Tourism Tuesdays July 11, 2017

The Park at OWA opens July 21

National Monument designation offers economic benefits for Birmingham

Birmingham embracing its past and present to shape the future

‘American Idol’ auditions to bring thousands of musicians, national focus to Shoals

Local restaurants encouraged to sign-up for Alabama Restaurant Week

USA TODAY profiles the Shoals in article on Southern towns with real character

Travel Weekly- UK features Muscle Shoals Sound Studio as one of the eight best music experiences in the U.S.

Orlando magazine profiles Fairhope

Attacks on state tourism promotion don’t add up

Arts and culture produce $89.9 million in economy activity in Huntsville/Madison County

Alabama Shakespeare Festival names new artistic director

John Travolta coming to Hueytown to film movie

Alabama to recognize “Bicentennial Farms”

Alabama Historical Commission announces 2018 capital enhancements grant program

Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery issues a call for entries for “Originally from Alabama” exhibit

Poarch Creek mourns sudden loss of Robert Thrower- Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

Alabama Makers Market is July 27 in Montgomery

Southern Makers event is Aug. 12-13 in Birmingham

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

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


The Park at OWA opens July 21
From the article by Hanno van der Bijlin the Birmingham Business Journal:

Alabama’s newest amusement park has set its opening date.

The Park at OWA in Foley is scheduled to open its doors at 10 a.m. on July 21.

The 21-ride, themed amusement park includes a roller coaster called Rollin’ Thunder, along with midway games, fast-food options, and the Parkside Gift Shop.

OWA is the result of a partnership between the City of Foley and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the owner and developer of the destination.

“Our Tribe is excited to offer a family destination near Alabama’s beautiful beaches that will create memories this summer and for years to come,” said Poarch Creek Indians Tribal Chair and CEO, Stephanie A. Bryan. “We are also proud that OWA is positively impacting families living in Foley and the surrounding region through the job creation generated by this development.”

Tickets will be available for purchase beginning July 18 at Retail and dining tenants will include: Wahlburgers, Sunglass World, Fairhope Soap Company, Alvin’s Island, Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop, and Utopia. These tenants and others will open in phases starting in early September.

For the complete article please see

National Monument designation offers economic benefits for Birmingham
From the article by Brent Leggs on

The creation of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument earlier this year was a powerful moment for the city and a step forward in bringing Birmingham’s nationally significant civil rights legacy to more people. But this new status wasn’t just good news for boosters of the city’s rich history.

As we have seen in preservation projects all over the country, the creation of a national monument offers an important mechanism for local economic development and revitalization. While the plans for renewing one of the area’s most historically significant neighborhoods continue to take shape, we know from experience that anticipated and unforeseen benefits will follow.

Already, the neighborhood surrounding Kelly Ingram Park is experiencing momentum. The comprehensive planning underway and Birmingham Mayor William Bell’s vision for the revitalization is designed to build on this progress. Together, the City of Birmingham, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the National Park Service are laying the groundwork for a path to rehabilitating the historic A.G. Gaston Motel.

Based on experience, we expect this will help spur investment and redevelopment of other nearby community sites, such as the Masonic Temple and Gaston office building across from the motel. From there, the positive benefits of revitalization will continue to radiate outward, bringing more dollars, visitors, and economic activity to more of downtown Birmingham.

We know this because we have seen it happen, all across America. Last year, according to the National Park Service, the National Park System set a new record with 331 million visits.  These visitors spent an estimated $18.4 billion in communities where national parks, monuments and memorials are based or are within 60 miles. They also helped create 318,000 jobs, $12.0 billion in labor income and $34.9 billion in economic output.

Local hotels, bars, and restaurants all saw huge gains, and contributed billions in economic activity to their communities, thanks to having nearby historic attractions on hand.

Here in Birmingham, the historic sites within the monument boundaries already draw thousands of visitors who want to learn about the Magic City’s rich civil rights history. Federal investment in the interpretation, maintenance and preservation will be a long-term benefit to local tourism.

The Alabama Tourism Department estimates that 350,000 people visit the state each year to experience civil rights history sites in Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute welcomes about 150,000 visitors annually. The tourism department also estimates that cultural tourism attracted $52.5 million to the state last year, including $6.8 million on lodging, $14.2 million on dining, and $21.5 million on transportation. The recent national monument designation should only swell these numbers and bring more growth and opportunities to the downtown area, civil rights district and beyond.

Historic preservation isn’t just about commemorating the important stories of our past: it is also a tremendous engine for economic growth and neighborhood revival.

As the city continues to commemorate its civil rights history at the new national monument, the enduring legacy of important places like the A. G. Gaston Motel and the 16th St. Baptist Church won’t be the only benefit. The opportunities for local community investment and economic development here in Birmingham could also be monumental.

For the complete article please see

Birmingham embracing its past and present to shape the future
From the article by Dan Peltier on

Many destinations wish they could shed certain reputations that they’re either not proud of or don’t fully represent what they are in 2017.

In the cases of Orlando, Florida and Birmingham, Alabama, they’d rather you didn’t exclusively associate them with major theme parks and the Civil Rights-era church bombings, respectively.

But both cities understand that being the theme park capital of the world or one of the largest bedrocks of the Civil Rights movement are still hooks for visitors that they shouldn’t avoid.

Finally, Orlando and Birmingham are embracing their pasts and presents, and using those to shape their futures.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Birmingham Mayor William Bell spoke at the City Nation Place Americas conference in New York City recently about politicians’ and city halls’ roles in promoting tourism and how they work with tourism boards to attract visitors.

Bell, who’s served as Birmingham’s mayor since 2010, said the city was trying to become something it wasn’t when he first got the keys to city hall. “In years past, we tried to be the other Atlanta,” said Bell, speaking during the conference. “Then, we figured out we could never be where Atlanta was because, by the time we got there, they would be somewhere else.”

“Then, we tried to brand ourselves as the next Nashville,” he said. “Yeah, we got a great music scene, but it doesn’t compare to Nashville. Then, it was Charlotte and we finally said, ‘no.’ Let’s be what we are. Let’s brand our city as the up and coming great Southern city that we knew we were and to invite people to come here and see the good people in our community.”

Once Birmingham acknowledged its civil rights past – the history that makes it unique – things began to change for the better, said Bell.

“You have to face it head-on,” he said. “For a number of decades Birmingham had tried to run away from its segregation history, but it wasn’t until we just faced it head-on to talk about it, to look at the positive things that came out of it, that we were able to turn that negative into something that was positive.”

Bell said destination marketers should be direct when working with politicians.

“I was told years ago that a mayor’s primary responsibility is to identify and create resources to cover basic services for the residents who live, work and play in the city,” said Bell. “But the second biggest responsibility of a mayor is to promote their city.”

Being in the spotlight is part of being mayor, said Bell, and that often includes being a city’s brand ambassador. “My natural personality is to be behind the scenes, not necessarily out in front, but as the mayor of Birmingham, I’m also the mayor of the entire region of central Alabama,” he said.

“That requires me to be upfront, to participate in all aspects of moving the city forward,” he said. “If you’re not prepared to take on that role, then you’re not going to be too successful, regardless of what your personality might be. The mayor is the spokesperson for the entire community, both in good times and bad.”

Bell has also brought Birmingham’s residents together to give them a stronger voice in what direction their city is going. “Once upon a time, people said that Birmingham would never change,” said Bell. “They said we will always have religion, we will always have the bombings, we will always have the conflict, but it did change.”

“We’ve invited organizations like the UN Commission on Human Rights, UNESCO and other organizations to come to Birmingham to see that change can occur,” he said. “Come and have that dialogue among good men and women to try to find the basis of coming together in a positive way. We try to brand ourselves from that perspective.”

Millennials, in particular, have been top of mind in working to revitalize a city’s downtown and making it a more appealing place to live and work. “If they feel it’s an open city, a city that they can enjoy and relax and associate with their friends and make a decent living and have fun and enjoy their lifestyle…then it just strengthens the ability of the mayor to promote his or her city and bring additional revenue in,” said Bell.

For the complete article please see

‘American Idol’ auditions to bring thousands of musicians, national focus to Shoals
About 2,000 musicians are expected to descend upon the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on Sept. 7 as “American Idol” holds auditions in a state that has already supplied some of the show’s most successful contestants. ABC recently announced that the network would be bringing back the beloved singing competition series for the 2017-2018 season and that Katy Perry is set to judge.

“We always love holding auditions in towns with a rich music history, and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Shoals fit the bill,” said “American Idol” producer Melissa Elfar.  “Also, Alabama has always been a wealth of talent for past ‘Idol’ finalists like Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, and Bo Bice.”

In the history of the franchise, only the states of Alabama and North Carolina had more than one winner.

Dixie Griffin, manager of the hall of fame, said a part of the museum attests to the effect “American Idol” already has had on the state.

“We showcase Ruben, Bo Bice, and Taylor Hicks – two winners and Bo a first-place runner-up with the show,” she said.

Sara Hamlin, chairwoman of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s board of directors, said Griffin deserves much of the credit for attracting the popular series to the Shoals.

“She showcased the museum and the incredible music attractions in this area to bring ‘American Idol’ here, and after ‘American Idol’ comes here and showcases those attractions to a national audience, there is no way to estimate how many tourists that may bring” she said.

With the Alabama auditions taking place in September, Griffin expects “American Idol” will once again have an impact on the state, particularly the Shoals area and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

“This is going to be huge for the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Tuscumbia and the area,” she said. “Many people coming to audition will stay overnight, tour the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, eat in our wonderful restaurants, and shop.  Everyone will profit from the auditions being held on the grounds of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.”

Maybe the biggest impact will be the attention “American Idol” will bring to the Shoals and its contributions to the national music scene.  It is the birthplace of W.C. Handy, known as the “Father of the Blues,” for not only writing some of its great standards but spreading the knowledge of the blues to musicians throughout the world, and of Sam Phillips, who founded Sun Records and revolutionized rock ‘n’ roll.

It also has had some of the country’s most influential recording studios.

Rick Hall’s FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals created the blend of Southern soul called the Muscle Shoals Sound with such hits as Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man.”

The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, which opened this year after Beats Audio gave it a $1-million renovation, helped create classics by the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Cher, Bob Seger, Traffic, The Staple Singers, Linda Ronstadt, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, Boz Scaggs, Jimmy Cliff and many others.

Both FAME and The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio are still active.

Part of Alabama’s musical history is its success on “American Idol.”  Throughout the series’ history, Alabama has had two winners, Studdard and Hicks; two runners-up, Diana DeGarmo and Bo Bice; and four other finalists, including Paul McDonald, Jess Meuse, C.J. Harris and Dexter Roberts.

Elfar had a few tips for musicians interested in trying out Sept. 7 at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame:

Pick a song you like and know how to sing – Performance is a big part of being able to deliver any song, so perform it well.

Don’t be nervous, be confident.

Make eye contact.


Be engaging.

Be ready to chase your dreams!

Please visit for more details on specific audition locations, full eligibility requirements, submission forms, terms and conditions.

Local restaurants encouraged to sign-up for Alabama Restaurant Week
Locally owned and operated state restaurants are encouraged to sign-up for participation in Alabama Restaurant Week.

* Interested restaurants should contact Courtney Austin with the Alabama Tourism Department at 334-242-4674 or by email at

Alabama Restaurant Week is Aug. 11- Aug. 20
Participating restaurants are listed on the website with their meal offerings. Alabama Restaurant pricing is fixed at $10, $20, $30 and $40 for dinner and $10 and $15 for lunch. In all cases, the price is per person and does not include tax, tip and drink. Restaurants may offer a meal at all or just one of the preset prices.

There is no cost for restaurants to participate in this statewide promotion. For more details please see

USA TODAY profiles the Shoals in article on Southern towns with real character
editor’s note: This article was written by travel writer Annette Thompson who authored the book Alabama Barbecue: Delicious Road Trips during The Year of Alabama Barbecue.

From the article by Annette Thompson in USA TODAY:

Southerners don’t have to wander far to explore remarkable destinations. Sure, sauntering through the Tuileries in Paris may make for exotic photos, but strolling a Southern main street will turn up a great experience, too. Come with us, and visit a few.

Music towns
There’s something about the water in northwest Alabama. The area informally known as The Shoals encompasses four towns along the Tennessee River – Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia – each with its own famous sound. Infused with the glamour of ’60s and ’70s rock gods, Muscle Shoals became the hit recording capital of the world at Fame Recording Studios, where artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Alicia Keys have recorded; mingle around the same organ used in Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally. Next, explore the tiny Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, where the famed rhythm section known as the Swampers was the house band. Legends who recorded there included the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Paul Simon and Cher, who used the studio’s address (3614 Jackson Highway) as an album title and the building as cover art in 1969. End your day at Florence’s FloBama, which serves up barbecue, burgers and smoking-hot, modern-day bands.

For the complete article please see

Travel Weekly- UK features Muscle Shoals Sound Studio as one of the eight best music experiences in the U.S.
From the article by Katie McGonagle in Travel Weekly magazine- UK edition:

It only takes the twang of a guitar string to get in the Nashville country-music mood, the quiver of a lip and an ‘uh?huh-huh’ to know it’s Elvis, and Aretha need only belt out an ‘R’ at the top of her voice before we can tell we’re about to get a lesson in respect.

So iconic are America’s greatest music genres – from jazz and rock’n’roll to hip-hop and R&B – they have become part of the cultural fabric on this side of the pond too. And with a bit of know-how, music can go from pleasant pastime to potential moneymaker – just look at the phenomenal success of music-themed tours around the Deep South for proof of how lucrative these bookings can be.

If you want to sprinkle a little musical magic over your next U.S. booking, check out these noteworthy experiences, which are bound to be a hit with clients.

3. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Alabama
You know a studio has done some pretty serious business when it can count the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart and Lynyrd Skynyrd among the artists to have recorded there. Cher took it so much to heart that she named an entire album after the studio address, 3614 Jackson Highway. It’s also where the Stones recorded Brown Sugar and Wild Horses for their landmark album Sticky Fingers.

Yet this venue was only partially open to the public until a huge renovation effort – sparked in part by a documentary, “Muscle Shoals”, looking at the studio’s influence on the sounds of the 1970s – helped raise the funds needed for refurbishment. It reopened in January and was named the Alabama Tourism Department’s attraction of the year. It now acts as something of a time warp, showcasing the same period colors and furnishings as when it was run by studio founders The Swampers.

For the complete article please see

Orlando magazine profiles Fairhope
From the article “Sweet Home Fairhope, Alabama” by Laura Anders Lee in Orlando magazine:

A century before the Walt Disney Company built its utopian town of Celebration, two dozen settlers from Iowa founded a place called Fairhope on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. In this Gulf Coast Alabama town, they envisioned a “fair hope” of success for all its residents. They chose the most beautiful spots – wide bluffs and beaches – and preserved them as parkland for future generations.

About 22 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, Fairhope is halfway between Seaside, Florida, and New Orleans. From that small group of Iowans, this idyllic town is now home to some 18,000 residents who are enjoying life just as those early settlers had planned.

If you have preconceived notions about Alabama (most people do), Fairhope’s charm will change your perspective. The town has been compared to Carmel, California, though, make no mistake, it’s Southern to the core. Quintessential Alabama writers, such as Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump, and Fannie Flagg, who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, have called this place home. No doubt they have drawn inspiration from the area’s magnificent live oaks and the sunset-soaked bay, as well as a big dollop of Southern hospitality.

J.D. Crowe was an editorial cartoonist in California working for the Los Angeles Times when he found Fairhope by accident while traveling.

“I have heard several stories of other folks with similar experiences. They were just driving through on their way to somewhere else, fell in love with the place and stayed,” says Crowe, who’s now lived in Fairhope 17 years. “From the gauntlet of live oaks along the bay, to flower-lined streets and little shops downtown, it’s got personality. It’s got culture, too. It’s known as an artist and writers’ colony, and nowadays the music scene is growing like kudzu. Most people who come to visit us from other states usually say something like, ‘I had no idea a cool place like this existed in Alabama.’ ”

Just three blocks east of the bay is downtown Fairhope. The walkable district is filled with overflowing flower baskets and tree-lined streets that twinkle with lights from Thanksgiving through Mardi Gras.

You won’t find a Starbucks here, and the nearest Walmart is five miles outside of town. Along Fairhope Avenue, a classic early 1900s main street, and its surrounding blocks, you’ll find hip restaurants like Pinzone’s, Panini Pete’s and Red or White wine bar, along with shops like Andree’s Wine, Cheese & Things, Fantasy Island toy store and CK Collection designer boutique. The town mayor owns the longtime corner bookstore, Page & Palette. Next door, Mr. Gene’s Beans perks up shoppers with a Fairhope Float, a dreamy mix of coffee and ice cream.

The Eastern Shore Art Center is worth a visit, along with the Lyons Share Framers and Gallery, Nall Art Gallery and Windmill Market. Alabama native and Salvador Dali protégé Nall is one of the town’s – if not the state’s – most eccentric and flamboyant characters. His artworks feature flowers such as camellias and irises – with some touches of Dali-style surrealism – all with elaborate mosaic frames.

From downtown, hang a left at the public fishing pier and follow the bike trail three miles south along the bay to the Grand Hotel, established in 1847 in Point Clear. Well-dressed children run around the front lawn playing croquet and climbing oak trees while their parents sip cocktails on the patio. Every day at 4 p.m., the hotel serves complimentary tea and cookies before the ceremonial firing of the cannon on Mobile Bay. The historic property features two premier golf courses and one of the best spa facilities in the Southeast.

Just past the Grand Hotel is the boardwalk, a two-mile stretch of million-dollar summer homes where wealthy Mobile families have retreated for over 100 years.

You can get your fill of fresh seafood at a multitude of restaurants around town. There are casual places like Wintzell’s, where you can slurp oysters or scarf down po’ boys, and fine-dining establishments like The Fairhope Inn and Camellia Café for specialty local dishes like snapper “hoppin’ john,” shrimp sardou, sautéed redfish and seared scallops with spaghetti squash.

Just be sure to time dinner so you don’t miss the sunset. Walk out on the pier or set yourself down on the bluff and take in the spectacular, ever-changing colors of Mobile Bay.

Get Set… Go!

Fairhope offers plenty to do throughout the year – from arts and film festivals to boutique shopping to gallery hopping.

Fairhope’s Festivals 
Downtown Fairhope is lively year-round, with a major arts festival every spring, a film festival in the fall and a huge fireworks display for the Fourth of July. The city also celebrates a family friendly version of Mardi Gras.

Ain’t Life Grand
The historic Grand Hotel is a four-star resort on Mobile Bay. Even if you’re not staying on property, visitors are welcome to enjoy the spa and restaurants. And be sure to check out the decadent Sunday jazz brunch.

Day Trippin’
The sugar-sand shores of Orange Beach are less than an hour away. Historic Mobile is also a worthy destination, with the USS Alabama battleship, a Mardi Gras museum, Bellingrath Gardens and GulfQuest, a maritime museum.

In Full Bloom      
Fairhope even promises a rose garden, with 2,000 rose bushes surrounding the fountain by the quarter-mile-long fishing pier. Fairhope’s numerous flowerbeds, including its iconic 30-foot floral clock, are changed every six to eight weeks.

For the complete article please see

Attacks on state tourism promotion don’t add up
from the article by Roger Dow- president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association-  in The Huffington Post:

When a state government invests in tourism promotion, it’s a win for economic growth, job creation and tax revenues. The evidence is simply overwhelming.

Despite these obvious benefits, destination marketers have inexplicably found themselves in the crosshairs of state budget cutters. Since the beginning of this year, elected officials in at least seven states have proposed slashing or eliminating state tourism promotion budgets.

Recently, VISIT FLORIDA emerged victorious from challenges to its funding—but only after a months-long fight in which critics appeared to have spent mightily to convince lawmakers that tourism promotion was merely an outlay, rather than an investment that pays sizable dividends.

The Mackinac Center- a Michigan-based advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers- jumped into the Florida debate with claims that funding for VISIT FLORIDA was a waste. A mountain of economic data refutes Mackinac’s findings.

The Power of Travel Promotion (POTP) report – developed by U.S. Travel with data from Longwoods International USA, widely acknowledged as the industry standard for economic data – highlights case studies of destinations whose investment in tourism promotion reaped major rewards:

Every dollar New Mexico invested in its “New Mexico True” campaign generated $7 in tax revenue (not to mention $72 in visitor spending at local businesses).

The “Lake Erie Love” campaign has made the once little-known Lake Erie Shores & Islands one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Midwest – and every dollar invested comes back fourfold in terms of tax revenue.

Nashville’s adoption of the “Music City” brand- and its continued investment in travel and tourism, even through the Great Recession – has yielded significant results: developments such as the city’s new Music City Center have helped attract more than $5 billion in visitor spending, directly supporting 58,000 jobs- and drawing in more than $1 billion in new development.

Conversely, the POTP report series outlines exactly how states suffer when tourism promotion funding is cut or eliminated.

Travel revenue growth in Connecticut slowed to just half the pace it achieved during the deep recession years of 2009-2010 after the state eliminated its tourism office (Connecticut’s governor called the funding cuts “a gigantic mistake).  Pennsylvania, which also slashed its tourism budget recently, has so far lost $600 million in travel-generated state and local tax revenues.

Mackinac’s methods also render its conclusions unconvincing. Rather than employing a reliable survey-based approach, Mackinac employs an econometric gimmick that both a leading University of Pennsylvania economist and the head of a Florida-based research and development consultancy have identified as fundamentally flawed.

Also well worth noting is that Michael Hicks, one of the Mackinac report’s authors, sang a very different tune on the value of tourism promotion in a paper he wrote for the state of Indiana a few years back: “Using a model that specifically accounts for the reverse causation problem of tourism taxes and,tourism expenditures, we found that a dollar spent on tourism promotion generates roughly $15 in additional tax revenues for state and local governments.”

Mackinac even concedes tourism’s bedrock benefits. As Mackinac’s Michael LaFaive said: “There’s no question that many of these states have economies that benefit greatly from people visiting to spend their entertainment and recreation dollars.”

However, as we saw in Florida, that sometimes will not deter lawmakers from making ill-advised attempts to cut tourism promotion funding – and threatening millions of jobs in doing so, particularly those supported by small, local businesses.

Ultimately, Florida made the right choice: a faction of lawmakers once determined to cut VISIT FLORIDA eventually saw the light, and entered a budget deal with Gov. Rick Scott to keep the agency funded, with some minor adjustments, at the same level as the previous year.

But as we’ve seen lately, not every state capital has learned the same lesson. I’ve said it before, and will continue to reiterate: strong tourism promotion budgets are sound fiscal policy and translate to massive benefits for communities large and small. The data proves it.

For the complete article please see

Arts and culture produce $89.9 million in economy activity in Huntsville/Madison County
From the article by Lucy Berry on

A new study conducted by Americans for the Arts proves what many already know: the arts mean business in Huntsville/Madison County.

Arts Huntsville has released findings from the latest Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 economic impact study, the nation’s most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry.

The study found the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $89.9 million in annual economic activity in Huntsville/Madison County. Arts Huntsville Executive Director Allison Dillon-Jauken said this was the first time since 1997 that Arts Huntsville had participated in the study.

This time around, Dillon-Jauken said they worked with 34 local nonprofit arts and culture organizations, who submitted extensive organizational data beginning in 2015 and extending into 2016. They also conducted more than 1,200 attendee surveys at their arts and cultural events.

“Repeatedly, the arts prove to be a tremendous community investment, providing both food for the soul and food for the table across our community,” she said.

Dillon-Jauken joined Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Arts Huntsville leaders, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and other supporters to unveil the findings Tuesday at the Huntsville Museum of Art.

Battle said the outside the box approach of arts and culture affects local industry, providing an employment base in Huntsville/Madison County.

“They take that lesson from the arts, how to do that ingenuity, how to think outside the box and they make it into products,” he said.

Here are a few highlights from the study:

$53.8 million: Amount spent by nonprofit arts and culture organizations in 2015.

$36.1 million: Amount spent by audiences at restaurants, hotels, retail stores and other local businesses.

3,073: Full-time equivalent jobs

$6.6 million: Local and state government revenue.

1.5 million: Total attendance.

$24.01: Average spending per person, excluding cost of admission.

$36.1 million: Total event-related spending.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Shakespeare Festival names new artistic director
From the report by Mark Bullock on WSFA-12:

Montgomery’s world-renowned Alabama Shakespeare Festival has named a new artistic director. The theater’s board of directors appointed Arkansas-native Rick Dildine to the top post on Thursday. For the past eight years, Dildine has served as artistic director and executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.

“A son of the South, Rick Dildine understands and appreciates what a unique treasure the Alabama Shakespeare Festival is to Montgomery, to the River Region, to Alabama and to the Southeast,” said ASF Board Chairman Dr. Laurie Weil.

“He has compelling ideas – many of which have succeeded under his leadership of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis – about how to grow audiences and how to make theater accessible and relevant to our entire public.”

Dildine’s “Shakespeare in the Streets” program received national attention for its distinctive storytelling style, which uses Shakespeare and the words of everyday St. Louisans to create original plays that are performed in the streets. Theaters as far away as Germany and South Africa have used it as a model.

Under his leadership, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has increased attendance and revenue and has been praised by the critics. The festival has received awards from the Missouri Arts Council and the Missouri Humanities Council.

Dildine will replace Geoffrey Sherman, who is retiring after 12 years at Alabama’s state theater. Sherman is credited with continuing ASF’s tradition of excellence even through the great recession. His legacy also includes a number of new outreach programs, including SchoolFest and the ASF Touring Company.

The announcement was the culmination of a year-long search. Dildine will join ASF after the run of the theater’s summer musical, “Disney’s Mary Poppins.”  His first day on the job will be in August. He will inherit the 2017-2018 programmed season, which celebrates Alabama’s Bicentennial through several Alabama-themed plays, including “Fly” (a chronicle of the Tuskegee Airmen), “The Miracle Worker” (the story of Tuscumbia native Helen Keller) and “Bear Country” (celebrating University of Alabama Football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant).

The season also includes Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and the Broadway musical Annie, among others.

For the complete article please see

John Travolta coming to Hueytown to film movie
From the report by Clare Huddleston on WBRC-6:

Actor John Travolta is coming to Hueytown to star in a new movie about dirt racing.

The movie is called “Trading Paint.”

Production is expected to be completed in 2017, no word yet when the movie will be released.

A spokesperson for the Jefferson County School System says the production crew has entered into an agreement to use the old Hueytown High School as a central meeting location and for prop storage.

They will use the facility from July 10 through mid-September.

About 75 cast and crew members are expected for the movie production.

We’re told they will stay in hotels around Hueytown and Bessemer and have most meals catered in the school cafeteria.
It’s unclear exactly where Travolta will film in and around Hueytown.

For the complete article please see

Alabama to recognize “Bicentennial Farms”
From the report on WBRC-6:

The state is locating farms that have been in the same family for at least 200 years as part of Alabama’s bicentennial commemoration.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries says it wants to highlight farms that have been owned by the same family for at least 200 years. But first, the agency has to locate those operations.

The department is accepting applications for the Bicentennial Farm Program ahead of the state’s 200th birthday in December 2019. Families have to complete forms that document family ownership and describe the farming activities on the land.

Applications are available on the department’s website

The effort is similar to a program that’s already identified more than 600 Alabama farms that have been operated by the same family for at least 100 years.

From the complete article please see

Alabama Historical Commission announces 2018 capital enhancements grant program
The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) will administer a $300,000 state-funded Grant Program in fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 – Sept. 30, 2018), for capital improvements at historic sites throughout Alabama.

Grants will be awarded to historical skills centers, cultural heritage parks, sites, commissions, boards, agencies, authorities, any historic school structure, or any publicly-owned battlefield or structure constructed prior to 1840 that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Also, entities must reflect an education-based mission, concentrate on educational programming, and reflect the geographical diversity of the state. Grant amounts will not exceed $50,000 for any one entity.

“Through this grant program, the Alabama Historical Commission will stimulate preservation in communities that have received less support in the past,” said Lisa D. Jones, Executive Director of AHC. “The goal of the Capital Enhancements Grant Program is to assist historic sites throughout Alabama with improvements, which will help preserve them for future generations.”

Applicants must complete an official 2018 Capital Enhancement Grant application available on the AHC website, Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Legislation is also available on the AHC website.

Applications must be hand-delivered or mailed to Tryon McLaney, Contracts and Grants, Alabama Historical Commission, by Aug. 15, 2017. Faxed or emailed applications will not be accepted. AHC will announce the grant awards on Oct. 2, 2017. See additional guidelines on the AHC website.

Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery issues a call for entries for “Originally from Alabama” exhibit
The Kelly Fitzpatrick Memorial Gallery in Wetumpka has issued a call for entries for the fall exhibition “Originally from Alabama.” Entries are due Aug. 25 for juried selection for inclusion in the show.

Participating artists are asked to reflect on their favorite part of Alabama, past or present, and offer a depiction of history, folklore, people, places, stories, fauna, flora, technology, music, work or inventions. Whatever the artist can imagine to portray a piece of Alabama life will be appropriate for this show in recognition of the state’s bicentennial celebration.

Any medium chosen by the artist may be offered, in style ranging from abstract to realistic. To receive a copy of the prospectus detailing the specifications for “Originally From Alabama” visit www.thekelly.orgor email

Poarch Creek mourns sudden loss of Robert Thrower- Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
From a statement by the Poarch Creek Indians:

It is with great sadness that we share the tragic news of Robert Thrower’s, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), death. He was killed last week in a single-vehicle accident on Highway 29 near the Dixie Community.

Robert Thrower had a deep and abiding love for his Tribe and a true commitment to preserving Poarch Creek history and culture. He began working officially for the Poarch Creek Indians on July 9, 1991. He followed in the footsteps of his mother, Gail Thrower, Poarch Creek’s first Tribal historian, and was respected throughout Indian Country for his historic knowledge of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Not only was he proud to represent the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, but he considered it an honor to serve on the United South and Eastern Tribes Culture and Heritage Committee. He served on the committee from 2004-2008 and as Chairman of the USET Committee from 2008-2017.

“Robert Thrower served a vital role at Poarch as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, and he will be sorely missed. Our love and prayers go out to his family and all who knew and cared for this accomplished member of our Tribe who gave so much to our Poarch community, the State and Indian Country,” commented Stephanie A. Bryan, Tribal Chair.

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.

Southern Makers event is Aug. 12-13 in Birmingham
Tickets are on sale for the fifth annual Southern Makers, a two-day event on Aug. 12-13 at the historic Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham.  The event moves to Birmingham for the first time this year after previously being held in Montgomery.

More than 100 of Alabama’s top makers, including nationally renowned fashion designers, textile artists, screen printers, jewelers, brewers, winemakers, contemporary artists, farmers, woodworkers, chefs, bakers, architects, industrial designers, preservationists and entrepreneurs, will come together in Birmingham to celebrate Southern creativity and innovation. For more information and to purchase tickets please see

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.

* Please note that the secured room block at the Sheraton Birmingham will end on July 18 and Early Bird Registration of $350 will end on July 20.  Register and make your reservations today.

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
Alabama is in the midst of its three-year bicentennial celebration. Do you have an event celebrating Alabama – or your local – history? If not, it may be time for a new tradition. If so, you will not only want it listed in the Festival & Events Calendar online, but may wish to associate it with the statewide Bicentennial and add the Bicentennial filter to your listing.

Need to touch up your partner account? Go to today. To learn more about Bicentennial, visit


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