Tourism Tuesdays October 9, 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 

Travel South shows selling out 

3 Alabama attractions to celebrate 50th anniversaries in 2019 

New Decatur-Morgan County Tourism director: Tourism impacts jobs, spending, tax revenue 

Monroeville’s Old Courthouse Museum houses spirits of authors Harper Lee, Truman Capote 

Music study about promoting cooperation 

“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 

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 $175 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 $175 as well. 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. Registration is $150 per person. To register for the Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference, visit

Travel South shows selling out
First it was the Travel South International Showcase in Nashville that sold out. Now Travel South Domestic Showcase is predicted to sell out as well. According to an email sent by Travel South on Tuesday, the tourism marketplace show in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has already received more than 200 registrations and will sell out well before Dec. 7, the date their early bird special ends. Once it has reached sell-out status, additional registrations from DMOs, attractions, hotels and tours cannot be accepted.

For the first time ever, the Travel South Domestic Showcase will have an exclusive media marketplace as well as a tour operator marketplace. To register for Travel South Domestic Markeplace, go to

3 Alabama attractions to celebrate 50th anniversaries in 2019
From the article by Dave Bodle on

What makes July 20, 1969 an important date in world history? What are the origins of the certified gold record Take a Letter Maria? What happened Sept. 14, 1969 that resulted from a casual conversation? The answers to these questions can be found in Huntsville, Muscle Shoals and Talladega, Alabama.

Apollo 11 Moon Mission
There’s every reason to visit Huntsville and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in 2019. The citywide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon mission takes place throughout the year. It will pay tribute to the significant role of the U.S. Army, Dr. Werner von Braun, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Huntsville workforce in America’s effort to land on the moon and return safely.

With Huntsville’s NASA Marshall Space Flight Center playing such a pivotal role in building the Saturn V rocket, it’s natural that “Rocket City,” nicknamed for its achievements in aerospace, is hosting next year’s celebration. Plans for Apollo 11 anniversary and Alabama Bicentennial events are underway, with significant dates already in place.

Panoply Arts Festival, set for the last weekend in April, is one of the premier arts weekends in the Southeast. Held in downtown Huntsville’s Big Spring International Park, it’s a culmination of art, music, culture and dance. Panoply 2019 themes are Alabama Bicentennial and Lunar Landing. Apollo 11 mission anniversary week (July 15-20) will include the Celebration Car Show and a concert on July 20, moon-landing day. Other events are an attempt at a Guinness World Record for the most simultaneous rocket launches, the Apollo Homecoming Dinner at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and dancing in the streets at Courthouse Square.

The majority of area attractions are planning to be part of the celebration. A calendar of events, activities, and conferences relating to the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Celebration can be found at the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau website, To make Huntsville a part of your Alabama itinerary, call Pam Williams at 866-372-2478.

Talladega Superspeedway
In the mid-1960s a conversation between Bill Ward, a racecar driver, insurance executive and fan, and NASCAR founder Bill France touched on the possibility of building a speedway in Alabama. That dream became a reality on Sept. 13, 1969, when Ken Rush drove his Camaro to victory in the ’Bama 400 Grand Touring race at the International Motor Speedway. The next day Richard Brickhouse won the first Talladega 500. In 1989 the track’s name was changed, and September 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Talladega Superspeedway.

After that casual conversation, the wheels began to turn. In north Talladega County, Ward found what he believed was the perfect speedway location. The land was near an airport the City of Talladega had bought from the U.S. government shortly after the conclusion of WW II. The remainder of the land was good for soybean farming. Ward took his message to Mayor James Hardwick and other city officials, and that was followed by a trip to the Firecracker 500 in Daytona to observe the potential economic impact. That’s all it took, and construction began in May 1968 on the 2,000-acre site.

Today, the track hosts April’s GEICO 500, a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Stock Car race, and competition returns in October with the 500. From its very first race in 1969, Talladega surpassed expectations in terms of size, speed and competition. That’s earned ’dega the reputation as “NASCAR’s Biggest & Baddest Track.” Group events for 10 or more are perfect for churches, alumni associations, schools, family reunions and tours. Even if your group cannot make race day, the NASCAR Driving Experience and Richard Petty Driving Experience are about as real as it gets. Begin planning to be a part of the 50th anniversary

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
On Aug. 19, 1969, R.B. Greaves, an American soul singer, walked into Muscles Shoals Sound Studio to record the song he had written, Take a Letter Maria. It’s a sad story of infidelity that Greaves recently had experienced. The separation letter is being dictated to Maria, his secretary. Further along in the letter things get better, and he asks Maria to dinner in order to “start a new life.” Greaves’ new life started after the song’s release in September. It gained regular play and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 list with sales totaling $2.5 million by 1970.

That song was the first hit that Muscle Shoals Sound Studio recorded and released, and on Aug. 29, 2019, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the event. In 1969 a group of musicians known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section started the operation in competition with FAME Studios. Known as the Swampers, they played more than 500 recording sessions from soul and blues to rock & roll and country. In 1995 the four founding members—Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson—were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008 recognized the four founders along with six other Swamper musicians.

The studio cranked out hits with the Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Rod Stewart, the Staple Singers and dozens more music legends. A virtual Who’s Who in the recording industry passed through the studio’s doors. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio moved from its original location at 3614 Jackson Highway to 1000 Alabama Avenue, Sheffield, in April 1979. In 1985 it closed and was sold to a friend, Tommy Couch, owner of Malaco Records in Jackson, Mississippi. After a significant restoration, the studio re-opened in 2017 thanks to a generous grant from the Sustain the Sound arm of Beats Electronics.

Discovering the history of Shoals music is best done on a one-day tour suggested by Florence/Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at Reach out to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio directly at 256-978-5151.

For the complete article please see

New Decatur-Morgan County Tourism director: Tourism impacts jobs, spending, tax revenue
From the article by Marian Accord on

Morgan County has seen steady increases in lodging tax revenue and travel-related earnings and jobs, and the new CEO of Decatur-Morgan County Tourism is counting on that growth to continue.

“People may not realize the economic impact tourism has on the community,” said Danielle Gibson, the president and CEO of Decatur-Morgan County Tourism. “Not only does tourism bring in lodging taxes, it also brings in more jobs, more money spent in your town.”

Gibson, who joined the tourism organization in May, was previously Hartselle’s chamber president for 2.5 years.

“This past year, we had 2,287 direct and indirect travel-related jobs in Morgan County,” Gibson said. “That was a 10 percent increase from 2016,” when the number of direct and indirect travel-related jobs was 2,080, up from 1,903 in 2015.

The county’s travel-related earnings have been on a steady climb: $45.4 million in 2015, $48.6 million in 2016 and $52.2 million in 2017, according to Alabama Tourism Department data.

The state’s north region is also seeing higher travel spending, reaching nearly $2.7 billion last year.

Tami Reist, the president and CEO of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, which covers the state’s 16 northern counties, expects travel spending to increase again this year.

The Alabama Tourism Department’s figures also show Morgan County’s lodging tax revenue was $799,155 in 2015, $901,810 in 2016 and $1.05 million in 2017.

“We’re seeing some pretty substantial growth here in Morgan County (in lodging taxes), and we want to continue that trend,” Gibson said.

Lodging tax revenue is crucial to her organization’s operation, Gibson said.

“We look for ways to generate room nights,” she said. “A lot of our tournaments do very, very well. We’ve found that we have such a good city and Parks and Rec Department that a lot of tournament organizers come back and maybe bring another one because they have such a good experience here.”

Recent discussions of possibly diverting some lodging tax revenue to the city was nixed by the City Council, so the tourism bureau will continue to receive 64.3 percent of the city’s lodging tax.

Mayor Tab Bowling had suggested in May that, when lodging tax revenue reaches a certain level, a larger percentage of the revenue go to the city, and the council would create an incentive package through which tourism would earn additional funding. But that change wasn’t included in the mayor’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget.

“We’re excited to have (the city’s) support,” Gibson said. With lodging tax money, “we’re able to do more shows to reach more organizers and group tour operators. We put a lot of the money we do receive back into the community in the marketing of our community.”

Tourism’s fiscal 2019 budget includes a projected $886,696 in lodging taxes and $50,000 from the Morgan County Commission, for a total projected budget of $936,696, according to Gibson.

“Fifty-eight percent of our budget is marketing, and the rest goes toward operation expenses,” she said.

Two Decatur council members recently suggested the tourism organization should change its name to reflect that 90 percent of its funding comes from the city.

City Council President Paige Bibbee and Councilwoman Kristi Hill asked the tourism bureau during recent budget talks to consider giving Decatur sole billing.

“That (decision) is going to be left up to the board,” Gibson said. “They haven’t had a chance to really discuss that yet.”

A few of the office’s latest initiatives include a new sports promotional video; a digital market campaign for the leisure traveler, targeting Birmingham, Nashville and Memphis; and the roll-out of a user-generated content campaign so people’s experiences through their photos and videos can be shared through the bureau’s social media or promotions.

“We’re working closely with the Cook Museum (of Natural Science) on their marketing to make sure we’re complementing what they’re doing,” she said.

The next large event the organization is sponsoring in Decatur — with the University of North Alabama, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association and Alabama Tourism Department — is the Trail of Tears Conference and Symposium on Oct. 26-28. This is the first time the conference has been held here.

Gibson said the tourism organization is also sponsoring a free concert by country singer/songwriter Becky Hobbs.

“Decatur-Morgan County has a lot to offer,” she said, “and getting the chance to market this area is very rewarding.

“We want people to come in and visit and we want people to feel like this is a place where they can live, bring their kids and bring their business.”

For the complete article please see

Monroeville’s Old Courthouse Museum houses spirits of authors Harper Lee, Truman Capote
From the article by Michelle Matthews on

After I parked along the square across from the OId Courthouse Museum in the heart of the sleepy town of Monroeville, I got my camera out to take a picture of the cupola, with its clocks facing all four directions. Meanwhile, a man pulled up next to me in a red pickup truck.

“Pretty building, isn’t it?” he asked.

It certainly is. Built in 1903 and 1904 and designed by Southern architect Andrew Bryan, the red brick courthouse operated until after a new one was built in 1963, according to a historical marker that stands outside. The design is “Romanesque with a Georgia influence,” and once it had a twin sister, a courthouse in LaGrange, Ga., that was destroyed in a fire.

Inside, visitors learn that the courthouse was once known as “Stallworth’s folly,” because the probate judge who commissioned it, Nicholas J. Stallworth, was blamed for spending too much money on it. “But we’re glad he built it,” a volunteer, Jean Singleton, tells me.

Though no cases have been tried there in more than half a century, the courthouse still stands proudly at the center of the town of Monroeville, known for being home to two noted authors, Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Now housing the Old Courthouse Museum, the building celebrates the city’s history and the brilliant contributions of those writers to the world beyond the little town whose streets they played on, just liked Scout, her brother Jem and their friend Dill in Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.

“When I visited, I was warmly welcomed in the lobby by Jean, who has lived in Monroeville since the 1960s. She works one day a month at the museum, directing visitors to sign the guest book and place a pin in a world map that shows just how far people have come to Monroeville, which calls itself a literary Mecca.

I signed the book right below the names of a pair of friends who’d just stopped in from California. They were touring civil rights sites in the South, Jean told me.

She took me into the former office of the last probate judge to serve in the building, E.T. “Short” Millsap, whose rocking chair still stands where he used to enjoy watching the goings-on from his office window. She also showed me a room with a sign on the transom that reads “Edwin C. Page, Attorney at Law.” After he died, Page’s daughter gave everything in the Conecuh County lawyer’s office, from the law books and glass-fronted bookcases to the double-sided desk, Dictaphone and seersucker jacket hanging on a hat rack, to the museum. It’s a place where Atticus Finch would have felt right at home as a lawyer in the 1930s.

After my introduction to the downstairs area, which also includes a large gift shop called The Bird’s Nest, I was on my own to explore the rest of the museum.

I climbed one of two creaky sets of wooden steps (there’s also an elevator) to the second floor. As I reached the first landing, through the window I spotted a mockingbird perched on the sign for the museum down below. I see mockingbirds every day at home in Mobile, but everything in this town where Harper Lee (known here by her first name, Nelle) was inspired to write “To Kill a Mockingbird” seems to take on added significance.

Upstairs, a room on one side is dedicated to Lee, while the other focuses on Truman Capote. In the Harper Lee exhibit, a 55-minute film, “Mockingbird Summers: Visits with the Citizens of Monroeville,” plays on a continuous loop. The 2006 film is slightly dated – after all, Harper Lee died a decade later, in 2016 – but it’s informative and entertaining nonetheless.

In the documentary, which is available for purchase in the gift shop, many Monroeville residents who knew Lee well tell stories about her. It’s fun to hear them talk about how, after the book was published in 1960, everyone was trying to figure out who was who – but all the characters seemed to be composites drawn from the author’s experiences and her own imagination.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” “seemed to be a gift from God to the world,” the Rev. Thomas Butts, a retired Methodist minister, says in the film. “It’s touched the lives of millions of people… all over the world.” The community, he says, was dedicated to preserving the author’s privacy.

One of my favorite “characters” in the documentary is the delightful then-Mayor Anne Farish, who served in that role for 16 years and died in 2010 at age 83. She tells a hilarious story about Gregory Peck’s 1961 visit to Monroeville. A friend lured her out of her house one night in her “Muumuu” to go peek in the window at the Wee Diner, where he was eating with Lee. Farish reports that the actor was just as handsome in person as he was in the movies.

The room features photos of Peck walking along the Monroeville streets with his new pal Lee. She also accompanied Henry Bumstead, who visited Monroeville from Hollywood to research the town and particularly the Monroe County courthouse, which would be the site of some of the movie’s most pivotal scenes. He took measurements and photographs of the courthouse and used them to create an exact replica on a California sound stage.

Peck won an Oscar for best actor for his performance as Atticus Finch, and Bumstead won an Oscar for art direction and set design.

Just across the hall, another space is devoted to Lee’s friend Truman Capote, who was born in New Orleans but grew up living with maternal aunts next door to the Lees. Their houses, which were located just a couple of blocks away on South Alabama Avenue, no longer exist – but a portion of the stone wall that surrounded Capote’s childhood home remains, along with a historical marker.

In a framed newspaper article entitled “World-Famous Authors Were Childhood Pals,” Capote is described as being “remembered here as a brilliant little boy… talking incessantly and using big words most people had never heard.”

The lobby also leads into the large, oval-shaped courtroom itself. Though the movie wasn’t filmed here, the room, with balconies on each side above, inspires reverence. Finding myself all alone in the courtroom, I walked to the front and stood behind the judge’s seat. Then I went upstairs to the balcony and sat down for a little while, imagining a time when a young Harper Lee might have sat in that same spot to watch her lawyer father, A.C. Lee, argue a case.

When you go, plan to spend at least a couple of hours at the museum – and don’t forget to wander through the gift shop. Here, you can find everything from colorful men’s ties and bow ties with a mockingbird print to original artwork, T-shirts and ceramic mugs. But there are also baby gifts, holiday-themed decor and other items you won’t find anywhere else.

While you’re at the courthouse, be sure to pick up a copy of the free “Monroeville in the 1930s” walking-tour pamphlet. There’s a lot more to explore about life as Harper Lee and Truman Capote knew it in their idyllic childhood immortalized in her book.

The museum is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $5 per person.

For the complete article please see

Music study about promoting cooperation
From the article by Russ Corey on

A public forum to discuss the live music landscape in the Shoals appears to be an effort to unify the Shoals and create a spirit of cooperation, guitarist Will McFarland said.

Steve Price, manager of the Shoals Theatre, said from 75 to 100 people attended the forum, which took place Thursday at the theater.

McFarlane likened the discussion to the old adage “a rising tide lifts all boats.

“The forum was hosted by members of Sound Diplomacy, a London, England, based company that helps cities create strategies that allow them to benefit from their musical ecosystems.

“They want to decrease the bureaucracy and let all the cities get into the same place, getting older and younger musicians on the same page,” he said. “It was in the spirit of cooperation.”

McFarlane said musicians, some recording studio personnel, and representatives of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame attended the forum. Public officials, local educators and music fans also were there.

“There were people from all walks of life,” McFarlane said.

Mayor Steve Holt, who attended the forum, said he believes Florence has addressed some of the concerns.

“We have an entertainment district; we’ve done that,” Holt said. “Food trucks, we’ve done that. I think a lot of the things they talked about we’ve already done.”

A similar study has been conducted in Huntsville, which wants to become part of the Americana Music Triangle and capitalize on tourists who pass through the area, including the Shoals.

The idea is a partnership with Huntsville would help increase tourism and create new opportunities for musicians in the Shoals and Huntsville.

“I think any city needs to look at the economic drivers in the region and in our region, it happens to be Huntsville,” Holt said.

One question Price asked, but didn’t receive an answer to, had to do with local music fans traveling out of the area for shows and their resistance to paying for local shows.

Price said he received complaints about the cost of tickets to a recent Delbert McClinton show. Tickets were priced at $30, $40 and $50.

“I looked online at every venue Delbert was playing on that tour and priced our tickets cheaper than any other venue in the country … and I got complaints about ticket prices,” Price said.

He said Sound Diplomacy CEO Shain Shapiro also discussed efforts not to step on others’ toes. Price said he tries to consider the schedules of other venues when scheduling concerts and plays.

Bassist David Hood said he and his wife, Judy, met Shapiro about two years ago. He likes what he wants to do.

“He’s trying to give people ideas about what to do to improve the situation around here,” he said. “I think it will be good if people will share their thoughts.”

Shapiro also discussed the differences between daytime and nighttime economies. The daytime economy, Hood said, is more about retail businesses, while the nighttime economy is about entertainment.

He said the entertainment industry would also benefit from uniform rules throughout the four cities.

“I am excited about this study for many reasons, especially the fact that all four cities united and committed resources for the assessment,” Judy Hood said. “Music transcends county lines, and as a community we have a lot to gain by maximizing the potential of our music assets. Hopefully, this sets the stage for other collaborative efforts in the Shoals area.”

She said the study will provide information that will help music professionals and local leaders understand the direct and indirect impacts that music has on the economy.

“We’ve made some progress in recent years, but we have only scratched the surface,” Hood said. “There is so much more that can be done when our music community and our policymakers work hand in hand.”

Shapiro shared results of the first round of discussions with local officials, educators and musicians.

While he wishes more people could have attended the event, Price is happy to see conversations like this taking place in the Shoals.

The next step, he said, will be to break down all the information gathered, have one more public forum, then a final meeting that will include recommendations.

Judy Hood said Shapiro welcomes input from anybody who has ideas that support a viable music scene. He can be contacted

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Do you have multiple locations with unique identities? It’s to your advantage to list each separately. A separate location listing with specific descriptions insures greater exposure and provides visitors more relevant travel planning information. Even multiple location listings with the same address will be individually displayed.

Need to add a location listing? Click the link to get started!



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