Tourism Tuesdays September 5, 2017

It’s your birthday, Alabama; help us share your story

Hurricane worries? Not Gulf Shores as it moves forward with beachfront project

Alabama restaurant turns a Southern classic inside out with its crispy shrimp and grits

Inside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten Masterpiece in Florence, Alabama

Alabama bicentennial workshop being held in Opelika on Sept. 15

Alabama Tourism Workshop scheduled for Oct. 11

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


It’s your birthday, Alabama; help us share your story
From the article by Michelle Holmes on

Frank Baby. Edna Shakir. Charlsie Best. Dinara Kydykova, Meaghan Thorne and Michael Ware. Just six of the 4.863 million people of Alabama — but some of the very first to join us in a collaborative new statewide project in honor of our state’s 200th birthday, appearing across social media and in our newspapers.

Who’s collaborating? Everyone, we hope!

To kick things off, is excited to be partnering with the Alabama Bicentennial Commission to create People of Alabama, a new photographic portrait series capturing Alabama life as it’s lived today.

To Jay Lamar, the commission’s executive director, it’s a wonderful way to invite all Alabamians to be part of this multi-year birthday party.

“This is something that’s been in the works for more than a year; to see it come to fruition and in such an exciting form and look is deeply gratifying” Lamar said. “It’s really an extraordinary chance to ensure our Bicentennial celebration is open and accessible to people everywhere.”

Soon, we hope you’ll see this work in many places, including on Instagram at @peopleofAL, on Facebook at, on the project’s website,, and in your Sunday paper.

Award winning photojournalist and Alabama native Tamika Moore has been traveling the state for months, capturing the humor and the beauty and the power in our neighbors’ stories, from Ensley twins going through breast cancer together to the unshakable bond between an Eight Mile man and his horse. Through her work, Moore aims to help people see each other more clearly, whether through the image itself or the bits of conversation she collects and shares from each encounter. No matter where she goes — city or country, bayou or beach,; farmers market, drag race or beauty pageant — she’s found Alabamians incredibly similar in their willingness and openness to share their stories with a stranger.

“People are really eager for genuine connection,” she said on a recent break from her statewide travels. “I hope through this project people can find ways to relate to people they wouldn’t normally think they would.”

We hope so too. After all, our goal here is to share this celebration, together, and offer the rest of the world a chance to get to know this place in a fresh and modern way, and for us as Alabamians to see ourselves better.

That’s why, as much as we are excited to share Tamika’s work, we also want to open up a space for your stories to be part of this growing tapestry that we’re creating and preserving as a part of the state’s official bicentennial.

There are two easy ways for that to happen. One, email Moore at our Red Clay Media division with a suggestion of someone interesting she should photograph. Reach her at Or two, share your photos directly to our Facebook page or by using the hashtag #peopleofalabama on Instagram. Moore and Elizabeth Hoekenga Whitmire, Red Clay Media director, will work together to include as many of those submissions as possible. We’re also interested to partner with towns and organizations who want to be part of this bicentennial project. We ask such groups to

For the complete article please see

Hurricane worries? Not Gulf Shores as it moves forward with beachfront project
From the article by John Sharp on

With the hurricane-swamped Texas Gulf Coast serving as a stark reminder of what can happen on Alabama’s coast, the city of Gulf Shores went forward anyway with a $4.9 million project to spruce up its public beachfront.

The City Council, with a unanimous vote last week, endorsed a contract with Cunningham Delaney LLC of Summerdale to move forward with the second of a three-phase, $15 million project intended to make the city’s public beachfront more accessible to pedestrians.

The public expenditure comes at a time when national attention is locked on the devastation from Hurricane Harvey occurring a little more than 500 miles to the west in Houston.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said, “My philosophy is we cannot sit here and not do something because of a storm. We are making, I think, reasonable investments, most of which can be regenerated. We are not building anything that is not fortified or strong.”

Gulf Shores was last walloped by a hurricane when Category 3 Ivan, slinging 125 mph winds, struck in 2004. Ivan produced flood waters that inundated areas along Alabama 59, approaching the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

‘Town Green’
The latest contract approval is the focal point of a multi-year project. The new improvements are slated on an area described as an “iconic” welcoming to Alabama’s biggest tourism attraction – the beach.

Dan Bond, the city’s environmental grants coordinator and project manager of the project, said the contract involves creating a new public space called the “Town Green,” replacing a public bathhouse with a new one, altering parking and expanding a 10-foot-wide boardwalk to 20 feet.

Most of the project will occur near popular establishments such as The Hangout and The Pink Pony.

The project piggybacks off the first phase construction, which began late last year, that includes a new bathhouse in the project’s western-most edge, additional public parking, shade structures and a new lifeguard house. The lifeguard house is expected to be completed within the next two weeks, Bond said.

The project’s third phase, which could begin next year, calls for more parking east of the Phoenix All Suites tower.

The latest project is expected to be under construction soon, but will not affect the 46th Annual National Shrimp Festival, scheduled from Oct. 12-15. Completion is expected for early April.

Bond said the project is part of the city Vision 2025 strategic plan, which focuses on growth and design concepts aimed at diversifying the city’s tourism-dependent economy. The city estimates that 62 percent of its annual revenue base comes from tourism.

The city also estimates that annual events held at the public beach attract over 350,000 visitors and generate a regional economic impact of over $100 million.

“The City Council clearly laid out a path forward to create a more walkable, and more energetic Gulf Beach District,” said Bond, referring to the public beachfront that extends near the Alabama 182 and 59 intersection.

“This project is a large part of fulfilling that plan and creating a Gulf Beach District that is really pedestrian friendly, is safe and connects the north side of the Beach Boulevard to the beach itself,” Bond said.

‘Recover quickly’
The entire project was first unveiled in October 2016, and immediately drew some concerns over having a city investment prone to hurricanes and storm surge.

None of those concerns were expressed publicly on Monday.

Craft and Bond both said the fortified structures will be able to withstand powerful tropical winds. In addition, Bond said a “large portion” of the city-owned beachfront area is behind a sea wall.

Craft said the reconstructed parking areas will be mostly gravel, not asphalt, and is replaceable.

“When you get a large enough storm, you’ll expect some damage down there on the beachfront with flooding and things like that,” said Bond. “We’ve tried to build the project as such where we can recover quickly and not lose substantial portions of the project.”

For the complete article please see

Alabama restaurant turns a Southern classic inside out with its crispy shrimp and grits
From the article by Chad Allen on

Shrimp and grits are showing up on so many menus these days, you would almost expect to be able to pick some up in your next fast-food drive-through visit.

So when we say that Chef Steven Bunner is making a shrimp and grits dish unlike any you’ve ever had before at his 1892 East Restaurant and Tavern in Huntsville, you may be tempted to roll your eyes and say, “Sure he is!”

But the appetizer at 1892 East puts the grits on the inside of the fried shrimp. Intrigued now?

Huntsville’s 1892 East Restaurant and Tavern has a different take on shrimp and grits from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

This originality along with amazing flavor earned a spot on the Alabama Tourism Department’s list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.

For the complete article please see

Inside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten Masterpiece in Florence, Alabama
From the article by Michael Slenske on

If Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers—the legendary sessions musicians who were famously name-checked by Lynyrd Skynyrd in “Sweet Home Alabama”—its neighboring township, Florence, has got Billy Reid. Originally from Amite, Louisiana, Reid moved from New York to this northern Alabama hamlet—his wife Jeanne’s hometown—in 2001. Since that time he’s become the town’s de facto cultural ambassador, spreading his brand of Southern Gentleman sartorialism from Los Angeles to London. And for those looking to get a whiff of the bourbon-perfumed air and a baptism in the “Singing” Tennessee River that gave purchase to the Muscle Shoals Sound and Reid’s CFDA-winning clothes, the designer hosts an annual fashion, music, art, and food festival, simply dubbed Shindig, that just celebrated its 9th iteration this past weekend.

The festivities began with the “Business Man’s Special”—a semi-friendly baseball game between Reid’s Alabama Slammers and Jack White’s Third Man Triples—and were followed with Southern cuisine with a twist by the likes of Nashville’s Rolf & Daughters, New Orleans’s Herbsaint and Florence’s own Odette; musical offerings ranging from Nashville punk impresario Ron Gallo to Hill Country bluesman Cedric Burnside; and a wealth of visual art including Butch Anthony’s canvases at Reid’s flagship boutique and the Muscle Shoals Theatre to Michael Weintrob’s Instrumenthead portraits up at the legendary FAME Studios.

“We have grown exponentially without losing our authenticity,” says Reid. “Which is key.”

Also key to that authenticity is the exponential breadth of cultural offerings Reid has folded into the Shindig mix. One of the most significant additions to Shindig No. 9 was Reid’s partnership with the Rosenbaum House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Alabama. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birthday, the designer created an installation in the house from his Spring/Summer 2018 collection and opened it up as a destination on the official event schedule.

“That place is sacred ground, so we didn’t want to disrupt anything,” says Reid, who first visited the home—what Wright scholar John Sergeant calls “the purest example” of Wright’s Usonian homes built for middle income families—in 2002 after it received an $800,000 rehabilitation from the city to repair the roof and interiors from decades of water damage.

Reid’s since used the home three times for photo shoots, most recently as the backdrop for his Fall 2015 campaign.“We just wanted to situate these models in these clothes in a way that felt like these were the people inhabiting this house for a cocktail party.”

Reid’s mannequins, made from overruns of archival trim (including ribbon tape, cotton labels, dripped wax, scrap leather, copper tack buttons and brass rivets from denim jackets and pants), were positioned throughout the home’s tailor-made seating areas, study, and bedrooms—each of which are defined by Wright’s iconic yet economical Cherokee red concrete floors, stained cedar plywood wall panels, and custom furniture—in various states of repose.

“The Rosenbaums would have loved this, and Frank Lloyd Wright would have love this because he wanted his houses to be meeting places for creative people,” said Libby Jordan, the director of the Rosenbaum House, which was designed in 1939 and occupied by the Rosenbaum family from 1940-1999.

While touring us around the grounds last Friday, Jordan explained that Stanley Rosenbaum was a professor at Florence State Teachers’ College (now the University of North Alabama, where Reid’s Slammers suffered a crushing loss to White’s Triples earlier that morning). His family, who owned the movie theaters around town, gave their son $7,500 (and the property across the street from their house) when he got engaged to build a home, though they certainly never could have imagined the “space ship” that Wright eventually delivered at almost twice that budget.

However, the Usonian model was perfectly suited to Stanley and his New York-born wife, Mildred, a former model who once appeared in Vogue—the photo still hangs in the sewing room—who was the first recipient of the Wright Spirit Award. “That award is given to people who have drunk the Kool-Aid of Wright and are dedicated to preserving Wright’s philosophy,” Jordan told me. “So the house was never adulterated in any way.”

Wright’s vision of the Usonian home was to start small and encourage homeowners to add to the home if needed—sort of a luxe precursor to today’s modular home craze—a step the Rosenbaums took in 1948 (the only Usonian owners to do so) with a sleeping porch for their four children, a walled Japanese garden, and a second kitchen.

Wright also appointed the home with plenty of purposeful (if poetic) details that unite the space with the landscape: built-in bookshelves throughout the home for Stanley’s 5,000 books; fretwork panels over the clerestory windows that provide a soft light (at a fraction of the cost of the stained glass windows in Wright’s Prairie Homes); a five-tiered roof to mimic the terraced grounds; windowed doors in every room (except the bathrooms) to lend the home a true indoor-outdoor sensibility; and the piece de resistance, a cozy copper-trimmed “martini porch” off the master bedroom overlooking the backyard.

“We know it’s not a smoking porch because [Stanley] could smoke all over the house and did,” Jordan explained. “You could see the Tennessee River from here at the time because there were no trees and no neighborhood to block his view.”

Though she didn’t peel the seemingly hungover Billy Reid mannequins off the custom master bed, Jordan made a point to detail the significance of the rose tree bedspread on which they were slumbering.

“Rosenbaum means rose tree and Wright always called this his rose tree,” Jordan continued. “And in fact we have a letter written to one of his colleagues. In it he said, ‘Have you seen my rose tree in Alabama yet? It has quite a lot of swish, don’t you think?’”

With 8,000-plus visitors expected this year—to a town of 40,000, no less—this swish little rose tree is becoming a shindig all to itself.

For the complete article please see

Alabama bicentennial workshop being held in Opelika on Sept. 15
The Alabama Bicentennial Commission will hold a community workshop in Opelika on Sept. 15 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Lee County Meeting Center.

The workshop has been developed by the Alabama Bicentennial Committee to share information, resources, and funding opportunities regarding Alabama’s three-year bicentennial commemoration. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required at

From family reunions to school service projects, from museum exhibitions to common reading programs and from recipe collections to oral-history interviews, there will be many ways that individuals, groups and communities can involve themselves in the state’s milestone birthday.

The Alabama Bicentennial Commission works to support, create and execute programs that commemorate the past 200 years of Alabama places, people and stories. Between 2017 and 2019, the commission will engage residents and visitors in educational programs, community activities and statewide initiatives that teach, inspire and entertain.

For more information, visit or contact Sam Blakely at, 334-242-5864.

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

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