Tourism Tuesdays January 19, 2016

  • Collection of Alabama sites tells story of people, places where battle for freedom was waged
  • Lyric Theatre is a Civil Rights stop
  • TripAdvisor lists 10 affordable down-south destinations to escape winter’s chill
  • Leave Only Footprints beach protection initiative launches in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
  • Alabama featured in top Italian cycling magazine
  • Biking website features Anniston Coldwater Mountain 
  • Alabama musician gets feature article in UK Blues Matters magazine
  • Alabama Music Hall of Fame names new curator
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Collection of Alabama sites tells story of people, places where battle for freedom was waged

By Steve Stephens, The Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 18

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrating the birth and life’s work of the famed clergyman and civil rights leader.

Much of King’s most important work was undertaken in Alabama at places now memorialized on the Civil Rights Trail, a collection of sites and museums that help tell the story of the struggle for equal rights for all Americans.

Even visitors who are too young to have any personal recollections of King or the civil rights movement might well recognize the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

I had seen the bridge — which carries U.S. 80 across the wide, muddy Alabama River into downtown Selma — only in old photos and news films taken in 1965 on Bloody Sunday. But that was enough to etch the now 75-year-old structure in my mind and link it, forever, with the events that ultimately helped turn the country into a freer and more just America.

Sun., March 7, 1965, was the date of a march held to memorialize a young black civil rights demonstrator, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and protest his killing weeks before by state troopers. But just after crossing the bridge, the marchers were set upon by a sea of troopers and deputies who tear-gassed and viciously clubbed and beat the protesters, injuring hundreds.

The news films and photos of the horse-mounted state troopers, driving black marchers before them like cattle, even riding up the steps of the churches where the nonviolent protesters sought shelter, shocked millions who could no longer ignore the rampant brutality and discrimination of the age.

Bloody Sunday spurred the much larger Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march two weeks later, which was joined by King and other religious leaders and protesters from across the country — a major turning point in the civil rights movement. President Lyndon Johnson sent federal troops to protect the marchers and later that year signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Today, on the downtown side of the Pettus Bridge, visitors will find the National Park Service’s Selma Interpretive Center. The small center, located in an old historic storefront, is a good starting point to explore the civil rights trail and a great place to pick up maps, brochures and other information about the stops along the way.

At the center, visitors can learn about the events leading up to Bloody Sunday and the voting rights march, held at a time when only 2.1 percent of blacks living in Selma were registered to vote.

A few blocks from the center and bridge is Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where activists and large groups of supporters had met in the early days of the campaign and where the voting rights march began.

Today, the beautiful brick church, still in use, commemorates King and other civil rights leaders with monuments out front. A short walk down what is now Martin Luther King Street brings visitors to another historic church, First Baptist, used by members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as a meeting place in Selma.

On the far side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, visitors will find the National Voting Rights Museum, dedicated to the struggle and the “foot soldiers” of the movement.

The 1965 marchers followed U.S. 80 on their four-day, 54-mile trek to Montgomery, the state capital. Several historical markers denote stopping points along the way. One must-see stop is the National Park Service’s Lowndes Interpretive Center at White Hall, the halfway point of the march.

The large center and museum was designed to evoke, architecturally, both the steel arch of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the soaring brick towers of Brown Chapel AME Church. A walking path outside, dotted with interpretive signs, allows visitors to experience, in a small way, a bit of the march route.

The museum is near the place where hundreds of marchers camped on the second night of the march and continues the story of the march from Selma, focusing on Lowndes County, where not one of the 5,000 black residents was registered to vote.

One highlight is the center’s multimedia documentary, which includes the movingly emotional memories of many people who experienced the events firsthand.

The voting rights march ended on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, where, then as now, can be found many reminders of Alabama’s Confederate past.

A large statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis stands to one side of the steps. At the top of those steps is a bronze marker showing the place where Davis took the oath of office as president. And just across the street is the 1835 Italianate mansion that served as the first White House of the Confederacy, Davis’ home in the early days of the Civil War.

But also within sight of the statehouse steps — much, much closer, in fact, than I had imagined — is Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where King had served as pastor from 1954 to 1960.

Today called Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist, the church, which just celebrated its 138th anniversary, offers tours throughout the week for visitors who come to learn more about King and the civil rights movement.

“This is still a live, living church,” emphasized docent Macehalle Watts, an assistant pastor at a nearby church.

The tour included a lot of history — “It’s not just black history, or civil rights history, but God’s history,” Watts said.

Just as delightful was some a cappella singing by Watts, who invited us visitors to join along in a rendition of This Little Light of Mine.

As our voices mixed with Watts’ booming alto, echoing through the very sanctuary where King began his ministry, the history I had been experiencing seemed to take on a new, more immediate dimension. It certainly made for a vivid, personal memory — one to recall not just on MLK Day.

Alabama Civil Right Trail

This tourism trail in centeral Alabama includes many museums and some of the sites most important to the history of the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

For more information about the trail and the stops along the way, call the Alabama tourism department at 1-800-252-2262 or visit

To read this article online, go to:

Lyric Theatre is a Civil Rights stop

By John Archibald,, Jan. 14

After all the effort and money, after all the restoration and preparation and paint and pain and sweat, the Lyric Theatre in downtown Birmingham is still just … a theater.

A theater.  Just a place like so many of the South’s relics, adorned with the splendor of a bygone age, and stained by the injustice of it. It’s a place where uncommon beauty runs headlong into uncomfortable reality. A place of gilt. And of guilt.

Horace Huntley recalls days when, as a young black child, he was made to enter the theater through the separate and unequal “colored entrance.”

Whites arrived under a glittering Third Avenue North Marquee, while Huntley and his friends – like all blacks who attended the theater from its opening in 1914 – came through an unremarkable 18th Street door separated from the main floor.  They trooped up a tight stairwell to a steep “colored balcony.”

Huntley remembers this place for its unfairness, for its demeaning separation.  In its way, it helped teach him to fight racism for a lifetime.

The Lyric, like so many others in the South, is a place that witnessed all the beauty and wonder of history. And all its ugliness.  But in the end the Lyric, which opens to almost universal fanfare this week after a privately driven fundraising campaign, is just a theater.

But maybe – maybe – it can be more.

Because the theater’s restorers could have pretended the past was all gold plated and filigreed, but they did not. They could have celebrated only the glory of the good old days and ignored the shameful past altogether. But they did not.

They could have restored the “colored entrance” to its original form, but that would seem a tacit approval of those ways.  And they did not do that either.

The folks at Birmingham Landmarks felt the need not just to recognize the ways of the theater’s past, but to emphasize the truth, and the import of it.

So the doorway now serves as a marker, with words – written by Birmingham Landmarks board chairman Danny Evans – etched on the glass for all to see, and read, and understand:



You are standing before a reminder of Birmingham History and the struggle for civil rights. At the opening of the Lyric in 1914 and for most of the 20th Century, Birmingham was a segregated society living under the myth of ‘separate but equal’ accommodations and enforcing Jim Crow laws to subjugate black citizens. Unlike at other segregated theatres of the time which allowed only whites, the Lyric “Colored Entrance,” allowed black and white customers to attend the same show at the same time and for the same price. Though an early step in breaking down racial barriers, it was unique at the time. Upon entering this separate entrance black patrons were directed up the stairs to the third level and balcony seating. Though together for the same show at the same time in the same theatre, sadly, the patrons were still separated. This reminder of our past, hopefully can help avoid divisions among us in the future.

The door was donated by the Southern Area of The Links, a professional group made up of women of color.

The Lyric may be just a theater. But what if it can be more?  What if this place can be an example for the rest of Birmingham, the rest of Alabama?

It is an acknowledgement that there was both charm and harm in the old days and the old ways, an admission that both are part of the DNA in our city and state and region and both are part of the evolution that continues.

Then the Lyric, perhaps, will be more than a theater.  It will be a beacon, reflecting the fullness of our past, and lighting the way to a better future.

To read this article online, go to:

TripAdvisor lists 10 affordable down-south destinations to escape winter’s chill

TripAdvisor, Jan. 11

What’s the best way to survive the winter blues? Escape them.

If you’re suffering from a post-holiday or New Year’s hangover (figuratively or literally!) and struggling with the colder temps, we have the perfect remedy: a sunny, warm-weather vacation that won’t break the bank.

You may have lucked out so far, Northeasterners, but don’t get cocky. Another snowpocalypse is just one “wicked staaahm” away. In fact, no matter where you live in the States, why not kick off 2016 with a trip? Somewhere you know will be gorgeous – and affordable.

We’re talking about the Southern US; a region known for beach-like weather year round and the world’s best barbecue.

TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals has identified 10 down-south getaways to help you through winter. Each destination offers stunning vacation rental options at much less the cost than a hotel. Plus with extra living space, private outdoor areas, a full kitchen and amenities like a swimming pool, game room or cinema, rentals provide the most bang for your buck.

3. Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama

The neighboring towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are warm-weather staples. If you’ve never visited, you’re truly missing out. Bright white beaches are as soft as pillows on the bottom of your feet, while The Track Family Recreation Center in Gulf Shores offers kid-friendly activities like go-karts, bumper rides, mini-golf and simulated skydiving. Not to mention the famous Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. At nighttime, Orange Beach buzzes with live music and entertainment from the many restaurants or dancing hotspots. At just $785 per week on average for a two-bedroom rental, an Alabama vacation never felt so good – on your wallet.

To read this entire article online, go to:


Leave Only Footprints beach protection initiative launches in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

GulfCoastNewsToday, Jan. 13

Clean, safe beaches. That’s the message behind the Leave Only Footprints campaign that is a joint effort by the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

The Leave Only Footprints initiative requires beachgoers to take their belongings with them each night. Removing beach toys, tents, umbrellas and chairs keeps beach gear out of the way of endangered species such as the nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, and out of the Gulf of Mexico.

It also clears the way for emergency and maintenance crews who must navigate the beach. Similar initiatives are already in place along coastal communities in the Florida Panhandle.

In 2015 both cities piloted similar programs, stepping up education efforts with representatives on beach, educating beachgoers about best practices while enjoying the natural resources. From March to July of last year, the City of Gulf Shores collected approximately 2,678 cubic yards of debris including 24,000 pounds of tent frames, umbrellas and chairs, in addition to the 4,400 pounds of plastic cups collected.

The updated ordinances in each city require that any equipment and personal items be removed from the beach after sunset each day. Any items not removed will be collected and discarded.

Keeping the beach clean for future visitors is an upshot of the Leave Only Footprints policy, which includes other safety and sustainability elements, as well.

Glass containers and excessive digging are also prohibited and holes dug should be refilled before leaving the beach.

In addition, the ordinance prohibits loud music on the beach, all in the hope of preserving the safety, peace and beauty of the Alabama Gulf Coast.

The cities are working with Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber and local industry partners to implement a complete communications effort to let the public know about the new rules. The program is intended to be fully in place prior to spring 2016.

To read this article online, go to:


Alabama featured in top Italian cycling magazine

Alabama received a seven-page feature in Bicicletta, one of Italy’s top cycling magazines.  The article was written by Carlo Ferrari, who visited Alabama over a twelve-day period last October.  Ferrari’s trip took him to Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville, Anniston, Auburn/Opelika and Mobile. 

In the article, Ferrari, calls Alabama a state of the American south with history and nature, suitable for those that want both road and mountain biking.

The article is titled “Sweet Home Alabama” and includes 19 photos that were taken during his visit in Alabama last October, including ones taken at the Barber Motorsports Museum, the Delta Bike Project, the Huntsville Depot Museum, Cheaha State Park, Chewacla State Park, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and along many Alabama roads.

Ferrari has already been interviewed on Italian TV and has produced a video of his trip.

Bike clubs across Alabama as well as local tourism organizations helped the Alabama Tourism Department in this project. 

For more information on Alabama Tourism Department efforts in promoting the outdoors and the international tourism market, contact


Biking website features Anniston Coldwater Mountain

In an article called “The Northerner’s Guide to Southern Singletrack”, Jeff Barber writes about six biking destinations in the south, including Anniston.  The feature was published Jan. 11 and aimed at showcasing the southern region as a great way to bike during a time when large parts of the U.S. are covered in snow.

Barber says “The good folks of Anniston, AL have been hard at work over the past few years building a mountain bike haven and by all accounts, they’ve been successful. With an average of one inch of snowfall a year and average low and high winter temperatures of 34 and 56 degrees respectively, the trails in Anniston are almost guaranteed to be ready-to-ride whenever you visit.  Coldwater Mountain is the crown jewel of Anniston singletrack and offers 20+ miles of expertly constructed singletrack that ranges from flowy to rocky and back to flowy again. There’s even a dedicated downhill run that’s shuttle-able. For those with an adventurous side looking to explore a bit more, head a little outside of town to Cheaha State Park (the highest point in Alabama) or even the Choccolocco Wildlife Management area.”

Singletrack’s website has 750,000 unique visitors per month and more than 200,000 registered members.   

To read the entire article, go to:

For more information on the Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts to promote outdoor adventures, contact


Alabama musician gets feature article in UK Blues Matters magazine

Debbie Bond, who lives in Tuscaloosa and is the former head of the Alabama Blues Project organization, received a feature article in the UK publication Blues Matters.  The article in the most recent edition of the magazine includes a full page photo of Bond and three pages of editorial.  The story is titled “Doing It Her Own Way” and proclaims that “Singers, guitar player and songwriter Debbie Bond has been paying her dues in the Alabama backwoods for over 30 years. Her singing has been compared to Bonnie Raitt and Maria Muldaur, both of whom she cites as being influences on her music.”

Bond moved to Alabama in 1979 from England.

The article quotes Bond as saying “I landed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This is also where, the late, great Johnny Shines had settled. One thing led to another and he took me under his wing. I stayed!”

To read this entire article to learn more about her tours and the time she spent with other legendary Alabama blues performers, go to:


Alabama Music Hall of Fame names new curator

By Russ Corey,, Jan. 12

A Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Bureau employee has been named the new curator of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

John Moseley is currently in charge of information technology, digital communication and visitor center resource management at the tourism office.

He will start work Feb. 1, according to the state Tourism Office.

Moseley will take over the position vacated last summer by Dick Cooper, who was hired as curator when the hall of fame reopened Oct. 18, 2013. Cooper also served as curator for 5½ years under former Executive Director David Johnson. 

Moseley is a graduate of the University of North Alabama who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

He has worked previously with the Alabama Tourism Office on projects involving the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

To read this article online, go to:


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Jan. 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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Alabama Tourism Department