Tourism Tuesdays October 18, 2016

  • Alabama Music Hall of Fame puts spotlight on star players.
  • Travel South International Showcase deadlines
  • Campaign with UK tea company a success
  • Italian tour company plans motorcycle tour through Alabama
  • Support Alabama State Parks
  • USA TODAY features 10 mysterious and marvelous places to explore – including one in Alabama
  • Haunted Tuscaloosa Tours highlight spooky sites
  • Alabamian to compete on “Top Chef”
  • Climb Aboard a Coast Guard Cutter at GulfQuest
  • “Mustang Sally” contest honors iconic Wilson Pickett song
  • Tuned in: Donica Knight on TV’s ‘American Supergroup’
  • 2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Alabama Music Hall of Fame puts spotlight on star players.

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is set to begin a new rotating exhibit featuring star players from Alabama.  The display will be located in the lobby and feature biographical information along with pictures and memorabilia about the current achiever being honored.

The display will rotate every three months.  In addition to the exhibit, a special interview will be conducted by Sherry St. John-Clark, from Kix 96, with questions from the public, and be made available online during the three months honoring the individual.  The first exhibit will open Nov. 1, at 6:30 p.m. and will spotlight Kerry Gilbert, a long time fixture in the North Alabama music scene.

Gilbert has been involved with Alabama music for decades dating back to the 1980s and has enjoyed great success with groups such as Mountain Breeze, and his own group, the Kerry Gilbert Band, formed in 1992.  With this band, Gilbert has shared the stage with such greats as George Jones, Marty Stuart, Tammy Wynette, and Billy Joe Royal, among many others. Gilbert is a veteran of the regional fair and festival circuits, but spends much of his time singing at nursing homes and for hospice patients.  He won the 2014 Citizen of the Year award in Franklin County for his devotion to the community, which includes raising awareness for the Roxy Theatre, a historic venue for the arts in Russellville, that was built in 1949.

This event is free to the public and will start at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. 

For more information, call 256-381-4417.


Travel South International Showcase deadlines

The Travel South International Showcase is Nov. 28-30.  Reminders to those attending. 

  1. Hotel room block ends Oct. 28, so please make sure your hotel room is booked. 
  2. One person from each booth is responsible for booking appointments. Deadline is Oct. 28.
  3. Travel South USA is a “brochures only” International Showcase.  No banners, backdrops, pop-ups, exhibits, posters, electrical, audio visuals or similar decorations are permitted in the booth.  No table-top displays or custom draperies (including table) may be used.  You may bring a laptop computer or tablet but it must be battery operated.
  4. Dress for the International Showcase Marketplace floor is professional business attire. Comfortable shoes are a necessity.  The attire for evening events is casual.
  5. Arrive early enough to attend the supplier workshop and networking reception on Monday, Nov. 28, from 2-5 p.m. in Ballroom D from 2-4 p.m.  Travel South USA is bringing together five industry experts to talk about what Southern travel suppliers can do to balance their international marketing efforts and to understand developments that are happening in specific regions of the globe: Asia, Europe, and Latin America.  Panelists are; Andria Godfrey – Georgia Dept. of Economic Development, Tourism Division, Peter Hannaford – Five A Marketing, Alina Xiang – East West Marketing Group, Geoffrey Hutton – Kent Marketing, Gisela Martins Perez – River Global, and Chris Adams – Miles Partnership.
  6. Travel South will charge $50 for any name changes occurring after Friday, Oct. 30.

For more information, contact or


Campaign with UK tea company a success

A campaign in the UK has just ended in which Alabama Tourism was promoted using a very English tradition; tea.  Results from the brand affinity campaign with Whittards Tea of Chelsea show that the June to September campaign had a total reach of 518,448 consumers.  Marketing efforts included a homepage pop up banner, blog homepage, landing page, contest entry page, three e-newsletters, five Facebook posts, four Twitter posts and one Instagram posting.  Della Tully of the UK office has also obtained the details of 8,409 consumers via an opt-in entry for an Alabama vacation for marketing uses.  “This was a very successful campaign bringing Alabama to an audience previously unaware of the state’s attractions,” said Tully.

America As You Like It, one of the UK tour operators who carry significant Alabama product helped sponsor a prize vacation to Alabama for two adults.

For more information, contact: 


Italian tour company plans motorcycle tour through Alabama

This tour, in part, is a result of Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department meeting with Andrea Alessandreilli during the Travel South 2015 Sales Mission to Italy at a time when the company was just starting their Go America brand.  Alessandreilli plans and escorts motorcycle tours around the world for Go World and its brands that include Go Biker, Travel for Fans, and Go America.

The Italian tour company Go World is advertising a 14-day tour of the southern USA “Music Road” motorcycle tour that includes Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and The Shoals.

The tour is scheduled for Dec. 27–Jan. 8.   Andrea Alessandrelli of Go World company will escort the tour that focuses on music and history of America’s South.

On day three of the tour, the group of motorcyclists will travel from New Orleans to Montgomery, traveling through Mobile. The tour company proclaims that “Montgomery is one of the most important Historic Cities in America.” Montgomery’s historical highlights include museums dedicated to Rosa Parks, Hank Williams and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald as well as the Dexter Ave. King Memorial Church and the first Capitol of the Confederacy.

On day four of the tour, the group will head to Birmingham where they have the choice of the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame or the Barber Motorsports Park with the largest motorcycle collection in the world.

On day five the group will head to Florence/Muscle Shoals to visit the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, among other sites.  The studio was born in 1969 when four musicians, members of the rhythm section of the then renowned Swampers, founded for the first time, their own studios. Soon the word spread and many famous names went to record their albums at The Muscle Shoals Studios, like the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Cher, Paul Simon and Rod Stewart.”

For more information: contact


Support Alabama State Parks

Show your support for Alabama’s State Parks by voting “Yes” to Statewide Amendment 2 on Nov. 8. This amendment, if passed, will ensure revenues generated by our state parks will be used to maintain facilities and improve amenities by preventing the transfer of the Parks System’s revenue to the General Fund. 


Your support of Amendment 2 will provide our parks with a stable source of funding so all Alabamians can enjoy the natural beauty of our state for years to come.

To learn more about Amendment 2, click here.



USA TODAY features 10 mysterious and marvelous places to explore – including one in Alabama

By Larry Bleiberg, USA TODAY, Oct. 14

“While the globe can sometimes seem predictable and packaged, it’s still full of strange and unimaginable places,” says Dylan Thuras, co-author of the new book Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders (Workman, $35), based on the popular website “The world is actually still huge and marvelous,” he says.


If you’ve ever left a jacket or an iPad on a flight, it might just end up for sale at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Ala.

To read this article online, go to:

Haunted Tuscaloosa Tours highlight spooky sites

By Angel Coker,, Oct. 16

According to some accounts, people have reported a fire in the tower of the Drish House — a historic Tuscaloosa house built in 1837 by Dr. John R. Drish.

But there were never any fires.

Legend has it that the house, which over the years has served as multiple businesses and a church but now is a renovated venue, is haunted.

Drish died in 1867. It is said that his wife kept the candles from his funeral, directing them to be used at her own funeral. When she died in 1884, the candles couldn’t be found.

People have reportedly seen the lit candles and the wife, Sarah Drish, in the tower.

Current owner of the Drish, Nika McCool, said a security guard saw the woman in the towers a few weeks ago during an event.  No one is allowed in the towers, she said.

“I haven’t seen her,” McCool said.  “People occasionally see her.”

It’s these kinds of stories that tourists can hear on the new Haunted Tuscaloosa Tours hosted by the Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group and the Drish House.

The hour-and-a-half-long tours have all sold out, but paranormal investigator and tour guide Laura Lineberry said more tours could possibly be added.

“We’ve had to double the tours.  It has been ridiculous as far as success.  It has exceeded our expectations two-fold,” Lineberry said.  “The worst part about this is not being able to accommodate everyone who wants to do it.”

The group uses a black trolley to take tourists around the city to drive by multiple “haunted” locations — the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion, the Battle Friedman House, the Old Tavern, Capitol Park, Bama Theatre and the University Club.

The bus stops for quick walking tours of three other locations — the Drish House, Greenwood Cemetery, and the University of Alabama, which includes Smith Hall, Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, the Litte Round House, the Gorgas House, Allen Bales Theatre and Woods Quad.

“At each location, we tell a little bit of history, and then we tell the ghost stories,” Lineberry said, adding that this is not a scary tour with people jumping from behind bushes.

The ghost stories are derived from David Higdon’s book “Haunted Tuscaloosa,” which includes stories backed up by multiple accounts from witnesses that have experienced first-hand hauntings, Lineberry said.

She said other cities around the Southeast, like Savannah, New Orleans and Selma, have tours like this, and “(Tuscaloosa) has just as much to offer.”

This tour is the first of its kind in Tuscaloosa, with the exception of a group of university students hosting a one-night tour in 2008 as a project.

Lineberry said the group hopes to continue to share the haunted history of Tuscaloosa in Octobers to come with additions like street characters in costume and more tours.

For more information about the tours and to check for future dates, visit

To read this article online, go to:


Alabamian to compete on “Top Chef”

Montgomery chef Jim Smith has been chosen as one of the eight new finalists for the 14th season of “Top Chef” on the Bravo network.

Smith, Executive Chef of the State of Alabama and chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, will compete not only against seven other new finalists but eight of the favorite chefs who didn’t win in past seasons.

The 16 “cheftestants” will vie for the title of Top Chef and the $125,000 grand prize, beginning with the season premiere at 9 p.m. on Dec. 1.

The other seven new chef contestants are: Annie Pettry from Louisville, Kentucky; BJ Smith from Portland, Oregon; Emily Hahn from Charleston, South Carolina; Gerald Sombright from Marco Island, Florida; Jamie Lynch from Charlotte, North Carolina; Silvia Barban from Brooklyn, New York and Sylva Senat from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The eight chefs from past seasons will be revealed slowly, beginning with hints on “Top Chef’s” Facebook and Instagram pages.

Smith not only is personal chef to Alabama’s governor, but has been an ambassador of food to promote farmers’ markets and events that support Alabama food products. He has placed an emphasis on using the best local ingredients and has made strides to encourage the support of local farmers and Alabama fishers. He is also responsible for planning and preparing menus for events sponsored by the State.

In 2011, he was crowned the King of American Seafood by winning The Great American Seafood-Cook-Off and became the national spokesperson for Alabama Seafood, American Sustainable Seafood, Gulf Seafood and the NOAA. As the winner, he traveled the country educating Americans about the benefits of sustainable seafood.


Climb Aboard a Coast Guard Cutter at GulfQuest

It’s a celebration of 100 years of distinguished aviation service in the making – the Coast Guard Aviation Centennial. In conjunction with the Mobile celebration of the 100-year anniversary of U.S. Coast Guard Aviation, three U.S. Coast Guard ships will visit the Port City, one of which will be docked at GulfQuest/National Maritime Museum for public tours.

The Decisive, a 201-foot medium endurance cutter, will arrive at GulfQuest on Oct. 27.  The vessel will be open for tours on Oct. 28 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and on Oct. 29 from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., during which time the ship’s crew will showcase many areas onboard, including the pilothouse, the forecastle with its large deck gun, the main living quarters, the dining facility and the fantail. The crew also plans to showcase the ship’s on-board helicopter and high-speed boats, which they use to disable drug traffickers on the open water.

The Decisive is known for executing the first seizure of a Soviet trawler for violating the newly-established 200-mile marine resource zone, seizing the F/V CONE, a Colombian fishing boat that was smuggling over 100 bales of marijuana with a street value of $31 million, assisting in recovery efforts following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and, most recently, playing a significant role in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the largest oil spill in American history.

“This is a great opportunity for the City of Mobile,” GulfQuest Executive Director Tony Zodrow said. “We have more than 900 active duty Coast Guard personnel, and many retired personnel who call the Port City home. Mobile is a “Coast Guard City”, so sponsoring the Decisive at GulfQuest and offering tours will help bring that title to life for our residents and visitors.”

Zodrow added that the Coast Guard Cutter’s visit is a perfect complement to the GulfQuest exhibit titled “Take the Helm,” a boat pilot simulator that allows visitors to captain one of six different vessels, including a Coast Guard Contender. “Part of our mission at GulfQuest is to provide experiences that bring visitors closer to the real maritime world. We do that with our interactive exhibits, but having a real vessel here for visitors to explore expands our mission that much more,” Zodrow said.  

The ship will depart October 30. Visit for more information.


“Mustang Sally” contest honors iconic Wilson Pickett song

By Russ Corey, TimesDaily, Oct. 17

Fans of one of the most well-known songs recorded in Muscle Shoals will be able to demonstrate the different ways they love “Mustang Sally” with a contest that will benefit the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Lawrence County resident Tommy Pettus told members of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board of Directors last year that he wanted to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Wilson Pickett’s version of the song recorded at FAME Recording Studios with an event involving the legendary Ford Mustang.

Entries may be submitted in four categories.

The first is for the sharpest Mustang where entrants can upload a photograph of their Ford Mustang.

The second is for Mustang Sally where the entrant uploads a photograph of themselves dressed as their version of Mustang Sally.

The third category is for solo artists or bands. They can upload a video of themselves or their band performing “Mustang Sally.”

The last category is an individual video or a video of a group of friends, family, dancing, having fun or acting out the “Mustang Sally” song.

Entries must go through Votdo, an online fundraising website. Submitting an entry is free, but once voting starts, each vote will cost $1, Pettus said.

“The main thing about the contest is, it crosses borders,” Pettus said. “We’re not calling necessarily on the same people who always donate to the hall of fame.”

Following the three-week entry period, Pettus said, comes a three-week online voting period.

Prizes for the top finishers are still being solicited, but the winner of the song category will win studio time at FAME Recording Studios. 

Tim Butler, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of North Alabama, said he’s hoping local businesses will respond and donate prizes to the contest.

Butler said students in his Integrated Marketing Communications class have taken the contest under their wing as a special project.

The students have created a Facebook page for the contest and registered the contest on Votdo, Butler said.

“We’re targeting the geography of north Alabama, but anyone can enter,” he said. “We decided to focus on the people who are the most interested.”

Pettus said there are Mustang car clubs all over the world and he hopes “Mustang Sally” fans will respond and participate in the contest.

“We’d like to have some international attention brought to the music of Muscle Shoals again with the contest,” Pettus said.

To enter, you must sign up on Votdo and follow the instructions.

Pettus said he hopes people are creative with their entries, then encourage friends and family to vote for their entries.

After expenses, he said the money will go to the hall of fame and to the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce to help promote Lawrence County. He said the county had to cut their budget by 45 percent due to losses in revenue caused by the closing of the International Paper plant.

To read this article online, go to:


Tuned in: Donica Knight on TV’s ‘American Supergroup’

By Shannon Heupel, Montgomery Advertiser, Oct. 12

The River Region has yet another singer and songwriter making the national spotlight. Donica Knight of Millbrook has earned a spot on a new televised music competition, “American Supergroup,” which is filming in Nashville.

The premiere was Tuesday on the POP network. I had a chance to talk with her early Wednesday after that, when she was just getting her morning coffee. “It’s a ritual I’ve got to do, or my legs don’t start moving and grooving like I want them to,” she said with a laugh.

She said watching Tuesday night’s episode was really exciting. “Our hearts were racing because we didn’t know what it was going to look like, what they’re going to piece together about you,” said Knight. “That was really interesting to see how they edited the footage that they’ve been shooting for months. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”

If you missed Tuesday’s premiere, there are a couple more chances to watch it. The show will air again on Thursday on MTV Live at 7 p.m. central, and MTV Classic on Friday at 6 p.m.  According to a release from the show, the series will run for nine weeks on all three networks, eight one-hour episodes and a 90-minute finale.

Knight said she’s been a fan of music competition shows for a while, but that American Supergroup has something extra special. “It encompasses a band, and it’s about musicianship,” she said. “Apparently they auditioned, the number I heard was 17,000, through online submissions and in person. To be one of a huge number, it just blows my mind that they would select me.”

The show auditioned people who specialize in different parts of a band – vocals, guitar, bass, drum, keyboard. From there, Knight said they narrowed down the competitors. “I’ve been real lucky to be working with some of the best of the best that are on this show being formed into bands,” said Knight.  “Nobody on this show is green. Everybody has paid their dues.”

She said every week on the show will be a little bit different. “This first episode was auditions, so you get to see a lot of the people who are trying out to be a part of the show, and see who is going to be on the show along with your friend Donica,” she said. “It’s going to be really exciting.”

After being part of a band for the past six years, Knight knows a lot about what it takes to bond a group of talented individuals together. “There’s got to be a certain love that’s being formed,” she said.

She’s looking forward to the chance to write songs on the show. “The songwriters that they’re bringing in are people that I’ve always dreamed about writing with,” she said.

Knight said she was blown away when she found out who the judges were: pop/soul artist Aloe Blacc, rock/blues artist Elle King, country superstar Jennifer Nettles and classic rock icon Jason Scheff, lead singer/bass player for Chicago.

“Once the five bands are formed, it’s up to America to vote for whose band you like the most,” said Knight. “When we get to that process, I’d love all my friends and family, and especially our state to back me up and help me represent Alabama. Let’s see how far our state can go.”

Knight thanked all her fans for their support and allowing her to be where she is now. “I know that my hometown has been supporting me,” she said.

This is proving to be a pretty awesome year for Knight, who released her EP “Can’t Buy A Southern Girl” in March. “It’s my first record that I wrote all the songs on it,” she said.

The music video for a song from that EP, “Acting Like A Lady,” has been announced as one of the official selections for the LA Femme Film Festival on Oct. 20-23 in Beverly Hills, California. The song was composed by Donica Knight, Jim Huff, Billy Alexander and Justin Flagg.

“That music video is the first one that I’ve been on the production side of,” said Knight.

Learn more about the show online at

To read this article online, go to:


2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat

Registration continues for the 2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat at the Sheraton in downtown Birmingham.  The event includes a new format.  Welcome Center employees will engage in a speed dating set up similar to National Tour Association and Travel South.  Industry partners will be stationary and get one on one time with each center and their employees. 

Dates for the retreat are Nov. 13-15.  

For registration forms, schedule of events and hotel information contact Patti Culp at: OR 334-271-0050.  

Sponsorships are still available. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to showcase your community with the devoted staff members who welcome our visitors to Sweet Home Alabama. 


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Oct. 24 – 25                            AL-TN-MS Rural Tourism Conference         Columbus, MS

Nov. 13 – 15                           Welcome Center Retreat                                Birmingham



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