Tourism Tuesdays Aug. 27, 2019

Alabama Tourism wins national award for the sixth year

Multimillion dollar whitewater park, outdoor center coming to downtown Montgomery

James Beard Foundation honors Vintage Year for seafood sourcing

Alabama Tourism Department awards

150 years of memories at Alabama’s oldest soda fountain

U.S. Space and Rocket Center wows as workshop

Civil rights film due this fall

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2019 Fall tourism workshop

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Alabama Tourism wins national award for the sixth year
The Alabama Tourism Department brought home the National Council of State Tourism Directors’ Mercury Award for specialty campaigns for the sixth time in 13 years. Alabama won for creating the U.S. Civil Rights Trail which encompasses 140 black churches, schools and other landmarks in 14 states. The first win was in 2006 for The Year of Alabama Food, which included the now iconic “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” list that is updated periodically.

State tourism director Lee Sentell said seven of the 13 national Mercury awards presented this year were won by Southern state tourism offices while an eighth was won by TravelSouth USA, the marketing organization in Atlanta owned jointly by the Southern state offices. TravelSouth was founded more than 50 years ago by the Southern Governors Association and is widely acknowledged as the nation’s most successful regional travel marketing group. Sentell is a past president of TravelSouth and its longest serving director. The national awards were presented last week at the tourism industry’s premiere educational conference held at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Austin, Texas.

Multimillion dollar whitewater park, outdoor center coming to downtown Montgomery
From the article by Brad Harper on

A $50 million, government-backed whitewater park and outdoor fun center is about to start construction on the outskirts of downtown Montgomery, and it’s a project that local officials are betting will redefine the area as a young professional and family destination.

The main attraction is a 25-acre central park that will feature rafting and kayaking along a man-made whitewater course that twists through restaurants, shops, a beer garden, an outdoor concert venue and a hotel and conference center. But the wider, 120-acre site will feature a climbing tower, zip lines, mountain biking, rope courses and more.

“This facility is going to be bigger and better than anything folks around here have ever seen,” Montgomery County Commission Vice-Chair Ronda Walker said.

Officials say the initial footprint is just a start because it’s expected to inspire growth across the area over time. Core attractions will stretch all the way to the Alabama River, though the park will not use any river water for its whitewater course.

The planned Montgomery site is off Maxwell Boulevard, sandwiched between Interstate 65, west of the highway adjacent to Maxwell Air Force Base. It’s an exit that’s been little more than a pit stop for beachgoers, even as the city’s revitalized downtown exploded with growth a few blocks away.

Two entrances are being planned on either side of the historic Chappell House, an 1854 cottage that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. There are plans to restore that cottage and incorporate it into the park’s administrative functions, part of a wave of changes expected to sweep through the area in the years ahead.

Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean said it will push that redevelopment into west Montgomery and could touch off commercial projects all the way to the South Boulevard exit. “Just imagine what we’re about to see and what we’re about to see on the west side,” Dean said. “… I always talk about the one big house. Well, this bedroom is about to get what we need. It’s the shot in the arm we’ve always needed to have.”

The park is happening thanks to a pool of public and private funding poured into a cooperative district controlled by Montgomery County, which is pumping about $35 million into the project. The city is contributing about $16 million worth of land. The city has long owned most of the land and bought the last handful of homes on the site over the last few years. The last private resident will leave by Sept. 1.

Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Corporate Development Ellen McNair said eminent domain was not used to acquire the properties.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the city is still negotiating with the Salvation Army for the purchase of its property on the outskirts of the park site. He said those conversations have been “productive” and he expects to reach a deal within weeks. “If you’ve been to the Salvation Army you know they need a new facility,” he said. “Where they locate will be up to them. Our conversation centers around value and what it is that we can contribute to them to help them move that.”

They expect the deals to pay off. Assuming just 64,000 out-of-town visitors a year, roughly the financial break-even point for the park, economist Keivan Deravi estimates an annual impact of $6 million. Deravi said those figures don’t include use by what he calls “hardcore” whitewater enthusiasts, or anyone who lives close enough to drive here.

“Then you get into incidental tourists. That’s where the money is,” he said.

The Montgomery Zoo draws about 200,000 visitors a year. The whitewater park’s backers estimate total annual attendance at almost 300,000, and its projected impact skyrockets if it approaches that level of activity.

New whitewater park will be similar to Charlotte Olympic facility.

A similar park was built in 2006 in Charlotte, North Carolina, using a similar approach and some of the same team members as the Montgomery park. Called the U.S. National Whitewater Center, that North Carolina facility now stretches over 1,300 acres and rakes in more than $22 million a year, according to a study by engineering company S20 Design. It’s about a 45-minute drive from downtown but still creates an estimated $37 million annual impact and supports 700 jobs.

The Montgomery plan has been in the works for years under the code name “project catalyst” with the idea that it will kick off a new wave of expansion for the area, and for the city as a whole. “You don’t want to do a project that’s one and done,” McNair said.

They expect more private investment to follow, stretching into one of the poorest areas of Montgomery and connecting it to downtown’s thriving convention and tourism business. Development officials compared it to the arrival of Riverwalk Stadium and the Montgomery Biscuits, which touched off a burst of new hotels, restaurants and entertainment nearby.

They say this project has other potential benefits. For instance, Montgomery’s first responders currently travel to Colorado for swift water rescue training. Once the park is open, they can save on travel and do it here — and first responders from across the nation can train in Montgomery, as well.

Officials also expect it to improve the quality of life here in a way that will make it easier to recruit employers and young talent.

Walker said the deal took years to develop because government officials wanted to be sure it was a worthy investment. Now that the word is out, she expects a wave of excitement to push it along faster.

Construction is expected to start this fall, with a targeted opening of spring 2022.

For the complete article please see


James Beard Foundation honors Vintage Year for seafood sourcing
From the article by Brad Harper for

Montgomery’s restaurant Vintage Year has been honored for its approach to sourcing seafood.

The James Beard Foundation has recognized the restaurants as a 2019 Smart Catch Leader for serving seafood that is fished or farmed in environmentally responsible ways. The program is meant to help diners identify and support restaurants that are helping sustain the seafood supply chain.

Vintage Year Executive Chef Eric Rivera joined Gulf Coast fishermen and chefs in speaking to congressional staff last year about issues that affect the region’s seafood.

“We understand the importance of responsible food sourcing including sustainable seafood … for our guests and our community,” Rivera said in a release.

Fine dining eatery Vintage Year is open 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at 405 Cloverdale Road. It’s owned by Vintage Hospitality Group, which also runs the daytime coffeehouse, eatery and retail store Vintage Café next door.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Tourism Department awards
If you were unable to attend the Alabama Tourism Department’s Award Banquet during the 2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, you can now view the presentation on any of these Facebook pages. The video has had over 800 views.

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism’s Facebook page:, Alabama Tourism Industry Partner’s Facebook page: and Alabama Travel Council’s Facebook page:

U.S. Space and Rocket Center wows as workshop
Editor’s note: Eliza Myers put together a list for Group Travel Leader of museum workshops from around the country. She included Alabama’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

From the article by Eliza Myers on

Hands-on workshops for groups can intensify the museum experience by engaging the senses rather than simply delivering facts. Groups can imagine life during the Civil War, design their own glass art or take charge of a space mission during workshops at these notable museums.

Huntsville, Alabama: U.S. Space and Rocket Center
What could go wrong during a space mission? The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, answers that question with experiential programs. The weeklong Space Camp for children and adults, trains participants as astronauts and simulates a space mission.

Other shorter programs allow groups to experience some of the camp’s highlights, such as the one-night Surveyor program.

Even without an added program, groups can interact with space-related exhibits and demonstrations throughout the year. The Space Shot mimics the shuttle launch experience with increased gravitational pressure and three seconds of weightlessness.

Tours also let groups marvel at the historically important Apollo 16 command module, the Saturn V moon rocket and other space vehicles and artifacts. Later this year, the center will open a planetarium, a digital theater and an exhibit on the Apollo program.

For the complete article please see

150 years of memories at Alabama’s oldest soda fountain
From the article by Bob Carlton on

The memories never grow old at Payne’s Soda Fountain & Sandwich Shop, a place where yesterday doesn’t seem so far away.

An institution on the courthouse square in downtown Scottsboro, Payne’s is celebrating its 150th year in business in 2019.

These days, the mother-daughter duo of Lisa Garrett and Jessica Walton carry on the Payne’s tradition, serving milkshakes, ice-cream sundaes, slaw dogs and Dagwood sandwiches to local folks and out-of-towners alike.

“It means so much to the community,” Garrett says, sipping a cup of coffee before the weekday lunch crush begins. “It’s the cornerstone of this town. It really is. Everybody has a memory of Payne’s.”

The Payne’s story goes way back to 1869, a year before the town of Scottsboro was officially incorporated.

That’s when Virginia native William Henry Payne, who moved here after his father was named principal at the Scott Academy, opened his drug store in its original location near the railroad tracks.

A compounding pharmacist, Payne concocted such healing remedies as Payne’s Eureka Itch and Tetter Ointment and Payne’s Compound Syrup of Wild Cherry.

But around town, his drug store soon became just as famous for its cold, sparkling soda water, which Payne sold for a nickel a glass. It, too, was believed to have medicinal powers.

Over the next few years, Payne moved his business a couple of times before the W.H. Payne Drug Co. eventually settled into Payne’s current location at 101 East Laurel St. on the northwest corner of the Jackson County Courthouse square in February 1891.

Payne’s sons carried on the business after he died in 1899, and in 1939, during a major renovation of the building, a grandson, Jim Payne, added a side entrance and installed the 20-foot-long fountain counter that is still in use today.

A Scottsboro newspaper clipping from back in the day called it “the largest soda fountain ever in this county” and “modern in every detail.”

Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, Payne’s offered curbside service, with soda jerks delivering Coca-Colas and ice cream sodas to customers who parked outside the store.

The pharmacy eventually closed in 1991 — 100 years after W.H. Payne moved into the current building — but a series of owners have kept the soda fountain and sandwich shop going over the years since. Elizabeth Payne Word, a great-granddaughter of W.H. Payne, still owns the building.

From Pittsburgh to South Pittsburg
Garrett and Walton, who live in neighboring Bridgeport, about a half-hour up U.S. 72 from Scottsboro, have held the keys to Payne’s since 2013.

They moved to Bridgeport from Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2000 after Garrett’s husband got a job as a maintenance foreman at the Lodge Manufacturing foundry in nearby South Pittsburg, Tenn.

“Pittsburgh up north has an ‘h,’ and the one down here doesn’t have an ‘h,’ and I tell you what, that was really confusing for a 10-year-old,” Walton recalls.

For about three years, Garrett operated a lunch spot called the Hungry Bear in Sewanee, Tenn. She had to close the restaurant when her husband was diagnosed with mesothelioma and later died.

Several years later, though, she discovered Payne’s after she and a friend came to Scottsboro one afternoon to scout locations to open a business.

“We were just looking for a place to do some kind of business, maybe an antique store or something,” Garrett remembers. “We were standing on the corner, and the owner of the restaurant came out and asked what we were doing. We told him, and he said, ‘Well, our place is for sale.'”

A couple of days later, Garrett bought herself a soda fountain.

The secret of the red slaw dog
Garrett had designed a replica of a “Happy Days”-era diner in her home in Bridgeport, and she took some of those furnishings from home — including a jukebox, a Betty Boop figurine and some vintage advertising signs — and used them to decorate Payne’s.

A mural by Scottsboro artist Sonya Clemons illustrates some of the historic dates, fun facts and famous landmarks around Scottsboro.

Chrome bar stools, red vinyl chairs and a black-and-white-checkboard floor add to the nostalgic vibe, and customers have used their drinking straws to project hundreds of paper wrappers onto the ceiling. (Walton not only encourages such innocent pranks, she’ll gladly demonstrate how to do it.)

The red slaw dog — a grilled hot dog topped with a ketchup-based coleslaw — has been on the menu at Payne’s for as long as anybody can remember, and it’s featured on the Alabama Tourism Department’s list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.

The recipe for the red slaw is a closely guarded secret, though, and Garrett says the previous owner left without passing it along to her.

She failed in her first few attempts to try to re-create the recipe before Ann Kennamer, who owned and managed Payne’s back in the early 1990s, came to her rescue.

“That was a godsend because if she hadn’t given me the recipe, I would have been so messed up,” Garrett says. “She took pity on me because she wanted me to preserve it.”

Garrett and Walton expanded the Payne’s menu to include such sandwiches as a classic Reuben, a chicken croissant and a double-decker Dagwood, as well as a selection of salads.

Nowadays, their Reuben is almost as popular as the red slaw dog, Walton says.

“Yeah, the slaw dogs are very popular, but the Reubens are actually getting on up there with them, for sure,” she says.

Ice cream for a nickel a scoop
To get customers back in the habit of coming downtown on weekends, Garrett and Walton began offering 50-cent hot dogs and 50-cent ice cream scoops on Saturday for the first few years they owned Payne’s. It worked so well that they eventually had more business than they could handle.

“It just got so big that we couldn’t do that anymore,” Garrett says. “We would sell about 700 to 900 hot dogs every Saturday.”

On Thursdays, though, Payne’s still offers ice cream for five cents a scoop to guests 65 and over. Garrett says she got the idea when she heard some of her customers reminisce about the good ol’ days when ice cream was a nickel.

“People would tell us about putting their nickel on the counter and getting a scoop of ice cream,” Garrett says. “And I thought, ‘You know what? That would be fun.’ And it is fun. We’ve been doing that since we opened.”

Doris Lee, who moved to Scottsboro in 1957 and celebrated her 90th birthday this past December, rarely misses a Thursday or a Saturday at Payne’s. In fact, if she doesn’t show up, they check on her to make sure she’s OK.

“Miss Doris,” as Garrett and Walton call her, sometimes brings them homemade chocolate-chip cookies and flowers from her yard. She is partial to Payne’s butter-pecan ice cream, but she mainly comes for the fellowship.

“I come twice a week, and you know, I’ve met some nice friends here,” Lee says. “They come and visit me to see if I’m all right.”

As Scottsboro as it gets’
Bill Parks, who, for years, ran a clothing store adjacent to Payne’s, still drops in the shop several days a week for a BLT sandwich and to catch up with friends. His son, Scottsboro lawyer Will Parks, has an office next door.

“I’ve been sitting at that (soda) fountain since I was old enough to sit up proper,” Bill Parks says. “I can’t remember a time I wasn’t coming here.

“When I was in business here at the clothing store, I had buddies that I would meet at a certain time, at least twice a day and then sometimes lunch, as well.

“It was just a hangout, a place to come and have a Coke or a coffee, visit a little bit, catch up on the news.”

His father, Albert Parks, was a soda jerk at Payne’s back in the 1930s, and he’s among the 200 or so inductees into Scottsboro’s Soda Jerk Hall of Fame. A proclamation with all their names hangs on the wall at Payne’s, alongside old photos and newspaper stories.

“This is as Scottsboro as it gets, this place,” Bill Parks says. “There’s a real sense of community here.

“You see friends every time you come in here, and now, because the reputation has kind of spread, you see lots of visitors come in.”

One hundred and fifty years later, the memories keep on coming.

“Everybody has a story about Payne’s,” Jessica Walton says. “Or if they don’t have a Payne’s story, we’re helping them make one.”

For the complete article please see

Civil rights film due this fall
Legendary white civil rights activist Bob Zellner from Montgomery gained a loyal cadre of fans after the publication of his award-winning memoir “The Wrong Side of Murder Creek” in 2011, a book which was recently re-released in trade paperback.

The story will reach a new audience with the production of “Son of the South,” a movie filmed in Montgomery that is due out this fall. Barry Alexander Brown, a Montgomery native, and Spike Lee teamed up on the project, with Brown directing and Lee as executive producer. Brown has worked with Lee for more than 30 years, serving as editor on almost every film Lee has made. Brown met Bob Zellner 20 years ago and was fascinated by the civil rights activist’s story of redemption. He adapted Zellner’s memoir into a biographical film, covering Zellner’s life from his time as a youth (he was born into a Klan family) to his becoming the first white field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The film features two rising stars in Lucas Till and Lucy Hale, both well-known for their roles in the hit TV shows “MacGyver” and “Pretty Little Liars,” respectively. Till plays Zellner with the passion and commitment to civil and human rights causes that the subject retains in his 80th year. To film one exciting scene, Brown and crew reenacted the tragic beating the Freedom Riders suffered in Montgomery outside of the actual Greyhound bus station where the historic event took place.

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2019 Fall tourism workshop 
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its semi-annual Tourism Workshop, Wed., Oct. 16. The workshop will be held in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will attend this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. There is no registration fee.

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at rosemary.judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov 

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
2020 is right around the corner. As you gear up for the new year, remember to add events to your partner page. Creating events in advance ensures they will be approved and published with time for users to see them. Don’t have all your event details planned yet? Not a problem. You can always edit events to change or include more information.

Head over to and fill up the event calendar today.


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