Tourism Tuesdays November 7, 2017

The New U.S. Civil Rights Trail has more than 100 stops throughout the South

Brand USA’s Tuesday Tune In highlights Alabama

Parks for Patriots — Veterans to receive free admission to AL State Parks

Fort Toulouse Turns 300

Donnie Fritts: Celebrating a funky milestone

100 things to do in Birmingham highlighted in new book

Still time to sign-up for April Walking Tours 2018- deadline Nov. 15

2017 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat, Nov. 12-14

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


The New U.S. Civil Rights Trail has more than 100 stops throughout the South
From the article by Andrew Sessa on

Officially launching in January, the trail includes museums, schools, churches and more across the U.S.

Thanks to the debut of the country’s first official Civil Rights Trail, you’ll soon be able to walk in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and a number of other social justice heroes. Officially launching in January—coinciding with the 155th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s January 1, 1863 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and only a few months before the fiftieth anniversary of the April 4, 1968, assassination of Dr. King—the trail includes more than 100 stops. These extend north to south from Wilmington, Delaware, to New Orleans, and east to west from Topeka, Kansas, to Richmond, Virginia. In total, the trail comprises destinations in 14 states, as well as the District of Columbia, including museums, schools, churches, courthouses, and other landmarks and monuments.

Many, like D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial and National Museum of African American History and Culture, are well known. Others—like the Old Courthouse in author Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama—may be mostly recognizable to locals and historians.

The project was born out of a 2015 directive from Jonathan Jarvis, the head of the National Parks Service, to achieve UNESCO World Heritage site status for civil rights sites with cultural and historic import. As a result, Georgia State University and history professor Glenn Eskew began surveying places with strong connections to the movement, eventually unveiling a list of 60 spots in April.

“When we saw that list, we realized that this was the first time anyone had done an inventory of American civil rights sites,” says Lee Sentell, the director of the Alabama Tourism Department, who worked with his colleagues to expand the list to its current iteration of more than 100 sites.

The trail’s preview website went live on Saturday, teasing a more interactive version that will arrive in early January. The full site will have videos featuring interviews with surviving activists from the height of the Civil Rights Era, as well as with the heads or curators of many of the stops along the route; it will also let users click through to the websites of participating cultural institutions. Its key resource, however, may be its map, which will help visitors develop trips linking landmarks.

Sentell tells Traveler he’s particularly excited about the trail’s ability to expose these secondary and tertiary sites—places of great importance but lesser renown—and connect them with other destinations. “Say you’re going to be in a certain part of the South, and you know there’s one civil rights landmark there,” he says. “There may be others nearby, and this helps you learn about and access them.”

And while UNESCO status is still potentially years away for the individual locations, or for the trail as a whole, the tourism departments of the Southern states decided to immediately make them more accessible, says Sentell, highlighting a sense of urgency at a time when struggles for social justice feel especially poignant.

“These sites are operating now,” he says. “We wanted to organize them together to elevate awareness of them right away.”

For the complete article please see

Brand USA’s Tuesday Tune In highlights Alabama
Thousands of travel trade professionals in the United Kingdom received Brand USA’s Tuesday Tune In email blast last week that promoted Alabama. The Alabama-focused email went to a 76,000 in TravelMole’s database of UK and beyond travel trade on Oct 31.

Titled “Alabama, home to beauty, history, culture and adventure,” the email was sent one week prior to the World Travel Market tourism show in London, which is underway this week, Nov. 6-8.

Featured in Alabama were three “New and Trending” sites; OWA, Muscle Shoals Studio and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  Mobile was highlighted in a “Fun Fact” as the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the USA.

The “Must See” section included Birmingham with entertainment districts, Barber Motorsports Museum and the Birmingham Civil Rights District.  In Montgomery, civil rights was highlighted with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rosa Parks Museum and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., church and Parsonage.

In Mobile, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park was featured with descriptions of the USS Alabama, USS Drum and Blackbird spy plane.

Space Camp and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center was the highlight of Huntsville while De Soto State Park in Fort Payne was featured as a scenic park nestled atop beautiful Lookout Mountain.

Brand USA is the destination marketing organization for the United States. Brand USA’s mission is to increase incremental international visitation, spend, and market share to fuel the nation’s economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide.

For more information on Alabama’s international effort, contact or

Parks for Patriots – veterans to receive free admission to AL State Parks
From the article by Daniel Bruce on

Beginning Nov. 1, Alabama State Parks will provide veterans with free admission to state parks that charge an entry fee or day-usage fee. The program called “Parks for Patriots” hopes to thank veterans for their bravery and service to our country.

“Our parks and public lands are places for reflection and serenity, and they stand as a tribute to those who have served our great nation,” Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director, said in a news release. “For years we have offered free state park admission to veterans on Veterans Day. Expanding that access year-round is the least we can do for those who have made our freedom possible.”

Alabama State Parks highlighted the deep connection the state’s parks have with veterans. Many of the parks were built with help from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which employed many World War I veterans during the Great Depression.

Alabama State Parks encourages other guests to offer a donation to sponsor a veteran. “Your donation, combined with other sponsor contributions, will allow us to honor the men and women who have served our great country,” a statement on their website said. Donations can be made in three ways: online, at any state park entrance gate (cash only), or at point-of-sale cash register at park offices, restaurants, etc.

The Parks for Patriots program only applies to park admission. It does not cover other concessions or fee-based adventures inside the park.

“I am so thankful for all of our veterans and I am glad we can offer them free admission to our State Parks,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “As Veterans Day approaches, we urge all Alabamians to consider sponsoring our veterans by contributing to this new program. It’s just one of the ways we can all show our gratitude for their selfless service to the country.”

For the complete article please see

Fort Toulouse Turns 300
From the article by Kimberly Hyde on

Fort Toulouse in Wetumpka was built by the French in 1717.

“It was the first European outpost north of Mobile,” said Ned Jenkins of the Alabama Historical Commission.

Last week’s Frontier Days marked Fort Toulouse’s historical significance as a center for trade between French merchants and the Creeks.

“This was the first time Indians here had day-to-day interaction with the Europeans,” said Jenkins.

Nearly 15,000 visitors came out to enjoy 18th century colonial life, including demonstrations of spinning, weaving, blacksmithing and woodworking.

“It just feels like history, like someone has turned back the clocks and you feel like you’re really back when Alabama was first founded by the French and the English,” said student Roman Wofford.

The Alabama Historical Commission marked the fort’s tricentennial celebration Saturday. The visitors witnessed a reenactment of the moment French Marines first met Alabama Native Americans.

“To be able to come back 300 years later represents the fact that we’re still here, we still remember that, we still recall that, and that in my own personal life is part of my own being,” said James Floyd, Principal Chief, Muscogee Nation-Oklahoma.

That heritage brought back to life some 300 years later – alive and well for generations to come.

“I feel like this is a great place to see our history, and how this place was founded and created and how the Indians really shaped how this state is today,” said Wofford.

Fort Toulouse was built about 100 years before Alabama became a state. The site was renamed Fort Jackson in the early nineteenth century by the United States military.  There are living history demonstrations at the fort on weekends from spring to mid fall.

For the complete article please see

Donnie Fritts: Celebrating a funky milestone
From the article by Monica Collier on

In a little more than a week, Shoals Theatre in downtown Florence will be the site of a unique, star-studded, funky celebration honoring Donnie Fritts.

Fritts, a Florence native and longtime Shoals resident, is a singer, songwriter, session musician and actor. He was part of the early local music scene that created the legendary Muscle Shoals sound and is a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Fritts is perhaps best known for his work with Kris Kristofferson, which spans 40 years and includes two decades as his keyboard player.

The all-star event on Nov. 13 featuring Kristofferson, David Hood, Billy Swan, Dan Penn, John Paul White, Gary Nicholson, Travis Wammack, Lenny LeBlanc, Mike Dillon, Spooner Oldham, Kelvin Holly and Will McFarlane started as a far-fetched idea.

“It was just simply an idea,” Steve Price said. “I thought Donnie was close to reaching a big birthday. Sure enough, with a little help from Wikipedia, I discovered he would be 75 in November.”

“Funk Frenzy” materialized as Price, Shoals Theatre general manager, considered the best way to mark a milestone in Fritts’ life — his 75th birthday.

“We’re actually having it the week after his birthday,” Price said. “I wanted to have it on a Monday night because that’s typically a night musicians don’t work. Most of his friends are musicians — I wanted them to be able to come.”

With a list of legendary musicians in hand, Price started calling Fritts’ friends. Penn, Oldham, LeBlanc and White came on board first. Price said the lineup kept changing as others followed suit saying “yes” to his simple idea.

“John Paul White is in the middle of a tour, but he’s coming home for this — John Paul loves Donnie,” he said. “Lenny LeBlanc will be here the day he gets back from Africa. These guys are graciously donating their time for Donnie — they said they wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s such a wonderful way to honor him.”

When Fritts thinks about his upcoming birthday celebration, he said he’s without words.

“It’s a very humbling experience,” Fritts said. “To have all my buddies and to have everyone coming to the show, it’s just amazing. I love it. It will be a night I remember forever.”

Word got out about “Funk Frenzy” well before the lineup was close to being finalized. As more people asked about buying tickets, Price and Fritts decided tickets would be $20. The show sold out in a matter of days.

“We could have sold out three shows,” Price said about the community’s response to “Funk Frenzy.” “It took on a life of its own. Word of mouth sold out 700 tickets.”

With a laugh, Price recalled Fritts calling him one afternoon with the “bad news” that Delbert McClinton wasn’t going to be able to attend after all. Thirty minutes later, Price said Fritts followed up with a “good news” call that Kristofferson would be attending.

“So, $20 for a show like this, and it has Kris Kristofferson,” he said. “Kris Kristofferson is stopping what he’s doing to come here. I’m telling people, that’s the best ticket on the planet at this point. We sold so many tickets before we knew who was on the bill just simply because it was for Donnie.”

To Price and others in the Shoals, Fritts’ value goes beyond his impressive resume. He’s a cherished part of the community who’s a dedicated advocate for local arts and entertainment endeavors.

“What this says is amazing,” Price said. “It speaks volumes about who Donnie Fritts is — the type of guy he is and how respected he is not only in the music community but in our community. Donnie is an amazing guy, and everybody loves him.”

Fritts said his hometown means everything to him.

“My father was always in construction, but he was a great musician and was a big influence on my life,” Fritts said. “Growing up on East Hill was great — there was such a sense of community there. It was a beautiful place to grow up in during the 1940s and 1950s. Even if the music never happened, I would always come back here.”

Fritts is donating all proceeds from “Funk Frenzy” to the ongoing Shoals Theatre renovations. Price said the musicians “didn’t even talk money” and are performing free, and Marriott Shoals has donated rooms, so every dime goes to the theater.

Fritts said the theater is important to him — it’s where he met Tom Stafford. Stafford worked at the theater and eventually became one of the co-founders of Florence Alabama Music Enterprises.

“When I was about 15, I would go to the movies all the time,” he said. “Tom and I both loved music. I was just a kid — I was just starting to play in bands — I played drums at the time. The seeds of Muscle Shoals music started right there in that lobby.”

Fritts and Stafford spent time in the theater talking about what they would like to do — they spent time dreaming.

“I wanted to be a songwriter and be in the music business,” Fritts said. “We both wanted to be in music — Tom was very enthusiastic about it. From those talks, we found a place for a studio. His father owned the drugstore beneath the studio that was right down the street from the Shoals Theatre.”

Price said it’s no secret that Fritts believes the Shoals Theatre is a gem and needs to be maintained.

New curtains, which were a $30,000 investment, will be hung in the theater this month, and the next goal is to replace the sound system. Price said those who couldn’t get tickets are welcome to make donations to the theater, which is nonprofit, in Fritts’ honor.

“We’re still not sure who may show up,” Price said with a smile. “There are sure to be some surprises.”

For the complete article please see

100 things to do in Birmingham highlighted in new book
From the article by Erin Edgemon on

The magic is back in Birmingham.

“We are an interesting place,” said Birmingham native and veteran journalist Verna Gates. “It is an interesting place to live. It is a vibrant culture where things are deeply felt and acted on.”

Gates plays tour guide to her hometown – something she loves to do — in her new book, “100 Things to Do in Birmingham Before You Die,” which is available now from Reedy Press.

The book isn’t just for natives, Gates said.

When compiling a list of the most authentic, unique and not-to-miss Birmingham area attractions, Gates included a mix of the city’s mainstays and some new, hotspots.

She couldn’t leave out the likes of Vulcan Park & Museum, Sloss Furnaces or the Civil Rights Institute, Gates said.

Some out of the way places also made the cut.

One of Gates’ favorites is a juke joint hosted in the backyard of Henry “Gip” Gipson’s residence in Bessemer. Gip’s Place is open every Saturday night.

“You go there and you walk down his driveway and you enter this magical place,” Gates said. “(Gip) has these kicking bands back in his backyard. Gip will get you up and make you dance. It is a fun party.”

Irondale Cafe, which was the inspiration for the cafe in Fannie Flagg’s book “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, is a must-visit, according to Gates.

The Magic City Classic, she points out, is the longest-running annual face-off between the football teams of two historically black universities. The game along with corresponding tailgating and parties is the largest predominately African-American event in the country.

And, you can’t get more Alabama than a barbecue joint in a gas station, Gates said. Butts-To-Go is located in Pell City.

Included on the list are also a few things Birmingham is known for perhaps only outside the city.

According to Gates, Alabama is ground-zero for Sacred Harp Singing – a more than 300-year-old choral tradition where young people are taught how to sight-read music.

Oak Mountain is famous (outside of the Birmingham area) for orienteering, she said. Orienteering is a race involving a map and compass.

Gates didn’t forget the newbies either. Pizitz Food Hall in downtown and the speakeasy Marble Ring made the list.

With the book, Gates said she wanted to do her part to help improve the image of Birmingham.

“We need to look at our city as what it has become and not what it has been,” she said. “Even the New York Times is writing about what a great scene Birmingham is.”

Birmingham is home to ballet, opera and a symphony. “We have a lot of amenities that aren’t normal for a city our size,” Gates said.

Downtown once again has places to eat and drink and hear music, Gates said.

Gates has worked as a journalist for about 37 years. She was one of the first 50 employees at CNN. She has worked for Time magazine and The Guardian. Gates works as a commenter for Troy Public Radio and with Alabama Tourism to bring international, national and regional journalists to the state.

In 2009, Gates was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the National Federation of Presswomen.

Gates said she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but Birmingham.

“I have come back. I came back twice.  They swear the iron ore gets into your veins and pulls you back. I feel that Birmingham is more real and more authentic,” she said.

For the complete article please see

Still time to sign-up for April Walking Tours 2018- deadline Nov. 15
Towns interested in participating in the 2018 April Walking Tours should respond with an email giving their town’s name, starting location, contact person and shipping address to The deadline to sign-up for the walking tours is Nov. 15.

Towns already signed-up for 2018 include: Athens, Attalla, Bayou La Batre, Birmingham, Courtland, Cullman, Decatur, Elba, Enterprise, Eufaula, Eutaw, Fairhope, Florence, Foley, Huntsville, Livingston, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Mooresville, Moulton, Pell City, Prattville, Selma, Sheffield, Shelby, Troy and Tuscumbia.

More than 2,500 people participated in this year’s April Walking Tours. Some 28 towns across the state hosted the tours.

The hour-long tours start at 10 a.m. each Saturday morning in April. Dates for the 2018 April Walking Tours are April 7, 14, 21 and 28.

“These tours are an excellent way for towns and communities of any size to be involved in a state-wide tourism campaign,” said Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department.  “There is no cost to participate and state tourism helps publicize the events. More than 23,000 people have participated in the tours since the beginning of the program 13 years ago” he said.

Email your town’s name, starting location, contact person and shipping address to to register for the April 2018 tours.

2017 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat, Nov. 12-14
The Alabama Welcome Center Retreat gives the Alabama Tourism Industry the opportunity to showcase communities with the devoted staff of the Alabama Welcome Centers. This year the retreat will be held at OWA in Foley.

Each Center closes so that all employees participate in this educational retreat. The industry trade show provides the opportunity to share with the staff members of each Center the information for them to share with their guests, the thousands of travelers stopping at Welcome Centers for travel advice to entice their visitors to stop, see and stay a little longer with us.

The Registration Fee is $175 for all industry partners, with or without a table top. This fee includes a table top in the Tourism Partner’s Showcase and functions through Tuesday morning breakfast at the TownePlace Suites.

For Details Contact: Patti A. Culp, Alabama Travel Council

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Is your event recurring? If so, here’s how to submit an event that occurs weekly or monthly. Begin by entering the start date, end date, and time of event. Then, select “Repeat Event.” Choose “Weekly” plus select every week or every two weeks; OR choose “Monthly” and select the day of the month the event repeats. Finally, finish creating your event by adding a detailed description, photos, and video and submit the event for approval.

Need to update your page? Go to today.


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