Tourism Tuesdays Sept. 03, 2019

Book on Alabama’s path from territory to statehood to be released

In memory of a songwriter’s songwriter and Muscle Shoals music icon

Huntsville Botanical Garden announces new CEO

GUMBO hosting tourism economic development summit

Rosa Parks honored with a Barbie doll on Women’s Equality Day

Alabama’s Ruffner Mountain focus of new book

Murals wanted from around Alabama

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2019 Fall tourism workshop

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Book on Alabama’s path from territory to statehood to be released
From the article by Morgan Bryce on

Learn more about Alabama’s journey toward becoming a state in 1819 in Alabama Heritage Magazine’s NewSouth Books’ Oct. 1 release titled “Alabama From Territory to Statehood.”

The 225-page book chronicles the “prehistory and colonial settlement” of Alabama and “describes border disputes and land surveys, squatting, prospecting, and the land rush remembered as ‘Alabama Fever’,” according to a NewSouth Books press release. It is also published with support from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.

According to Alabama Heritage Editor Donna Baker, the book contains a compilation of articles published in special bicentennial issues of her magazine during the past two years, written by a number of well-respected state educators and writers.

“This particular period in our history has been neglected for so long. Of course, it has gotten more attention the last couple of years because of the bicentennial. But I went through the Alabama Reviews looking for articles on the territorial period back when we were planning this,” Baker said. “There were quite a few articles from the 1970s and before that delved into this (topic), but (not many) after that. It had been written out, basically, and is part of the reason why we decided to put this book together.”

Another critical component of this book is its in-depth analysis of the near Alabama-Mississippi union that took place on the path to statehood.

With Mississippi’s side being more densely populated, the Alabama Territory was carved out on March 3, 1817, with St. Stephens serving as its territorial capital. Two years and four days after Mississippi became a state, Alabama followed suit on Dec. 14, 1819.

“I hope this book fills a gap and that we get people excited about this earlier history. Sometimes, it feels like our history starts at the Civil War, because that’s what people know best, but there was this world before that, and I want to help our view of who we are and where we came from,” Baker said.

Baker added that the book will be released in correlation with her magazine on Oct. 1. Following that date, it should be available in major book retailers statewide.

For the complete article please see

In memory of a songwriter’s songwriter and Muscle Shoals music icon
From the article by Matt Wake on

I interviewed Donnie Fritts a few times over the years, and during our conversations he was always warm and insightful. And quick to praise the work of musicians he’d worked with. He had a cool laidback laugh too.

A Muscle Shoals singer, keyboardist and highly regarded songwriter, Fritts’ 2015 album “Oh My Goodness” was one of the most compelling roots music releases this decade. His rendition of the song “Errol Flynn” on that LP is particularly heartbreaking in the most beautiful ways.

Fritts died this week at age 76, after having recently undergone heart surgery.

Donnie Fritts isn’t exactly clickbait. But even if you didn’t know him you probably knew his songs -and even if you didn’t know his songs you know some of contemporary music’s strongest songwriters who adored him and his work.

And when Fritts passed away, some of Alabama’s brightest musicians were heavily affected.

Four-time Grammy winning Americana/rock musician Jason Isbell wrote on Twitter, “Donnie Fritts was a legend back home, and a guide for many of us when we started writing and making music. I met (John) Prine while working on Donnie’s album, and when I met (Kris) Kristofferson and Willie (Nelson) all I had to say was ‘I’m a friend of Donnie Fritts.’ Very proud to be able to say that.”

Meanwhile, singer/songwriter John Paul White eulogized Fritts, whose “Oh My Goodness” LP White co-produced, for Rolling Stone. “He taught me that there was honor in writing a song,” White wrote of Fritts. “In the labor, in the honing of the craft, in the patience for the always circling muse. He wrote some of the greatest songs I know and still humbly held others in higher esteem. What a beautiful, rare thing.”

The New York Times and Washington Post were among the major outlets to publish Fritts obituaries.

Hearing Fritts do “Errol Flynn,” you’d swear he’d written it.

[Singer/actor Amanda McBroom co-wrote that song with Gordon Hunt, her lyrics a tribute to father David Bruce, who appeared in more than 60 movies before years of hard living caught up to him and he died from a heart attack on the set of 1985 comedy “Moving Violations.” Actor/musician Billy Bob Thornton turned his pal Fritts on to the song “Errol Flynn.”]

Such was Fritts ability to put himself inside of a song he’s singing. Fritts’ own acting past, appearing in such films as “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid,” “A Star Is Born” and “Convoy,” might be part of the reason why.

“I know a lot of guys like that,” Fritts told me in 2015. “That’s made a pretty good living, hell they’re in the movies, but (‘Errol Flynn’) also goes into what can happen to the families, the kids. That business can eat you alive if you let it.”

Onstage, Fritts was often seen playing his trusty Wurlitzer, the electric piano whose funky sound was a natural fit for Fritts’ well-worn voice. Fritts also spent years as country star Kris Kristofferson’s keyboardist. In addition to Waylon Jennings, other legends to have recorded “We Had It All,” which Fritts cowrote with Troy Seals, include Ray Charles, Tina Turner and Dolly Parton.

Around the fall of 1968, Fritts and talented young guitarist Eddie Hinton were holed up one night at Sheffield’s Quinvy Recording Studio, trying to come up with a song good enough to be recorded for British soul singer Dusty Springfield’s next album, which would become the now iconic 1969 LP “Dusty in Memphis.”

“We knew we were going to have to really bear down and write something maybe like we’d never written before,” Fritts told me in 2018. “We weren’t going to get by with just some funky little R&B song because the competition on trying to get on that record was heavy. If you ever notice who the other writers are on that album, it was amazing. Randy Newman had two songs on it and Burt Bacharach and all these big-time writers.” Legendary writing team Gerry Goffin and Carole King would land two songs on “Dusty in Memphis.” Springfield’s version of “Son of a Preacher Man,” which gained millions of new fans in the mid-90s after the song’s inclusion on the “Pulp Fiction” film soundtrack, is also on the album.

What Hinton and Fritts came up with was “Breakfast in Bed.” The ballad featured some unusual chord voicings that helped it stand out, and Springfield dusky sensual voice was a perfect fit for it. Landing a cut on a Dusty Springfield album led to them receiving more credibility as songwriters. The pair also collaborated on songs like “Choo Choo Train” a rocker for Alex Chilton’s pre-Big Star combo The Box Tops, written in Hinton’s downstairs office at Muscle Shoals Studios, where he was the house lead guitarist in the late-60s and early-70s. In 2019, “Choo Choo Train” appeared in “Pulp Fiction” director Quentin Tarantino’s latest opus, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

“Dusty in Memphis” didn’t sell particularly well initially. But the album’s legend grew in following decades, cited by outlets like Rolling Stone and Spin as an all-time great due to its sophisticated yet bluesy amalgam of R&B and pop sounds. Speaking to me, Fritts was quick to credit the playing of Memphis session musicians for the LP’s enduring appeal. “Breakfast in Bed” went on to be covered by artists including UB40 and Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, Joan Osborne and Shelby Lynne.

Recently, fellow Shoals songwriting icon Dan Penn told me, “Well, first guy I saw when I came to Florence – I was very young and he was very young – was Donnie Fritts. He was the first guy I met in the Tri-Cities and we became friends. Actually, he’s the first guy I wrote a song with, which was ‘Rainbow Road,’ he and I wrote that together and a few more.”

Often referred to as “Funky Donnie Fritts,” Donnie Fritts was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2008. His most recent solo album was 2018′s “June,” a tribute to early Muscle Shoals hitmaker Arthur Alexander, released via Florence label Single Lock Records.

For the complete article please see


Huntsville Botanical Garden announces new CEO
From the article by Paul Gattis on

The Huntsville Botanical Garden on Tuesday announced the successor to retiring CEO Paula Steigerwald.

The garden’s board of directors has named Sue Wagner, whose experience has been concentrated in the Chicago area, to be the garden’s CEO. Wagner will begin her new role on Oct. 1.

The board selected Wagner following a six-month nationwide search.

“After an exhaustive, nationwide search and reviewing a strong pool of candidates, the search committee is excited to have selected a world class executive who can build on the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s strong success and take it to even greater heights in the future,” said search committee chairman Gary Bolton said in the announcement. “Paula Steigerwald has been a tremendous gift to our community and we are thrilled to find someone with Sue’s creativity, experience and passion to shepherd the garden into a new era.”

Steigerwald had announced her plans to retire in February.

According to the announcement, Wagner comes to the garden from the Morton Arboretum, a 1,700-acre botanical garden 25 miles west of Chicago in Lisle, Illinois, where she served as vice president for education and information for the past decade.

Prior to joining the Morton Arboretum, Wagner served as vice president for exhibits and programs for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago where she renovated school and teacher programs and led the master plan for exhibition and planetarium dome show production.

“I am excited to join the team at the Huntsville Botanical Garden,” Wagner said in the announcement. “I am honored to steward this magnificent garden along with the community of supporters to build upon a firm foundation for future success. I look forward to working with the staff, board and volunteers to achieve great things moving forward.”

For the complete article please see

GUMBO hosting tourism economic development summit
From the article by Jessica Vaughn on

Tommy Lee, 2019/2020 chairman of the Gulf United Metro Business Organization (GUMBO) has been visiting multiple entities over the past month to discuss the Tourism Economic Development Summit that the organization will be hosting Oct. 16-18 in the area.

“We’re very excited in the sense that we believe at GUMBO that it’s time for us to actually put our best foot forward with the fact that we have a brand-new legislature that’s just completed their first session,” Lee said. “What we’re looking to do is to bring the members of both the House and Senate Tourism Committees and the entire Baldwin County legislative delegation down to the beach and show them what’s going on here at the south end of Baldwin.”

Members’ spouses/guests will also be invited, and accounting for any declines, an estimated 50 people will be coming to our area in October for the summit. Lee states when looking at the list of invitees, it’s clear the majority are from Birmingham north, and that there are a number of freshmen legislators. Only a few names, such as David Sessions and Chris Elliott, are from the southern end of the state.

An exact itinerary is still being planned, but a rough draft has been created while final details are established. During the summit, guests will stay at the Lodge at Gulf State Park, receiving a tour of the facility and dinner at the Lodge during the first night.

The second day would begin with key speakers for the area, including Lee Sentell, Director of Alabama Tourism Department, Herb Malone, President/CEO Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, Chris Blankenship, Director of Alabama Department of Conservation and National Resources, and Lee Lawson, President/CEO of Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance. This would be followed by a tour of the Gulf State Park, a tour of OWA and potentially the sports fields and Event Center dependent upon time, a tour of The Wharf, and finally dinner that night at the governor’s residence with Governor Kay Ivey. Checkout would be the following morning.

“GUMBO did this exact event about 10 to 12 years ago, and there are still a few members on the Senate or House Committees that were on the committees back then that say how great of a time it was, and asking if we are going to do it again,” said Lee. “It made an impression on these legislators. We have been on the bottom end of the stick for long enough as far as GUMBO is concerned, and we need to show Montgomery all of the good things that are going on down here.”

To bring the summit to life, GUMBO has been asking local organizations and municipalities for $10,000 each to raise an estimated $65,000 to accommodate the guests for the three days and make the most of the time allowed to show them what our area offers. At this point, their request has been met with approval and gratitude for their efforts.

“This is good that GUMBO is getting this group down here,” said Foley council member Ralph Hellmich. “I think it’s a great thing, and I applaud GUMBO for getting this set up.”

For the complete article please see,81703

Rosa Parks honored with a Barbie doll on Women’s Equality Day
From the article by Julia Webster on

Civil rights activist Rosa Parks is being honored with her own Barbie doll.

The toy company Mattel unveiled the new doll for Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26 as part of a range dedicated to celebrating inspiring women.

Parks became known as “the mother of the civil rights movement” after she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Alabama. Her arrest in 1955 started the Montgomery Bus Boycott which led to the desegregation of the transport system.

The Rosa Parks doll is part of the Inspiring Women Series, dolls based on historical figures that come with educational information about the contributions each woman made to society, as well as authentic clothing, according to CNN.

For the complete article please see

Alabama’s Ruffner Mountain focus of new book
From the article by Dennis Washington on

Ruffner Mountain, a landmark in the history of Birmingham’s industrial rise, is the focus of a new book, ”Back to Nature.”

The book tells the long, tumultuous story of the Mountain — from its geological formation, through the days of Birmingham’s explosive growth as a steel-producing and iron ore mining city and ending with four decades of strenuous effort to preserve it. Author Mark Kelly, a senior market specialist for Alabama Power and longtime volunteer with The Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition, said it was important to make sure all of that was included.

“When someone asks when the history of Ruffner Mountain started, you say, ‘about 500 million years ago,’” Kelly said. “You have the geological history of the mountain where you have two of the three ingredients: iron ore and limestone, that made Birmingham ‘Birmingham.’ There is the mining history which ties into the history of Birmingham and some of the personalities and events that were involved with that, which is a pretty fascinating story by itself, and then this place sat dormant for the better part of 40 years until the advent of Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. It started with 28 acres and today it’s over 1,000 acres — one of the largest urban nature preserves in the country. It’s a great story from a lot of angles.”

Kelly said the idea to write the book began more than 10 years ago during a conversation with Bob Farley and Michelle Reynolds.

“Bob and Michelle put in a lot of volunteer time at Ruffner over the years,” Kelly said. “We started talking and came up with the idea that maybe we should do a book about this place.”

Work began, but it wasn’t until Carlee Sanford was hired as executive director of Ruffner Mountain in 2015 that research for the book took on the momentum it needed to be completed.

“When I started at Ruffner, I was told during the first week that we had to finish this book,” Sanford said. “I didn’t know if we would ever finish it because I didn’t know what it was, and now it’s this beautiful piece that Ruffner will have long after me.”

‘It wasn’t pretty’
From schoolchildren to hikers, Ruffner Mountain is visited by more than 30,000 people annually. However, the mountain has not always been a natural attraction; for more than 60 years it was mined, providing millions of tons of iron ore that helped Birmingham establish itself as a national leader in the rising steel industry of the early 20th century. When mining operations at Ruffner Mountain ended in 1953, what was left was not pretty, but Sanford said its appearance led directly to the creation of the nature preserve in 1977.

“Part of the reason it is a nature preserve today is because of what was done to this mountain,” Sanford said. “No one wanted it. It wasn’t pretty. The value of the property was different, so it’s kind of amazing when you see these pictures today of wildlife or lookouts or something that was mined and quarried. It’s so beautiful and it takes time on the longer scale to be able to see the beauty that can come out of what we did to the land with industry.”

Today, the nature preserve is the main attraction. More than 1,040 acres are under the management of The Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition, making it one of the largest privately-funded nonprofit nature preserves in the country. Visitors can hike more than 14 miles of trails winding through the former limestone quarry and mine land, observing a diverse array of distinct natural plant communities and wildlife habitats.

“I hope between the work they’re doing every day at the Nature Center and the release of this book contributes to a greater knowledge and awareness of what this place has meant to the history of the city,” Kelly said. “You can hike, you can look at a lot of the artifacts from the mining era or you can just find a place to sit down and meditate. It’s a great experience. It’s a great asset for the community.”

Sanford said she hopes the book will help visitors understand that Ruffner Mountain needs the support of individuals who visit to continue its work.

“Oftentimes when I talk to visitors, they assume this was a state park or it’s a federally-funded place that used to have some mining and the intent was always to be a nature preserve, and that’s so far from the truth,” Sanford said. “When you read the book you see that this took decades, and it was the work of hundreds of people to get to the point that we are at today.”

“This is a great place,” Kelly added. “It is something not every city has. People need to appreciate it and come out and enjoy it.”

For the complete article please see

Murals wanted from around Alabama
The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development (UACED) wants to know about your community murals. We are in the process of creating a statewide mural trail and our first step is inventorying all existing murals in Alabama. After we have a good inventory of the existing ones we will then begin taking suggestions for locations for new ones.

For more information contact: Candace Johnson, 205-348-8338 or

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 held be in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. in room 342. The 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
Did you know you can add up to eight images to your partner page? Without any original photography, a generic placeholder photo will be displayed. Drive user engagement by publishing high-quality images that show off your business or event.

Not a partner yet? Sign up today.


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