Tourism Tuesdays Aug.15, 2017

Gov. Ivey to open tourism conference Sunday in Birmingham

Winners of state tourism industry awards announced

Alabama Restaurant Week continues through Aug. 20

American Idol auditions at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on Sept. 7

USA TODAY: Cruise giant Carnival extends sailings out of Mobile

Sports Illustrated picks Archibald’s ribs as the best college town meal in America

The Wall Street Journal features Birmingham’s Secret Stages

Trowbridge’s orange-pineapple ice cream worth the drive to Florence

Blankenship appointed Conservation Commissioner

Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce seeks Destination and Marketing Coordinator

Alabama Tourism Workshop scheduled for Oct. 11

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Gov. Ivey to open tourism conference Sunday in Birmingham

Gov. Kay Ivey is the opening speaker for the governor’s tourism conference on Aug. 20 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Birmingham, officials announced.  The conference continues through Aug. 22.

“More than 250 tourism professionals from across the state will be attending this three-day educational conference,” said state tourism director Lee Sentell.  “This is our opportunity to bring in experts to present the latest trends in tourism marketing. Tourism is a $13.3 billion industry in Alabama that provides 180,000 jobs.  Travel spending in Alabama has doubled over the previous 14 years,” he said.

Tourism industry awards will be presented at a banquet during the conference.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell and Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO John Oros will welcome attendees to the city during the general session on Sunday. The staff of the Alabama Tourism Department will present an annual update on their marketing campaigns. Alabama Bicentennial Commission Executive Director Jay Lamar will discuss plans to celebrate the state’s upcoming bicentennial.

The conference will feature panelists ranging from some of the state’s top chefs to tourism marketing experts.  The sessions will include event planning, festival promotion, lodging management, motor coach marketing, sports promotion, culinary trends and social media campaigns.

For more information on the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism please see

Winners of state tourism industry awards announced

The Alabama Tourism Department will present 13 state tourism industry awards Aug. 21 during the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Birmingham.

Al Mathis and J. Gary Ellis will be inducted into the Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame.

Mathis, of Childersburg, has spent the last 40 years developing DeSoto Caverns into a popular tourism attraction that welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually.

Ellis, of Gulf Shores, founded Compass Media, Inc., an award-winning media and marketing company, in 1988. Ellis is also a co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the Gulf United Metro Business Organization (GUMBO).

Pedro Mandoki, of Gulf Shores, will receive the Alabama Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award.  Mandoki founded Mandoki Hospitality more than 30 years ago to promote and manage Gulf Shores Plantation.

The OWA theme park in Foley will be named as the 2018 Attraction of the Year.  OWA is a 520-acre family tourist destination that opened in July featuring thrill rides, midway games, restaurants, shopping and a hotel development.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell will be presented with the Government Advocate Award for his leadership in creating the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.

Tynette Lynch, President/CEO of Aldridge Gardens, will receive the Executive of the Year award for her dedication and service to the Alabama tourism industry. She is past chair of the Alabama Travel Council and has served on the Alabama Tourism Department Advisory Board since 2007.

Paula Steigerwald, President/CEO of Huntsville Botanical Garden, will receive the Professional of the Year award for her work leading the Garden in a period of continued growth since the beginning of her service in 2002.  The Garden has been named an Alabama Attraction of the Year and a “Top 10 Botanical Garden for Families in the U.S.”

The City of Foley will be presented with the Tourism Organization of the Year award for its continued commitment to Alabama’s sports tourism market with the opening of the city’s new state-of-the-art sports complex featuring 16 outdoor fields and a 90,000-square foot indoor events center.

Jerry Fouse with the Tennessee Valley Authority will be presented with the Tourism Partnership of the Year award for his ongoing work with the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association to promote tourism to the North Alabama region.

The McWane Science Center in Birmingham will be presented with the Alabama Themed Campaign Award for its successful “Equation” marketing campaign.

Scott Burbank of the Alabama Tourism Department will receive the Employee of the Year award for his commitment to excellence in the state tourism finance department.

Kim Graham Smith with the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau will accept the Rising Star award for her outstanding work in graphic design and ad production.

The DeKalb Welcome Center will be recognized as the Welcome Center of the Year. The center welcomes more than 100,000 travelers to Alabama each year and the staff is praised for their service and attitude.

The awards banquet will be live streamed at 7 p.m. Aug. 21 on

Alabama Restaurant Week continues through Aug. 20

More than 90 restaurants are offering lunch and dinner discounts to encourage customers to try new dishes as the sixth annual Alabama Restaurant Week continues through Aug. 20.

The two-course lunch specials will range from $10 to $15 while three-course dinners will cost from $10 to $40, not including tax, tip and drink. Restaurants have the option of offering specials at both lunch and dinner or choosing to offer just lunch or just dinner specials.

“This is a great opportunity for people to try restaurants in their hometown and other places in the state while saving money,” said Alabama Tourism Department Deputy Director Grey Brennan.  “There are no coupons or discount books to buy or bring.  Diners at the participating restaurants simply ask for the Alabama Restaurant Week special.”

Restaurants that have signed-up to offer the specials include favorites like Grille 29 in Huntsville, Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Tomatinos Pizza in Montgomery, The Brick Pit in Mobile and Ginny Lane Bar & Grill in Orange Beach.

Restaurants in close to 20 cities across the state have been included in Alabama Restaurant Week. Cities with participating restaurants include: Auburn, Birmingham, Centre, Decatur, Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Homewood, Hoover, Huntsville, Leeds, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Mountain Brook, Orange Beach, Owens Cross Roads, Pell City, Troy and Tuscaloosa.

A full list of participating restaurants and the specials they are offering can be found at

The Alabama Tourism Department is using the hash tag #DineAlabama17 on all of their social media channels to promote Alabama Restaurant Week. These social media channels include:,,

American Idol auditions at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on Sept. 7

From the article by Bernie Delinski in The Times Daily:

Excitement is ramping up as the “American Idol” auditions come to Tuscumbia in less than a month.

The auditions for the popular singing competition series are Sept. 7 at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Mayor Kerry Underwood spoke last week with representatives from the show. He said they joked with him that the city might be too prepared.

“They feel like we’re overdoing things because we’re so excited about it and we want to accommodate,” Underwood said. “But that’s just the way it has to be. We plan and prep for things, and that’s what we’re comfortable in doing.”

The auditions could be prefaced by an event on the evening of Sept. 6, the mayor said. He said that could serve as a dose of Southern hospitality, and a reminder to the show staff about the Shoals’ rich music history.

“For the moment, we’re talking about having something that Wednesday night where the community welcomes the ‘American Idol’ team to the Shoals,” Underwood said. “We’re going to have a stage and maybe some of our famous local talent.

“The plans are fluid. We’re still changing things as we go and hall of fame manager Dixie Griffin has done an exceptional job of getting things signed and getting the contract ready.”

Alabama has played a big role on “American Idol” throughout the years. The state has had two winners — Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks; two runners-up — Diana DeGarmo and Bo Bice; and four other finalists — Paul McDonald, Jess Meuse, C.J. Harris and Dexter Roberts.

In addition, Caleb Johnson, son of Colbert County native David Johnson, won the annual singing contest in 2014.

Underwood said city and Colbert County officials have had meetings to establish a security plan for the event. He said that will lead into a big weekend for Tuscumbia with the Oka Kapassa — Return to Coldwater festival Sept. 8 and 9.

Tuscumbia’s addition to the Singing River Statue trail in the Shoals may be unveiled during the festival, Underwood said. He said that would be fitting, since the statue portrays a Native American.

For the complete article please see  

USA TODAY: Cruise giant Carnival extends sailings out of Mobile

From the article by Gene Sloan in USA TODAY:

Cruise giant Carnival will continue to offer voyages out of Mobile, Ala., through at least the end of next year.

The Miami-based line has exercised an option in its contract with the city to continue sailing out of the Mobile cruise terminal through December 2018.

Carnival resumed year-round sailings from the terminal in late 2016 after a five-year absence, becoming the only line offering voyages from Mobile.

Carnival has a single ship, the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy, based in the city. Its initial schedule has been limited to four- and five-day cruises to Mexico, but the line recently announced plans for several longer voyages that will include stops in the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, the Bahamas and the Panama Canal.

The four-day trips feature a single call at Cozumel while the five-day voyages add a stop at Costa Maya or Progreso.

The Carnival Fantasy underwent a multi-million-dollar refurbishment before sailing for Mobile that included the addition of a Guy Fieri-themed burger stand, two new poolside bars and a Mexican-themed eatery.

For the complete article please see

Sports Illustrated picks Archibald’s ribs as the best college town meal in America

From the article by Ben Flanagan on

Less than one month away from the college football kickoff, it’s good to know we can at least enjoy Sports Illustrated’s favorite college town meal in America between now and then.

The prominent sports magazine and website tapped a Tuscaloosa barbecue joint for serving their No. 1 meal in all of America, and it won’t surprise you: None other than Archibald’s ribs in Northport.

Writer Andy Staples first notes that Georgia would serve the also-popular Dreamland barbecue at home games in Sanford Stadium this year, which he says sparked some controversy among fans.

“Those who live in Tuscaloosa know the best ribs in America can be found in a shack next to a house on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Northport,” Staples writes. “That’s where George and Betty Archibald began serving those juicy, perfect ribs in 1962.”

Staples continues, “A few years ago, I asked George Jr. — who took over for his dad and has since given way to a third generation in the form of Woodrow Washington III — what temperature he smoked his ribs at and for how long. ‘I don’t know,'” George Jr. said. ‘I just know when they’re right.’ He does. And no one makes them more right than Archibald’s.”

Staples laid out the criteria pretty clearly during his intro, noting the dishes “must be available in a college town or the surrounding metro area.” If Northport doesn’t suffice for sticklers, Archibald’s has another location in the Tuscaloosa city limits, Archibald’s & Woodrow’s on Greensboro Avenue (near the Cobb Hollywood 16 movie theater).

This isn’t even the first-time SI singled out T-town for its food and drink this summer, as they picked Druid City Brewing Company’s Downtown North Porter as one of their favorite beers in the country, pairing it with the Alabama football program.

Staples also showed some love for Auburn, picking Acre’s hot softshell crab appetizer as number 21 overall on is list, out of 25.

“When I visited for the first time in the spring of 2015, the most intriguing item on the menu was a softshell crab fried Nashville hot chicken style and staked to a piece of white bread,” Staples writes. “The spicy batter made the crab even more delicious, and the juice turned the bread into a dish unto itself.”

For the complete article please see

The Wall Street Journal features Birmingham’s Secret Stages

From the article by Jim Fusilli in The Wall Street Journal:

Birmingham’s Secret Stages is an intimate festival where small names offer big sounds.

A reflection of today’s deep, abundant rock-and-pop scene, mega-festivals offer so much of a good thing. Throughout the summer festival season, promoters book artists who have a national – and in some cases an international – following for vast, appreciative crowds.

Contrast all that with Secret Stages, a self-proclaimed “music discovery festival” held in Birmingham on Aug. 4 and 5. In its seventh year, Secret Stages presented 60 bands with nary a household name among them. Which isn’t to say the music was insufficient. To the contrary, the festival reaffirmed the quality of today’s rock and pop.

Though its mission doesn’t seem any more ambitious than to showcase unrecognized bands to local music fans – it has rejected overtures to grow the festival at the risk of altering its character – Secret Stages has presented a few groups across the years that have found wider acclaim.

Dawes and Shovels & Rope, both of whom will perform at Outside Lands, appeared here in 2011 and ’12, respectively. MC Taylor, who works as Hiss Golden Messenger, did a solo set in 2012, the same year the Birmingham-based St. Paul and the Broken Bones played Secret Stages. Hiss Golden Messenger was featured at this year’s 50th-anniversary celebration of the Monterey International Pop Music Festival. In ’14, St. Paul and the Broken Bones played the massive Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

Like the big festivals, Secret Stages offered a gumbo of genres; here, it was heavy on hip-hop artists and, surprisingly, high-powered instrumental groups. The latter included Birmingham’s Startle the Heavens, which featured a wavy four-guitar attack, and Trio Noir, led by jazz guitarist Mark Kimbell; lovesongs, an Athens, Ga., quartet that played modal jazz with electronic underpinnings; the charismatic, horn-heavy free-jazz ensemble Wolfpack ATL from Atlanta; and the extraordinary Us, Today, an avant-garde rock trio from Cincinnati, featuring Kristin Agee on vibraphone, Joel Griggs on guitar and keyboards, and Jeff Mellott on drums. Us, Today’s virtuosity and vigorous arrangements warrant a much larger audience, preferably as quickly as possible.

A common complaint among those who follow new rock and pop is that there’s too much good music to take in. An intimate festival like Secret Stages confirms that’s so by emphasizing discovery rather than highlighting a dizzying cavalcade of established artists and newcomers rocketing toward the top. In a convivial atmosphere among eager, open-minded fans, Secret Stages illustrated that what’s bubbling beneath contemporary music’s densely populated surface is worthy of attention, too.

 For the complete article please see 

Trowbridge’s orange-pineapple ice cream worth the drive to Florence

From the article by Jennifer Cohron in the Daily Mountain Eagle:

Zac, Wyatt and I took a road trip to Florence last week in search of ice cream.

Trowbridge’s is the oldest business in the city still operating in its original location. A dairyman named Paul Trowbridge opened the business in 1918 after falling in love with Florence while on his way to a dairy convention in North Carolina.

Trowbridge’s shares North Court Street with an eclectic mix of restaurants: 306 BBQ, Rosie’s Mexican Cantina, Ricatoni’s Italian Grill and Yumm Thai Sushi & Beyond.

Its aqua-colored awning was a welcome beacon as we navigated noonday traffic.

Inside, we found a dozen or more locals munching on sandwiches and taking big bites out of ice cream cones.

Trowbridge’s is known for its orange-pineapple ice cream. The recipe, developed by Mr. Trowbridge, earned the simple sandwich shop its spot on the list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.

I noticed that as waitresses went from table to table chatting up customers, they always asked, “Y’all having ice cream today?” before placing the check on the table. A large menu board behind the counter listed all the possible flavors of cones, sundaes, shakes and ice cream soda.

I had a scoop of the orange-pineapple and can recommend it without reservation.

This week, foodies in Jasper are getting their first taste of Alabama Restaurant Week.

The promotion was first organized by the Alabama Tourism Department in 2012 as part of the second Year of Alabama Food.

It was the first time a theme had been repeated since the department launched its year-long marketing campaign in 2004 with the Year of Alabama Gardens.

The first celebration of food in 2005 succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations.

“While our agency went on to salute such topics as history, sports, arts, outdoors, music and ‘Small Towns & Downtowns,’ the state’s growing army of foodies often ask, ‘When are you going to do food again?’ an old press release from the tourism department states.

The highlight of the event was the 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die brochure.

The release describes the brochure as a “sleeper hit” that attracted attention in every corner of the state as well as from national culinary writers.

The department planned the second Year of Alabama Food in 2012 in hopes of boosting the state’s seafood industry, which was struggling as a result of the 2010 BP oil spill.

The popular 100 Dishes brochure was reissued with several key changes.

The red tomato from the original brochure was replaced with a green one in honor of Fannie Flagg’s novel-turned-blockbuster “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe.” (Of course, fried green tomatoes from the Irondale Cafe is one of the 100 dishes.)

Walker County was represented on the original list by two dishes – barbecue with vinegar/tomato sauce at Green Top Cafe and smokehouse ham, sausage, bacon and cathead biscuits from Uncle Mort’s, which is now closed.

The current list still includes Green Top’s barbecue, and Uncle Mort’s has been replaced by catfish pontchartrain at Black Rock Bistro.

A pdf of the brochure, which is now titled 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama, is available at

The site also includes information about five regional food trails, as well as the Alabama BBQ trail, which includes Green Top as one of the stops.

Recipes, photos of some of Alabama’s most famous dishes and a blog that lists monthly “can’t miss” food events are also featured on the site.

For the complete article please see,12540

Blankenship appointed Conservation Commissioner

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.

Gov. Kay Ivey appointed Chris Blankenship as the Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources on Aug. 11.

“From effectively working to extend the Red Snapper season, to protecting Alabama’s natural resources, Chris Blankenship has made it clear he can lead the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources long-term,” Gov. Ivey said. “I am proud to have Chris as part of my team.”

Blankenship was appointed as Acting Conservation Commissioner on June 1. He most recently served as the Deputy Commissioner and as Director of DCNR Marine Resources Division from 2011 to 2017. He has worked at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources since 1994 when he was hired as a Conservation Enforcement Officer.

Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce seeks Destination and Marketing Coordinator

The Destination and Marketing Coordinator will support the tourism function for the Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce and is a full-time position. The position assists the Executive Director with all aspects of the Chamber marketing, to include digital media, design and creative content development, and editing for digital media, and coordination of all social media.  Also included are developing and managing in-house designs for technical aspects of the Chambers web site, calendars, e-newsletters social media, and event press releases.

The position will work to support all servicing initiatives and events, including registrations, promotions, and staffing of events.

Qualified applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to: or mail to Attn:  Sheryl Smedley, Executive Director,  Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Information, 912 Selma, Ave., Selma, AL 36701.

 Alabama Tourism Workshop scheduled for Oct. 11

The Alabama Tourism Department will host the semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wed., Oct. 11. This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in the area. For registration and additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

A picture is worth 1,000 words! When creating your business’s page or event, images are key. High quality photos will grab people’s attention and showcase what you have to offer.

Need to touch up your partner account? Go to today


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