Tourism Tuesdays April 25, 2017

Tourists spent more than $13 billion in Alabama last year

Herb Malone gives annual tourism update on beach tourism

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution features series of travel articles on Alabama

Toronto Star profiles Talladega race experience and souvenirs from across the state

More than 2,000 take part in April Walking Tours the past four Saturdays

Iconic Southern dish returns to the menu at Alabama restaurant

Women’s pro golf tournament set for RTJ golf course in Prattville

Marriott honors Shoals general manager

Pedal tour companies receive OK to operate in Birmingham

Help keep Humanities in Alabama

Welcome Center tourism and travel week celebrations scheduled

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Tourists spent more than $13 billion in Alabama last year

Editor’s note: The results of the Auburn University of Montgomery’s economic impact report on Alabama’s travel industry was covered by media outlets across the state including; The Associated Press,, Alabama Public Radio, WSFA-12, WAKA-8, WNCF-32, WBRC-6, WBMA-33/40, WAFF-48, WAAY-31, WHNT-19, WKRG-5, WVUA-23, WPMI-15, WTVY-4, Montgomery Advertiser, Tuscaloosa News, The Baldwin Times, The News Courier and the Opelika-Auburn News.  The complete county-by-county report will be posted later this week on

From The Associated Press:

A report says travelers spent more than $13 billion in Alabama last year.

The study was conducted for the state tourism agency by an economist at Auburn University Montgomery. It says more than 25 million travelers spent a total of $13.4 billion in the state in 2016 on hotels, shopping, transportation and restaurants.

The number represents an increase of 5.4 percent from the year before. Tourism Director Lee Sentell says travel spending has doubled in the state over the last 14 years.

The report says the spending was responsible for about 180,000 jobs statewide last year.

Baldwin County with its beaches leads the state in travel spending at $4.2 billion. The state’s population centers of Jefferson, Madison, Mobile and Montgomery counties are next.

For the complete article please see

Herb Malone gives annual tourism update on beach tourism

From the article by Allison Woodham in The Baldwin Times:

“Last year, over six million people visited us,” began Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, during the Leadership Luncheon with the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce on April 18. “That means over six million people sat around a table after Christmas dinner maybe and decided as a family, ‘Where are we going on vacation this year? … Mountains, beach, Disney, cruises …’

“At some point, they narrowed it down into, ‘What beach are we going to? What are we going to do when we get there?’ Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, those six million people who came to visit last year are the most special because of all those places they could’ve chosen, they chose to come here. To Foley, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan or wherever they stay, wherever they recreate, they came here to spend not only their money, but a more precious item than that: their time — their family time.”

During Malone’s annual tourism update, he discussed numbers and money, but reminded the audience of one thing:

“Tourism and all of its components, whether it be lodging, restaurants, retail, attractions, it’s all about the people,” he said. “It’s the people that matter. It’s the people that are the customers, and it’s the people who are serving those customers.” Malone explained the Alabama Tourism Department uses economists from Auburn University at Montgomery to report the economic development of tourism throughout the year.

In 2015, over 6.1 million guests visited Baldwin County. Over $1.3 billion was earned in wages and salaries. Last year, there were over 49,544 travel-related jobs and visitors spent $4.2 billion dollars before they left.

“The wealth of this dollar spend by these tourists in this region is what spreads the wealth in this region,” Malone said.

Malone progressed to telling the audience about the program Leave Only Footprints.

“You cannot leave items on the beach overnight,” he said. “And there are a lot of good reasons for that. One, which is when it is high-tourist season, it’s high-nesting season for sea turtles.”

All the sea turtles nesting on the beaches are endangered species. This program also improves the aesthetics of the beach.

“Is it an inconvenience to put up and take down your tent every day? Yes,” Malone said. “But there’s a lot of great things that come because of a little inconvenience.”

In 2012, there were 148 nests on Alabama beaches. Last year, the first year of Leave Only Footprints, that number jumped to 239.

The only constant in life is change, and there have been some “game changers” in this county that have produced the last six years of record numbers.

The Gulf State Park Lodge is scheduled to open May 2018. In addition to the lodge, there are numerous other components, like an interpretive center, a walkway over Perdido Beach Boulevard that connects to the current trail system, an education building and more.

“OWA,” Malone began, “what a great thing that is. If there’s ever been a game changer in this community on the positive side — you can talk about Ivans and Frederics and all those game changers — but these are the things that are really going to give us that boost to being a year-round destination for the whole region.”

The first year the Hangout Music Festival was planned was May 2010.

“Who remembers what happened in April 2010?” Malone said. “But Shaul (Zislin) was brave enough to go ahead and put it on in spite of that, and this will be its eighth year. Memorial Day was one of our big three weekends, and now we have four big weekends.”

In 2016, 103,562 room nights were spent in hotels for sports events. SportsTravel magazine named the inaugural NCAA Beach Volleyball National Championship the “Best New Event” for 2016.

“We’ve been hosting this for three years on a hope and a prayer that we would get to host the championship one day, knowing when it happened, we’d be bidding against places in California and south Florida,” Malone said. “Because of the hospitality shown those three years, overall, the scene and everything, it came to be and that was historic. NCAA doesn’t just start events like that every year.”

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism started with a two-year contract, and before Malone stepped on stage, he received news the contract received a five-year extension.

NAIA has three national championships at the beach right now: boys track and field, girls track and field and soccer.

The USSSA World Series has called the Gulf Coast home for several years, and the SEC Women’s Soccer in October and November, has been in the area for 14 years.

Other events in the off season, include the Oyster Cook-Off and the World Food Championship.

“This is putting our area on the national and international map with foodies,” Malone said. “People come from 14 different countries and 48 states. The winner goes home with $100,000, and we have a five-year contract on that event.

Year-to-date numbers, March 2016 over March 2017, were up 7.4 percent for lodging tax and up 7.7 percent in retail.

“People come back because of the way they were treated,” Malone said. “It’s not just the hotel or restaurant business, it’s every one of you.”

To conclude, Malone read an email from a family that visited Orange Beach from Indiana on Spring Break. The letter read that Southern hospitality was shown at Publix, the local Walmart, the unfortunate visit to the urgent care, gift shops … everywhere.

“People were so genuine, kind and respectful,” it read. “My kids were equally parts confused and amazed when we crossed the Foley Beach Express, and the toll booth operators were kind; they smiled.”

“You should be so proud of your community, the people that work and live there. You are all doing everything right in your community.”

The letter concluded with the family stating this was going to be their annual Spring Break destination.

Malone finished, “That’s what it’s all about folks.”

For the complete article please see,49033

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution features series of travel articles on Alabama

Editor’s note:  H.M. Cauley with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a series of five articles on Alabama travel destinations.  Cauley worked with Alabama Tourism Department staff members Brian Jones, Tommy Cauthen and Rick Harmon on gathering information and photos for the articles. The first two articles were featured in last week’s newsletter.  These are the remaining three article in the series. 

“Plenty of great places to eat”

 (third in the AJC series) from the article by H.M. Cauley in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

1/ Dauphin’s

Tucked onto the 34th floor of the Trustmark Building, this elegant eatery offers sweeping views of Mobile bay and the city’s skyline, earning it a nod from Open Table as one of the country’s most scenic dining spots. The menu reflects a blend of local, Creole and Caribbean influences with dishes such as tuna from Ono Island on the Gulf, chops topped with crab meat and shrimp and grits with sausage from nearby Conecuh County. 107 St. Francis St., Mobile. 251-444-0200,

2/ Cotton Row Restaurant

Housed in what was once a cotton exchange from the 1820s, Cotton Row and its kitchen are under the expert direction of chef and Culinary Institute of America grad James Boyce, whose resume lists Le Cirque in New York and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Here, he’s put his talents to seafood specialties of Gulf shrimp, Apalachicola oysters, salmon, sea scallops and snapper. Kobe beef, rack of lamb and fois gras are also featured. Brunch and lunch are also served. 100 Southside Square, Huntsville. 256-382-9500,

3/ Big Bob Gibson

For more than 90 years, barbecue has been the star at this award-winning joint. The accolades have honored the beef brisket, chicken, turkey and ribs that are paired with salads, potatoes, Brunswick stew, beans, greens and homemade desserts. Like the flavors? Take home bottles of Big Bob’s dry rubs, seasonings and red, white, mustard and habanero sauces. 1715 6th Ave., Decatur. 256-350-6969,

4/ Ricatoni’s

Veal Parmesan, fettuccine Alfredo, lasagna and a flavorful penne topped with duck and sausage are among the Italian specialties featured in this Florence trattoria, but the handmade pizzas fresh from the wood-burning ovens have their fair share of fans. 107 N. Court St., Florence. 256-718-1002,

5/ Cypress Inn

Overlooking the Black Warrior River, this rustic restaurant serves dishes designed from decades-old family recipes. One of the most popular is the chicken salad with poppy seed dressing and a side of cheese toast. Locally raised seafood, pastas and steaks round out the menu. After a meal, stroll down the lawn to the waterfront or relax in a rocking chair on the porch. 501 Rice Mine Rd., Tuscaloosa. 205-345-6963,

For the complete article please see

“Music sites include retro rock studio, room full of replica rockets”

(fourth in the AJC series) from the article by H.M. Cauley in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

1/ Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

A $1 million gift from rapper Dr. Dre went a long way to bringing back that old time rock ‘n roll. The money helped restore this classic sound studio in Sheffield where the Rolling Stones belted out “Brown Sugar” and the Staple Singers crooned “I’ll Take You There” for posterity. The work wrapped up in January, and today the space is one of the state’s chief attractions. Visitors will find vintage 1960s furnishings during the day, and budding artists can record their works in the evening. 3614 Jackson Highway, Sheffield. 256-978-5151,

2/Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Though it has the Bard’s name in the title, this Montgomery facility is also the state theater, so its attractions go well beyond iambic pentameter. It recently hosted an evening with country star Clint Black, and the upcoming schedule includes performances of “Mary Poppins” and an evening with an Elvis tribute band. The theater also offers deals on weekend packages that include two shows. 1 Festival Drive, Montgomery. 334-271-5353,

3/ Saturn

A recent addition to the state’s music venues, this space in Birmingham is in a two-story brick building with an interior reminiscent of the ’60s, with vivid colors, molded tables and chairs and replicas of Saturn rockets. Alabama native and musician Brian Teasley is the energy behind the stage that draws local and national acts such as Jump, Little Children and comedian Myq Kaplan, as well as dance, salsa, brunch and bingo parties. 41st Street S., Birmingham. 205-703-9545,

For the complete article please see

“In Birmingham area, admire an old bike or train, or just bounce”

(fifth in the AJC series) from the article by H.M. Cauley in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

1/ Barber Vintage Motor Sports Museum

What kid doesn’t love bikes? It’s often an obsession no matter what age they are – the “bikes” just get bigger. At this museum, about 20 miles east of Birmingham in Leeds, visitors will find five floors packed with more than 1,400 motorcycles, giving the museum a spot in the Guinness book for having the world’s biggest collection. More than 200 brands are on display, along with exhibits about the evolution, technology and people it takes to produce a bike. Group tours can work with the restoration crew to rebuild a bike and go on a scavenger hunt. Note that the museum is on the grounds of a park where various racing events are held, and on those days, visitors must purchase an event ticket as well as a museum pass. 6030 Barber Motorsports Pkwy., Leeds. 205-699-7275,

2/ Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum

Get out of the car and take a ride on an old-fashioned train at this museum about 35 miles south of Birmingham. The idea for a place dedicated to railroad buffs grew out of a 1962 visit by the Civil War engine the General, that was touring the country before coming to rest in Kennesaw’s Southern Museum. The facility features two restored depots and an expansive array of railroad memorabilia, cars, cabooses and engines. Hop on a diesel-and-electric driven engine for a one-hour ride through the local countryside, or take a longer trip during various holiday and themed events. The trains are wheelchair accessible. 1919 9th St., Calera. 205-668-3435,

3/ Airwalk Trampoline Arena

Kids bouncing off the walls? It’s perfectly fine at the Birmingham center where 12,000 square feet of trampolines and padded surfaces let the tykes tire themselves out. More than 60 of the jumping surfaces set up a variety of moves, from a slam-dunk to a fall from a trapeze. It’s fun, but it requires a waiver, and kids 2 and younger must be with an adult. Check out the calendar to find times reserved just for those younger than 6. 7010 Champion Blvd., Birmingham. 205-637-3347,

For the complete article please see

Toronto Star profiles Talladega race experience and souvenirs from across the state

Editor’s note:  Rick McGinnis with the Toronto Star visited the state in October on a press trip coordinated by the Alabama Tourism Department.  McGinnis’ first article is about his experience at the Talladega Superspeedway and his second describes some uniquely Alabama souvenirs he picked up along his travels.

“Talladega is as much a social event as it is about racing”

From the article by Rick McGinnis in the Toronto Star:

Campgrounds stretch out for miles around Talladega Superspeedway, and on the Friday morning of the big race weekend, trucks, trailers and RVs fill the roads. For the next three days, a city of tens of thousands will inhabit the fields outside this massive racetrack, but the place to be is in the infield.

NASCAR drivers race all over the U.S., but Alabama’s Talladega is the biggest track of them all — a 4.3-kilometre-long tri-oval, opened in 1969, when NASCAR had grown into big business from dirt tracks ex-bootleggers drove upon. The campgrounds around the track provide an idea of the scale of the event, but you have to stand in the infield inside the track to really appreciate how epic this biannual car race has become.

After driving along the track and the roads that snake through the infield, I reach my home for the weekend — a full-sized tour bus parked just by the start/finish straight.

The grandstands loom cliff-like behind my bus, while the infield stretches to the horizon in front, a 97-hectare complex of garages, race pits, support buildings and parking lots on one side of another track nestled in the middle of the infield, with campgrounds reaching the track’s far corners.

This is my first proper NASCAR race, and I’m struggling to process everything. It’s like getting your learner’s permit and being given the keys to a 700-horsepower Dodge Charger Hellcat.


My bus neighbours are Ricky McGehee, from Baton Rouge, La., and his buddies, brothers Dennis and Barrie Craig, Talladega locals. They’ve been coming here since the ’70s. McGehee says the infield has calmed down in the last few years; it used to be a hell of a party, and hardly family-friendly; you’d line up outside the track on Friday with your tent or camper and scramble to claim a site near the side of the track when the door opened.

Nowadays, it’s more organized, the result of NASCAR’s massive growth in the ’80s and ’90s, but I’m told I have to see The Big One, as they call the party on Friday night on Talladega Boulevard, the street that cuts across the campgrounds.

I walk over as the sun goes down, toward the music and the lights. The boulevard is the social heart of the infield, a place where you turn your campsite into a living room, a bar or a restaurant, accessorized with lights, signs, Jacuzzis and stripper poles. Everyone here has come to party, and I calculate there’s no way everyone, inside or outside the track, can possibly get a decent view of the race. All these people are here, really, to see each other.

The Big One became an official event a few years ago, when officials, faced with the reversal in NASCAR’s growth that forced them to demolish some grandstands, decided to hold an event for NASCAR and Talladega’s core crowd, to reward their loyalty. It begins with a parade down the boulevard with drivers on the back of a flatbed truck, blaring music and lights as they throw trinkets to the fans.

It continues outside a beer tent, where contests are held involving trays of supposedly edible goo and a pool of pumpkin puree that’s replaced the barbecue sauce wrestling event. People dress up and act up, and they’re still at it when I stagger away from the boulevard as rock, hip-hop, new country, electronic dance music and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama blare into the cool night air.

It’s quieter the next morning when I visit Paul Robinson at his campsite on the boulevard. He’s been coming here from Ancaster, Ont., since 1993 with his buddies, and says that when they finally went to bed last night, people were crashed out on the couches in the living room they had set up outside their RV.

He calls it “a guy’s weekend,” and this is his third consecutive year driving down with an RV. “I come for the racing,” he says, then gestures outside his camper, “but this is interesting as well.” There’s always something new to see every year, but he has to think about what some of the highlights have been. “Probably the Elvis on the motorized toilet,” he says. “And the family of eggheads.”

Race day is much more of a family affair. More than any other major racing series, NASCAR is unusually accessible for fans, with drivers doing regular meet-and-greets with them in the Fan Village outside the track. On race day itself, fans are all over the garages and Pit Road, with passes that give them levels of access to everything from the red carpet outside the pre-race driver’s meeting ($50 for the Sunday pre-race pit pass) to the festivities on the track itself just before the drivers get in their cars (a $75 upgrade.)

Families of both fans and drivers walk up and down Pit Road, while crews prepare the cars and race officials make last-minute checks. Finally, the green flag drops and the 804.8 km and 188 laps of the Hellmann’s 500 begins with an ear-shattering roar that resolves into a lulling wave for the next three hours. Joey Logano wins, but my memory of the race mostly involves walking back and forth along the track, watching everyone watch the cars.

Back at my bus, McGehee and the Craigs ask me what I thought. I say I’ve had a ball, though there’s one thing I wish I’d done. NASCAR began with moonshiners building fast cars to outrace federal agents, and the whole time I’ve been in Alabama, I haven’t tasted moonshine.

They laugh, reach into a cooler in the back of a truck, and produce a mason jar full of clear liquor with peach slices bobbing at the bottom. They unscrew the lid and hand it to me. It’s remarkably smooth, though my head will start to swim a half hour later. I look up at the looming red, white and blue empty grandstands and realize I’ve had the best NASCAR experience ever.

Rick McGinnis was hosted by the Alabama Tourism Department, which didn’t review or approve this story.

When you go

Get there: United Airlines ( and  American Airlines ( offer flights to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport with stopovers in Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta, Ga.

Stay: Infield campsites can be reserved at Talladega Superspeedway’s website,, and there’s a range of RV rental agencies that will rent you a portable home and even park and set it up at the track for the weekend. Star Coach Race Tours ( provided my motor coach, and will take care of luxury setup and logistics for many NASCAR races. Alabama-based Southern Cruzin ( will rent you a vehicle for the race touring the state, while Trinity RV Rentals ( specializes in Talladega camping.

Eat: There’s lots of food in the grandstand concessions during races, but you’ll probably want to provision yourself with good barbecue for the weekend. I lived off a Boston butt, a rack of ribs and potato salad from Butts to Go (, based out of a Texaco station in Pell City, on the road from Birmingham to Talladega.

Do your research: Go to the Talladega Superspeedway website ( for the nitty gritty on the race weekend, and NASCAR’s website ( for the big picture. While you’re online, check out the sites for Alabama ( and Birmingham ( to turn a weekend into a whole week.

For the complete article please see

“6 things to bring home from Alabama”

From the article by Rick McGinnis in the Toronto Star:

My travels in Alabama took me from recording studios to racetrack, with a lot of barbecue in between. This is what came back in my bag.

To wear: Racetracks are all about cars, noise, speed — and sunburn. I kept my head covered with this baseball cap ($25 U.S.) from the gift shop at the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham.

To cook with: You can’t bring a rack of ribs or a pulled pork sandwich home, but you can do the next best thing and cook it yourself using sauce ($3.40) from a real barbecue joint, such as Bunyan’s in Florence.

To read: After the documentary Muscle Shoals made him famous outside the music biz, FAME Studios founder Rick Hall told his own story with The Man From Muscle Shoals, the autobiography he’d been threatening to write for years. Signed copies are $45 from the gift shop at FAME gift shop in Muscle Shoals.

To listen to: Alabama’s music scene is thriving today, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones is one of its most promising young bands. The soulful group’s new record, Sea of Noise, is an ambitious departure from its 2014 debut Half The City, a gutbucket record about heartbreak, recorded in Muscle Shoals. It cost $25 on vinyl from Charlemagne Record Exchange in Birmingham.

For the kids: There’s no shortage of souvenirs for sale at a NASCAR race, and the Fan Village at Talladega Superspeedway contains a whole shopping mall. There wasn’t much there that would make an animal-obsessed tween happier than a stuffed bulldog in a Chevy Trucks T-shirt ($15).

To keep your beer cold: The Big One on the boulevard is a rowdy party held on the Friday before the race at Talladega. It features a Mardi-Gras atmosphere and begins with a parade, where the drivers ride on a flatbed truck and toss beads and other trinkets to the crowd — such as a NASCAR beer cosy. Priceless.

Rick McGinnis was hosted by the Alabama Tourism Department, which didn’t review or approve this story.

For the complete article please see

More than 2,000 take part in April Walking Tours the past four Saturdays

More than 2,000 people across the state took part in the April Walking Tours the past four Saturdays. Only one Saturday remains in this year’s walking tour program. While numbers are still being reported, so far some of the largest walking tour totals were: Athens, 424; Fairhope, 275; Florence, 262; Huntsville, 170; Birmingham, 94; Decatur, 93; Foley, 76; Tuscumbia, 70; Shelby, 68; Madison, 66; Mooresville, 62, Sheffield, 60. 

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 Saturday.

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

Iconic Southern dish returns to the menu at Alabama restaurant

from the article by Bob Carlton on

Tomato salad season arrives early this year at Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham.

The Hot and Hot Tomato Salad — a perennial on the Alabama Tourism Department’s list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” — returns to the menu tonight, April 18, at the Birmingham restaurant.

In recent years, the popular tomato salad hasn’t made its debut until the first week of May, when the first crop of spring tomatoes typically arrives from growers in Immokalee and Ruskin, Fla.

“These last five years, we’ve seen a shift in the agricultural calendar,” Hot and Hot Fish Club executive chef and co-owner Chris Hastings told this morning. “Different things are showing up earlier at different times of the year because of the warmer weather.

“Usually, the peas and the corn and the okra are the first things we see and the tomatoes are the last thing to show up,” Hastings added. “But we’ve been seeing pretty good tomatoes for the last couple of weeks.”

Alabama-grown tomatoes should be ready in about another month, Hastings added.

The tomato salad has been a late spring and summer tradition on the Hot and Hot Fish Club menu since Hastings and his wife, Idie, opened their restaurant in 1995.

A triumph of culinary art that is as eye-catching as it is delicious, the Hot and Hot Tomato Salad features thick tomato slices tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and meticulously stacked one on top of the other, then garnished with lady peas, corn kernels and fried okra pods. The tomatoes are drizzled with a chive aioli and crowned with applewood-smoked bacon.

The arrival of the tomato salad is a rite of spring that Hot and Hot Fish Club regulars anticipate every year, Hastings said.

“For the last 30 days, it doesn’t matter where I am — I can be at the barber shop, I can be at the grocery store, or I can be coming out of services on Easter Sunday, or I can be getting text message and emails from friends (wanting to know): ‘When’s the tomato salad?’,” he said.

“It’s really cool to be able to have something that resonates so profoundly with our community. And it’s kind of gotten a reputation well beyond our community. It’s considered one of the most iconic dishes in the South, and that’s pretty cool.”

Hastings came up with the recipe before he opened Hot and Hot Fish Club, while he was teaching a week of cooking classes at Bud & Alley’s restaurant in Seaside, Fla.

“I had some time to really work on this thing and kind of bring it full circle,” he recalled. “Like anything, you have to tinker with it. I played with a lot of different variations, and it was that week that it kind of resonated. And that was it. I’ve served it at the Hot and Hot for 22 years now.”

The Hot and Hot Tomato Salad is available as an appetizer for $12. An entree, which features twin stacks of the tomato salad served with Bayou La Batre shrimp, is $32.

The tomato salad is typically available through the end of September.

Hot and Hot Fish Club is at 2180 11th Court South in Birmingham.

For the complete article please see  

Women’s pro golf tournament set for RTJ golf course in Prattville

From the article by Marty Roney in the Montgomery Advertiser:

Professional golf is coming back to Prattville.

The Symetra Tour, the official qualifying tour for the LPGA, announced last week that the Guardian Championship is coming to the Capitol Hill site of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The tourney will be Sept. 18-24 with play days Sept. 21-24. The top 144 rising stars of women’s golf will test their skills on the Senator Course. The total purse is $100,000 with the winner taking home $15,000.

“We are excited to be part of the woman’s golf tradition in Alabama,” said Heath Harrell, CEO of Guardian Credit Union. “As the local credit union, we thrive on community events, and the Guardian Championship promises great things for everyone involved. Guardian is looking forward to the partnership with Robert Trent Jones and the golfing community.”

Professional golf has a long running relationship with Capitol Hill. In 2001, The Tour Championship picked Prattville, with the top finishers of the championship earning their PGA Tour Cards. The LPGA has had stops in Prattville for at least 10 years. When Yokohama Tire pulled out as title sponsor for the Prattville stop this year, it sent officials scrambling to find another event.

The Guardian Championship is a two-year deal for Capitol Hill.

The golf will be great, said Jonathan Romeo, tournament director.

“People may not know much about the Symetra Tour,” he said. “It’s the Young Guns, the up and comers of women’s golf. They are all talented and they are hungry. They are working to make it to the LPGA.”

Fans who have made the Prattville tournaments in the past are familiar with players from the Symetra Tour, said Mike Nichols, of the LPGA. Symetra alums who have played at the LPGA events in town include, Julieta Granada, Ginger Howard, Nicole Jeray, Lorie Kane, Lisa Ferrero, Mina Hargae, Allison Walshe, Kristy McPherson and Carolina Westrup.

Many on the Symetra Tour now have close ties with Alabama, including Montgomery’s Karlin Beck, Huntsville’s Janie Jackson and the University of Alabama’s Jennifer Kirby, Enna Talley and Camilla Lennarth.

“This area has such an important role in the tradition of women’s golf,” said Nichols. “Lexi Thompson and Ariya Jutanugarn both had their first LPGA wins here in Prattville and have gone on to become international golf sensations, ranking among the top five in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings.

“Now, we are bringing the future stars of the LPGA to the River Region and we know the community will embrace them and take pride in their success when they reach the LPGA.”

Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie Jr. is glad to welcome women’s golf back to his city.

“Ben Hogan said ‘The most important shot in golf is the next one.’ and that stands true, not only for these ladies, but for the community in which we live,” the mayor said. “The investments made since 1998 in this area have definitely paid dividends. We’re proud to host this tournament and look forward to the arrival of these talented golfers. I wish these ladies the best and hope that their investment in their golf careers takes them to the next level.”

So what about the future of professional golf in Prattville? Could there be more LPGA tour stops in coming years?

“We are looking at everything all the time,” Romeo said. “Prattville has always been one of the more popular stops on the LPGA. So we are constantly working to bring great golf to Prattville.”

For the complete article please see

Marriott honors Shoals general manager

From the article by Bernie Delinski in the Times Daily:

Larry Bowser said a recognition he received this month as general manager of Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa is a tribute to the daily efforts of the facility’s employees.

Bowser was named the Franchise General Manager of the Year for the Eastern Region of Marriott International.

The region includes Marriott, Renaissance, JW Marriott and several other full-service hotel brands, according to a release from PCH Hotels & Resorts, which manages eight Marriott properties in Alabama.

The recipient is decided by evaluating data from all Eastern Region Marriotts based on financial performance, guest experience and associate engagement, said Roy Nassau, area vice president over full service franchising

“In effect, Larry was judged against hundreds of general managers of full-service hotels in the entire Eastern Region of the United States,” Nassau said. “Over the years, he has consistently raised the bar year over year and 2016 was no different.”

Bowser said the employees and Shoals share this award.

“Our service scores and the service that we provide is really a testament to the quality of associates I have, caliber of people in the Shoals, work ethic and way that they look at things,” he said. “It’s just a blessing.

“We’re so happy the community is proud of us. I often tell hotel planners who come here that we’re not just a hotel, but part of the community.”

Bowser said the employees have maintained a “caring culture” since the hotel opened in 2005.

“This would not be possible without the exceptional commitment of our ownership, the Retirement Systems of Alabama,” he said.

Marriott Shoals has received numerous recognitions throughout the years, including ranking No. 1 among Marriotts in North Alabama in customer satisfaction in 2008 and being named the 2015 ConventionSouth Readers’ Choice Award. It also consistently receives Four Diamond ratings.

Bowser was named 2012 Hotelier of the Year by the Alabama Hospitality Association and 2013 Hotelier of the Year by the Alabama Tourism Department.

Tony Davis, CEO of PCH Hotels & Resorts, said the Shoals hotel consistently ranks among Top 10 hotels for guest satisfaction and Bowser is active in the community.

“Community involvement is important to Larry Bowser and giving back is fundamental to the long-term health of the Marriott Shoals,” Davis said.

For the complete article please see

Pedal tour companies receive OK to operate in Birmingham

From the article by Erin Edgemon on

Pedal-powered trolley tour companies will soon be operating in Birmingham.

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance allowing pedal buses and pedal bus services to operate in the city. Only pre-arranged tours are allowed, and the companies can’t accept on-demand fares.

The vehicles can only operate on roadways with a 35 miles per hour or less speed limit, but the vehicles can’t operate faster than 15 miles per hour, according to the ordinance. No one under the age of 18 can ride in a pedal bus.

The ordinance gives the council the right to limit the number of pedal bus services that can operate in the city.

Last month, the council approved low-speed cab companies, like JoyRide to operate in Magic City.

The first pedal bus company, Birmingham Pedal Tours, is expected to be up and running by mid-May, said Jason Kobza, company co-owner.

“We are incredibly excited and honored that the city will allow us to operate,” he said.

Kobza said the trolley tours will “bridge the gap between the breweries, restaurants and bars” and bring more tourists to downtown and Southside Birmingham.

Birmingham Pedal Tour’s pedal trolleys can hold up to 14 passengers. The vehicles also have an electric-assist.

Tours will last two hours and are perfect for pub crawls, birthday celebrations and bachelor/bachelorette parties, Kobza said. Tours will start and end at Trim Tab Brewing in Southside.

Kobza declined to share the tour routes as the company is still awaiting approval from the city’s traffic engineer.

According to Birmingham Pedal Tour’s website, though, tour groups can choose their own routes through downtown, Lakeview and Avondale. The website also lists public pub crawls and private tours.

Passengers can pick their own music and bring their own snacks for the doors.

Birmingham Pedal Tours is now accepting reservations for June.

For the complete article please see

Help keep humanities in Alabama

As the threat of federal budget cuts to humanities looms, the Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF) and its supporters are mobilizing an effort to raise awareness among Congress and the general public of the negative impact such cuts would have across the state.

In 2016 alone, AHF — with funding support from the National Endowment for the Humanities — sponsored nearly 200 individual programs involving over 130,000 Alabamians in programs including Prime Time Family Reading, Road Scholar Speakers Bureau and Museum on Main Street.

Calls and emails of support are going out to Alabama’s congressional delegation, telling the story of the AHF and its importance in all 67 counties. Op-ed pieces are being placed in newspapers throughout Alabama along with letters to the editor and social media postings.

The AHF is encouraging people to contact their congressional representatives to tell them how the humanities have impacted their community and urging them to invest in the learning, understanding, and appreciation of our people, communities, and cultures.

Call-  Your Members of Congress to Urge Them to Oppose Eliminating NEH

Email-  Your Members of Congress to Urge Them to Oppose Eliminating NEH

Welcome Center tourism and travel week celebrations scheduled

The eight state welcome centers will celebrate National Tourism and Travel Week on different dates during the month of May to give tourism industry partners the opportunity to attend several of the events.  The goal of the events is to help kick-off the vacation season and show appreciation to guests stopping at the centers by offering special promotions to local attractions, hotels and restaurants.

The welcome centers and days are: Lanett Welcome Center- May 4, Baldwin Welcome Center- May 9, Houston Welcome Center- May 11, Sumter Welcome Center -May 11, Ardmore Welcome Center- May 18, Cleburne Welcome Center- May 24, DeKalb Welcome Center- May 25, Grand Bay Welcome Center- May 26.  Each celebration will take place from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on the date scheduled.

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30

The deadline for submitting items for the printed version of the Alabama Tourism Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events is June 30.  Use the Alabama Tourism industry partners website at to enter and manage events/attractions in the database. If you need assistance please contact Pam Smith at 334-353-4541 or email at

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

Members of the state tourism industry can promote their event or location on the state tourism website by creating a free account using the partner portal.  Setting up an account allows your information to be displayed on for visitors to see and explore. In one month alone, received 150,000 visitors, 30,000 of whom then connected to a partner site.

Examples of the type of locations that can sign-up include attractions, accommodations, restaurants, antique stores, boutique shops, outfitters, shopping destinations, farmers markets, amphitheaters and concert halls. Events include festivals, performances, concerts, plays, exhibits, and tournaments.

If you don’t already have a partner account- the sign up is easy.  Instructions and more information is available at



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.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the newsletter please contact Brian Jones at:

Alabama Tourism Department