Tourism Tuesdays May 17, 2016

  • Memorial Day celebrations across Alabama
  • Nominations for Alabama Tourism Awards deadline extended to June 3
  • 55th Anniversary Commemoration of Freedom Rides
  • Restoration of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios enters last stage
  • Florence joins the jet set
  • America’s Coolest Southern Towns –
  • ‘One of the crown jewels’ of downtown Montgomery sells, will become hotel
  • ‘Awards Chatter’ Podcast — Tom Hiddleston (‘I Saw the Light’ & ‘The Night Manager’)
  • Visit Mobile hires Tourism Ambassador Program Coordinator
  • Cave now open for exploration
  • Jerry Brown Pottery to reopen
  • Alabama Makers Market
  • Alabama Restaurant Week sign up in full swing
  • Former JSU professor writes book on Robert Trent Golf Trail
  • Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline June 30
  • There’s still time to take pretty outdoor pictures
  • Correction
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Memorial Day celebrations across Alabama

Family fun and live entertainment highlight Memorial Day celebrations across Alabama.  Events include everything from one of the Southeast’s largest hot air balloon festivals in Decatur to an outdoor symphony concert in Montgomery. 

Other celebrations include the Smith Lake Park Memorial Day Festival in Cullman, Bluegrass on the Plains in Auburn, the LuLu Palooza music event in Gulf Shores and Art on the Lake in Eclectic. Special Memorial Day tributes are planned at the American Village in Montevallo and at Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores. 

The Alabama Tourism Department suggests the following Memorial Day weekend events.  For a complete calendar of events listing see

Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Festival- Decatur

May 28-29 at Point Mallard Park.  This festival is one of the largest free hot air balloon gatherings in the Southeast, featuring more than 60 balloons with races, key grab, tether rides and a balloon glow.  Free admission.

Smith Lake Park Memorial Day Festival- Cullman

May 28 at Smith Lake Park.  Live entertainment, arts & crafts and food vendors are part of this annual event on the lake.  Free admission.

Memorial Day at the American Village- Montevallo

May 30 at the American Village. Events include musical tributes, historical reenactments, wreath laying ceremonies and special tours. Visitors can experience the National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor.  Admission is $5; free to veterans and active military.

Montgomery Symphony Jubilee Pops Concert- Montgomery

May 27 on the lawn of the Alabama Archives and History Building across from the Alabama State Capitol in downtown Montgomery. Picnic baskets, coolers, lawn chairs and blankets are welcome at this outdoor concert.  Free Admission.

Art on the Lake- Eclectic

May 28-29 at Children’s Harbor on Lake Martin.  More than 40 artists from across the Southeast will be on hand to display and sell their artwork.  Canvas art, pottery, jewelry, rock work and more. Free Admission.

Bluegrass On The Plains- Auburn

May 30-June 5 at the University Station RV Resort in Auburn. This annual festival includes all-star bluegrass bands, arts & crafts and horse rides.  Admission charged.

 LuLu Palooza- Gulf Shores

May 28 at LuLu’s at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores.  Live music all day on the outdoor boat stage.  Lucy Buffett will also be on hand signing copies of her book LuLu’s KitchenA Taste of the Gulf Coast Good  Free Admission.

 Memorial Day Tribute- Gulf Shores

May 28 at Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores.  Historical interpreters dressed in U.S. Army uniforms from different eras will conduct special guided tours and give demonstrations throughout the day.  Artillery, small arms and other presentations will give visitors a glimpse of what military life was like at Fort Morgan through history.  Admission Charged.


Nominations for Alabama Tourism Awards deadline extended to June 3

Deadline for nominations for the Alabama Tourism Awards have been extended to Friday, June 3.  Award categories include:  Attraction of the Year, Event of the Year, Organization of the Year, Welcome Center of the Year, Tourism Executive, Government Advocate, Media Advocate, Tourism Partnership, Rising Star, Themed Campaign, Governor’s Award and the Tourism Hall of Fame.

Please submit nominations to Cynthia Flowers via email at or mail to Alabama Tourism Department, Attention Cynthia Flowers, P.O. Box 4927, Montgomery, AL 36103. 

Awards will be presented at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism on Aug. 22 in Orange Beach.


55th Anniversary Commemoration of Freedom Rides

Fifty-five years later, to the hour, Freedom Riders are returning to Montgomery’s former Greyhound Bus Station.

In 1961, they stepped off a bus at 10:23 a.m., aiming to end the illegal practice of forbidding black and white citizens from sitting together on buses and trains, or in stations and airports. They were attacked and beaten by an angry, police-sanctioned mob.

On May 20-21, Freedom Riders from all over the nation will gather at the former bus station at 210 South Court Street in Montgomery at 10:15 a.m. to join the Alabama Historical Commission in commemorating the 55th anniversary of the Freedom Rides.

Please visit to download a schedule of events and view the special anniversary website. Also find the museum on Facebook.

Museum Contact: Dorothy Walker, Site Director,, 334-414-8647            

Alabama Historical Commission Contact: Jacqulyn Kirkland, Marketing & PR Manager,, 334-230-2690


Restoration of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios enters last stage
By Robert Palmer,, May 3

The restoration of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios is nearing its end with the installation of a vintage recording console. Once it is wired in and brought back to working order, a decision will be made about when to open the historic studio.

“We are still working out details on a grand opening date and how the studio will be operated,” said Judy Hood, chairwoman of the nonprofit Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, which owns the studio.

Money for the restoration was provided by Beats by Dr. Dre, which now is owned by Apple.

“One thing we don’t want to do is rush into an operating model without very careful consideration,” Hood said. “This studio is a gem, and we want to use it to its fullest potential to preserve the legacy of Muscle Shoals music.”

For now, the foundation is considering a working model like that of Sun Studio in Memphis, which is a museum by day and a working studio by night.

The interior and exterior restoration is complete, which includes a new roof. Now, some more wiring is needed to install the API recording console in the control room, and to install speakers. The console originally was in RCA Studio B in Nashville, in the early 1970s, and later was in Chet Atkins’ home studio.

“It’s just a matter of getting it operational,” said Michael Cronin, an acoustician who is making sure the studio retains its original sound. “It is a beautiful API board. That’s the era we were looking to restore, the 1969-71 era.”

Muscle Shoals Sound Studios operated at the 3614 Jackson Highway location from 1969 until 1978, when it relocated to Alabama Avenue on the Tennessee River. It was sold to Malaco Records, of Jackson, Mississippi, in the mid-1980s.

Among the artists to record there with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were Cher, Paul Simon, the Staple Singers, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Bob Seger and Linda Ronstadt. The Rolling Stones recorded “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” there in 1969, and Lynyrd Skynyrd worked there, as well.

“Everybody who loves Muscle Shoals music owes an enormous debt to filmmakers Stephen Badger and Freddie Camalier for their documentary,” said Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Office.

The 2013 movie “Muscle Shoals” revived interest in the area’s music heritage, and drew attention to the new artists emerging from the Shoals.

“The financial support from Beats is a direct result of their film,” Sentell said.

Dr. Dre’s partner in Beats, legendary record producer Jimmy Iovine, said preserving the studio is important.

“Magic is a word that’s too often misused in the record industry,” he said. “Muscle Shoals is different. It’s one of those rare places where it really exists. Anytime you can capture such a distinct and authentic sound over and over again — that’s something worth preserving.”

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section — Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson — owned the studio. They got their start working for Rick Hall at FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, and with Atlantic Records vice president and producer Jerry Wexler.

Though closed since last September, people still come from all over the world to see the studio. The lobby is open, and merchandise is available there. During the time it was open for tours, beginning in March 2014, 29,000 people from 42 countries visited the studio, even though there virtually was nothing in it, Hood said.

“We are still a couple of months away from an official grand opening date,” Hood said. “We will have a private gala prior to the grand opening that will be a fundraiser for the nonprofit foundation.

“Many people have offered us substantial donations in exchange for the chance to be among the first to get a ‘sneak peek,’ ” she said. “This fundraiser has the potential to raise some significant funding that can be used for studio operations and educational outreach.”

To read this article online, go to:


Florence joins the jet set

By Robert Palmer,, May 12

The largest city in the Shoals has caught the attention of the jet set.

An article in the latest issue of Jetsetter magazine places Florence third on a list of nine small southern towns to visit.  It cites the presence of designer Billy Reid, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Rosenbaum house, and the Muscle Shoals music business as reasons to visit the Tennessee River city.

Among other cities on the list are Oxford, Mississippi, and Monroeville, home of Pulitzer Prize-winner Harper Lee.

“This, as we like to call it in tourism, is free ink,” said Rob Carnegie, director of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism.  “No matter the source, it continues to strengthen our brand around the globe.”

Carnegie said the appeal of Muscle Shoals music, both past and present, is an important draw for visitors.

“Visitors I talk to are surprised, taken aback, by the music history and legacy that lives here,” he said.  “What happened here in the early days, and what continues to happen, whether it’s studios that offer tours or recent developments like Jimmy Nutt recording a Grammy-winning record in his studio, it brings an excitement into this area.”

Florence has invested in its downtown through the years with sidewalk landscaping and other amenities that ultimately spurred private investment in retail and restaurants.

“Public improvement such as trees, flowers, bicycle racks and benches make people want to come downtown and shop,” said Dick Jordan, president of the City Council. His district includes much of the downtown area.

“People get a good feeling and a good experience when they come downtown,” he said. “Ten years ago, you could shoot a cannon down the street and you wouldn’t hit anybody on a Saturday.”

Debbie Wilson, of the Alabama Tourism Office, and a former director of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, said Florence has become a guidepost for other cities looking to revitalize their downtown districts.

“A lot of other cities come in and use Florence as an example of what to do,” she said. “It seems there is a new restaurant every time I’m in town, and really good ones.”

Music remains the strongest calling card for visitors, especially after the release in 2013 of the documentary movie “Muscle Shoals.”

“Music tourism will get another major boost when we reopen 3614 Jackson Highway (Muscle Shoals Sound Studios) this summer,” said Judy Hood, chairwoman of the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, which owns the iconic studio.

The foundation is using a grant from Beats by Dr. Dre to restore it.

“We’ve been bombarded with questions from people who want to visit the studio or record there,” she said.

Hood, who also is a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame board, said in the past two years, 31,000 people from 42 countries and all 50 states have visited 3614 Jackson Highway, FAME Recording Studios and the hall of fame.

She said a new music attraction will open soon in downtown Florence.

“Marty Abroms and Bill Lyons will be making a major announcement in a couple of weeks about the Shoals Gold Record Room, which they designed in the lobby of the Suntrust Bank building,” Hood said. “It will be a top shelf tribute to the local music scene and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.”

To read this article online, go to:


America’s Coolest Southern Towns –

Oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, architecture straight out of Gone with the Wind, soulful bluegrass, and food that doesn’t skimp on butter—that’s what we call Southern Comfort. Simultaneously sweet and a little bad ass, check out our top towns.

There’s a reason fashion designer Billy Reid set up his headquarters in Florence – and it’s not just because the town is part of the Americana Music Triangle (the iconic FAME studios, home to Muscle Shoals is right across the river). It’s also because of the town’s creative DIY spirit and design-forward ethos. Start at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House for a primer on the architect’s Usonian house concept, then head to lunch at local favorite, Trowbridge’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Bar (try the Babysitter – hot dogs with chili and mustard on white-bread toast.). After perusing the one-off boutiques downtown, head to the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa for a deep tissue massage. It’s just what you’ll need before dinner at City Hardware– the place for Southern fare, like crawfish and andouille pasta and blackened catfish over parmesan grits.

To read the entire article online, go to:


‘One of the crown jewels’ of downtown Montgomery sells, will become hotel

By Erin Edgermon,, May 11

The 80,000-square-foot Bishop-Parker Building in downtown Montgomery has sold to a Georgia hospitality company, which plans to turn the structure into a four-story hotel.

The 109-year-old Bishop-Parker Building at 157 Coosa St. is located directly across from Riverwalk Stadium and within walking distance of the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Convention Center, the Alley Entertainment District, the Riverwalk Amphitheatre and City Hall.

The building sold to Ascent Hospitality for an undisclosed amount, commercial real estate firm JLL announced.

“The Bishop-Parker Building is a significant redevelopment opportunity, and we are excited about what this transaction means for Downtown Montgomery,” Carter Burwell, JLL vice president said.

According to the firm, the building is “one of the crown jewels of the Riverfront and is in excellent condition.”

Bishop-Parker plans to relocate its downtown store due to the sale.

The timeline for the renovations wasn’t released.

To read this article online, go to:


‘Awards Chatter’ Podcast — Tom Hiddleston (‘I Saw the Light’ & ‘The Night Manager’)

By Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter, May 14

“I just feel so lucky because I’ve always wanted to be in different kinds of things, to play different kinds of roles,” says the actor Tom Hiddleston as we sit down to record an episode of ‘Awards Chatter.’ At the moment, the 35-year-old Brit is not only living out that dream, but receiving major plaudits for the way in which he’s done so. For his portrayal of the iconic country music singer Hank Williams in the Sony Classics biopic I Saw the Light, he is the subject of Oscar buzz. For his performance as John Le Carre’s fictional spy Jonathan Pine in the AMC limited series The Night Manager, he is generating Emmy buzz. And for an hour, he discussed those projects, and his journey to them, on this podcast.

Hiddleston is, along with Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne, part of a generation of Brits educated at top universities – he graduated from Oxford and RADA – who have distinguished themselves on the stage, then done a blockbuster or two and then turned in awards-worthy work on both the big and small screens. Over the course of our conversation, he talks about how, as a student, he first crossed paths with Kenneth Branagh, whose confidence in him resulted in several breakthrough gigs across the media, including and especially the part of Thor in the Marvel Universe films Thor and The Avengers, “the biggest opportunity of my life.”

2011 proved to be “an extraordinary year in my life” for a number of reasons, he reflects, noting that four of his films were released within that year: Branagh’s Thor, Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (as F. Scott Fitzgerald) and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, a wide cross-section of films that helped people to appreciate his talent and versatility. (Midnight in Paris and War Horse received best picture Oscar nominations.)

Hiddleston has been no less impressive in the years since, building up a group of loyal fans who have been nicknamed “Hiddlestoners.” But in 2016, he has taken things to a new level by doing astounding vocal, physical, emotional and intellectual work for I Saw the Light (“simultaneously the most fulfilling, the most terrifying and the most challenging creative experience of my life”) and The Night Manager (“the most compelling piece of writing… [Pine] was my age, he had an elegant and diplomatic exterior, and behind that he was on fire”).

Meanwhile, he has become the subject of increasingly loud speculation that he may be called on to succeed Daniel Craig as James Bond – and his excellence as Pine in The Night Manager only added fuel to that fire. “I’m playing a former British soldier who becomes an agent for MI6 who does some very bad things for the greater good… and the world that that spy occupies is very seductive… but I do think they are different characters,” Hiddleston says. “I understand where the comparisons come from, and they’re enormously flattering, but I don’t think the position [of 007] is vacant, truthfully,” he says with a chuckle. “He’s James Bond, and until further notice there is no other.” (That being said, Hiddleston was seen this week in London meeting with Sam Mendes, director of the last two Bond films and the next one.)

To read this article online, go to:


Visit Mobile hires Tourism Ambassador Program coordinator

Visit Mobile is pleased to announce that Valerie Longa has assumed the coordination and facilitation of the inaugural Visit Mobile Tourism Ambassador Program.  The official program registration information is scheduled for release in the second week of June and the first Tourism Ambassador course is scheduled to begin in mid-July and wrap up in late August.  “I’m honored to be leading this new program for Visit Mobile!” says Longa.  “Empowering a large group of local citizens with the knowledge and experience to be a resource for visitors will greatly enhance our tourism industry.”

Longa is passionate about the outdoors, stewardship, and the culture of our local community. She earned a B.A. in Integrated Communications from Spring Hill College in 2008. In 2012, she was recognized as one of Coastal Alabama’s Best and Brightest Twenty Somethings for initiating the Eco-Team, a volunteer-led event recycling initiative that has worked with several major events.

In addition to working with Visit Mobile, Valerie works as a Nature Guide with Delta Safaris guiding boat tours and kayak trips throughout the Mobile Tensaw Delta.  “Valerie’s guiding experience really gives her a unique perspective for facilitating this program.” says Al Hutchinson, CEO/President of Visit Mobile.  “Her direct contact with visitors as a trusted guide provides a 360 degree understanding of how we need to structure this program to best teach future volunteers, guides and ambassadors as well as meet the needs of tourists.” From her previous work with the regional ocean group, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and locally with the Downtown Mobile Alliance, her knowledge of the area will be greatly utilized in creating the new Tourism Ambassador Program. Valerie enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, and outdoor adventures.


Cave now open for exploration

By David Haynes,, May issue

The numerous limestone caverns of Jackson County in northeast Alabama make this area one of the top destinations in the world for spelunking enthusiasts. Cave explorers often endure the discomforts of wet and cold underground chambers, tight passageways and near total darkness in exchange for the thrill of experiencing the majestic and magical grottos they find below.

But Stephens Gap Cave near Woodville is the exception to that rule. This spectacular 143-foot vertical pit cavern has two entrances, one of which allows visitors to shimmy down a side opening that’s large enough to illuminate the interior without the need to carry additional lighting, allowing even novice explorers to experience a cave without the usual investment in specialized gear and training.

The Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve, operated by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCC), now offers an online permitting system that allows admission-free access to anyone who wants to visit.

Tom Whitehurst, one of three preserve managers for Stephens Gap, explains that the SCC acquired the 78 acres that includes the cave following almost a decade of negotiations with the property owner, Nancy Callahan, for whom the preserve is partially named. The Callahan property was purchased in the fall of 2014, but because it was landlocked, the group also purchased another 45 acres that includes the one-mile access trail and parking area.

Previously, anyone wanting to visit the cave had to obtain hit-or-miss verbal permission and the property was not accessible during hunting seasons. Now it is open year-round.

Today, those wanting to visit this unique cave can obtain a permit online by visiting the SCC website at and following the links to obtain necessary forms.

These include a clean caving questionnaire and liability release form that each visitor must fill out and sign (plus a parental consent form if any visitors are under the age of 19). Once completed, the forms can be emailed back to the SCC, which after review will issue a permit that is then emailed back to be printed out by the applicant. The printed permit is placed in the rear window of the visitor vehicle or vehicles on the scheduled day of the visit. There is no charge for the service.

During the first year of the new permitting system, February 2015 to February 2016, more than 1,100 visitors explored the cave with approximately 200 permits issued, Whitehurst says.

A pair of spelunkers from the Huntsville area first discovered Stephens Gap in the 1950s, although it was likely known to locals long before that. Beginning in the 1960s the cave saw increased visits from cavers as vertical rappelling techniques and equipment improved and its popularity grew by mostly word-of-mouth.

Today a visit begins at the parking area off Alabama Highway 35. From there, the trail leads upward to the two main openings for the cave. Once at the cave, the 20-foot-diameter vertical opening – which requires rappelling gear and expertise to descend – will likely have a waterfall careening down its face if there has been any recent rainfall. To the left and downhill from the vertical shaft is the larger side-shaft entrance. Entering this way requires climbing down a steep 200-foot incline over large boulders. The opening itself is probably 25-30 feet wide and provides ample light inside the cave to see during daylight hours.

Once inside, the visitor is at the midpoint of the vertical pit and can see a ledge extending back toward the main shaft.

A large pedestal rock is situated just off this horizontal ledge that was the setting for at least one wedding ceremony in recent years. If the waterfall is running, it cascades down the far side of the vertical shaft and the entire cavern echoes with the sounds of crashing water.

Because the waterfalls often create misty or hazy conditions inside, sunbeams are transformed into magical shafts of light illuminating the interior in various directions depending on the time of year and time of day, ensuring that no two days inside this cave will look exactly the same for a visitor.

Whitehurst cautions, however, that although the cave and the trail to it are now open to the public, it remains in its “wild and natural state.” This means no guard rails or other safety provisions are present. The trail from the parking lot follows a stream bed and gets progressively steeper as visitors near the cave, with many rocky steps and ledges where footing can be treacherous, especially after a rain. A slip near the vertical shaft opening of the cave could be fatal as its depth is approximately 12 stories.

In fact, there have been fatalities at the cave. The most recent was in September 2015 when an 18-year-old man slipped off a mid-cave ledge and fell 45-50 feet to his death.

Whitehurst says the SCC is continuing to make improvements to the property with emphasis now on the parking area.

He says the caving community and visitors alike have been generous with donations to help offset the $150,000 needed to properly operate and maintain the Preserve. One way that has proven popular among donors is to “buy” a piece of the cave (one-foot-wide strips of the entry portals, for example). Each donor will have his or her name shown permanently on the entrance map for the sliver of the cave they “buy.” These range from $50-$100 each. Other pricier options allow donors to “buy” a feature of the cave, having their name placed on the map adjacent that feature.

To read this article online, go to:


Jerry Brown Pottery to reopen  

Family members keep turning potter wheel and will operate as Brown’s Pottery and Sons.

On March 4, the tourism industry of North Alabama lost one of its beloved icons, ninth-generation potter Jerry Brown.  In business since 1982, Jerry Brown Pottery is a top destination for tourists with people traveling from all across the United States to see his masterpieces, his mule Blue, and the primitive groundhog kiln, which is considered to be the only operating mule-powered mill in the United States. Since his untimely death, there has been speculation as to the future of the business and the annual festival.  According to the Northwest Alabama Arts Council, the pottery shop is set to reopen this weekend and will operate as Brown’s Pottery and Sons.

Brown’s Pottery and Sons will feature the works of Jerry’s two sons, grandchildren and his wife, Sandra who worked side by side with her late husband for decades.  Raised and trained by Jerry Brown, Jeff “Bubba” Wilburn and “Big Jeff” Brown are recognized as 10th generation potters by the state arts council.  They will continue to dig the clay from their land, grind it, turn it and fire it, just as Jerry did for so many years.  According to Marla Minter with the Northwest Alabama Arts Council, the first batch of pottery will be ready for showing this weekend at the family shop.  “Jerry Brown was the only known potter in the United States still using a mule, Blue the Mule, to help him mill clay for his pottery and his family hopes to continue the tradition in his memory.  The first kiln following his death was fired this week and more than 100 items are now in the shop available for purchase with additional pottery to be made in the coming weeks,” said Minter.

Brown’s Pottery & Sons is located at 166 Boyett Drive in Hamilton.  Shop hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment only on Sunday.  For more information on Brown’s Pottery and Sons, visit

Dates and location have also been set for the 2017 Jerry Brown Arts Festival.  Hosted by the Northwest Alabama Arts Council, the highly acclaimed Jerry Brown Arts Festival, is set to return March 4-5, 2017, at the Tombigbee Electric Cooperative.  Registration is now open and artists and vendors are invited to participate in the 15th annual event.  For more information, visit or call 205.921.9483.  The festival honors Hamilton’s Jerry Brown, a ninth generation potter whose work can be found in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.  Brown was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship in 1992, as well as receiving numerous merit awards, and in 2003, he was awarded the Alabama Heritage Award from the Alabama Arts Council.


Alabama Makers Market

The Alabama Tourism Department is hosting its annual Alabama Makers Market on Thur., June 9, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Alabama Makers are being showcased in order for the owners/managers of Alabama Gift Shops to see firsthand the products created and crafted right here in Sweet Home Alabama. 

Meet with buyers from Alabama Gift Shops in order to wholesale product(s) to them. 

Makers need to register now for free booth space and owners/managers need to RSVP.

The market will be open to the public for retail sales as well.

To RSVP or register, contact Leigh Cross at:


Alabama Restaurant Week sign up in full swing

Restaurants are being asked to sign up for Alabama Restaurant Week 2016.  The sign-up period began May 9 and will run through July 29.  “We wait until after Mother’s Day to allow restaurants to get past their busiest day of the year before opening up registration,” said Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department.

Last year 196 restaurants participated in the promotion. 

Courtney Austin with the state tourism department will serve as special coordinator for Alabama Restaurant Week.  She will be assisting with sign-up and formatting entries.

Alabama Restaurant Week is a marketing event that highlights restaurants in the state.  This culinary event unites the state’s diverse range of cuisine into a 10-day event.  

Participating restaurants offer two-course lunch and/or three-course dinner offerings at an attractive set price.  A three-course dinner should include a starter, main course and dessert while the two-course lunch should include a main course and either a starter or dessert. Specialty restaurants with very limited menus may have pre-fixed meal offerings that are not multi-course.

There are no coupons or discount books to buy or bring. Just ask for an Alabama Restaurant Week meal at a participating restaurant during the promotion time period and enjoy.  With the promotion’s pre-set prices, you know before making your plans what your cost will be. 

Participating restaurants are listed on the website with exact meal offerings once they are known.  The Alabama Restaurant Week pricing is fixed at $10, $20 or $30 for dinner and $5, $10 or $15 for lunch.  In all cases, the price is per person and does not include tax, tip and drink.  Restaurants may offer a meal at all or just one of the preset prices.  A restaurant’s regular menu will also be available.

When is Alabama Restaurant Week?  Alabama Restaurant Week is set for Friday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 21.

Which Restaurants Can Participate in Alabama Restaurant Week?  To qualify for participation, a restaurant must be a locally owned and operated restaurant in Alabama and/or a restaurant in the state that is important to the Alabama tourism industry.  Most chain restaurants do not quality.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right to include or deny any restaurant.  A restaurant does not have to be featured in the popular “l00 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die” brochure to participate. 

How Many Different Meal Preset Prices Must a Restaurant Offer?  A restaurant may participate in all three preset prices for both lunch or dinner, or just one or any combination.  It is not necessary to participate in both lunch and dinner. 

What about a Restaurant’s Regular Menu?  In addition to the Alabama Restaurant Week meal listings, a restaurant should still use their regular menu. 

Is There a Cost to Participate?  The Alabama Tourism Department does not charge a fee. 

How does a restaurant sign up?  Go to  Restaurants that participated last year should click on the highlighted area that reads “Already a member?  Click here” and update their entry form, paying close attention to check the box that reads “I want to participate this year.”  Restaurants that have not participated before, should click on the highlighted area that reads “Sign up your Restaurant It’s quick and easy.”

Restaurants may register to participate and later put in their Alabama Restaurant Week special. 

The Alabama Tourism Department will send promotional material to restaurants that sign up.

Can a local restaurant week be conducted during Alabama Restaurant Week?  Yes, Chambers, Convention and Visitor Bureaus and other destination marketing organizations who conduct a local restaurant week during the same period and with the same guidelines are requested to let the Alabama Tourism Department know.

For more information, contact or


Former JSU professor writes book on Robert Trent Golf Trail
By Marie McBurnett, The Anniston Star, May 13

A former JSU professor this month published a book about the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and its link to Alabama’s public employees retirement system.

Mark Fagan said his book, “The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: Its History and Economic Impact,” is a way to preserve the history of the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s investment in the trail.

“This book is more about the economic, political and legal aspect and how a pension fund could invest to create economic development,” Fagan said.

The golf trail was the investment vision of RSA CEO David Bronner.

“He would tell you public pension money was used to finance the project,” Fagan said.

The RSA oversees four programs, including retirement plans for  educators, judicial workers and state employees, as well as the state’s teacher health insurance program.

The trail includes 26 courses across 11 sites in Alabama. One of them is the 25-year-old Silver Lakes Golf Course, outside the Calhoun County line in Etowah County.

Fagan graduated from JSU in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After receiving his doctorate in social work from the University of Alabama in 1981, he began his career at JSU as a professor. He served as department head of sociology and social work from 2002-12.

The book is available on the NewSouth Books website at for $125.

To read this article online, go to:


Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline June 30

It’s time to get your 2017 information in for the official annual Alabama Tourism Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events.  The deadline for submitting items for the printed version is June 30. 

Using the Alabama Tourism industry partners website will simplify entering and managing your events/attractions in the database at  Sign up for an account if you don’t already have one and then you will be able to create/update items for the Guide. 


For assistance please contact Pam Smith at 334-353-4541 or email at


There’s still time to take pretty outdoor 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.



The article, which ran last week, about a group with Travelling Time tour company that visited Alabama on a new GALA tour should have stated that the company is from Scotland in the UK – not Ireland.


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

June 9, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.          Alabama Makers Market                                            Montgomery

                                                RSA Activity Center, 201 Dexter Avenue, 36104

Aug. 20 – 23                           Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism            Orange Beach


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.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

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

Alabama Tourism Department