Tourism Tuesdays December 20, 2016

Vacation Guide & Calendar will soon be available

Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours draw more than 1,800 visitors

Fans gather at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for the debut of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Muscle Shoals has (still) got The Swampers: What music legends’ lives are like now

Bowl Season begins in Alabama

One Hot Bird

Alabama rail stations get federal funding for enhanced customer service

Southern Living wins magazine honors

New Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo preview

Fort Conde Inn in Mobile wins 2017 trivago award

Alabama’s Sonequa Martin-Green lands huge starring role on new CBS ‘Star Trek’ show

The Sun publishes story about family friendly Alabama destinations

CVB website named 2016 MarCom Award winner

Alabama Media Group donates massive photographic negative collection to The Alabama Department of Archives & History

Old Courthouse Museum to begin charging admission

City to consider selling Carnival Museum’s home to its operators

Vacation Guide & Calendar will soon be available

State tourism’s 2017 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events will be available at state welcome centers and most local tourism bureaus next week.  The 204-page magazine-size publication contains colorful photos and covers the state by geographic regions with an introduction section, a city-by-city listing of attractions and accommodations and profiles of the state’s major cities.  The calendar section lists more than more than 700 annual and special events from across the state. 

There are also features on the 25th anniversary of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, kid-friendly road trips, the state’s culinary scene, unique must-visit sites in the state, outdoor adventures and a listing of free smart phone apps from different tourism organizations across the state. 


Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours draw more than 1,800 visitors

More than 1,800 visitors toured the Governor’s Mansion during the three nights of the Christmas Candlelight Tours.  The tours were held during the first three Monday nights of December from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  

Governor’s Mansion gift shop manager Leigh Cross said the biggest selling items during the tour nights were Alabama-themed Christmas ornaments and food items including Lindsay Farm black-eyed peas salsa from Pike Road and Crown Mulling Spices from Birmingham.  The gift shop is located across the street from the mansion on Finley Avenue and specializes in carrying gift items produced in Alabama.

The interior design companies volunteering their time to decorate the mansion included Lynne Coker Interiors in Birmingham and Katherine Trantham Interior Design in Montgomery.  Performing at the tours were the Trinity Presbyterian Children’s Choir from Montgomery, Forest Avenue Academic Magnet Elementary School Choir from Montgomery, Albertville High Vocal Ease, Oxford Christian School Choir and Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Montgomery. did a special 24-photo slide-show presentation about the candlelight tours and the decorations at the governor’s mansion that can be viewed at:


Fans gather at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for the debut of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

By Chelsea Brentzel, WHNT 19 News, Dec. 15

Extra security was at the Space and Rocket Center Thursday night.

The theater was packed for the first two showings of the newest Star Wars movie Rogue One.

Star Wars fans weren’t just excited about the movie but also the unique viewing experience.  Huntsville is one of eight places in the world where you can view this film on 70mm film in an IMAX dome.

A lot of work went into the Rogue One showings at the IMAX Spacedome in Huntsville. “To build the print they don’t just come assembled.  They come in multiple boxes that we have to splice together.” said Becky Palmer, manager of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s theaters.

Becky Palmer and two others spent 12 hours putting the film together.  She said the finished product is something you just can’t beat.

“Beyond amazing.  It’s so much work but it’s worth every minute of it and it’s amazingly fun,” said Palmer.

While older Star Wars fans were ecstatic about the unique experience, younger ones were interested in a robotic guest at the viewing.

Wayne Neumaier says he’s wanted his own R2-D2 since he was eight years old. When the trailer for Episode VII came out, he researched how to build one. “He has about 108 sound effects,” said Neumaier.

Four months and a few thousand dollars later his childhood dream became reality.

“I kept mine pretty simple so he can move, he can turn his head, he can beep, and he can even play music at the same time,” said Neumaier.

If you weren’t able to make it Thursday, you can still have the same experience.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be shown at the Space and Rocket Center four times a day through February.

To read this article online, go to:


Muscle Shoals has (still) got The Swampers: What music legends’ lives are like now

By Matt Wake,, Dec. 19

The two 73-year-old men sitting in these orange, vintage swivel chairs might as well be retired farmers. The humility.

The down-to-earth-ness. The age-appropriate haircuts and pants.

Thanks to the sterling 2013 documentary film “Muscle Shoals” many more music fans know these men, bassist David Hood and guitarist Jimmy Johnson, are two of the most prolific and tasteful session musicians ever. Their combined discography traverses scorching R&B (Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” and Etta James’ “Tell Mama”), soothing soul (Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”), singer/songwriter hits (Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome”), blue-collar rock (Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”) and even reggae (Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo”).

“It was still a pretty good secret until the documentary came out, a lot of what we did,” Hood says. He’s wearing a deep purple sweater, gray jeans, dark boots and black eyeglass frames. His beard is gray and his hair tousled. “There were a lot of times where I could go anywhere and nobody knew who I was, and that was kind of fun. But I’m enjoying this and it’s been good for the music community here. People ask more intelligent questions now, after seeing the documentary.”

As part of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, which also featured musicians including drummer Roger Hawkins and keyboardists Barry Beckett and Spooner Oldham, Hood and Johnson were central characters in the “Muscle Shoals” film. As was their mentor, mustachioed Fame Studios impresario and producer Rick Hall.

Many a Southern rock fan have been shouting out the MSRS’ nickname, whether or not they knew it as such, for decades, singing along to the lyrics, “Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers/And they’ve been known to pick a song or two,” from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 smash, “Sweet Home Alabama.” “Nobody really knew who or what The Swampers were,” Johnson says. “And I think that movie brought that out and most people understand it now.” Today he’s clad in dark jeans, black sneakers, North Face fleece jacket and Muscle Shoals Sound cap. Denny Cordell, an English rock producer who worked with Joe Cocker and Leon Russell, bestowed The Swampers’ tag upon them. So do Hood and Johnson consider themselves Swampers or Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section members first and foremost? For Hood, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section “is still the name, but Swampers is a cool name and people like it.”

Johnson answers, “Both.” ( also requested interviews with Oldham and Hawkins for this story, but were told they were not available.)

On a recent sunny December afternoon, Hood and Johnson are seated inside Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the small, rectangular building where The Swampers recorded most of their work from 1969 to 1978. The two men grew up in the Shoals and were in the same Sheffield High School graduating class. Following the “Muscle Shoals” film release and subsequent critical success and fan sensation, the musicians would run into people they’d known their whole life, who had no idea their neighbors had been making music history. “And we didn’t try to keep it a secret,” Hood says. “but we also didn’t just advertise necessarily what we were doing because it’s a small studio here and the artists that would come work with us didn’t need interruptions and people hanging around.”

Superstars like Cher, Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound, which opened in 1969. Johnson, Hood, Beckett and Hawkins partnered with Atlantic Record exec Jerry Wexler to start the studio, after the MSRS had left Fame, where they were virtually the house band. As depicted in “Muscle Shoals,” this caused a rift with Hall. “The movie distorts the time a little bit,” Hood says, “because the movie is about the breakup of us leaving and all that and it looked like it was many, many years before we became friends again. But it really wasn’t that long. Probably about four or five years.” Johnson says, “We actually all admired Rick Hall a lot and were very happy he finally got his due. He had a very hard life.” In early adulthood, Hall’s father and wife both died within a short period of time.

Hood and Johnson each live in homes on the Tennessee River with their respective wives. They both have children, including musicians Patterson Hood, of underground rockers Drive-By Truckers, and Jay Johnson, who’s performed with Blackfoot and The Rossington Band. Grandchildren, too.

Spooner Oldham lives in Rogersville and Hawkins in Sheffield. Beckett died in 2009 at age 66 at his Hendersonville, Tenn. home from complications of a stroke, according to a New York Times obituary.

These days, music’s still played constantly at the Hood household. The bassist just purchased new CDs by Norah Jones and Rolling Stones and also listens to satellite radio “to hear what’s going on and stay current.” Aside from music, Hood enjoys boating and watching Formula One car racing. Johnson’s non-musical interests include sports, particularly college football. Since his brother attended Auburn University he cheers for the Tigers – although he also enjoys watching Ole Miss and University of Alabama games. Johnson doesn’t listen to a lot of music at home. That takes place more at his office/studio. “I’ve got several briefcases full of CDs of stuff that never came out and sometimes I’ll just go and listen to those things,” Johnson says. “There was an album (Jerry) Wexler did on Linda Ronstadt that never came out. I have one of those.”


In recent years, Johnson has focused increasingly on producing, working with acts like bluesy singer Wes Sheffield.

He’s also been playing guitar on some live dates with Muscle Shoals Revue, a large ensemble performing many of the hits The Swampers recorded. Hood’s past live experience included early-70s treks with Steve Winwood-led British jam-band Traffic. The last couple of years the bassist has toured with Irish/English rockers The Waterboys. “I did have some fun (on The Waterboys tour), but the first of August I fell and broke my wrist and so I had to stop. I couldn’t play for three months. I get emails from The Waterboys and they’re booking some festivals for next summer and I’m thinking, ‘Hmm, do I really want to go back to doing that again?’ Those long airplane flights and long waits in the airport are bad. But session playing I love. I’d like to do that as long as I’m alive.” In the past, Hood has joked he tours every 20 years – in the ’90s he worked in that capacity with blues singer Little Milton.

Besides the comfort from their vast session experience, Hood and Johnson love the creativity and newness of studio work. Hood recently tracked five songs with Gregg Allman’s guitarist and bandleader, Scott Sherrard. “And the day before that I did something else, and before that something else.” Johnson recalls Paul Simon as being one of the hardest working artists they ever recorded with. As many artists as Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section worked with, there are a handful of legends they never recorded with they would’ve loved to. These include Johnson’s guitar hero Chuck Berry. After hip-shaking singer Elvis Presley was wowed by the masterful playing on “I’ll Take You There,” Presley’s producer Felton Jarvis reached out to Muscle Shoals Sound about Elvis cutting an album with The Swampers. “And it got real exciting,” Johnson says. “And (Jarvis) said, ‘We’re going on a tour and when we come back off tour we’re going to take a break and then I’ll call you and we’ll set it up.’ He died. And so we missed out. That would have been a wonderful thing.” Hood would’ve loved to cut with R&B genius Ray Charles, whose music is one of the reasons he started playing bass, or any one of The Beatles. The Swampers’ recording philosophy was and remains simple, Hood says: “Our role has always been backup musicians for the artist. I’m not trying to think of hot licks or anything I’m just trying to think what will make the record the right thing.” Back in Muscle Shoals Sound’s golden years, The Swampers would typically sit in the same chairs in the same places on each session. Johnson, across from the drum booth and next to a table with one of the studio’s Fender Vibrolux amps on top, strumming a Telecaster, Strat or orange Gretsch 6120 guitar. Hood, to the left of the drum booth, plucking a Fender Jazz Bass.

After recent renovations, Muscle Shoals Sound’s interior appears much as it did in its prime. The tufted ceiling is done is wide green and gold stripes. Earth-tone carpet. Some guitars and amps. A Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano and black baby grand. The control room with recording console and analog tape machine is separated from the studio floor by big glass windows. Cinder block walls with alternating bands of gold, white, blue and orange. The double-eight-shaped white Styrofoam that dots the walls for sound treatment are repurposed packing materials for electricity meters.

There are isolation booths, for vocals, percussion and such, on either side of the door once you walk in. The one on the right is where Johnson put Keith Richard’s guitar amp during the Stones’ December 1969 session, during which the songs “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and “You Gotta Move” were recorded for the British rockers’ classic “Sticky Fingers” album. The biggest challenge Johnson, who was audio engineer on those sessions, remembers in recording the Stones was “the fact that Keith liked to play on ’10.’ Loud. And I couldn’t tell him to cut it down. I just didn’t have the desire or want to tell him that, but he was breaking my console up (distorting) on the front end and I was at the point I had already practiced my speech that was going to have to stop the session.” Luckily, Johnson found a Bump Box, a device lowering incoming signals, to cushion Richard’s ear-crushing volume before it hit the console. He used an RCA 77 DX ribbon microphone, a type often used on crooning singers, to record Keith’s guitar for “Brown Sugar.”

In January, Muscle Shoals Sound will be reopening for studio tours. Recording at the studio will be offered on a limited basis further into 2017, with projects being considered by application via email. More information about recording at Muscle Shoals Sound will be available in January, on, the website of Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization created in 2013 in an effort to purchase the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. (In 1978, The Swampers moved their studio to a larger Alabama Avenue location. Blues-rock duo Black Keys’ 2010 Grammy winning LP “Brothers” was the last well-known album to be recorded at the original Jackson Highway building.) Muscle Shoals Music Foundation executive director Bonnie Bak says, “We wanted to keep this historic studio in the Muscle Shoals Music family, to be used as a working analog studio as well as offer tours to the thousands of fans who make the pilgrimage to see the studio.” Only two months after purchasing the building, headphone company Beats Electronics contacted MSMF and offered to help restore the studio. After technology giant Apple purchased Beats in 2014, restoration slowed for a bit, but the funds eventually came through. Black and white vintage photo displays are now positioned throughout the studio, depicting musicians such as The Stones, Skynyrd, Stewart and Ronstadt recording here. Johnson points to a photograph of Wexler. “That was the man. He got where he would only come here to record. He was like a dad to us.” Of course, The Swampers also have some saved mementos at their homes, including gold records, personal photos (like Cher riding on Hood’s motorcycle) and the studio bathroom’s original toilet seat.

They’re both psyched about North Alabama’s musical renaissance this decade. Americana star and Greenhill native Jason Isbell. Athens rock ‘n’ soul band Alabama Shakes. Florence singer/songwriter John Paul White and his Single Lock Records stable of talented rising bands. “I was afraid that after we passed on that it would stop and it’s not going to stop now,” Hood says. “The seeds have been planted and now they’re sprouting. And there’s a lot of really young guys who haven’t happened yet but are going to happen and I’m proud of that.” 

To read this article online, go to:


Bowl Season begins in Alabama

By Alex Aubuchon, Alabama Public Radio, Dec. 16

While many college football fans will be leaving Alabama to follow the Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers to Georgia and Louisiana for their respective bowl games, there’s a lot more going on inside the state.

Alabama is hosting three bowl games in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham. The games are expected to increase tourism in the state for the month, which will bring lots of revenue to the three host cities.

Brian Jones, spokesman for the Alabama Tourism Department, says the exposure Alabama cities will get from these games is of great value.

“These are aired nationally, and usually with each of these bowl games, the cities themselves are going to have several commercials within the bowl games. And the bowl game itself, it’s just a great live commercial for the city.”

The 3rd annual Raycom Media Camellia Bowl between Appalachian State and Toledo was played in Montgomery this past weekend. Mobile will host the Dollar General Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Dec. 23, where Troy will face off against Ohio University. In its 11th year, the Birmingham Bowl will take place on Dec. 29, at Legion Field and will pit South Carolina against 25th-ranked South Florida.

To read this article online, go to:


One Hot Bird

FSR, December 2016

Ten years ago, with an already successful restaurant under his belt, Chris Hastings started envisioning a second, more casual operation—one that melded live-fire cooking, small plates, locally sourced products, and all things Alabama.

Fast-forward to October 2015 when Hastings and his wife, Idie, opened OvenBird, a casual-dining concept nestled in downtown Birmingham’s Pepper Place complex. OvenBird was the couple’s second restaurant; the first, Hot and Hot Fish Club, opened in 1995 as one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in the Southeast.

“Since day one our menu has been out of the box,” Chris Hastings says. “I have built a level of trust over 20 years, and if I say we’re going to eat octopus or blood sausage or goat, the community says, ‘We’re in.’”

Mingling the rustic with the refined, OvenBird serves guests all manner of proteins, which are grilled, braised, or roasted over wood fires in everything from custom-designed cast iron ovens to wheelbarrows. The restaurant specializes in slow, delicate cooking that creates unique flavors. As Chef Hastings points out, when cooking with wood, it’s imperative to take advantage of every opportunity to coax out those natural aromas.

From the beginning, OvenBird has sought to pay tribute to Birmingham in every way possible and Hastings also takes inspiration from this Magic City. For example, Sloss Furnaces—an iron-production company turned historical landmark—created a trade publication known as Pig Iron Rough Notes, featuring recipes like squirrel stews, vinaigrettes, and salads, as well as correspondences from hunting and fishing trips.

“When I came across the Pig Iron Rough Notes and the ‘Gentleman Cooks’ section in my research for OvenBird, I was blown away,” Chef Hastings says. “The correlation between our city’s history and OvenBird — the use of cast iron in live-fire cooking worldwide and its relationship to the outdoor experience — was instinctively familiar to me and spoke to the hope of OvenBird.”

But beyond this local focus, Hastings also pulls flavors and historic cooking techniques from Spain, Uruguay, Argentina, Italy, and Portugal. In fact, Hastings named the restaurant after an inhabitant of Argentina. The Spanish word hornero translates to “ovenbird.”

“The naming exercise is fairly challenging because it’s hard to come up with something that fits,” he says. “I started doing research by looking at flowers, fauna, rivers, and nature, and up comes the national bird of Argentina: the ovenbird. It builds a nest that resembles a wood-burning oven.”

As far as the pecking order at OvenBird, Chef Hastings, who was named 2012 James Beard Best Chef:South and beat out celebrity chef Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef,” says his wife is the boss. Trained as a pastry chef, Idie Hastings oversees bookkeeping and the staff for both restaurants.

“When you work with your spouse everyday, it’s important to understand your responsibilities and stay in your lane,” Hastings says. “Don’t dive into every ditch. Pick your battles.”

At OvenBird, which is open for dinner Monday through Saturday and brunch on Saturday, tickets average $45, while Hot and Hot Fish Club posts average checks closer to $75. The OvenBird menu showcases local and global fare with offerings including Alabama Shrimp and Clam Fideos, with aioli, chorizo, and sofrito for $13, or Vegetable Paella served with Spanish-style bomba rice, saffron, and chorizo aioli for $12. Bestsellers include dishes like Beef Fat Candle with sofrito, herbs, and jus for $10; and Braised Goat accompanied by a soft-poached egg and grits for $14.

The local connection is literally built into OvenBird as the owners worked with local metalsmiths, designers, and stonemasons to create an environment that would reflect the community and introduce out-of-towners to Birmingham. “Our relationship with craftsmen is an important [aspect] to tell the story of this place. If people are visiting from Tokyo, New York, or Paris, they are going to be informed about exactly where they are,” Chef Hastings says.

OvenBird also created its own signature beer with local craft brewer Back Forty Beer Company. Light and crisp, this IPA is served with pine needles ferreted out by local foragers and sells for $5 a glass. OvenBird’s beverages account for 30 percent of revenues. Craft cocktails range from $6 to $10, and the wine list includes varieties from Argentina, Chile, Italy, Spain, California, and Oregon.

The restaurant, which employs 45, can seat up to 150 people and averages 400 covers nightly. Food costs run a lean 28 percent, and Hastings explains 70 percent of a restaurant’s opportunity depends on the ability to manage food costs. “So many people fall in love with owning a restaurant, but they lose sight of the math,” he says. “You have to follow the money or you are out of business.”

To read this article online, go to:µsite=11981


Alabama rail stations get federal funding for enhanced customer service

By Paul Gattis,, Dec. 19

Four Alabama communities are among 11 across the southeast that will divvy up $2 million in federal grant money to improve customer service at passenger rail stations.

The Southern Rail Commission announced Monday that the grant money would be available for stations in Anniston, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Mobile as well as communities in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The four Alabama stations will receive a total of $728,957.   


The grants have been dedicated to the 11 communities “for station-area planning and construction projects that will ensure safe access and better connectivity to and from the station, improved convenience for riders, updated facilities and leveraged economic opportunity that comes with station redevelopment,” according to the announcement.

The projects at each Alabama station:

  • Anniston: $139,500 to reconstruct parking area and extend platform.
  • Birmingham: $150,000 for enhancements and construction of new multi-modal station.
  • Mobile: $125,000 for passenger rail station plan development, including a master plan and architectural design.
  • Tuscaloosa: $314,457 for new passenger rail station construction.

The new passenger rail station in Birmingham, part of a larger $32 million construction project that began in 2014, is scheduled to open in March 2017. 

To read this article online, go to:


Southern Living wins magazine honors

Birmingham-based Southern Living, along with The New Yorker, Oprah and Good Housekeeping, has been named by Advertising Age among its “magazines of the year.”

Despite the rocky publishing industry “one very bright spot” is Southern Living, which celebrated its 50th-anniversary year with its biggest-ever February issue. “Under Editor-in-Chief Sid Evans, the monthly has been striking the right balance between the charm of its print product and the metabolism of the web — particularly by investing in video (with 60 of its videos going viral on Facebook, with 1 million or more views). Under Publisher Ron King (who was promoted to a Time Inc. senior VP position in July, adding titles including InStyle and Essence to his purview), ad pages and revenue have grown 19% year-over-year.”


New Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo preview

By Pat Peterson, WKRG 5 News, Dec. 17

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo will open its new, 25-acre facility north of the Intracoastal Waterway on County Road 6 in Gulf Shores in the spring of 2018.

The current zoo is no longer big enough to accommodate the animals and the crowds. Plans to relocate and build a new zoo go back more than a decade when Hurricane Ivan flooded the property and forced zoo keepers to evacuate the animals.

The new location will expand the property from four and half acres to 25 acres. 100 parking spaces will become 400.

The zoo will feature five themed areas with new attractions like an events center, full-service restaurant, rides, playgrounds, splash pads and a wedding pavilion.

Building the new zoo will cost about $16 million.

To read this article online, go to:


Fort Conde Inn in Mobile wins 2017 trivago award

The Fort Conde Inn in Mobile was recently recognized as one of the 2017 Top Ten 4-star hotels in America by trivago.  Winners of the inaugural trivago awards were based entirely on guest reviews to the travel website.  The winners were chosen for their outstanding customer service, and their rankings and performance on internet sites.  The user ratings were gathered from 34 hotel booking and review sites across the web.

“We analyze more than 175 million hotel reviews from websites all over the world,” said Johannes Thomas, managing director at trivago.  “This gives us strong insights into what hotels are particularly good at. Our trivago awards recognize those hoteliers who deliver an exceptional experience to their guests.”

Built in 1836, Fort Conde Inn is Mobile’s second-oldest house. It sits on a quiet street in Fort Conde Village surrounded by restored historic cottages and Victorian homes. Staying there combines the experience of staying at a boutique hotel mixed with that of a bed-and-breakfast.  The Fort Conde Inn is also a recipient of a Four Diamond Award from AAA.   

More information on the Fort Conde Inn is available on their website at


Alabama’s Sonequa Martin-Green lands huge starring role on new CBS ‘Star Trek’ show

By Ben Flanagan,, Dec. 14

Russellville native and University of Alabama alumna Sonequa Martin-Green will launch further into stardom on “Star Trek: Discovery,” which will premiere in 2017.

Best known for her role as Sasha Williams on the AMC zombie drama “The Walking Dead,” Martin-Green has been cast as the lead of the new “Trek” show, according to Entertainment Weekly.

The actress landed the part after what the report called a “meticulous search to find the ideal actress to anchor the eagerly anticipated new CBS All Access drama.” The report says Martin-Green will play a lieutenant commander on the Discovery.

Do not fret, “Walking Dead” fans. EW also reports she will continue to serve as a series regular on the AMC show, on which she debuted during its third season. But, as die-hard fans know, things can change rather quickly.

Making a little “Trek” history, Martin-Green will serve as the first African-American woman to lead the cast of an ensemble in the franchise. It will also mark the first time a “Trek” protagonist” hasn’t been a captain.

“Star Trek: Discovery” was created by Bryan Fuller (creator of “Hannibal”) and Alex Kurtzman (co-writer of the “Trek” films directed by J.J. Abrams).

The show will premiere on CBS in May 2017.

Martin-Green, a UA theatre veteran who appeared in several campus productions and was a regular performer at Alpha Psi Omega’s Guerrilla Theatre shows, has had a busy past few years. She’s appeared on a slew of popular shows along with “Walking Dead,” including ABC’s popular fantasy series “Once Upon a Time” along with “The Good Wife,” “Army Wives” and “NYC-22.”

The 2007 UA grad previously landed a gig on ABC’s popular fantasy series “Once Upon a Time.”

To read this article online, go to:


The Sun publishes story about family friendly Alabama destinations


This story about a family vacation in Alabama was featured in the The Sun, a London publication with a circulation of 1.6 million.  The holiday fly-drive mentioned was developed by Boston based TourMappers and offered to the public in England by tour company Bon Voyage.  Grey Brennan, Della Tully and Graham Roderick met with Karen Niven of Bon Voyage about this fly-drive at World Travel Market in November.  Previously, Grey Brennan and Della Tully worked with TourMappers over the course of two years to develop the product.


Space Race is Ace

The Sun, Dec 10

It’s been a troubled year on planet Earth so it’s no wonder British cinema goers are looking to the stars to escape.  Sci-fi blockbusters Star Trek Beyond, Independence Day; Resurgence and new releases Passengers and Star Wars story Rogue One prove the intergalactic force is still strong.

Face your own final frontier with a family fly-drive holiday through Alabama, including three days and two nights at Space Camp in the world’s largest intergalactic museum, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center at Huntsville.

Space Camp is the ultimate aerospace experience for all the family, with simulated astronaut training using equipment adapted from NASA’s astronaut programme, mission and operations training, rocket construction and learning about the history of space from the smartest people on the planet.

Travellers can stay at Space Camp in comfortable dormitory-style accommodations, or at the Marriott Hotel on-site. It is full-board, with meals served in the Space Camp Crew Galley, giving visitors the opportunity to meet fellow “trainee astronauts” and guides.

The adventure has been combined with a 12-night fly-drive holiday through the American South.  Experience true Southern charm with a modern twist as the drive kicks off in Atlanta, Georgia, home to the Coca-Cola museum, and LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

Head through Alabama, enjoying the incredible Gulf Shores, Birmingham’s Civil Rights Institute and the Aerial Zipline Adventure Park. Then relax in Florida on the beautiful hidden beaches of Pensacola.

Costs from 1,785 pounds per adult and 1,595 pounds per child. Price includes flights from Heathrow, family car hire, Space Camp trip and 10 nights’ accommodation.

To see the Alabama family vacation fly-drive, go to: 

For more information on Alabama’s marketing efforts, contact:


CVB website named 2016 MarCom Award winner

International competition recognizes marketing, communication achievements

The official website for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB),, has been recognized as a 2016 MarCom Award Gold winner, landing a coveted spot among an array of top achievers in the marketing and communications field from across the globe. The MarCom Awards, organized and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, is a “creative competition for any individual or company involved in the concept, writing and design of print, visual, audio and web materials and programs.”

The competition receives roughly 6,000 entries per year, from over 34 countries, and accepts entries for six main categories and over 300 subcategories. Winners range in size from individuals, to media conglomerates, to Fortune 500 companies.

The website was submitted for consideration in the competition by Simpleview, Inc., the web development and design company responsible for the creation of the CVB’s newest site.

After determining that the website was in need of a fresher look and other capabilities necessary to capture the attention of modern, tech-savvy travelers, the Huntsville/Madison County CVB hired Simpleview to build the site in close coordination with Huntsville/Madison County CVB staff members, community officials and local influencers.

Simpleview is the leader in creating Destination Marketing Organization websites.  Over 150 destinations worldwide, including Orlando, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Vancouver use SimpleView.  The company works with destinations of all sizes to maximize the experience for website visitors and convert them into “on-the-ground” visitors.

“The way people are accessing information about travel destinations is changing, and the website redesign was a large part of the CVB’s efforts to be at the forefront of these trends,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We worked closely with Simpleview and our local partners to create a website befitting of a city renowned for our progress in technology and diversity of offerings to visitors, and we’re proud to see our hard work recognized on an international scale.”

The new website was rolled out February of this year, and includes features such as a fully responsive interface, a districts map, social media hub, itineraries from local influencers, as well as a personalized Trip Builder tool, which allows site visitors to choose restaurants, attractions, and more to plan their Rocket City trip.

Additional features include a facilities search tool for meeting planners, geo-targeting, a comprehensive events calendar, and language translation services.

More information on the awards, as well as a full list of the 2016 winners, can be found online at

Contact Kristen Pepper, Marketing Manager at the Huntsville/Madison County CVB with further questions at or 256-551-2294.


Alabama Media Group donates massive photographic negative collection to The Alabama Department of Archives & History

The Alabama Department of Archives and History and Alabama Media Group announced recently that Alabama Media Group is donating its massive collection of photographic negatives to the Archives, where the images will be preserved, digitized, and made available to the public.

Containing an estimated three million images, the collection is the largest gift of historical content received by the Archives since its founding in 1901.

The negatives were produced by scores of photographers who worked at Birmingham News, Mobile’s Press-Register, and the Huntsville Times.  They document occasions ranging from presidential elections to city council meetings and from civil rights demonstrations to high school football games. The earliest images are from the 1920s, but the bulk of the collection dates from the 1940s through the end of the twentieth century. Most were likely never published and have been seen only by the photographer and perhaps an editor.

“The breadth and depth of the collection are astonishing,” said Archives director Steve Murray. “We have only begun surveying the materials, but we can already tell that this will be an unparalleled resource for students, educators, and researchers studying 20th century Alabama. And thanks to the generosity of Alabama Media Group, it now belongs to the people of our state.”

Tom Bates, president of Alabama Media Group, said the company’s decision to donate the collection was an easy one.  “Having worked in recent years to digitize and publish these images in small batches on, we came to realize that a treasure of this magnitude deserves proper preservation and broad distribution. After touring and visiting with the staff of the State Archives, we concluded this is the right place.”

The donation comes at a time when the Archives is committing additional resources to the digitization of its collections to prepare for Alabama’s bicentennial in 2019. “Alabama Media Group has presented Alabama an extraordinary and early gift for its 200th birthday,” Murray said.

Work to scan and place the images online will commence in the coming months and likely last for years, according to Murray. An initial phase will involve capturing the handwritten or typed information on the envelopes containing the negatives.  “Each envelope represents a photojournalism assignment.  Building a database of the information recorded about the assignment by the photographers is the first step toward creating a useful research tool,” Murray said.

“After we have good momentum on that effort, we will also begin scanning the images themselves, gradually building a fully searchable library of the Alabama Media Group materials.”

Once ready, the scanned images will appear in a special Alabama Media Group Collection on the Archives’ site at, which currently contains more than 195,000 digital items.

For additional information about the announcement, visit


Old Courthouse Museum to begin charging admission


For the first time since its organization, Monroe County Heritage Museum, Inc. (MCHM) will begin charging admission to the Old Courthouse Museum, effective Jan. 3, 2017.


The Old Courthouse Museum houses the courtroom replicated in the film To Kill a Mockingbird.  Other permanent exhibits in the Old Courthouse Museum include Harper Lee:  In Her Own Words and Truman Capote:  A Childhood in Monroeville, which draw thousands of visitors to Monroeville each year. 


MCHM regrets that it must now charge admission to the museum as a result of major funding cuts since 2015. 


Admission will remain free to museum members as well as visitors to the Bird’s Nest Gift Shop and the research room, which are located on the ground floor of the Old Courthouse Museum. 


Admission will be $5 per person for those who wish to tour the Old Courthouse Museum.


Two other properties operated by MCHM, Rikard’s Mill Historical Park and Alabama River Museum, remain closed until further notice.


City to consider selling Carnival Museum’s home to its operators

By Lawrence Specker,, Dec. 5

Mobile’s William & Emily Hearin Carnival Museum is a privately run nonprofit operation in a public building, but on Tuesday, the Mobile City Council will consider a proposal to change that.

The item on the council agenda describes an ordinance “deeming property not now needed for public or municipal purposes and authorizing the sale of 355 Government St. to the Mobile Carnival Association, Inc.” It was submitted by Mayor Sandy Stimpson and District 2 Councilman Levon Manzie.

David Cooper, president of the Carnival Museum board, describes the notion as a soft proposal, not a hard sell.

“We’re not complaining, I don’t want them to think we’re complaining,” he said. “It’s a very soft request. Either way we’ll be happy.”

Currently the city owns the historic home that houses the museum, which means it is responsible for maintaining the building; the museum has a long-term lease at a nominal fee. Under the new proposal, the MCA would buy the property and take over the accompanying maintenance costs.

“You hesitate to put a lot of money into a building you don’t own,” said Cooper, a past president of the MCA. He said the museum board would like to be able to invest in upgrades such as rewiring the building, and to act independently when it sees a need for major structural work.

“I know that I can go to my donor base and tell them we need to put a roof on it, and it’ll be done,” he said.

If the building were to change hands, it would be the latest twist in a storied history.

According to past Press-Register reports, the building was constructed in 1872 for shoe merchant Henry Bernstein at a cost of $15,250. Enclosing about 12,000 square feet, it was has been described as one the last Italianate-influenced houses built in Mobile before the Queen Anne style came to dominance. John Curtis Bush, then mayor, bought the house in 1890 and it later had a long life as the home of Roche Mortuary Service. At some point it came into the possession of the Mobile Housing Board, which sold it to the city in 1972 for $82,000.

A combination of city, federal and private money transformed it into the Museum of the City of Mobile, which opened in 1974. A quarter-century later, plans had taken shape for that institution, now known as the Museum of Mobile, to move a bigger property on Royal Street. A variety of new proposals were floated for the Bernstein-Bush House. Some suggested it be used as a Mardi Gras museum, some saw it as the home of a medical museum or a sports-themed hall of fame.

The Carnival Museum concept won out. In March 2003, the Mobile City Council approved a 50-year deal under which the city would lease the property to the Mobile Carnival Association for $1 per year. Under the MCA’s direction, the museum opened in time for the 2005 Carnival season.

Cooper said that he proposed to the Stimpson administration that they have it appraised, and the MCA would simply pay the appraised amount. He said he thinks the appraisal came it at a little over $300,000.

Based on its location and historic appeal, some might think it would be worth more, Cooper said. However, when the city bought it, it agreed to a clause that the property always would be used as a public museum. That limits the commercial prospects of the site, Cooper said.

Cooper said the MCA definitely plans to honor that spirit, if the home returns to private ownership. In addition to local visitors, the museum attracted guests from more than 20 other countries last year, he said.

“I’m prejudiced,” he said, “but I think it helps to promote Mobile in a good light.”

If it follows its normal procedure, the city council will take a first look at the proposal on Tuesday and table it for at least a week, so that members can look into the details before voting.

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