Tourism Tuesdays June 11, 2019

Two powerful sites challenge Larry Wheeler to contemplate our Southern history

Alabama Tourism leaders find welcoming audience at IPW show in Anaheim, California

CBS covers Monroeville version of “Mockingbird” play

Enterprise earns ‘unbollweevible’ honor

SuperChef sets for ‘Today’ show appearance

The Alabama barbecue road trip you must take this summer

Backers aim to connect communities on Tennessee River trail

2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Alabama Welcome Center Retreat 2019

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Two powerful sites challenge Larry Wheeler to contemplate our Southern history
From the article by Larry Wheeler on

I just returned from Montgomery, Alabama, where I visited the Legacy Museum and its affiliated National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Together, along with dozens of sites in the capital city, these tell the story of how slavery came to define the South, its past and present history and that of America, as well. The impact of the experience on me as a Southerner and an American was profoundly emotional, a reawakened awareness that brings both grief and guilt.

More than 835,000 African souls were auctioned in the South between 1804 and 1862, many of them in Montgomery. The purpose, as we know, was to service the cotton plantations, the backbone of the Southern economy. We all know how the Civil War came to be. What we struggle to feel fully, however, is the impact that slavery had on individual human lives, our regional value and what it means to be Southern. African families were separated from one another, placed in chains, beaten to death. Those who survived the horrors of the Civil War era were often condemned to be victims of tyranny and terror that raged through the South for nearly a century more.

The new National Memorial for Peace and Justice tells this story poignantly. Opened in April 2018 on a six-acre site overlooking downtown Montgomery, the elegant, sweeping pavilion contains more than 800 six-foot Corten steel slabs, each representing a state and county, etched with the thousands of names of victims according to the location of the murders. They hang from above. One passes through and under this mass of hanging forms representing real human beings: between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,400 racially-motivated lynchings occurred in 12 Southern states, North Carolina among them. Most of these victims were murdered because of hearsay of insults to white people. One man was hanged in 1889 for frightening a white girl, another for asking a white woman for a drink of water. The lynchings were most often mob-induced spectacles attended by the community.

The aggregate impact of the memorial is to make us feel this history. And to be sure, the experience is emotional and transformative. The surrounding gardens offer necessary opportunities for reflection and meditation with powerful works by my friend Hank Willis Thomas, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo and Dana King, and stirring words by Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Alexander and Maya Angelou. As you might have guessed, I consider this to be one of the great memorials of the world and a must-do experience for every woman, man and child. On the taxi ride back to the hotel, I asked my African-American driver if he had been to the memorial. “No,” he said, “it would be too difficult to be reminded of the reality.”

The Legacy Museum, a short ride or a long walk from the Memorial, has been created within a warehouse near the river, where slaves were incarcerated before being distributed for sale by boat or rail. The museum was founded and funded by the Equal Justice Initiative, an extraordinary organization which explores racial inequality both in the past and in the contemporary world. It is not as an afterthought that we are reminded that six million black persons migrated out of the South between 1910 and 1940. Unnerving stories are told in dramatic and engaging ways. Holograms featuring first-person accounts of the enslaved and incarcerated, video, photographs documenting racial violence and, yes, of the lynchings, are woven into the interpretive presentations. But there are also recorded dance, music and art performances which help interpret the story. One cannot help leaving the museum or memorial without feeling that we must do more to seek the truth about racial inequality. It’s easy to get caught up in romanticizing the South and our culture. There is much to be proud of in the literature, music and all the arts. And we do raise up and honor the African Americans who helped to shape this culture. But when all is said and done, there is still the history, the struggle, the discrimination, the segregation and the terror. A quote by Maya Angelou on the wall of the museum confronts us: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” My trip to Montgomery reminded me. I recommend a visit to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. While you are in Montgomery, you can also visit the Rosa Parks Museum, Martin Luther King’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and the Civil Rights Memorial Center. I encourage you to consult the websites and plan a visit.

There is a lot to think about in Montgomery. There is a lot to think about.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Tourism leaders find welcoming audience at IPW show in Anaheim, California
The IPW tourism trade show ended last week with Alabama Tourism Department and our local CVBs, attractions and hotels meeting with more than 150 the tour operators and journalists around the world.

“The Alabama booth was among the busiest from any of the Southern destinations,” said Grey Brennan, Alabama Tourism Department Deputy Director. “We had three tables set up in our booth and for almost the entire show, each table was busy with Alabama officials meeting with tour companies.” There were almost 120 tour operator appointments. In addition to the tour company meetings, Brian Jones of Alabama Tourism and Vickie Ashford of Birmingham met with 40 journalists at another location at the IPW marketplace.

The attention paid to Alabama follows recent research from Tourism Economics which showed Alabama’s growth in international visits outpaced the USA average and was ranked fifth in the nation and second in the South.

Alabama Ranked 5 in International growth in the USA
This month, the research firm Tourism Economics released preliminary 2018 international visitation statistics. That information showed Alabama ranked 5th in the nation in the percent increase of international visits with 5.8%, well ahead of the national average of 3.5%. In our region of the USA, only Tennessee had a higher growth rate.

Percent increase in International visits for 2018
1 Colorado    7.40%
2 Alaska    7.10%
3 Tennessee    6.80%
4 Washington    5.90%
5 Alabama    5.80%

Tour companies confirm Alabama is increasing in international visitors
Many tour companies meeting with Alabama tourism officials at IPW reinforced the Tourism Economics research. UK group tour company Titan Tours said their tour of the South that includes Alabama was their number one selling USA tour, for the second year in a row.

U.S. receptive company Rey Royal reported that they had sold more than 1,000 room nights in Alabama, triple the results from a year ago.

To encourage even more tourism sales to Alabama, Graham Roderick of the Alabama Tourism Department developed the Southern USA Receptive Tour Operators Fly-Drives booklet. This 20-page color brochure lists suggested trips to Alabama and surrounding Southern cities that have been priced and offered by U.S. Receptive Companies. International tour companies often buy these suggested trips and resell them to their clients.

In the booklet are two American Tours International trips; A Southern USA Music & History Tour that features Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and Gulf Shores/Orange Beach and their Rock N Roll, Rockets and Elvis trip that features Muscle Shoals, Birmingham and Huntsville.

From Rey Royal is the Authentic Southern Music Trail trip that includes Florence/Muscle Shoals, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile.

From Sweet Magnolia Tours is their Deep South Music & Heritage trip that has Alabama stops in Muscle Shoals, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile.

The U.S. Receptive company TourMappers has several trips offered. Their Southern Sojourn includes Montgomery and Mobile. Their Rockin’ Down the Highway trip includes Florence/Muscle Shoals, Tuscaloosa and Mobile. An extended trip of Civil War to Civil Rights from TourMappers includes Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery and Tuskegee while their Alabama – The New Frontier includes Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Gulf Shores/Orange Beach.  TourMappers also offers Space Camp experiences.

Many destinations were attending IPW in the Alabama booth
The Alabama Tourism Department’s manages the 30-foot by 10-foot booth space at IPW and allows Alabama DMOs, attractions and hotels space in the booth. Attending this year were; Beth Gendler of the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach CVB, Jennifer Moore of the Madison County/Huntsville CVB, Keely Law of the Marriot Shoals, Patty Kieffer of the Mobile CVB, Ron Simmons of the Montgomery CVB, Sara Hamlin and Vickie Ashford of the Greater Birmingham CVB and Tom White of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center/Space Camp joined the Alabama Tourism group of Grey Brennan, Graham Roderick, Brian Jones and Cynthia Flowers.

Also attending the show was Janin Nachtweh of the Alabama German Partnership, Andy Facer of Global Travel Marketing UK, and Springna Zhoa, Alabama Chinese Coordinator.

For more information on IPW or Alabama Tourism Department’s international marketing, contact

CBS covers Monroeville version of “Mockingbird” play
CBS Morning News aired a seven-minute story on Monroeville’s annual amateur production of the play “To Kill a Mockingbird” on June 8 after reporter Jamie Waxx visited the town.

Waxx interviewed a city employee and a black policeman who perform the key roles of attorney Atticus Finch and defendant Tom Robinson in the local production. Next year the five-week run of the play in April and May will be the 30th season.

Last Sunday night on Broadway at the Tony Awards, actress Celia Keenan-Bolger won the Tony award for best actress in a supporting role for Scout. Jeff Daniels had been nominated for his role as Atticus among a total of nine nominations for the play. Meanwhile, “Mockingbird” became the highest grossing play for advance in Broadway history.

Enterprise earns ‘unbollweevible’ honor
From the article by Michelle Mann on

“Ready to build an unbollweevible Main Street Program,” is the way Main Street Alabama announced to the public June 3 that the City of Progress was chosen for official designation as a Main Street Alabama community.

“This town with a huge heart embraces a lot of small things,” said Main Street Alabama officials in making the announcement that Enterprise is one of three communities selected this year to bear the designation.

The other cities selected June 3 are Headland, Calera and the historic Fourth Avenue Business District in Birmingham.

Enterprise will now enter into a three-year agreement with Main Street Alabama and will hire a designated Main Street Alabama Administrator, according to City of Enterprise Tourism Director Tammy Doerer. Enterprise businesses are not required to be located downtown to be a part of the Main Street Committees, which include promotions, economic vitality, design and organization, she said.

“We did it,” Doerer exclaimed upon receiving the news. “I am so thankful and proud of the support we received for this project from our city, downtown leaders and the business and community leaders all over our city.

“This has been a major undertaking and it couldn’t have been done without the contributions of all who were involved,” Doerer said crediting Downtown Enterprise Business Association member Debbie Gaydos for being an advocate for Main Street from the beginning. Also contributing to the application process in addition to the City of Enterprise and DEBA were the Wiregrass Economic Development Corp., Enterprise Chamber of Commerce, Century 21 Regency Realty Inc., Southern Broadway and the Wiregrass Board of Realtors.

DEBA President Regena Lacey celebrated the news with a Facebook post. “Woo Hoo! We are so excited to have been chosen as a Main Street Alabama Designated City,” she wrote. “Many thanks to Tammy Doerer and the City of Enterprise for their support of our application. This is so exciting for the future of the heart of our city.”

Gaydos, also said she was thrilled by the announcement. As former DEBA president, Gaydos brought Main Street Alabama to the attention of downtown businesses and city council members, leading to Enterprise joining Main Street as a Network Community and consequently to apply for Designated status.

Gaydos felt Main Street would be a good option and now she is convinced Main Street has made a good choice in Enterprise. “Great people. Great city,” she said.

Whether participating in Main Street Alabama was a feasible option for the city of Enterprise has been discussed since 2017 when Enterprise Mayor William “Bill” Cooper and Councilmen Eugene Goolsby and Turner Townsend met with members of the Downtown Enterprise Business Association and a representative from Main Street Alabama.

A nonprofit organization, Main Street Alabama stresses public-private partnerships, broad community engagement, and strategies that create jobs, spark new investment, attract visitors, and spur growth, according to the Main Street Alabama Area Field Director Trisha Black.

Prior to the establishment of Main Street Alabama, the Alabama Historical Commission served as the state Main Street coordinating program until state budget cuts in 2003-2004 resulted in the loss of Main Street staff and funding.

Doerer has served as the liaison between the Main Street Alabama staff and the city and has kept the council updated as the proposed plan to apply by the May 6 deadline has neared.

Two public meetings to outline the Main Street Alabama program were held March 14 at the Enterprise Farmers Market on Main Street. During the meetings Black discussed the benefits that are already being offered to Enterprise as a part of the Main Street network to include assistance, training, educational services, special events and networking opportunities.

Black also reviewed in detail the steps in the application process and the additional benefits that come with being named a designated Main Street community.

Enterprise has been a Main Street Alabama Network Community for about a year and this is the first time the city applied for Main Street Community Designation. The Enterprise City Council unanimously authorized Cooper to sign and submit the city’s application at the council meeting April 16 in advance of the May 6 application deadline.

Representatives from Enterprise traveled May 23 to Birmingham for a special Main Street Alabama presentation at the organization’s state headquarters. There, Doerer, City Special Projects Coordinator Kay Kirkland and actors from Downtown Enterprise’s Southern Broadway Dinner Theater presented the story of Enterprise to a panel of Main Street Alabama executives.

The presentation embodied Enterprise’s past, present and future while aligning with the four main ideals of Main Street Alabama which are design, promotion, economic vitality and organization, Doerer explained.

“Best known for a monument dedicated in 1919 to a destructive insect, Enterprise stands with the Boll Weevil Monument as a symbol of man’s willingness and ability to adjust to adversity,” the Main Street Alabama judges wrote in their decision. “The inclination to embrace new crop ideas from one of Alabama’s most famous scientists, Dr. George Washington Carver, resulted in a stronger local economy and one of the largest peanut-producing areas in the United States.

“In further homage to tiny things, this community holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for hosting the world’s smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” the decision continued. “We know that celebrating authenticity sets communities apart, so we are ready to amplify these efforts and build an unbollweevible program.”

According to Mary Helmer, state coordinator for the program, Main Street Alabama will immediately begin providing each of the three towns selected with intensive board development, goal setting, work planning, market study with implementable economic development strategies, targeted technical assistance and quarterly training related to downtown development. “When a community is ready for Main Street, the time tested Four Point Approach works,” Helmer said. “It brings jobs, dollars and people back to neighborhood commercial districts.”

Helmer said that the interview panel was impressed by the presentation made by the application team that demonstrated a love of their community, a vision for what they could be and the drive to make it happen. She noted that Enterprise had a long-standing merchant’s association that had functioned as an outstanding promotional arm for downtown Enterprise and a solid understanding of the Main Street Approach that will take their efforts to the next level, which made them stand out in the field of applicants.

“I think we definitely put our spirit forward; I’m very proud that we have such passion and talent that we could show, not only from our city but from our downtown businesses and citizens that were willing to volunteer time to tell our story,” said Doerer. “I think we really gave them an insight into how unique we are and how unique our message is.

“It has been a collaborative effort,” Doerer said. “The Main Street Designated City status will provide us the city planning and support we need in that direct area beyond just the promotion and marketing.”

For the complete article please see

SuperChef sets for ‘Today’ show appearance
From the article by Bernie Delinski on

The owner of a restaurant that’s about to open will appear on a segment of NBC’s “Today” show on Wed., June 12.

Darnell “SuperChef” Ferguson, who is in the process of opening Superhero Chefs at 104 S. Main St., is in New York City preparing for Wednesday’s live segment, during which he will make waffles and pancakes.

Ferguson said he expects Tuscumbia to receive a shout out during the show.

“I’ll be making some of the waffles and pancakes we’ll be doing here,” Ferguson said last week while touring the Alabama Music Hall of Fame as part of an effort to familiarize himself with the area.

He said the producer of the “Today” show segment indicated Tuscumbia would be mentioned as part of a lead-in to a possible contest.

“They should be talking about the new restaurant opening up,” Ferguson said. “They are going to have a contest afterward saying, ‘Our next restaurant is opening up in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Where do you think SuperChefs should go after that?'”

It won’t be the first time Ferguson has been on national television. In 2018, he won the Food Network’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge, and he also has been featured on programs such as “The Rachael Ray” show.

Ferguson opened a SuperChefs restaurant in 2012. He has two other locations — Louisville, Kentucky, and Columbus, Ohio.

People started calling Ferguson “SuperChef” while he was a chef for Team USA during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

When they were discussing the next restaurant location, initially names like Atlanta, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee, popped up. Then someone told Ferguson and business partners Terrel Davis, Larry Lewis and Rodney White about Tuscumbia. Afterwards, Lewis contacted Mayor Kerry Underwood and the decision to come to the Shoals grew from there.

“We prayed and got our own ambitions out the window,” Ferguson said. “This presented itself and I thought, ‘I think this is where we’re supposed to be.’ It just fit perfectly. The people seem like — everyone seems to love it here.”

Underwood said Ferguson has been trying to learn all he can about Tuscumbia. The mayor took him to the music hall of fame to help him discover the state’s musical history.

“He’s going to be invested in the community,” Underwood said. “It’s more than just a restaurant for him. This guy’s really something.”

Ferguson said music is a major part of SuperChef’s restaurant, so it seemed natural to located in the Shoals, considering its rich musical heritage.

Ferguson said he has talked about that with friends and others who are affiliated with his business, and have brought up the “Muscle Shoals” documentary after watching it.

“I keep trying to get these guys to watch it so they can understand how special this place is,” Ferguson said.

He said the response he has received from the community has him optimistic.

“I think the reception from people in the Shoals area has been fantastic,” he said. “It’s been like a home. They are really accepting.

“I like it here so much. This is my first time in a small town, but it’s been one of best culinary experiences I’ve had so far.”

For the complete article please see

The Alabama barbecue road trip you must take this summer
From the article by Verna Gates on

When white sauce is considered controversial, you know you live in a barbecue state. Few communities in Alabama lack bragging rights on the best barbecue, as there are pits and smokers found in every community, from big restaurants to roadside stands to the back of gas stations. While many connoisseurs claim that only pig is true barbecue, there are offerings in chicken, turkey, and a few renegades — mostly from Texas — who profess at the barbecue altar of beef. For those barbecue lovers who travel around Alabama, don’t miss out on this meaty elixir of life. Our state is blessed with passionate pitmasters and tasty offerings.

1. Bunyan’s Bar-B-Que (Florence)
Add some spice to your barbecue by topping your smoked pork sandwich with cayenne-enhanced mustard-based slaw. Bunyan’s uses shoulders instead of butts and invented their unique slaw topping. While you wait to dive in, you can sit at one of picnic tables or two-tops in the small mom-and-pop, now mom-and-son, restaurant. Try the banana pudding, made the old-fashioned way (without cooking the bananas).

2. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (Decatur)
First of all, no one would trust a guy named Little Bob with their barbecue. When you enter this mecca of ’cue, you have to work your way around multiple giant, hog-sized grand championship trophies — that they won with their white sauce. The husband of Bob’s granddaughter, Chris Lilly, embraced the family business and reigns as nationally known barbecue guru. Some even consider the ribs a meditative experience.

3. Leo & Susie’s Famous Green Top Bar-B-Que (Dora)
This former honky-tonk serves more sweet tea than beer these days, and definitely more barbecue. It still can get wild on football days, and waitresses still jot down orders on a napkin, but it’s a tamer version of the old roadhouse. The chopped barbecue is almost a side order for the fried sweet potatoes and pickles.

4. Butts To Go (Pell City)
Wade Reich spent 21 years working in Paris and London in the food industry. When he retired back to Alabama, he bought a Texaco station for income. When the prices went up, his profits went down, so he started smoking meat and selling it at the station. His pulled pork can be eaten with sauce, but doesn’t need it. The lemon chicken wings could fly on their own flavor. Try the potato salad, made with cream cheese. You can take your meal home, or eat in the ambiance of tables lodged between WD40 and snack crackers.

5. The Depot Chevron (Foley)
If you prefer Carolina-style chopped meat, make a slight detour onto Highway 98 in Foley on the way to the beach. You’ll immediately spot a Chevron with a giant pink pig statue straddling dual columns. You can get everything from ribs to pig feet. The meat is salted, not rubbed, and comes with gobs of tangy sauce and barbecue slaw.

6. Hog Wild (Gulf Shores)
Smoked chicken with white sauce tops the menu of this barbecue restaurant owned by two young University of Alabama grads who were looking for a career and found a smoker. T.J. Allen wins awards with the Memphis-style dry rub he created and puts on his pork, which is cooked over pecan wood. The result is a sweet taste. Try any and all of their housemade sauces, especially the Surfin’ Whiskey.

For the complete article please see

Backers aim to connect communities on Tennessee River trail
From the article on (WHNT-19)

Tourism officials in northwest Alabama say they hope the Tennessee RiverLine project happens soon.

The Tennessee RiverLine is a planned system of trails along the Tennessee River from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Paducah Kentucky, The TimesDaily reported. The proposed trail would provide access points for people kayaking or canoeing the river.

The main goals of the project include connecting communities to each other and creating economic investment in each area, said Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area Director Carrie Barske Crawford.

“It’s about making our community more friendly to river travelers while connecting to other cities,” Crawford said at a recent meeting of the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Board.

In the Shoals region of northwest Alabama, students at the University of North Alabama are helping to come up with ways the region can tie into the trail.

“One of the main goals at the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area is to seek out opportunities and projects that enhance the educational experience of students at UNA,” Crawford said in a news release. “The Tennessee RiverLine project will engage students across campus as we move forward with mapping potential trail locations, creating interpretive signage about the history of our region to be placed along the trail, and developing outdoor recreation programs related to the RiverLine.”

Students in the outdoor recreation, public history and geography programs are a few who may benefit from this experience, Crawford said.

The Shoals is among five Tennessee River “pilot” communities working to create the continuous regional trail system.

For the complete article please see

2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
The 2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 17-20, at the Von Braun Center and Embassy Suites in Huntsville. The conference provides tourism professionals a chance to gather and learn about the economic impact of the industry on the Alabama economy, learn new strategies for marketing local Alabama attractions and amenities to visitors, raise money for scholarships through silent auctions and celebrate achievements.

Registration and Reservations at

Alabama Welcome Center Retreat 2019
Alabama Welcome Center Retreat 2019 will be held at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, Oct. 27-29. 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. The Welcome Centers close so each employee can participate in this educational retreat.

Information and Registration coming soon!

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Would you like to be featured in the 2020 Alabama Vacation Guide? Deadline for this year’s entries is June 30. Only 19 more days to submit your events. Be sure to include an image.

Sign in today at


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