Tourism Tuesdays August 29, 2017


State tourism campaigns are finalists for national awards, winners announced tonight

Gov. Kay Ivey gives space center $10M for cyber camp, new building

Labor Day celebrations across Alabama

Walls of Jericho Trail Makes Reader’s Digest Top 20

Birmingham’s Food Scene Is Growing-Fast

Alabama Tourism Workshop scheduled for Oct. 11

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

State tourism campaigns are finalists for national awards, winners announced tonight
The Alabama Tourism Department has two promotional campaigns that have been selected as finalists for Mercury Awards by the National Council of State Tourism Directors.  The “Year of Alabama Makers” campaign is a finalist in the niche targeting category and the “Sweet Home Alabama in New York City” campaign is a finalist in the special projects category.

The winners for both categories will be announced at an awards banquet tonight at the U.S. Travel Association’s Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) held in Minneapolis.

The “Year of Alabama Makers” celebrated the artisans, craftspeople, manufacturers, writers, musicians, chefs and others who create something uniquely their own and uniquely Alabama. This included everything from handmade quilts in Gee’s Bend to the Mercedes factory in Tuscaloosa. Craft beer from the Back Forty Brewery in Gadsden to Muscle Shoals music and Harper Lee novels. The Alabama Tourism Department’s strategy was to use the “Year of Alabama Makers” as a large promotional umbrella to showcase the state’s creative culture to the public and the media.

“Sweet Home Alabama in New York City” was developed and coordinated for the Alabama Tourism Department by the Intermark Group marketing agency in Birmingham. The campaign was designed to reach both tourists and the New York media with a unique “take it to the streets” promotion.  A beach exhibit was set up on Harold Square that allowed passers-by to experience some of the beauty of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. The walk-in transparent display featured a wall-sized beach scene, lounge chair and even white sand straight from Baldwin County.  The promotion continued at Chelsea Triangle featuring free samples of Alabama’s own Belle Chevre cheesecake from Elkmont.

The Alabama Tourism Department has previously won Mercury Awards for the “Year of Alabama Food,” the “Year of Alabama Arts,” the “Year of Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns,” the “Year of Alabama Music” and the “Year of Alabama Barbecue.”

Gov. Kay Ivey gives space center $10M for cyber camp, new building
From the article by Lee Roop on

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey gave the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville a $10 million economic development grant  to fund a new U.S, Cyber Camp and help construct a new building to house it and link the rocket center’s two existing exhibit halls.

“Expanding cyber camp in Alabama’s No. 1 tourist attraction was a logical investment for the state,” the governor said.

“In order to have a workforce that is prepared for the 21st century and can fill jobs in the 21st century, we must train our students and young people in technology, and the efforts of the U.S. Cyber Camp do just that.”

Ivey said the Army, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, NASA and National Security Agency “are all interested in participating in programs right here. The need to expand the U.S. Cyber Camp is real, and it is important.”

The space center, home of Space Camp, Space Academy and Aviation Challenge, held its first cyber camp this summer with 32 students from across Alabama chosen by their teachers. The center’s partners in the camp are Cyber Huntsville, an initiative of Mayor Tommy Battle, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

‘Rocket center must grow’
Space center CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart said more than 50,000 people are now coming to the center’s camps and programs each year. “To meet the growing demand and expand the outreach of our mission to inspire the next generation of explorers and leaders, the rocket center must grow,” she said. “We need more classrooms, more simulation space….”

The new building will also provide additional space for the center and museum. It will link the original center building constructed in 1970 and the Davidson Center for Space Exploration where the Saturn V rocket is displayed.

Speakers in the Saturn V Hall and on video endorsed the new camp, including Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.

“We have all of the nuclear capabilities, global strike capabilities, space, cyber space, missile defense capabilities,” Hyten said of the command in video remarks. “Imbedded in all of that is cyber space. Cyber space is the glue that holds all things together, so I’m pretty excited that there’s going to be a cyber camp here at the Space & Rocket Center in the not-too-distant future.”

Investment in state, country
Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon of Madison County thanked Ivey for investing “in our area, but more than that, investing in our state and the future of our country as a whole. The check will be an investment and we will … take it as far as we need to go to make that successful.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle started Huntsville’s cyber initiative nine years ago. “When we started, the cyber industry was just a fledgling industry,” Battle said. “We are developing an industry that now has become a multibillion-dollar industry.”

Huntsville school students start learning computer coding in the second grade, Battle said, and they are programming in middle school.

“Because of the ever increasing and evolving cyber threats coupled with the need for more cyber professionals, Gov. Ivey and the state of Alabama’s support for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s U.S. Cyber Camp comes at a critical time,” Carey Miller, managing director of Deloitte & Touche, said in a statement. “As a supporter of the camp’s first session this summer, we saw firsthand the value and impact of this camp and applaud the state’s investment in the future of its workforce and cybersecurity. We look forward to supporting the camp’s growth and development.”

Also present to meet Ivey was Annslee Bottoms, a high school sophomore from Tharp Town, Ala., in Franklin County. She attended the first Cyber Camp and talked about her excitement for the new field. “I want to do this,” Bottoms said.

Ivey said the funds for the grant came from Alabama’s 666 Fund. It was established by voters in 2000 to invest some of the royalties paid by natural gas and oil companies active off Alabama’s gulf coast. A nine-person board headed by Ivey makes the investment decisions.

For the complete article please see

Labor Day celebrations across Alabama
Great food and live entertainment highlight Labor Day celebrations across Alabama.  Events include everything from the 80th anniversary of the Coon Dog Cemetery Labor Day Celebration in Cherokee to the annual Moon Pie eating contest in McCalla.

Festivals over Labor Day weekend include the Sweet Tater Festival in Cullman, the St. William Church Seafood Festival in Guntersville and the Shoals Area Labor Day Festival in Tuscumbia. Families can also enjoy live music at Lake Martin in Eclectic or take a trip to Scottsboro for Art in the Park.

The Alabama Tourism Department suggests the following Labor Day events.  For a complete calendar of events listing see

Cherokee- Coon Dog Cemetery Labor Day Celebration
Sept. 4 at the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard. Celebration of “Troop”- the first coon dog buried at the cemetery. More than 300 graves freshly decorated. Live bluegrass music, buck dancing, liar’s contest. BBQ and drinks are available. Free admission.

Cullman- Sweet Tater Festival
Sept. 3-4 at Smith Lake Park.  Featuring arts & crafts along with food vendors, sweet potatoes, music, a car show and lots of family activities.  Free admission.

Decatur- Battle for Decatur
Sept. 2-3 at Point Mallard Park. Civil War reenactment featuring more than 100 authentically clad re-enactors with mock battles each day at 2 p.m. 800-232-5449.  Free admission.

Eclectic- Labor Day Weekend Concert 
Sept. 3 at the Amphitheater on Lake Martin.  Hear great music during the final event of the summer concert series with The Bank Walkers, Rexton Lee, Ashton Sheppard and James Otto.  Admission charged.

Guntersville- St. William Catholic Church Seafood Festival
Sept. 2 at Civitan Park on Lake Guntersville. A drive-thru opens at 7:30 a.m. for purchasing quarts of gumbo and boiled shrimp. Dine-in opens at 10:30 a.m. for Creole-style gumbo, Cajun boiled shrimp, boiled crawfish, catfish dinners and barbecue chicken dinners.  256-582-4245  Free admission.

Huntsville- Caribbean Day at the Park
Sept. 3 at Stoner Field Park.
  Caribbean culture, cuisine and lifestyle festival. Arts & crafts, Caribbean board games, arts and crafts, live reggae band and dancing. 256-606-6878.  Free admission.

McCalla- Annual Labor Day Celebration & Moon Pie Eatin’ Contest
Sept. 4 at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. Featuring games, food and Moon Pie eating contest.  205-477-5711.  Admission charged.

Section– Section Labor Day Festival
Sept. 4 at the Section Community Park. Day-long musical entertainment, homemade ice cream, BBQ, horseshoes, dominoes and a street dance.  256-228-3280.  Free admission.

Scottsboro- Art in the Park
Sept. 3 at King-Caldwell Park. More than 150 artisans and craftsmen participate in this juried show and offer their works for sale. Children’s activities, food and live entertainment.  Admission charged.

Tuscumbia- Shoals Area Labor Day Festival
Sept. 4 at Spring Park.  This is the oldest Labor Day event in Alabama. A parade at 11 a.m., prizes, food and live music. 256-383-0783.  Free admission.

Walls of Jericho Trail Makes Reader’s Digest Top 20
From the article by David Rainer for The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in The Courier Journal:

When an iconic publication like Reader’s Digest recognizes the natural beauty and recreational opportunities in Alabama’s great outdoors, it provides confirmation of what we Alabamians have been saying for a long, long time.

Reader’s Digest named the trails at the Walls of Jericho ( as one of the top 20 hikes in the nation.

The Forever Wild Land Trust’s Walls of Jericho in Jackson County consists of eight parcels that total 25,194 acres of widely diverse terrain, from rocky bluffs to upland hardwood forests and the headwaters of Paint Rock River, an ecologically sensitive waterway that holds rare species of mollusks, amphibians and fish.

The area with the Walls of Jericho was once owned by the Carter family, whose patriarch was Texas oil man Harry Lee Carter. Before the Carters owned it, famous Tennessee frontiersman Davy Crockett was said to have hunted in the area.

The Walls of Jericho tracts form additions to the Skyline Wildlife Management Area and link Skyline and Crow Creek Wildlife Management Areas along Coon Creek.

The area is home to numerous species of wild creatures of greatest conservation need (GCN) in the state.

In 2003, The Nature Conservancy purchased 12,500 acres in Alabama that included the Walls of Jericho, and the land was later acquired by Forever Wild. According to The Nature Conservancy, the Paint Rock River is home to 100 species of fish and about 45 mussel species. Two of the mussel species, the pale lilliput and Alabama lampshell, are found nowhere else in the world. The sawfin shiner, blotchside logperch and snail darter, three globally imperiled fish species, occur in the Paint Rock River. One fish species, the palezone shiner, is found only in the Paint Rock River and one stream in Kentucky.

“The area is in the longest hardwood forest plateau, the Cumberland, that extends into Alabama from the Appalachian Plateau,” said Doug Deaton, state lands manager with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ State Lands Division. “The Paint Rock River is home to several endangered and imperiled species. The Walls of Jericho tracts play an important role in protecting the headwaters of those sensitive areas. It’s one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southeast. The area is definitely a biological hotspot.”

For those who are looking for the recreational aspects of the Walls of Jericho, the main trail into the canyon is six-plus miles, while the Bear Den Loop adds an additional 4.7 miles of trails. For those who prefer to travel by horseback, 12 miles of riding trails are available.

Brandon Hunnicutt, land stewardship officer with the State Lands Division in north Alabama, has made numerous treks into the heavily eroded limestone canyon at the Walls of Jericho.

“A few of the creeks (Turkey and Hurricane) have come together and gone underground and carved out the limestone rock into interesting formations,” Hunnicutt said. “It has sheer rock walls, just straight up and down. Hence, the name of the place. There are a few caves, some so small that a person can’t enter. What happens is the water goes underground and comes out of some of the holes in the side of the mountain.

“During certain times of the year, we have some nice waterfalls. It also has a swimming hole when there is enough rainfall.”

Probably the most interesting feature of the Walls of Jericho for Hunnicutt is a natural amphitheater carved into the limestone bluffs.

“There’s a big overhang where evidently, thousands of years ago, water pooled and created what looks to be an amphitheater,” he said. “Apparently, it was a circular area where the water ponded, and it carved out this almost perfect semi-circle in the side of the mountain. A lot of people like to see that.

“It does look like you’ve walked into something that would be more like the Smokies. It’s definitely different. Most people are really excited about seeing it. When they get there, they don’t expect this in Alabama. We have a lot of people come from out of state. They’re really blown away by it. Everything I’ve heard has been positive.”

However, Hunnicutt cautions that those who want to make the hike into the canyon need to be prepared for a workout. The hike, which descends 1,000 feet to the canyon floor, is rated moderate to strenuous into and out of the gorge.

“It’s a tough hike,” he said. “It’s almost seven miles round-trip. Some folks are overwhelmed, the folks who are not prepared for it. The ones who take their time and do their homework and pay attention to the signage and maps, they get a lot out of it.”

Deaton adds, “The hike in is easy because it’s essentially all downhill. But the hike out is what takes the time. The trail has several switchbacks, and you’ll have to take several breaks coming back out.”

Among its many honors, the Walls of Jericho carries the designation as a National Recreation Trail (NRT) under the National Trails System Act of 1968 that established recreation trails and scenic trails. In 1978, National Historic Trails were added to the program that is administered by The National Park Service and National Forest Service.

The NRT designation is an honor shared by numerous Alabama trails that traverse the entire state, from the Cumberland Plateau all the way to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Other Forever Wild trails that share the NRT designation include Coon Creek in Tallapoosa County, Shoal Creek in Lauderdale County, Coldwater Mountain in Calhoun County, Wehle in Bullock County and Freedom Hills in Colbert County. to explore the wide variety of recreational activities available on Forever Wild property.

Hunnicutt said the Walls of Jericho is a popular spot for weekend outings by Boy Scout troops and hiking clubs.

“The Boy Scouts pretty much cover up the campgrounds on the weekends,” he said. “Overall, we have several thousand people who will hike the trail into the canyon every year.”

Deaton said the Reader’s Digest designation gives national exposure to one treasured aspect of Alabama’s diverse geographical features.

“The Walls of Jericho is a beautiful place, and it’s an honor to be recognized by Reader’s Digest,” Deaton said. “It’s a storied and widely distributed publication. I remember finding Reader’s Digests as a kid at my grandmother’s house. It has been in circulation for a long time. It’s a trusted source of information that people depend on.”

Go to for more information about the Walls of Jericho.

Birmingham’s Food Scene Is Growing-Fast
From the article by Anna Mazurek on

The dining scene in Birmingham, Alabama, is being revitalized. Formerly vacant buildings are being transformed into the hottest dining options in town as part of an ongoing citywide movement to resurrect old commercial spaces. Birmingham has also moved up a few notches on the culinary map—to add fire to the food craze, Food & Wine magazine recently announced that it’s moving most of its operations to Birmingham from New York. It will join other Time Inc. publications like Southern Living that are already based in the city. With all those new food-focused editors, the city is bound to be upping its culinary game even more in the future.

Whether you are in the mood for soul food or a classic hot dog, here are four new spots to treat your taste buds in the Magic City.

The Pizitz Food Hall
The Pizitz Food Hall opened its doors in February with a wide variety of culinary treats that encompass a good portion of the globe: Its 14 food vendors serve everything from biscuits to dumplings. Tacos star at Choza Taqueria, Ghion Cultural Hall specializes in Ethiopian cuisine served on communal platters and eaten with bread instead of utensils, and ramen is the highlight of the menu at Ichicoro Imoto. For breakfast, try one of the sweet and savory biscuits at Alabama Biscuit Company or a Belgian waffle from Waffle Works. The upscale mall-style food court is located on the first floor of the newly renovated Pizitz Building, an eight-story former department store that also features apartments. The food hall is open seven days a week.

Roots & Revelry
Roots & Revelry is the labor and love of chef Brandon Cain, known for his other culinary ventures in town, including Saw’s Soul Kitchen, a barbecue joint, and Post Office Pies, a pizza place. The budget-friendly, fine dining restaurant opened in February and is located in the newly renovated Thomas Jefferson Tower, a former 19-story hotel on the west side of downtown. Dinner menu highlights include the pork belly PB&J, Korean hot chicken, and grilled octopus. Weekend brunch options include avocado toast and chicken and waffles. Be sure to request a table on its spacious patio that overlooks the city and linger for a drink after your meal in the parlor area.

Hot Diggity Dogs
This classic hot dog joint opened last August with counter-style seating in an exposed brick building. Menu options range from the Winky Dink Dog, topped with pimento cheese, mustard, and onion, to the Diablo Dog, with jalapeño, bacon, cheese, and tortilla strips. All dogs are 100 percent kosher beef or tofu. If you’re feeling creative, you can also build your own dog. They are open from Tuesday to Saturday and serve food from lunch until late at night in the historic Avondale neighborhood, which dates back to 1887 when it was home to workers from a nearby textile plant. The neighborhood consists of a roughly seven-block commercial area that’s walkable and located only two miles east of downtown Birmingham.

Big Spoon Creamery
Big Spoon Creamery was started in 2014 by a couple who are both chefs. They had $500 and an ice cream tricycle. Two years later, they upgraded to a food truck, and in April, they opened the doors of their brick-and-mortar location in Avondale’s MAKEbhm building. They specialize in artisan ice cream, shakes, and ice cream sandwiches. The hardest part is deciding between their seasonal and specialty flavor options like goat cheese fig and summer sangria sorbet. The best part: The cones are homemade.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Tourism Workshop scheduled for Oct. 11
The Alabama Tourism Department will host it’s 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

“2018 is right around the corner! As you gear up for the new year, remember to add events to your partner page. Creating events in advance ensures they will be approved and published with time for users to see them. Don’t have all your event details planned yet? Not a problem! You can edit events to change or include additional information.

Head over to and fill up the event calendar today!”




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