Tourism Tuesdays December 6, 2016

Alabama tourism professionals promote state attractions to foreign tour companies

Candlelight Tours continue at Governor’s Mansion for next two Monday nights

Harper Lee’s lawyer to transform author’s hometown into major tourism destination

Zagat names Birmingham one of America’s hottest food cities in 2016

Alabama restaurant named one of the best in America for 2016

Alabama chef competes on new season of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ TV reality show

Full Moon Bar-B-Que celebrates 30th anniversary

Carnival Fantasy sailing out of Mobile into 2019

Grammy Awards 2017: Nominees include Alabama groups

The Cowboy Way: Alabama

Unclaimed Baggage Center Founder Doyle Owens Passes

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Alabama tourism professionals promote state attractions to foreign tour companies 

More than 100 hundred international tour operators discovered last week that their clients can visit sites across Alabama made famous by Helen Keller, Harper Lee, Martin Luther King Jr., singer Hank Williams, and Olympic hero Jesse Owens.

They learned this during the annual marketing program of TravelSouth USA, a cooperative of 11 Southern tourism departments gathered at the Marriott Marquis. The Alabama Tourism Department showed clips from famous movies “To Kill a Mockingbird, “Selma,” “The Miracle Worker” and others before showing videos from the actual sites that inspired the stories, Alabama tourism director Lee Sentell said. The 12-minute video promotes travel to Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, Monroeville, Georgiana and Lawrence County. Most of the international guests who were familiar with the inspiring stories of these American heroes didn’t know they were from Alabama, he said.

The video concluded with clips from the documentary “Muscle Shoals” in which Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards praise the talents of local musicians. Richards refers to Muscle Shoals as “rock ’n roll heaven.” Afterwards, six Shoals musicians, including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Spooner Oldham and Grammy-winning producer Jimmy Nutt, took the stage and performed live versions of Shoals classics “Mustang Sally,” “Old Time Rock and Roll” and “I’ll Take You There” before concluding with “Sweet Home Alabama.”  

Grey Brennan, deputy director of the Alabama agency, said international tourism to the state is growing at twice the rate of domestic tourism.  “International visitors stay longer and spend a lot more money,” he said.

Some 25 professional Alabama tourism representatives from various organizations participated in scores of pre-arranged business appointments over several days. Some 35 international tour operators began site visits across north and central Alabama. International sales manager Graham Roderick said agents representing England, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Australia, Japan and India are participating on the tours.

Candlelight Tours continue at Governor’s Mansion for next two Monday nights

The first night of the candlelight tours attracted a crowd of close to 300 despite the heavy rainstorms that hit the area. Gov. Robert Bentley will open the Governor’s Mansion for tours on the next two Monday nights from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

Designers have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours.  “The Governor’s Mansion belongs to the people of Alabama and I want to share it with them during this wonderful season,” said Bentley.

Montgomery author Randall Williams will sign copies of the Alabama Bicentennial book, 100 Things You Need to Know About Alabama on Dec. 12 at the Governor’s Mansion gift shop during the tours. The colorful 224-page hardcover book covers the rich history of Alabama from prehistoric times through the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement to football championships and modern industries.

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day.  The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Ave. across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The interior design companies working on decorating the mansion include Lynne Coker Interiors and Katherine Trantham Interior Design.

Choirs scheduled to perform include the Forest Avenue Academic Magnet Elementary School Choir from Montgomery and Albertville High Vocal Ease on Dec. 12 and the Oxford Christian School Choir and Alabama School of Law’s The Footnotes on Dec. 19.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry St. in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951.  The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 and 19.   More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours by going online at

Harper Lee’s lawyer to transform author’s hometown into major tourism destination

By Connor Sheets,, Dec. 1

A bold new plan to transform Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville into a major tourist destination for fans of the late author and her writings is slated to roll out beginning as early as March.

A tight-knit coalition, including Lee’s attorney Tonja Carter and wealthy paper mill magnate George Landegger, plans to create the “Harper Lee Trail,” a multifaceted collection of new Lee-related attractions aimed at drawing hundreds of thousands of additional tourists to the small Monroe County town each year.

With plans to refurbish a 1909 building to serve as a museum dedicated to Harper Lee, build replicas of three homes that served as settings in her seminal novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and provide other new offerings, the proposed trail would be a costly endeavor that would take years to complete.

Pete Black, a member of the board of Mockingbird Company – a nonprofit founded in May 2015 by Lee, Carter and Montgomery accountant Paul Fields – spoke to Wednesday about the little-known plan.

Carter did not respond to requests for comment via email and phone and instead instructed Black to answer questions about the project. Black said the Wednesday phone interview marked the first time the plan’s details have been discussed with a media outlet.

“There’s a bigger vision that we’re working on in Monroeville,” he said. “With Ms. Lee’s passing in February we’ve been working with leaders in Monroeville on how do we honor Ms. Lee, and our vision is, with some time, how do we create a Harper Lee Trail?”

Alabama’s Stratford-upon-Avon

Inspired in part by visits in July by Carter, Black and Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris to William Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon in England to learn about how it has been turned into a popular destination for fans of the playwright, the Harper Lee Trail would fundamentally change Monroeville’s tourism industry.

Landegger, chairman of the Parsons & Whittemore pulp and paper company, funded Black and Norris’ transatlantic trips, according to Black, who also serves as Parsons & Whittemore’s Alabama business director.

“We had a great trip,” Norris told the Monroe Journal newspaper after he returned from England in July. “While there, we had the opportunity to meet with Juliet Short, the Stratford mayor, and she provided us with lots of ideas on how to grow tourism in our county.”

The only major cultural attraction in Monroeville currently dedicated largely to Lee’s legacy is the old Monroe County Courthouse. Lee based the courtroom that serves as the setting for the trial in “To Kill a Mockingbird” on the one in the county courthouse, which also houses a museum of artifacts that includes many related to the novelist, who died Feb. 19 at the age of 89.

But Carter’s coalition hopes that the Harper Lee Trail would greatly expand the offerings that Lee pilgrims could patronize when visiting her hometown, which was the inspiration for the fictional town of Maycomb immortalized in “Mockingbird.”

Landegger responded to an email seeking comment with a short statement.

“It’s somewhat too early to go public with our planning which [is] still embryonic,” he wrote Tuesday. “I will be happy to speak with you end January (sic) with good news.”

‘Longer-term vision’

In September, Landegger purchased the Old Monroe County Bank Building on the town’s historic Courthouse Square, a historic structure that once housed the offices of Lee’s father’s law practice.

Black said the trail coalition hopes to register a foundation later this month that would raise funds to renovate the bank building and turn it into a Harper Lee museum. He described the foundation as “the first step” toward realizing the dream of a Harper Lee Trail.

The entity, which Black described as “a public charity to raise funds” for the trail’s development and construction, will likely be called the Harper Lee Literary Foundation. The mission of the foundation “would be to honor the literary legacy of Ms. Lee and at the same time get more people to visit Ms. Lee’s Maycomb,” Black explained.

The coalition plans to develop a number of properties to be featured as part of the trail, and to fund the efforts largely via the foundation, assuming it can generate enough funds via donations, grants and other sources to do so.

“Our longer-term vision would be doing that in Monroeville: making sure the courthouse is maintained and refurbished as necessary; restoring that bank building to the 1909 vintage and making it into a museum; refurbishing the house where the Lee sisters lived during their senior years; and a plan to replicate the three houses from the To Kill a Mockingbird neighborhood. We’ve got big plans, working on a big vision.”

The house he referred to is the last private residence where Harper and Alice Lee lived together before they fell into poor health. And the three houses he referenced are ones from Lee’s youth in Monroeville that have long been torn down but that served as the inspiration for the homes of Boo Radley, Scout and other “Mockingbird” characters.

‘250,000 visitors’

The details of the proposal have yet to be formally announced, but sources in Monroeville said that it has been discussed in general terms with a number of local leaders in recent months.

In February, Landegger told attendees of the Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner that “it is good that over 30,000 people visit the old courthouse each year, but let’s set our goal to attract 100,000 or 200,000 or 250,000 visitors annually,” according to The Monroe Journal.

Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, has also been told about the plans for the trail.

“Lee Sentell was here the week before last and we met with him and he’s very, very excited,” Black said. “He sees the impact it will have.”

In March, Birmingham attorney Scott Adams registered a Montgomery company called Harper Lee LLC with the state. Little is known about the private company, but Fields confirmed Wednesday that he is its chief financial officer, and that Carter is the point person for any inquiries about the property.

“I’m not authorized to give you any information other than to let you know that what you just asked me is correct,” he said when asked if he was in fact the CFO of Harper Lee, LLC, as he indicates in his resume on the LinkedIn social network.

“[Carter] would be one person you could contact,” he said, when asked where one could obtain more information about the company.

To read this article online, go to:

Zagat names Birmingham one of America’s hottest food cities for 2016

By Bob Carlton,, Dec. 2

The accolades keep on coming for Birmingham’s exploding restaurant scene.

The national restaurant guide — which last year ranked Birmingham No. 1 on its list of America’s Next Hot Food Cities – has just included the Magic City on its latest list of the 26 Hottest Food Cities of 2016.

Birmingham is No. 14 on the list, ahead of New York (21), San Francisco (20), Chicago (17) and Nashville (16). New Orleans is No. 6 on the Zagat list and Washington, D.C. is No. 1.

Here’s what Zagat’s Sara Ventiera had to say about the Birmingham dining scene:

“Birmingham has long been an esteemed culinary destination with a deeply rooted farm-to-table ethos and multiple Beard award-winning chefs like Frank Stitt (Highlands Bar & Grill) and his former pupil Chris Hastings (Hot and Hot Fish Club). Many young cooks have spent time in their impressive kitchens, learning the ropes and as a result, the Southern city has become an incubator for burgeoning culinary talent.

Ryan Champion spent time at Stitt’s Bottega, before opening Hotbox at Parkside, which churns out internationally inspired late-night bites like lemongrass fried chicken and shrimp ceviche out of an of Airstream. Brian Somershield, another Stitt acolyte, opened El Barrio Restaurante y Bar, serving modern Mexican-influenced dishes like grilled chorizo meatloaf.

Within the past year, the city has seen an influx of creative new concepts like Avondale burger and oyster joint, Fancy’s on 5th, health-focused Real & Rosemary and Southern Vietnamese spot Saigon Noodle House. Yet, it’s not just the young guns presenting on-trend restaurants here. Late last year, Hastings debuted one of the biggest openings in all of the South, highly lauded Latin American-inspired wood-fired concept, OvenBird.

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama restaurant named one of the best in America for 2016

By Bob Carlton,, Dec. 5

The influential food and dining website Eater has included Birmingham’s Highlands Bar and Grill on its 2016 list of the 38 Best Restaurants in America.

Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison recognized Highlands, a newcomer to his third annual list, as “a standard-bearer of Southern graciousness.”

Here is what Addison also wrote about Highlands:

“Decades before the country turned to its latest round of having paroxysms of delight over Southern food, Frank Stitt returned to his native Alabama from cooking stints in California and France and made Highlands, the flagship of his three Birmingham restaurants, a national destination, and his elegant presentation of regional cuisine is as vital as ever. The restaurant’s hospitality has long been equally distinguished as its food, due to Stitt’s secret weapon: his gracious wife (and front-of-house maven) Pardis Stitt.”

Frank Stitt opened Highlands Bar and Grill in November 1982, and over the years, it has been recognized as one of the South’s finest restaurants, and one of the best in the nation.

For the past eight years in a row, Highlands has been a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award as the country’s most outstanding restaurant.

Also, the restaurant reservation website OpenTable recently recognized Highlands as one of the country’s 100 best restaurants. Those rankings are based on reviews from OpenTable diners.

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama chef competes on new season of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ TV reality show

By Bob Carlton,, Nov. 30

Jim Smith, the executive chef for the State of Alabama, is competing against chefs from across the country in the new season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” cooking show.

The show airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m.

As the State of Alabama’s head chef, Smith serves as the personal chef for Gov. Robert Bentley and plans dinners and events hosted at the Governor’s Mansion.

In 2011, Smith won the Great American Seafood Cook-Off, and he now also serves as the chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission.

Smith is one of eight new chefs competing on Season 14 of “Top Chef.” In a twist this year, the eight newcomers will match their culinary skills against eight chefs from seasons past.

In addition to Smith, the other new chefs are:

Silvia Barban of Aita Restaurant and LaRina Pastificio e Vino in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Emily Hahn of Warehouse Bar + Kitchen in Charleston, S.C.

Jamie Lynch of 5Church Group in Charlotte.

Annie Pettry of Decca in Louisville, Ky.

Sylva Senat of Maison208 in Philadelphia.

Gerald Sombright of Ario in Marco Island, Fla.

B.J. Smith of Smokehouse 21 in Portland, Ore.

Smith, who grew up in Troy, attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte and has worked in the food and service industry for 20 years.

As the chef at the Governor’s Mansion in Montgomery, he is a one-man operation.

“I do every bit of all of the cooking,” Smith said in a Q-and-A for the Alabama Gulf Seafood website. “Being the only person in the kitchen has taught me the importance of having a smart plan that can be effectively executed, no matter if I’m making a small dinner or a party for 100 people.

“The mansion has great gardens where we grow a good deal of the herbs and vegetables used in the kitchen,” he added. “I love getting out there every day and harvesting what the gardens have to offer.

“It is also very important for me to feature items produced in the state, whether it’s Alabama Gulf Seafood or local cheeses or Chilton County peaches or lady peas from the farmers market. I do my best to highlight the amazing foods of the state of Alabama.”

To read this article online, go to:

Full Moon Bar-B-Que celebrates 30th anniversary

By Eric Velasco,, Nov. 29

Stepping into the original Full Moon Bar-B-Que is like entering a sports museum that also serves barbecue.

Walls are packed with photos and other sports memorabilia honoring universities in Tuscaloosa, Auburn, and Birmingham. The smell of wood smoke permeates the cramped 50-seat room on 25th Street South.

November marks the 30th anniversary of the self-styled “Best Little Porkhouse in Alabama,” founded in 1986 by former Crimson Tide football assistant coach Pat James and his wife, Eloise.

After buying the restaurant in 1997, brothers David and Joe Maluff built a franchise that now includes 12 Alabama locations. Two more are slated for 2017.

The original is a throwback that draws a rotating cadre of long-time regulars– judges, business leaders, politicians and retirees–who keep the same schedule and sit at the same tables while solving the world’s problems. The Southside spot remains a mandatory stop for coaches and athletes.

“That’s not because it’s the place to be,” David says. “They keep coming because the food is good.”

Little has changed in three decades at the original spot, including the menu of pork, chicken, and turkey, from-scratch sides, and hand-made Half Moon Cookies. “It was a big deal when we added salads,” Joe says.

But the anniversary provides a moment for the brothers to take stock of the expanding franchise and honor loyal employees, including four who have logged more than two decades.

The restaurant has gotten more than just local attention. In 2014, Full Moon began distributing Half Moon Cookies nationally and now sells 3 million a year. Full Moon-brand sauces, chow-chow and seasoning have been in groceries since 2012.

The Middle Eastern-style coleslaw and Half Moon Cookies are among the “100 Dishes To Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” Full Moon is also listed on Huffington Post’s “Top Ten BBQ Restaurants in the U.S.” and the Daily Meal’s “America’s 25 Best Barbecue Chains.”

The brothers say the key to their barbecue is cooking on a wood fire.  “We don’t do it in a smoker,” says David, whose Full Moon favorite is ribs. “Cooking on the pit adds crunchiness and flavor that you can’t get anywhere else in Birmingham.”

With every bite, the bark on slices of Full Moon pork hollers sweet-spicy and smoke flavors. It is one of Joe’s favorites, along with the turkey sandwich full of moist, pleasantly smoky meat that gets a boost from Full Moon’s barbecue sauce and signature chow-chow. The spicy relish adds flavor and a slight crunch without overwhelming the meat.

David recalls his first visit, when he ordered a pork sandwich at the drive-through and checked under the bun. “I’d never seen chow-chow. I pulled back to the window to ask the guy what that was. It’s what sets Full Moon apart.”

The new locations, which started opening in 1998, nod toward fast-casual. They are more spacious, with an expanded menu that features fresh vegetables and a children’s menu.

“They’re family-friendly,” David says. “We wanted to be more than a barbecue restaurant, with wings, bakers, big salads, catfish, and hamburgers.” 

But the porkhouse that Pat built will remain frozen in time, a shrine to sports, scratch-cooking, and solidarity.

“Pat James always had a big following,” David says. “Now they come to see my brother and enjoy great barbecue.”

To read this article online, go to:

Carnival Fantasy sailing out of Mobile into 2019

By John Sharp,, Dec. 2

Travel agents are booking Carnival Fantasy cruises from the Mobile-based Alabama Cruise Terminal through April 2019, more than 16 months past an initial agreement for sailings out of the city expires.

The bookings would appear to be good news for the city, but Carnival officials said Thursday that the situation isn’t unique. They also said it’s unrelated to an assessment of the Miami-based company’s business in Mobile that will come sometime in mid-2017.

“We routinely open reservations for a time period of about 18 months out,” said Jennifer De La Cruz, spokeswoman with Carnival. “These new batches of inventory are opened up routinely over time for every ship and itinerary we operate.”

She added, “This is done so across our fleet and without regard to the specific contractual agreements at various ports.”

At present, online bookings are available through April 2019, for four- and five-day excursions that are leaving Mobile on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

All bookings are for the Carnival Fantasy’s trips to Cozumel, Mexico. The five-day voyages include stops at Progreso or Costa Maya, Mexico.

Steve Cape, a longtime travel agent in Mobile, said the extended dates into 2019 allow travelers more opportunities for securing better deals. “With cruises, you get the best deal booking way in advance or at the last minute,” Cape said. “At the last minute, though, you need to go during the offseason time frame and you need to be flexible.”

He said that the early December excursions are “very difficult to get on right now,” adding that it’s “surprising” to see for the first part of December, which he says is slower for cruising before activity picks up after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve.

‘Good sign’

Meanwhile, city officials and Carnival Cruise Lines have not established a date to revisit negotiations to extend the company’s contract to keep the 2,056-passenger Fantasy cruise line in Mobile beyond Nov. 26, 2017. The initial contract called for 84 sailings out of the city-owned cruise terminal.

Carnival officials have said they will analyze their business in Mobile sometime in 2017, possibly in the first half of the year.

Cape said he believes that could take place in the first or second quarter.

Shelia Gurganus, general manager of the cruise terminal, said the bookings are going “very well” at the moment. She said she hasn’t been notified by Carnival Cruise Lines on when negotiations for a possible extension will take place.

George Talbot, a city spokesman, said the city remains in contact with Carnival officials and is “optimistic” an extension will be signed.

“The robust demand is an indication that our tourism market is growing and proves that there is a solid business case for Mobile as a home port,” he said. “But we don’t take our success for granted. Our team is focused on delivering a great experience for every passenger who visits our city and working hard to exceed Carnival’s high expectations for service.”

To read this article online, go to:

Grammy Awards 2017: Nominees include Alabama groups

By Mary Colurso,, Dec. 6

Nominees were announced today for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, and acts from Alabama are competing for two of the biggest awards.

Alabama Shakes, a soul-rock band from Athens, received a nod for Best Rock Performance, for a rendition of “Joe” on “Austin City Limits.” The song is a bonus track that appeared on international issues of the band’s 2015 album, “Sound & Color.”

The Shakes, one of the fastest-rising bands in the music world, won three Grammys in 2016: Best Alternative Music Album for “Sound & Color,” and Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for “Don’t Wanna Fight.”

The Blind Boys of Alabama, a venerable gospel group led by Birmingham native Jimmy Carter, earned a nomination for Best American Roots Performance, for “Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time.” The song is included on the compilation album, “God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson.”

The Blind Boys already have five Grammys in their trophy case, all in the category of Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album. Their latest win came in 2008 for “Down in New Orleans.” The Blind Boys also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy in 2009. The group was formed in the late 1930s at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, now called the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind

Also, Claire Lynch, a singer-guitarist with Alabama ties, is a nominee for Best Bluegrass Album, for “North By South.” Lynch, who lives in Nashville, spent many years in northern Alabama, in Huntsville and Hazel Green.

To read this article online, go to:

The Cowboy Way: Alabama

New series picked up by INSP network to begin airing in 2017

By John Underwood,, Dec. 2

A new original docuseries, which is currently being filmed partly in Baldwin County and featuring a local cowboy, has been picked up by a national cable network to begin airing in 2017.

“We’ve been doing a lot of filming and we’re hoping that we are going to be a part of the network for years to come,” said Robertsdale’s Cody Harris, who is featured in the series “The Cowboy Way: Alabama” along with fellow ranchers Bubba Thompson and Chris “Booger” Brown.

INSP announced Monday that the family entertainment network has ordered nine episodes of the series, which is being filmed in Robertsdale and Geneva, Alabama, scheduled to debut in August 2017.

“In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, it is fascinating when a group of young men reject present comforts in favor of an authentic cowboy way of life,” said Craig Miller, VP of Original Programming at INSP. “We are confident our viewers, who have demonstrated a real passion for stories about cowboys, will embrace Bubba, Cody, and Booger, as these guys are the real deal.”

According to the release, The Cowboy Way: Alabama follows the adventures of three modern-day cowboys: Bubba Thompson, an industrious rancher and carpenter; Cody Harris, a celebrated rodeo champion and cattle dealer; and Chris “Booger” Brown, an expert cattleman and gifted horse trainer.

“Much like the cowboys of the Old West, these friends live and ride according to a timeless cowboy code as they build their cattle business in southern Alabama,” according to the release. “The long days and exhausting work leave little time for personal lives, but this entertaining and engaging series explores the manner in which they balance the challenges of life on the open range with the demands of raising a family.”

INSP is available nationwide to more than 83 million households via Dish Network (channel 259), DirecTV (channel 364), Verizon FiOS (channel 286), AT&T U-verse (channel 564) and more than 2,800 cable systems.

The Cowboy Way: Alabama is produced for INSP by Glassman Media. Andrew Glassman is the executive producer.

Glassman Media is an independent Los Angeles-based international television production company whose credits include NBC’s upcoming game show The Wall, produced in partnership with Lebron James and his production company Spring Hill Entertainment; four seasons of CMT’s record-setting series, Sweet Home Alabama; four seasons of the NBC hit dating series Average Joe; the critically-acclaimed Three Wishes (NBC), which was named the “most family friendly show on broadcast television.” Adaptations of Glassman Media original formats have been done in territories around the world.

Harris, fellow SHA alum Thompson and Brown formed the Faith Cattle Company in 2013. A reality show, “Dukes of Cattle” was made from that venture and the new series, produced by the same company that produced Sweet Home and Southern Nights, continues to follow their exploits. A pilot episode aired on the network twice in July.

“This is the first reality show to air on the network, so that’s groundbreaking for us,” Harris said. “Our pilot episode had really great ratings and we’re hoping to carry that momentum into the series for years to come.”

As with the pilot episode, the show will follow the three cowboys as they build their business and will also focus on their personal lives, particularly for Harris and Thompson as they focus on marriage and building a family.

“INSP is a relatively small network, but so was A&E before Duck Dynasty put them on the map,” Harris said. “With that show ending, we’re hoping to fill that void with this series. This is a Christian-based show and a family show, but there is also a lot of action.”

Much of the show is filmed in and around Baldwin County, particularly Robertsdale which, Harris said, was an opportunity for him to give back to his hometown.

“We’re responsible for feeding about 20 people while we’re here filming and I’ve made sure we patronize local businesses and restaurants,” he said. “I do love Robertsdale and want to do whatever I can to give back to the community.”

To read this article online, go to:,44435

Unclaimed Baggage Center Founder Doyle Owens Passes

Mr. Doyle Owens, who founded the Unclaimed Baggage Center (UBC), passed away on Saturday evening, Dec. 3, at the age of 85.

In 1970, Mr. Owens had the idea to get a $300 loan, borrow a pick-up truck, drive to Washington D.C., and buy a load of unclaimed luggage. He sold the contents from his purchase on card tables at a rent house in his hometown of Scottsboro, Alabama, and quickly realized his idea was a good one. Within a month, he left his job in insurance and became a “bag man” full-time.


Over the next 46 years, Unclaimed Baggage Center (UBC) became a staple locally in Scottsboro and a regionally and nationally known tourist destination. Dubbed “The Lost Luggage Capital of the World,” UBC is now the nation’s largest purchaser of unclaimed baggage and cargo. A one-of-a-kind retail store, UBC provides a unique shopping experience full of an ever-changing array of items from useful to unusual from around the world all at an incredible value.


In 1978, UBC moved to its current location on Willow Street in Scottsboro, where it has 40,000 square feet of space and receives over 1 million visitors a year.


It became a true family business when both of Mr. Owen’s sons joined the company. In 1995, his son Bryan and wife Sharon purchased the company. While no longer the head of the company, Mr. Owens continued to play a role as founder and ambassador for the company and was seen almost every day in the UBC café engaging with customers. His wife, co-founder of the company and supporter-in-chief Mollie Sue Wilborn Owens, passed away last year on July 4, 2015.


Bryan Owens made the following statement on his father: “I am humbled and yes awestruck that God gave Doyle Owens to be MY dad.  Of all men, I am most blessed.  I would not be the man I am today without the influence of my dad.  My heart grieves but I am overwhelmingly grateful for the life we had together.”  


Over the years UBC has received attention from the national media including “Oprah,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” NBC “Today,” The Travel Channel, CNN, The Huffington Post and The New York Times, amongst many others.


In 2008, The Alabama Tourism Department, along with Alabama’s governor, honored UBC with the Director’s Award, the highest tourism award in the state. It also received an official Commendation in recognition of UBC’s dedication to employees, customers, community and the state. Mr. Owens also received Jackson County Citizen of the Year from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Scottsboro Sentinel in 2013. The store received the Alabama Retailer of the Year in 2016.


The family will receive visitors on Friday evening, December 9th from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Scottsboro Funeral Home at 1502 County Park Road in Scottsboro.  Doyle’s home-going celebration will be held on Saturday December 10th at 11:00 AM at Calvary Baptist Church at 305 County Park Road in Scottsboro, followed by the burial at Cedar Hill Cemetery located near the corner of W. Willow Street and Lost Luggage Lane.


In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Samaritan’s Purse,  Written condolences for the family can be sent to: The Owens Family, care of Unclaimed Baggage Center, 509 W. Willow Street, Scottsboro, Alabama 35768. 

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events         

Dec. 12 & 19, 5:30 p.m. –  Candlelight Tours                                                Governor’s Mansion



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