Tourism Tuesdays August 28, 2018

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Fall Tourism Workshop

2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat set for Huntsville Marriott, Oct. 14-16

Time magazine honors state attraction

BBC tapes civil rights program in Birmingham

The story of how Ed King helped write ‘Sweet Home Alabama’

Ecotourism and nature travel to the Gulf Shores of Alabama, Part 1

AMLA announces new website launch

A German promotion starts this week

60 Alabama wines receive medals

Alabama in full force at SYTA Conference

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Fall Tourism Workshop 
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its semi-annual Tourism Workshop, Thurs., Oct. 11. The workshop will held be in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will be in attendance at this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. There is no registration fee. For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email atrosemary.judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat set for Huntsville Marriott, 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 can 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! 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 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: or 334-271-0050.
Book your group rate for the 2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat.

Time magazine honors state attraction
The current issue of TIME magazine includes Montgomery’s newest attraction, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is its first listing in the World’s Greatest Places. The Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) six-acre site memorializes more than 4400 black Americans who were murdered in the South. It is among the magazine’s list of museums, hotels, restaurants, bars, and parks. Time editors said they considered quality, sustainability and innovation in their decisions. Please see

A motion picture about EJI founder Bryan Stevenson, who argues against the mass incarceration of blacks, began filming in downtown Montgomery on Monday. The film, which stars Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Fox, is based on Stevenson’s 2014 bestseller “Just Mercy.” The Alabama Tourism Department recently honored EJI and the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce with its Partnership Award for their joint marketing of the launch of the memorial and museum in April.

BBC tapes civil rights program in Birmingham
From the article by Greg Garrison on

A crew from BBC World Service recorded a program Thursday at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that will air on Sept. 15, the anniversary of a bombing that killed four girls at the church in 1963.

A panel featuring civil rights activist Bernard Lafayette, who took part in the Freedom Rides in 1961, discussed the role of African-American churches in the fight against social and racial injustice.

“This is for an international audience,” said Simon Pitts, arts and faith editor for BBC World Service. BBC is the British Broadcasting Corporation.

A recording of the panel discussion will be featured on the weekly radio program “Heart and Soul,” which has about 79 million listeners worldwide and focuses on faith, he said.

“It sees religion through the prism of experience,” said “Heart and Soul” editor Nicola Swords. “It’s very universal.”

The “Heart and Soul Gathering” panel included local ministers, Rev. Eva Melton, pastor of The Firm Foundation Church and Rev. Arthur Price, pastor of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. A student member of the church, Justin Smith, also took part, along with rapper and activist Tef Poe of St. Louis.

“This is the cradle of the civil rights movement,” said BBC producer Louise Clarke-Rowbotham. “How do they see it moving forward?”

About 50 people sat in the audience during the recording and asked questions.

“We’re not going to pretend we’re the experts,” Swords said. “We wanted to hear from people here.”

For the complete article please see

The story of how Ed King helped write ‘Sweet Home Alabama’
From the article by Travis Andrews on

Ed King was from California. Yet the first words we hear before the infectious riff on “Sweet Home Alabama” – “One, two three!” – belong to the Glendale-born King, who co-wrote the song with Gary Rossington and Ronnie Van Zant.

King died Wednesday at age 68 with a plethora of great songs under his belt. But one stands out among the rest, the one that’s in response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and “Alabama.”

So how did a Californian come to co-write the rock-and-roll anthem of the American South?

It started in the Golden State, where King co-founded the psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock long before becoming a Southern rocker. The band scored a 1967 Billboard chart-topping hit with “Incense and Peppermints” – a song that he reportedly wrote in a mere 45 minutes.

The band was popular enough to tour with the Beach Boys and, during one tour, Strawberry Alarm Clock was lucky enough to have a popular Southern rock band open for them – Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Later, in a reversal of fates, King’s band opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s in Rossington and Van Zant’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, in 1968. (That’s right, no one involved with this song was actually from Alabama.) After hearing the band rehearsing “Need All My Friends,” he offered to join, according to Rolling Stone.

It would take another five years, but King finally became one of the Southern rockers he so admired, beginning as the band’s bassist and working his way up to third guitar.

That was around the time Young’s songs about the South’s many problems, most notably the racist ideology running through the region’s bloodstream, were popular. He released “Southern Man” in 1970 and the damning “Alabama” on his smash-hit record “Harvest” in 1972.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s response was one of the earliest songs King wrote with his new band.

“I had this little riff. It’s the little picking part and I kept playing it over and over when we were waiting on everyone to arrive for rehearsal. Ronnie and I were sitting there, and he kept saying, play that again,” Rossington told Garden and Gun of the songwriting process. “Then Ronnie wrote the lyrics and Ed [King] and I wrote the music.”

King has always been humble about his part in writing the song, being sure to credit Rossington for penning the main riff.

“Well, when I came to rehearsal that day Gary was playing this riff that you can hear in the verses,” King told “It’s not the main riff that I play; it’s a part that he plays. And as soon as I picked up the guitar I immediately bounced off his riff. . . . and so I mean if it hadn’t been for Gary writing his part, I never would have written my part,” referring to the second guitar line that skirts under the main riff, sometimes reaching up to curl around it, like a vine around a branch.

The tune isn’t exactly vague in its response to Young. It actually calls the Canadian out by name, “Well I heard Mister Young sing about her, Well I heard ole Neil put her down, Well, I hope Neil Young will remember, A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”

Still, as Rossington said in an interview, “Everyone thought it was about Neil Young, but it was more about Alabama. . . When we were out in the country driving all the time, we would listen to the radio. Neil Young had ‘Southern Man,’ and it was kind of cutting the South down. . . . We loved Neil Young and all the music he’s given the world. We still love him today. It wasn’t cutting him down, it was cutting the song he wrote about the South down.”

The song has become a rallying cry for the South, one often used in Republican political rallies – Donald Trump’s included.

“Ronnie painted a picture everyone liked. Because no matter where you’re from, sweet home Alabama or sweet home Florida or sweet home Arkansas, you can relate,” Rossington added.

The song’s reception certainly doesn’t square with King’s California hippie ethos. And King eventually left the band precisely because he didn’t feel like he fit in.

The band often found itself in physical fights, reportedly fueled by Van Zant. Eventually, King found himself on the receiving end of the singer’s wrath, and he decided to walk away.

The breaking point, King said in the documentary “If I Leave Here Tomorrow,” came in 1975 when “Ronnie and my guitar roadie who changed my strings were thrown in jail in Ann Arbor. They didn’t arrive . . . until 10 minutes before we went on. I had to play on old strings and I broke two strings during ‘Free Bird.’ After, Ronnie was riding me, and a light bulb went off and I said, ‘That’s it.’ I went back to my room, packed up my stuff and left.”

“I’m the hippie from Southern California. I’m not digging the violence part,” King added.

Perhaps it’s because of his modesty, or perhaps its because he left the band for a stretch, but King’s name is often lost to the annals of Skynyrd history.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t ‘know’ the intro lick to ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ ” guitarist Andrew Michael Sovine told the Tennessean. “If that was all (King) was known for I think that would be worth remembering, but all of his work with Skynyrd was just amazing . . . as a guitarist I don’t think he ever got the credit he was due. The music he wrote really was the soundtrack of a generation or two.”

Even publications that purport to focus on the South don’t always recognize him – consider this supposed history of the song by Country Living magazine, in which King’s name is entirely omitted.

King, though, never seemed to mind. He once described his career with a brevity and sincerity rarely seen in show business.

“I am the luckiest guitar player on Earth,” he said.

For the complete article please see

Ecotourism and nature travel to the Gulf Shores of Alabama, Part 1
Editor’s note: This article will have two parts. Part two will run in a future newsletter.

From the article by Lisa Kivirist on

In Alabama, there’s a narrow strip of snow white beaches that stretch for 32 miles, providing seasonal homes to nesting Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley and Green turtles. Pods of dolphins frolic just off shore and hundreds of migratory bird species find refuge in the coastal scrub or maritime forests. It’s called paradise by many, eager to walk the beach, crash waves, jump on skim boards or sunbathe. On a map, it goes by Orange Beach or the Gulf Shores.

In nearly every way, the shimmering azure expanse of the Gulf of Mexico captivates with its soothing waves licking upon the shore, gulls arguing over a newfound edible treasure, or the graceful pelicans skimming the water’s surface. Despite the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, or in some ways because of it, these communities have re-emerged as hotspots for an escape into nature.

On a recent trip with husband-photographer, John Ivanko, we experienced Alabama’s wild side on foot, in a kayak, with fishing poles on a coastal safari, and in a warrior II yoga pose. This is the first of two posts sharing the ecotourism adventures to be had, including a first for us, hand-releasing a newly banded migratory bird.

Coastal Birding for Birders
You don’t even need to be a seasoned birder to enjoy the experience of bird-banding with the Birmingham Audubon Society. It takes place during the annual spring and fall migration at Fort Morgan Historical Park, about 30 miles from Orange Beach. This birding hotspot at Fort Morgan, designated as “One Hundred Globally Important Bird Areas” by the American Bird Conservancy, is part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, a network of six birding loops spanning over 200 coastal miles.

“This is the birds’ first stop for food after a six-hundred-mile journey,” explains Brittany Peterson, manager of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and birding expert. “Think about yourself, if you drove that long in your car non-stop without eating or drinking. It’s a pretty amazing feat that something this small can do that year after year,” she adds as she holds the small Northern Wood Thrush in her hands that was just banded and weighed for tracking research.

“Now who would like to release him?” Peterson asks. Hands quickly pop up. The crowd includes both seasoned birders, judging by their gear, hats, pins and patches, as well as those new to catching a glimpse of these tiny but mighty species on their rest break. Everyone was entranced by this rare opportunity to handle and release the banded birds back into the air from their hands. For a moment, you felt a bit like James Audubon himself, the ornithologist and bird illustrator often credited with coming up with the very first bird-banding experiment.

The birding bonanza continues at the over 7,000-acre Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The name Bon Secour is derived, appropriately enough, from the French words meaning “safe harbor,” with this protected area making up some of the most globally imperiled coastal scrub remaining in Alabama. It sits along the flyway of millions of bird migrants every spring and fall.

“The spring migration peaking every April offers an amazing amount of bird species all at once that you simply can’t see in one place,” entices Peterson. “With 340 different species recorded at Bon Secour, if you get there at the right time you can check-off your whole species list at once.”

Ecotourism Adventures: Kayaking and Biking
Who can turn down a chance to say you went kayaking with alligators? Guided by Stephanie Williams, a naturalist with Ike’s Beach Service, we paddled across the shimmering waters of Lake Shelby in Gulf State Park. “While I’ve only seen baby alligators, should you be approached by a larger one, just take your paddle and smack it loudly on the front of the bow of your kayak,” advises Williams with a grin.

While no gators were ever spotted on our trip, our small group of seven enjoyed plying across the waters of the brackish lake, caused by the salt water from the ocean meeting the fresh spring water feeding the lake. Instead of gators, we watched as a graceful osprey circled around her nest nearby.

Paddling with a guide offered a backstory to what we were witnessing, especially for beginner kayakers. Williams navigated the group through a marsh paddling with the tides, when possible. She explained, “This first part we’ll be paddling, is against the wind, so be prepared to pump it.” She said encouragingly, “but we’ll be rewarded coming back with an easy, relaxing ride.” You just want to make sure you’re in your swimsuit since waves may crest over the front of your kayak.

You can also take in the Alabama Gulf Coast on a bicycle. Stop by Beach Bike Rentals and leisurely explore the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, a 15-mile trail that traverses six different ecosystems.

Inshore fishing with Intercoastal Safaris
Hook and cook your dinner of flounder, redfish, pompano, sheepshead or speckled trout, while getting an insightful backstory to the ecology and culture alongside an entertaining side dish of the local flavors of the area with a guided fishing tour with Intercoastal Safaris. That’s what we tried next, as the afternoon heat and humidity started to kick in. It’s Alabama, after all.

“People will call me the best fishing guide all the time, but I’m not a fishing guide,” laughs the warm and friendly owner of Intercoastal Safaris, Steven Lee, self-dubbed “hospitality manager” and owner of the operation. “Really and truly what I want to tell them is we’re a marketing company that happens to excel at hospitality.” Lee went on over 300 guided hunting and fishing trips and pulled together the best of the best practices for his guided and custom created tours, tailored to a variety of audiences and working with a network of over 25 vetted guides in the area. “We’re the top ranked bachelor party outside of Las Vegas,” he adds with a wink while sticking to the nature interpretation and fishing advice with our small group of six.

While the fishing stories and local lore are bountiful on an Intercoastal Safaris cruise, it’s the opportunity to experience the coast from a boat that will truly draw you in. Captain Mike expertly turned our vessel around after he spots a pod of dolphins frolicking and feeding under the Perdido Pass Bridge. Our group snapped lots of photos, since none of us lived where we can get this close to them without being in the Splash Zone of SeaWorld or a zoo.

In true fishing story fashion, we did indeed almost hook our dinner of flounder while fishing off a rocky breaker at Alabama Point. This is, before our line broke. We didn’t feel too bad, since a nearby boat of local fishermen didn’t seem to be doing any better.

For the complete article please see

AMLA announces new website launch
The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) is pleased to announce the launch of its newly revamped website, providing visitors and residents alike with information on festivals and special events, attractions, places to stay, eat and shop in the 16 northernmost counties of Alabama.

The picture-rich website includes new features that work to inform and inspire a reason to visit north Alabama.

“The new north Alabama website offers easy access to valuable tourism information that highlights all there is to see and do in the 16 northernmost counties of Alabama,” said Tami Reist, AMLA President/CEO. “North Alabama is filled with unexpected treasures and we hope to reveal all of the wonderful attractions, historic sights and natural wonders, as well as accommodations, in the new web design through compelling imagery and easily navigated details.”

To redesign and launch the website, AMLA worked with Simpleview, a Tucson, Arizona-based company that designs and develops online and interactive web solutions for destination marketing organizations. Built and designed on an entirely new platform, the website ( can easily be viewed on different browsers and on all smartphones and small tablet devices. Additional features of the website include video sharing capability and a once there activities and tours booking engine integration. In addition to detailed descriptions of all listings, visitors have the option of viewing each listing on a map.

“Created with the user experience in mind, the added features to the website will serve as handy tools for visitors to use during all stages of vacation planning. With the new trip planner, visitors to the website can save their favorite content and create custom itineraries for their use and to share with others,” added Reist.

Along with launching a new website, AMLA has enlisted the services of CrowdRiff ( ) to increase overall social and digital efficiency, integrate user-generated visuals, manage AMLA’s digital asset library, activate AMLA’s brand across seasons and deliver real-time content through every marketing channel.

For more information, contact Tami Reist at 800.648.5381 or 256.350.3500.

A German promotion starts this week
Alabama Tourism has joined with other southern states to promote the southern USA as a vacation destination in a unique shoe store promotion. The joint promotion of Deep South USA states will take advantage of the German store Görtz’s 15th anniversary in the shoe business with a 15-day vacation giveaway to the southern USA.

The trip will be promoted in more than 160 Görtz stores with large storefront window displays. In addition, the vacation will receive an online teaser message on the Görtz website that receives 2 million visitors per month. Additional exposure will include Görtz Facebook and Instagram accounts which together have 100,000 followers.

For Alabama Tourism this promotion is an effective and inexpensive way to increase our destination’s exposure as an important vacation choice.

The campaign starts Aug. 27 and will run until Sept. 23.

The marketing campaign in one of Alabama’s top international markets is a joint effort of five southern states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Alabama portion is being supported by the CVBs of Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile, the Alabama Association of Destination Marketing Organization, and the Alabama Tourism Promotion Partnership. Joining in the promotion by supplying the cost of airline and rental car is the Canusa travel company in Germany.

For more information, contact

60 Alabama Wines Receive Medals
A total of 60 wines from 14 different Alabama wineries, cideries, and meaderies won 20 gold medals, 26 silver medals, and 14 bronze medals at the 4th Annual Alabama Commercial Wine Competition (ACWC) on Sat., Aug. 11, 2018 in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Alabama Commercial Wine Competition is hosted annually by Alabama Wine, Inc. in order to promote Alabama wines. Director and founder, Steve Young, commented that, “We’ve definitely seen greater interest in Alabama wines since we started four years ago – and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Three panels of 3-4 wine judges and local celebrities spent Saturday morning at 1892 East Restaurant in Huntsville blind tasting (and spitting) the Alabama wines to come to consensus on a score to determine a medal.

In addition to gold, silver, and bronze medals, 11 “Best of” awards plus the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup for Best Alabama Wine and the 2018 Winery of the Year will be announced and awarded at the Big Spring Crush wine festival on Sat., Sept. 29, 2018. The top award-winning wineries have been invited to be guests of Big Spring Crush and Alabama Wine to pour their winning wines at the Alabama Wine tent.

Judges for the 2018 ACWC included local Huntsville celebrities: Ashley Ryals, founder and creator of Homegrown Huntsville and Big Spring Crush wine festival; Steve Johnson, Anchor for WHNT News 19; Steven Bunner, Executive Chef and co-owner 1892 East Restaurant; and Stephanie Kennedy-Mell, Co-owner of the acclaimed Church Street Wine Shoppe and Purveyor Restaurant in Huntsville. Retired physician and home winemaker with the AWGGA, William E. McCollum, came from Birmingham to judge again for the fourth year. American Wine Society (AWS) graduate-trained wine judges included: Kristen Lindelow, Chief Judge, and Jaime Zapata; Cathy Baltar, Bob Garay, and Kevin Norris, third-year AWS judge students; and Walt Collier, second-year AWS judge student.

Local professional marketing and graphic designers, Crisy Meschier and Adriane Van Kirk, led the label judging portion of the ACWC by organizing pre-judging on Friday. Voting for “Best Label” was finalized on Saturday with all judges and volunteers submitting votes for those with best marketing and graphics appeal determined by the two label judges.

For a list of medal winners please see:

Alabama in full force at SYTA Conference 
The Student Youth Travel Association’s annual conference was held this week in Baltimore. Student Travel is an important market for Alabama’s tourism as these groups are looking for historic, science and performance destinations.

The U.S. Space Rocket Center and Alabama destinations on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail are just two reasons school groups of all ages come to Alabama.

Huntsville, North Alabama Tourism, Decatur, Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the Alabama Tourism Department were all at SYTA in Baltimore for the annual conference, holding meetings with student group tour operators.

Judy Ryals and Pam Willams of the Huntsville CVB and Grey Brennan, Deputy Director Alabama Tourism Department addressed the entire SYTA conference at lunch on Sunday, inviting the student tour operators to come to Alabama.  During Monday’s lunch, Sara Hamlin of the Greater Birmingham CVB reminded the group that the 2019 Conference registration was now operational and encouraged the group to sign up.

In 2019, the SYTA Youth Foundation event will be in Huntsville, the SYTA Conference in Birmingham. In addition there will be a series of post-Fam trips offered to other destinations across Alabama.

The closing event on the last night of the SYTA Baltimore Conference was a promotion from Birmingham CVB and the Alabama Tourism Department highlighting the show’s move to Birmingham in 2019.

For more information on SYTA, contact

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
A picture is worth a thousand words. When creating or editing your business’s location or event, you can add up to eight images. Always add high-quality images that will showcase what you have to offer.

Not a partner yet? Register today.



Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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