Tourism Tuesday July 28, 2020

Body of civil rights icon John Lewis crosses Selma bridge

Financial support will ensure Space Camp will continue

U.S. House passes the Great American Outdoors Act

Birmingham airport had $1.6 billion economic impact on state

Bellingrath Gardens and Home hires Dr. F. Todd Lasseigne as executive director

Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest opens Aug. 3

Take a 3-hour road trip from Atlanta to this Alabama waterfall hidden in a cave

Alcohol board announces bar closing times

Alabama Tourism Department calls on public to help struggling restaurant industry

Show your guests how you are keeping them safe during Alabama Restaurant Week

Alabama Tourism Partner Pointer



Body of civil rights icon John Lewis crosses Selma bridge
From the article by Kim Chandler on

The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, for the final time Sunday as remembrances continue for the civil rights icon.

The bridge became a landmark in the fight for racial justice when Lewis and other civil rights marchers were beaten there 55 years ago on “Bloody Sunday,” a key event that helped galvanize support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Lewis returned to Selma each March in commemoration.

Sunday found him crossing alone — instead of arm-in-arm with civil rights and political leaders — after his coffin was loaded atop a horse-drawn wagon that retraced the route through Selma from Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the 1965 march began.

As the black wagon pulled by a team of dark-colored horses approached the bridge, members of the crowd shouted “Thank you, John Lewis!” and “Good trouble!” the phrase Lewis used to describe his tangles with white authorities during the civil rights movement.

Some crowd members sang the gospel song “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Jesus.” Later, some onlookers sang the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” and other gospel tunes.

Lewis died July 17 at 80, months after he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. Lewis served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death.

The wagon rolled over a carpet of rose petals, pausing atop the bridge over the Alabama River in the summer heat so family members could walk behind it. On the south side of the bridge, where Lewis was beaten by Alabama state troopers in 1965, family members placed red roses that the carriage rolled over, marking the spot where Lewis spilled his blood and suffered a head injury.

As a military honor guard lifted Lewis’ casket from the horse-drawn wagon into an automobile hearse, Alabama state troopers, including some African American ones, saluted Lewis.

Franz and Ellen Hill drove more that four hours from Monroe, Louisiana, to watch the procession.

Franz Hill, 60, said he remembers, as an African American child, watching news footage of Lewis and other civil rights marchers being beaten by law enforcement officers.

“I had to come back and see John Lewis cross this bridge for the last time,” said Hill. “It’s funny to see the state troopers waiting on him for a whole different reason, to honor and respect him rather than beat the crap out of him.”

There has been a movement to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after Lewis, but the idea has also faced opposition from those who note that Lewis wasn’t the only activist beaten on the bridge that day.

Lewis’ body was then taken to the Alabama Capitol in the afternoon to lie in repose, retracing the route marchers took in the days after Bloody Sunday to demand justice from Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

Bertha Surles and Edna Goldsmith stood along the highway between Selma and Montgomery to pay their final respects. Both carried signs, reading “Thank you.”

“He fought for equal rights up unto his death,” said Surles, 70.

She was in high school on Bloody Sunday and remembered watching the news footage of Lewis being beaten with horror.

“They didn’t give up and something good came from it. Still need some improvement, but something good came from it.”

Lewis left his family’s farm in Pike County, Alabama, in the 1950s to begin the fight against segregation and racial oppression. He received a hero’s welcome on his final stop in his home state.

After tracing the route of the completed Selma to Montgomery march, an honor guard carried Lewis’ flag-draped casket into the Alabama Capitol, which had served as the first capitol of the Confederacy.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy, the daughter of former segregationist governor Wallace, was among those in the Capitol for the receiving ceremony, along with most of Alabama’s congressional delegation.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey placed a wreath of flowers shaped like the Alabama flag by the casket. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell placed a wreath shaped like the American flag. His family members, many wearing shirts with the phrase “Good Trouble,” were led first into the Capitol before the public viewing later in the afternoon. A line of people, some carrying umbrellas for shade, waited under the brutal midday Alabama sun to go inside and pay their respects.

After the viewing, his casket was carried out as the song “Amazing Grace” was sung.

Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., spoke at a vigil for Lewis across the street from the Capitol, just a block away from the church her father led during the civil rights movement. Standing in front of large letters, spelling out the word “VOTE,” she recalled the man her father called “the boy from Troy” and her family called Uncle John.

“The most astounding thing about Congressman Lewis being left for dead on that bridge (in 1965) is how he got up both physically and spiritually. When he recovered, he recovered without a trace of bitterness or hostility or without losing hope in our Democracy,” Bernice King said.

She called for today’s young activists to take inspiration from Lewis’ non-violent leadership and for Congress to honor Lewis’ life legacy by restoring and expanding the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“This would be a fitting tribute and a way to honor this non-violent warrior who said the vote is the most powerful tool that we have,” she said.

A series of events began Saturday in Lewis’ hometown of Troy, Alabama, to pay tribute the late congressman and his legacy. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol next week before his private funeral Thursday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once led.

For the complete article please see 03f249c36a8a1d0470145e84fc93f331

Financial support will ensure Space Camp will continue
The U.S. Space and Rocket Centers said today that it must raise $1.5 million by October to offset losses caused by the pandemic and ensure that Space Camp will operate next summer.

Alabama Tourism Department director Lee Sentell, who was marketing director at the space center in the 1980’s during the first decade of Space Camp, is optimistic.

“Space Camp is Huntsville’s most visible calling card,” he said. ” With all of the smart and successful aerospace corporations in the city, they understand it is in their best interest to sustain Space Camp.”

“A trip to Space Camp is aspirational for bright youngsters from all over the U.S.A million kids have already attended. Many more will book as soon as the funding is in place and families are comfortable with their children traveling.”

Sentell says museum founder Ed Buckbee used to tell the story that in the 1960s a congressional chairman called Marshall Space Flight Center director Dr. Wernher von Braun and asked him to come to Washington that day to testify about the Apollo program. When the rocket scientist was seated, the chairman asked what would it take to reach the moon, and he responded, “The will to do it.”

“The same applies here,” Sentell said.

U.S. House passes the Great American Outdoors Act
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422, H.R. 1957) a bipartisan bill that prioritizes the protection and preservation of our national parks and public lands. The bill, which passed the U.S. Senate in June, now heads to the president’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

This legislation will secure $9.5 billion in needed funds to address priority infrastructure and repair projects in national parks and public lands, including the deferred maintenance backlog facing our national parks—a high priority for U.S. travel. It will also support an estimated 100,000 jobs and $17.5 billion in economic output per year, as well as contribute $9.6 billion to U.S. GDP. This funding will be critical to the future of our national parks, particularly as we work to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. As the U.S. slowly reopens, travelers continue to indicate their preference for outdoor recreational activities, and our parks and public lands are an excellent way to get Americans moving again safely.

Birmingham airport had $1.6 billion economic impact on state
From the article by Angel Coker on

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport had an economic impact of $1.6 billion on the state of Alabama in 2019.

That’s according to the recent Economic Impact of Alabama’s Six Major Commercial Service Airports on the State’s Economy report that was prepared for The Aviation Council of Alabama by Dr. M. Keivan Deravi at Economic Research Services Inc.

The report, released in mid-July, looked at the economic impacts of BHM, Huntsville International-Carl T. Jones Field, Mobile Regional Airport, Montgomery Regional (Dannelly Field) Airport, Dothan Regional Airport and Northwest Alabama Regional airports.

“Airports across the state of Alabama have been critically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Todd Storey, president of the Aviation Council of Alabama. “The passage of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act was an important step toward delivering broad-based relief across the aviation industry. However, the relief is only temporary.

“This report shows that it is imperative that air travel regains momentum and that organizations return to the sky as part of conducting business,” he said. “This is because if they do not, it will be detrimental to not only aviation and the airports, but also to the local community and national economic recovery as a whole.”

Economic impacts are typically measured in terms of the additional employment and earnings for the community that are directly attributable to the airport’s business and aviation operations. The economic benefits are measured in terms of transportation efficiency, or more specifically, the dollar value of time and resources saved. The transportation benefits of airports can include safety, convenience, access and time savings.

BHM’s economic impact includes $68,491,451 in direct economic impact, $436,147,730 in tourist spending, $378,479,386 induced, $478,269,839 in related industries, and 198,181,211 in general expenditures.

Payroll impact was estimated at $706 million, including direct, indirect, induced, related industries and general expenditures. And employment impact totaled 18,700 jobs, including 1,751 direct, 3,838 related to tourism and 5,579 in related industries.

BHM, as Alabama’s largest commercial airport, served the most passengers of the six airports in 2019 at 1,545,308, followed by Huntsville at 725,484.

Huntsville’s economic impact trumped that of BHM at $1.8 billion with a payroll impact of $1 billion and an employment impact of 28,600 jobs.

The report estimated that the total spending impact of Alabama’s six commercial airports on the state’s economy amounted to approximately $5 billion in 2019. Approximately $1.7 billion of this total economic impact was solely due to aviation and aviation-related activities. The total employment and payroll impact attributable to Alabama airports was approximately 69,200 direct and indirect jobs and over $2.6 billion of additional payroll to the economy of the state. The report found that direct total employment of the airports – aviation and aviation-related entities – was estimated at 16,200 full-time jobs in 2019, and the payroll of the entire on-site business operation was estimated to be $705.5 million.

These six commercial service airports and their auxiliary businesses collectively added a total of $948.1 million to the state’s economy in 2019 in the form of non-payroll business transactions. The airports were directly responsible for a total employment of 16,200 individuals and a total direct addition of $1.6 billion to the state’s economy.

The report found that the return on investment for the six airports varied from mid-4 to low-15. The overall average ROI was estimated to be 6, suggesting infrastructure spending, which is directed toward expanding the airports’ ability to accommodate additional passengers, could result in return that is six-fold higher. Alternatively stated, a $1 investment in airport core business, from any funding source, can generate $5 of additional income for the community.

“This report … validates the need for continued development, expansion and improvement to Alabama airports in order for them to meet the needs of tomorrow’s business environment so that they will continue to substantially impact Alabama’s economy,” said Rick Tucker, ACA legislative committee chairman and Huntsville International Airport CEO.

The economic impact of U.S. airports in 2017 amounted to $1.4 trillion in value of goods and services produced, $428 billion in earnings and 11.5 million jobs, according to the Airports Council International (ACI) of North America.

For the complete article please see 2020/07/22/report-finds-bhm-provides-16-billion-economic-im.html

Bellingrath Gardens and Home hires Dr. F. Todd Lasseigne as executive director
The Trustees of the Bellingrath Morse Foundation announce that Bellingrath Gardens and Home has hired Dr. F. Todd Lasseigne to be its executive director. Dr. Lasseigne serves as President and CEO of Tulsa Botanic Garden in Osage County, Oklahoma, a position he has held since 2011. Under his leadership, Tulsa Botanic Garden has developed into a nationally recognized botanical garden.

Dr. Lasseigne, a highly respected horticulturist and public garden leader, holds horticultural degrees from three universities. Early in his career, he was awarded the Martin McLaren Horticultural Scholarship from the Garden Club of America, which he used to study gardens, garden history, plant diversity, plant conservation, and horticulture in the United Kingdom. He has undertaken plant expeditionary work in China, the Republic of Georgia, Mexico, and much of the U.S. He has visited more than 450 gardens during his career.

Dr. Lasseigne has been invited to speak to nursery and public garden professionals in the U.S., the Japanese Nursery Association in Saitama, Japan, and the Seoul Botanic Park in South Korea. He served as the chair of the Plant Collections Professional Section for the American Public Gardens Association from 2008 to 2011, is active in numerous plant societies, and helped organize professional meetings for the Maple Society and the American Public Gardens Association.

“We could not be more pleased to have Todd Lasseigne join us as the new Executive Director at Bellingrath,” said Preston Bolt, Chairman of the Trustees of the Bellingrath Morse Foundation. “Todd’s extensive horticultural background, his tremendous experience at gardens around the country and his obvious appreciation for the history and mission of the Gardens and Home make him an ideal successor to Bill Barrick. We look forward to working with him and the rest of the tremendous staff to make Bellingrath an even more inviting embodiment of the beautiful and historic Gardens and Home that Walter and Bessie Bellingrath left as an enduring legacy to our community, State and region.”

“I am excited and honored to be joining Bellingrath Gardens and Home as the next executive director,” Dr. Lasseigne said. “Bellingrath is a beloved institution of national renown, and it is a quintessentially Southern garden. It is clear to me that a bright future for Bellingrath lies ahead, building on past excellence and its historical lineage. With decades of beauty, displays, and collections, all set on a magnificent site, the Gardens and Home will continue to grow in importance and value for the citizens of Mobile and southern Alabama, as well as our neighbors to the east and west. I look forward to bringing new eyes and perspectives to this public garden and historic home, coupled with excellence already existing from Bellingrath’s superb board leadership and talented, dedicated, and knowledgeable staff.”

A native of Thibodaux, La., Dr. Lasseigne holds degrees in horticulture from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the University of Georgia, and North Carolina State University. Before coming to Tulsa Botanic Garden, Dr. Lasseigne was the founding Executive Director of the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville, N.C., and Assistant Director of the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C.

Dr. Lasseigne was selected to replace Dr. William E. Barrick after a national search. Dr. Barrick retired on July 19, 2019, after 20 years at Bellingrath, and was named Executive Director Emeritus.

Dr. Lasseigne will begin work at Bellingrath Gardens and Home on Sept. 1.

Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest opens Aug. 3
From the article on

The 2021 Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest will begin accepting entries on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. This year’s contest is a joint project between the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Alabama Tourism Department. The deadline to enter is Oct. 31, 2020.

A major change to the 2021 photo contest is a focus on traditional photography techniques and the use of hand-held cameras. No cellphone, smartphone, game camera, or drone photography will be chosen as winning photos for nine of the 10 categories. Smartphone and tablet photos will be accepted in the Young Photographers category.

The photo contest is open to state residents and visitors alike, but qualifying photos must have been taken in Alabama in the past two years. Any amateur photographer not employed by ADCNR is encouraged to enter.

A total of eight photos per person may be entered in the following categories. You may enter all eight in one category or among several categories.

2021 Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest Categories

•Alabama State Parks


•Bugs and Butterflies

•Cold-blooded Critters

•Nature-Based Recreation


•Shoots and Roots

•Sweet Home Alabama


•Young Photographers (ages 17 and under)

First, second, third and one honorable mention will be awarded in each category. Winning images will be featured online and in an exhibit traveling to various venues across the state during 2021.

Art teachers are encouraged to incorporate participation in the Young Photographers category into their art instruction this fall.

An exhibit of the 2020 winning photos will be on display at the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort, Alabama, in early August 2020. To view the winning photos online, visit

For complete 2021 category descriptions and contest rules, visit

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

For the complete article please see articles/outdoor-alabama-photo-contest-opens-august-3

Take a 3-hour road trip from Atlanta to this Alabama waterfall hidden in a cave
From the article by Megan Manning on

Summer isn’t over yet.

If you’re looking to add more adventures under your belt, heading over to the neighboring states might not be a bad idea. The Stephens Gap Cave trail in Alabama will take you through a lush forest and into a cave that’ll make your jaw drop.

Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve in Woodville, Alabama is too beautiful not to explore and totally worth hitting the road to go visit.

You’re looking at just shy of a three-hour road trip from Atlanta to find this hidden gem, so you can either take a day trip to this natural wonder or rent an affordable Airbnb for the weekend.

The approximately 2-mile trail will lead you into a nearly 150-foot-deep cave that will unlock your inner Tomb Raider, where you’ll be met with unique rocky features and even a waterfall.

If you’re an experienced cave-dweller, you can reach the inside of the caverns by repelling down with your own equipment, but if not just take the easier route, walking through the walk-in entrance.

To actually enter the cave though, you’ll have to grab a permit, which is free. Registering online with the Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCCi) is all you have to do and then you can head on your way.

The scenic trail that you’ll hike before hitting the cave is just as much of a cool adventure as exploring the cave is.

The lush landscape during the summer and colorful fall foliage in autumn will mesmerize you with its beauty.

The photo-ops are just too hard to pass up once you get inside, with the star of the show going to the massive free-falling waterfall that glimmers from a natural rocky skylight.

Can you say dream trip? Whether you go it alone or explore with your BFFs, this place is bucket list material.

For the complete article please see atlanta/stephens-gap-cave-trail-in-alabama-is-the-perfect-day-road-trip-destination-from-atlanta

Alcohol board announces bar closing times
Out of concern for the health and safety of the general public and licensees, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved an emergency order that limits the hours of operations for restaurants, bars and entities that sell alcohol. Effective immediately but not enforced until Saturday, all ABC licensees are required to cease the service and/or sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. with on-premise consumption to end at 11:30 p.m.

Daily COVID-19 cases in the state continue to climb, with almost 3,000 new cases reported this weekend.

“The primary mission of the Alabama ABC Board is protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, and we take this mission very seriously,” ABC Board chairperson Col. Alan Spencer said. “We are very sensitive to the economic impact this rule will have. This is a gut-wrenching decision we are making today, but it is also gut wrenching to see the number of Alabamians who are suffering from this disease. On balance, I am compelled to vote in favor of the rule.” He said he hoped the rule would be of short duration and that they could lift it soon.

Many states, citing rising COVID-19 cases, already have closed bars or imposed other limits, such as banning on-premises drinking, at businesses that sell alcohol. By adopting this emergency rule, the ABC Board is ensuring customers and businesses the ability to continue operating in a semi-normal fashion by reducing the hours of on-premises alcohol service. It is widely believed that alcohol consumption reduces inhibitions.

After consuming alcoholic beverages individuals are less likely to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including the wearing of masks and social distancing, potentially increasing the transmission of COVID-19.

“Our hope is that reduced hours of alcohol service will decrease social gatherings and the transmission of COVID-19,” ABC Board administrator Mac Gipson said. “Our number one goal is to protect the public and our license holders. We believe this emergency order will reduce the exposure to and spread of COVID-19.”

Alabama Tourism Department calls on public to help struggling restaurant industry
The Alabama Tourism Department is asking the public to dine out or order take out at least twice from August 14-23, the 10-day period of Alabama Restaurant Week.

“Food is part of many celebrations and special occasions; it brings us comfort and joy,” said ATD  deputy director Grey Brennan.  “What better way to recognize the efforts our restaurants have made during an unprecedented time than to support them with our patronage.”

To make it easy for people to find and support restaurants, the website  not only lists restaurants but suggest five ways someone can help their local restaurant in addition to ordering food.

Looking for help on which restaurants to visit?  The Alabama Restaurant Week website also includes information on ATD’s popular “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama” brochure and the restaurants offering those dishes.

“Alabama restaurants and their staff have endured these past months in stride while implementing enhanced operational and safety measures to ensure that tourists and local restaurantgoers have a safe and enjoyable experience while dining on some of the best dishes in the world” Brennan said. “Let’s return the love by visiting two or more restaurants during Alabama Restaurant Week.”

Show your guests how you are keeping them safe during Alabama Restaurant Week
Calling all restaurateurs! As Alabama Restaurant Week is quickly approaching, the Alabama Tourism Department wants to show its visitors how you are keeping them safe. Do you have images of COVID-19 safety precautions being implemented in your restaurant? Send them to for a chance to have them featured on the Tourism Department’s social channels. This is an effective way to not only encourage guests to participate in the 10-day event, but also increase awareness of your restaurant.

Don’t forget to upload your images to your partner listing as well by visiting

Alabama Tourism Partner Pointer

Alabama Restaurant Week is quickly approaching, we want to show our visitors how you are keeping them safe.

Do you have images of COVID-19 safety precautions being implemented in your restaurant? Upload them to your location listing today at