Tourism Tuesdays March 20, 2018


On the road again, exploring Alabama museums
Alabama Black Belt Adventures promotes recreation, tourism in region
Alabama Music Hall of Fame unveils new lobby
Southern Fried Hospitality coming to MidCity, CityCentre
Scholarships for Alabama teachers to attend Space Camp
New Sweet Home Alabama tourism industry partners Facebook page
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

On the road again, exploring Alabama museums
From the article by Paul Sullivan on

What does an airplane-and-car nut do on his own in Alabama?

Well I know what this one did. He fulfilled an old ambition to visit the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum as well as the Southern Museum of Flight. Both are near Birmingham and must-see exhibits for any serious motorhead.

I had long known of the fabulous collections at Barber when I visited last fall, but nearly skipped the aviation museum, figuring it couldn’t be much or I’d have known about it. Wrong.

The Barber collection houses one of the world’s largest gatherings of two-wheeled machines, said to number some 1,400 motorcycles and growing.

It is breathtaking in its scope as a history of two-wheelers, but is not limited to that variety as there are also several floors in the newly enlarged building devoted to cars, particularly race cars. And the latter collection alone would be worth visiting Barber.

Highlights included a display showcasing the multiple talents of the late Dan Gurney, whose death in January sharpens the focus on the designer, businessman and driver who captured trophies and made friends worldwide.

A couple of years ago my friends Fred and Betsy True visited Gurney at his All-American Racers in Santa Anna, Calif. He was delightful to talk to, they reported, and a charming storyteller to boot. (Among his stories was surviving a heart attack in recent years while riding a Gurney Alligator, a motorcycle of his own unique design. The fact that he was able to tell visitors about the incident says worlds about this remarkable individual.)

I spent the better part of a day at Barber, and particularly enjoyed poking around the wildly varied collection of bikes from around the world.

At one point I fell into a conversation with a guide and asked him about two particular bikes, figuring they might have one but surely not both.

“I don’t suppose you’d have an Ariel Square Four would you?” I asked. There were several of the prized British machines, distinguished by their smooth growling sound.

I asked about the bike made famous by Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape.”

That would be a Triumph, the gentleman explained, and while they didn’t have the one actually used in the action-packed movie, they did have a rare commemorative edition of it produced a few years ago by Triumph.

There were too many spectacular bikes to enumerate. An entire room full of racing bikes, military motorcycles, bikes with sidecars, vintage motorcycles including at least one with a single-cylinder steam engine; others with every imaginable sort of power plant including rotary engines.

There was even a room full of racing go-karts with one, a Dart Kart, very much like the one my brother, Glen, launched his racing career in at age 14.

Of special interest for me was the gathering of Lotus race cars. There were more than 50, said to be the world’s largest collection.

I’d once owned and long-regretted selling a Catherham Super 7, an evolution of the legendary Lotus 7 sports racer-probably the world’s ultimate example.

Odd, really, to see all those assorted machines resting there in total silence.

I left Barber hungry, turning the rental car toward the nearby town of Leeds. Even before I got there I hit paydirt at Rusty’s, a homely but inviting little barbecue place. It was pure Alabama with friendly folks making really delicious food in a crowded little kitchen.

A couple of days later I set off in search of the aviation museum, which seemed to be on the far side of Birmingham International Airport. At least that’s what my phone indicated.

But getting there was a chore. It was on the far side of the airport, but it might as well have been the other side of the city, so easy was it to get lost. But this place is worth the effort, trust me. Just persevere and you’ll get there…hopefully.

When you catch a glimpse of a low, long building—an old school perhaps—with an Army helicopter atop a pylon in front, you’re there.

One side of this structure is full of early aviation aircraft and memorabilia, including the simple open-cockpit biplane that launched Delta Air Lines. The other side shows military machines and more recent exhibits. In between, there is a large room chock full of smaller airplanes including a slew of home-built types.

The military side housed, among many others, an enormous and rare Russian Mil-24 helicopter, something I never expected to see. There was no explanation of how they happened to get that chopper.

The museum’s extensive collections of all sorts of aircraft is remarkable but rather spread around the neighborhood where it is located. If you didn’t see the numerous aircraft exhibited outdoors and off-site, just ask at the front desk and I’m sure they’ll direct you to see these flying machines. As large as its building is, it cannot hold all of the more than 100 planes in its collection.

Among its numerous special exhibits was one on women in aviation. Here, I came upon the story of an incredible woman, a spy named Virginia Hall from Baltimore. Her story is more remarkable than all the airplanes in that museum put together.

Hall, who had a thirst for travel and adventure, got more than she bargained for during World War II. Although the loss of a leg in a hunting accident failed to slow her down, it did end her hope for a diplomatic career.

Instead, she joined the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and became a clandestine agent, spending most of the war creating and running a network to get downed Allied airmen out of German-occupied France, into Spain, thence back to England. She took immense risks for years, survived, and eventually was able to join the American OSS and continue her work for the U.S.

The trip to Alabama was full of surprises, and encountering the story of Virginia Hall at an aviation museum in Alabama was surely the biggest surprise of all.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Black Belt Adventures promotes recreation, tourism in region
From the article by Sarah Reid Harris on

Football may come to mind first when thinking of the South, but hunting, hospitality and food are a way of life in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

Earlier this month, Alabama Black Belt Adventures (ALBBAA) successfully showed the abundance of these resources to representatives from national outdoor organizations and media including Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever, The Flush TV, Covey Rise magazine, Shooting Sportsman magazine, LandLeader TV, Browning and Realtree.

Nonprofit ALBBAA is committed to promoting outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the 23-county Black Belt, which extends across the middle of the state below the Appalachian foothills and above the Coastal Plain from Mississippi to Georgia.

An important component in this initiative is the Black Belt’s widely acclaimed hunting and fishing, which have an annual economic impact of about $1 billion, sustain 11,000 jobs and generate more than $60 million for the state’s budget, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study.

“Our collective marketing efforts, coupled with hosting media so they tell our story, builds awareness and increases visitation,” said Pam Swanner, ALBBAA director.

“The earned media is a third-party endorsement, which is more credible to the consumer than paid advertising. The results generate critical tourism dollars, expand education tax revenues and improve the local economy and the quality of life for the residents,” she said. This was the primary reason to showcase the region to well-known national outdoor outlets.

With 140,000 members, Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever dedicates its effort to the conservation of quail, pheasants and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.

The weeklong series of activities included visits to private and public hunting plantations, meals by acclaimed chefs and restaurants, and educational opportunities on quail habitat and management.

The national outdoor representatives began the week with quail hunts at High Log Creek Preserve in Hurtsboro and Shenandoah Plantation in Union Springs. The guests then headed to Great Southern Outdoors in Union Springs to be treated to a meal by David Bancroft, the award-winning executive chef and owner of Acre Restaurant in Auburn. Bancroft cooked Southern specialties and wild game.

Getting to hear from Bill Palmer of Tall Timbers was the highlight of the week for the guests and Alabama landowners who manage quail. Sponsored by Caliber, a new outdoor sports store in Homewood, the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) hosted Palmer at its NaturePlex in Millbrook to speak on “The State of Quail in the Southeast: Challenges and Opportunities on Public and Private Lands” along with representatives from Quail Forever, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“The interest in quail and quail hunting remains high in spite of wild quail declines over the last few decades,” said Tim Gothard, AWF director. “It was energizing to see landowners, quail enthusiasts and wildlife professionals together talking about how to raise the bar on quail habitat across the landscape.

The week wrapped up with a day spent on Gusto Plantation, a private hunting property in Lowndes County, which included a quail hunt, a dog demonstration and more good food.

Mike Stewart with Wildrose Kennels of Oxford, Mississippi, presented his “From Puppy to Bird Dog” demonstration. The interactive demonstration included four dogs illustrating seven habits of a successful bird dog. Stewart said Wildrose produces dogs that are gentle in the home, dynamic in the field and the perfect complement to any family’s activities.

Chris Hastings, award-winning chef and owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club and OvenBird in Birmingham, served lunch for the grand finale. The meal included duck and oyster gumbo, a quail cassoulet and a strawberry-lemon posset for dessert.

The weeklong series of events in the Black Belt showcased the region’s rich assets, emphasized the importance of quail habitat management and proved the area to be a top destination for quality hunting, hospitality and food.

“We had a tremendous experience in Alabama’s Black Belt region,” said Howard K. Vincent, president & CEO of Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever. “We came for the quail hunting, and that was exceptional; however, we’ll be coming back because of the hospitality, food and friendships. Alabama’s Black Belt truly has it all for the traveling wing shooter.

“We’re also extremely excited that this event served as the catalyst for Quail Forever’s first Black Belt Chapter,” Vincent added. “This new volunteer group will work with the local community and landowners to improve the area’s habitat for quail. Ultimately, these habitat efforts will benefit all wildlife in the Black Belt, water quality and the area’s recreational-based economy.”

Sponsors for the weeklong event were Alabama Power, Alabama Wildlife Federation, Caliber, Jon Kohier & Associates, John Hall & Company, National Land Realty and Tutt Land Company and Yeti.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Music Hall of Fame unveils new lobby
From the article by Russ Corey on

If you’ve been to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, you will notice some major changes on your next visit.

The lobby has been expanded, thanks to a community project by the Shoals Home Builders Association.

The project was led by local contractor Bobby Bryan, who brought in his workers and other association members to complete the improvements.

“The Shoals Home Builders Association has emerged as our heroes, and Bobby Bryan and his teams have provided us with a magnificent space that will literally double the number of people that we can accommodate for our lobby shows,” Hall of Fame Director Dixie Griffin said.

When you walk inside the lobby and look to your left, the old ticket counter, wall and turnstiles have been removed, revealing the gallery that features portraits of many of the hall of fame’s illustrious inductees, such as Nat King Cole, Tommy Shaw of the rock band Styx, Sam Phillips, the Father of Rock ‘N’ Roll, FAME Recording Studios Founder Rick Hall, and many more.

The ticket counter has been relocated to the west side of the lobby inside the gift shop. Visitors still enter on the east side by the portrait gallery, but now exit into the gift shop. A recessed display case was removed to allow a new door that leads to the gift shop.

Griffin said the renovations will allow her to sell more tickets to concerts held inside the lobby. Some concerts sold out quickly because they could only handle about 100 people. Griffin said the renovations will allow an additional 80 persons.

“We’re getting a portable stage and a new sound system,” Griffin said.

The portable stage will allow them to configure the room based on the type of show or anticipated attendance.

Bryan, who serves on the home builders board of directors, said the expansion was the organization’s 2017 community project. Last year, the organization completed renovations at the Children’s Museum of the Shoals.

“We always like to do a project, one or two a year, for the community,” Bryan said. “We realize what an important asset the music community is here in the Shoals. We’re all attached to it in some way or another and know people in it.”

Bryan said he supervised the project, which started in October.

“We always try to do something to help the community,” he said. “It came out good, and we’re really proud to do it. It was a fun project to do.”

Judy Hood, a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board of Directors, said it was evident the project was a labor of love for the organization.

“We appreciate their generosity and support in providing these updates that will benefit AMHOF for years to come,” Hood said.

By opening up the lobby, Griffin said the hall can now host a wider variety of events.

“Events that were previously limited by space, such as the student art and music program we hosted last spring, will now be able to expand. The lobby shows have been extremely well attended and have allowed us to showcase the Alabama Music Hall of Fame to a larger more diverse demographic,” she said.

For the complete article please see

Southern Fried Hospitality coming to MidCity, CityCentre
From the article by William Thornton on

Huntsville’s MidCity and CityCentre developments just got a lot tastier.

Developer RCP Companies is partnering with Georgia-based Southern Fried Hospitality and award-winning chef Marc Taft, an Alabama native, to provide hospitality management and restaurant development for the two mixed-used projects.

Initial plans include two to three chef-driven, casual dining concepts for The Camp at MidCity, the music and arts outdoor venue. Southern Fried will also open and manage additional restaurants throughout MidCity and a food hall. At CityCentre, the company will open several concepts outside and inside the AC Hotel and a 12,000-square-foot artisanal culinary market.

Southern Fried is the culinary power behind the Brine Seafood Shack at Avalon in Alpharetta, Ga., FEED – Fried Chicken + Such at Atlanta’s The Battery at SunTrust Park, CO-OP Community Table + Bar and Best Burger, which will debut next year at HALCYON in Forsyth County, north of Atlanta.

In addition, the company’s metro Atlanta-based Chicken and the Egg was named one of the top five best new restaurants in Atlanta, according to the 2012/13 Zagat Survey. AirTran’s GO magazine called it one of the five culinary destinations for an upscale meal in Atlanta.

Taft says he looks forward to showcasing other tastes under the Southern Fried Hospitality name. The new concepts at both locations will continue the company’s commitment to sustainable seafood and hyper-local ingredients.

“The opportunity to deliver and manage restaurant concepts at these two developments is incredibly humbling,” Taft said.

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies, said Taft’s reputation and successes will mean good things for Huntsville’s foodies.

“With both of these projects, our intention is to create places that inspire social interaction, celebrate our culture and shape memories through culinary and entertainment experiences,” Grelier said. “Taft and his young and innovative team get this and are ready to take it to the next level.”

CityCentre, located on Williams Avenue, will include 40,000-square-feet of retail and dining space and 10,000-square-feet of commercial space, set among upscale apartments and the 125-room AC Hotel.

MidCity is the nation’s fourth-largest commercial real estate project, a $350 million redevelopment at the site of the former Madison Square Mall with plans for retail and dining, office space, 500 hotel rooms and 900 residences.

For the complete article please see

Scholarships for Alabama teachers to attend Space Camp
Alabama teachers are eligible to apply for scholarships to attend a special Space Camp for Educators at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The Alabama legislature made possible the funding for the program that brings state educators together to find new ways of teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics concepts.

The hands-on learning activities are designed to span grades 4-9 and to be easily replicated in the classroom to excite students about STEM education. Teachers will take part in Space Camp’s simulated astronaut training and meet an astronaut, while earning 45 professional development credits.

The session includes information about space-related subjects such as: International Space Station, Living and Working in Microgravity, Rocketry, Propulsion, Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The Alabama Space Academy for Educators scholarship includes all meals, lodging and educational materials as well as a Space Camp flight suit and a tour of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Check-in for Alabama Space Academy for Educators is Wednesday, June 6, with the graduation ceremony taking place June 11.

To learn more about the exciting programs and activities at the USSRC, go to

New Sweet Home Alabama tourism industry partners Facebook page
We have a new Facebook page dedicated to our tourism industry partners. Here is the link:

This page is another way for us to communicate with our tourism industry partners. The Tourism Tuesday Newsletter will be posted each week as well as updates about Alabama Tourism Department activities.

Email Jo Jo Terry, for more information.

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Is there a new hotel, restaurant, or event happening in your area? Let us know! We will provide resources, so they too can become a Partner. Reach out to to support new business within the state.

Not a partner yet? Sign up today!


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