Tourism Tuesdays October 3, 2017

Old Cahawba breaks ground on new entrance

Colbert tourism unveils music audio tour

Kid-friendly adventures in Gulf Shores, AL

Small town, big style in Alabama

Jason Isbell returns to Muscle Shoals for cathartic hometown gig

Alabama Tourism Department Workshop is Oct. 12

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Old Cahawba breaks ground on new entrance
From the article by Alaina Denean Deshazo on The Selma

Dozens of people came out to Old Cahawba Archaeological Park recently for a ground-breaking ceremony for a new entrance.

The Cahaba Foundation, the Alabama Historical Commission and the Cahawba Advisory Committee in partnership with Selma and Dallas County Chamber and Tourism Information held the event at the park.

“When you get to Cahawba, you’ll know that you’re here,” said Cahawba site director Linda Derry of the soon to be gated entrance. “It’s also so we can close it at night and protect the wonderful resources that are around here.”

The president of The Cahaba Foundation Florence Young, chairman of the Alabama Historical Commission Jim Day, executive director of the Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Sheryl Smedley, city of Selma Mayor Darrio Melton and Noopie Cosby with the Ala-Tom Resource Conservation and Development Council all spoke at the ceremony.

“Cahawba is the gateway to the history of Alabama,” Melton said. “It’s the gateway to tourism in the area. Today, as we turn over the dirt, I think we’re turning over a major landmark.”

Derry said the entrance is a culmination of two committees working together.

“This is just emblematic of all the great things that have happened since the Cahaba Foundation and the Cahawba Advisory Committee started to work together and to help support the Alabama Historical Commission,” Derry said. “This is just one step forward to get ready for the bicentennial.”

Derry said it was nice to see so many people from the city of Selma out there for the ceremony and to see that the park has the support of the local community.

“It’s a lot of people from Selma, and we love to see the support of the local community,” Derry said of the crowd.

“We get people from all over the world every day, but to know that we get the support of our local community is very, very important.”

During the ceremony, the Ala-Tom Resource Conservation and Development Council presented a $30,000 check to The Cahaba Foundation.

Since 2008, the foundation has been raising money as part of its capital campaign which has raised more than $1 million. The funds have which allowed the park to purchase lots held by private parties.

Young said all of the progress is only possible because of all of the donors that have contributed to the funding of the organization for the purpose of helping Cahawba.

“This is a great day for Old Cahawba, a great day for Dallas County, a great day for the State of Alabama and the fulfillment of a dream for The Cahaba Foundation,” Young said. “The mission of our nonprofit foundation has been to protect and preserve the site of Alabama’s first state capital, and now we are celebrating the completion of this first priority.”

Before and after the ceremony, local businesses and restaurants gave out food and drinks during a taste and toast reception. Afterwards, a bronze plaque commemorating the park’s major donors was unveiled inside the visitor’s center.

“We are proud that so much of Alabama’s rich heritage is located right here in Dallas County,” Smedley said. “This is a great opportunity to celebrate some of Alabama’s earliest history and to showcase local businesses.”

For the complete article please see

Colbert tourism unveils music audio tour
From the article by Russ Corey on

Tony Raine recalls visiting the Alabama Music Hall of Fame about 10 years ago and walking out the front doors, wondering where to go next.

He told this story to a group gathered Friday at the hall of fame for the unveiling of Raine’s solution to his problem — an audio driving tour called “We Rocked The World-Muscle Shoals Music.”

The project was produced through grants secured by the Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau. It was produced by Raine, Bill Nemuth and Billy Lawson at Lawson’s Big Star and Wishbone recording studios.

“It’s like taking a guided tour without being in a minibus,” said Raine, who is originally from near Liverpool, England.

The six-part audio tour guide on compact disc provides turn-by-turn directions to places such as Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield; FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals; Cypress Moon Productions on Alabama Avenue in Sheffield, which is the second home of Muscle Shoals Sound; and Wishbone Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals.

Along the way, narrator Marie Lewey points out other sites of interest, such as Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller, the Tennessee or Singing River, Spring Park and other notable places in the Shoals.

The tour takes into account drive time to each location. Stories like the Rolling Stones recording at Muscle Shoals Sound in 1969 are woven into the tour.

Susann Hamlin, executive director of the tourism bureau, said they visited the Rattlesnake Saloon and Coondog Cemetery in eastern Colbert County, then decided to go to Red Bay and visit the Tammy Wynette Museum and take the Tiffen Motor Homes tour.

Legendary guitarist Travis Wammack provides the introduction and some music. Additional music was provided by Lawson and guitarist Will McFarlane.

“It’s defintely a Southern introduction,” Wammack said.

He starts off the tour talking about how he arrived in the Shoals and gives a brief history of Muscle Shoals music. Wamack and his Snakeman Band treated the audience to a few tunes, including Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning.”

The entire six chapter audio tour lasts 4 1/2 hours, Raine said.

Raine said he was traveling through the South visiting music-related sites and attractions that he read about in magazines when he was still living in England.

He later moved to the Cape Cod area in Massachusettes and was involved in the music business. Raine said he used to provide tours around Liverpool for fans of The Beatles.

He said he’s been in the Shoals for about 18 months.

“I grew up reading about Muscle Shoals in the music papers in England,” Raine said.

Hamlin said grant money was provided by the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association, and Shoals Resource Conservation and Development Council.

“This guided driving tour is written specifically for visiting music fans from around the world,” Hamlin said. “Following the release of the documentary on Muscle Shoals, more and more people who were coming to our area to connect with the music had asked us for a tour guide.”

The disc is available at the Colbert tourism office, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and local recording studios for $10.

Raine said a digital download will be available through iTunes. A mobile phone app is also in development.

For the complete article please see

Kid-friendly adventures in Gulf Shores, AL
From the article by Kristi Eaton on

The baby alligators laid on their mother’s back as she eyed us. Lefty, as she is known, is used to visitors at Gulf State Park in Alabama, and we were no different, though how we got there was.

We were taking a Segway tour through the park when we happened upon Lefty and her offspring. Though she allowed us to take photos of her and her young, we continued on so as not to disturb her too much.

It was just one of the exciting parts about riding a Segway for the first time, a perfect activity for a family because riders can be as young as 12 or as old as 80. All they need to do is demonstrate they are able to handle the machines, said James Yaskowich, operator with Coastal Segway Adventures.

Yaskowich led us on a tour of the park, stopping at various locations to tell us some of the history and how the Gulf oil spill affected the area.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill instilled fear into the minds of many in tourism, but the Gulf Coast has bounced back. The Hangout Music Festival was started in the aftermath of the spill, drawing acts including DJ Jazzy Jeff, Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean and Twenty One Pilots.

The white-sand beaches seemed like a perfect location to hold such an event. To keep the sand and water top-notch, an effort began in 2007 to ensure the sustainability of the island. In 2015, a litter program was started to bring awareness to the things left behind on the beach.

Packing up chairs, toys and getting rid of trash and recyclables is part of the program’s motto: “Leave Only Footprints.”

The Gulf State Park, which already offers boating, camping, fishing, playgrounds and more, is undergoing an expansion, which will include an interpretive center and trail enhancements. In the meantime, don’t miss the Gulf State Park Pier. At 1,540 feet, it’s the second-longest on the Gulf of Mexico and an ideal place for people-watching.

My trip to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, sponsored by Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, started with dinner at LuLu’s, a packed, family-friendly venue serving thousands of people each day during the peak summer season.

With a beach vibe at heart, LuLu’s (started by Lucy Buffett, younger sister of singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett) has something for everyone, even offering a menu for those with food allergies.

Kids, meanwhile, will be delighted by the multitude of flavors available at Matt’s Homemade Alabama Ice Cream, the only homemade ice cream shop in the area. There are two locations.

For other kid-friendly activities, try Sailaway Charters, which features shrimping and nature tours. Kids can look for different types of wildlife as parents laugh along to Captain Skip Beebee’s tales of cruising around the world during the tours, which range from one to three hours.

For the complete article please see

Small town, big style in Alabama
From the article by Daniel Bruce on

Once the epitome of the crushing poverty so characteristic of the rural South, this town in Hale County has since become a hotbed for design and innovation. According to Architecture Design Magazine, students in Auburn University’s architecture program, Rural Studio, have been transforming the small town of Newbern into an architectural haven since 1993.

The students have been building and designing structures that not only improve the lives of residents, but add a modern edge to a town filled with mobile homes and antebellum houses. The students have produced a shimmering polycarbonate firehouse, constructed a town hall out of cypress timbers, and renovated an unoccupied bank into a public library. Newbern’s former librarian, Alfreda Howard, says that visitors “marvel at the creativity inside.”

The Rural Studio program was the brain child of Samuel Mockbee, a Mississippi-born architect who set out with a goal of rallying students to build for the poor. Affectionately known as “Sambo,” Mockbee set out to create houses for lower-income families in the community. However, these houses were not just normal houses. Mockbee and his students used all kinds of materials from carpet tiles to tires to construct their contemporary housing.

The lack of building-code enforcement in Hale County allows students to experiment and test the limits of their creativity. They work in teams to create drawings and physical mock-ups of their designs, which are then rigorously tested by faculty and architecture critics. “You have to show that you deserve to build,” says Xavier Vendrell, an architect from Barcelona who joined the faculty in 2013.

Andrew Freear has carried on Mockbee’s legacy since his death in 2001. When the community requested that the program’s focus shift toward public buildings, Freear did just that. Students now design everything from schools, to senior centers, to animal shelters. “We tend to be suckers for scrappy underdogs,” Freear  explained.

One of the biggest triumphs of the program is the renovation of the 600-acre Perry Lakes Park. Once closed for decades, the students have turned the park into a must-see attraction. Throughout the park, students constructed an elegant bridge, a pavilion for events a performances, and a perch made from the armature of an old fire tower.

Along with the program’s architectural ambitions, Rural Studio hopes to redevelop the community’s local agriculture. The area has become barren in terms of produce, and students believe that fresh fruits and vegetables would benefit everyone in Newbern.

The students and the program remain a central piece in the culture of Hale County. Unlike many architects who take on a project from afar, Rural Studio has invested into the community from day one. “We don’t fly in and fly out,” Freear says. “We’ve dug ourselves in here, and we live surrounded by our projects.”

For the complete article please see

Jason Isbell Returns to Muscle Shoals for cathartic hometown gig
From the article by Adam Gold on

You can take Jason Isbell out of Muscle Shoals, but you can’t take Muscle Shoals out of Isbell. That was clear Saturday night at the Shoals Community Theatre in Florence, Alabama, where, backed by his longtime outfit the 400 Unit (which the local press recently deemed the E Street Band of their era), the North Alabama native made his first proper full-band appearance since 2010.

“It’s great to be here,” Isbell told a full house teeming with old friends and family, before launching into “Hope the High Road,” a driving heartland rocker from his latest LP The Nashville Sound. The record may be named for Music City, the singer’s adopted hometown of five years, but when he belted the track’s opening line – “I used to think that this was my town / what a stupid thing to think” – he did so with a palpable, immediate conviction that felt like a humble declaration directed at the old stomping ground that’s still more than happy to claim him. “I grew up in Green Hill, about 20 minutes from here,” Isbell told the capacity crowd of 686, all of whom already seemed to know that.

A lot has happened to Isbell since 2010, both in terms of the singer’s career – a series of self-released, acclaimed albums simultaneously topping rock, folk and country charts, Grammys, magazine covers, multi-night stands at hallowed venues like Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium – and in terms of his personal life, where marriage, fatherhood and sobriety have matured him. Much of that story is documented in the songs from a streak of game-changing LPs that began with 2013’s Dave Cobb-produced Americana masterpiece “Southeastern”. Selections from those records dominated the rousing 18-song, nearly two-hour set, the main event at Alabama-based fashion designer Billy Reid’s annual Shindig in the Shoals.

The musical highlights were many. Backlit by flood lights, on rockers such as “Super 8” and the mean-mugging “Cumberland Gap,” Isbell, sporting a Radiohead shirt, and band kicked out power chords and guitar duels at tempos and volumes fast and loud enough to silence anyone who thinks of the artist as a pensive singer-songwriter. But when he did indulge in those pensive, singer-songwriter-y moments, like “Last of My Kind” and “If We Were Vampires,” Isbell captivated and compelled with a focus and stoic charisma that coffeehouse singers the world over aspire to but rarely ever achieve.

Then there were the fun moments, like Isbell hopping up and down in excitement after parading his bandmates to the lip of the stage like a rock & roll switchblade gang during the climax of fan-favorite “Codeine,” from 2011’s “Here We Rest”, the first song of the night to get the crowd on its feet.

“You guys startled me when you all stood up at the same time,” Isbell joked. “Usually when that happens I get real worried, because I think maybe that’s when the P.A. [turned on]. … Did y’all hear the first five songs that we played?”

As his something more than 160,000 Twitter followers know, Isbell can be quite a cut-up, and it didn’t take long before this hometown gig started feeling as much like a standup set of parochial Alabama in-jokes as it did a rock show. One humorous anecdote came when Isbell introduced his wife, singer-songwriter Amanda Shires, who displayed her fine fiddle chops throughout the show, and played Patti to Isbell’s Bruce as a duet partner. He recalled why she never moved in with him in Alabama.

“The bats ran her off!” he said of his days living in nearby Sheffield. “In the middle of the night there were bats, and they came through an open window in the apartment. And we got them out with a Swiffer, I remember that, we got them off the ceiling, we got them in a bucket, we dumped them out the window.”

“And I drove back to my family’s house,” Shires interjected.

The bats weren’t the only problem.

“For some reason, everybody in Sheffield has their shirt off,” the singer went on, to knowing applause. “We’re glad that you [Shires] came back to play fiddle with us this evening.”

On the poignant end of the spectrum, “White Man’s World” – Isbell’s audit of his own white privilege – was, like the bulk of Isbell’s oeuvre, a heart-attack-serious rumination on guilt, shame, heartache and the human condition. And despite his pleasant drawl, dry delivery and natural comedic timing, the applause line of the night didn’t come after a bon mot – like when he noted how hearing an accordion makes him crave romance and pasta (“It’s the only instrument that does that!”) As it always does, it came when he sang, “I sobered up and I swore off that stuff / Forever this time,” during another reliably show-stopping version of “Southeastern’s” centerpiece “Cover Me Up.”

Now in its ninth year, Shindig is an informal annual weekend-long cultural confab of homegrown fashion, art, farm-to-table fare and, naturally, music from the corner of the Cotton State that gave the world more indispensable, greasy R&B, rock & roll, pop and country than a human being could listen to in one lifetime. Most of it originated from two legendary studios – Muscle Shoals Sound and FAME.

In addition to Isbell, this year included performances from the always-welcome brass-masters Preservation Hall Jazz Band; torch-carrying Delta Blues heir Cedric Burnside, who opened for Isbell; the Del McCoury Band, playing a free show in a park; My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel; and Nashville garage-rocker Ron Gallo, whose power trio left the stage of the club Reid co-owns, 116 E. Mobile Street, in tatters by the end of his midnight after-party set.

And for the second year in a row, rocker and noted baseball buff Jack White and his staff at Third Man Records made the two-hour trek from Nashville to compete in a hardball double-header against a team of staffers from Billy Reid. Third Man won both games. White played first base.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Tourism Department is Oct 12
The Alabama Tourism Department’s tourism workshop is Oct. 12, in Montgomery.  This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will be in attendance at this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. On Thurs., Oct. 12, the workshop will be at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.  There is no registration fee. For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov 

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

Are you hosting an event celebrating the three-year Alabama Bicentennial? 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. This will help extend your reach so others know what you are doing to celebrate history.

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


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