Tourism Tuesdays April 11, 2017

More than 1,000 take part in April Walking Tours the past two Saturdays

Alabama Tourism workshop- Wednesday in Montgomery

ALABAMA 200 workshop- Thursday in Florence

World Food Championships announce Alabama “Cook Your Way to the Beach” recipe contest

Perdido River Trail offers scenic vistas

James O. Oates Park opens in Dothan

Downtown Anniston hotel will be Best Western Plus

Bellingrath Gardens and Home celebrates 85th anniversary of opening to the public

Alabama Book Festival announces 2017 author lineup

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


More than 1,000 take part in April Walking Tours the past two Saturdays 
More than 1,000 people across the state took part in the April Walking Tours the past two Saturdays. While numbers are still being reported, so far some of the largest walking tour totals were Huntsville, 170; Florence, 141; Fairhope, 125; Athens, 101; Decatur, 73; Shelby, 60; Foley, 45; Birmingham, 43; Tuscumbia, 42; Sheffield, 41; Mooresville, 32.

A variety of community leaders lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns.  The hour-long tours start at 10 a.m. on April 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Attalla, Gazebo at 4th St. and 5th Ave.; Bayou La Batre, Mariner Park; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Courtland, Courtland Heritage Museum; Cullman, Cullman County Museum; Daleville, Chamber of Commerce; Decatur, Old State Bank Building; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Enterprise, The Rawls Hotel; Eutaw, Prairie Avenue; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center.

Huntsville, Confectionary Shop at Constitution Village (April 1 & 8 only); Livingston, McConnell Field on University of West Alabama campus; Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 15 & 22 only); Mobile, Welcome Center at The History Museum of Mobile; Montgomery; Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Post Office; Moulton, Lawrence County Archives; Pell City, City Hall; Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Shelby, Iron Works Park; Troy, Pike County Chamber of Commerce; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

More information about the April Walking Tours is available on the Alabama Tourism Department website at

Alabama Tourism workshop- Wednesday in Montgomery
The Alabama Tourism Department will host the semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wed., April 12.  This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in the area.

For registration and additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at

ALABAMA 200 workshop-  Thursday in Florence
On April 13, the first of a series of ALABAMA 200 workshops will take place in Florence. The workshops will offer community members access to programming ideas, resources and funding opportunities to honor Alabama’s three-year bicentennial commemoration.

The first workshop is at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library in Florence from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 13. The workshops are free and open to the public. Registration is

Additional workshops have been scheduled at Robertsdale on June 29, Cullman on July 10, Dothan on July 27 and Fort Payne on Aug. 18, with more workshop dates to come. for further details.

Each workshop will be tailored to the region and will include tourism professionals, representatives from area history/heritage and arts organizations, local bicentennial committee members, chamber and county representatives and others.

Between 2017 and 2019, ALABAMA 200 will engage residents and visitors in educational programs, community activities and statewide initiatives that teach, inspire and entertain. Local communities, though, will be the heart of the commemoration.

The regional community workshops will encourage cross-county partnerships, development of timelines, access to available projects, exhibitions, speakers and fundraising opportunities.

There will be many ways that individuals, groups and communities can involve themselves in the state’s milestone birthday.  These include everything from family reunions, school service projects, museum exhibitions and common reading programs to recipe collections and oral history interviews.

The workshops are co-sponsored by Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism, Alabama League of Municipalities, University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, Main Street Alabama, Design Alabama, Alabama Historical Commission, Black Heritage Council, Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, Alabama Tourism Department, Alabama Association of Regional Councils, Alabama Communities of Excellence and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

In 2013, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission was established to begin planning for the state’s 200th anniversary. For more information about the bicentennial, visit, or call 334-242-4537.

World Food Championships announce Alabama “Cook Your Way to the Beach” recipe contest
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism is asking fellow CVBs to help spread the word about an Alabama recipe contest being conducted by the World Food Championships, which takes place in Orange Beach in mid-November. They are asking the CVBs to encourage local chefs and home cooks to submit their best original recipe featuring Gulf seafood so that there is a great selection of entries from across the state.

Each winner receives a Golden Ticket to compete in the championships in Orange Beach.

Alabama home cooks and professional chefs have a chance to showcase their favorite Gulf seafood dish on a world stage with the World Food Championships’ (WFC) Alabama “Cook Your Way to the Beach” recipe contest. All recipes must be original, focus on Gulf seafood, not be copied or reproduced from a published cookbook, and the contest is open to Alabama residents only.

“Most competitors who come to the World Food Championships have won some of the biggest and best food competitions across the country,” says Joanie Flynn, vice president of marketing for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism who is helping promote the contest. “For our own Alabama chefs – whether they work in a restaurant or just love to cook at home – to have the chance to go up against people from all around the U.S. and the world is just an exciting opportunity to showcase both our fabulous Gulf seafood and the fantastic culinary talent here in our own state.”

The WFC Alabama recipe contest runs April 21 through May 1, and all recipes must be submitted online via the World Food Championships Facebook page at  (@WorldFoodChampionships on Facebook). Five winners will be chosen by the World Food Championships Ambassador Council via a blind judging process. The top winner will receive a Golden Ticket to compete in the seafood category as well as have entry fees waived and receive a $500 travel stipend. The other four winners will receive a Golden Ticket to compete in the seafood category. Winners will be announced in mid-May.

World Food Championships, the largest food sport event in the world, returns Nov. 8-12 to The Wharf in Orange Beach. This is the annual event’s sixth year and its second on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Last year saw more than 400 competitors – home cooks to highly-acclaimed restaurant chefs – from 48 states and 14 countries battling it out in the world’s largest outdoor kitchen.

For more information on the World Food Championships please see

Perdido River Canoe Trail offers scenic vistas
From the article by David Rainer:

Now that spring is officially here, it’s time to dust off the canoes and kayaks and take advantage of another opportunity to explore Alabama’s great outdoors.

The latest addition to the Alabama State Lands Division Canoe Trail is the 19-mile Perdido River Canoe Trail, which is divided into two segments with three access points along the Perdido River in Baldwin County.

Typical of a coastal river, the Perdido, which borders Alabama and Florida, is tinted with dark tannin-stained water, like that found in nearby Styx River. The Styx River runs into the Perdido River near Seminole, Ala.

The canoe trail portion of this winding river provides numerous sandbars with white sands that are perfect for river travelers.  The many sandbars provide paddlers with frequent opportunities to take a swimming break or lunch break.

The Alabama State Lands Division has provided three access points along the river with two launches and one boat ramp suitable for small boats only. Canoeists and kayakers can stay overnight along the river at one of the six camping shelters that can be reserved or by pitching a tent on one of the sandbars located in front of the shelters. Camping is not allowed on sandbars located between designated shelter locations.

Doug Deaton, State Lands Manager, and Jeremiah Kolb, State Lands Natural Resources Planner, said the Perdido River Canoe Trail was funded through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) grant sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Deaton said the Perdido River Canoe Trail was a natural fit for expanding the State Lands’ Canoe Trail system, which includes the Bartram Canoe Trail that traverses the upper and lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The Perdido trail runs along the 18,446-acre Perdido River Wildlife Management Area in Baldwin County.

“When looking for ways to expand our canoe trail, we thought the Perdido River presented unique opportunities because we already manage state-owned and Forever Wild Land Trust riverfront property there,” Deaton said. “The CIAP program provided the catalyst to start the whole project by submitting a grant application for funding. We were excited to ultimately receive CIAP funding and seized the opportunity to add to the recreational options for the people of Alabama.”

Although the Perdido and Bartram trails are not connected, Kolb said it’s easy to access both trails in a short amount of time.

“And there’s a long history of people using the Perdido River and Styx River,” Kolb said. “Anybody who enjoys canoeing and kayaking will get a lot of use out of the trail.”

The trail amenities include a total of six shelters that will accommodate up to eight campers each in four locations found along the trail. From north to south, these are the Nelson Ditch Shelters, the Peaden Lake Shelter, the Loggerhead Creek Shelters and the Swamp Field Shelter. Individual shelters, which are elevated, can be reserved for one night only, but campers can reserve additional shelters for $25 per night as they travel down the trail. Reservations are from noon to noon, and campers need to keep a copy of the shelter reservation during the trip. No open fires are allowed within 20 feet of the shelters. Cooking stoves are allowed on the shelter porches. Pets are not allowed in the shelters. No alcohol is allowed.

“The shelters are screened in, so there will be protection from insects at night,” Deaton said. “Reservations are required to use the shelters. We don’t allow camping on the beaches unless it’s a beach adjacent to a shelter location. All campers need to keep an eye on the weather. If there’s a chance of a significant rain storm coming in, the river can rise rapidly. Campers need to check the river stage. We provide a link on our webpage to check the water level at Barrineau Park Bridge. If the river stage is 13 feet or higher, it’s out of its banks, so you need to stay away.”

The three access points for launching kayaks and canoes are Gravel Landing, Staple Fork Landing and Blue Lake Landing.

“Blue Lake is mainly for take-out, but we improved the launch enough that you could put a small boat in and motor up the river and fish,” Deaton said. “When we say small, we’re talking about a jon boat with a 25-horsepower motor max. What you’re most likely to catch is largemouth bass, bream, and catfish.”

In addition to the unique habitat of what are called blackwater rivers, the Perdido River Trail users will see a wide variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, ospreys, white-tailed deer and occasionally an Eastern wild turkey. Several eagle and osprey nests are visible during the trek. Of course, loads of other wildlife may be spotted along the way, including gopher tortoises and a wide variety of songbirds and reptiles.

“It’s a very easy paddle,” Kolb said. “You can also tube down the river. But be aware that the river is spring-fed and is cold year-round.”

Trail users are urged to make a checklist before embarking on a trip. Included items should be a map of the area, paddles, life preservers, dry bag with a change of clothes, flashlight, drinks and food, sunglasses, sunscreen, cell phone secured in a waterproof container, car keys, lighter or firestarter stick, toilet tissue, portable toilet, GPS and camping gear.

Kolb and Deaton warn that there may be the possibility of having to portage the canoes and kayaks during the trip because of logjams.

“And users need to be aware that those logjams don’t stay in the same place,” Deaton said. “They’re constantly moving. It’s not hard to get around them, but you will have to take your canoe or kayak out of the water.

“Another thing we need to emphasize to the day users and the overnight campers is there are no bathroom facilities along the trail. It is required that users bring their own portable toilet. You’ve got to take it out with you. That goes for any garbage, too. We want our users to ‘Leave No Trace’ that they’ve been there.”

Visit to find additional information on the Perdido River Canoe Trail and the Bartram Canoe Trail as well as a link to make shelter reservations.

James O. Oates Park opens in Dothan
From the article by Jimmy Sailors in the Dothan Eagle:

After years of planning and delays, James O. Oates Park on Campbellton Highway at Taylor Road in Dothan opened Saturday morning.

The recreational park is named for Jim Oates, Dothan’s leisure services director from 1977 to 1998. Oates headed the department during its most rapid period of growth.

Some of his accomplishments include overseeing the development of Westgate Park, the acquisition of Eastgate Park land and the construction of both Walton Recreation Center and Wiregrass Recreation Center.

The city’s newest park includes a six-field youth baseball complex, a six-field youth softball complex, a 1.4-mile walking and biking trail and a children’s playground.

Other features in the master plan that could be added in future phases include a disc golf course and activity center.
Opening ceremonies were held Saturday morning for the Dothan American League at the baseball complex and for Dixie Girls Softball at the softball complex.

At the baseball complex, a statue of Savoy Jones was unveiled. Jones was a 15-year-old sophomore at Emmanuel Christian in 2013 who collapsed during basketball practice and died a few hours later at a hospital.

The new park in southwest Dothan has been discussed for at least a decade. Land was acquired but the economic recession hit about 2008 and plans were put on hold.

Oates said he appreciated the opportunity the city gave him to serve as leisure services director.

“God blessed me with a great staff who worked tirelessly to create and expand programs and facilities,” he said.

He said there are many people and organizations to thank who supported the department during his years as director, including mayors and commissioners, department staff, members of the recreation board, the Dothan Convention and Visitors Bureau and “thousands of volunteers who freely gave of their time and talents.”

Their efforts produced results. “The layout of the facilities on the Westgate site plan almost mirrors what is out there today,” Oates said. “It just took us 20 to 40 years to complete it.”

Leisure Services Director Elston Jones said the addition of the 12 fields at Oates Park gives the city a total of 43 fields.

“We can bring any tournament we want to Dothan,” Jones said.

Dothan Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Bob Hendrix said the park is going to be a major economic engine for the city.

“Every time you have a 40-team tournament, that brings in a half a million dollars over a weekend,” Hendrix said.
Mayor Mike Schmitz said when he went to his first recreation board meeting seven and a half years ago the members were saying the park was never going to happen.

“Even though the economy was struggling, our community came together, the leadership all came together and we did what it took to get the jobs back to create the sales revenue that helped build the park,” Schmitz said.

Oates is proud that the park has finally opened.

“I’m honored beyond belief that this magnificent park will bear my name,” Oates said.

For the complete article please see

Downtown Anniston hotel will be Best Western Plus
From the article by William Thornton on

A $10 million downtown Anniston hotel is set to open early next year as a Best Western Plus.

Developers announced the hotel project, slated for the corner of 12th and Noble in Anniston, will be one of the franchise’s new line of upper mid-scale hotels targeted at the business and leisure traveler markets.

The project’s developers, JW Hartlein & Company of Jackson, Miss., and Tag Investments of Baton Rouge, La., announced plans of the project in January with city officials.

The hotel, which will occupy the space currently held by the Model City Center, will occupy four floors with 75 guest rooms and 400 square feet of meeting space. The ground floor is planned as retail space. No tenants have yet been named. Developers estimated the project could create up to 60 jobs.

City officials announced that demolition on the Model City Center will begin later this month.

Hartlein has been involved in several projects throughout the South, including the Mainsail and Waterview Towers condominiums in Destin, Kroger centers in Madison and Richland, Miss. and the Whitney Luxury Apartments in Starkville, Miss.

For the complete article please see

Bellingrath Gardens and Home celebrates 85th anniversary of opening to the public
Bellingrath Gardens and Home celebrated a major milestone on Friday, April 7: The 85th anniversary of the date that the Gardens officially opened to the public.

Walter Bellingrath placed an ad in the Mobile Register on April 6, 1932, inviting the public to tour the Gardens the next day. He and his wife, Bessie, were stunned by the response: Nearly 4,700 visitors arrived, causing a huge traffic jam. The Bellingraths decided to keep the Gardens open to the public and to charge a small admission fee. Life at their idyllic Fowl River retreat would never be the same.

To celebrate this historic day, guests were invited to enjoy the Gardens at a special admission rate. The Magnolia Café served a special “Belle Camp” fish-fry lunch, in honor of the Gardens’ origin as a fishing camp, complete with birthday cake. The highlight of the daylong celebration was a concert on Live Oak Plaza, given by the Stillman College Concert Choir.

Stillman College is a longtime beneficiary of the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation, established by Walter Bellingrath in 1950 to perpetuate the Gardens and Home and to support three Christian colleges. The others are Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.; and Huntingdon College in Montgomery.

For more information on Bellingrath Gardens and Home please see

Alabama Book Festival announces 2017 author lineup
The lineup for the 2017 Alabama Book Festival April 22 in Montgomery includes a diverse list of best-selling authors that organizers say will appeal to a variety of ages and reading interests. The 12th annual event takes place in Montgomery’s historic Old Alabama Town at the intersection of Columbus and Hull streets from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Scheduled to appear are the following:

Rita Mae Brown — Brown is author of the revolutionary coming-of-age novel “Rubyfruit Jungle,” which was her first book. More recently, she has published 25-plus books in the
Mrs. Murphy cozy mystery series with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, as co-author.

Winston Groom — Best known for writing “Forrest Gump,” Groom has also written several books in the historical genre. His first work of fiction in almost 20 years, “El Paso,” is his newest book.

Cassandra King — Native Alabamian and author Cassandra King is the recipient of Troy University’s annual Hall-Waters Prize. The award is presented to a person who has made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts. Her works include “Moonrise,” “The Sunday Wife” and “The Same Sweet Girls.”

Jay Asher — Asher is best known for his young adult novel “Thirteen Reasons Why,” which makes its debut as a 13-part Netflix series on March 31. The novel about suicide has resonated with millions of teenagers and sold more than 2 million copies over the past 10 years.

Tayari Jones — Jones is part of the festival through a National Endowment for the Arts grant to Troy University to host The Big Read, a program designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture. The book selected for Montgomery’s Big Read is “Silver Sparrow,” Jones’s novel about two teenage girls living in Atlanta in the 1980s.

Brad Watson — Watson is the 2017 recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year. His novel “Miss Jane” has been heralded as a work of great beauty and empathy.

Michael Knight — Knight’s “Eveningland” is a thematically linked collection of stories that The Library Journal calls “essential for fans of literary fiction.” His novel “The Typist” was selected as a Best Book of the Year by The Huffington Post and The Kansas City Star, among other places, and appeared on Oprah’s Summer Reading List.

Joining these authors at the book festival will be more than 50 additional writers. Panels throughout the day include Cozy Mystery, Children’s Picture Books, Biography, Poetry, Comics, Romance, Dark Mystery, Military History, Food and Spirits, Outdoors and more.

For aspiring writers, workshops are scheduled throughout the day. Topics include fiction writing, cookbook and travel writing, memoirs, screenwriting, writing for young adults and songwriting. The workshops are free on a first-come, first-served basis, but registration is required online at

Books by festival authors will be available for purchase courtesy of Barnes and Noble, and authors will be signing books immediately following their presentations.

Publishers, authors, schools, libraries and literary and arts organizations will be among those represented at exhibitor booths. Several food vendors will also be onsite.

Sponsors of the 2017 festival include the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Troy University, Old Alabama Town/Landmarks Foundation, the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the City of Montgomery, the Montgomery City-County Public Library, Barnes and Noble, the Alabama Library Association, Bluewater Publications, Lamar Advertising, the Montgomery Advertiser, the Alabama Bench and Bar Historical Society, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alabama Writers’ Forum, and the Alabama Tourism Department.

For more information please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Adding a video to your partner location/event detail page can significantly enhance engagement, interest and click through. Video also increases the likelihood your location/event will be selected for featured treatment on the site and in other digital content. When adding a YouTube video, simply copy and paste the series of letters/numbers following the “V=” in your YouTube URL – rather than the entire URL – into the text box. For additional help, click the adjacent link for an instructional video.

Polish up your partner content by going to today.


Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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