Tourism Tuesdays February 5, 2019

National Geographic Traveler does 12-page feature article on Alabama and the U.S. Civil Rights Trail

20 ways to celebrate the Alabama Bicentennial

Postal Service to issue Alabama forever stamp

Building partnerships in the tourism industry

Marriott Traveler: Explore the Civil Rights Trail in Montgomery, Alabama

Alabama Bass Trail’s return to Lake Martin promises boatloads of fish and money

Hollywood comes to Oakman, Alabama

Enhancing Alabama Bird Watching through Fiberglass Embedded (FE) Signs

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


National Geographic Traveler does 12-page feature article on Alabama and the U.S. Civil Rights Trail
Editors Note: Brian Jones with the state tourism department met with National Geographic Traveler editor George Stone about the newly launched U.S. Civil Rights Trail last January at the International Media Marketplace in New York. Stone decided to send Brooklyn-based writer and frequent contributor Glynn Pogue to the state last spring to do a feature story on major civil rights sites.

The 12-page article “Southern Routes” by Pogue with photography by Birmingham native Art Meripol appears in the February/March issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. It is the highlighted travel story on and is being featured on National Geographic social media channels.

National Geographic Traveler magazine attracts 10.4 million readers and was recognized by the Society of American Travel Writers with the Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Magazine. has 12.7 million U.S. visitors and 19.5 million global visitors. Nat Geo Travel is the #1 ranked social-travel brand with 5.4 million followers on Facebook, 6.7 million Twitter followers and 25.75 million Instagram followers.

The article details Pogue’s trip through Alabama as she embarks on a personal voyage to experience the sites, the culture and the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the state.

Vickie Ashford with the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, Meg Lewis with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and Sheryl Smedley with the Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce worked with Jones to plan the trip for Pogue.

From the article “Southern Routes- Discover the new U.S. Civil Rights Trail- a testimony to perseverance” by Glynn Pogue in National Geographic Traveler:

“THE LEMONADE AIN’T ready yet, sweetie,” the cashier says. “We got sweet tea, though.”

It’s 11 a.m. at Eagle’s restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama. I can see women in the kitchen squeezing the juice out of bright yellow lemons into a giant plastic vat. This wasn’t going to be some Country Time powdered mix. It was going to be fresh.

A soul food joint just off I-65 in the northern part of the city, Eagle’s has been black-owned and family-operated since it opened its doors in 1951, 40 years before I was born. On the walls are faded pictures of the athletes and politicians who’ve dined here. It’s early for this buffet of oxtails, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, collard greens, candied yams, and spaghetti in tomato sauce. But since my dad and I have only just begun our Alabama road trip, the novelty of having soul food for every meal is overpowering. I order the sweet tea.

My father sits at one of the restaurant’s six vinyl booths, eyeglasses lifted onto his forehead, squinting down at a Google map on his iPhone that traces our path from Birmingham to Selma to Montgomery. I’ve never been to the Deep South before, but I’m here now to visit historic sites along the recently inaugurated U.S. Civil Rights Trail, a conceptual pathway that links 130 museums, churches, courthouses, and other places that have contributed to the advancement of social equality in this country.

The trail includes Topeka, Kansas — the site of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case — and Memphis, Tennessee, where, just a few weeks prior to my trip, thousands of people flocked to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s, death and to mark the opening of the new National Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated.

Nearly a quarter of the trail’s sites are in Alabama, a place many consider ground zero for the civil rights movement. The trail covers the attacks on Freedom Riders, the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March, and the Montgomery street corner where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. Birmingham itself was nicknamed “Bombingham” in the 1950s for the sticks of dynamite set off by racists at the homes of black activists and at public gathering spaces, including the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls lost their lives.

I break a piece of cornbread and watch steam rise from the middle. My family has roots below the Mason-Dixon line, but I’m a die-hard Brooklyn girl who spent my adolescent years pretending to be from the Caribbean, because that’s where most of the black kids in my elementary school were from. They’d always tease me that, as a black American, I had “no culture.” And for a while, I believed them. It had me questioning early on what it meant to be not just black in America, but to be black and American.

I think about that now, sitting here in Eagle’s, eating food prepared by women who remind me of women in my own family. This food is so clearly of a culture, with a specific way to be enjoyed. I know to bow my head and thank the hands that prepared it before I eat it; I know to put hot sauce on the mac and cheese, a little vinegar on the greens; I know that when I’m done, I’ll probably need a nap. It’s this knowledge that makes the South seem like home to me, despite my geographical distance from the region. I sensed it immediately at Eagle’s, an unspoken message: “I see you, respect you, affirm you.”

I’m road tripping with my dad to see if this kind of deep-seated connectedness is something I’ll find throughout Alabama. And I’m on a quest to bridge what I have learned about black history and culture with what I can feel of it in a place steeped in the foods, religion, and rich traditions of my people.

On our way out of Eagle’s, the cashier rushes over with a cup of lemonade. “It’s on the house, sweetie,” she says. I smile. I’ve just gotten my first taste of Southern hospitality.

In Birmingham, we stay at the 14-story Redmont, Alabama’s oldest operating hotel. It’s all about vaulted ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and doormen who still wear pillbox hats and jackets. Typically I’d find this charming. But now the period details are a reminder that back when the Redmont was built, in 1925, my father and I wouldn’t have been able to get a room. Instead, we would have been directed to the Gaston Motel, one of the numerous businesses owned by A.G. Gaston, an Alabama native who, by 1960, was considered the “richest black man in America.”

Bombed once, the Gaston was a meeting point for civil rights marchers. Room 30, where King stayed, was notably dubbed the “war room.” Situated near Fourth Avenue, the motel anchored this historic black business sector, which saw its height during the civil rights era but traces its roots to the early 1900s. At that time, locals and those passing through could find places to rest and eat, and maybe get a haircut or shoe shine. There are plans to rehabilitate the long-shuttered motel as an annex to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Little remains of Fourth Avenue’s vitality. At Green Acres Cafe, one of the last remaining black-owned businesses from the civil rights era, we order fish sandwiches — whiting fried hard, doused in hot sauce and ketchup, between two slices of white bread, just the way I’d had them growing up. We sit on a bench outside to eat. I imagine a Fourth Avenue as it once was: black folks shopping, dining, being enterprising, being. I am struck by the power in this conjured scene.

“You know black people invented bed-and-breakfasts, right?” my father says as we drive to Selma, less than two hours south of Birmingham.

I tilt my head to the side, “For real?”

“Well, not exactly. It’s just my theory, because we could never stay nowhere. That’s what the Green Book was for, so we’d know exactly where to go and not to go.”

The Negro Motorist Green Book was an annual guide for African-American road-trippers. Published by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green, the book was made up of personal testimonials from one black traveler to another. Readers could flip through pages of recommended establishments to discover where they could have a warm meal — not just the fried chicken they’d stashed in a shoe box in case the next eatery serving black folks was miles away — or where they could use a real bathroom, instead of going by the side of the road, or in a “pee can.” Rest stops were a no-go, as were certain cities after dark. Those were called Sundown Towns, and the Green Book advised black travelers to drive on.

My father and I have spent lots of time together in cars, driving up and down highways and parkways in the northeast, shuttling groceries and antique furniture to and from the five bed-and-breakfasts my family operates. The only fight we ever get into is over the radio: I always want a hip hop station, he insists on NPR. While we haven’t felt particularly unsafe on the road in Alabama, my father does make a point of putting on his U.S. Navy Veteran hat before we go out each day.

Only 6 in 1964, when Jim Crow laws ended in the South, my father experienced the civil rights movement mainly by watching Dr. King give speeches on TV. During the annual road trips he and his family took to South Carolina to visit relatives, he would see signs declaring “You Are Now Entering Klan Territory,” and he’d be filled with a fear he didn’t understand because on the East Coast Army bases where he grew up, pecking order was based more on military rank than race. “Everyone was cool with everyone, especially the kids,” he said. “black, white, it didn’t matter.”

As we approach Selma, a small town of around 18,000 people, I shoot a text to Thelma Dianne Harris, a 69-year-old Selma native and former student activist in the Voting Rights March. Ms. Harris now offers tours of Selma’s civil rights landmarks; I found her on Facebook, and we’ve been talking over the phone for a few weeks. She had helped me track down a Black-owned homestay in town.

I meet her on the steps of Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, the starting point for the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. She’s a petite woman with a soft voice and warm smile. Her hair, makeup, and clothes are styled in a careful way that reminds me of every older woman in my family. We hug like best friends.

“Welcome to Selma,” she says, proudly.

Throughout our journey, my father keeps saying that the places we’re visiting are on “hallowed ground.” It becomes his mantra. Inside Brown Chapel, we take seats in a wooden pew near the front. The wood is worn down to a softness that makes me think about the bodies that once filled these same seats. What were they feeling when they sat here? Joy? Anger? Mourning? Righteousness? All were possible in the civil rights era, when the church wasn’t just a place to go for Sunday service but a safe space to organize demonstrations and share resources. It’s why churches were, and are, targets of hate groups determined to thwart progress and spread fear.

Later that afternoon, Ms. Harris brings us to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “I remember the day so well,” she says. “I was 15.” She’s referring to March 7, 1965, or “Bloody Sunday.” That day, some 600 demonstrators attempted to cross the Pettus Bridge on a march from Selma to Montgomery to demand voting rights.

The demonstrators’ plan was to march to the Capitol building in Montgomery and bring their case directly to Alabama Governor George Wallace. When they got to the bridge, which sits at the edge of Selma’s city limits, “there was a mob, and they started attacking marchers at the front, beating them with bats and pipes. There was tear gas in the air,” she tells us.

Ms. Harris was marching with her brother and they started running, trailed by a policeman on horseback. “All I kept telling myself was ‘just get back to the church, just get back to the church.’” Fourteen days later, on March 21, demonstrators successfully crossed the bridge, arriving in Montgomery on March 25. Ms. Harris was among the 25,000 demonstrators in Montgomery that day.

As a young girl, I knew the civil rights movement as names, places, and dates I needed to memorize to pass quizzes during Black History Month. But listening to Ms. Harris’s stories, this distant history seems suddenly tangible.

The next morning, we wake up in the home Ms. Harris helped us find. It’s a shotgun-style house with a coziness that feels like families have made memories here. Of all the places we would stay in Alabama, this will be our favorite. Although our host, Mark, isn’t physically there, his presence is everywhere. There are little notes on the fridge and cabinets that encourage us to help ourselves to snacks. When we check out, I’ll foolishly leave my ID behind, and Mark will priority-mail it to my Brooklyn apartment. When I email him to say thank you, he replies with a nod to the world of Black Panther, “That’s what we do in Wakanda. We look out for each other.”

I read online that the Old Live Oak Cemetery, not too far away, is dripping in Spanish moss and I decide we have to check it out.

Driving up the gravel entrance to the cemetery, we see a lot of moss — as well as Confederate flags neatly dotting every grave in sight. When the wind blows, they flap in a flurry of red. They seem to me like flags of a foreign country.

We discover a headstone for Edmund Pettus, for whom the bridge was named. The stone indicates that he was a general in the Confederacy; above the inscription is an iron Ku Klux Klan cross. Pettus was a Grand Dragon of the KKK.

As we walk further into the cemetery, we run into a towering statue of a Confederate soldier, north-facing cannons, and a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan. We are standing at Confederate Circle, a commemorative plot commissioned in 1877.

Are these flags and statues reminders of an ugly racist past, or are they emblems of a history we should never forget? I have trouble divorcing the heritage from the hate. Student groups in Selma have rallied to remove the Forrest statue, but the land has long been managed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group that says it “totally denounces any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy,” and only wants to “honor the memory” of their ancestors. As my father and I pull out of Live Oak, a woman sitting idly in a car near the monument smiles and waves at us. I notice the UDC logo is printed on her car’s fuel door.

The last city on our Southern road trip is Montgomery, where we arrange a tour with Michelle Browder, a painter and activist who was raised in Alabama, and who founded I Am More Than…, a non-profit organization that helps young people gain entrepreneurial skills and training as tour guides. Browder is a boisterous black woman with big hair and a bright red pair of cat-eye glasses. She’s sharp, candid, and seemingly knows everyone in Montgomery. We climb into her golf cart, which sports a decal of her signature glasses. She takes us to the Court Square-Dexter Avenue Historic District and explains that it’s a hotbed of history — the Winter Building, which sits on the circle, is where the telegram calling for the strike on Fort Sumter, which triggered the Civil War, was transmitted. Rosa Parks was arrested on the opposite corner and, most jarring for me, the entire circle was once where blacks were auctioned off during the slave trade.

Browder swings her cart up Dexter Avenue near the Alabama State Capitol grounds to cut across town. As she does, we notice at least 25 men standing on the Capitol lawn. Long-haired and dressed in leather, they each carry large Confederate and Alabama state flags. A man declares through a bullhorn that his “right to carry guns shouldn’t be hindered by liberals.”

Then we look to our right and see a party of people dressed in traditional Civil War-era clothing filling the lawn of the First White House of the Confederacy, which served as the executive residence of President Jefferson Davis when Montgomery was the capital of the Confederate States of America. It’s at least 85 degrees outside, and men are in three-piece suits and top hats. Women wear big hoop skirts and intricate lace blouses. The scene is surreal. Sandwiched by both gatherings, I feel torn between past and present.

Browder turns to us. “I’m embarrassed,” she says. All afternoon she’d been showing us around her city, telling us how far they had come: the newly renovated retail and community space in the once segregated Kress department store, the work Bryan Stevenson is doing at the Equal Justice Initiative, headquartered in downtown Montgomery. Real progress, often complicated.

“I think I know what will make us feel better,” Browder says, restarting her cart. We putter wordlessly across a few avenues and stop at the Malden Brothers Barber Shop, where Martin Luther King, Jr., regularly had his haircut. The space is quiet, save for the hum of the clippers. The wood-paneled walls are cluttered with pictures of King and the many other notable individuals who’ve had their hair cut here. There are posters from President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign beside a vintage “Colored Waiting Room” sign.

“How y’all doing this afternoon?” the barber asks us, dusting away stray hairs from the neck of his client with a soft brush. The familiarity of the place eases the disquiet of moments before. I’m not sure how to answer, so I nod and say “Doing alright.”

My road trip has been a seesaw of the familiar and the strange. The Civil Rights Trail is a powerful testimony to the legacy of my people’s perseverance. It says to those who fought, and continue to fight, injustice: I see you. I respect you. I affirm you. But if this journey has taught me anything, other than that I really like hush puppies and sweet tea, it’s that in America it’s possible to feel wholly at home and yet strangely removed at the same time.

As my father and I head back north, I remember something a woman I met at Selma’s Brown Chapel said, lamenting the decline in church membership. “A lot of young people have moved to bigger cities for work, or they just aren’t interested in coming,” she said. “We wish they knew this was a place for them. Perhaps things would be better if they did.”

In her words I hear a message that extends beyond the church and beyond Alabama. The message is partly an open invitation: When you journey into the past, you gain a glimpse into the future. Make it better.

For the complete article please see:

20 ways to celebrate the Alabama Bicentennial
From the article by Mary Colurso on

Alabama became the nation’s 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819. To mark the 200th anniversary of that occasion, a wealth of events are planned here this year, from festivals to concerts to historical exhibits. More than 400 events statewide are linked to the bicentennial, including annual events that are simply happening during the bicentennial year. The list can be overwhelming, so we asked the Alabama Tourism Department to pinpoint 20 events that are special, significant, important or especially worthy of your attention.

“We are commemorating Alabama’s 200th anniversary of statehood with a celebration of our state’s natural beauty, diverse people and rich history,” the Alabama bicentennial website says. “Alabama 200 will engage residents and visitors in educational programs, community activities and statewide initiatives that teach, inspire, and entertain.”

“Our Shared Heritage: Alabama artists from the collection”
“Wade Hall Postcards: Historical Scenes of Alabama”
“Focus on genealogy”
“Alabama Justice: The cases and faces that changed a nation”
Alabama statehood stamp, first day of issue
Opening of Constitution Hall Park
Tuscaloosa Bicentennial Bash
“Making Alabama: A Bicentennial traveling exhibit”
“We the People: Alabama’s defining documents”
Re-enactment of the visit by President James Monroe
Alabama Bicentennial Juneteenth Celebration
Moon landing celebration in Huntsville
Ride Alabama Bicentennial Cycling Weekend: The Civil Rights Trail
Old St. Stephens Days Bicentennial Year Celebration
Native American Festival
Uncovering Cahawba’s capitol
“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” opera
Montgomery Time capsule opening
Birmingham Children’s Bell event
Bicentennial Culmination in Montgomery

For the complete article please see

Postal Service to issue Alabama forever stamp
From the article on

The U.S. Postal Service is helping Alabama celebrate its bicentennial with a new forever stamp.

Alabama became the 22nd state in the union on Dec. 14, 1819. News of the stamp is being shared with the hashtags #AlabamaStamp and #Alabama200.

The release event is Feb. 23.

A news release from the Postal Service notes Alabama’s history from its earliest inhabitants and settlement by European colonists to its significant role in the civil rights movement and its participation in the nation’s space program.

The state was at the center of many important events in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, including the 1965 Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, a route now commemorated as a National Historic Trail.

The Alabama statehood stamp features an existing photograph taken at sunset on May 28, 2017, in Cheaha State Park. Alabama photographer Joe Miller shot the picture from the park’s Pulpit Rock Trail. Art Director William Gicker designed the stamp.

The Alabama Statehood stamp is being issued as a forever stamp and will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

For the complete article please see

Building partnerships in the tourism industry
From the article by John Dersham on

In the tourism industry, networking and relationship building is everything. Our industry consists of several primary organizations that interweave responsibilities with volunteerism, networking and cross promotion. DeKalb Tourism is a small non-profit legislated by the state as the official Information and Destination Marketing Organization for DeKalb County. It is critical to our success to be actively involved in the other regional and state organizations that promote tourism. Our voice is heard and our county is promoted by these organizations that are dedicated to promoting at regional or state level. Now during our Alabama 200 Bicentennial year our engagement with our tourism partners statewide is even more critical than in an average year.

Here is how it works: DeKalb Tourism only promotes businesses or attractions located in DeKalb County. Our funding comes from lodging taxes that are charged in DeKalb. Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association is legislated to promote the northern 16 counties in Alabama, including DeKalb. They are funded from a small lodging tax coming from all lodging in the northern 16 counties. The state of Alabama Department of Travel and Tourism promotes all tourism related businesses in Alabama. They are funded by a portion of the lodging tax collected at all lodging facilities in Alabama. It is the layering effect that gives a small organization likes ours a much higher profile because in addition to us advertising ourselves, the other organizations with higher advertising dollars promote us too. Our job at DeKalb Tourism is to educate and inform our potential visitors and our current visitors on all the things to see and do while they are here. We operate a seven-day a week Information Center where visitors can come in or call to get information about our area in printed form or from our internet site or by phone. Alabama Mountain Lakes includes our information in their travel guides and in their overall outside advertising and website. They also represent us at major trade shows where our information is passed on to potential visitors to North Alabama. The state runs ads for us too, but those are done out of state to bring people to Alabama of which our area is one of the visitor choices.

For the complete article please see

Marriott Traveler: Explore the Civil Rights Trail in Montgomery, Alabama
Editor’s Note: Travel journalist Adrienne Jordan visited Montgomery in October on a trip arranged by Brian Jones with the state tourism department.  This is the second article Jordan has written on civil rights sites in Montgomery.  Her first article “Get Your Steps in on Montgomery’s Civil Rights Trail appeared in Forbes in November.

From the article “Explore the Civil Rights Trail in Montgomery, Alabama” by Adrienne Jordan in Marriott Traveler:

From the Rosa Parks Museum, which sits in the very location where she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in which Dr. King served as head pastor, Montgomery, Alabama, has several key sites that were climactic in the civil rights movement.

See the memorials, museums and civil rights landmarks that are plentiful throughout Montgomery.

EJI Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice
The Equal Justice Initiative is a Montgomery-based nonprofit organization that challenges racial injustice and mass incarceration of black people. The organization sponsored the National Memorial for Peace and Justice that opened in the spring of 2018 and traces the legacy of lynching in post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow America to the country’s current state of mass incarceration.

At the EJI Museum, you take in multimedia exhibits like a little-seen interview given by Dr. King that explains the economic trappings of black people during that time period. There are also emotional exhibits, like a case filled with jars that display different soils where lynchings took place.

The six-acre memorial honors the 4,000 black people (that were recorded) who were murdered by white people in the South. The memorial ground gradually slopes, and you begin to look up at the suspended steel columns that are inscribed with the names of victims by county.

Dexter Parsonage Museum
Twelve pastors served as leaders in the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church between 1920 and 1995 and lived in what is now the Dexter Parsonage Museum. When Dr. King was head pastor, his family lived at Dexter Parsonage.

The nine-room clapboard Parsonage dates back to 1912. It has been restored to look as it did when Dr. King and his family resided there. During a tour of the museum, you will see furniture in the living room, dining room, bedroom and study that was actually used by the civil rights icon.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church is a National Historic Landmark and appears as it did when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor from 1954 to 1960. The church dates back to 1883 and was the site of mass meetings to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Some call the church the birthplace of the civil rights movement, and today, the church offers guided tours of the historic space, and visitors are welcome to join Sunday worship services — enjoying sermons and gospel renditions while sitting among the pews.

Rosa Parks Museum
In 1955, Rosa Parks changed history by sitting in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama, public bus – a seat that was exclusively reserved for white people. The Rosa Parks Museum was designed and built at the site where she was arrested for her refusal to give up the seat.

Visitors can see historic markers outside the museum that designate that pivotal moment in history, as well as inside the museum, where there are several interactive tours for guests. In addition to a 1955-era station wagon used to transport Freedom Fighters, the collection contains the original arrest report of Rosa Parks, court documents, and a replica bus from the ’50s, similar to the one Parks rode.

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Only a 45-minute drive from Montgomery, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which is now a National Historic Landmark, was the site of the brutal Bloody Sunday beatings of civil rights marchers.

In the town of Selma, you can walk across the bridge where the televised attacks sparked mass support for nondiscriminatory suffrage. The drive from Montgomery to the Edmund Pettus Bridge is a poignant experience, as travelers see the road along which civil rights heroes marched 54 miles from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Bass Trail’s return to Lake Martin promises boatloads of fish and money
From the article by Cliff Williams on

The Alabama Bass Trail returns to Lake Martin in two weeks promising boatloads of fish and economic impact.

While the winning anglers will likely catch their five-fish limit in the 20-pound range, the boats and most importantly their owners mean an economic boom to the area.

“We estimate we will see 500 room nights for the Lake Martin stop,” Alabama Bass Trail director Kay Donaldson said. “We also estimate the economic impact to be over $375,000. Those are conservative numbers.”

To recruit the Alabama Bass Trail, the City of Alexander City put up funds to help bring the event to town, just as it did for the last several years and for other fishing tournaments such as the Bassmaster Elite series in 2018.

“The city is putting up to $10,000,” Alexander City Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ed Collari said. “$7,500 is for tournament fees, the rest is for the event we do on Friday evening at CACC for snacks and such and for hotel rooms we have to provide.

Donaldson said the room nights are up because of new anglers to the series and the distance they travel to compete.

“We have 50 to 60 new anglers this year,” Donaldson said. “They are coming not only from Alabama. They are coming from Florida and Georgia as well.”

Surveys of anglers from previous stops at Lake Martin by the Alabama Bass Trail back up Donaldson’s statement. In 2017, 450 anglers were in town mostly from Alabama and stayed 302 room nights. They also brought an estimated 230 guests with them.

“The anglers from out of state will start showing up Wednesday,” Donaldson said. “Others will come in Thursday and Friday. The room nights add up quickly.”

The Alabama Bass Trail is a two-division series divided into North and South divisions with five tournaments each. Qualified anglers then compete in a combined event to determine a champion. The south division features 225 pre-qualified boats.

“The South Trail filled up in 16 days,” Donaldson said. “They registered in August and have been anticipating this for six months.”

Donaldson said the weekend before the Feb. 16 fishing tournament will also be beneficial to the economy of the area.

“Some will come to town the weekend before,” she said. “You will see extra boat traffic. They may or may not spend the night, but they will be spending money on gas and food.”

Collari said the Alabama Bass Trail does a great job of tracking the money spent by anglers.

“To Kay and ABT’s credit, they do a great job of getting anglers to fill out surveys,” Collari said.

Those surveys on economic impact will only improve.

“We will have Jacksonville State on site this year at all of our tournaments,” Donaldson said. “They will be asking more questions and getting more information.”

The extra information is much-needed data in trying to figure out the needs for the tourism industry the area is just starting to tap into.

“It makes a lot of sense to do these fishing tournaments and to continue doing these,” Collari said. “It’s a pretty good return on investment.”

Collari said tourism is one of the things the community should be promoting.

“One of the reasons for promoting tourism is it’s an untapped asset in the area,” Collari said. “A lot of communities are doing it. One advantage we have is Lake Martin. If we can do it well, it will benefit our restaurants, hotels and shops.”

For the complete article please see

Hollywood comes to Oakman, Alabama
From the article by James Phillips on

For a handful of days over the last two weeks, Old York, U.S.A., in Oakman has transformed into the old West for a major motion picture currently filming in Alabama.

“Hell on the Border” is an action-thriller set in the late 1800s. It is based on the true life of Bass Reeves, an illiterate former slave who became the first black deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River. The film stars Ron Perlman, Frank Grillo and David Gyasi as Reeves. It is directed by Wes Miller.

Richard “Bull” Corry, owner of Old York and the adjacent Bull Pen restaurant, said several smaller productions have been shot at his location over the years, but this was the first large-budget, feature-length film.

“They were going to be filming in the Birmingham area and found out about us on the Internet,” Corry said. “Producers contacted me, and they felt like it was the perfect location for their movie. It was exciting for us, but I look at it as a way to showcase not only Old York and Oakman, but all of Walker County.”

Corry said he was more excited about the film when he read the true story of Reeves to find out that he served as a lawman in the same Indian territory where Benjamin Franklin “B.F.” Corry served as a prosecutor.

“B.F. was my great grandfather, and I’m sure they had to have crossed paths at some point between being a marshal and a prosecutor,” Corry said.

The film has also shot at locations in downtown Bessemer as well as at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in McCalla. Producer Henry Penzi said the time he has spent at Old York has been the most enjoyable of the shoot.

“This is a great location. It looks like an old Western town, and that was exactly what we needed,” Penzi said. “We have gotten some great shots here, and getting to spend time with Bull Corry and his family has made it even more special for us. I have made some new friends for life.”

Penzi is a producer and actor who lives in Beverly Hills. He is also a talent manager who currently represents New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and has represented Hollywood stars such as Pamela Anderson in the past.

“We’ve all enjoyed our time here (in Oakman),” Penzi said. “The hospitality we’ve been shown here has been incredible.”

Penzi even hinted that he would like to return to film other projects at Old York.

“It’s a great place, and I’m surprised we are the first major film to be here,” he added.

Tommy Fell, location coordinator for the Alabama Film Office, said Old York and other areas of Walker County have been on the radar for film projects in the past, but this was the first bigger-budget film to come to the area.

“There is a lot happening in the Birmingham area right now as far as film production goes, and once they get to Birmingham, they start exploring the nearby areas for places that would fit what they are looking for,” Fell said. “We have had some big projects in the past look at Jasper and the area around there, but it just wasn’t the right fit for them. From my understanding, this shoot has been a positive for everyone involved, so that is a good thing and could mean more films will come to the area in the future.”

Fell said he knows other projects are already looking at Old York.

“There are a couple of other things in the works that I can’t give any specifics about, but I don’t expect this to be the last project to film there or at other places in Walker County,” he said. “There are some great locations in that area that can double for many other parts of the country.”

Corry confirmed that another production company was holding a test shoot on his property while “Hell on the Border” was being filmed there.

“We have had some discussions with another group, and that movie has some really recognizable names, but I can’t say much about it because they haven’t decided if they are going to film here or not,” Corry said.

By the time filming wrapped in Oakman in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Corry even found himself in the film.

“They needed an extra for a scene that Ron Perlman was filming,” Corry said. “They sent me to wardrobe. They called the director and asked what they could do to make me fit the part any better. They just handed me a hat.”

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Enhancing Alabama Bird Watching through Fiberglass Embedded (FE) Signs
Due to its geographical location, Alabama is an attractive location for bird watchers to visit. The state is a haven for many resident birds found only in the Southeastern U.S., plus serves as a significant flyway for birds traveling from South and Central America all the way to the Arctic Circle. The Alabama Birding Trails project covers nearly 300 locations across the state that have been deemed premier birding sites by seasoned birders and naturalists. One of the cornerstones of the project is interpretive panels at locations statewide. To date, Pannier has manufactured nearly 30 outdoor exhibits with future plans for additional waysides.

The Alabama Birding Trails project started nearly 20 years ago along the Gulf Coast with 50 locations. Since that time, the initiative has grown to cover every corner of the state, focusing on 280 public locations with low-profile displays being added to enhance the overall experience for bird watchers. Visitors will find that each Fiberglass Embedded (FE) graphic serves a different purpose. While some wayfinding panels provide guidance, others are educational signs providing assistance with bird identification. There are also traditional interpretive signs that include information about soaring birds, habitat and location history.

As a whole, the Alabama Birding Trails project has played a major role in protecting over 430 species of birds and increasing educational opportunities for schools, families and bird watchers. The project has helped to highlight locations as birding hotspots which has saved them from being lost to development. They’ve also featured bird releases and introduced a series of exciting posters in Alabama school systems. Most importantly, the program has highlighted the ways that ecological tourism can mean economic development and increased revenue to communities across Alabama. To learn more, visit To learn more, visit

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Is your event recurring? Here’s how to submit an event that occurs weekly or monthly. Begin by entering the start date, end date, and time of event. Then, select “Repeat Event.” Choose “Weekly” plus select every week or every two weeks; or choose “Monthly” and select the day of the month the event repeats. Finally, finish creating your event by adding a detailed description, photos, and video and submit the event for approval.

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