Tourism Tuesday July 24, 2018


Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Aug. 4-7
Restaurants, sign up now for Alabama Restaurant Week 2018
Fuller retiring as director of Cullman County Museum
Gulf Shores, Alabama: Family travel guide
From Cheaha to Meaher, State Parks diversity abounds
Outdoor Alabama photo contest now open
Alabama man who walked 20 miles to job, gets car
2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat set for Huntsville, Oct. 14-16
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Aug. 4-7
The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 4-7 at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa.

The conference provides tourism professionals a chance to gather and learn about the economic impact of the industry on the Alabama economy, learn new strategies for marketing local Alabama attractions and amenities to visitors, raise money for scholarships through silent auctions and celebrate achievements.

For an agenda, list of speakers and registration information please see

Restaurants, sign up now for Alabama Restaurant Week 2018
Restaurants, sign up and be a part of the locally owned and operated restaurants that participate in Alabama Restaurant Week 2018. The more-than-weeklong event is Aug. 10-19. Last year almost 100 restaurants were a part of the event showcasing local food, fun and flavor.

Participating restaurants will receive in-store promotional items and be listed on the website along with their meal offerings. Participating restaurants set meal prices at $10, $20, $30 and $40 for dinner and $10 and $15 for lunch. In all cases, the price is per person and does not include tax, tip and drink. Restaurants have the choice of offering one or more meals at the preset price.

There is no cost for restaurants to participate in this statewide promotion. For more details and sign-up information, please contact Courtney Austin at or 334-242-4674.

Fuller retiring as director of Cullman County Museum
From the article by David Palmer on

Elaine Fuller brought a deep appreciation for community heritage with her when she came to work more than 30 years ago at the Cullman County Museum.

After a career that has brought people together through history and heritage, and recognition by Alabama tourism officials, Fuller is set to retire, leaving her role as director of the museum at the end of July.

As the keeper of the community’s heritage, Fuller was on the frontline of meeting visitors to the area, including industrial prospects who would often arrive unannounced to learn more about the place where they were considering opening a new plant.

“Our motto here is, “Everyday is different,’” Fuller said. “You never know who will walk in. They may be from New York or Holly Pond, coming in for the first time to learn about our community.”

Fuller said through the years the city’s successful economic development efforts brought many guests into the museum, often from other states and countries.

“We often would be talking to people who were looking over the community to bring new jobs. Sometimes it would be the wives of the executive who came in while there were meetings going on with the economic development team, and other times they would come here before contacting or meeting the developers,” Fuller said.

Fuller also fondly remembers the visits from Betty Leeth Haynes and the late Alabama First Lady Janelle Folsom.

“They were always supporters and were here a lot. They were great friends of the museum,” Fuller said.

Through more than three decades of heading the museum, Fuller said she most proud of helping to bring the Smithsonian exhibit a few years ago to Wallace State Community College.

“That was something I was so proud to see, and the Bicentennial exhibit that Drew Green and others have worked so hard on,” she added.

Known for her serious approach to preserving and promoting the area’s heritage, former Cullman City Councilman Ernest Hauk credits Fuller with establishing an event — Oktoberfest — that carries a lot of community pride.

“Because of Elaine the community has an event that grew from a historical group project to a community-wide event. And it’s continued to grow,” Hauk said. “She was also handed the Strawberry Festival. You can just look around the museum and the programs that originate here and see the great capabilities Elaine brought with her.”

As a City Council member, Hauk remembered wondering what his working relationship would be like with Fuller. He found the answer quickly.

“I hoped we would work well together and found out right off how wonderful she is and hard she worked. And to my surprise, how funny she could be,” Hauk said. “She loved caring for this important part of our community and she has never stopped with her enthusiasm.”

Fuller’s husband, Wayne, saw firsthand the initiative of his wife when it came to preserving heritage and making an event unfold.

“I remember when she got involved with Oktoberfest, she would leave by 7 in the morning and come home at 10:30 at night,” he said. “She had to make sure everything was right and would stay with it until she felt it was that way.”

City Councilman Johnny Cook said Fuller was always doing what she enjoyed through the museum.
“The biggest thing about Elaine is this was not just a job, it was a passion,” Cook said, “She’s always had a heart for it.”

For the complete article please see

Gulf Shores, Alabama: Family travel guide
From the article by Lexi Dwyer on

What to do in Gulf Shores
There’s plenty to do in this small town on the Gulf of Mexico, like boating, wildlife watching and eating at unpretentious restaurants. Yet the area is still, for the most part, refreshingly free of overdevelopment. The beaches have gently lapping waves that won’t topple little ones, with sand that’s the color and texture of granulated sugar.

Where to go in Gulf Shores
For kids age 5 and up, a 90-minute tour with Orange Beach Cat Boat Tours is perhaps the quintessential Gulf Shores experience. For the uninitiated, a cat boat is a small, motorized runabout that seats two and is surprisingly easy to maneuver. With a guide in the lead and your little one by your side, you can pilot your own boat in search of dolphins, herons, osprey and more.

Rather see the dolphins from a stand-up paddleboard? Take a 40-minute ferry ride from Mobile Point to quiet, pristine Dauphin Island, and Dauphin Island SUP will deliver a board to you. Afterwards, you can visit the 19th-century Fort Gaines, where costumed guides in Civil War dress demonstrate blacksmithing and cannon firing. Guests at the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, a sprawling coastal preserve of dunes and woodlands, are encouraged to hike quietly and look carefully, all the better to spot wildlife like Loggerhead sea turtles and the endangered Alabama beach mouse.

The World War II battleship USS Alabama in Mobile is a worthy stop on your way to or from the coast. Kids can get their stuck-in-the-car wiggles out and learn a few things amid the historical planes, tanks, helicopters and artillery. Adjacent to the ship is the USS Drum, the oldest American submarine on public display.

Where to stay in Gulf Shores
The Beach Club is a collection of condominiums spread across four separate buildings, each with their own pool. There are also cottages arranged around the property’s three lakes, many with private pools and hot tubs. On the main lawn, guests gather for food trucks, activities like laser tag and face painting and a weekly barbecue and shrimp boil. Kiva Dunes Resort offers a choice between both condominiums and stand-alone homes with playful names like Key Lime Pie and Yellow Submarine. There are four pools, including a saltwater one that sits high on a dune overlooking the mile-long private beach.

Where to eat in Gulf Shores
The waterfront Lulu’s Gulf Shores is the brainchild of Lucy Buffett, sister of Jimmy Buffet, and you’d better believe that the cheeseburgers — and other tasty choices like shrimp baskets, gumbo and fried green tomatoes — are delicious. The waits can be long and reservations aren’t accepted, but there’s a form on the restaurant’s web site that lets you reserve a spot in the queue. While they wait, your kids can climb the ropes course, hang out in the arcade (there’s a bar serving smoothies and cocktails), walk on water inside an inflatable sphere or get a henna tattoo.

For the complete article please see

From Cheaha to Meaher, State Parks diversity abounds
From the article by David Rainer on

From a shaded retreat on John’s Bay in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta to the boardwalk atop the highest mountain in the state, the Alabama State Parks System offers an incredible diversity of nature’s wonders to explore.

Just north of the point where the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and Mobile Bay converge, Meaher State Park offers a respite from the hustle and bustle that can be seen in the distance on the Bayway crowded with frustrated travelers.

Tall pine trees blanket the 1,300-acre park that borders the Delta’s biologically rich John’s Bay to the south and Ducker Bay to the east.

According to Anna Bryant, Meaher’s new park superintendent, visitors head to the park with their travel trailers in tow, attracted to the shade on the water’s edge.

A native of Auburn, Bryant came to love the area while teaching environmental education for two conservation organizations and jumped at the Meaher job about a year ago.

“I enjoy being in the outdoors,” Bryant said. “I love the water. I didn’t grow up near the beach. But the water and flora and fauna here at Meaher is a very therapeutic place for me. That is a bonus of this job for me.”

Callie Thornton, the assistant park superintendent at Cheaha State Park, finds her therapy in the mountains, and Cheaha, completely surrounded by the Talladega National Forest in northeast Alabama, is the perfect location for her.

Already a dedicated backpacker before she took the job at Cheaha a year ago, Thornton now gets to share her love of hiking with an abundance of park visitors and fellow hikers.

“What attracted me to Cheaha was the mountain and the Pinhoti Trail,” said Thornton, the former Town Clerk at Rockford, Ala. “I wanted to be able to teach others how to backpack, the importance of being outdoors and inspiring others to love the outdoors.

“I’ve been backpacking for about 12 years now, doing anything and everything adventurous. I’ve done more than 1,000 miles backpacking, so now I teach backpacking courses. And a lot of people are scared of camping. My goal is to teach people to not be afraid of being in the outdoors.”

Thornton’s instructions include camp cooking, first aid, what’s needed in your backpack and, possibly more important, what’s not.

“I’ve been able to get my backpack down to 27 pounds for a seven-day trip,” she said. “If people will bring me their backpack, I will go through it and divide and conquer, as I say. I advise them on what kind of gear they need as far as shoes and clothing. A lot of people think they need to take multiple days of clothes. If you pick the right gear, you might need an extra pair of socks, but you don’t need anything else.

“I had a friend with me on one trip who had 60 pounds in her backpack. She was really suffering. While we were on the trip I went through her bag. When we got to the next station, I told her to take this and that out and put it in the hiker box or mail it home. I’ve learned through experience about a lot of things, like blisters and how to deal with them and how to protect your feet. A lot of it is simple stuff that I want to pass on to make the person’s trip a lot better the next time around.”

At one time, Cheaha was the southern terminus of Thornton’s beloved Pinhoti Trail. That terminus has since been moved about 60 miles south to Flagg Mountain. The Pinhoti Trail covers about 170 miles in Alabama and 166 miles in Georgia before it connects with the Appalachian Trail. Hikers can also gain access to the Eastern Continental Trail that transits the entire eastern U.S.

Thornton, also president of the Alabama Pinhoti Trail Association, hopes to bring more exposure to Alabama’s Pinhoti segment.

“We don’t get a lot of publicity on the Alabama Pinhoti Trail,” she said. “Georgia’s trail gets a lot, but Alabama’s doesn’t. It could be a big tourism booster for Alabama.”

My goal is to raise the awareness of the Alabama section of the trail. People don’t know that it also is a connector from Key West all the way to Maine.”

On a hot summer day, a bonus of being at Cheaha is the weather.

“It’s about 10 degrees cooler on the mountain,” Thornton said. “Sometimes it’s more than that, depending on the wind. When I got here last May, I was freezing to death. We can sit in the restaurant and see the weather around us. If I see a storm coming and we’ve got people in the pool, I can go get them out. The good thing is, most of the time, the bad stuff goes around us.”

Another attraction for Cheaha visitors is the solitude of the mountain, which is 2,407 feet above sea level, the highest in the state. A variety of accommodations await, from cabins and chalets to improved and primitive camping.

“A lot of people come to Cheaha to disconnect,” Thornton said. “If you want to get away from it all, if you want to get away from your telephone, your Wi-Fi, this is where you come. Once you come around the curves on (Hwy.) 281, you lose your connections. I just got a call from a man who said he was ready to get away from work. People disconnect and they go hiking, swimming and enjoy the restaurant. They come to hike. They come to see the wildlife, the deer and turkeys. We have a lot of birdwatchers who come to the park. We have gem-mining for the kids and a lot of interpretive nature programs for the whole family.”

Now hop in your vehicle, come down the mountain and head south about 260 miles to Meaher State Park to experience Alabama’s coastal plains and the expansive Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Meaher offers 61 improved campsites, 10 improved tent sites, a couple of primitive tent sites and four cabins. Two more cabins will be available later this year.

Bryant said Meaher appeals to campers in a couple of different ways.

“We’re kind of a quiet park,” she said. “We don’t have a pool or tennis courts or facilities that some of the bigger parks have. The fact that people can come and relax, see the sunsets and see the water is a big attraction for our overnight guests. But we also have a lot of day visitors who love to fish. We have a fishing pier and a boat launch. They can canoe and kayak or take their motor boat into the Delta or Mobile Bay. We also have the Gateway to the Delta boardwalk that allows visitors to see the Delta from a different perspective.

“Part of the draw is we have easy access to the Delta and being able to stay overnight between Mobile and Baldwin counties.”

Because of its size, Meaher doesn’t have a park naturalist, but Bryant has been able to utilize the environmental programs from Gulf State Park and 5 Rivers —Alabama Delta Resource Center, which is located directly across the Mobile Causeway from Meaher.

“The last program we had was a reptile show that 5 Rivers conducted,” Bryant said. “They brought native snakes and turtles to show our guests.”

Bryant will soon be involved in a park expansion, thanks to a $3.5 million award from the Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill through the RESTORE Act.

“Our hope is to expand not only RV sites but add a couple more cabins and possibly another fishing pier,” she said. “We’re still in the process of finalizing our plans. We want to offer our visitors a gamut of options from just relaxing to enjoying the Delta.”

For the complete article please see

Outdoor Alabama photo contest now open
The Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest is accepting entries through Oct. 31. The contest is a joint project between the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Alabama Tourism Department and the Alabama Bicentennial Commission. The photo contest is open to state residents and visitors alike, but qualifying photos must have been taken in Alabama.

Contest coordinator Kim Nix says a new category connects the celebration of statehood to the photo contest, which is in its 14th year. “We added an Alabama Bicentennial category this year. Photos in this category could include historical parks, forts, lighthouses, battlefields or archeological sites. Those are just some examples—it’s a broad category.”

“Our other new category this year is Waterfalls. It’s been such a popular subject for photos in previous contests that we decided to make it a focal point this year,” she said. “Ultimately, our goal is to encourage residents and visitors to explore Alabama’s outdoor spaces and document them through photography.”

The contest is open to adults and youth. A total of 10 photos per person may be entered in the following categories:

Alabama Bicentennial
Birds of a Feather
Bugs and Butterflies
Coastal Life
Cold-blooded Critters
Nature-Based Recreation
Shoots and Roots
State Park Adventures
Sweet Home Alabama
Watchable Wildlife
Young Photographer

Category explanations and additional entry information may be found at Entry is restricted to the online upload of digital images, which can be completed from a computer, tablet or mobile phone.

The deadline for entries is Oct. 31. First, second, third and one honorable mention will be awarded in each category. Winning images will be featured online and in a traveling exhibit across the state during 2019. An exhibit of 2018 winners is currently on display around the state.

For more information, call 334-242-3151 or email

Alabama man who walked 20 miles to job, gets car
From the article by Allison Klein on

Walter Carr sent his friends a flurry of increasingly pleading text messages. The college student’s car had broken down, and he was supposed to begin his new job as a mover the next morning — at a home 20 miles from his apartment near Birmingham, Ala.

He struck out finding a ride, but he wasn’t about to miss his first day of work at a moving company called Bellhops. Carr, 20, needed the work. He mulled his predicament and concluded there was only one option: He would walk it.

“I sat there and I thought, ‘How can I get to my job? What streets would I walk through? How long would take me to get there?’ ” he said in an interview with The Washington Post.

He searched the route from his apartment in Homewood to the house in Pelham, and according to Google Maps, it would take eight hours on foot. As a former high school cross-country runner, he knew he could do it in less.

Carr ate a meal of bologna and eggs at 8 p.m. and took a nap. At midnight, he woke up, grabbed his wallet, phone, a baseball and a kitchen knife to protect him from stray dogs. He headed out into the dark.

“I’ve always been that person who figured things out on my own,” Carr said. “I went out walking.”

A few hours in, he did come across a dog. He threw the ball. The dog ran after it. Carr went the other way.

On the trek, Carr had the route mapped out in his mind. He jogged some. He walked a lot. When his legs began to burn, he stayed focused on his goal.

“I was just thinking about my route, how I was going to get there in the time frame I needed to,” Carr said. He’d had jobs in the past as a cook at fast-food restaurants, but this paid better, and he needed the money for an apartment he’d recently rented.

At 2 a.m. he passed the city of Hoover. Around 4 a.m. he reached Pelham, but he still had hours more to walk to get to the house. He was about to enter the highway ramp, the most direct route to the job. He sat down in a bank parking lot.

“I decided I’d rest for a minute because my legs were killing me,” he said.

A police car pulled up and the officer, identified by the news site as Mark Knighten, asked if Carr was all right. Carr said yes, and explained what he was doing.

“I said, ‘This is crazy but I’m actually heading to work. It’s my first day on the job,’ ” Carr recalled.

The officer asked him when he last ate, and Carr told him about the bologna and eggs. Knighten offered to take him to get something more in his stomach.

“I said, ‘I just paid my rent. I have no cash on me at all,’ ” Carr recalled.

Knighten told him to get in the car, the meal was on him. They went to Whataburger with some other officers, and Carr ordered a chicken biscuit. At the urging of the officers, he ordered another one, he said.

Knighten drove Carr a few miles toward his job and dropped him at a church, saying it was a safe place to be. Knighten had to leave because of a shift change, but he said another officer would be by in a few hours to check on Carr, and perhaps give him a ride to work.

But after Carr got to the church, he became concerned he might not make it on time. So around 5:30, he started walking again.

Carr was walking on a two-lane road, and sure enough, a police officer came up and said he’d heard about him. That officer, identified by as Scott Duffey, drove Carr the last four miles to his job.

At 6:30 a.m., Duffey walked up to the house where Carr was supposed to meet the other movers for the job, and explained to homeowner Jenny Lamey what had happened.

“The officer told me, ‘I’ve got this nice kid in my car. He’s a great kid, he’s been walking all night to get to your house,’ ” Lamey said. “That’s when the tears started coming. I just started crying.”

Carr came to the door and Lamey offered him a bed to take a nap, and some food.

Carr replied, “ ‘No, I’d rather get started,’ ” Lamey said.

The other two movers from Bellhops showed up shortly after, and the three of them moved the Lameys across town to their new house. Everyone got along as if they were old friends, Carr and Lamey said.

After the move, Carr played basketball with the Lameys’ sons, ages 11, 13 and 16.

Lamey said she has no idea how he had the energy for it.

“I can’t imagine what kept him going,” Lamey said. “What came over him physically was supernatural. I think God helped him through.”

Lamey said this is just the beginning of what she hopes is a long friendship between Carr and her family.

“He’s such a humble, kindhearted person,” she said. “He’s really incredible. He said it was the way he was raised. Nothing is impossible unless you say it’s impossible.”

One of Carr’s new co-workers gave him a ride home.

The following day, Lamey called Carr’s supervisor, and the two cried together on the phone about what Carr had done. Lamey posted the story on Facebook, and it took off. She started a GoFundMe with a goal of $2,000 to help him with his car troubles. As of Wednesday morning, it had raised more than $44,000, and a financial adviser had volunteered to help Carr manage the funds.

On Sunday, Carr’s boss, Bellhops chief executive Luke Marklin, called to thank him. Marklin said he wanted to meet him in person to show his appreciation. They agreed to meet Monday at a coffee shop near Carr’s apartment. Carr walked the 20 minutes there.

When they met, Marklin gave him his own car, a 2014 Ford Escape. He said it would be in better hands with Carr than with him.

“We set a really high bar for heart and grit and … you just blew it away,” Marklin told him.

Carr has gotten a lot of attention in the past few days for his almost 20-mile trek. He said it’s been surprising, but he feels good sharing it.

“The lesson of my story is it’s great to reach people, I always wanted to inspire people,” he said. “Don’t let nobody tell you you can’t do something. It’s up to us whether we can.”

For the complete article please see

2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat set for Huntsville, Oct. 14-16
The Alabama Welcome Center Retreat gives the Alabama Tourism Industry the opportunity to showcase our communities with the devoted staff of the Alabama Welcome Centers. Each Center closes so that all employees participate in this educational retreat.

“The industry trade show gives us the opportunity to share with the staff members of each Center exactly what we have for them to share with their guests, the thousands of travelers stopping at Welcome Centers for travel advice,” said retreat organizer Patti Culp. “Hopefully, we will give them enough to entice their visitors to stop, see and stay a little longer with us.”

The Registration Fee is $150 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, Oct. 16 morning breakfast. Each additional partner pays $150 as well. This fee goes up to $175 on Oct. 1. There will be NO refunds after Nov. 1 as we will have given all guarantees to our sponsors and to the hotel by then.

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

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
This year’s annual Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is taking place in the capitol city of Montgomery. You can register online for the conference taking place Aug. 4-7. Come learn, network, and have a great time hearing what has happened and what is to come in Alabama!


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