Tourism Tuesdays Dec. 3, 2019

Grey Brennan wins Global Ambassador Award

Candlelight Tours at Governor’s Mansion for next two Monday nights

Rosa Parks Statue unveiled in Montgomery, on 64th anniversary of not giving up her seat

Spring ahead to a relaxing getaway at Alabama’s welcoming beaches

Farm Bowl + Juice Co. amps up Alabama freshness

10 things to do in Gulf Shores on a rainy day

Hunting and fishing boost Black Belt economy

Alabama company wins Amazon’s Woman-owned Business of the Year Award

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Grey Brennan wins Global Ambassador Award
Grey Brennan, with the Alabama Tourism Department, was one of five special individuals and organizations honored with an Ambassador Award at Travel South USA’s 2019 International Showcase in St. Louis, Missouri.

Other winners included Nine international operators from key markets in Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, along with 25 U.S.-based receptive operators.

“Grey has done a magnificent job in promoting Alabama internationally, and the figures show it,” said tourism director Lee Sentell. “Alabama ranked among the top five states in the country as far as growth in international tourism.”

Brennan, deputy director of the Alabama Tourism Department, was selected for the Global Ambassador Award, which is given annually, for having made prominent contributions to the tourism economy of the South.

In addition, the award winners exemplify the Travel South USA brand by influencing and promoting the region, supporting state tourism organizations and engaging with the Southern travel industry.

“Travel South USA is excited to honor tour operators, airlines and partners around the globe that love the Southern United States. We are grateful for the time and effort these Travel South USA Ambassadors put into developing new tours, promotional campaigns and training seminars year-round,” said Duane Parrish, director of South Carolina Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and Chair of the TSUSA Board of Directors. To the 2019 Travel South USA Ambassadors, we say ‘thank you!’”

Criteria for selection for the Ambassador Awards included overall production and promotional efforts for the Travel South USA region; an array of leisure holiday offerings (such as group tours, city stays, road trips and foreign independent travel); beyond the airport gateway promotions and efforts; annual attendance at International Showcase; and enthusiasm and partnership in promoting the South.

“The Ambassador Awards provides a unique opportunity to recognize the national and international organizations that assist in driving visitation to the South. International Showcase, the event during where so much international travel business is conducted, is the ideal setting to thank and pay tribute to them,” continued Parrish.

In 2018, the Travel South USA region received approximately 7.2 million international visitors who spent $9.8 billion in hotels, restaurants, attractions, tours and other travel related businesses in the southern U.S., according to Tourism Economics.

This year more than 400 tourism professionals gathered for three-days of intensive meetings with the aim of delivering more international visitors, spending more time and more money in the Southern U.S.

Candlelight Tours at Governor’s Mansion for next two Monday nights
The first Monday night of the candlelight tours attracted a crowd of almost 500. Gov. Kay Ivey will open the Governor’s Mansion for candlelight tours for the next two Monday nights from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Designers have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours.

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge each week day at the gift shop prior to tours. The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Ave. across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The interior design companies working on decorating the mansion include Tea Olive Designs, Lynne Coker Interiors, CCI Premier ReDesign/Staging, Burrow Interior Design, Patrick Martin and Monday Morning Master Gardener Group.

Choirs and singers scheduled to perform include Albertville High School Show Choir on Dec. 9 and Kimberley and Darrell Glover on Dec. 16.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry St. in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951. The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9 and 16. More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion candlelight tours by going online at

Rosa Parks Statue unveiled in Montgomery, on 64th anniversary of not giving up her seat
From the article by Zayda Rivera on

A long-overdue memorial in Alabama for Rosa Parks took place six decades after the civil rights pioneer bravely refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man.

On Sunday (Dec. 1), at the Court Street Fountain in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, approximately 30 feet from where Parks got on that bus 64 years before, in 1955, a statue of her was unveiled, the Associated Press reports.

Among nearly 400 attendees was Fred Gray, the attorney who defended Parks, and many other civil rights heroes, USA Today reports.

Parks’ 1955 arrest was a key moment in the civil rights movement, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which challenged segregation on public buses.

In addition to Parks’ statue, the city of Alabama also presented two historic markers for the plaintiffs of Browder v. Gayle, which was the landmark case that ruled segregation on Montgomery buses was unconstitutional, USA Today reports.

Clydetta Fulmer was the artist commissioned for the Parks memorial, which, along with the other two markers, was a partnership between the city of Montgomery, Montgomery County, the Alabama Department of Tourism and the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts, USA Today reports.

“To stand here today as Montgomery’s mayor where Mrs. Rosa Parks stood defiant against systemic injustice infecting our community and our country speaks to the magnitude of this moment and the progress achieved in our city,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said in a statement Sunday, ABC News reports. “This progress, coupled with the dawn of a new era of reconciliation and revitalization, underscores Montgomery’s status as the Birthplace of Civil Rights and a light unto the world.”

For the complete article please see–alabama-on-64th-annive.html

Spring ahead to a relaxing getaway at Alabama’s welcoming beaches
From the article on

Already over the holidays and looking forward to warmer weather and less stressful trips? It’s not too early to begin planning your spring vacation to Alabama’s Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

These hidden gems are full of natural beauty, from the jaw-dropping sunsets over turquoise waters to 32 miles of sugar-white sand beaches made almost entirely of quartz grains washed down thousands of years ago from the Appalachian Mountains. And by going in the spring, you can enjoy smaller crowds and lower rates than in the summer and you won’t have to wait as long, either!

Naturally, outdoor adventure awaits in this paradise. From biking along the miles of trails to kayaking the plethora of waterways to fishing for snapper and sailfish, there’s no shortage of fresh-air excitement. Looking for even more thrills? Then check out the Hummingbird Zipline Course at The Wharf, Alabama’s longest zipline course at more than 6,000 feet. The two-hour guided tour soars up to 115 feet above the pristine coastal wetlands setting.

When you’ve worked up an appetite, check out the delectable local cuisine. From dive bars to fine dining, you’ll find meals from around the world and seafood fresh off the boat.

Another great reason to visit in the spring is the jam-packed calendar of events. The 46th annual Festival of Arts draws potters, painters, sculptors, watercolorists, and textile, wood, and glass artists to Orange Beach Waterfront Park in March, while hundreds travel to participate in the legendary Mullet Toss (the fish, not the haircut) in April.

Come May, you have your pick of the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship; the Orange Beach Billfish Classic; and Hangout Music Festival, which has featured such musicians as Vampire Weekend, Hozier, Walk the Moon, The Killers, and Kendrick Lamar in years past.

For the complete article please see

Farm Bowl + Juice Co. amps up Alabama freshness
From the article by Susan Swagler on

Andrea Snyder is all about healthy, convenient and local dining – whether that’s a full family meal; an easy, nutritious breakfast; a cup of coffee with a friend; or a quick, vitamin-rich juice shot on the way to a gym.

The Birmingham entrepreneur has all that covered.

Snyder and her husband, David, first brought us Urban Cookhouse, a farm-to-fire-to-table fast-casual restaurant, in 2010.  They now own a licensee group that includes the Homewood, Summit, downtown Birmingham and Tuscaloosa locations, and Urban Cookhouses are in three other Alabama cities as well as four other states.

“We were one of the first concepts to bring local food to the fast-casual segment and figure out how to do it at that price point, which is $10 to $12 a meal,” she says.

Farm Bowl + Juice Co., which the Snyders founded in Homewood in January 2018, is just as forward thinking.

The small, bright storefront with an Instagrammable abstract mural outside and charming rope swings on the porch, is a neighborhood wellness stop specifically designed to promote a lifestyle of clean eating.

Farm Bowl came about because the Snyders recognized a need and had a place for it.

When they outgrew their original Urban Cookhouse location in downtown Homewood, they moved to a new building up the street. There was a sliver of extra space in the new location, so they decided to create another brand that complemented Urban Cookhouse but didn’t compete with it. From traveling, they were familiar with the juice bar and wellness café concept. They have since opened a second location in Tuscaloosa.

“We wanted it to be a wellness brand, and so we decided that we would be plant-based,” Snyder says.

“We have no animal products. We want you to always feel good. So we make cold-pressed juices. All of our smoothies are exactly what’s listed on the menu with whole ingredients like almond milk and coconut milk. We have overnight oats and coffee. It’s just a good place to come for clean eating,” she adds, whether that’s a snack or meal replacement or breakfast or lunch or something in between.

Acai berry bowls are at the center of the colorful, healthy menu, which includes oatmeal bowls, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, juice shots, toasts, juice cleanses and a kids’ menu featuring acai and oatmeal bowls and a strawberry smoothie.

Some of the ingredients, like acai berries and mango, are tropical but the Snyders source Alabama ingredients as much as possible. The same area farmers and makers who supply Urban Cookhouse also deliver here. This not only insures the restaurants have fresh, flavorful foods, but there’s also an economic impact and a sense of social responsibility in supporting the farms. “We’ve partnered with these farmers for a long time,” Snyder says, “So it was easy to … just get them to come next door and drop off another batch of something.”

There are in-season strawberries, blueberries and blackberries from Smitherman Farms; kale, spinach, honeydew and watermelon from Southern Oaks Farm; and year-round honey from Eastaboga Bee Co.; wheatgrass from Southern Organics; and coffee roasted locally at Seeds Coffee Co. Framed photos of these trusted partners line the walls of the restaurants.

The ingredients are made into things like the popular Nutty Professor, a bright, satisfying acai bowl. It has Sambazon Açai Berry Sorbet as the base, and then they add strawberries, almonds, granola, peanut butter and local honey. The staff can recommend add-ons, like sliced bananas, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds or cacao nibs.

Oatmeal bowls, with Farm Bowl’s blend of overnight oats, come topped with a variety of things, such as almond butter, local honey, chia seeds, hemp seeds, blueberries, strawberries, apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, toasted quinoa, walnuts and pecans.

The Power Up smoothie is a blend of almond milk, coconut water, avocado, blueberry, spinach, banana, coconut butter, cocoa nibs, chia seeds, hemp seeds, local honey and cinnamon. Recommended add-ons include vegan protein, nutmeg, spirulina or freshly made Seeds coffee ice cubes. The Bounce Back has kale, chard, almond milk, banana, local honey; chia seeds, cinnamon, vegan protein and ginger can be added.

There are cold-pressed juices for every need.

The Refresh is made with watermelon, mint, cucumber and beets; Hydrate works with coconut water, pear, cucumber and honeydew; Gym & Juice is a mixture of honeydew, apple, spinach, spirulina, lemon and celery.

Wellness shots, which Andrea showcased at a chef’s demo at The Market at Pepper Place this summer, are made to order like all the smoothies and bowls and avocado and honey toasts.

The Limelight is turmeric, lime, wheatgrass and cayenne. Cider is made with apple cider vinegar, apple and turmeric. The OG juice shot, with wheatgrass, lemon, ginger and cayenne, is especially tasty. So is the Fireball combination of lemon, ginger and cayenne.

Juice cleanses are daily combinations of juices and shots that cost $40 and $50. The “summer cleanse challenge” is popular with Farm Bowl’s Instagram followers.

“Our most loyal customers, the ones who spend the most money here, are actually men,” Snyder says. They are fitness-minded folks who like to order online and utilize the stores’ drive-thru for pre- and post-workouts in the afternoon. Her regulars include Samford and UAB students, moms looking for a nutritious after-school snack for their kids, and people just stopping by for a casual meeting over a bite of something healthy.

“Our customer base is very diverse, but they also are very educated,” she says. “They know exactly what kind of food this is.” The store draws plenty of visitors from out of town. “We’ve had a lot of celebrities here,” Andrea says. Courteney Cox is one of them. Lots of people in town with HGTV from the West Coast or New York City stop in, too, she says. “This is the way they’ve been eating for 15 years. They Google a juice spot and find us.”

The Farm Bowl staff is educated, too.

“We try very hard at that,” Snyder says. “We have an advanced menu test they have to take.”

Each item offers specific health benefits and some, like wheatgrass, have multiple benefits. The staff is educated on these uses and can steer customers toward foods that will, for example, fuel a workout or help with recovery.

Farm Bowl + Juice Co. provides a fresh, fun and convenient way to consume optimum nutrition, but Snyder wants it to be a place of fellowship, too. She has been pleasantly surprised by the social media following Farm Bowl has inspired. The store features photos of #farmbowlfamous fans online and in stores.

“I want people to make this a part of their lifestyle, to realize that this is convenient. It is a good value. We’re always going to take care of our customers. We also love for them to think of us as an alternative to your coffee shop. I want more of this,” she says, pointing to two young women deep in conversation at a nearby table. “Come and have something healthy besides a muffin. We have great Wi-Fi, and we’d love for you to just come and hang out all day.”

For the complete article please see

10 things to do in Gulf Shores on a rainy day
From the article by Sara Broers on TravelAwaits:

When you book a beach vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the last thing you expect is to experience rainy days. There is no reason to be disappointed by the rain, though, as you will have many other things to see and do. Different experiences with the arts and fun foods await you as you reach for an umbrella. Here are ten things for you to enjoy when the rain takes over your beach vacation.

Note: I experienced some of these Gulf Shores offerings during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.

1. Experience the gulf coast at the Coastal Arts Center
The Coastal Arts Center offers a beautiful view of Wolf Bay in all types of weather. This 10,000-square-foot fine art gallery is home to stunning works by artists from the Gulf Coast. You will also find the Hot Shop and Clay Studio on the same grounds as the Coastal Arts Center.

The one thing that I appreciate the most about this facility is how it shares the history of the area through works of art. Be sure to walk upstairs and look out the large glass windows. It’s a majestic view, even when it’s raining. The artwork located throughout is sure to catch your attention and might even inspire you to create your own masterpiece.

2. Create glass art
The Hot Shop is a popular place to make stunning glass creations, and it’s located on the campus of the Coastal Arts Center. You will be out of the rain and have an opportunity to actually create art in Gulf Shores. Make Your Own Glass classes are offered, and I personally recommend them. You will choose the colors and glass design that you want to create.

On my two visits, I have made a Christmas tree ornament and a paperweight. An expert glass artist will assist you throughout the whole glass-making process. If you are flying home from Gulf Shores, I would strongly suggest the paperweight. It’s the easiest to transfer home, as it is easy to pack. This attraction is handicap accessible and groups are also welcome. Wear closed-toe shoes (these are required), as you will be working with hot glass.

3. Throw clay on a pottery wheel
The arts are a great outlet when the rain won’t seem to let up on your beach vacation, and another fun place to visit is The Clay Studio, also on the grounds of the Coastal Arts Center. You can try your hand at hand-building with clay, throwing on a pottery wheel, or glazing pre-made pottery. Group classes and birthday parties are also available.

4. Weave a scarf or shawl at Clara’s Loom
If you enjoy textiles, you will appreciate all that Clara’s Loom has to offer. Shawls and scarves are two popular items that many folks enjoy creating when they visit. Clara offers several different types of classes. The Try It and Let’s Explore Classes are recommended for adults, children, small groups, and individuals. Participants can create their own freestyle weaving in the studio — no need to own or be familiar with the equipment involved. The best time to try something new is when you are on vacation, and Clara will welcome you with a smile to her textile learning center.

5. Make your own scented soap
One of the most unique experiences I have had in Gulf Shores is making soap at the High Cotton Bath Company. My husband and I created our own scented soaps and lotions. It was a lot of fun mixing and searching for the scents that we desired. With more than 200 fragrances to mix and match, this experience is ideal when the rain moves in! I would plan to spend an hour at this store, as it’s an attraction in itself.

6. Enjoy the craft beer scene in Gulf Shores
The craft beer scene has made it to Gulf Shores. Locals are proud of their friends at Big Beach Brewing Company, and craft beer enthusiasts will appreciate the 12 taps and the house-made lemonade for those who aren’t drinkers. There is no food on-site, but all guests can order food in or bring it along with them. With four large garage doors and a fireplace, the atmosphere will be perfect for your rainy-day visit. Big Beach Brewing has events on the calendar all year long, so rain or shine, there’s always a reason to visit.

7. Try out an HD golf simulator
The Village Hideaway located at the Beach Club Resort in Gulf Shores, is where you will find food, drinks, games, and a lot of fun. My husband and I enjoy the HD golf simulator, as it’s a fun way to swing a golf club even when the course is soggy. The Hideaway’s pizzas and burgers are crowd favorites. If you enjoy a nice crowd and televisions for watching sporting events, this is where you will find them.

8. Stroll through the Lodge at Gulf State Park
The Lodge at Gulf State Park will inspire you to live a little greener. This lodge is a leader when it comes to sustainable tourism. The operations and facilities are environmentally friendly, there are direct and intangible social and economic benefits to the local people, and it supports the protection of cultural and natural heritage. Stroll through the main entryway and find a rocking chair looking toward the Gulf of Mexico. Here is where you will come to appreciate all that nature has to offer along the Alabama Coastline.

9. Enjoy the ultimate milkshake
The beautiful milkshakes at The Yard will fulfill your desire for a stunning Instagram photo, and of course a delicious milkshake.

The Yard is a casual milkshake bar that is always very busy. The best tip I can give you is to wait your turn in line. Upon your arrival grab a menu and a crayon by the door. You will have three different menus to choose from: Specialty Milkshakes, the Everything Else Menu, and the Shake Boss Menu. The ordering process can seem overwhelming, but don’t stress when it comes to placing your order. Simply choose the toppings and flavors that you enjoy. Once your order is placed, sit back and wait. I always enjoy watching the huge milkshakes come out to customers, as it’s a mouth-watering experience.

These are some of the largest milkshakes you will ever encounter, so order accordingly. I’d also encourage you to have your phone or camera ready, as these milkshakes are worthy of a photo or two.

10. Indulge in bread pudding at LuLu’s
I love bread pudding and, in fact, I travel for bread pudding. LuLu’s Gulf Shores is home to an entertainment venue as well as a menu full of goodness. Shrimp, fish, and gumbo are all very popular here. Anyone with food allergies will appreciate the customer service in this restaurant. There are separate menus for different types of food allergies, which makes dining out a breeze for everyone. Most importantly, order the bread pudding. It’s one of a kind, as the name — Hot Fun Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding — implies. The best part of this bread pudding is the fact that it is drenched in a custard sauce and includes pecans.

If a little rain gets in the way of your beach vacation, it’s nothing to worry about when you are in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The rain brings an opportunity to explore parts of the area that were not on your agenda, which often makes for an even more memorable vacation. In my opinion, any day in Gulf Shores is one of the best days ever, rain or shine. A little rain will not stop me from meeting new people and learning a new craft, and it should not stop you either.

For the complete article please see

Hunting and fishing boost Black Belt economy
From the article by David Rainer on

With other areas of Alabama enjoying an economic boon in manufacturing and industry, one well-known area of the state has discovered its treasure lies in its fertile soil and natural resources.

The Alabama Black Belt’s treasure is found in its abundant wildlife and fisheries with the multi-species hunting and angling opportunities and the significant economic boosts those provide.

At a press conference and book-signing event held at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery last week, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBAA) revealed the results of a study on the economic impact of hunting and fishing in the Black Belt, a swath of counties that cuts across the middle of the state.

The Black Belt counties are Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.

“You may not know that hunting and fishing in the Black Belt generates $1 billion of economic impact and provides thousands of jobs throughout the 23-county area,” said Thomas Harris, ALBBAA president and founder. “There are over 11 million acres that are truly unique in this country with its abundance of wildlife, culture and heritage. These assets are on the ground and under our feet. Our mission has been to energize these assets and recruit these eco-tourism dollars to the region. This is a rural economic development program that is working.

“I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a leadership team and dedicated team of board members who are passionate about promoting and branding nationally the Alabama Black Belt Adventures as the premier destination for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.”

Alabama State Senator Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, said the impact ALBBAA has on the area has been “tremendous.”

“Being a son of the soil, I want to thank the Black Belt Adventures for their dedication to the area known as the Black Belt,” Sen. Singleton said. “While we may not be inundated with a lot of industries with smokestacks, we are inundated with a successful industry called wildlife. As an avid hunter and fisherman myself, I enjoy the Black Belt as much as those who travel to the Black Belt to enjoy our rich culture.

“We look forward to hunters and fishermen who come into our area to visit our lodges, who come into the area to see and visit our historic civil rights sites. We welcome them to the area. We love to hear about that $1 billion industry in the Black Belt.”

ALBBAA commissioned Southeast Research to study the economic impact of outdoors activities in the Black Belt. The research company derived its economic impact report from data from a national study from the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the American Sportfishing Association. Hunting and fishing license holders who had shared their email addresses with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) were also polled by the research company.

The study revealed that spending by sportsmen and women in the Black Belt supports 24,716 jobs, resulting in salaries and wages of $364 million, state and local taxes of $62 million, a $28 million contribution to Alabama’s Education Trust Fund, and a total economic impact of more than $1 billion.

“Hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation are part of the way of life in Alabama, and especially important in the Black Belt,” said ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “I have enjoyed participating on the Board of Alabama Black Belt Adventures to promote this portion of Alabama. These 23 counties contain some of the best hunting land anywhere in the United States. It produces big bucks and turkeys, as well as big bass and crappie in the lakes and waterways. There are some pretty special small towns and special people in the Black Belt. I hope more people will venture out into this beautiful part of Alabama and visit the small-town shops and eclectic restaurants and attractions that really show some of the best of Alabama.”

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes grew up in the Black Belt and has witnessed its emergence as the destination of choice for hunters and anglers.

“Some of my fondest childhood memories are of hunting with my father in Choctaw County,” Sykes said. “Those early years hunting and fishing in the Black Belt shaped me into who I am today. That love of hunting and the outdoors fueled my desire to attend Auburn University and pursue a degree in Wildlife Science. Since that time, I’ve dedicated my career to managing wildlife, either through one-on-one landowner consultations or now in my current position. Not only is hunting a way of life and a time-honored tradition, but I’d bet many of the little towns in the Black Belt would dry up and go away without hunters and fishermen.”

Statewide in Alabama, outdoor recreation supports 73,553 jobs, providing $1.1 billion in salaries and wages, $185 million in state and local taxes and $84 million for the Alabama Education Trust Fund. The total economic impact of hunting and fishing in Alabama is $3.2 billion.

Pam Swanner, ALBBAA Executive Director, debuted two new 30-second television advertisements that will reach a quarter of the nation’s households. Gray Television, which acquired Raycom Media early this year, will continue Raycom’s partnership with ALBBAA to air Black Belt tourism commercials on almost 150 affiliates.

Dr. David Bronner, Chief Executive Officer of Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), said the television market has been a boon for the Black Belt, and he wants to continue that outreach through the RSA-controlled print media.

“We were at 12½ percent of the American population, but now we’re up to 25 percent,” Dr. Bronner said. “With Gray Television, you (ALBBAA) are in more than the Southeast. You’re actually in Alaska. You’re in Hawaii. Right about 25 percent of the American population sees you daily. What we want to work on more is our newspaper group. We have 100 daily newspapers in 22 states, from Massachusetts to Texas basically. We can put full-page ads in those pages. We’ll be glad to help with that.

“For many decades we have tried to do things to impact the Black Belt. It’s extremely difficult. We’ve funded a couple of pulp mills, but when Thomas came to me with this idea, I knew it was something really special. He brought with him Mr. Deer (Jackie Bushman) and Mr. Fish (Ray Scott) – those two guys did our first ads. But I came to thank you, because doing something for the Black Belt is so meaningful for the entire state.”

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville, said the Alabama Black Belt is special to him for a variety of reasons.

“I love the outdoors,” Lt. Gov. Ainsworth said. “I love Alabama, and I love the Black Belt. I have stories that are personal to me. I was fortunate to kill my first deer with my dad, hunting in Linden, Alabama, when I was 5 years old. I killed my first deer with a bow, hunting in Wilcox County when I was 12. I got to watch both of my sons shoot their first deer in the Black Belt. When you talk about the Black Belt, it’s very personal to me.

“Being in the hunting industry and traveling around the country, people know about the Black Belt. Just like South Dakota is known for pheasants or other places are known for great fishing. They know about the Black Belt because of what the Association has done. I want to thank Dr. Bronner for helping us get the word out. It’s a huge industry, and we need to continue to promote it. We want to do everything we can to make sure the hunting and fishing industries in the Black Belt continue to be vibrant.”

To celebrate ALBBAA’s 10th anniversary, the new coffee table book “Black Belt Bounty” was unveiled at the press conference. Numerous contributors, including James Beard award-winning Alabama chefs Chris Hastings and David Bancroft, celebrity chef Stacy Lyn Harris, wildlife artists, wildlife photographers and outdoors writers, were on hand for a book-signing event for the deluxe hardcover book that highlights and commemorates the outdoor traditions and culture of the Black Belt. Full disclosure: I had the honor to contribute three stories for the book.

For the complete article please see

Alabama company wins Amazon’s Woman-owned Business of the Year Award
From the article by William Thornton on AL:

Amazon has awarded its first “Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year” award to an Alabama company.

1818 Farms, which began in Mooresville and has its offices in Huntsville, was chosen from six finalists in the category in Amazon’s first-ever United States Small Business Spotlight Awards.

More than 1,300 U.S. small businesses nominated themselves for the awards across three categories – including small business of the year and small business owner under 30. Amazon customers chose the winners by casting their vote for their favorite small business. Customer voting ended Nov. 8.

Natasha McCrary, owner and founder of 1818 Farms, thanked friends, followers and “many Amazon customers” for their support.

“Working with Amazon has allowed us to connect with customers across the United States who might not be familiar with our products,” McCrary said. “Amazon has played an essential role in our growth as a company and a trusted brand.”

The company takes its name from the year Mooresville was incorporated – one year before Alabama became a state. While on vacation in North Carolina, McCrary and her family were introduced to Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep. Her son suggested the family raise and breed sheep, and the family took up the project as a way to teach the children conservation.

In 2013, McCrary used some of her dried herbs to create soaps that she sold at area farmers’ markets as a source of income to help feed the farm animals. From there, 1818 Farms’ bath and beauty line was born. Product offerings include shea crème, bath soaks, essential oil roll-ons, face serum and others.

The line of products is now available in 490 stores in 45 states. Since 2013, close to 200,000 units of 1818 Farms’ shea crème has been sold to people all over the country – 64,000 of those in the last 12 months. Since 2013, 1818 Farms has averaged 60 percent revenue growth annually.

The company began selling its products on Amazon Handmade in March 2017.

“Working with Amazon has helped us expand our customer base and continue to grow,” McCrary said. “Being associated with Amazon, not only provides credibility with those who may be out of state or haven’t visited the farm, but it also aligns with our brand and mission, as well as theirs. It is extremely important to us that we maintain our authenticity.”

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
With Alabama Tourism’s new promotion Photo ALbum, visitors can upload their photos into our Photo ALbum template and have their book printed and shipped to them for FREE. Just in time for the holidays. Plus, every completed Photo ALbum is an entry to win a return trip to Alabama.

To read more about the promotion, visit


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