FL

Jan. 27 – 31                  Louisville Boat, RV & Sport Show                     Louisville, KY

Jan. 31 – Feb 4             National Tour Assn Travel Exchange                  Atlanta, GA



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

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To subscribe to the weekly Alabama Tourism News, please contact Peggy Collins at:

Alabama Tourism Department