Tourism Tuesdays September 25, 2018

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Fall Tourism Workshop

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

Registration open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference

State works to attract companies to create movies in Alabama

$2 million in preservation grants aim to highlight diversity

New name, big changes coming to Constitution Village

Alabama Black Belt Adventures celebrates long, successful relationship with Raycom Media

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts’ $5 million sculpture garden opens next week

White named to Florence Tourism board

The mysterious bounty of Mobile Bay’s midnight jubilees

Guardian Championship brings big bucks to the city

“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 at rosemary.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 an opportunity to showcase Alabama’s communities with the devoted staff of the Alabama Welcome Centers. Each center will close 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.

Registration open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference
Registration is open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference, which will be hosted at the historic Pitman Theatre in downtown Gadsden on Oct. 22-24. The Pitman Theatre will be the site of all educational sessions and the host hotel is the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. Speakers will share their experience and expertise on a range of topics including social media training, agritourism and wineries, marketing to millenials, and tourism and the digital movement. Conference events will also be held at Noccalula Falls Park, Back Forty Beer Company and the Gadsden Museum of Art. An early bird rate of $95 per person is available until Oct. 5. Registration is $150 per person after Oct. 5. To register for the Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference, visit

State works to attract companies to create movies in Alabama
From the article by Lydia Nusbaum on (WSFA-12)

Movie genres including action, history, and drama have been shot at locations in Alabama.

“There’s a bit of novelty or excitement when a film is coming to your town or your state,” said Alabama Tourism Department director Lee Sentell.

The Alabama Film Office is always trying to attract production companies to the state. The Alabama Tourism Department said this helps the state’s economy.

“The longer the film crew is here the more money it’s going to spend,” Sentell said.

Many states, including Alabama, have tax incentives to encourage companies to invest. Alabama has a $20 million cap. This means a production company cannot spend more than $20 million in the state and still receive a rebate from the film office. States like Georgia do not have a cap.

Before choosing a location, many times production companies look at photos online to see what locations work best for their movies.

The Alabama Film Office has a database of more than 300 photos, showcasing Alabama attractions.

“What we’re trying to do is get the word out about locations here in Alabama,” said Alabama Film Office Location Coordinator Tommy Fell.

“What Alabama is good at is we have sights that are not over exposed,” Sentell said.

Fell said he depends on community members to help provide photos of Alabama attractions and places to film.

“We try to have communities and location owners send us updated photos to promote. Locations can be anywhere,” said Fell. “Be it a home. Be it a business. Be it a park or a tree in a field. It doesn’t matter.”

“People kind of step back and enjoy the thrill of knowing that their hometown is going to be on thousands of big screens across the country and across the world,” Sentell said.

For the complete article please see

$2 million in preservation grants aim to highlight diversity
From the article on (Associated Press)

A preservation group is inviting the public to vote on 20 sites across the country that showcase the nation’s diversity and the fight for equality as part of a $2 million historic preservation campaign.

The project is a collaboration between The National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Express and Main Street America.

Voters have from Monday, Sept. 24 through Oct. 26 to vote for their favorite location and then the money will be apportioned to the top vote getters.

Sites include the Alabama church where four black girls were killed during a 1963 bombing, a church in Los Angeles that was a hub for Mexican immigrants and a Miami building often referred to as the Ellis Island of the South because of its support for Cuban refugees.

Germonique Ulmer from The National Trust for Historic Preservation says the “Partners in Preservation” campaign started in 2006. So far it’s committed over $22 million-plus to support more than 200 historic sites across the country. Last year’s campaign focused on various projects to preserve theaters, parks, landmarks and other venues in downtowns, historic neighborhoods and cultural districts.

This year the 20 sites chosen in some way reflect the country’s diversity, multiculturalism and fight for equality.

“It’s just a wonderful collection of sites that really help bring together the story of our diverse nation,” Ulmer said. She said the campaign also aims to get people to see the “beauty and opportunity” in old buildings.

One of the 20 locations is The Women’s Building in San Francisco, a community center started in 1979 to help women. Teresa Mejia, the executive director, said it was started by a group of women who had difficulty finding a place to hold a conference on violence against women, so they decided they needed their own building. The organization provides various services to women, such as helping them find jobs or learn computer skills, and houses a food pantry. The building also houses nine other organizations helping women.

They will use the grant money to replace windows on the 1910 building. Noemi Zulberti, the facilities director, says many of the windows don’t close properly, which means more noise inside and wasted energy. Mejia, noting the number of women running for office this year, said people don’t have to wait until Election Day to vote for women. They can cast their vote Monday for their project.

“We need to take care of the building because it’s our main asset,” she said.

Each of the 20 locations will receive $20,000 to help bring attention to their project and get people to vote for them. Each site also hosts an open house weekend from Oct. 19-21 during which they open their doors to the local community and encourage people to come by and vote, Ulmer said. The winners will be announced Oct. 29.

For the complete article please see

New name, big changes coming to Constitution Village
From the article by Paul Gattis on

One of Alabama’s top tourist attractions is getting a new name, a refurbished look and a new purpose.

Alabama’s Constitution Village in downtown Huntsville is getting the makeover as part of the state’s 200th birthday celebration next year.

It’s the site where delegates from across the state gathered to formalize Alabama’s application to become the country’s 22nd state in 1819.

“The importance of what they did back then cannot be understated,” state Sen. Arthur Orr said.

Local and statewide leaders gathered on a steamy Tuesday morning to formally break ground on the final phase of what will ultimately be a two-year project to give the outdoor museum a fresh appearance just in time for the state’s birthday party.

“We’ve invited the world to come visit with us,” said Bart Williams, executive director of the EarlyWorks Family of Museums in Huntsville – which includes Constitution Village.

If you accept the invitation, you’ll see some familiar surroundings but also some changes.

First, the site is reverting to its original name of Constitution Hall Park, Williams said. And that’s because the site is becoming, well, a park.

The fences with a 17th-century look around the site will be removed and the grassy site will become a public space amid the historic buildings. That means there will no longer be an admission charge to access the grounds, though scheduled tours of the facilities will continue to be ticketed, Williams said.

And more changes are coming. Santa’s Village, the popular Christmas adaptation of the historic site, “is changing,” Williams said. Details on those changes will be announced next month, he said.

It’s all a part of a $2.2 million sprucing up of the site that includes interior and exterior repairs on weathered facilities as well as an entrance that is fit to be part of the state’s bicentennial celebration next year.

There will be areas for weddings and special events, outdoor classrooms for children and a place “where the townspeople young and old will gather for celebrations, education and community events,” according to the museum.

The renovations are expected to be completed by March 2019.

“We do envision it all changing a little bit,” Williams said. “It’s at the heart of our mission to keep the education component alive and keep it relative. As part of this project, we’ve created a living history classroom so every time a field trip comes in, they will have the option of coming in and doing some historic task or trade.

“So those tours will still be available to school kids – especially next year.” “We’ll have a full menu of history education field trips,” Williams said. “The daily operation as we see it happening, over the next year, will evolve. The fences will be coming down and this will all become a public space.”

Williams compared it to the historic town of Williamsburg, Va.

“In Williamsburg, you can walk up and down the street and interact with the shops and things like that,” he said. “And you might run up and find a historical interpreter in costume. Those things will still happen here. That will be free of charge. If you want to take a tour, there will be special tours at special times and those will be ticketed.”

Tuesday’s ceremony stirred memories for those in attendance. Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong refered to his ancestor who signed the document making Alabama a state, while Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon talked about bringing his grandchildren to Constitution Village.

“This is our starting point,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “You look right here, this is where the state of Alabama was started. As we look at the history of what established our state, where this state has been, the place where it is today, we look over 199 years and 199 years of progress.”

And it makes Constitution Village, or rather, Constitution Hall Park a special place.

“I think that’s what’s so significant about this project,” McCutcheon said. “It focuses back on the historical aspect of what we mean to the state of Alabama. And I’m very, very proud of that.

“This is a very special time in Alabama and I think we should cherish that and be thankful for it.”

For the complete article please see

Alabama Black Belt Adventures celebrates long, successful relationship with Raycom Media
From the article by Pam Swanner on

For almost a decade, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBAA) has worked to share the good news about outdoor tourism – the most profitable and attractive industry in a historically economically challenged region of our state.

ALBBAA was formed in 2009 to promote outdoor recreation like hunting and fishing, as well as its rich history and many culinary experiences. The mission: to bring tourists into the Black Belt from all over the country – and world – to visit, spend money and enjoy the many opportunities this region has to offer. A rising tide lifts all ships.

Our constant partner in this effort has been Raycom Media under the leadership of Dr. David Bronner. Raycom has provided more than $8 million in advertising through its network of television stations in 65 markets and more than 100 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI) newspapers across the nation.

Thanks to television advertisements aired on stations in 20 states – plus display ads in many local newspapers – Alabama’s Black Belt businesses have received thousands of inquiries about hunting, fishing and other outdoor adventure services. That interest piqued by Raycom and CNHI has paid off in tourism dollars.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 report, outdoor recreation accounted for $14 billion in consumer spending in Alabama. Of that, at least $4.87 billion was spent in Black Belt counties. Our state reaped the benefits of outdoor recreation spending in the collection of $857 million in state and local tax revenue. Outdoor recreation generates 135,000 direct jobs in Alabama and $3.9 billion in wages and salaries.

Alabama’s Black Belt region, as defined by ALBBAA, is made up of 23 counties that span the south-central section of the state from Mississippi to Georgia. The region makes up parts of four of Alabama’s seven congressional districts. As of the 2010 census, just over 500,000 residents – of a total Alabama population of 4.78 million – live in the Black Belt.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association promotes these counties as part of the Black Belt: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.

For decades, Alabama’s Black Belt has lagged economically because of many factors, including a small population base and often struggling public school systems. For the most part, Black Belt counties have not attracted many large industries or they have abandoned the region during times of national economic distress.

The partnership between ALBBAA and Raycom has been successful, in part, because the leaders of both organizations recognized the promise of outdoors tourism for boosting the economy of the Black Belt. Chilly winter mornings with bird dogs flushing quail and warm spring days on a riverbank in the Black Belt inspired Thomas A. Harris to start the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. With few traditional industries in the area, Harris decided promoting outdoor adventures in his home region could “be” an industry. Discussions with Dr. Bronner, whose expertise with recreational tourism was already well known because of the wildly successful Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail spanning the state, resulted in support from Raycom and CNHI.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association uses a multifaceted approach to draw tourists to the area. The organization’s website ( offers a one-stop source for hunters, anglers and other outdoor adventure-seekers looking for places to fulfill their dreams of a weekend in a deer stand with big bucks on the prowl or a week working to draw a big gobbler into range. We also visit outdoors trade shows throughout the country promoting the region and making friends from Houston to the Carolinas and all points in between, including the recent Buckmasters Expo in Montgomery.

Our website currently promotes 54 lodges and outfitters in the Black Belt. The site also provides information and links to public land available for hunting and fishing. Golfers can find information on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses in the Black Belt. Civic-minded vacationers can plan their tour of historic Civil Rights sites and find fun activities to do outdoors all across the state.

We also share the Black Belt’s stories with professional outdoors writers, travel bloggers and television producers on a national level who visit to experience the great hunting, fishing and heritage sites for themselves. Alabama writers and producers are also involved in telling the story. We have worked with journalists from outlets all over the state and country publishing items that are sure to spark interest in visiting the Black Belt.

In 2019, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association celebrates its 10th anniversary. Thanks to the advice and cooperation of many friends, such as Dr. Bronner, our association has made sure that this region of our state is not a secret unknown to the thousands of outdoorsmen and women who now enjoy spending their time – and money – in the Black Belt. The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association has succeeded in giving a shot in the arm to our economy.

Pam Swanner is the director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association, a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting and enhancing outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the 23 counties that make up the Black Belt in a manner that provides economic and ecological benefits to the region and its citizens.

For the complete article please see

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts’ $5 million sculpture garden opens next week
From the article by Brad Harper on

The figure of a horse bows at the entrance, shaped out of driftwood and then burned into bronze. A waterfall cascades behind the massive, glazed ceramics that overlook a courtyard-long reflecting pool.

It’s a striking entrance. But like most of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts’ new $5 million sculpture garden, it’s only temporary. The garden was built to grow and change with seasons, years, events and even time of day.

When it opens to its first visitors next week, crowds will enter through the main museum entrance — not through the ornate archway that opens from the parking lot to the gardens. That’s for future events.

Once in the garden, visitors will walk through more than a dozen dramatic sculptures, some towering, some playful, which could change the next time they visit. Almost all are on temporary display.

“We’re thinking of this as an outdoor gallery, as an extension of the museum with new exhibits and new installations,” curator Jennifer Jankauskas said.

Fellow curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld quipped that the “secret garden” that’s notched into the top of the hill isn’t very secret yet because the plants that are meant to enclose it are still maturing. And the grassy field nearby would be full of flowers in a different season.

The grand opening bash, set for noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 30, will feature music, games, food and tours. Those crowds will see the garden’s daytime face.

“At night, this place is totally different. It’s magical,” Interim Director Ed Bridges said.

There should be plenty of chances to see it in a different light.

The museum is planning to host everything from weddings, to concerts, to business events in the discreet spaces around the garden. One overlook extends the children’s area, offering an opportunity for art events geared toward kids. Bridges pictures gatherings taking place under a trellis next to the reflecting pool.

Ausfeld said there’s a reason that the museum is one of the first things people show visitors from out of town: It’s surprising. The garden could make it even more surprising. “Obviously you don’t expect this in Montgomery,” she said.

Its inaugural exhibits include works by eight Alabama sculptors, a tip of the cap to the state’s bicentennial celebration. The garden is named in honor of Caddell Construction founder John Caddell and his wife, Joyce, whose donation made the project possible.

It’ll be open the same hours as the museum: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For the complete article please see

White named to Florence Tourism board
From the article by Lisa Singleton-Rickman on

Retired businesswoman Mary White will be filling the expired term of David Abramson on the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism board, beginning in November.

Abramson finishes his second and final term October 29.

White was appointed last week by the Florence City Council. The other city appointment was David Muhlendorf, who was re-appointed for a second term.

White is a 25-year resident of Florence, having moved from Columbus, Georgia where she and her husband were business owners.

She is a member of the State Arts Council board and has been involved in the arts locally for several years.

“I have a great interest in all areas of the arts in the Shoals and it’s where my expertise is, but I’m wide open to all types of promotions with the tourism board,” White said.

“So many people have said of Florence that it’s a hidden gem, but perhaps it’s time to not be hidden.”

Though she admits she has much to learn as a tourism board member, she said she looks forward to serving in all capacities required, including helping bring in businesses, saying she hopes to see continued growth on all fronts in the city and throughout Lauderdale County.

“There’s so much to promote here in this area and I want to keep people coming back,” she said. “Visitors should have such a great experience here that they want to come back again and again.”

The issue of naming a hospitality employee to the board came up once again, with this appointment cycle.

Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa General Manager Larry Bowser, speaking to the council on behalf of the Shoals Hospitality Committee, recommended Laura Ingram for the position.

She is an employee of the Marriott Shoals hotel property.

The application requires the city appointee to reside within the city limits, which Ingram does not.

At least two other hospitality employees applied for the position.

Currently, there is no hospitality industry representation on the board.

A 2011 Organizational and Performance Review of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism by Randall Travel Marketing, Inc. suggests that one-third of the board seats be held by lodging professionals/owners; one third by local tourism industry professionals and one third by local business leaders/owners with strong civic experience.

For the complete article please see

The mysterious bounty of Mobile Bay’s midnight jubilees
From the article by Anna Marlis Burgard on

The estuary, marshes and swamps of Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw Delta are full of wonders, including hundreds of bird, reptile, fish, and mammal species. Its natural beauty is a reliable source of pleasure and plenty for its residents and visitors. But on a few sultry mornings each summer, during a full moon, locals spring from their beds in response to news of a wondrous natural phenomenon occurring on a spot along a 15-mile stretch of coast. Catfish, shrimp, and flounder rise from Mobile Bay’s floor and swarm at the water’s edge, eels shimmy onto the sand, and crabs flee the water, scaling barnacled docks and tree trunks. This exodus of sea life provides residents with as much seafood as they can gig, net, or scoop. Inspired by the celebratory atmosphere it brings in its wake, they call it a jubilee.

Alabama authors including Winston Groom (Forrest Gump) and Daniel Wallace (Big Fish) create characters and scenes that leave readers wondering where truth alchemizes into fantasy. Listening to recollections of jubilees feels like sitting at an uncle’s feet, listening to a story being spun as lightning bugs spark the night. Locals including Jimbo Meador, a delta guide who’s benefited from jubilees for almost 80 years (knowing about one before him is considered bragging rights), recently lured me in with tales that seemed apocryphal. Skiffs full of flounder? Shrimp scooped out of the water by the bushel basket?

“It’s like people who say they saw Bigfoot,” says bayfront resident Watt Key, author of Alabama Moon, “you don’t talk about jubilees that much to outsiders — they don’t believe you.

”I first heard about jubilees in 2014 when I stopped in Point Clear, on the eastern coast of Mobile Bay, while researching a book on recipes and tales from the Southern coasts. Back then, Texas Sea Grant marine biologist Tony Reisinger, whose mother hailed from Mobile, explained the science of jubilees to me.

“Estuaries have a dense saltwater wedge that slips like a long tongue reaching from the ocean’s side underneath fresher, less dense bay water,” he said. “Sometimes that dense, deeper water, which is oxygen deprived from decaying organic matter, is pushed onto the shallow eastern shelf of the bay by tide-driven water. That can force bottom-dwelling marine life to seek refuge along the eastern shallows — they scramble for air at the surface and as close to land as possible, causing a jubilee.”

But jubilees can’t be predicted, Reisinger added. The weather, tide, and moon cycle can all be right, but no jubilee appears. Folks in Point Clear chuckle about film crews from Time Magazine, CNN, National Geographic, and other outlets coming to town over the years, trying but failing to document it.

Jubilees may seem seasoned by legend, but they’re as real as the bay water they’re borne from, occurring multiple times every summer between June and mid September. Residents say they feel them coming, like northerners can tell when snow will fall. They tailgate after midnight at the dock when signs suggest one might manifest. Jubilees are part of Point Clear’s DNA.

The accounts I heard went something like this: You look for the signs and symptoms. Jubilees roll in after a full-moon midnight on hot summer evenings following a day with light showers. When both an easterly wind and rising tide push at the shore (but no boat or ship wakes disturb the water), bottom dwellers rise up in the small hours and head to the beach, gasping for air. The procession begins with eels slithering onto, then burrowing down into, the sand, writhing like a giant Medusa head. Hogchokers float to the surface, and catfish gather at the bay’s edge. Next, groups of fish poke above the surface to gulp air. Crabs claw their way up pylons, and shrimp crowd the brackish water in a tangle of antennae and legs, followed by flounder and stingrays, all slowed by a lack of oxygen. Soon birds start squawking and feasting on the buffet. Next comes the bell ringing along bayfront lawns to alert neighbors, who groggily spill out of their screened doorways, hair askew, armed with “go kits” of gigs, nets, and baskets. Boys get the thrill of spying what the girls sleep in—no one bothers to change from their pajamas to gig fish.

The jubilee rush begins — a quietly competitive event. It can deliver such a wealth of free food that men head to the hospital later than they should when their wives are in labor. The scaling, shelling, and steaming of the fish, shrimp, and crabs goes on toward noon. Local schools and businesses forgive jubilee delays, and everyone prays a thunderstorm won’t knock out the electricity and spoil the spoils in their freezers. Some grill crab-stuffed flounder for breakfast; others feast on a fresh pot of gumbo that evening.

Back in the ‘50s, Meador’s parents moved their kids, chickens, and milking cow to the shore each summer. A few times during those months, Meador would hear scratching on the screen door of the sleeping porch where he and his sisters camped out. That was his friend Duke’s signal that a jubilee was happening; he’d leap out of bed, and they’d head to the beach to fill wooden skiffs with as much as their four hands could haul in. Since they sold their catch for pocket money, they worked silently to avoid alerting any competition.

During lean years, when residents are too focused on feeding their families to lose precious time, they might act like Duke and Meador. But it’s more common to spread the word. Early in Point Clear’s history, people rang house bells posted along the shore and hollered to their neighbors. This was before homes were shut up tight with air conditioning. In more recent decades, Watt Key says, “Families had a call list … a piece of scratch paper next to the phone with names to contact if there was a jubilee.” Feelings got hurt if you didn’t call — Key’s dad was once called a “one-flounder friend” because he didn’t call a neighbor quickly enough and the man only caught one fish. Today, people text or call from their cell phones right from the beach.

In August, I decided to try my luck and drove from the Georgia coast to Point Clear when I saw that the last full moon of the summer coincided with a rising, post-midnight tide. I knew the chances of catching a jubilee were infinitesimal, but it’s a lovely place, and I thought the anticipation alone might be fun.

On the evening of the full moon, I stayed up all night, leaving my bayfront room at the Grand Hotel every couple hours to look at the moonlight on the water, trying to divine what was happening below. A promising easterly wind rustled Spanish moss on a craggy live oak. A lone heron stared into the shallows, searching for signs of life along with me. A little after 5 a.m., I got the calls from Key and Meador: “It’s happening.” I grabbed my camera and drove to Key’s house — they’d warned me jubilees can be fickle about where they stay, and for how long.

It felt like a paper-bound fable was blossoming into life. Each of the harbingers appeared: Key pointed out small eels moving toward shore and floating hogchokers with his flounder light. With a big yellow moon painting the water, groups of gasping fish appeared, with just the tips of their mouths breaking the surface in a posture locals call “smoking.” A crab sought refuge on a felled tree. Then, flounder appeared, and a young family friend, also new to jubilees, climbed down the bulkhead, gig in hand, and speared her first fish.

Key urged me to hustle down the bay a few miles to a tried-and-true jubilee spot. Three pickup trucks were already parked; lone fishermen peered into the water, dripping nets and gigs in hands, with floating plastic tubs trailing them for the shrimp and crabs they’d caught. Hundreds of catfish swarmed in the gently lapping water, just as I’d heard they would. But I had no idea they’d be bitty, only three inches or so, and would undulate back and forth with the swishing water, their thousands of white whiskers against their blue-gray bodies making them appear more like spiders with linked legs. Spade fish, mullet, and stingrays joined the party too.

As the sun came up, pelicans and gulls swooped in for their breakfasts. Hearing that they’d do so is nothing like seeing the rising sun light up their white feathers, and the splashes from their dive bombing for fish. One man snuck up on and victoriously gigged a flounder that had eluded him several times. There are catch limits on flounder and shrimp, but during jubilees, no one polices the numbers or minds private property lines.

Over my travels to more than 100 islands in the United States, I’ve seen or heard about many strange things on beaches, including Ice Age arrowheads revealed by the Chesapeake Bay’s waters on Smith Island, voodoo dolls with spells sewn inside their bellies floating ashore at Deerfield Beach, North Carolina, and “square grouper” (jettisoned bales of marijuana) landing on the Florida Keys. They all pale in comparison to what I experienced at Point Clear. Witnessing the jubilee felt like winning the lottery — there are plenty of people who’ve lived on the bay for decades without seeing one. A local asked if I’d accompany him to a casino, given that I had the power to “summon a jubilee on a whim.” The luck might have come courtesy of my rental car’s license plate, which started with the letters “GIG.”

I wonder, in the days before scientists helped explain them, what people thought caused jubilees — how they believed they’d pleased their deity enough to deserve the providence. Long ago, the bay communities in the area couldn’t have known that this doesn’t happen anywhere else in the western hemisphere, and nowhere else as often. I reckon they simply thought, as Jimbo Meador said about my miraculous experience, that they were blessed.

For the complete article please see

Guardian Championship brings big bucks to the city
From the article by Jordyn Elston on (WSFA-12)

The Guardian Championship Symetra Tour wrapped up Sunday afternoon at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Prattville.

“It’s been wonderful having a local title sponsor with Guardian Credit Union giving back to the community and having someone who is invested in the community and having events like this where folks in the river region can come and enjoy,” said Tournament Director Johnathan Romeo.

The top prize is $24,000 and a win puts the winner a step closer to the LPGA Tour. But the champ isn’t the only person benefiting from this tournament.

“Having players, the staff… its been tough to get a hotel room in Prattville and some in Montgomery for the whole entire week. That fills restaurants, having hotels that are full, as well as having as many folks that can be staying and spending money in the River Region,” said Romeo. “Its a minimum of a half-million dollar economic impact, easily.”

Guardian recently announced that the tournament will remain in Prattville for the next three years and Romeo said that he’s excited for what this means for the community.

“This event has grown in the two years, it’s almost doubled in the size as far as what we’ve done from things that, again, help bring more folks to this area which then in turn generates additional dollars down the road,” Romeo said.

Studies will be conducted over the next several weeks to find out exactly how much money this year’s tour brought in.

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
More than 1.6 million people have come to looking for information about what to see and do in the state. By creating a Partner page, you have the opportunity to promote your business with photos and a customizable write-up. The best part, it’s free. Time to register.

Follow the link to get started:



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