Tourism Tuesdays March 13, 2018


Alabama awarded more than $2.3 million to preserve civil rights landmarks
High-end resort in a country setting with scenic surroundings
New $20 million luxury downtown hotel planned for Tuscaloosa
U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s 2018 Biergarten season to begin
A new era of recording begins at Muscle Shoals Sound
Black Warrior Town receives historical marker
Four ways now for visitors arriving in Atlanta to get to Birmingham
Projects blooming at Fitzgerald Museum
Tourism Day at the Welcome Center
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama awarded more than $2.3 million to preserve civil rights landmarks
From the article by Anna Beam on

The U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service Monday announced $12.6 million in grants for 51 projects in 24 states to preserve historical sites and stories related to the Civil Rights Movement.

Alabama alone was granted more than $2.3 million in funds for nine projects across the state. Some of these projects include the restoration and rehabilitation of the Perry County Jailhouse and the preservation, repair and restoration of the 16th Street Baptist Church.

“An integral part of the Interior and National Park Service mission is to help preserve and tell America’s story,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “These grants will benefit places across the nation that help tell an essential piece of that story through the African American struggle for civil rights and equality.”

Congress appropriated funding for the African American Civil Rights Grants Program in 2016 through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). The HPF uses revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, providing assistance for a broad range of preservation projects without expending tax dollars. For the second year of this grants program, Congress increased funding from $8 million to $13 million in 2017.

“Through the work and engagement of public and private partners, these grants will preserve a defining part of our nation’s diverse history,” National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith said. “By working with local communities to preserve these historic places and stories, we will help tell a more complete narrative of the African American experience in the pursuit of civil rights.”

For the complete article please see

High-end resort in a country setting with scenic surroundings
From the article by William Thornton on

It was near the end of a visit to Pursell Farms in Talladega County that the owner, David Pursell, suggested a visit to “the Secret Place” – a commanding view of several counties that overlooks the sprawling 3,200-acre resort.

This property, part of which has been in his family for four generations, has a point which offers a view that can stretch as far as Birmingham on a clear day. At sunrise, one can see miles of tree and pasture, green and gold in the rising light. At day’s end, the rays hit the Coosa River and nearby Lay Lake, providing the kind of vista that speaks of time well spent. It’s a view for contemplation, for an appreciation of the history of the region.

It’s where Pursell and his family live today. And with a few recent additions and more than $25 million spent, it’s a possession he’s glad to share.

“If I’m going to try to attract people to come here, I’ve got to have a very special place,” Pursell said. “I’m thinking about what people are going to think when they drive out of the gate.”

Pursell Farms, just off Talladega Springs Road in Sylacauga, has added a 40-room, three-story estate-styled inn opening this month, with meeting areas and elegant dining in two restaurants. That’s in addition to the Hamilton Place at Pursell Farms wedding venue that opened last April.

Both of these additions complement the farm’s 18-hole FarmLinks Golf course, named the state’s No. 1 all-access course for seven years by Golfweek Magazine, and the Orvis Shooting Grounds.

In all, there are now 81 guestrooms on the resort, positioned as a destination less than an hour from Birmingham. In many ways, it’s the culmination of a dream for Pursell and his family.

The Inn, which opened this month, reflects its surroundings. Designed by ArchitectureWorks and built by JohnsonKreis Construction of Birmingham, it features interior design directed by Pursell’s wife, Ellen. She chose the color palette, custom fabrics and made a sweep of the South in search of lighting, accent furnishings and antiques.

The 40 guest rooms each have artwork from their daughter, Artist-in-Residence Vaughan Pursell Spanjer. Some rooms open out onto a veranda, but all have antique mirrors and hardwood entry floors. King-or double-queen beds feature triple sheeting. There are glass-enclosed showers and free-standing bathtubs in some rooms. A guest fitness room offers cardio and weight training. Outside is a pool and sundeck with a bocce ball court.

Before he became president, Andrew Jackson made a swing with his volunteers through Talladega County. There’s why there’s the Old Hickory Conference Room, a 1,504-square-foot area for social gatherings or corporate conclaves. Large windows let in the light.

Down on the first floor is Arrington, the casual dining restaurant featuring the farm-inspired menus of executive chef Andrea Griffith, formerly with the Greenbriar and Primland resorts. The space is named for Pursell’s grandfather, Howard Arrington Parker. Local ingredients are used for the meals, Griffith said, for a classic feel and contemporary flavor. That’s local honey, beef, pork and chicken, as well as what comes out of the farm’s vegetable garden.

“We’ve been taking the time to come up with our own unique take on Southern food,” Griffith said. “Here, you’ve got beautiful views, and this is a destination getaway, so we want to create amazing food that you can’t find anywhere else.”

You don’t have to just look out the window to be reminded that you’re surrounded by a golf course. Upstairs is Old Tom’s Pub, named for legendary Scottish greenskeeper and golfer, Old Tom Morris. But this pub is also a sports bar, with multiple television sets, high-top tables and plush banquettes.

Dominating the room is a little bit of Hollywood. The late Jim Nabors, a family friend, gave Pursell a pool table from his Bel-Air home. Various celebrities over the years enjoyed a game on it. Adorning a nearby wall are photos of them – Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Burt Reynolds, Dean Martin, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Dolly Parton, the Jackson Five.

Food here is in keeping with the décor. You can watch a game and enjoy Scottish eggs, or more familiar to the region, a shrimp and grits pizza.

Little touches throughout are indicative of David Pursell’s background. Like his daughter and son-in-law Tim Spanjer, Pursell is also an artist. His pencil portraits of famous golfers show an eye for meticulous detail, as his rendering of Billy Graham speaks to a particular devotion.

It’s a practice he mentions as “excellence for excellence’s sake,” reflected in the resort but also in its beginnings.

Pursell Farms was created almost 20 years ago as a way for the family to market a slow-release fertilizer. Instead of deploying an army of salesmen through the United States, the Pursells built a golf course on their property and invited golf superintendents to come and see it at work on the greens.

In the world’s only agronomic research and demonstration golf course, visitors were treated to Southern hospitality and saw the product’s benefits in the greens, fairways and rough. The company took off and the family eventually sold it in 2006. But they kept the links and a lodge where visitors stayed to sample the course. Other cabins and accommodations were built over time.

Later, Pursell Farms added the Orvis Shooting Grounds, one of only two in the world operated by Orvis. It has a sporting clay course and 12 simulated true field shot stations. There is also seasonal fly-fishing in five fully-stocked lakes. The Farms get steady business for corporate retreats and conferences. Last year there were 30,000 visitors.

But no matter where you go on the property, you never get too far from its roots, or the family atmosphere. The Inn sits on a hill with a view of the Greek Revival antebellum home that once belonged to Pursell’s parents Jimmy and Chris. It now serves as the centerpiece for the wedding venue, Hamilton Place at Pursell Farms.

Pursell’s wife Ellen, in addition to directing all the interiors at Pursell Farms, designed the interiors and picked the furnishings for Hamilton Place.

Built in 1852, the restored home is the place where brides and bridesmaids dress prior to the wedding. Couples can also spend their wedding night in the master bedroom suite. Adjoining it is the Spring House Spa, with three treatment rooms and massage therapies. A majestic tree outside the spa winds its limbs to provide just the right accent to the scenery.

Hamilton Place was designed as a wedding venue with multiple possibilities. The surroundings offer settings for photographs, and ceremonies can be staged outdoors on the lawn with a lakeside island for vows. Or the couple can move inside the nearby Grand Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 350 people.

The ballroom entryway gives the 4,600-square-foot building the feel of a home, with a fireplace using marble from Sylacauga and reclaimed wood from the old Avondale Mills. It’s a formal surrounding that still manages to set one at ease. Walk into the ballroom and there is a 20-foot vaulted ceiling with skylights, crystal and bronze chandeliers and a glass-walled porch. The room can accommodate music and audio-visual displays.

“We wanted to have the Augusta National of wedding venues,” David jokes.

Beginning a life together, or spending an isolated moment away from it all, is in keeping with how the Pursells have spent their time on the property, David said. Even when they were inviting golf superintendents to Talladega County, they saw strangers moved by the beauty and serenity of the land and the quality of the food and fellowship, he said.

It’s a process he hopes to see repeated, with new visitors, new events and new memories. Like the view from the Secret Place, a moment alone where life can be savored.

“We wanted to provide something for just about everybody,” he said. “We figured if we did that – we’ll get people to flock to this end of Talladega County.”

For the complete article please see

New $20 million luxury downtown hotel planned for Tuscaloosa
From the article by Hanno van der Bijl in the Birmingham Business Journal:

A new hotel is on the drawing board for T-Town.

Clayton Hudson of Allied Realty & Development Inc. plans to build a new $20 million AC Hotels by Marriott in downtown Tuscaloosa, reports the Tuscaloosa News.

The 8,000-square-foot hotel would consist of 120 rooms over five stories and include an underground parking garage, spa, restaurant and covered, outdoor lounge.

It would be built on the site of the former Fire Station No. 1 on Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard South. In 2015, Hudson had beat out a Birmingham-based developer to purchase and develop the site.

If the plans are approved by the Tuscaloosa City Council, the hotel could open by fall 2019.

AC Hotels by Marriott was first started in Madrid in 1998.

For the complete article please see

U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s 2018 Biergarten season to begin
The 2018 Biergarten season begins Thursday, March 15, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. More than 20,000 guests attended the weekly event in 2017, dining on authentic German food and enjoying a beer or a glass of wine under the Saturn V Rocket.

Biergarten is a family-friendly event, and leashed dogs are welcome outside on the Davidson Center terrace or Apollo Courtyard. Each week, the Rocket Center partners with a local non-profit agency, which receives a portion of the food sales from the evening. The North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition is the non-profit for the opening night of Biergarten.

Admission to Biergarten is free, and the food and beverages are available for purchase.

For the complete article please see

A new era of recording begins at Muscle Shoals Sound
From the article by Matt Wake on

Muscle Shoals Sound’s legacy is undeniable, and the studio is moving closer towards having a future, not just as a tourist destination, but a functioning recording facility again.

The next single from promising blues-rock band Bishop Gunn is a soulful track called “Shine,” cut at Muscle Shoals Sound. It marks the first release of material tracked inside that iconic 3614 Jackson Highway building in Sheffield since MSS reopened in January 2016.

The band and studio will celebrate the occasion with a 4 p.m. April 7 event at Muscle Shoals Sound, with copies of “Shine” available on black 7-inch vinyl. The record’s label features a photo of Bishop Gunn shot during their sessions there last year.

Bishop Gunn singer Travis McCready says, “Every bit of knowledge you have of the place was on your mind the entire time,” while recording at Muscle Shoals Sound. After all this is the same, small rectangular room The Rolling Stones cut “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses.” As were several tracks from Bob Seger’s album “Night Moves,” a personal favorite of McCready’s. A gifted vocalist, McCready draws equally from ’60s soul singers like Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett and ’90s grunge gods such as Chris Cornell and Layne Staley.

The prolific local studio musicians now known as The Swampers opened Muscle Shoals Sound in 1969, after getting their start playing on many classics cut at Muscle Shoals’ FAME Studios. Swampers bassist David Hood, the man responsible for the immortal bassline on Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” is thrilled to see Muscle Shoals Sound get a recording reboot. “We have a very rich legacy,” Hood says, “and we’ve cut all these records and everything, but you’ve got to realize that a lot of that was 50 years ago. A lot of the stuff we did is real big to us, but there’s a lot of people, it’s before they were born and just ancient. It’s like me talking about Glenn Miller or something from the 1920s. And this Bishop Gunn recording is really good and it’s not a copy of anything we’ve done. It might have a Muscle Shoals influence, but it’s not a copy in any way. They’re a young band and they have their own sound.

“Bishop Gunn’s 2017 MSS sessions yielded a total of seven songs, four of which, including “Shine” and the single’s brooding B-side “The Devil is a Woman,” will be on the band’s first full-length album. Titled “Natchez” after the band’s Mississippi hometown and planned for a May 8 release, the LP also will contain a song tracked at FAME called “Alabama,” as well as six tracks cut at The Purple House, a Leiper’s Fork, TN. home studio operated by Casey Wasner, who produced the Purple House sessions. McCready, Bishop Gunn drummer Burne Sharp and bassist Ben Lewis currently all live together in a Franklin, Tenn. farmhouse. Guitarist Drew Smithers and his wife live just a few miles away. The band rehearses at a repurposed grocery store.

McCready says “Shine” was selected as lead single from their LP because “it summed up the band because we’re pretty multi-genre.” Also, “that’s pretty much what the song is about, introducing yourself and your story.”

For the complete article please see

Black Warrior Town receives historical marker
From the article by Linda Grantin on (NBC13)

The Alabama Tourism Department is awarding Black Warrior Town with an official Alabama Tourism Department Marker.

A dedication ceremony is set to begin at 10 a.m. on March 24 and will take place at 5840 Sipsey Road in Empire.

The designation honors Black Warrior Town as an important and educational part of local history.

Black Warrior Town was the northernmost settlement of the Creek Nation. It is located on the borderlands of three local tribes.

The town served as a resting place for hunters and travelers.

The inhabitants disappeared on Oct. 13, 1813. Their fates remain a mystery to this day.

For the complete article please see

Four ways now for visitors arriving in Atlanta to get to Birmingham
Groome transportation service has announced they will begin offering 14 round trips daily shuttle service between Birmingham and the Atlanta airport starting April 1st. The shuttle service joins other options that include connecting flights between the cities, a daily Amtrak train service that stops at Birmingham’s new passenger train station, and the quick drive by rental car.

The new Groome shuttle will also stop along the way in Oxford with advance notice. Groome also offers service to Atlanta via Auburn, Tuskegee and the Columbus, Ga/Phenix City area.

Hartsfield–Jackson held its ranking as the world’s busiest airport in 2017, both in passengers and number of flights, by accommodating 100 million passengers (more than 260,000 passengers daily) and 950,119 flights.

Projects blooming at Fitzgerald Museum
From the article on (WSFA-12)

The Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery has some projects in the works, including a partnership with the Southern Living Plant Collection & Encore Azalea.

The museum has planted selections from Encore and the Collection, including Rose & Bella Rouge camellias, Autumn Bonfire & Sunset azaleas, ultra violet Buddleia, and other Southern varieties. The museum directors say the plants will be a fantastic addition to the property.

Other projects this year include a community garden and free libraries. A Montgomery Eagle Scout group will install four raised beds on the property and two free libraries to make books available to the surrounding community. The project broke ground Saturday.

For the complete article please see

Tourism Day at the Welcome Center
The Alabama Tourism Department-Welcome Center Program will be welcoming guests throughout the state to increase the awareness of the economic, social and cultural impact that tourism has on the local, regional and state-wide communities. We invite our tourism partners to participate at each Center from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., by bringing special promotions, coupons, etc., and share in our hospitality on the following dates in May:

May 8th: Baldwin Welcome Center
May 9th: Lanett Welcome Center
May 10th: Houston Welcome Center
May 16th: Sumter Welcome Center
May 17th: Ardmore Welcome Center
May 19th: Grand Bay Welcome Center
May 23rd: Cleburne Welcome Center
May 24th: DeKalb Welcome Center

Please contact the Welcome Center managers to RSVP.

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Have you seen the latest update to the Alabama.Travel site? Go check out Sweet Spots! Just like Inspire Me, Sweet Spots is a feature designed to help travelers find events and activities happening in Alabama based on their feelings and interests. So, when creating an event or location, use appropriate tags that relate to the feel and activities offered. Those tags then direct users to your event when they use the Sweet Spots tool.

Not a Partner yet? Register at today!


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