Tourism Tuesdays February 14, 2017

Brennan named deputy director of Alabama Tourism Department

German journalists coming to Alabama

Fannie Flagg on the Alabama meat-and-three that inspired beloved ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’

Spend a weekend at this gorgeous boutique hotel in Anniston

World Heritage and U. S. Civil Rights Sites Symposium

Scenes from Wetumpka: Coosa River, meteor crater features of Main Street town

Brewery, taproom coming to downtown Montgomery

Alabama State Lands Division launches new canoe trails website

Judy Ryals appointed by Governor Bentley to Alabama Small Business Commission

NASA’s ‘modern figures’ are no longer ‘hidden’

Hospitality & Tourism Workforce Summit at University of South Alabama


Brennan named deputy director of Alabama Tourism Department

Grey Brennan was named deputy director of the Alabama Tourism Department this week by state tourism director Lee Sentell.

“Grey is our first deputy director in many years. He has been a real leader since joining the marketing staff in 2001. He is well respected throughout our state and among the other tourism professionals across the Southeast. He has particularly increased the number of international tour groups visiting Alabama,” Sentell said.

Brennan will share responsibilities of managing the agency’s budget with Financial Services Director Scott Burbank. Graham Roderick, who joined the staff last year, will assist Brennan in recruiting additional international tour companies, the director said. 

Brennan served as campaign director for The Year of Outdoor Alabama and The Year of Alabama Music.  He also serves as regional director for the central Alabama area and coordinates all of the tourism department’s international marketing efforts.  

Brennan holds both Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Alabama where he studied marketing and communications.  He has also received a Travel Marketing Professional certificate from the Southeast Tourism Society.

The department’s Central Office staff in Montgomery has remained at about 25 people since Sentell became director in 2003. In the meantime, tourism expenditures have increased by 105 percent to $13 billion. The agency is funded by 1 percent of the state’s 4 percent state lodgings tax. The other 3 percent benefits the state General Fund. Some $50 million in lodging taxes is projected to benefit the state’s General Fund in FY 17.

In 2016, the 25 million travelers in the state paid more than $837 million in state and local taxes. Without those taxes, each household in Alabama would have had to pay an additional $428 in taxes to maintain current service levels, according to Montgomery economist Dr. Keivan Deravi.

German journalists coming to Alabama

By Grey Brennan

Two teams of German journalists will soon be in Alabama working on projects lined up by Janin Nachtweh of the Alabama Tourism Partnership’s German office.

Stephan Lina and Holger Bauer of German radio network Bayerischer Rundfunk will visit four Alabama cities in April.  They will report on Airbus in Mobile, the Alabama Tourism Department’s World Heritage project in Montgomery, they will gather information on several stories in Birmingham including Civil Rights, and they will report on historic music studios in the Muscle Shoals area.

Rudi and Rita Schneider are scheduled to visit North Alabama for Germany’s only nationwide radio network, Deutschlandradio in May.  On a trip last year, they reported on the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Helen Keller, Ave Maria Grotto and they Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham.  This year they plan reports on the Legend of Noccalula, The Alabama Fan Club and Museum, The Trail of Tears and Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q.

The Schneider’s radio reports from their trip last year are available on the following links (all reports are in German).

Ave Maria Grotto

Helen Keller

Civil Rights Movement Birmingham

U.S. Space & Rocket Center  

For more information on Alabama’s efforts in Germany, contact 

Fannie Flagg on the Alabama meat-and-three that inspired beloved ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’

From the article by Haley Laurence on

Fannie Flagg may be one of Alabama’s greatest ambassadors.

The author, actress, comedian and Birmingham native loves to talk about her home state. She’s written about us plenty of times. She talks about us in interviews. She even seeks out people with Southern accents in airports

And she also tells her friends in California that they must visit Alabama.

“Everyone here, when they go on vacation, they’ll go to Europe, they’ll go here, they’ll go there,” she says, speaking on the phone from her home in California. “And I’ll tell them, ‘Have you ever been to Alabama? Well, why don’t you try to take a vacation in your own country and go to the American South?'”

But perhaps her biggest contribution to Alabama’s legacy is her 1989 book, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” and subsequent movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Both the movie and book put Alabama food in the spotlight — and put meat-and-three Irondale Cafe on the worldwide culinary map.

The inspiration

Fannie Flagg (born Patricia Neal) knows Birmingham. Both her father and grandfather were motion picture projector operators, working in places such as the Alabama and Lyric theaters, and she grew up in various places around the city.

Her grandmother’s sister, Bess Fortenberry, ran the tiny Irondale Cafe in the small town of Irondale. The restaurant had seating for about 30 people at most. And across from the cafe was a two-story house where all the Fortenberry children were raised.

Fannie would often visit her aunt, even though it was a bit harder to make it to Irondale from the city in the ’40s than it is now.  But she still has plenty of memories of making the trek to see her aunt — and eating her delicious home-cooking (including those fried green tomatoes).

But she also grew up hearing the good that her Aunt Bess was doing for the community. 

“I’d heard so many good stories about that cafe growing up from my mother and my grandmother,” Fannie says, “And how wonderful it was for the little town and how everyone loved my aunt.”

Remembering Bess

Decades later, Aunt Bess passed away. (She had already sold Irondale Cafe to Billy and Mary Jo McMichael.) And Fannie got a call from a lawyer. Her aunt had left her something. 

So she traveled back to Alabama to get the gift: A shoebox.

“It was so funny because in the shoebox was little memories of her life,” Fannie says.

There were photos of Bess and her friends and family. Menus from the Irondale Cafe. Notes from funerals she had officiated (She would preach at the funerals of people who had worked for her). 

The items in the box showed her Aunt Bess’ sense of humor: There were photos of her sitting in Santa’s lap, and pictures of her in full regalia. 

“Just crazy stuff to remind me of how much of a character she was,” Fannie says.

But Fannie began to wonder: Why was she picked to receive that gift?

“She had a lot of other nieces and nephews that she was much closer to,” she says. “And so I thought, ‘I wonder why she wanted me to have that?'”

But she has a theory about that: “I thought, ‘Maybe she wanted me to write about that and not forget her.’ “

So she wrote about her.

The success

“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” – loosely based on the Irondale Cafe – was released in August 1987 and was an immediate success. It was on the New York Times Bestsellers list for 36 weeks, and fellow Alabamian Harper Lee gushed about it.

But the title was a joke at first. 

“(One of the things) I remember from my childhood is my grandmother and Bess made me fried green tomatoes,” she said. “So when I went to write the book, I called it ‘The Cross Stop Cafe’ or ‘The Railroad Cafe’ or something like that. I was just being silly one day and was like, ‘I’m gonna call it ‘Fried Green Tomatoes in the Whistle Stop Cafe” and I sent it to my editor in New York. And he said, ‘What is that?’ and I told him, and he got the biggest kick out of that. So that’s what we called it.”

After the book’s success, Fannie wrote a screenplay based on the book, simply titled “Fried Green Tomatoes,” and it, too, was a success. The 1991 film was nominated for two Academy Awards and sparked a worldwide interest in Irondale Cafe – and fried green tomatoes.

Luckily, the McMichaels had already expanded the Irondale Cafe so it could seat more people – and the tourists that flocked to see the place that inspired their favorite book and movie. 

But the movie didn’t just cause an interest in the meat-and-three diner – it also caused a fried green tomatoes craze, which Fannie finds amusing.

“It’s so strange because after that, fried green tomatoes were on every menu even in gourmet restaurants,” she says. “When I went to Europe for the premiere of the movie, they were just so fascinated with it and had never heard such a thing.”

But still, despite this worldwide obsession with Southern food, she still can’t find some of her favorite country home-cooking near her home in California.

She complains about the grits and cornbread she gets in restaurants there.

“All the cornbread they have here is like cake. Sugar, fluffy – yuck. I like that plain ole crusty cornbread.”

Oh, and the biscuits, too:

“The biscuits are hard,” she says. “They don’t get it.”

For the complete article please see

Spend a weekend at this gorgeous boutique hotel in Anniston

From the article by Julia Sayers on

This story appears in Birmingham magazine’s February 2017 issue. 

When Del and Ginger Marsh acquired the Victoria Hotel from the city of Anniston, they had one year and a required minimum budget of $1.5 million to revamp the hotel. Eight months and $2 million later, the completely-renovated Victorian home reopened as Hotel Finial in March 2016. Now a 61-room boutique hotel, the home didn’t always boast the modern vibe it does now.

Built in 1888, the home was originally a private residence for a prominent Anniston family. Its owner, John McKleroy, an attorney and counselor-at-law, chose the location because it was the highest hill on the city’s bustling Quintard Avenue. The McKleroy family owned it for 32 years until it was sold to the Wilson family, and later the Kirby family. In 1984, it was turned into an inn, full of antiques and Victorian charm. After multiple foreclosures, though, the property was eventually donated to Jacksonville State University before the Anniston City Council purchased it to preserve the historic site.

The city could afford only to maintain, not renovate the property, so they put out a request for proposal. Ginger and her husband Del, a state senator, were interested in purchasing the home, so they went to check it out.

“We had seen its former days of beauty and glory,” says Ginger, who is from Anniston. “But then we saw all the cracks and decay and decided we didn’t want to move forward.”

Things changed when the city decided to give the property to Del and Ginger–but with two stipulations: they had to put at least $1.5 million into the building’s renovations, and everything had to be completed in one year’s time.

The last-remaining Victorian-style mansion on Quintard, Ginger wanted to protect the home’s original character–including its stained glass windows, ornate fireplaces, and wooden floors–but also give it a fresh feel with a modern design. She likes to refer to it as a “past-forward” vibe.

As Ginger walks through the house, she points out some of its original features–glass panels with etchings of a cockatoo bird, portions of a drink bar purchased from England, and decorative metal dust catchers on the oak staircase–as well as modern pieces she brought in, including tufted chairs and beds, faux fur throws, large mirrors, and contemporary light fixtures.

The main home features breakfast rooms, a glassed-in wraparound porch, meeting rooms, a large side deck, and four suites–three of them named after the home’s original owners. With the suites’ sophisticated decor, you might forget you’re in a Victorian home and instead feel like you’re in a swanky hotel in New York or London. Each suite has a different feel to it–the McKleroy has a champagne color scheme, with notes of taupe and gold; cool vibes resonate in the Wilson, with seafoam walls, a white bed, and a mirrored chest; the Kirby mixes a palette of violet and silver. On the top floor, in the home’s turret, is the Grand Ballroom suite. Colors of grey and turquoise mix in this suite that features a king bed in one bedroom, separate Murphy bed, a living area, two-and-a-half baths, and an office.

Behind the hotel’s main room is a pool, a complex of standard king and two-queen rooms, and The Cottage–the last of the hotel’s five suites. The private cottage features a spacious living room with a small kitchen and wet bar, a master bedroom with a king bed, one-and-a-half baths, and a pullout couch. All of Hotel Finial’s standard rooms feature beds handcrafted by Del and his son-in-law, made of hard pine from the old Avondale Mills in Sylacauga, Alabama. Breakfast, including the signature Southern Grits Bar, is complimentary with room reservations.

Ginger and Del made the decision to offer breakfast as the only meal at the hotel (there used to be a full-service restaurant) because they want to encourage guests to explore the city and experience the restaurants and activities Anniston has to offer. When asked for restaurant recommendations, Ginger excitedly rattles off a long list: Classic on Noble for fine dining and brunch; a former brothel called Peerless Saloon for updated bar food; Mata’s for pizza; Brad’s for barbecue.

The Marshes also do their best to incorporate the city into the hotel and cater to those who come to Anniston for specific activities. A local brewery, Cheaha Brewing Company, brews two beers specifically for the hotel: Finial 8 (an amber) and Mighty Fine (a pilsner). You can try both in the hotel’s bar, Spencer’s, located in the carriage house. Since Anniston has become a hot spot for bikers, with the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail and the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trail (the longest paved trail in America), Hotel Finial offers a bike cleaning station, bike racks in select rooms, and tile entryways to keep rooms clean. Ginger also has a partnership with Wig’s Wheels and can set up any guest with a bike during their stay. A page on the hotel’s website features local events and a list of recommended attractions.

With her love for Anniston and dedication to preserving a local icon, Ginger’s renovation of Hotel Finial has allowed her to both give back to her hometown and help encourage the city’s resurgence.

“We invested in this to save it,” Ginger says. “This was our gift to Anniston, and hopefully after we’re gone, someone else will come and love it as much as we do.”

Fall in love with Finial 

Just one hour from Birmingham, Hotel Finial is the perfect place for a romantic weekend or overnight escape. Rooms booked for Valentine’s Day are part of a romance package that includes a bottle of wine and a keepsake crystal candy dish. Make dinner reservations at Classic on Noble or Effina’s Tuscan Grill (Ginger can help arrange it) and then head back to the hotel to sip on the hotel’s signature February cocktail, The French Kiss, featuring cranberry, Chambord, and a Hershey’s Kiss.

Explore Anniston

Here are some activities to check out while you’re in town:

Anniston Museum of Natural History – explore Alabama’s natural wonders at this Smithsonian-affiliated museum.

Berman Museum of World History – view treasures from around the world at this museum set up by a former spy.

Cheaha Mountain – hike the highest point in Alabama for breathtaking views.

Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail – this 35-mile trail is perfect for mountain biking enthusiasts.

Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga – bike the longest paved trail in the nation, a combined 95 miles.

St. Michael and All Angels Church – admire this historic church built in 1888.

For the complete article please see

World Heritage and U. S. Civil Rights Sites Symposium

April 20-22   –  Atlanta, Georgia

A gathering of scholars, historic preservationists, property owners and stakeholders to discuss a World Heritage serial nomination for historic sites associated with the U. S. Civil Rights Movement.


The Georgia State University World Heritage Initiative has embarked on an effort to nominate a group of U. S. Civil Rights Sites to the World Heritage List, thereby achieving for these historic places associated with the modern struggle for race reform in America the highest possible level of global recognition possible.

Owners of historic properties associated with the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, movement scholars and historic preservationists will gather in Atlanta, April 20-22, at the World Heritage and U. S. Civil Rights Sites Symposium to discuss preparing a Serial Nomination for the National Park Service to propose to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

Free and open to the public, the Atlanta Symposium will feature sessions explaining the objectives of the Initiative, the World Heritage nomination process, and what might be expected for property owners and relevant stakeholders of historic sites if they received such a designation.


Symposium Schedule

Thursday, April 20: Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

407 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312

3:00-5:00 pm – Tours of the MLK, Jr. Historic Site

5:30 pm – Opening Plenary Session: What is World Heritage? Stephen Morris, Chief, Office of International Affairs, NPS; Phyllis M. Ellin, Historian, World Heritage Program, NPS

7:00 pm – Reception

Friday, April 21: Plenary Sessions

GSU College of Law

85 Park Place NE, Atlanta, GA 30303

9:00 am – Orientation Coffee with Committees

10:30 am –  Plenary Session: The Global Significance of U. S. Civil Rights Sites, Waldo E. Martin, Jr., University of California, Berkeley; Patricia Sullivan, University of South Carolina

1:30 pm – Plenary Session: Authenticity and Comparatives in World Heritage Analysis, Alissandra Cummins, former Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO; Susan Snow, Archeologist & Coordinator, San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site

3:30 pmPlenary Session: Designation and Preservation Management, Paul Hardin Kapp, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Tomlan, Cornell University 

5:00 pm – Reception

Saturday, April 22: Breakout Sessions

GSU College of Law

85 Park Place NE, Atlanta, GA  30303

9:00 am – Committee meetings for Scholars, Preservationists, Property Owners and Stakeholders

11:00 am – Concluding Plenary Session: U. S. Civil Right and World Heritage; final reports 

Make plans to attend the Symposium to learn more about this exciting opportunity to gain World Heritage status for U. S. Civil Rights Sites associated with America’s human rights struggle. 

To register or to request more information about the symposium:

Accommodations are available at the Marriot Residential Suites in downtown Atlanta, in easy walking distance of the Georgia State University School of Law Auditorium and to the trolley line to the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site and Ebenezer Baptist Church. A special group rate of $135 per night is available until March 20.

You can make your hotel reservation directly here.

Scenes from Wetumpka: Coosa River, meteor crater features of Main Street town

From the article by Kelly Kazek on

Wetumpka is one of those small towns with a quirky layout. A historic rainbow-arch bridge dumps traffic into the downtown district, where streets converge at odd angles and a famous movie manor overlooks the town.

It has diners and shops and churches and historic homes and a courthouse with golden doors. In short, it has tons of personality.

Wetumpka, the seat of Elmore County, lies between the Coosa River and a massive meteor crater that is one of only six in the world that is visible above ground. Nearby is Jasmine Gardens, a public garden that is filled with art and replicas of Greek statues and temple ruins. The Coosa River is popular with white-water enthusiasts and offers a variety of water recreations.

Wetumpka’s quaint, retro feel has also made it the perfect backdrop for three movies: Tim Burton’s “Big Fish,” released in 2003 and based on a book by Birmingham native Daniel Wallace; 2002’s “The Rosa Parks Story,” and 1995’s “The Grass Harp,” based on the book by Truman Capote and starring Walter Matthau and Sissy Spacek.

Main Street town

In 2016, Wetumpka was named a Main Street Alabama city and plans are underway to revitalize the downtown, making it more viable for new business and more accessible to visitors. The plan includes new streetscapes and green spaces, a project that will get underway late this summer, as well as preservation and renovation of historic building facades, directional signs, and markers at tourist attractions and more.

Mary M. Helmer, president of the Main Street Alabama program statewide, said Wetumpka’s location is an asset. “There’s huge potential there, when you look at the tourism opportunities and its natural layout between the river and the crater,” she said. “But its best feature is its people. Everyone is so friendly.”

Jenny Stubbs, the director of Main Street efforts in Wetumpka, recently opened a downtown business with her husband, a Frios Gourmet Pops shop, because she believes the area has a great future ahead. Click here for Wetumpka’s Main Street page, which includes designs and plans.

“I’m confident we’re the only downtown in Alabama with a crater on one side and a beautiful, winding river on the other,” Stubbs said. “Now that we’re a designated Main Street community, we have the tools to help us capitalize on the unique physical and historical make up of our downtown.”

Stubbs said the proximity to the river will offer opportunities for leisure and recreation.

“As a downtown, Wetumpka is beginning to understand its identity, which includes a compilation of its past, present and future,” she said. “And with our popular hiking, running and mountain biking trails, bird-watching trails, along with our scenic river for kayaking, we’re beginning to see an outdoor enthusiast demographic grow, both residents and visitors, and I know this will become a beneficial part of our downtown identity, in respect to how things are transformed and laid out downtown, as well as the businesses that thrive here.”

About Wetumpka

Wetumpka, a name derived from the Creek words “we-wau” (meaning water) and “tum-cau” (meaning rumbling), has a population of about 7,300 people. It is part of the Montgomery Metropolitan Area. It was incorporated in 1834. According to a history on the city’s website, it was located in two counties at the time: On Jan. 17, 1834, the east side of town was incorporated in Coosa County; on Feb. 18, the west side of town was incorporated in Autauga County.

Fort Toulouse was built nearby in ca.-1714 and today a replica stands at the site. In the early 1800s, the town’s first jail was built. Known as the Calaboose, it still stands today.

The Meteor Crater

Wetumpka is also the site of a rare astrobleme, or “star-wound,” a 5-mile-wide crater caused by a falling meteor millions of years ago. The crater is located off U.S. Highway 231. Recently, studies using deep-earth core drilling revealed its age to be between 80 and 83 million years. The Wetumpka Crater is one of the few above-ground impact sites in the U.S. and one of only about six in the world, according to the Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce. It is also unusual because the crater is exposed: the rim is still evident, meaning the dies would have been much higher when the impact occurred. According to the study, the meteor was travelling between 10 and 20 miles per second and would have produced winds in excess of 500 miles per hour.

Movie locations

The large white home on a hill at 401 E. Bridge Street is known as the Collier house. It was built ca.-1940 and appeared in the movie “Big Fish” as the home of the older Edward Bloom (played by Albert Finney) and his wife, Sandra (portrayed by Jessica Lange).

Other “Big Fish” filming locations in town include:

Thames Pharmacy at 121 East Bridge Street, which served as the exterior of the Horizon Savings and Loan Bank.

Old First National Bank Building on Company Street, which was the interior of the bank.

A store at 100 Court Street was The Felder Hotel.

Bibb Graves Bridge, a rainbow-arch bridge built in the 1930s that spans the Coosa River, was used in several scenes from the film.

Jasmine Hill Gardens

Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum is located at 3001 Jasmine Hill Road. Its website says “it was conceived in 1928 by Benjamin and Mary Fitzpatrick and has grown into a virtual outdoor museum featuring reproductions of famous Greek and Roman works of art.” The Fitzpatricks’ ca.-1830s cottage remains on the property, which is also available as a wedding venue.

For the complete article please see

Brewery, taproom coming to downtown Montgomery

From the article by Brad Harper in the Montgomery Advertiser:

A startup beer company plans to open a full production brewery later this year inside a renovated, 71-year-old building in downtown Montgomery.

Work is already underway on the new home of Common Bond Brewers at 424 Bibb St., the former Lowe’s Auto Parts building. It will feature a taproom for beer tasting, and the company will also brew and package the beer on site for distribution to restaurants, bars and stores.

“Downtown Montgomery is up and coming, and we wanted to be a part of that,” Common Bond brewmaster Andrew McNally said. “In the five years that I’ve lived here, I’ve seen a real change downtown and there’s a lot more to come.”

Jerome Moore of Moore Company Realty, which handled the deal, said they hope to lease the connected space to a restaurant that would complement the brewery. Moore said he expects the site to become a destination, drawing cars off the Interstate 65 exit nearby.

The whole idea has been brewing for a while.

Delaware native McNally is a chemist by trade and started experimenting at home years ago as a way of combining his love for chemistry and his love for food. He shared the homebrews with his friends, but it took a while to get it right. “They were very polite,” McNally laughed.

Things got serious after he made the finals of the first Good People Brewing Company homebrew competition. After years of honing the recipes and techniques, he and business partner Tim Doles decided to take the plunge and open the Montgomery brewery.

Common Bond will start with three selections – a West Coast-style IPA, a malty rye amber and a smooth Belgian blond. They plan to add new beers seasonally.

Why call their beer Common Bond? McNally said it’s a nod to the atomic-level reactions that happen during the brewing process, as well as the way beer brings people together on a social level.

“Some of my best memories formed over sharing a pint and what came out of it,” McNally said.

McNally said they’re replacing the roof on their new home now. They’re also planning to install new plumbing and do a complete “overhaul” to the interior with upgraded fixtures – while keeping and showing off features like the original brick.

He said the idea for the taproom is to “make you feel sort of cozy and welcome.”

They hope to open this fall.

For the complete article please see

Alabama State Lands Division launches new canoe trails website

The Alabama State Lands Division has launched its new canoe trails website, The site features information and maps needed to plan an adventure on the Bartram Canoe Trail or the newly opened Perdido River Canoe Trail. The site also makes it easy for paddlers to make overnight camping reservations for both trails.

The Perdido River Canoe Trail features a 19-mile segment of the Perdido River in Baldwin County. This section of the river is characterized by gently flowing brackish water over coastal white sand. The river’s many sandbars provide opportunities for paddlers to take breaks, camp or have lunch. There are multiple access points along the river including two launches and one boat ramp. Paddlers can also reserve one of six camping shelters that accommodate up to eight people each.

Opened in 2003, the Bartram Canoe Trail system provides paddling opportunities on the rivers, streams, lakes, sloughs and bayous of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The State Lands Division maintains six day-use trails and six overnight trails on the Bartram. There are two land-based campsites and four floating platform campsites available for the overnight routes. The land-based camping areas are open on a first-come, first-served basis. The floating platform campsites are limited to groups no larger than eight and are available by online reservation only. Additional pile-supported, land-based camping shelters will be constructed in the coming months.

Both trails are open to canoes and kayaks only. The Perdido River Canoe Trail is accessible via the Perdido Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Baldwin County. The Bartram Canoe Trail is accessible from the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort or one of many local landings. Overnight camping reservations ($26.50 per night) for both the Bartram and Perdido Canoe Trails are limited to paddlers only. This project is funded with qualified outer continental shelf oil and gas revenues by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of the Interior.

Paddlers are encouraged to check water levels and weather while planning their trips on the Perdido and Bartram trails. More planning tips can be found on the Alabama State Lands Division Canoe Trails website,

In addition to the Perdido River Canoe Trail, the Perdido River WMA Hiking Trail is being constructed through a partnership between the Alabama State Lands Division and the Alabama Hiking Trail Society. The trail is blazed in yellow and is a mixture of WMA roads and newly constructed path that follows the river for most of the hike. For more information about the hiking trail, visit

Judy Ryals appointed by Governor Bentley to Alabama Small Business Commission

Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, has been appointed by Governor Robert Bentley to the Alabama Small Business Commission.

The Alabama Small Business Commission, created by executive order in September, serves as an advisory body in formulating policies, encouraging innovation, and discussing issues critical to the economic growth of small businesses. The Commission promotes policies to assist new business start-ups and the expansion of existing businesses. Members of the Commission will be made up entirely of small business owners from across the state.

“Small businesses are an integral part of the framework that makes up the American economic system,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “We have assembled an impressive group of 25 Alabama small business owners from every region of Alabama to discuss issues essential to the growth of small business and promote policies to assist new business start-ups and expansion of existing businesses. Each member brings a unique perspective and a wealth of real-world experience on what it takes to be a successful small business owner. I am looking forward to hearing the ideas and recommendations from the new members as they share a common goal of supporting the growth of both new and existing small businesses.”

The Commission members will serve a two-year term with the option of a two year reappointment.

NASA’s ‘modern figures’ are no longer ‘hidden’

From the article by Lee Roop on

“You have to treat people the way you want to be treated, even if you’re not being treated that way.” “You’re a woman, you’re a minority, I just don’t know where to put you.”

“Minorities sometimes get this: Maybe your numbers aren’t quite right.”

A theater filled with Huntsville children and teenagers heard that and more Thursday night after a screening of the movie “Hidden Figures.” But these comments didn’t come from the story on the screen about black women fighting for a place in NASA 50 years ago.

They came from a panel of black professional women who work at NASA in Huntsville today. They were remembering how they started after watching “Hidden Figures” in a screening sponsored by Google Fiber at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

The movie grabbed and didn’t let go the 350 children and teens who came from Huntsville Boys and Girls Clubs, Brownie and Girl Scout troops, and Girls, Inc. They cheered and applauded the characters’ victories, gasped when they were treated unfairly, and giggled when they kissed their love interests on the screen.

And afterward, they listened to Dr. Marceia Clark-Ingram, Dr. Shelia Nash-Stevenson, Elaine Flowers Duncan and Dr. Dawn Turner explain how they earned successful professional careers at the modern NASA.

Nash-Stevenson, whose doctorate is in physics, works in Marshall’s Materials and Processes Laboratory. It’s a long way from her childhood “in the country with no engineers, no scientists” around. “I liked math,” she said of how it all began. “I didn’t know anybody who liked math. I didn’t like the country.”

“Who you become is your decision,” Nash-Stevenson said.

Duncan, a Marshall engineer, also liked math and helped her father with his tile-laying business. “Ever since I can remember, he had me confirm the numbers for the tile he needed to buy,” she said.

A teacher “told me I could be a mathematician,” Duncan said. “I had people who told me I was good at it.”

The panelists shared their favorite scenes from the movie. For Turner, a Marshall contracting officer, it was when Katherine Johnson “was finally clear about why she was away from her desk. She spoke up.” Johnson was missing because she had to run across the NASA center to the only bathroom for black women.

“You do have a voice,” Turner said, adding, “It’s important to use it for positive things.”

“Don’t be afraid to step out from your neighborhoods,” Clark-Ingram said, advising the students to leave bad influences behind and not look back.

How was their message received? When the panel ended, young girls swarmed the stage to have their pictures taken with these modern NASA professional women.

For the complete article please see

Hospitality & Tourism Workforce summit at University of South Alabama

The University of South Alabama (USA) in Mobile will hosts its inaugural Hospitality & Tourism Workforce Summit on March 5-6.

The purpose of the summit is to discuss public-private collaboration efforts to help meet the workforce needs of the growing Gulf Coast hospitality and tourism industry. 

The summit is proposed and supported by the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management’s Advisory Board. The advisory board consists of industry leaders and experts from various hospitality and tourism sectors from Mobile and Baldwin counties, other areas in Southern Alabama and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

There will be a reception on Sunday, March 5 at the Pillars and the summit will be March 6 at the Mobile Convention Center. Proceeds from the reception will go towards Department of Hospitality and Tourism scholarships and proceeds from the summit itself will be used for workforce initiatives and future summits.

The summit will also provide excellent learning, mentoring and networking opportunities for USA students.

More information and summit registration is available at:

USA is seeking corporate sponsorship to help reduce costs for participants and provide financial assistance for Hospitality and Tourism Management students.

For more information on sponsorship please contact Aimee Meyers or Amanda Donaldson. Aimee can be reached at or 251-414-8276 or Amanda, at or 251-341-3859.



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Alabama Tourism Department