Tourism Tuesdays January 2, 2018

OWA named 2018 Attraction of the Year
Rick Hall, Muscle Shoals music pioneer and founder of FAME Studios, has died
Travel South receives award
The 31 most beautiful places in Alabama
Sport tourism: $5.47 million economic impact
Alabama chef wins Food Network’s ‘Iron Chef Showdown’
Red Marlow finishes 4th on ‘The Voice’ finale
Alabama’s generous 35% tax incentive gets the goods
Critics name made-in-Alabama movie ‘Get Out’ the best film of 2017
Travel South Biloxi Showcase booths sold out
Attendance Figures needed from state attractions and events
Partner Pointer for the tourism industry website

OWA named 2018 Attraction of the Year
The Alabama Tourism Department has named OWA its Attraction of the Year in the 2018 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events.

OWA is a $500 million-plus complex that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians built in Foley within 10 miles of Alabama’s pristine white-sand beaches.  It includes the 14-acre “Park at OWA,” which houses more than 20 rides and four roller coasters, including Rollin’ Thunder, one of the longest in the country.  If stretched out, Rollin’ Thunder’s track of would be 2,234.3 feet, longer than seven football fields put together.

Visitors can also find bargains at new, upscale shops. Stay in luxurious accommodations, and eat at top-notch restaurants.  Among the dining options is Wahlburgers, an upscale burger restaurant that chef Paul Wahlberg founded in 2011 with his famous brothers, Donnie and Mark Wahlberg. It is part of the shopping and dining area, which includes other eateries and numerous stores. The 150- room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel is the first of several lodging options to open.

Future plans include a waterpark, a condominium complex and a resort-level RV park. OWA is adjacent to the city of Foley’s $40 million sports-tourism complex, which features 16 state-of-the-art outdoor fields and a 90,000- square-foot indoor events center.

The state tourism department also released its list of top 10 events for 2018. The 10 events in chronological order are the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, performances of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the 50th annual 911 Festival, Birmingham’s Sloss Fest, the Jubilee Festival of Arts, the Alabama Coastal Birdfest, the National Shrimp Festival, the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, the GATALOP 35 Renaissance Festival and the 75th anniversary of Dothan’s Annual National Peanut Festival.

The state tourism department selects the top 10 events based upon significant anniversaries and the uniqueness of the event. The events listing is featured in the 2018 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events that is available at the eight state welcome centers, local tourism bureaus and online at  The 204-page magazine-size publication contains colorful photos and covers the state by geographic regions with an introduction section, a city-by-city listing of attractions and accommodations and profiles of the state’s major cities.  The calendar section lists more than 700 annual and special events from across the state.

There are also features on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the best places to eat, drink or watch the sunset, unique must-visit sites, outdoor adventures and a listing of free smart phone apps from different tourism organizations across the state.

Below are more details about the top 10 events for 2018:

The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee
From March 1-5, this annual event celebrates one of the most important events in American’s Civil Rights Movement – the Selma to Montgomery march.

Play productions of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”
From April 13-May 19 actors from the author’s hometown of Monroeville perform her classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the town that helped inspire it.

The 911 Festival
On June 1 and 2 Haleyville celebrates its 50th annual 911 Festival, memorializing the first 911 call ever made.

Sloss Fest
This Birmingham music festival, scheduled for July 14-15, was named by Southern Living as one of the best music festivals in the South.

The 30th annual Jubilee Festival of Arts
The festival, equal parts arts, crafts, food and put Southern charm, is on Sept. 29 and 30 in Daphne.

The Alabama Coastal Birdfest
From Oct. 3-6 in Spanish Fort, bird watchers fly in from all over the country to view more than 100 species of migrating birds that are doing the same.

The Annual National Shrimp Festival
This four-day food and music festival that takes place in Gulf Shores from Oct 11-14 attracts more than 250,000 visitors.

The Kentuck Festival of the Arts
Crowds flow into Northport on Oct. 20 and 21 for some of the best folk art in the country, along with some of the South’s best storytellers and live music.

The 35th Annual Renaissance Festival, GATALOP 35
The Oct. 26, 27 festival in Dauphin Island is one of the state’s biggest and best Renaissance fairs.

Dothan’s 75th Annual National Peanut Festival
The festival, whose first speaker was George Washington Carver, celebrates its 75th anniversary from Nov 2-11.  It attracts about 200,000 visitors with its amusement park rides, animal attractions and concerts.

The 2018 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events is available at the eight state welcome centers, local tourism bureaus and online at

Rick Hall, Muscle Shoals music pioneer and founder of FAME Studios, has died
From the article by Mary Colurso on

Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Recording Studios and a pioneering powerhouse on the Muscle Shoals music scene, has died at age 85, reports say.

According to a story in the TimesDaily in Florence, Hall died this morning at his home. Judy Hood, a board member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the wife of bassist David Hood of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (aka “the Swampers”), confirmed Hall’s death.

“It’s a very, very sad day for Muscle Shoals and music in general,” Hood told the TimesDaily. She said Hall had been living in a nursing home in the Shoals, but returned home before Christmas.

A post today on the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Facebook page also announced his death and memorialized Hall.

Hall, a producer, music publisher, songwriter and author, was a key figure in creating the Muscle Shoals sound during the 1960s in north Alabama. He worked with artists such as Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman and Etta James, putting a small Alabama town on the map in the music world.

Hall was prominently featured in the 2013 “Muscle Shoals” documentary and wrote a book about his life and work, 2015’s “The Man from Muscle Shoals: My Journey from Shame to Fame.”

“You can do anything if you believe in yourself,” Hall said during a 2015 interview with Lynn Oldshue for “Don’t give me the crap, ‘I do believe, but just not that much,’ that’s never going to make it. It’s called persistence and I am still fanatical about perfection, but it is still not good enough.”

For the complete article please see

Travel South receives award
Travel South USA was recently awarded “Most Improved Overseas Destination Marketing Organization” by the National Tourism Awards in China.  This recognition is given to a travel marketing organization that has significantly improved its efforts to engage with Chinese tour operator, travel agent and traveler.

The Alabama Tourism Department is a member of Travel South USA and Tourism Director Lee Sentell is one of the organization’s board members.

The award was announced in December 2017.  It is considered the most influential awards in China’s travel trade industry.  More than 1,500 voters from more than 100 institutions in the People’s Republic of China participate in the selection of the nominations and winners.

Alabama participates with Travel South in their Chinese Global Partnership Program and is represented in China by the East West Marketing Corporation, who accepted the award on Travel South’s behalf.

“With the growing volume and demand from the China tour market, the southern regions tourism offerings perfectly satisfy the Chinese consumers’ desire for unique, authentic, local culture of the true American lifestyle,” said Daniel Shen, chairman and founder, East West Marketing Corp. “The South is tomorrows’ destination for Chinese travelers to the U.S.”

Tourism Department Deputy Director Grey Brennan and Alabama’s Chinese Coordinator Springna Ying will attend the Active America China Summit in Atlanta, March 25-28, 2018, that will include a Travel South planned event and a FAM to Alabama for up to eight Chinese tour operators.

Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville is one of the most requested destinations in Alabama from Chinse tour operators.

For more information on Alabama’s participation in China through Travel South contact

The 31 most beautiful places in Alabama
From the article by Tamika Moore on

Alabama is filled with natural wonders, hidden gems, and charming towns all packed with fascinating history. Equipped with a giant map, I set out to find some of the state’s most beautiful places based on reader suggestions and documented them on Instagram at This is Alabama.

Get ready to hit the road, because there are many breathtaking places in Alabama to explore.

For the complete article please see

Sport tourism: $5.47 million economic impact
From the article by Lisa Singleton-Rickman on

Sporting events are a vital aspect of the area’s tourism economy, and the impact just keeps growing each year.

If there was any doubt of the role sports tourism plays, consider this: The National Association of Sports Commission reports visitor spending associated with sports events in North America was $10.47 billion in 2016.

The local numbers are impressive as well with a $5.47 million economic impact to the Shoals via sport tourism in 2017.

That figure represents a $400,000 increase over 2016, according to Suzie Shoemaker, manager of sport/event sales for Florence Tourism.

“The bulk of this impact is from fishing with longer tournaments meaning longer stays in the area,” Shoemaker said. “We had some back-to-back tournaments which helped as well.”

She said the goal for next year is a 20 percent increase. Plans are in place to see that come to fruition.

The addition of another college bass tournament in April, the Bass Master College Series Southern Tour Event, should help. It’s a three-day tournament.

Florence Tourism Board Chairman David Muhlendorf said there’s no question fishing is a major component to the success of sport tourism locally. Holding tournaments in the cooler months is the goal.

“Our focus is to try to create events that will allow our hoteliers to fill rooms at times when travel is down,” he said, adding that next weekend’s Winter Blues catfishing tournament on Wheeler Lake is one such event.

Shoemaker said the challenge to bring in a wider variety of sporting venues is a priority.

Currently, the area predominantly relies on fishing, baseball, basketball, softball and disc golf. In recent years the Renaissance Man Triathlon has been a growing attraction as well. It brings people to the area for at least two days.

“We’re working on getting other sporting events for the future,” Shoemaker said, adding there’s special emphasis on girls’ sports.

As for how the economic impact is determined, Shoemaker said surveying participants reveals a true picture of time and money spent in Lauderdale County.

“We ask very particular questions of tournament participants, detailing how much money they spend in the various areas of tourism while they’re here,” she said.

Muhlendorf said widening the diversity of activities in the area will be key to making northwest Alabama attractive to visitors.

“It’s a challenge but it’s exciting, and additional activities will certainly make a difference,” he said. “The more we can offer, the better.”

For the complete article please see

Alabama chef wins Food Network’s ‘Iron Chef Showdown’
From the article by Bob Carlton on

David Bancroft, the executive chef and owner of Acre restaurant in Auburn, conquered celebrity chef and restaurateur Jose Garces to win the Food Network’s “Iron Chef Showdown” Wednesday night.

Bancroft and his team of chefs defeated Garces and his team by a score of 42-40.

On the “Iron Chef Showdown” team with Bancroft were Acre chef de cuisine Caleb Fischer and chef Adam Evans of Muscle Shoals.

The matchup between Bancroft and Garces will air again at 6 p.m. and  9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 3, according to the Food Network website.

The “Iron Chef Showdown” win capped off a big year for Acre’s Bancroft.

In February, Bancroft was chosen a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for best chef in the South for the second year in a row.

Garces, Bancroft’s “Iron Chef Showdown” opponent, has become a regular on the Food Network since winning the second season of “The Next Iron Chef” in 2009.

For the complete article please see

Red Marlow finishes 4th on ‘The Voice’ finale
From the article by Russ Corey on

Red Marlow’s longtime friend Jason Ingram said it didn’t matter if Marlow came out on top in Tuesday’s “The Voice” finale because, in a way, he had already won.

Marlow, 40, ended his run on the show with a fourth-place finish at the conclusion of a three-hour finale. Chloe Kohanski was announced the winner.

Each of the final four contestants received keys to a 2018 Toyota Camry during the show.

Ingram said the people in the Rogersville/Anderson area already knew what all of America knows now: Red Marlow is the real deal.

“Red will never forget where he came from,” said Ingram, who accompanied Marlow to audition for the show. “At the end of the day, if he’s selling double platinum records and has four tour buses and people cleaning his toes, he’ll still be Red Marlow. He will never go away from his roots.”

Ingram attended the final watch party for “The Voice” on Tuesday at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Florence. Local family, friends and fans have been faithfully following the show as Marlow continued to move forward. Ingram said his 96-year-old grandfather, a World War II veteran, was also at the restaurant Tuesday night.

Ingram said Marlow sought his advice earlier this year when he had a chance to get on the show. He said they both attended Lauderdale County High School together. Wherever they were hanging out, Marlow would have a guitar and was ready to provide the music.

“I said ‘Red, if you’re ever going to do anything, this is your chance,'” Ingram said. “‘Who cares if you don’t win? You’ll still get the publicity off it.’ He had a huge following already.”

Marlow had been in the music business in Nashville, Tennessee, for 15 years, doing some recording but mainly recording demo tracks. He had just decided to concentrate on his home improvement business, Mr. Fix All, when he decided to try out for “The Voice”.

On Monday’s episode, Marlow performed an original track, “I Pray,” which was written about the late Judson Adams, who owned A&C Body Shop in Rogersville. Ingram said Adams’ son, Matt, was good friends with him and Marlow and Adams’ death deeply impacted them.

“We’ve all always been really good friends,” Ingram said. “That was really hard on all of us.”

He said Marlow called him and asked if he should perform the song. Ingram told Marlow he should.

“The thing about the songs Red writes is you can relate to them,” Ingram said. “If you can connect with people like that it’s phenomenal. I think he did an amazing job on the song.”

Ingram said “I Pray” was number three across all genres Tuesday on iTunes. Marlow and his coach, Blake Shelton, performed Brad Paisley’s “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” which ended up number three on the iTunes country charts. Marlow also picked up 10,000 Twitter followers and had 250 Facebook messages in a 5-minute span.

He said Marlow would end up with offers regardless of how he finished on the show.

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell said he is proud of what Marlow has accomplished, and the positive light he’s shown on the state. Marlow currently lives in Dickson, Tennessee, but has friends and family in north Alabama.

Sentell said the South and Alabama in particular has done well in recent years with singer competitions.

Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board Member Judy Hood said Marlow is perpetuating the winning tradition of Alabamians like Taylor Hicks, Reuben Stoddard, Bo Bice and so many others.

“This is an especially good time because of the great press that Alabama has gotten literally from around the world in the last week because of the outcome of the Senate election,” Sentell said. “Anytime you get a political columnist with the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal praising Alabama voters at both ends of the spectrum, it’s positive for the image of the state. Especially like (Tuesday), where you have a guy who stands for old-fashioned country music. Purely and simply, it enhances the Alabama brand.”

Hood said it’s been fun and gratifying to see the community support Marlow in such in strong way.

“There is a lot of pride in our music here, and Red’s performances have given us yet another reason to celebrate,” she said. “It’s such a thrill to see our state’s talent climb to the top in these national competitions. In my view, Red is a winner, regardless of (the show’s) outcome. There is no doubt that he has a bright future ahead.”

For the complete article please see

Alabama’s generous 35% tax incentive gets the goods
From the article on

A state much in the news of late, Alabama has inspired songs (“Sweet Home Alabama”), spawned music groups (Alabama Shakes, Alabama), birthed recorded music (FAME, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio), and even supported a major NASA facility, the Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center – a major tourist destination for visitors from around the world. To filmmakers, Alabama offers a whopping tax credit of up to 35 percent on qualified spend.

Alabama’s wide-ranging landscapes encompass green ridge-and-valley topography, sea views along the Gulf Coast, and numerous small towns that evoke the Old South. Its football fanaticism provides a good backdrop for films focused on gridiron action.

Specifically, Alabama provides a 35 percent refundable tax credit on resident above-the-line and below-the-line workers. For non-resident above- and below-the-line personnel, the refundable tax credit is 25 percent.

There is also a 25 percent refundable tax credit on all other qualified expenditures. A $20 million project cap applies. The compensation is $1 million for above-the-line contributions and $500,000 for below-the-line work.

Recent production shot in The Yellowhammer State include: “Trading Paint” (2018), “Let There Be Light” (2017), “Get Out” (2017), “Almost Christmas” (2016),” “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” (2016), “Woodlawn” (2015) and  “Selma” (2014).

For the complete article please see

Critics name made-in-Alabama movie ‘Get Out’ the best film of 2017
From the article by Bob Carlton on

“Get Out,” a horror movie and social satire that was filmed in Fairhope and Mobile, has been selected the best movie of 2017 by the Southeastern Film Critics Association.

The Southeastern critics also chose “Get Out” writer-director Jordan Peele’s screenplay the year’s best original screenplay.

“Get Out” premiered last January at the Sundance Film Festival, and after its nationwide release in late February, it became one of the year’s biggest sleeper hits, earning more than $175 million at the box office.

The movie stars Daniel Kaluuya as a young black man who reluctantly agrees to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, played by Allison Williams. While they appear to be friendly and welcoming, the parents (played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) have a dark and sinister side that soon begins to reveal itself.

Although set in upstate New York, most of the movie’s interior and exterior scenes were shot in Fairhope and Mobile, according to the Alabama Film Office.

“Get Out” has also received two Golden Globe nominations for best motion picture musical or comedy and for best actor musical or comedy for Kaluuya.

Also, Peele has been recognized by the New York Film Critics Circle for Best First Film and by the National Board of Review for Best Directorial Debut.

For the complete article please see

Travel South Biloxi Showcase booths sold out
The Alabama Tourism Department is busy with plans for the upcoming Travel South domestic group tour showcase in Biloxi.  Travel South has already announced that they have sold out of booth space for suppliers for their domestic group tour showcase in Biloxi, March 18-21, 2018.  This year’s show will feature the Celebrations, Exhilarations and Literations FAM to Alabama.  The FAM will include visits to Mobile, Gulf Shores, Foley, Monroeville and Montgomery, starting on March 21 and returning to Biloxi on March 24.

So far, 114 tour companies and journalists have signed up for the show.

The Alabama Tourism Department is attending with two road trip booths. Other Alabama industry partners listed with booths are; Birmingham, Decatur, Huntsville, Mobile, University of Alabama, Encore Hospitality, and Windcreek Hotels and Casinos.  If you are an attraction, hotel, or CVB from Alabama that has not already signed up for Travel South Showcase and want to attend, Travel South advises that you must partner with a booth already registered from your state as a second or their delegate.

For more information, contact Rob Nolen 404.231.1790, or

Attendance Figures needed from state attractions and events
The Alabama Tourism Department is asking representatives of state attractions and events to turn in their attendance figures for the year 2017. These attendance figures are the basis for the annual “Top 10” listings. The figures serve as a vital guide for state government, local organizations and the media.

*In order for you to be counted we must have your data by Wednesday, Jan. 10. The online reporting process should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Please follow this link to enter your attendance figures

Note: There is only one event or attraction per online form and only one classification can be chosen.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right for final determination of classifications.

If you have any questions please contact: Brian Jones at or (334) 242-4665

Partner Pointer for the tourism industry website
Happy New Year! Make your resolution to update your Partner page. Add new photos, events, update information, etc. to keep content fresh in 2018. Time for an update! Go to to get started.


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