Tourism Tuesdays March 22, 2016

  • Alabama building $135M hotel, conference center on Gulf Coast
  • Alabama’s blooming and that means it’s time to take pictures
  • Alabama celebrates Hank Williams film by retracing singer’s last ride
  • W. Va. to receive piece of Montgomery Hank Williams history
  • Special screening of Hank Williams’ biopic ‘I Saw the Light’ held in Montgomery
  • The New York Times: A new map to Hank Williams’s Lost Highways
  • Why tourism matters by Congressman Bradley Byrne
  • What’s the best Alabama restaurant chain? Vote in bracket
  • Tuskegee Airmen: 75 years of history
  • GulfQuest to host statewide premiere of documentary that investigates the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
  • Allison Williams, star of Girls, raves about Fairhope after filming movie there
  • ASA Archery extends Alabama Pro/Am Tournament for five year run in Foley
  • Check your Vacation Guide listing today
  • April Walking Tours Start
  • Alabama Tourism Workshop April 27
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Alabama building $135M hotel, conference center on Gulf Coast

By Ty West, Birmingham Business Journal, March 18

Alabama has started construction on a new $135 million hotel and conference center to replace a property destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

According to the Associated Press, the project will be partially funded by money from the BP oil spill settlement.

The project will be located at Gulf State Park in Baldwin County. It will have 350 rooms and meeting space to accommodate 1,500. Completion is scheduled for summer 2018.

The hotel and conference center was the subject of a lengthy legal battle over the project. Many environmental groups wanted Alabama to focus on restoring the state’s natural resources.

But proponents of the center say it will allow Alabama to capture convention and tourism business that is currently leaving the state for neighboring Florida.

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama’s blooming and that means it’s time to take pictures

To paraphrase an old song, Alabama’s Bustin’ Out All Over.  That means it’s time to get those cameras out and take pictures.  Here are a few helpful hints on how to get the best images for your efforts.

Take only interior images between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Old Sol is just too brutal at that time of day to get good outdoor shots.  When shooting exteriors make sure the sun is shining on the object of your lens.  Taking a picture in the afternoon of anything facing east doesn’t usually yield good results.

Also, attractive people can add a lot of interest to your images.  Make sure they’re wearing solid and bright-colored clothing.  Shorts and blue jeans should be worn only when they are appropriate to the location and/or event.  Have them face the camera and appear to be having a wonderful time – if they’re really having a great time that’s a bonus.

In tourism, as in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.  Try to frame the images so that the location, attraction, event or other subject is obvious to the viewer.

Of course the Alabama Tourism Department always wants to get new images so, once you’ve captured all those green trees and flowering shrubs with your camera, you can send them to us.  We are looking for images that are at least 4” X 6” and 300 dpi.

Contact Peggy Collins at 334-242-4545 OR for information on how to send them.


Alabama celebrates Hank Williams film by retracing singer’s last ride

Following Monday’s Montgomery premiere of “I Saw the Light,” the Hank Williams film biography featuring Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, The Alabama Tourism Department will make its own “Last Ride.”

A historic marker will be dedicated Thursday in the West Virginia town of Oak Hill where Hank Williams was found to be deceased en route to Canton, Ohio on Jan. 1, 1953.

Hank Williams’ daughter, performer Jett Williams, joined the Tourism Department for the re-enactment of Williams’ final tour.

Also accompanying the tour is a powder blue 1953 Cadillac almost identical to the one Hank took on the trip.

Hank’s driver Charles Carr pulled over at a Pure Oil gas station only to find that the famous singer had died in the back seat of the Cadillac. 

Williams’ body was taken to the Tyree Funeral Home in Oak Hill.  Joe Tyree, who owned and managed the funeral home, will be one of the guests at the marker dedication.  The historic marker will be dedicated on Main Street (State Route 16) beside the American flag at the Lively Family Amphitheater.

Videos of tour stops will be posted on the state tourism Facebook page Sweet Home Alabama. 

To follow posts about the tour on Twitter and Instagram search for #HankTrail.


W. Va. to receive piece of Montgomery Hank Williams history

By Kelsey Davis, Montgomery Advertiser, March 22

Every autumn since 1993, George Tennant has traveled from England to Montgomery to absorb its Hank Williams history.

“I fell in love with Hank’s music when I was 16. I had to come (to Montgomery). This is where Hank was, and this is what I wanted to see,” 80-year-old Tennant said as he sat in city hall for the private screening of “I Saw the Light” – a Sony Pictures biopic about Williams.

The private screening, which opens nationwide Friday, kicked off an Alabama Tourism Department road trip that traces Williams’ travels the days before he died.

It starts Tuesday in Birmingham where Williams spent his last night at the Redmont Hotel. Throughout the next two days the tour will stop at a barber shop in Fort Payne – the location of Williams’ last shave and trim; a hotel in Knoxville, Tenn. – where Williams briefly stayed shortly before he died; and ends in Oak Hill, W. Va., – where Williams was discovered dead.

Once they reach Oak Hill, the Tourism Department will dedicate a historic marker that bears the Alabama emblem and tells of Williams’ impact on the state.

“(Oak Hill) doesn’t really have a marker there at the moment, so our thought was for the Hank Williams legacy it would be good to have a real marker that looked good,” said Rick Harmon, regional director of the Tourism Department. “The second part of that is this is like a perpetual ad for the state of Alabama’s tourism and for Hank Williams.”

Along with the marker, the Tourism Department is also towing a 1953 Cadillac nearly identical to the one Williams drove from Montgomery to West Virginia on their journey.

Jett Williams, Hank’s daughter, will also make the trek from Montgomery to Oak Hill.

“It’s a little eerie,” Jett Williams said of going back to Oak Hill. “Especially when you get off the interstate, and you get on the back roads that you know he traveled on. To see the ups and the downs and the blind curves, you can imagine what a night it was that night.”

Williams said she was honored when the state reached out to her about going on the trip.

“I was born in Montgomery and I grew up in Alabama,” Williams said. “To be able to take something from our state to West Virginia and share it – especially with the movie coming out, and (Hank Williams’) music and memory still being alive after 63 years – is an honor.”

To read this article online, go to:


Special screening of Hank Williams’ biopic ‘I Saw the Light’ held in Montgomery

By John O’Connor, WSFA-12 News, March 21

Montgomery’s City Hall, where Hank Williams’ funeral was held on Jan. 4, 1953, was the location for an invitation-only screening of a new movie about Hank Williams’ life.

“I Saw the Light,” is based on the 1994 biography written by Colin Escott, and tells one of the most remarkable and tragic stories in American music history.

The choice of British actor Tom Hiddleston to portray the country music icon was controversial, but Hank’s daughter, Jett, liked what she saw and knows why her dad’s music still touches so many people.

“Everybody’s heart breaks the same. So when you hear those songs or you hear that lonesome whip-poor-will or that falling star, those human emotions still ring true. And that’s why when people hear those lyrics or those melodies, they absolutely reach their soul,” Williams said.

Jett was not the only member of country music royalty at Monday’s screening.

Tommy Cash, the older brother of Johnny, told us he has always been a big fan of Hank.  

“If he had lived, he probably would have written another dozen standards,” Cash said. “And I sing some of his music. I have a little Hank Williams medley that I do in my concert.”

Hank’s story and life are still a big draw for people around the world. Many who come to Hank’s grave in Montgomery still take part in a long running tradition.

“You took a beer up there and you had a beer and then you left one on his grave. And many Saturday or Sunday mornings, you can go up there and see that people are honoring that tradition,” said Lee Sentell with the Alabama Tourism Department. 

The biopic opens in theaters on Friday. The film offers a chance to see the story of the man who wrote many of the great American classics right here in Montgomery.

To read this article online, go to:


The New York Times: A new map to Hank Williams’s Lost Highways

By Alan Light, The New York Times, March 16

In the new film “I Saw the Light,” a surly Hank Williams, played by Tom Hiddleston, grudgingly consents to an interview with a New York City newspaper reporter. The writer asks Williams how he explains his popularity.

“Everybody has a little darkness in them,” Williams replies, between sips of whiskey. “I’m talking about things like anger, misery, sorrow, shame.” He adds: “I show it to them, and they don’t have to take it home. They expect I can help their troubles.”

More than 60 years after his death at the age of 29, Williams — who has been called “the Hillbilly Shakespeare” for the striking imagery of his songs — apparently still holds that kind of power over listeners, and “I Saw the Light,” scheduled to be released on Friday, March 25, is only the latest manifestation of his legacy.

Most obvious is his perpetual presence in country music. In his brief career, he had more than 30 Top 10 country hits, including the standards “Cold, Cold Heart,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Hey, Good Lookin’.”  Over the years, his name has been invoked as the embodiment of artistic integrity (“Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” by Waylon Jennings) and as a symbol of self-destructive living (“If I get stoned and play all night long, it’s a family tradition,” sang his son, Hank Williams Jr.).  One way or another, it seems that he shows up somewhere on nearly every country record.

The impact of Williams’s music, though, extends far beyond Nashville. In 1991, Bob Dylan said, “To me, Hank Williams is still the best songwriter,” while Bruce Springsteen, in his 2012 keynote speech at the South by Southwest conference, described how he had once “lived on” the music of Hank Williams, with its “beautiful simplicity and its darkness and depth.” Keith Richards, Beck and Johnny Cash all played on the Grammy-winning tribute album “Timeless” (2001), and for “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams” (2011), Jack White, Norah Jones and other artists set unrecorded Williams lyrics to new melodies they composed.

More surprising, though, is the frequency of stories about Hank Williams on the screen. The first biopic about him was “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in 1964, starring George Hamilton (the role had initially been offered to Elvis Presley).  In the late 1970s, Warner Bros. commissioned a Williams screenplay from Paul Schrader (“Taxi Driver”).  Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson were considered for the role, but the script was so dark that Williams’s publishing company refused to allow his songs to be used.

The story of the brief, turbulent life of 1950s country music star Hank Williams, who wrestled with alcohol, chronic back pain, a tempestuous marriage, and his own monumental talents before his shocking, sudden death at age 29.

The 2005 Canadian film “Hank Williams First Nation” tells the story of an elderly Cree tribesman who travels to Nashville to determine whether Williams, his hero, is still alive.  In 2012, “The Last Ride” re-enacted Williams’s final road trip, when he died in West Virginia, in the back seat of a limousine en route to a 1953 New Year’s performance in Canton, Ohio.

Williams’s music has been a defining element of other movies. Most of the score for Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show” (1971) was made up of Williams recordings, while Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) included six of his songs.

(There have also been stage efforts: The acclaimed 1977 play “Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave” is a fictional account of the concert he was traveling to when he died.  In 2003, Jason Petty won an Obie award for his performance in the Off Broadway musical “Hank Williams: Lost Highway.”)

Given this constant stream of Hank Williams projects, why did the writer-director Marc Abraham feel compelled to make “I Saw the Light”? In a telephone interview, Mr. Abraham (better known as a producer whose credits include “Children of Men” and “Bring It On”) indicated that he felt there were still aspects of the story that needed to be explored, explaining that he especially wanted to concentrate on the tempestuous relationship between the singer and his first wife, Audrey (played by Elizabeth Olsen).

“That was the fire,” he said. “That’s where the songs come from.”

Mr. Abraham noted that everything from Hank Williams’s name and “snakelike vibe” to his defiant independence contribute to his long-lasting coolness. “He spit in the eye of the right guys — he got kicked off the Grand Ole Opry,” he said. “He wanted to do it his way and he prevailed. For any young stud, that’s kind of aspirational.”

For the British Mr. Hiddleston (Loki in the “Thor” movies), the contradictions in Williams’s writing and personality help explain the continuing allure of his music. “There’s an interesting tension between his charisma and masculinity and the vulnerability in his songs,” he said by phone, “it’s the tension in the American man, perhaps.”

Noting that Williams became popular in 1947, he continued: “It was right after the war, which was not an easy time for the American man to admit that he was so lonesome he could cry.  But Hank Williams had the courage to stand up and sing it.”

It was that specific sense of time and place that inspired Mr. Bogdanovich to devote so much of the soundtrack to Hank Williams in “The Last Picture Show,” which is set in Texas in the early 1950s. “The sound that he made, the subject matter, the whole thing seemed to speak of that moment, and it created an extraordinary mood,” he said by phone.

“His singing was heartbreaking but not operatic,” he continued, citing “Why Don’t You Love Me,” which opens and closes his movie. “He sang sad songs, but he didn’t sing them tragically. He wasn’t trying to be sweet.”

The country star Tim McGraw, who dropped Hank Williams’s name in no less than three songs on his most recent album, “Damn Country Music,” credits Williams’s writing and voice for his influence but considers his persona important as well.

“He was bigger than life, wide-open, genuine,” Mr. McGraw wrote in an email. “There was an element of vulnerability, but there was also dangerousness, a gleam in the eye. I’ve always thought of him as the first real rock star.”

Of course, Hank Williams was also a prototype for the live fast-die young archetype familiar through tragic stars from James Dean and Marilyn Monroe to Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur. Frozen forever at the peak of his fame, Williams’s myth was further cemented by the eerie fact that his song “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” reached No. 1 within days of his death.

“There are people who, whether born with it or develop over time, live without a safety net,”  Mr. Hiddleston said.  “They commit to living in an unconventional way in which other people fear to live.  A certain personality seems to have one less layer of skin, don’t have a defense mechanism, and that’s part of why they’re so captivating.”

Ultimately, though, it’s the brilliance of his work, rather than his image, that keeps Hank Williams forever relevant.  Mr. Hiddleston (who worked closely with the country singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell to sing, rather than lip-sync, Williams’s songs) first discovered Williams by way of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, as he explored the roots of their music.

“Hank is part of the fabric of America,” he said. “That’s what folk music does — it represents something pure and honest about the traditions of the culture. That’s what Hank Williams has become.”

To read this article online, go to:


Why tourism matters by Congressman Bradley Byrne

By Congressman Bradley Byrne, Alabama Political Reporter, March 17

It is that time of the year again.  Families and students are flocking down Interstate 65 or across Interstate 10 to our Alabama beaches for spring break.  Those of us who have lived here our entire lives know what it means: crowded roads, packed restaurants, and full hotels.

What you may not have realized, is just how important tourism is to our area’s economy.  In Baldwin County alone, 5.7 million tourists visited the beaches last year.  Approximately 46,000 people in Baldwin County are employed in the tourism and hospitality industry.  Even more, the economic impact in just Baldwin County is more than $3.5 billion dollars, and the number of visitors to our beaches continues to grow each year.

Tourism isn’t just limited to the beaches.  Many people travel to Mobile for Mardi Gras or to visit the historic city.  In fact, the USS Alabama saw more than 400,000 visitors last year and is one of the top five most visited tourist attractions in Alabama.

Mobile also continues to grow and expand their tourist appeal.  Just last week, I toured the new GulfQuest maritime museum in downtown Mobile, which is a great asset to our city and will boost tourism.

In Escambia County, there is the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel, which helps support the local community and serves as a stopping point for many groups visiting our beaches.

Finally, each year thousands of people travel to Monroeville for the annual performances of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  As the people in Monroeville know, hotels and restaurants are packed during play season.

All told, the lodging tax revenue for just Baldwin and Mobile counties in 2015 totaled more than $62 million dollars.  That is money that can be used to support our communities and improve the quality of life for local residents.

In Congress, I have made it a top priority to do everything I can to support tourism.  I am a member of the Travel and Tourism Caucus and a co-chair of the Coastal Communities Caucus.  Here are two specific areas where Congress can act to support Alabama’s tourism economy.

First, Alabama’s visitors are primarily vehicle travelers, so it is critical we have a safe and reliable Interstate and highway system to help transport people to our destinations.

For example, a new I-10 bridge over the Mobile River would go a long way toward boosting tourism, especially when it comes to people traveling from one of our neighboring states like Florida, Mississippi, or Louisiana. The bridge will also be an important hurricane evacuation route for moving people off our beaches in the unfortunate event of severe weather.

Last year, Congress passed a long-term highway bill to make it easier to fund important highway projects.  Now we need to cut through some of the bureaucratic delays and speed up these important projects.

Second, we need to pass important reforms to get a longer Red Snapper season.  Many visitors to our coastal communities want to go fishing, and a longer Red Snapper season would mean increased tourism.

I was able to help get a bill through the House last year with three important reforms that would lead to a longer Snapper season.  Now we just need to get that bill passed through the Senate and signed into law.

Those are just two straightforward ways Congress can help support tourism, and in turn the economy, right here in Southwest Alabama.  Ultimately, our area’s greatest asset will always be our people and our outstanding southern hospitality.  I have no doubt visitors will continue flocking to Southwest Alabama for decades to come.

Alabama Tourism Department staff members Pam Smith and Jo Jo Terry contributed information for this article.

To read this article online, go to:


What’s the best Alabama restaurant chain? Vote in bracket

By Bob Carlton,, March 18

March Madness is at full throttle.

And after Thursday’s first-round games, that NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket you agonized over for hours may already be busted.

Here’s another chance, and all you need to play along in this tournament is your appetite. launch its own March Madness-inspired Alabama’s Best Restaurant Chains Bracket, which pits 32 restaurant chains with Alabama roots in head-to-head match-ups.

To make the cut for our tournament, a restaurant needs to have at least three locations, and it must be based in Alabama, or have started here, or was founded by someone from the state.

We’ve divided the field into four sub-brackets: Barbecue; Delis & Desserts; Burgers, Dogs, Chicken & Steak; and Seafood, Sushi & Tacos. Each of sub-brackets has eight entries.

First-round voting continues through the end of the day on Tue., March 22.  Those winners will advance to our Sweet 16, which we will announce on Wednesday, March 23.

To vote, click on your favorite in each pairing.

To read this entire article online, go to:


Tuskegee Airmen: 75 years of history

By Rebecca Buylo, Montgomery Advertiser, March 16

Legendary Tuskegee Airmen pilots, famously known as “Red Tails,” will return to the place they first learned to fly, Tuskegee, Ala. to celebrate 75 years since they were a part of the first group of African American fighters.

At least four of the original Tuskegee pilots will travel from Atlanta, Ga. to Alabama for the anniversary commemoration events to take place in Tuskegee and Montgomery on March 22.

They recently sat down with the Montgomery Advertiser and shared their memories of flying over Europe, fighting Nazi fighters and breaking barriers for black men in America. Look for their stories of heroism next week.

It was during World War II, on March 22, 1941, when African Americans were first allowed to form the historic fighter pilot group, with the help of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Tuesday, the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation will host a series of events beginning at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field at the Tuskegee Airport and ending in Montgomery’s Renaissance Hotel Convention Center, for a gala fundraising event. 

The significance of the Tuskegee Airmen is monumental. Their superior performance eventually eliminated segregation throughout the armed services. At that time, African Americans were deemed unfit both physically and mentally to fly something as complex as an aircraft.

Hundreds of black men, who signed up to fly, in the 1940s, proved the myth wrong.

In fact, the Tuskegee Airmen, were not only recognized for the red paint on their fighter tail-wings,giving them the nickname, “Red Tails,” they became legendary for their near-perfect record of not losing an aircraft against enemy fighters in more than 200 flight missions. They destroyed 250 enemy aircraft on the ground and 150 in air-to-air combat.

The first black flying unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later called the 99th Fighter Squadron, was activated at Chanute Field, Illinois and moved to Tuskegee, where its first pilots were trained. Throughout the course of the war, the 99th would grow to include three other fighter squadrons, the 100th Fighter Squadron, 301st Fighter Squadron and 302nd Fighter Squadron.

Those squadrons have been preserved and are still active today, located among different military wings around the country, including Montgomery, Ala. Aircraft from each unit are scheduled to fly over Moton Field at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

A red-winged, F-16 Fighting Falcon from Montgomery’s 100th Fighter Squadron at the 187th Fighter Wing, will lead the pack, which tentatively includes a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor from the 302nd Fighter Squadron assigned to the 477th Fighter Group at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska and a Northrop T-38 Talon and F-22 from the 301st Fighter Squadron, which falls under the 44th Fighter Group at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. and headquartered out of the 301st Fighter Wing in Texas.Close

Lastly, they are scheduled to be joined by a T-1 Jayhawk from the 99th Flying Training Squadron, which is now a part of the 12th Flying Training Wing based at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Later that night, a reception and gala dinner is scheduled at 6 p.m. at Montgomery’s Renaissance Hotel downtown to raise money for student scholarships through the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation and will include a silent auction, photos with documented original Tuskegee Airmen, an induction ceremony, dinner and speakers.

The event is to signify the landmark anniversary and honor the pilots and support personnel trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field and preserve their dwindling legacy, said Brigadier General Leon Johnson, the  National President of Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated and board chair of the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation.

“Of the over 6,000 men and women who we consider the Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen there are fewer than 1,000 still alive.  There were 932 pilots who graduated from the training program and less than 100 of them are still with us.  Only 355 of the pilot graduates flew in combat overseas and only 22 of them survive as of today,” Johnson said.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark Welsh III, and former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. retired Norton Schwartz are scheduled to attend the evening black-tie gala.

The Tuskegee Airmen Foundation is a nonprofit organized that began in 2000 to raise funds to support Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated in their youth programs and activities. Last year the Tuskegee Airmen Youth Aerospace and STEM Academy was created to be a lasting memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Johnson hopes the gala will kick-off their goal to raise $75 million over ten years for the new youth program. If fully funded, the STEM academy would reach more than 10,000 youth in the first five years, he said.

Onsite tickets to the gala will be available March 22.

To read this entire article online, go to:


GulfQuest to host statewide premiere of documentary that investigates the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

As the world’s only museum dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico, it is fitting that GulfQuest/National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico will host the state of Alabama premiere of Dispatches From the Gulf, a new documentary that follows teams of scientists as they investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s effect on the world’s ninth largest body of water.

GulfQuest will host two “museum members only” screenings of the 55-minute documentary on Thursday, April 7, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. followed by Saturday, April 9 screenings for the general public. The screenings at GulfQuest are being offered in advance of the documentary’s April 20 debut on Alabama Public Television (APT) and other PBS affiliates nationwide.

A panel discussion and Q&A will follow each Thursday evening screening. To make a reservation for the “members only” screenings (or inquire about becoming a GulfQuest member), call 251-436-8901, ext. 850, or email

On Saturday, April 9, GulfQuest visitors will have four opportunities to see the documentary: 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. The Saturday screenings are included in the price of a GulfQuest admission ticket and do not require a reservation.

In addition to the scientific findings, Dispatches from the Gulf considers the socio-cultural implications of the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Produced by Emmy Award©-winning filmmakers Marilyn and Hal Weiner and narrated by Academy Award© winner Matt Damon, the documentary examines the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on local communities, from members of the tourism industry to families who rely on seafood such as shrimp and crabs for their livelihood. The ongoing, ultimate goal of the teams of scientists is to discover new and better ways to mitigate and cope with future spills. Their collective studies have become the largest coordinated oceanographic research endeavor in history.

The film, the newest episode in PBS’ Journey to Planet Earth environmental television series, also captures instances of innovation—biologists and oceanographers use remotely operated vehicles and manned submersibles to study the effects of the oil on the ocean floor; chemists and engineers design new laboratory techniques to understand the impact of the spill on fish species and how chemical dispersants interact with oil.

“GulfQuest is honored to host the statewide premiere of this important film,” Tony Zodrow, GulfQuest executive director said. “At GulfQuest, our entire world revolves around the Gulf of Mexico, from the past, to the present, to the future. We have worked very hard to bring many different aspects of the Gulf of Mexico to life for our visitors. But the work the scientists in this film are doing is probably more important than any of us realize. To bring this film to our members and to our visitors is truly an honor.”

GulfQuest joins other Gulf Coast cultural institutions in premiering Dispatches from the Gulf, including the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, The Witte Museum in San Antonio, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, Mississippi, and the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, Florida.

Dispatches from the Gulf is made possible by a generous grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), with additional funding from the Wallace Genetic Foundation and the Farvue Foundation.

The movie trailer is available online at


Allison Williams, star of Girls, raves about Fairhope after filming movie there

By Michelle Matthews,, March 19

Allison Williams, the actress who plays Marnie Michaels on the HBO series “Girls,” recently spent time in Fairhope and loved it there, according to a post she made Friday on Instagram and Facebook.

Along with a photo of herself (sporting a new haircut with bangs) standing beside the Fairhope clock at the corner of Section Street and Fairhope Avenue, the actress – the daughter of NBC news personality and MSNBC anchor Brian Williams – wrote that she would miss her temporary home, “which I fell totally in love with,” and gave a shout-out to Warehouse Bakery & Doughnuts.

Williams was in town to film a movie, “Get Out,” which was written and directed by Jordan Peele of Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele,” in which he starred with Keegan-Michael Key. The actor, known for his comedic skills, also performed on “Mad TV.” According to, “Get Out” is about “a young African-American man who visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s cursed family estate.”

Suzanne Massingill, owner of Barefoot Models & Talent in Mobile, confirmed that “Get Out” was filmed in Fairhope for about three weeks, followed by shooting at Barton Academy and in the Ashland Place neighborhood in midtown Mobile. Massingill cast the extras and stand-ins in the film, and two actors her agency represents have roles.

She said she enjoyed meeting Williams, who starred in NBC’s live musical version of “Peter Pan.”  “She is amazingly sweet,” Massingill said. “She was just as pretty in person and wonderful to be around, and brought her cute rescue dog Moxie every day with her.”

In addition to Williams, “Get Out” stars Bradley Whitford, who won an Emmy Award for “The West Wing”; Catherine Keener, who was nominated for Oscars in the Best Supporting Actress category for her roles in “Being John Malkovich” and “Capote,” in which she played Harper Lee; Daniel Kaluuya; Caleb Landry Jones; and Lil Rel Howery. The film is bring produced by QC Entertainment and Blumhouse Productions.

To read this entire article online, go to:


ASA Archery extends Alabama Pro/Am Tournament for five year run in Foley

Following the organization’s most successful tournament event in history with its inaugural 2016 edition in the City of Foley, ASA Archery has signed an extension to keep the Alabama Pro/Am at that location for the next five years.

ASA is the national Archery Shooters Association, which stages an annual tour of six major tournaments across the country.

The woodland venue at the City of Foley’s Graham Creek Nature Preserve drew the largest field of competitors in ASA’s records, attracting 1,927 registered archery shooters. Visitors were on hand from at least 30 U.S. states and as far away as Great Britain.

Tournament planners and co-hosts were Foley Sports Tourism, whose mega-facility tournament complex of outdoor sports fields is located a short distance up Foley Beach Express from Graham Creek Preserve. The Foley Sports Tourism Complex is set to officially open over Memorial Day weekend with a major youth soccer tournament.

The four-day ASA tournament in Foley took place Feb. 25-28 (2016). Tournament officials, event sponsors, vendors and participants began arriving early that week. Many competitors wanted a few days before the tournament to check out the archery ranges and the park setup.

It was evident early on that registration for the Graham Creek event may push ASA’s all-time record. By the weekend, it was apparent that both the organizers and participants loved the experience in Foley and would be interested in making the venue an annual Pro/Am tour stop.

ASA President Mike Tyrell said during the event, “This is the best tournament we’ve ever had. (Foley Sports Tourism Director) Don Staley and (Graham Creek Preserve Manager) Leslie Gahagan are the most professional and prepared onsite managers we’ve ever dealt with.”

Staley said, “We’re thrilled to have ASA back here for an extended run of their Pro/Am event.

Foley’s very first tournament of this sort was a tremendous success for us, and for them.

To see the friendly interaction of these athletes and families, in our restaurants, hotels and stores all over town, was just as gratifying as the record-setting Pro/Am turnout.”

“Naturally, there is always a learning curve for a few improvements and tweaks with any first-time event,” Staley added. “We expect the event to maintain this level of success, if not even grow, over these upcoming five years.”

Estimated economic impact in the region was projected at $2.1 million, which city officials feel certain was surpassed with this first-time event for Foley. Tournament traffic brought brisk lodging business during an otherwise sleepy “offseason” week in February.

From vacation rentals at the beach to Foley’s hotels, occupancy increases were notable.

The retail impact was equally felt. From overflow crowds at area restaurants to family shopping at Tanger Outlets to lines for boot purchases at Foley’s Mossy Oak store, the record tournament turnout boosted commerce throughout the area.

Restaurant owner Char Haber of Foley’s Wolf Bay Lodge said, “We saw the impact start early in the week as the archers were arriving with their families. We saw overflow restaurant traffic here through that weekend. And what a nice group of friendly folks they all were. We’re glad to have them all back here in Foley for another five years.”

Foley Mayor John Koniar echoed the sentiment about welcoming back the participants and families. “We are very excited to have the ASA Archery tourney returning to Foley.

They brought high quality people to our area to enjoy our facilities. With ages ranging from eight to eighty, and with international participants, they were a pleasure to host,” said Mayor Koniar.

Gahagan, who serves as the city’s Environmental Manager as well as manager of the 500-acre Graham Creek Preserve, said, “ASA brought an amazing tournament to Foley.

We are very excited to bring the tournament back for five more years. Archers enjoyed the facilities at Graham Creek, even with some mud. Next year we anticipate an even better tournament due to the completion of the Interpretive Center and completion of the new Philomene Holmes Blvd. access to the facility.”

ASA will finalize dates for the 2017 Alabama Pro/Am in Foley at the conclusion of this tournament season late this summer.

About Foley Sports Tourism Complex Foley Sports Tourism Complex is a proposed sports destination, unlike any other, designed with both the athlete and their fans in mind.  Our mild climate makes the outdoor complex ideal for year-round play. Not to mention, the facilities are located only 9 short miles from Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast! The outdoor complex, opening

May 2016, will feature 16 state-of-the-art, multi-purpose fields designed for soccer, lacrosse, and other competitive sports. While the Foley Event Center, slated to open May 2017, will feature ample indoor space to host volleyball, basketball & gymnastics tournaments and more.

To top off the sports complex, an adjacent family-friendly entertainment destination will soon be underway. The destination will feature something for every age whether it’s thrills and chills in the theme park to name brand hotels with conference facilities to a variety of dining and shopping opportunities.

Stay tuned to our exciting project updates by visiting or like us on Facebook.


Check your Vacation Guide listing today

If you have an attraction, outdoor, bed and breakfast, cabin or golf course listing featured in the Alabama Vacation Guide, please check and update the information.  Review your listing in the 2016 Vacation Guide.


April Walking Tours Start

Some 26 towns across Alabama will be on display during Saturday mornings in April as part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours. 

A variety of community leaders will lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns.  The hour-long tours will start at 10 a.m. on April 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Atmore, Heritage Park; Attalla, Gazebo; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Butler, Town Hall; Columbia, Old Bank Building (April 2 & 9 only); Cullman, Cullman County Museum; Decatur, Rose Garden at Delano Park; Demopolis, Downtown Square; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Enterprise, Farmers Market; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center; Heflin, Tom and Rebecca’s Park.

Huntsville, Constitution Village (April 2 & 9 only); Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 16 & 23 only); Mobile, Cathedral Basilica; Montgomery; Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Mooresville Post Office; Pell City, Public Library (April 9, 16, 23 & 30); Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Shelby, Iron Works Park; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

The tours are being coordinated by Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department.  “Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours.  These walking tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather and find out about the history of our state.  We have done more than 2,000 walking tours since the beginning of the program thirteen years ago and they keep increasing in popularity every year,” Jones said.

More information about the April Walking Tours is available on the Alabama Tourism Department website at

Alabama Tourism Workshop April 27

The Alabama Tourism Department will host the semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wed., April 27.  This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area. 

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

April 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30            April Walking Tours

April 27                                   Alabama Tourism Department Workshop                  Montgomery



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