Tourism Tuesdays June 6, 2017

OWA amusement park on the fast track to completion, set to open mid-July

Hotel Indigo opens in Orange Beach

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio attracting global visitors

Gregg Allman’s Muscle Shoals swansong and Fame Studios roots

Chris Blankenship appointed as acting commissioner of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources poll for Alabama’s Best Steakhouse

ALABAMA 200 schedules bicentennial workshops in Chatom and Robertsdale

Alabama Scenic Byways hosts summer workshop on June 27-28 in Montgomery

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


OWA amusement park on the fast track to completion, set to open mid-July

From the report by Asha Staples on Fox-10:

How would you like to ride on the state’s biggest and fastest roller coaster? Hold your excitement – you’ll have a chance next month when things start rolling at the multi-million dollar entertainment district, OWA in Foley.

“It’s so exciting and I can’t wait. Me and my family will be going for sure,” Melissa Freeman, of Pensacola, said.

Mother Nature isn’t stopping crews from pushing toward a mid-July opening. The 21-ride amusement park will be the first of many amenities to open, and the excitement is building for tourism officials.

“We get so many visitors to Baldwin County, the majority of those come to the beach, and we think OWA will be a great addition (with its) additional retail and all of the amusement items. We’re such a family destination, and we just feel like it’s going to be a huge addition to the area,” Vice President of Sales at the Gulf Coast Welcome Center Beth Gendler said.

Gendler says tourism numbers from 2016 were outstanding, but she says she knows they’ll increase this year from a project on the fast track to completion.

“Baldwin County had over 6 milion visitors. When they came, they left behind $4.2 billion and it supports almost 50,000 jobs in Baldwin County. And the wages in salaries that produces is almost $1.5 billion!” she said.

“It’s bringing in more tourists, gas stations. You know, everyone is going to be getting a little bit of that income coming this way,” Freeman said.

According to OWA’s Spokeswoman, Kristin Hellmich, all 450 seasonal-work positions for the summer have been filled. She says, however, there are a few full-time positions available. You can check here for information on working for OWA.

For the complete report please see

Hotel Indigo opens in Orange Beach

Hotel Indigo Orange Beach, the first upscale beachside boutique hotel on the Alabama Gulf Coast, has opened at 22843 Perdido Beach Blvd. It is nestled between the white sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and the natural beauty of the Gulf State Park. The hotel’s distinctive nautical design and amenities express the history and culture of the Alabama Gulf Coast. Hotel Indigo Orange Beach is Alabama’s second Hotel Indigo property, a brand which is part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), one of the world’s leading hotel companies.

Each Hotel Indigo property is uniquely designed to reflect the culture, character and history of the surrounding neighborhood. When guests arrive, the lobby provides a welcoming space of contemporary design mixed with beach elements to make the guests instantly feel relaxed. The 62 spacious guest rooms feature modern furnishings with twists of bold color to reflect the blues of the adjacent Gulf of Mexico.

At Hunter’s Bend, a restaurant and bar with nautical design, guests can enjoy a craft cocktail menu, local distillery options and Southern favorites with a flare. Serving breakfast and dinner, Hunter’s Bend has partnered with a seasonally changing cast of local vendors such as Sweet Home Farm, Bon Secour Fisheries, Gulf Coast Produce, among others, to offer a fresh, locally sourced menu. Specialty menu items include Gulf Shrimp Tacos, Fresh Gulf Catch, Peel and Eat Shrimp and more, all found within a 90-mile radius.

The hotel is located adjacent to Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and Big Wave Dave’s restaurant, a new casual dining venue offering a fusion of Gulf Coast seafood and traditional American fare. Within the hotel is the second location of The Southern Grind Coffee House, a full-service boutique coffee shop that provides guests with a delightful dining atmosphere and unique shopping experience, offering a wide array of one-of-a-kind and hand-made gifts, home decor and art.

The hotel’s guests will have access to a 24-hour fitness center, executive meeting space, business center and an indoor/outdoor pool with a bar serving specialty beach drinks. The property also features the brand’s Neighborhood Guide, an innovative touchscreen display that connects guests to each other, the local neighborhood and to Hotel Indigo locations and guests around the world.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio attracting global visitors

From the article by Robert Palmer in The Times Daily:

On any given day at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, you’re certain to hear a non-Southern accent. In fact, it’s likely a non-North American accent will be heard from a visitor.

Late Thursday afternoon, John and Allison Flynn of London, United Kingdom, toured the iconic studio as part of an American vacation – or holiday, as they would say – focused on music.

“When the film (‘Muscle Shoals’) came out, we saw it at a film festival in London,” John Flynn said. “I came here a few years ago, a New Orleans to Nashville trip. A friend had been here and visited the (Alabama Music) Hall of Fame before this was restored.

“The film brought it back to mind. I was aware this had been restored, and I felt it worth coming,” he said.

Flynn said he wanted to see the studio, which was restored with a grant from Beats by Dr. Dre, because of the music recorded there.

“The music is very popular among people of my generation – it still is,” he said.

Debbie Wilson, a tourism industry veteran who is temporarily helping with tours and marketing at the studio, said it’s not uncommon to see men tear up when they finally get inside the studio.

“Bucket list is the most common term we hear from visitors,” she said. “We had a kid from Canada here the day Keifer Sutherland was recording who was a big fan of his. He saw him perform that night. He said it was the best day of his life.”

Since reopening in mid-January after months of restoration, 2,360 admissions have been recorded through the end of April, Wilson said. There have been 150 groups tours, and 100 non-paid tours by journalists and tour operators, she said.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studios was opened in spring 1969 by four session musicians from nearby FAME Recording Studios – Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett. Known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the Swampers, they worked there until early 1978, when they moved into more spacious quarters on the banks of the Tennessee River.

Among the artists who recorded at 3614 Jackson Highway were the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, the Staple Singers, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Traffic and Bob Seger.

Now owned by the nonprofit Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, it is a museum as well as a working studio.

Wilson said international visitors are common. The country with the most visitors is Canada, followed by Great Britain. Australia is among the top five, she said.

A quick glance at the visitors log shows people from Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and New Zealand have been in town to tour the studio this year.

The studio’s reopening has had a ripple effect on other music-related sites. Dixie Griffin, director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia, said visitor numbers are up this year. Wilson said many of the people who visit Muscle Shoals Sound also tour FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, and sometimes other studios open their doors, including Wishbone, Cypress Moon and NuttHouse.

For the complete article please see

Gregg Allman’s Muscle Shoals swansong and Fame Studios roots

From the article by Matt Wake on

The seeds of what became the Allman Brothers Band were planted inside Studio B at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, and, almost 50 years later, the last recordings from the last Allman brother standing took place at Fame too.

Gregg Allman died May 27 at age 69 at his Savannah home from liver cancer complications.

But not before the singer and songwriter – whose transcendent bluesy vocals graced many signature Allman Brothers tunes, like “Midnight Rider,” “Dreams,” “Melissa” and “Whipping Post” – finished his final solo studio album, “Southern Blood.” The album was recorded at Fame with Grammy winning producer Don Was, whose resume includes The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and Bonnie Raitt.

Allman’s publicist Ken Weinstein confirms “Southern Blood” will be released in September. (An exact date has yet to be announced.)

“Southern Blood” has the potential to be the sort of inspired swansong like that final LP from a very different but also revered artist: 2016’s “Blackstar” by glam-rock shapeshifter David Bowie.

“There’s going to be some emotion in the album,” says Fame co-owner Rodney Hall, who booked the Allman sessions. “I can’t say a whole lot about it, but I think it’s going to be an award-winning album to be honest with you. It’s what you’d expect from Greg – it’s a mix of covers, some new songs he’d written, some very poignant things I think will tear on people’s heart strings.”

The “Southern Blood” sessions took place last March. Many details about the LP are being kept secret before its release, to honor Allman’s wishes. However, some information has emerged. Folk-rock icon Jackson Browne, roomed with Allman in Los Angeles very early in their careers, duets with Allman on a version of Browne’s haunting 1972 ballad, “Song for Adam.” Allman previously cut a Browne song for his 1973 debut solo album “Laid Back,” a beautiful take on “These Days,” which was still spine-tingling when I heard Allman sing it during a 2012 concert at Birmingham’s Alabama Theatre. At one point, a song called “My Only True Friend” was reportedly slated for “Southern Blood” inclusion.

“Southern Blood” was recorded live to analog in Fame’s Studio A, with 10 or so musicians from Allman’s touring band all playing at once, Hall says. “Kind of the old-school way of recording. But the old-school’s the cool school.”

While Allman’s blond rogue image, hard-living and womanizing aren’t as well-known as his music, those attributes aren’t unfamiliar either. But in his late-60s and sober, during the “Southern Blood” sessions Allman was “very laid-back and cool, man,” Hall says. “He was very kind and just a gentle person. Very easy to work with and didn’t really come across as having that rock star attitude that some people have. Just a nice, humble man.”

During Allman’s 2016 Fame sessions, the studio would order in food from Sweet Peppers Deli and meat-and-three restaurant Garden Gate. “They were definitely digging on the soul food,” Hall says with a fond laugh. Allman had rented out both studio A and B, setting up the latter as a place for his techs to work and the musicians to relax. “We just had food brought in so there was just a lot of music and hanging and talking about Duane, the past and the future. (Gregg) was really excited about this record.”

There’s lots to talk about when it comes to Fame Studios and Gregg’s older sibling Duane Allman, the guitar wizard who died at the height of his powers, at age 24 in an Oct. 29, 1971 motorcycle accident in Macon, Ga., where the Allman Brothers Band was based.

Before leading the Allman brothers to hard-earned fame with their essential 1971 live disc “At Fillmore East,” following two ambivalently received ABB studio albums, Duane had been a Fame fixture. The studio is where Duane and Gregg and their pre-ABB band Hour Glass cut the track “B.B. King Medley,” which hinted at the future Allman Brothers’ earthy, transportive sound, in April 1968. Hour Glass’ label Liberty Records, which had steered the band in more-manicured directions, rejected the Fame recordings. Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section guitarist Jimmy Johnson engineered the Fame/Hour Glass sessions, which also included two more songs, “Ain’t No Good to Cry,” and “Been Gone Too Long.” “B.B. King Medley” was first released on 1972’s Duane Allman compilation “An Anthology.” All three of these Hour Glass songs can be found on the 1989 Allman Brothers box-set “Dreams.”

Hall says Gregg and Duane’s 1968 Fame sessions are, “Where they really found their voice if you listen to that stuff compared to the (two officially released studio) Hour Glass records, much more along the lines of the Allman Brothers. And I don’t know if it was the same trip or a different trip, but Gregg told me that Jaimoe (Johanson, founding Allman Brothers drummer) and (founding ABB bassist) Berry Oakley, Duane had heard about them and brought them up here and between sessions they would jam. It’s the first time they jammed together.”

“The Allman Brothers literally started in our Studio B.”

The Fame/Hour Glass tapes led to Duane playing on many other artists’ Fame sessions, notably Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude” Beatles cover, laying down a hot guitar solo that wowed Atlantic Records executive/producer Jerry Wexler. And even guitar hero Eric Clapton.

“Duane got into Muscle Shoals through Clarence Carter,” recalls Hall, whose father, visionary producer Rick Hall founded Fame. “That’s how he found Muscle Shoals, he was a huge Clarence Carter fan and of course he was always playing that stuff to Gregg.”

So was Duane’s legacy at Fame one of the main reasons Gregg decided to record “Southern Blood” there?

“I think it was maybe the reason,” Hall says.

Rodney Hall was only about 3 when Duane Allman was around Fame. Hall had been around musicians all his young life – these were just people his dad worked with. “I didn’t know much other than I would hear (Duane’s) name from time to time. At that age you don’t know anything about music. You’re just 3. [Laughs]” A few years later, the Osmond Brothers, the boy-band of that era, recorded a string of hits, including “One Bad Apple,” at Fame. When Hall reached elementary school age, and after the Allman Brothers had achieved stardom, some students at his school asked him “Have you heard of this band called the Allman Brothers? I heard they recorded at y’alls studio.”

To which Hall replied, “It’s not the Allman Brothers, man, it’s the Osmond Brothers.”

Looking back, he laughs at the confusion. As he got a little older, Hall became a huge Allman Brothers fan and “wore their stuff out.” He says, “It kind of hurt my soul that Duane didn’t live and I didn’t get to work with him because that would’ve happened. He definitely would have come back because he loved Muscle Shoals and would have definitely been someone we could have called on to do sessions or Allman Brothers stuff. But on the other hand, I got to work with Gregg at the end and that was an honor, for him to come back and do that record with us.”

Hall first met Gregg Allman in 2013, during Sundance London, where the documentary film “Muscle Shoals,” which centers on Fame and Rick Hall’s compelling arc, was screened. Allman, who is interviewed in the film, performed at the festival. “We started talking about it then, in 2013, about doing the project,” Hall recalls. Around mid-2015, Allman’s reps called and booked recording time at Fame.  In addition to Allman and Sharrard, players on the “Southern Blood” sessions included keyboardist Peter Levin, percussionist Marc Quinones, saxophonists Jay Collins and Art Edmaiston, trumpeter Marc Franklin, drummer Steve Potts and bassist Ron Johnson. Shoals music icons stopping by the sessions included Rick Hall, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section keyboardist Spooner Oldham and bassist David Hood.

In an era when rock legends deaths now seem as frequent as thunderstorms, Gregg Allman’s passing has resonated particularly heavy. With fans and fellow musicians. Clearly, Allman’s soulful music soundtracked multiple generations’ ups and downs. And the life in between.

If the album cover image displayed on Allman’s website for pre-orders of “Southern Blood” is accurate, it’s a masterstroke. The image depicts the bearded, long-haired singer emoting from inside a circular, coin-like design. The Midnight Rider’s one last silver dollar.

For the complete article please see

Chris Blankenship appointed as acting commissioner of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Editor’s note: Blankenship also serves as the program administrator for the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission and has actively worked to help promote gulf seafood, charter and recreational fishing, and the restaurant/hospitality industry.

From the article by Erin Edgemon on

Gov. Kay Ivey has appointed Christopher Blankenship as acting commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Chris Blankenship has more than two decades of experience at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. I know he will do an excellent job leading this agency,” Ivey said in a statement. “I appreciate him stepping up as acting commissioner during this interim period as we continue to steady the ship of state.”

Blankenship most recently served as the deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Prior to that, he served as director of DCNR Marine Resources Division from 2011 to March 2017. He has worked at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources since 1994 when he was hired as a Conservation enforcement officer.

According to the governor’s office, Ivey intends to conduct a thorough search for a permanent commissioner.

For the complete article please see poll for Alabama’s Best Steakhouse

From the article by Haley Laurence on

Last week, asked readers to send in nominations for their favorite steakhouse. And now, the voting begins for Alabama’s Best Steakhouse.

The list of nominated steakhouses can be found at:

Look over the list, then click on the link below the restaurant’s name. It’ll take you to the regional poll you can vote on. will be visiting the top vote-getter in each region (plus wild cards), so vote often. In fact, you can vote every hour until 5 p.m. Friday.

ALABAMA 200 schedules bicentennial workshops in Chatom and Robertsdale

The ALABAMA 200 series of regional workshops, offering community members access to bicentennial programming ideas, resources and funding opportunities, will make stops in Chatom and Robertsdale during the month of June. The workshops are designed to assist communities in planning for Alabama’s bicentennial commemoration.

The Chatom workshop will be hosted at the Chatom Scott House on Monday, June 12, and the Robertsdale session will be held on Thursday, June 29, at the Central Annex Building in Robertsdale. Both sessions will begin at 10 a.m. The workshops are free and open to the public; however, registration is required. For more information, visit

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 are an opportunity to develop cross-county partnerships that can include shared calendars, collaboration on projects and join 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

Alabama Scenic Byways hosts summer workshop on 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  

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

The first step after activating your personal partner account is to join an organization. “Organizations” are groups of partners with a common tourism affiliation. If no record exists for your specific tourism organization, you can create a new one. By joining or creating an organization, you are ensuring that you can claim and manage your specific location and event listings or create new ones.

Need to polish up your partner account? Go to today.



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