Tourism Tuesdays June 4, 2019

Alabama’s newest museum is about more than bugs

48 Hours in the Shoals, Alabama’s unassuming treasure

Parks and Keller to get statues at Alabama Capitol

Celebrating America every day in the heart of Alabama

Tuscaloosa to take advantage of bicentennial celebration for tourism

Shoals-themed GunRunner Hotel provides unique retreat

Dreamland BBQ founder ‘Big Daddy’ Bishop going into Barbecue Hall of Fame

Tourism professionals named elite

Athens’ ‘Bright Idea’ sculpture a fun tourist photo opp

2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Alabama Welcome Center Retreat 2019

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Alabama’s newest museum is about more than bugs
From the article by Matt Wake on

The new Cook Museum of Natural Science is about 12 times as big as the last one.

And believe it or not, out of 11 exhibits only one of them is dedicated to insects, a point that needs to be made since the museum was founded by John Cook Sr. of Cook’s Pest Control.

“Yeah, it just comes with the name,” says the museum’s marketing and PR manager, Mike Taylor. “And that’s a good thing because everyone in this area knows Cook’s. But even the old museum was not strictly ‘a bug museum’ and had a little bit of everything in that one as well. I’m just excited because it’s going to be a pleasant surprise for people.”

Those surprises at the new museum include alligators, jellyfish, snakes, turtles, fish and other live creatures, extensive gem and mineral collections and faithful river, desert and forest recreations.

About three years after the previous location closed, the Cook Museum’s new location, 133 Fourth Ave. N.E. in Decatur, will hold its grand opening June 7. For opening weekend, hours are 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday. (Normal, seasonal hours for summer: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Friday. 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday and 12 – 6 p.m. Sunday.). Tickets ($20 ages 15 and up, $15 ages 3 to 14, $17 seniors and military, free for ages 2 and under) go on-sale to the general-public closer to opening. Tickets will be available to museum members two days before the general-public. Memberships starts at $55.

The new facility is about 62,000 square-feet. It houses aquariums. Terrariums. A-glass encased, fully populated and functional bee hive. Meteorites. Taxidermy displays, including a nine-foot grizzly bear.

And yes, the new Cook Museum will boast some interesting bugs, uh sorry, insects – including black widow spiders, a variety of katydids and blue death feigning beetles.

But this isn’t just a museum filled with stuff you just look at. Exhibits – like the painstakingly researched cave exhibit and a climbable replica of a giant poplar tree – are meant to be experienced. “Our mission is to get kids and families excited about the natural world around,” Taylor says, “and to get inspired to do that kind of exploration.

“The Cook Museum got its start from the aforementioned John Cook Sr.’s bug collection, which he used to train Cook’s employees. In 1980 he opened up his Decatur facility to school and community groups as a museum. “For 36 years, it operated for free like that,” Taylor says. Between 1980 and 2016, more than 750,000 people visited the Cook Museum, according to Taylor. Around 2012, the museum began considering renovations, but after looking at a few options decided to redo the facility from the ground up. The new Cook Museum has been a $32.4 million project, Taylor says, seeded by fund-raising. The museum will employ about 100, some part-time, some full.

The museum’s live animals are acquired via a variety of ways. Some, including king snakes and gopher snakes, were purchased from breeders and collectors. “The four alligators we have came from a reserve here in Alabama,” Taylor says, “and they will be returned there once they grow to the point where we can no longer accommodate them. The diamondback terrapins came from UAB, and we are housing them temporarily until they are large enough to be released into the wild.”

Cook Museum collects some of its own specimens. The facility has a permit to do so at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and has obtained some insects and other invertebrates from there. Other creatures are donated. “They all go through a 30-day quarantine process to make sure they’re healthy before entering the museum,” Taylor says.

For the complete article please see

48 Hours in the Shoals, Alabama’s unassuming treasure
From the article by Chris Chamberlain on

There are definitely some famous musical towns in the South. Memphis can lay claim as a birthplace of both the blues and jazz, although New Orleans would question that second brag. Nashville is literally known as Music City, but no portion of the region has more great musicians per capita than the Shoals in northern Alabama. Made up of four towns — Muscle Shoals, Florence, Sheffield and Tuscumbia — this hotbed of music in the top left corner of Alabama along the Tennessee River has produced some of America’s most beloved music.

Since the late 1960s artists have flocked to the Shoals to record with talented producers and session musicians. The roster of talent that has recorded there ranges across multiple musical genres, from the soul of Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, to Southern rock from Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, to pop records from Paul Simon, George Michael and the Osmond Brothers, to country and Americana hits by Carrie Underwood and Jason Isbell. The Rolling Stones even made a trip across the pond to lay down tracks for their classic album “Sticky Fingers”.

An award-winning documentary named Muscle Shoals told the story of famous producer Rick Hall, who really started the wave of musical success for the area, and of the famous rhythm section that drove the beats, a group of young local musicians known colloquially as “The Swampers.” The documentary shined a much deserved spotlight on the region and stimulated lots of tourism from fans of the music that emanated from the Shoals. But there’s a lot more than just music to see and hear in the area, and the fact that the Quad Cities are within a half day’s drive of Southern metropolises like Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham and Atlanta have made it a popular destination for a weekend jaunt. Here are some suggestions to pass a few days along what the indigenous tribes called “The Singing River.”

Check in to your hotel and get ready to walk off some of the road grime with a nice stroll around downtown Florence, the largest city in the Shoals and home to University of North Alabama. Attractive lodging options include the Residence Inn on the outskirts of Florence, which offers comfortable rooms with kitchenettes in case you’d like to cook a meal on your own. There’s also a nice pool to cool off in. More luxurious is the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, a full-service property with dining options like Swampers Bar & Grill and the 360 Grille, which offers a sweeping view of the region including the locks of the nearby dam.

The University is located right downtown, so it’s a nice place to walk around and get your bearings and to realize how ingrained music is in the entire life of the college — and vice versa. Walk the pleasant streets of downtown Florence and window shop at some of the quaint stores and boutiques in town. Stop into The Carriage Wine and Market, a retail wine shop and specialty market that also features a cozy wine bar for tastings of fine wines and local beers. It’s a popular gathering spot for locals, so be sure to ask your neighbor at the bar for advice on where to eat dinner. Odds are they’ll suggest Odette, a farm-to-table restaurant that serves elevated American fare artfully plated. Located in an historic downtown building, Odette offers a lovely ambiance for fine dining, but without getting too stuffy. The long bar serves up great cocktails and offers extra seating for smaller dining parties.

After dinner, you’ll be looking for some live music, because this is the Shoals after all. You’ll definitely want to check out the Shoals Theatre if there’s a band playing. This is a converted movie house from the 1940s, and when they aren’t featuring music, live theater often takes the stage so you can get a little drama in your life too — in a good way, of course.

John Paul White, formerly of the popular Americana band The Civil Wars, is a Florence native who has invested in his hometown by starting up Single Lock Records and opening 116 E. Mobile, a music venue where he features regional acts. With White and his Single Lock partners as curators, the music is always top-notch.

Don’t sleep in, because you’ve got a busy day of music, shopping and culture ahead of you! Fuel up with a muffin and some excellent java from Rivertown Coffee Co., a popular local roaster that also serves up great pastries and sandwiches.

While you’re still downtown, you should definitely check in to the flagship store of Billy Reid, a famous Southern clothing designer who has spread his influence all the way from his hometown to Nashville, Atlanta, Austin, NYC and other fashion centers. Billy Reid also hosts the annual Shindig, a festival celebrating fashion, food, music and art that draws thousands of visitors to downtown Florence each year.

Located on the outskirts of town is the factory of another local fashion icon, Natalie Chanin. It’s pretty amazing that such a small town would produce two designers who have such a great impact on Southern fashion, but that’s definitely the case. Natalie’s brand is called Alabama Chanin and features an extended collection of both hand-sewn and machine-made organic apparel produced by a team of local and regional seamstresses who contract to create each unique piece.

Factory tours are available during the week, but if you miss that, you can still shop in the showroom of the factory building in what was once just a small part of a huge textile industry in the region.

There’s also a lovely little café next to the showroom that serves local and seasonal fare in a bright and airy dining space.

After a little retail therapy, it’s time to check out the music sites that made the Shoals famous. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia is a great place to start with exhibits honoring musicians from all over the Yellowhammer State. While the museum does cover the whole state, Shoals artists are well-represented among the display cases and busts of Hall of Fame inductees in the great hall.

However, the essential sites to visit are the studios where all that great music was (and still is) made. FAME is the granddaddy of Shoals studios and is where Rick Hall plied his craft for decades before passing away in early 2018. A sign over the door to the hallways that lead to the two separate recording studios reads, “Through these doors walk the finest musicians, songwriters, artists and producers in the world,” and it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Tours lead visitors through both studios, where they can see some of the iconic instruments that were used on the famous recordings and the mixing boards where the tracks were laid down.

In 1969, four members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section split off from FAME to start their own studio in Sheffield, which they named Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. These talented musicians continued to play on tracks as well as producing the albums. Their success magnified what Rick Hall was accomplishing at FAME, and the healthy competition between the two studios really put the Shoals on the musical map. While FAME is still a working studio, Muscle Shoals Sound only produces records in the evenings, so they offer tours almost continuously seven days a week. The tour takes you through the basement lounge, where you can only imagine what went on with all those musicians, and then into the actual studio where the Stones sang “Brown Sugar,” Paul Simon recorded “Kodachrome” and Bob Seger praised that “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Of course, you have to exit through the gift shop.

All that touring can work up a powerful hunger, so stop by Wildwood Tavern, a funky little local hang known for their gourmet hot dogs, cold draft beer and eclectic artwork featuring famous paintings with wieners substituted for the original subject of the artwork.

Spend your afternoon visiting some of the Shoals cultural and historic sites such as the birthplace of W.C. Handy, a famous musician known as “The Father of the Blues.” The city actually moved the small cabin where he was born from way back into the woods and added a small museum to honor the composer of the famous “St. Louis Blues,” “Beale Street Blues” and “Memphis Blues.” Handy was quite a traveler, apparently. Visitors can see all sorts of Handy memorabilia in the museum, including congratulatory notes from U.S. presidents and original hand-written sheet music from some of his famous compositions.

Another famous native of the Shoals was Helen Keller, born in Tuscumbia in 1880. At Ivy Green you can actually visit the site where Annie Sullivan held young Helen’s hand under a pump while signing the word “water,” a scene famously recreated in the movie “The Miracle Worker.”

About 20 minutes outside of town is a real oddity worth visiting. Tom’s Wall is a monument constructed by Tom Hendrix to commemorate his great-great-grandmother’s forced relocation from her local native tribal grounds to a reservation in Oklahoma during the 1830s. The story goes that the young girl realized that she could no longer hear the singing waters of the Tennessee River (and all the water she had access to did not “sing”) and escaped from her camp, taking five long years to walk back to Alabama. Tom was moved to honor his family heritage and spent more than 30 years constructing a free-standing, unmortared stone wall, the largest such wall in the country. Placing each rock by hand, Tom created a monument with two paths, an outward path for her trip west and a longer run representing her perseverance to walk all the way home. The rocks used in the construction have come from more than 120 countries, and each stone is meant to represent one step in her journey. Visitors leave offerings atop the wall and take advantage of peaceful alcoves that Hendrix constructed to offer spots for contemplative thought.

For dinner, you can either dine upscale at the 360 Grille at the Marriott and take in the stunning views as the restaurant revolves, or you can go a little more casual with a fun meal at Champy’s Chicken, a down-home Southern joint known for their fried yardbird and Mississippi Delta-style tamales. In fact, just about anything coming out of the fryer at Champy’s is worth a try. With big screens showing sports and the occasional live band, Champy’s usually offers a rowdy good time.

Your last meal in the Shoals should definitely be at Big Bad Breakfast (BBB), a local outpost of the Oxford, MS-based breakfast chain helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence. From Tabasco/brown sugar bacon to Anson Mills steel cut oatmeal to some of the best chicken and waffles known to man, BBB provides the fuel you’ll need to get home. However, if you partake in one of their famous Big Bad Bloody Marys, you might want to let someone else do the driving.

If you’re a fan of architecture, you definitely need to stop by the Rosenbaum House on the way out of town. Designed for Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum in 1938 by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright as one of the prototypes of his Usonian concepts, the home is now property of the City of Florence and is the only Wright house in the South open for public tours. Built mainly of native natural materials like cypress and brick, the Rosenbaum House features a notable cantilevered roof covering the living spaces and the carport, which was an innovative home feature at the time of construction. Tours take visitors through the original house as well as the addition that the Rosenbaums undertook to make room for their four children.

If these aren’t enough ideas for you to plan your own itinerary, the fine folks at Visit Florence are always happy to help guide you. Just be sure to keep the tunes crankin’ on your trip!

For the complete article please see

Parks and Keller to get statues at Alabama Capitol
From the article on (WAAY-31)

Rosa Parks and Helen Keller are soon to have statues on the grounds of the Alabama State Capitol.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation Wednesday creating a Women’s Tribute Statue Commission to fund, commission and place the statues on the Capitol grounds.

Parks was arrested Dec. 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery city bus to a white passenger. Her arrest helped spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the civil rights movement.

Keller, who was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, was both deaf and blind and became a world-famous author and activist.

Celebrating America every day in the heart of Alabama
From the article by Michelle Matthews on

The wildly popular Broadway musical “Hamilton” ignited a passion for everything related to the founding of the United States of America. Even if you haven’t been lucky enough to see the show, you can get to know Alexander Hamilton and other heroes of the Revolutionary War at Alabama’s American Village, which exists to celebrate American history. On Independence Day, the busiest day of the year at this 188-acre campus in Montevallo, just 30 miles south of Birmingham, three different vignettes will revolve around the “founding father without a father.”

“Eliza and Alexander make appearances,” says Melanie Poole, communications officer for American Village Citizenship Trust. “Then we kill Alexander.”

Of course, no one really kills him, but the fatal duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr is re-enacted during a daylong patriotic extravaganza on July 4th.

In the two decades since it was founded in 1999, American Village has hosted more than 700,000 students ranging in age from pre-K to 12th grade from every county in Alabama as well as four surrounding states. But it’s not just for students – an almost equal number of “casual visitors” walk the perfectly manicured landscape as well.

Originally a cattle farm, located on rolling acres along Alabama Highway 119, Alabama Village was dreamed up by founder and CEO Tom Walker. “He envisioned a place where young people could learn about American history by participating in it,” says Poole. “He drummed up support, drew it out on a napkin and explained it to an architect.”

The barn, which has been renovated and re-purposed, is the only original structure at the village, which consists of 20 replicas inspired by historical places throughout America. “American Village is so important throughout the Southeast,” says Poole. “We realize a lot of Alabama children will not have an opportunity to visit Boston or even D.C. or Philadelphia. Here, they can see replicas of historic places and take part in historic events here in the heart of Alabama.”

When school’s out, American Village hosts the Celebrate America program from June 4 through July 31, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with activities planned for all ages. Admission is only $5, and it’s free for veterans and active members of the military.

About a dozen costumed interpreters tell the stories of their characters while interacting with guests. Major James Moore, dressed as an officer in the Continental army, teaches visitors how to shoot a musket in 10 steps (their “muskets” are broomsticks) and how to march in formation. A young Martha Washington talks about her husband, our nation’s first president. And Abigail Adams, known for being the wife and mother of two U.S. presidents, details how difficult it was to spend so much time away from her husband, John Adams.

Visitors will be able to march with George Washington’s Continental army, learn spy techniques practiced during the American Revolution and participate in Paul Revere’s ride while shouting, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

In addition to the planned activities, detailed for visitors daily in the American Village Gazette, the air-conditioned buildings will be open for tours. In the National Veterans Shrine, housed in a building patterned after Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, short films feature 20 veterans, with Poole asking them questions about their experiences.

She asked one veteran what he brough back from his military service, and he replied that he brought a spoon he’d used both for eating and for digging graves. “There are gut-wrenching stories,” she says.

In addition, visitors can sit behind an exact replica of the president’s desk in the Oval Office, view dioramas of all the major events in American history in the Randall Museum and see the inside of a colonial chapel, where Patrick Henry gives his impassioned “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech.

As you can imagine, American Village celebrates the birth of America on Independence Day like nowhere else in Alabama, with an estimated 8,000 guests “immersing themselves in the red, white and blue,” as Poole puts it. The gates open at 11 a.m., and some 40 activities are scheduled throughout the day. In addition to the Hamilton-Burr duel, don’t miss the re-enactment of the Battle of Concord Bridge, with the “shot heard ‘round the world,” and a festive ball in Independence Hall.

On the Fourth, a dozen food trucks will sell everything from ice cream to barbecue, and visitors can enjoy bottomless sweet tea and lemonade. Uncle Sam will hand out flags. The evening program begins at 7 p.m., with patriotic music from the Montevallo Community Band and, starting at “twilight’s last gleaming,” fireworks that Poole describes as “the best up-close-and-personal in the state” – a 30-minute production of pyrotechnics that “go off right over your head” behind Washington Hall.

Just like every day it’s open, the Fourth of July is an opportunity for American Village to educate people of all ages about history in a fun way. But there’s a solemn purpose behind all the celebrating. “There’s a national amnesia about what it means to be an American,” says Poole. “America is unique in the world in our founding. George Washington said the idea of American is an experiment that’s tested anew each day.”

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Tuscaloosa to take advantage of bicentennial celebration for tourism
From the article by Drew Taylor on

With a good year in tourism revenue in the rearview window, Tuscaloosa city leaders hope to take advantage of the city’s 200th birthday to bring in more money.

During 2018, Tuscaloosa County was one of several counties across Alabama to see a bump in tourism. A total of 27.7 million people came to visit the state last year, bringing in a total of $15.5 billion, an estimated $1.2 billion higher than the previous year.

According to figures provided by the Alabama Tourism Department, tourism in Tuscaloosa County grew by 11 percent while nearby Jefferson County grew by more than 10 percent.

“We are excited our tourism industry grew by 8.5 percent in 2018, and we are proud to welcome millions of visitors to every region of our state, from the Tennessee Valley to the Wiregrass, to experience our hiking trails, beaches, restaurants and historical sites each year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a news release. “This great news not only impacts tourism, but it also has a major impact on our employment sector. Almost 200,000 direct and indirect jobs were maintained by the industry last year, setting yet another record.”

While exact statistics for Tuscaloosa County’s tourism revenue are still being calculated by Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports, those associated with the group said 2018 was a great year for the city. Barrett Elder, marketing and communications manager for Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports, said a big factor this year — similar to past years — is people coming to Tuscaloosa for Crimson Tide football.

“Obviously, football is one of the biggest drivers we have for visitors,” Elder said.

In addition, Elder also pointed to the benefits of the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, which attratcs people from across Alabama and the country. During the year, country acts like Keith Urban, Alan Jackson and Chris Stapleton were some of the more popular acts to come to town.

“We have an incredible amphitheater,” he said.

However, Elder and others are looking for the city’s ongoing bicentennial celebration to bring even more tourism dollars to the area in 2019.

“While this is Tuscaloosa’s birthday, we see that people are coming in all over the state to come celebrate,” he said.

Elsewhere in Alabama, cities have used their past to bolster tourism. One example in Montgomery, that in addition to its history as a hotbed of civil rights activities during the 1950s and 1960s, was able to benefit from the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice in 2018. That year, Montgomery County’s tourism jumped 15 percent jump from the previous year.

There have already been several events held to honor Tuscaloosa’s 1819 founding. Back in March, a free Bicentennial Bash was held at the amphitheater where acts like Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, the Commodores, the Blind Boys of Alabama and St. Paul and the Broken Bones played all day. In the upcoming months, there will be more activities.

Elizabeth McGiffert, events chairwoman for the Tuscaloosa Bicentennial Commission, said 2019 would have a lot of things people in town could do before the city’s official date of incorporation on Dec. 13. Between Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, the Druid City Music Festival will take place, featuring dozens of bands as well as headliners Big Boi of Outkast and Blackberry Smoke.

“It’s an event we hope will become more an annual event,” McGiffert said. “That event is really geared toward bringing people in from outside Tuscaloosa.”

The biggest day of the bicentennial will be Dec. 13, the date the city was incorporated. On that day, a statue that was commissioned by the University of Alabama will be unveiled at Manderson Landing on the banks of the Black Warrior River. There will also be a parade through downtown to celebrate the bicentennial.

“We hope it’s going to be a big party throughout Tuscaloosa,” she said.

Elder said the bicentennial will be a good time for people across the country to learn more about Tuscaloosa and its history.

“This year is just a once in a lifetime opportunity to look back and appreciate everything Tuscaloosa has gone through,” he said.

According to the Alabama Tourism Department, the travel industry represents 7.3 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

For the complete article please see

Shoals-themed GunRunner Hotel provides unique retreat
From the article by Kelly Kazek on

These days, travel is all about finding a unique place to spend your evenings, and a hotel in Florence has garnered national attention with its swanky-cool design, historical appeal and unusual hands-off approach to hospitality.

The GunRunner Boutique Hotel, opened in 2017 at 310 East Tennessee St. in Florence, was named for a pawn shop once located in the sprawling brick building. In a previous life, the building housed an auto dealership and showroom. In fact, the hotel bar, shown in the background of the photo above, was built atop the massive elevator that lifted cars to the showroom floor.

The hotel – the vision of local businessman Billy Ray Casteel – offers 10 suites, each one designed with a theme related to Shoals history, including one decorated by renowned fashion designer Billy Reid; one that honors Sam Phillips, Florence native and founder of the famous Sun Studios; and another honoring Frank Lloyd Wright, who built the nearby Rosenbaum House that is now a museum.

Southern Living says the hotel “is one of only three hotels in the world with a sanctioned Frank Lloyd Wright suite, which references one of the architect’s homes nearby.” The suite is shown above.

The décor was chosen with care, says manager Chris McMeans. “Every picture, autograph, book, and piece of memorabilia celebrates the incredible history of Florence.” The room above has gold records on the wall.

While the hotel property features a spa, full bar, coffee shop, rooftop space and a 3,200-square-foot common area, the hotel itself is not staffed. The hotel “operates with a hands-off approach to luxury hospitality,” its website says.

“A visit to the GunRunner affords travelers the amenities of a luxury hotel experience, with the convenience and privacy that comes with a rented apartment. All guests are provided with an email confirmation of their six-digit code allowing them to enter the hotel and their room privately. Our team is not on site.” Reservations can be made by visiting the website or by calling 855-269-4724.

The décor retains the industrial aspects of the building – brick walls, well-worn wooden floors, exposed beams and piping – but adds luxury with chandeliers, specialty bedding, in-room wet bars and every amenity needed for comfort.

The hotel is located near numerous attractions and shopping, according to the website Alabama.Travel. “Located in vibrant and lively downtown Florence near numerous shops and restaurants within walking distance. Near the Shoals Theatre, Indian Mound Museum, W.C. Handy’s birthplace and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Rosenbaum Home.”

For the complete article please see

Dreamland BBQ founder ‘Big Daddy’ Bishop going into Barbecue Hall of Fame
From the article by Ben Flanagan on

“Ain’t nothin’ like ’em nowhere,” indeed.

If you thought Dreamland ribs belonged in a hall of fame, now they do.

The American Royal Association announced the 2019 class of inductees to the Barbecue Hall of Fame, and among them is late Dreamland Bar-B-Que founder John “Big Daddy” Bishop.

The induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, Sept. 14 during the 2019 American Royal World Series of Barbecue at the Kansas Speedway.

Other inductees include Wayne Monk of North Carolina and C.B. Stubblefield of Lubbock, Texas.

Each year, three individuals are awarded this honor and are recognized by the Barbecue Hall of Fame for their significant contributions to the barbecue community and demonstration of achievement in barbecue excellence.

“He’d be touched. My father was known as quiet and humble, but he always took pride anytime Dreamland received recognition. It would often bring him to tears,” said Bishop’s daughter Jeannette Bishop-Hall, according to a Dreamland release. “He believed the restaurant’s success was confirmation that God had a plan for him. He felt listening to the advice God gave him was the best decision he ever made.”

Bishop was born in Tuscaloosa in 1921 and spent much of his life working as a brick mason before pursuing his dream to open a restaurant. Dreamland opened in Jerusalem Heights neighborhood in 1958, when Bishop and his wife Miss Lillie’s hickory-smoked ribs quickly became a local favorite that made headlines beyond Alabama’s borders.

Soon, they’d only serve ribs, white bread and potato chips, quickly carving out a legacy as some of the best barbecue in the nation, let alone the South. They’ve since even added a few more sides.

Dreamland still uses the same techniques and recipes the Bishops employed 60-plus years ago, grilling their ribs on a bed of hickory coals for 45-55 minutes.

Bishop passed away in 1997.

The restaurant gained fame after becoming a popular dining spot among TV sports broadcasters in the 1970s and 1980s, with commentators often giving the restaurant shout-outs while on the air, a tradition that continues well into 2019 on networks like ESPN.

From Bob Carlton’s Alabama Best BBQ Ribs tour: “John ‘Big Daddy’ Bishop opened his Dreamland Café, as it was called back then, in Tuscaloosa’s Jerusalem Heights community in 1958. After Mr. Bishop passed away in 1997, his son, John Jr., and daughter, Jeanette, ran the business until Birmingham’s Dreamland Holding Company bought it in 2000. While a few side items have been added to Dreamland’s traditional menu of ribs, sauce and white bread, not much else has changed. Mr. Bishop’s big red chair, where he held court with customers for four decades, still sits against the back wall.”

The original Dreamland is located at 5535 15th Avenue in Tuscaloosa. There are also locations in Northport, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Florida and Georgia.

From the American Royal Association website: “The Barbecue Hall of Fame exists not only to recognize, document and preserve the heritage of barbecue, but also to educate others by identifying and honoring its evolving history and traditions.

“The Barbecue Hall of Fame also serves to promote and encourage the growth and public support of barbecue by providing official recognition; honoring those individuals, who by extraordinary achievement and service, have made an outstanding impact on the world of barbecue.”

For the complete article please see

Tourism professionals named elite 
From the article by Lisa Singleton-Rickman on

The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association recently named two Lauderdale County residents as North Alabama Elite Tourism Professionals.

The distinction went to Shoals Chamber of Commerce employee Kate Brown and Haley Newton, of Joe Wheeler State Park. The two were honored for their outstanding contributions to tourism.

The program recognizes individuals who demonstrate outstanding customer service and hospitality in the 16-county north Alabama region.

Alabama Mountain Lakes President/CEO Tami Reist said the two were recognized for going above and beyond in their service, involvement and engagement with visitors to the north Alabama regions.

“North Alabama’s travel and tourism industry is seeing tremendous economic impacts and growth in job numbers as a direct result of Kate’s and Haley’s leadership skills and commitment to enhancing the travel and tourism experience,” Reist said.

For the complete article please see

Athens’ ‘Bright Idea’ sculpture a fun tourist photo opp
From the article by Kelly Kazek on

The City of Athens celebrated the state’s bicentennial – along with its own – by erecting a fun sculpture Friday in Big Spring Park. The Bright Idea sculpture was designed to give locals and visitors a fun photo opp as well as commemorate the town’s long history with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

TVA has provided the city’s power for 85 years, since 1934, according to Holly Hollman, spokeswoman for the City of Athens. Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant opened in Limestone County in 1974.

“People love to document their travels and places they explore, especially when there is a unique feature they can capture,” Hollman said, adding that the light bulb sculpture pays tribute to the ingenuity behind providing electrical power, preserves our local history, and honors those who have lost their lives and those who risk their lives to ensure the lights stay on.

Athens and Limestone County celebrated their bicentennials in 2018 and wanted to come up with a sculpture to honor those dates as well as the TVA anniversary.

Local artist Micah Gregg, owner of Drop Metal LLC, was tasked with creating an artwork people could interact with. It was paid for by a $5,000 TVA grant and $5,000 in city funds. The Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission will also create social media filters utilizing the light bulb sculpture, Hollman said.

A plaque on the sculpture says: “The first office for Athens Light and Water Company opened at the corner of Beaty and Market streets in 1906. The first streetlights came in 1908. Athens Light provided electric power until midnight May 31, 1934. On June 1, 1934, Athens began to receive power from the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA continues to provide power to Athens through Athens Utilities.”

The sculpture was erected near the Athens-Limestone Tourism building, which was built in 1906 to serve as the offices of Athens Light and Water Company.

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
One of summer’s biggest holiday’s is one month away. Are you planning a special event for the 4th of July or maybe your hours of operation will be different? Keep visitors up to date by submitting an event or updating your Partner page.

Not a Partner yet? Registering is simple! Follow the link and get started today.


Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the newsletter please contact Dwayne O’Riley at:

Alabama Tourism Department