Tourism Tuesdays September 4, 2018

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Fall Tourism Workshop

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

Historian Mary Ann Neeley dies at 85

Alabama’s Grand Hotel completes $35 million renovation, rebrands as Autograph resort

National monument grows to building next door

The Alabama author behind controversial Neil Armstrong biopic ‘First Man’

New album spotlights ‘Muscle Shoals sound’

Seaside teen gets taste of space travel at Rocket Center

“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, Thursday., 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.

Historian Mary Ann Neeley dies at 85
From the article by Brad Harper on

Historian, author and educator Mary Ann Neeley died Wednesday, family and friends said, after decades of enthusiastically sharing her knowledge about the area’s past and its connection to the present with generations of Montgomerians.

She was 85. Neeley was the executive director of the historic preservation nonprofit Landmarks Foundation for nearly 25 years, developing many of its signature programs. She led walking tours of historic areas across the city, taught students at Auburn University and Huntingdon College and wrote books on local history.

She was an endless fountain of knowledge about the area’s past and was always eager to pass it along, fellow historian Richard Bailey said.

“She’s helped so many people, not just in Montgomery or the state of Alabama, but anybody who had any interest in history,” Bailey said. “If they had a question, she had an answer, and always with a smile.”

Bailey said Neeley never fully recovered from a fall in February that forced her to cancel several events.“It’s a huge loss,” he said. “It’s beyond any dimensions I can describe.”

Neeley’s family issued a release listing some of her accomplishments over the decades, including creating an annual symposium called Cultural Crossroads, which brought together academia, writers and others who explored historical topics.

Ed Bridges, the longtime director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, said Montgomery has seen a lot of great people come and go through the years and that Neeley “is certainly among the top of the list.”

“She loved the city and worked tirelessly to make it a better place,” Bridges said. “And she was a friend of so many people. She was totally selfless and kind in everything she did.”

She and her husband, Aubrey Neeley, had three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

For the complete article please see

Alabama’s Grand Hotel completes $35 million renovation, rebrands as Autograph resort
From the article by Michael Tomberlin on

The “Queen of Southern Resorts” has added more sparkle to her crown.

The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in Point Clear has completed a three-year, $35 million transformation that is marked today by a rebranding from Marriott to Autograph Collection Hotels.

“What that means is we will be able to do more of what we want to do and what we want to be to be independent as a hotel,” said Scott Tripoli, general manager of the Grand Hotel. “That’s really the moniker of Autograph: ‘Exactly like nothing else,’ and we feel like the Grand Hotel brings that right to the forefront.”

Autograph Collection Hotels are part of Marriott International Inc. but reserved to more than 150 one-of-a-kind hotels that have established their own identities.

An official reflagging of the hotel is scheduled to take place Wednesday morning.

The recent transformation has been among the most extensive since the Grand Hotel first opened in 1847. All of its 405 guest rooms have been renovated, as have its meeting and conference spaces, its spa, golf course, pool, pier grounds and restaurants.

Signature cocktails can be enjoyed at Bucky’s Lounge while everything from burgers to steaks and specialty craft beers can be enjoyed at the Bayside Grill.

The main dining room is home to Southern Roots restaurant, featuring fresh, farm-to-table seasonal Southern cuisine.

While much has changed, Tripoli said he wants longtime fans of the Grand Hotel to know that the important elements of Southern charm and great service are intact.

“We want to make sure that we continue with our Grand traditions – creating some new ones but at the same time holding on to those that are very important to our members and our guests and our generational guests who have been coming to the Grand for years and years,” he said.

For instance, the cannon still fire every afternoon as a salute to the property’s history and in honor of past and present military. The sunsets over Mobile Bay are still beautiful.

The Grand Hotel has hired a historian who will give tours and share the history of the property with guests.

The pool area has added 11 cabanas and a splash pad. The recreation and games area with putting greens and other lawn games has been moved from behind Bucky’s to the pool area.

The Grand Hotel is part of the Resort Collection on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which is owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

“With this stunning transformation nearly complete, the historic Grand Hotel enters its next chapter with its Autograph Collection distinction,” said Tony Davis, president of the RTJ Resort Collection. “We are debuting a modern sanctuary of golf, tennis, beach, pools and spa filled with gracious Southern charm and attentiveness.”

The renovation was designed by Goodwyn Mills & Cawood and implemented by JESCO Construction.

“Here, as it has for over 170 years, the Grand life beckons with hospitality and warmth flowing through the resort in cheerful abundance,” Davis said. “With our Historic Hotels of America designation, the affiliation with the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and Autograph Collection signature, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa will appeal even more to group and leisure guests.”

The grounds were restored and landscaped with the signature live oaks remaining as centerpieces.

“We take great pride in the live oaks, protecting them, and everything we do is around those and making sure they’re preserved,” Tripoli said.

Designed as an all-in-one destination, the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa features a full-service spa, two RTJ Golf Trail courses, seven restaurants and lounges, two beaches, multiple pools and 37,000 square feet of renovated meeting space on 550 acres along Mobile Bay near Fairhope.

Though it has taken time, Tripoli believes guests will appreciate the combination of modern amenities with classic charm.

“It’s been a long run, but I think the ‘Queen of Southern Resorts’ is better than ever,” Tripoli said.

For the complete article please see

National monument grows to building next door
From the article by Daniel Gaddy on

Officials on Wednesday announced a building adjacent to the Freedom Riders National Monument has been purchased by conservationists who plan to donate it for use as part of the monument.

The 2,400-square-foot building, at 1029 Gurnee Ave., includes an exterior wall on which a mural of a Freedom Riders bus is painted. The purchase will not only ensure preservation of the mural, but will give officials a site for an interpretative center for the monument. Park officials hope to renovate the bus station itself to look as it did in the 1960s.

The Conservation Fund, a preservation and economic development nonprofit, bought the property, but representatives of the nonprofit notified Anniston leaders that it would donate the property to the city.

Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said the Conservation Fund has been involved with the Freedom Riders project for a while and has been a great partner.

“It is great news and will help with the overall development of the Civil Rights Trail,” Draper said about the property. “It’s important that that building was acquired to tell the story, and we’re pleased they want to donate it to us, and I thank the Conservation Fund.”

Andrew Schock, Alabama/Georgia director for the Conservation Fund, wrote a letter to City Manager Jay Johnson telling of the group’s plans to donate the property to the city.

In it, Schock called the mural a “wonderful interpretive tool.”

“The proximity of the building to the Greyhound Station tells the story of how ‘hemmed in’ the Riders must have felt that day in May. If that wall was demolished, interpretation would be more difficult and less effective,” he wrote.

Schock said in the letter that money from the National Parks Foundation helped purchase the property.

The Star’s efforts to reach Schock were not immediately successful Wednesday.

Steve Taylor had owned the building before the Conservation Fund closed on the property about two weeks ago.

“I wanted to see them get it because of the mural and the part of history it does represent,” said Taylor, who co-owns Moore Printing just next door to the newly acquired property.

Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Department of Tourism, visited Anniston leaders involved with the monument on Friday of last week. He said the collaboration between local officials and those involved with the monument has put Anniston on track to distinguish itself among civil rights attractions.

“This will give enough critical mass to make Anniston a very strong overnight destination for American and international visitors alike,” he said.

Sentell said the state Tourism Department is drafting itineraries for civil rights history tourists that will take visitors to historic sites from Anniston to Memphis.

For the complete article please see

The Alabama author behind controversial Neil Armstrong biopic ‘First Man’
From the article from The AssociatedPress on

An Alabama author who struck up a relationship with Neil Armstrong nearly two decades ago is behind a new movie about the first person to walk on the moon.

The best-selling biography “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” by Auburn University professor emeritus James Hansen has been made into “First Man,” which debuted recently at the Venice Film Festival.

Hansen said his relationship with the late Apollo 11 astronaut began after he wrote a letter to the famously private Armstrong at the urging of students in 1999. The astronaut responded to the letter, to Hansen’s surprise.

Hansen later spent hours interviewing Armstrong as he wrote the only authorized biography of the astronaut.

“After the book was done, the nicest compliment he gave me was, ‘Jim, you wrote exactly the book you told me you were going to write.’ For him, that was a big deal, because so many people in his life after Apollo 11 would say one thing and actually do another, try to manipulate things to their advantage,” Hansen said in a release from Auburn.

Hansen’s success in securing Armstrong’s cooperation wasn’t just luck. Hansen had a reputation in the space community since NASA had submitted a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his 1995 book “Spaceflight Revolution” about the early years of the space agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Armstrong died in 2012, which was 43 years after he commanded the Apollo 11 mission and first stepped on the moon on July 20, 1969. Some conservatives have complained that the movie fails to portray when Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin unfurled a U.S. flag on the lunar surface, but Hansen and Armstrong’s sons deny the film is “anti-American.”

“This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement ‘for all mankind,'” Hansen and the Armstrongs said in a statement.

“First Man” is set for wide release by Universal Pictures on Oct. 12. Hansen is a co-producer of “First Man,” which was directed by Damien Chazelle of “La La Land.”

For the complete article please see

New album spotlights ‘Muscle Shoals sound’
From the article on (Associated Press)

A new album will throw a spotlight on the famed “Muscle Shoals sound” that made a north Alabama town one of the nation’s premier recording venues.

Performers including Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and country singers Alison Krauss, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill and Willie Nelson have tracks on the upcoming “Muscle Shoals: Small Town, Big Sound.”

A statement from the German music company BMG said the album is being released Sept. 28 in collaboration with The Muscle Shoals Music Group and Dreamlined Entertainment.

Muscle Shoals became a recording hotbed after producer Rick Hall began FAME Recording Studios in 1959. Some of biggest stars in music, including Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynrd, recorded in the town.

Hall died in January, and the album is being released partly in tribute to his work. It also marks the 60th anniversary of the “Muscle Shoals sound.”

Many artists featured on the new album recorded tracks at FAME Studios that recreate hits first recorded in Muscle Shoals. That includes Tyler’s version of the Stones’ hit “Brown Sugar,” which is featured in a promotional video about the album.

Rick Hall’s son, Rodney Hall, curated music and served as executive producer for the album with Dreamlined Entertainment founder Keith Stegall.

“This record has been a full circle for me,” Stegall said in the statement. “It’s the music I grew up on and that impassioned me to become a writer and a record producer and the music to which I owe my love and deepest respect.”

For the complete article please see

Seaside teen gets taste of space travel at Rocket Center
From the article by Juan Reyes on

Dylan Laney of Seaside felt what it was like to train as an astronaut for at least a week, after attending Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center last month.

“It was everything that I thought it would be and more,” Laney said. “I was not expecting that everything would be centered around space.”

The Space Camp operates year-round in Huntsville, Alabama and uses astronaut training techniques to engage trainees in real-world applications of STEM subjects. Students sleep in quarters designed to resemble the International Space Station and train in simulators like those used by NASA.

Laney, 13, said it was a thrill to be able to have the opportunity to work with state of the art space hardware. One of his favorite activities during the camp was the Space Shot, which he said is the closest thing to reaching zero gravity without getting on a plane or going into space.

“It was exhilarating, that’s the best I can describe it,” Laney said.

The weeklong educational program promotes the STEM education model, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. The students also train with hands-on activities along with tackling missions based on teamwork, leadership and problem solving.

Other programs include Space Camp for kids ages 9-11, the Space Camp Robotics program and Adult Space Academy for grown ups who never had the chance to go as a kid.

“It’s a fully immersive experience where they are doing simulated astronaut training throughout the week while learning about past, the present and the future of space exploration,” said Pat Ammons, director of communications at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Ammons said the programs are specifically designed for trainees who have a particular interest in space exploration.

Laney, who attends Big Sur Charter School in Monterey, also spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated space mission to the International Space Station. Once aboard the station, the crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity, also known as spacewalk.

Laney said the teams also get to participate in several mission trainings that are realistic and provide true anomalies. But, he missed out on some missions partly because of rain and thunderstorms.

“But if you get a perfectly normal day, there will be anomalies popping up. So, there will be chaos,” Laney said.

The kids were split up into teams of 12 but all of the Space Camps stay in the same dormitory. Laney said he had no trouble making friends because everybody there was really into science and shared an interest in becoming an astronaut one day.

“The best part is you aren’t just with your group, you’re with other kids from different groups as well,” Laney said. “There are so many kids that you have different conversations every day.”

Laney said the only time kids weren’t talking about space was when he got to hang out in the dormitories. The kids got 45 minutes of free time before heading out to work on a mission or activity and 45 minutes before lights out.

The Rocket Center is also home to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. The Rocket Center has two models of the Saturn V, and there are also replicas of the Apollo and Mercury capsules.

“You get to be on our campus, and you are literally walking under history,” Ammons said. “Just seeing the enormity of what that is and then understanding the complexities of what it takes to travel in space.”

Laney said the most interesting part of his trip was learning that CAPCOM, the Capsule Communicator, Spacecraft Communicator, is a lot more rehearsed then he anticipated.

NASA first designated the Capsule Communicator and the role was usually filled by another astronaut, often one of the backups, as a liaison between an in-space crew and mission control.

Laney said he thought CAPCOM would respond to things as they develop. But he found out it’s more about giving situation reports and telling the International Space Station or a space shuttle what’s happening at mission control.

“It’s not reactionary, it really is ‘Do this at this specific time,’” he said.

Ammons said the purpose of the Space Camp program is to immerse children into the wonder of space exploration. She also mentioned the program is to show kids the opportunities they may have with their particular interest with outer space.

More than 750,000 trainees have graduated from Space Camp since its inception in 1982 including European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA astronauts Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Kate Rubins and Serena Auñón, who recently launched to the International Space Station.

According to the Rocket Center, children and teachers from all 50 states and 69 international locations have attended a Space Camp program.

Ammons said another important part of the Space Camp program is the teamwork aspect — getting students to work as a group instead of an individual. She added it’s about bringing the children’s talents to the process to help achieve things.

“One thing they learn is 12 people walked on the moon but it took 400,000 people to put them there,” Ammons said.

Ammons also said some kids may not go into a space-related field after attending a camp or academy but at least they’ll be able to apply that teamwork experience elsewhere.

“But whatever it is they do, they’re going to be more successful if they’re working as a member of a team,” Ammons said.

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
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