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Baumhower’s Restaurants launch new menu featuring Alabama products

Aloha Hospitality, parent company of Baumhower’s Restaurants, recently launched a new menu featuring several local Alabama products. Alabama Gulf Coast Seafood, Conecuh Sausage, Wickles Pickles and Gabby’s Tortillas are all included on the new menu.

Gabby’s Tortillas were added to the menu when company owner Bob Baumhower met young Gabby Griffin at the Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermen’s Market in Foley and was immediately impressed with her locally made tortillas. Griffin is a 16 year old student who started her tortilla making business as a school project at the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy at Foley High School. The project took off and grew into a family business in Foley. Gabby’s Tortilla’s donates to local food banks and also gives a portion of their sales to charities that fight against child abuse and neglect.

For more information see www.baumhowers.com.

A visit to the Helen Keller museum provides a reflection of Alabama’s culture

In 1902 Helen Keller wrote in her autobiography “The Story of My Life”: “… during the first nineteen months of my life I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the darkness that followed could not wholly block out.” Born in Tuscumbia, the blindness and deafness that soon ensued did not dint her spirit or mark her searing intelligence. She became a symbol of triumph over literal darkness, and in some ways a metaphor for the survival of Alabamians throughout their complex history. As it was my first trip to Alabama, visiting her home, Ivy Green, was a must. I wanted to touch the water pump where her teacher, Anne Sullivan, guided her in making the cavernous leap from feeling the object to knowing the word that describes it. Her famous first word, “wa wa,” for water, allowed the floodgates of her brilliance to burst forth.

Her home and its adjacent cottage are now a museum, lovingly maintained. The broad green fields and grand old oak trees, still there, are a testament not only to her memory but also the combined respect in Alabama for its own unique history and its preservation that I encountered during my weeklong trip.

On a lighter note, not far from Ivy Green is Claunch Cafe where my companions and I ate at a modest family-run restaurant tucked away in Spring Park. Alabama history was literally dished out in platefuls of cornbread, fried green tomatoes, grits, homemade meat loaf, fried catfish, barbecue ribs, fried chicken, collard greens(thank God) and an array of pies that curdled my cholesterol; banana pudding, lemon box pie, peanut butter pie, chess pie and a chocolate fudge pie. Forks were flying like lightning strikes from one plate to another lest we miss out on trying each other’s sinful dessert. This was all washed down with another Southern specialty – a cold brewed sweet tea – as if we needed more sugar.

As we drove on the road to Birmingham along the swathes of cotton fields, we listed names of famous Alabamians. Among them – Jesse Owens, Willie Mays, Diana Ross, W.C. Handy, Rosa Parks, Truman Capote (who lived there as a youth), and Harper Lee, a lifelong friend of Capote. In her one and only published book, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960), Lee created Atticus Finch, a father, a lawyer and a fighter for justice. The timing of her book was significant considering the racial turmoil in the Deep South. Birmingham soon after became the center of the civil rights movement, first under the guiding hand of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and then the oratory of Martin Luther King Jr. and his call for nonviolent demonstrations.

I met a young black boy in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. We were both standing in front of a video encased in an antique wooden jukebox featuring a 1954 performance by Bo Diddley. The youngster was joyfully swinging his arms and dancing in perfect sync to the music. Later I saw him again, standing quietly in front of the replica of the bus that had carried Rosa Parks. She was arrested in 1955 for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man. That child won over my heart, and I had him in mind when on Sunday morning I attended a 16th Street Baptist Church service and witnessed an utterly rousing display of song and prayer lead by the charismatic pastor, the Rev. Arthur Price, Jr. A choir of children sang their little hearts out with a chorus of “amens” from the enchanted parishioners. In that church on a September morning in 1963, four young black schoolgirls were killed by a bomb planted by the Ku Klux Klan. As a matter of fact, one of the most haunting displays in the Civil Rights Institute is a Klansman white cloak with its pointed hat and sinister aspect.

On the top of a tower on Red Mountain overlooking Birmingham stands Vulcan. He is the largest cast iron sculpture in the world – 56 feet high – and his muscular bare butt has attracted many a viewer. Patterned after the mythical Roman god of the forge, he is the emblem of the city’s powerful position in the iron and steel industry in the first part of the 20th century. The adjacent museum with its soaring light-filled entrance tells that history, in creative exhibits, of the darkness in which the miners labored to unearth the elements that would be forged into items as varied as sewing machines, potbellied stoves, hydrants and manhole covers. The lives and sacrifices of those miners are well remembered here, as they are in the 1000-plus acre park embedded in the Red Mountain. Above old mine shafts and railway tracks, ziplines have created a forest of fun where kids and adults alike squeal with excitement as they buzz along the lines stretching between wooden platforms perched high in the trees. Below, dogs frolic freely in three spacious dog parks, one of which was built exclusively for deaf and blind canines.

Despite the emphasis on history, Birmingham is becoming a vibrant city of the future. Pockets of urban renewal are evident from the former red light district to the Red Mountain area. National award-winning restaurants and their surrounding upscale shops are gracing the landscape. The elegant Highlands Bar and Grill is a perfect example. Its owner, Frank Stitt, is considered one of the top chefs in the U.S. In the tony area of Mountain Brook, Chez Lulu invites you to sample a fresh take on French cuisine, and the thin-crusted pizzas at Post Office Pies in the south side of the city deserved our bravos.

To make amends for my obvious gluttony, I took advantage of the outdoor pool and superlative spa at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa. Sweating it out in the steam room and treated to a Ginger Renewal massage by the expert hands of Marcie McMath, I pretended for a day that I was svelte again. If I were so inclined, I could have had a round of golf as well, or for that matter endless rounds of golf that the 384-mile Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and its various resorts provide, from the Grand Hotel on Mobile Bay to Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa near the Tennessee border.

Another kind of trail blazing was to be found at the legendary FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound recording studios in Muscle Shoals, along the Tennessee River. Started by the innovative music producer Rick Hall, the studios showcased the talents of performers such as Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Cher, The Rolling Stones. Hall crossed the color barrier by bringing together white and black talent at a time when segregation was the norm. The FAME studio has that Carnegie Hall quality where you can practically feel the ghosts of the greats that performed there. Just touching the keys of the little Wurlitzer piano induced a thrill.

The Trail of Tears ends my journey. In a wooded area just outside the charming city of Florence, the ruggedly handsome 86-year-old Tom Hendrix regales us with the story of his life’s creation. Since 1988, Hendrix has been creating a low, thick labyrinth of a wall slowly built from 8.5 million pounds of individual rocks that he found, transported and layered, to honor his Native American great-great-grandmother. She was the only known person banished from her home, during enforced relocation of Native Americans, to have ever returned to her beloved land near the “singing waters” of the Tennessee River. It took her five years to walk that daunting distance. To wander along this wall and pause to touch these stones under the brilliant blue Alabama sky with the autumn leaves falling silently, was to feel akin to a place that, until this trip, had been unknown to me.

The Alabama I experienced was a revelation.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

To read the entire article, go to: http://www.islandpacket.com/2014/12/01/3462676_a-visit-to-the-helen-keller-museum.html?sp=/99/543/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

The Rolling Stones get place in Alabama history

You can’t always get what you want, unless you are Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

To mark the 45th anniversary of the “rock and roll heaven” recording sessions with the Rolling Stones, a historical marker will be unveiled on December 5, 2014.

The ceremony will take place in Florence at the sight of the former Holiday Inn on South Court Street. The hotel served as home for the band while they recorded some of their biggest hits.

“Wild Horses”, “Brown Sugar” and “You Gotta Move” were laid down during the sessions and all three tracks appeared on the album Sticky Fingers in 1971.

Guitarist Jimmy Johnson engineered the sessions and will be present at the unveiling next week.

“The Stones’ visit was a major turning point,” says Johnson, “I am very excited about the marker and appreciate the state support for our efforts to preserve and promote Muscle Shoals Music.”

The historical marker was made by the Alabama Tourism Department.

Everyone is invited to come out and be a part of history.

To read this article online, go to: http://www.waaytv.com/appnews/the-rolling-stones-get-place-in-alabama-history/article_a9112f62-74cc-11e4-b551-436eb4110658.html

First trailer for the movie “Selma” is released

The first movie trailer for the Oprah Winfrey’s film “Selma” is being released to the public. The two-and-a-half minute long teaser video follows Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. on his journey for racial equality and the attempt to march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the city for which the movie is named.

The 1965 attack on the bridge by white Alabama State Troopers upon unarmed blacks and their white supporters as they attempted to march to Montgomery earned it the name “Bloody Sunday”. The event is credited with being a crucial moment that led President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Historians basically say there’s three pivotal points in American history, the American revolution, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement,” says Brian Jones at the Alabama Tourism Department. “To actually go and walk in the footsteps and actually be where history happens, you have to come to Montgomery, you have to come to Selma.”

While the movie looks at the civil rights event that happened on the bridge, it also focuses on the relationships among King, President Johnson, and Alabama Governor George Wallace.

Jones is excited about the impact the movie can make on those who are not-so familiar with the events.

The timing of the movie’s release could have a major impact on Montgomery’s plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march. Already, major preparations are underway for a big crowd. This movie hitting theaters just two months before could bring even more people in.

“It’s sort of like a living invitation for people to come back and not only value the history, but to see where Alabama and to see where Montgomery is today.” Jones says.

Filming for the movie took place in both Selma and Montgomery in June with Winfrey and Cuba Gooding, Jr. taking major roles. More than 700 people took part in the filming as the Alabama cities were transformed back to a 1960s setting for the movie.

The movie is expected to be released in January 2015, just prior to the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”.

To read this online and watch the trailer, go to: http://www.wsfa.com/story/27325977/first-trailer-for-the-movie-selma-is-released

Red Mountain Park opens new outdoor adventures November 8

Red Mountain Park is now taking reservations for two new outdoor adventures, The Kaul Adventure Tower and the Kaul Mega Zip. The 80-feet tall Kaul Adventure Tower consists of eight “lanes” that contain rappelling, traditional rock climbing with hand-holds, and leaf climbing to the top of a giant beanstalk—this one-hour adventure can be concluded with an exhilarating Mega Zip once you reach the very top should you choose. Guests can also experience the Mega Zip separately. The Mega Zip is a 1,300-feet long zip thrill that allows guests to fly through the sky head first like Superman or in traditional zip style with feet leaving the platform first. Zippers start from 80 feet in the air with speeds reaching as fast as 30 mph and can enjoy this adventure on their own or race side by side with another brave adventurer—the Mega Zip has side-by-side zip lanes.

The cost is $30 per person for 1 hour of climbing and rappelling on the Kaul Adventure Tower and $20 to Mega Zip; adventurers can experience both for just $50. Both activities are extremely unique-nowhere else in the world contains this exact adventure combination. Guests can begin making their reservations immediately by visiting www.redmountainreservations.or

Barber Motorsports Park adds new track and skidpad

The Vintage Motorsports Museum and the Barber Motorsports Park have a new addition.

The Barber Proving Grounds, located adjacent to the current Barber track, will bring more events to the park that include product debuts, corporate outings and events, safety instruction, driver schools and autocross and kart events. Mercedes-Benz is the first customer for the new addition, using it for its employee “Brand Immersion Experience.”

“This new addition should draw more people to Birmingham and Alabama to visit, spend money, generate economic impact and have a great time,” said George Barber, the park’s founder. “It’s all about helping create a better Birmingham and Alabama.”

The Proving Grounds consists of a new track area and wet/dry skidpad.
Primarily asphalt, the track spans 24 feet in width and can be configured to a variety of lengths up to more than a mile.

The 150-foot-by-350-foot wet/dry skidpad allows drivers, notably test drivers of new factory products, to test traction limits under a variety of conditions.

Equipped with a banked bowl design that evokes the banked track at Daytona, the track’s design allows users to test vehicles’ limits in controlled environments.

The track joins one of the premier road courses in North America for car and motorcycle racing, along with the Barber Motorsports Museum, which contains the largest motorcycle collection in the world with more than 1,400 vintage and modern motorcycles.

To read the article online, go to: http://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/news/2014/10/16/barber-motorsports-park-welcomes-new-addition.html?ana=e_birm_rdup&s=newsletter&ed=2014-10-17&u=yR6EzMegYo3HiugBPpPOQfL+by3&t=1413553617

‘Sweet Home Alabama’ voted Greatest Song Ever Written about Alabama

The polls are closed, folks. For the past three weeks Yellowhammer News readers have been voting for the greatest song ever written about Alabama. It was a brutal battle between old songs and new songs, classic favorites and unexpected underdogs. Plenty were worthy, but there could only be one winner.

Today, we finally have a champion.

Let’s take a look back at the final round.
“My Home’s in Alabama” by Alabama vs. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

It seemed obvious that these two songs would be facing off, and the race was the closest we’d seen throughout this series. In fact, after several days of voting, the two songs had each received exactly 50 percent of the vote. It doesn’t really get much closer than that. But “Sweet Home” pulled away over the weekend. The final tally was 51.1% to 48.9%.

“My Home’s in Alabama” is a sweeping ballad about following dreams, wandering, and eventually finding your way back home. It’s generally considered the song that propelled the band Alabama into stardom. In the beginning we hear the singer reminisce about his days as a young boy in Alabama, but we quickly follow him as he begins a journey across the country trying to make a name for himself in the music industry. No matter where he goes, he always remembers his home and dreams of the day when he’ll make it back to Alabama. “My Home’s in Alabama” is slow and thoughtful–the sound of spending one too many nights on the road.

“Sweet Home Alabama,” on the other hand, is a celebration of the South. Without a doubt, this is the most culturally important song ever written about Alabama–or any state, really. The intro guitar lick is immediately recognizable and infectious. It’s the sound of being on the lake with a cooler packed full of beer. Play this anthem at a party and everyone will be singing it at the top of their lungs within seconds.

Of course, the common thread throughout these songs is the idea of Alabama as home. I’ve only lived in the Yellowhammer State for about two months, but what I’ve noticed more than anything is the pride Alabamians have in their home state.

These songs are so intimately woven into Alabama culture not just because they’re catchy and fun to sing, but because they remind people that Alabama is so much more than just a geographic place to live. Alabamians living elsewhere might be drawn to “My Home’s in Alabama” while Alabama residents might find the celebratory tone of “Sweet Home Alabama” more relatable. But at the end of the day, both songs are saying the same thing: Alabama is indeed home — a sweet, sweet home.

To read the article online, go to: http://yellowhammernews.com/faithandculture/greatest-song-ever-written-alabama/?utm_source=MadMimi&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Indictments+%26+political+maneuvering&utm_campaign=20141021_m122694631_Tuesday%2C+Oct_+21%2C+2014&utm_term=_E2_80_98Sweet+Home+Alabama_E2_80_99+voted+Greatest+Song+Ever+Written+about+Alabama

Flora-Bama chef will bring a taste of the Alabama Gulf to Bessemer’s Bright Star

The Bright Star restaurant is hosting its first Seafood Fest later this month, featuring guest chef Chris Sherrill of the Flora-Bama Yacht Club in Perdido Key.

Sherrill will prepare a four-course wine dinner at the Bright Star on Wed., Oct. 29, and he will serve an a la carte menu on Thur., Oct. 30.

Bright Star general manager Andreas Anastassakis met Sherrill on a deep-sea fishing trip to Gulf Shores this summer, and after they got to talking, Sherrill said he was a big fan of the 107-year-old Bessemer restaurant.

“He said, ‘That’s my mother-in-law’s favorite restaurant; when we used to live in Birmingham, we used to eat there every Sunday,'” Anastassakis recalls their conversation. “Then he said, ‘I’d love to come and cook and be a guest chef at the Bright Star one day.'”

After exchanging a few text messages, Anastassakis and Sherrill put the Bright Star Seafood Fest together.

“He has a great knowledge for Alabama’s Gulf seafood,” Anastassakis says. “I think he’ll bring some of that Gulf flair up to the Bright Star. It’s a real exciting menu.”

An Alabama native, Sherrill was born and raised in Eufaula, where his interest in cooking was kindled on camping trips with the Boy Scouts. After winning a national high school contest for his recipe for fruit-stuffed quail with orange-cranberry sauce, he earned a culinary scholarship to Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, S.C.

In 2012, Sherrill was part of a delegation of eight Gulf Coast chefs who cooked for U.S. athletes and their families during the Summer Olympics in London.

Sherrill is the executive chef and co-owner of the Flora-Bama Yacht Club, an open-air waterfront restaurant located across the street from the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar.

The Bright Star is at 304 19th St. North in Bessemer, and the website is www.thebrightstar.com.
To read the entire article and see the menus, go to: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/10/flora-bama_yacht_club_chef_wil.html

State tourism website features Fall Color Map

An interactive map on the Alabama Tourism Department’s website allows visitors to see the predicted fall color change for each weekend this fall. The map, a list of recommended viewing sites and a fall colors driving route are all available on the state tourism website at www.alabama.travel.

Large concentrations of hardwoods make Alabama State Parks some of the best places to enjoy the fall color change. Joe Wheeler has an excellent viewing spot next to the dam and near the cabin area on the Lawrence County side. Autumn scenery can be found at DeSoto State Park at Little River Canyon and DeSoto Falls. Monte Sano has views of the Tennessee Valley along the Warpath Ridge Trail and its overlook. Cheaha’s Bald Rock and Pulpit Rock trails both have excellent views. Cheaha is the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level.
With cooler days and lower humidity, autumn hosts a variety of outdoor festivals. Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, recommends several events designed around being outdoors and enjoying the fall weather.

Outdoor events scheduled for this fall include the Southern Reinvention festival at Belle Chevre goat cheese creamery in Elkmont on Oct. 18. The city of Mentone celebrates its annual Colorfest on Oct. 18-19 with a weekend of arts & crafts, family activities and live entertainment.

The Alabama Renaissance Fair in Florence on Oct. 25-26 transforms the city’s downtown park into a medieval experience. The National Peanut Festival in Dothan on Oct. 31- Nov. 9 is the nation’s largest peanut festival. The Pike Road Arts and Crafts Festival in the city of Pike Road on Nov. 1 features an arts and crafts market on the grounds of the historic 19th century Marks House.

Alabama Frontier Days in Wetumpka on Nov. 5-9 features reenactments from French Colonial times to the Early American period. Nearly 200 songwriters from across the country will be performing in venues all along the Alabama Gulf Coast during the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival on Nov. 6-16. The 7th annual Oyster Cook-Off featuring all-star chefs and live entertainment is Nov. 7-9 in Gulf Shores. A complete list of fall events is available at www.alabama.travel.

Canadian Traveller posts Alabama information

The Canadian Traveller website has added an Alabama article this month called “Alabama: The Yellowhammer State.” Published Oct. 4, the story lists several What’s New items including;

Rock N Roll Heaven, the increase in tourism in Muscle Shoals due to Stephen Badger’s Muscle Shoals documentary
Civil Rights Anniversary, the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March
Bus Boycott Anniversary, the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Photographs of downtown Montgomery and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center were featured in the article.

Attractions highlighted were: the Mobile Carnival Museum, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

Events highlighted were: Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s performance season in Montgomery, Mardi Gras in Mobile, To Kill A Mockingbird play in Monroeville, Helen Keller Festival & Miracle Worker play in Tuscumbia and the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores.

Three Alabama cities were included in the Places section and as part of one of the Alabama Tourism Department’s trails.

Birmingham: Explore the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street Baptist Church; McWane Science Center, the Jazz Hall of Fame, and Railroad Park.
Mobile: Visit the Exploreum science museum, the USS Alabama battleship and sample some fresh seafood in the U.S. birthplace of Mardi Gras.
Montgomery: Downtown museums include the Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter King Memorial Baptist Church and the Civil Rights Memorial. You can also visit the Hank Williams Museum and the Mooseum.
Civil Rights Trail: Stops include the Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park and 4th Avenue North in Birmingham. The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Rosa Parks Museum and the Civil Rights Memorial were included in Montgomery.

The article also listed small town destinations in a section called Hidden Gems.

Mentone: Ideal base for exploring De Soto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve. North East Alabama.
Fairhope: A small, quaint artist community where the author Winston Groom (Forrest Gump) and the artist Nall reside. Mobile Bay.

The Canadian Traveller website was developed by the magazine of the same name as a place to promote their extensive experiences and world travel information. To see the article, go to: http://www.canadiantraveller.net/AlabamaThe_Yellowhammer_State

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