Tourism Tuesdays June 13, 2017

Alabama Tourism brings the mountains and Mardi Gras to New York

Food Network visits three coastal Alabama restaurants

New 18-acre park planned for Birmingham

Selma’s St. James Hotel to be reborn as hotelFUBU

Billy Reid interviewed about Florence’s Frank Lloyd Wright House

State tourism award nominations deadline is June 23

Alabama Gulf Seafood Summit is June 26-27 in Orange Beach

Alabama Scenic Byways summer workshop is June 27-28 in Montgomery

ALABAMA 200 bicentennial workshop is June 29 in Robertsdale

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30

Alabama Makers Market is July 27 in Montgomery

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 in Birmingham

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama Tourism brings the mountains and Mardi Gras to New York
The Alabama Tourism Department is bringing a little bit of Alabama to the streets of New York City this week.

The promotion kicks off in the middle of Times Square with a Mardi Gras parade on Thursday.  Costumed revelers and the Jambalaya Brass Band will be throwing beads and MoonPies and playing music. A parade float will be semi-completed in a warehouse in the Bronx, and final stages of the float construction will be completed in Times Square, followed by a Mobile Mardi Gras pop-up parade.

A 20-foot-tall, 20-foot-wide mountain will be built in the middle of Flat Iron Pedestrian Plaza on Friday, where the crowd will be invited to climb to the top and see the famous Little River Canyon using a virtual reality headset featuring 360 video. Climbers will receive a souvenir digital photo of their “visit” to save and share.

Follow all the special events on

Food Network visits three coastal Alabama restaurants
From the article by Michelle Matthews on

Josh Denny was looking for “ginormous” food, and he found it, along with enthusiastic crowds, in downtown Mobile and Fairhope during Memorial Day weekend.

Denny is the host of “Ginormous Food,” a Food Network show that airs on Friday nights at 7 p.m. CDT and features “the biggest and best food finds around the country,” according to a news release. Currently in its second season of 13 half-hour episodes, the show follows Denny, a standup comedian originally from Philadelphia, on a “culinary journey… to find the intersection of huge and delicious.”

The first stop in Alabama was Thyme on Section in Fairhope, where an episode was taped during the restaurant’s Sunday brunch. On Monday, Memorial Day, LoDa Biergarten in downtown Mobile had issued an invitation on social media to attend the taping and enjoy a “build-your-own badass burger” for $9, as well as half-price draft beers.

On Tuesday, the crew arrived at Von’s Bistro in downtown Mobile at around 7:45 a.m., said Von Larson, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Paul. The Larsons opened their first eatery in 2012 in Bayou La Batre, then they bought a food truck in 2014 before opening on St. Michael Street in September of 2015.

Von said she was initially contacted by Food Network about six weeks ago and has been working with various producers on the phone and via Skype ever since.

For her “ginormous” contribution, Von created a play on her spring roll appetizer that she called the “High Roller,” filled with Gulf shrimp and local pork belly from Bill E’s Small Batch Bacon from Fairhope. William “Bill E” Stitt, the man behind the red-hot bacon, also made an appearance and chatted with the show’s host.

“It took four spring roll wrappers to make one,” Von said.

The producers asked her to prepare two other dishes, as well, and she chose the popular Chicken Pad Thai Nachos and Bahn Mi Tacos. Creative combinations of Asian and Southern dishes are Von’s specialty. “Our restaurant is a little bit of everything,” she said.

The seven-member crew didn’t leave until around 5 that evening, Von said. She was told that the show featuring Von’s will be the last one of this season, which began April 28, and will air sometime around the end of July.

“Anything for downtown Mobile,” she said of the experience. “The more, the merrier. We love the national platform.”

For the complete article please see

New 18-acre park planned for Birmingham
From the article by Ty West in the Birmingham Business Journal:

The city of Birmingham on Wednesday announced plans for a new 18-acre greenspace in the Collegeville neighborhood.

The $5 million project, which will also include a new memorial for civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesoworth, will be a public-private partnership funded by federal and national foundation dollars, according to the city.

The park will be located between Macklin Park and Bethel Baptist Church, bordered by 29th Avenue North, 33rd Street North, 27th Avenue North and 31st Street North.

The greenspace will include water features, walking trails, gathering spaces and other recreation space.

It is one of several projects in the works for neighborhoods outside of downtown Birmingham, which has seen the bulk of developer interest in recent years.

Many neighborhood proponents have called for more public infrastructure spending to help boost activity and attract private developers to other areas of the city.

For the complete article please see

Selma’s St. James Hotel to be reborn as hotelFUBU
From the article by Alvin Benn in the Montgomery Advertiser:

Cecily Groves became acquainted with Selma and the Edmund Pettus Bridge when she was 8 years old and read about them at school during Black History Month programs.

When she finally toured the town and saw the bridge in person a few days ago, she was a nationally known business executive determined to rescue one of Selma’s legendary structures.

The basis of that determination is the ailing St. James Hotel that has fallen on hard times and is but a shell of what it once was.

“It’s going to be our pearl, and we fully intend for it to be our launch property,” she said, as she stood in the shadow of the St. James on a warm June afternoon.

Groves and business partner Carl Brown created hotelFUBU, a hospitality brand concept that focuses on development projects such as the St. James Hotel.

Earlier this year, their company announced plans to buy, renovate and expand the hotel that has been owned by the city of Selma and losing thousands of dollars a month.

It got so bad at one point that two local women who love their town became volunteers spending several weeks scrubbing toilets, making beds and handling other chores to keep the hotel open. They didn’t ask for a penny.

An offer to buy the hotel from the city for $400,000 along with a pledge to spend up to $3 million in improvements to bring it back to life has gained municipal approval and the transaction could be finalized as early as next month.

Groves said there won’t be an overnight transformation because the hotel is in such bad shape it will take months to resuscitate it.

“It’s our hope that the deal will be signed and sealed with the changing of hands very soon,” said Selma Councilwoman Susan Youngblood, who greeted Groves with a big smile and an even bigger hug when they met outside the hotel.

Groves, who lives in Atlanta, said her company’s selection of the St. James Hotel as its initial property is the beginning of better times because they expect success to breed success.

“We’re involved right now on various levels of negotiations and acquisitions, but can’t say anything other than that at the moment,” she said, as she chatted outside the St. James.

Councilman Michael Johnson said Selma’s civil rights history is a tourism magnet, “and I can see Water Avenue looking a lot like the French Quarter in New Orleans one day.”

Johnson said speculators used to beat a steady stream to City Hall with promises without money to back them up, leading to quick departures.

“They came in looking for a quick dollar and didn’t indicate they were willing to invest part of that money to help restore the hotel,” Johnson said. “Some wanted to manage, not own it.”

One of the first decisions to be made by the new owners is construction of 40 more rooms adjacent to the hotel that only had that number when it opened two decades ago.

As problems mounted and managers seemed to leave as fast as they arrived, the St. James appeared ready to slip back into its former life as a tire recapping business on the same site.

An infusion of $6 million by local leaders led to construction of a “new” St. James Hotel, where outlaws Jesse and Frank James were among the guests while they were on the lam from the law in the 19th century.

Situated on a soapstone bluff high above the Alabama River, the hotel has the business ingredients that attracted Groves the first time she considered it.

The St. James got off to a glittering revival 20 years ago with a red-carpet welcome that attracted state officials who raved about the accommodations.

As the months and years passed, however, the hotel fell deeper into disrepair until occupation at times reached a shade above zero.

Groves isn’t worried, because she comes from sturdy stock and had ancestors from Yazoo City and Crystal Springs in Mississippi.

“When I arrived here, it was as though I was coming home,” she said. “I leave here a totally different person. I have found a part of myself.”

For that reason, she said every effort possible will be exerted to get the St. James Hotel in ship-shape condition.

“It’s like we’ll be taking care of grandma’s house,” she said.

For the complete article please see

Billy Reid interviewed about Florence’s Frank Lloyd Wright House
From the article in Surface magazine

Florence-based fashion designer Billy Reid was one of a handful of designers invited to share his favorite Frank Lloyd Wright project in celebration of Wright’s 150th birthday. Reid shared his thoughts on The Rosenbaum House in Florence (built in 1940, it is the state’s only Frank Lloyd Wright designed house).

“The Rosenbaum House is one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the deep South. The Rosenbaum family owned movie theaters, loved to entertain, and had a progressive point of view for the time and for being in a small town in Northern Alabama. The house is actually small in comparison to other Wright structures, but the use of space and natural light is a marvel and incredibly inspiring. The home was nearly sold and demolished many years ago, but the city of Florence had the foresight to purchase the property and work with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to grant funds to restore the home to its original condition. I notice new details in the design every time I visit or shoot there.” — Billy Reid, fashion designer

For the complete article please see

State tourism award nominations deadline is June 23
The deadline for state tourism award nominations is June 23.  The awards will be presented at the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Birmingham from Aug. 19-22 at the Sheraton Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

Award categories include:
Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame
Attraction of the Year
Event of the Year
Governor’s Tourism Award
Tourism Advocate (Government)
Tourism Advocate (Media)
Rising Star
Tourism Employee of the Year
Tourism Executive of the Year
Tourism Organization of the Year
Tourism Partnership
Welcome Center of the Year
Alabama Tourism Department Employee of the Year
Theme Campaign

The online nomination form is available at

Alabama Gulf Seafood Summit is June 26-27 in Orange Beach
The Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission (ASMC) – in partnership with the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI) – will host the 5th Annual Alabama Seafood Summit from June 26-27 at The Wharf at Orange Beach.

This is the second year the event has been held at The Wharf and a milestone fifth year for the overall event. The Summit historically connects seafood processors, grocers and restaurateurs/chefs in an informative environment to achieve a better understanding and sense of community in the industry – all while providing quality networking opportunities.

“The Seafood Summit is one full of educating attendees around critical issues, fellowshipping with like-minded industry peers, and, of course, enjoying delicious Alabama Gulf Seafood,” said Chris Blankenship, acting commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and program administrator for ASMC.

“Alabama’s Gulf Seafood is known worldwide for its impeccable quality, and we look forward to the upcoming Summit where we will discuss how to continue to enhance this valuable contributor to the state’s economy,” said John McMillan, ADAI commissioner.

Registration is now open and attendance is free. For a schedule of events and registration information please see

Alabama Scenic Byways summer workshop is June 27-28 in Montgomery
The Alabama Scenic Byways Program in partnership with the Alabama Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils will present a summer workshop on June 27-28 at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center.  The theme of the workshop will be “Using Your Historical Assets: Making the Places and Stories Along Your Byway Stronger” and will include discussions on resources, tax credits and building history-based itineraries.

This free workshop is open to 50 participants.

Registration information is available at

ALABAMA 200 bicentennial workshop is June 29 in Robertsdale
The next in the series of ALABAMA 200 workshops is Thursday, June 29, at the Central Annex Building in Robertsdale beginning at 10 a.m. The workshop is free and open to the public; however, registration is required. For more information, visit

The ALABAMA 200 series of regional workshops, offers community members access to bicentennial programming ideas, resources and funding opportunities. The workshops are designed to assist communities in planning for Alabama’s bicentennial commemoration.

Each workshop is tailored to the region and includes 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 are an opportunity to develop cross-county partnerships that can include shared calendars, collaboration on projects and joint celebrations.

The workshops are supported by local and statewide partners, including 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.

For future workshop locations and dates, visit

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

Alabama Makers Market is July 27 in Montgomery
The Alabama Tourism Department will assist local vendors with getting their goods sold at gift shops across the state when it hosts the Alabama Makers Marketplace on Thursday, July 27 in Montgomery.  The event is free and will also be open to the public for retail sales.

Booth space is free for the event. Local vendors interested in participating can contact Leigh Cross at for registration information. Deadline for registration is June 27.

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 in Birmingham
The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 at the Sheraton Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism provides tourism professionals a chance to gather and learn about the economic impact of the industry on the Alabama economy, learn new strategies for marketing local Alabama attractions and amenities to visitors, raise money for scholarships through silent auctions and celebrate achievements.

For an agenda, list of speakers and registration information please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Submitting a repeating or recurring event for online publication is easy. For events that repeat on a weekly or monthly basis, simply enter a start date, end date, and time of event. Then, select “Repeat Event.” Choose “Weekly” plus select every week or every two weeks; OR choose “Monthly” and select the day of the month the event repeats. Complete all fields with your event details, photos, descriptions, and video to inspire more visitors to click through to your site or attend your event.

Need to polish up your location/event listing? Go 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.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the newsletter please contact Brian Jones at:

Alabama Tourism Department