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Treasure Island Circle

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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
To read the entire article and see the menus, go to:

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

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

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:

Birmingham’s Clayton Sherrod tells NPR how he became chef at all-white country club

Birmingham chef Clayton Sherrod was featured on NPR’s “StoryCorps” series recently, recounting his experience working his way up from dishwasher to head chef at an all-white country club in the 1960s.

Sherrod, who is black, told “StoryCorps” he was 13 when he stated working as a dishwasher at the country club, and by the time he was 19, in 1964, he had become the executive chef.

“All of my friends told me I was crazy,” he said. “But I saw something that no one else could see, and that is me walking around with that big, tall hat on.”

The “StoryCorps” piece does not mention the country club by name, but Sherrod told it was Vestavia Country Club.

Sherrod said he has received lots of phone calls, text messages and emails since the “StoryCorps” piece aired.

Sherrod, who was executive chef at Vestavia Country Club for 13 years, now has his own catering business, Chef Clayton’s Food Systems, Inc., and serves on the board of Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College.

To see the article and listen to the “StoryCorps” feature, go to:

Historic marker honors Percy Sledge, Quin Ivy

historic marker commemorating the site where “When A Man Loves A Woman” was recorded will be unveiled Tue., Sept. 30, at 1 p.m. at 104 East Second Street in Sheffield. This address was the site of Quin Ivy’s North Alabama Recording Studio (NORALA). The song, which was recorded on Feb. 17, 1966, launched Sledge to international fame. Sledge and Ivy are scheduled to attend the marker unveiling.

Ivy established the studio in 1965 and used the proceeds from the Sledge session to construct a more modern studio across town named Quinvy. Donna Jean Thatcher was the first artist to record there.

The marker unveiling is open to the public and is being held the same day as a benefit concert to raise money for Sledge, who is battling liver cancer. The concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at any branch of First Metro Bank or Valley Credit Union.

Head of the International Travel Writers Alliance on tour in Alabama

Ashley Gibbins, Chief Executive of the International Travel Writers Alliance is in Alabama for almost two weeks to research the state’s tourism destinations. The Alliance, based in the UK, is the world’s largest association of professional travel writers, editors, broadcasters and photographers. The alliance provides 9,050 travel journalists with key tourism information.

Gibbins is joined on the Alabama trip by photographer Ann Mealor. Both Gibbins and Mealor supply information for AllWays traveller an online travel site that provides independent travelers with information from travel experts.

Gibbins and Mealor will visit Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, Gulf Shores, Huntsville, Muscle Shoals, Florence and Fort Payne on their journey across the state that started on Sept. 16, and will end Oct. 1.

Grey Brennan and Della Tully met with Gibbins at WTM London, a tourism trade show, where he was invited to visit Alabama.

For more information on the Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts to promote the state as a tourism destination to the UK market, contact or

Female Factor celebrates ‘Sweet Home Alabama’

“Sweet Home, Alabama.”

Marilyn Stamps said it.

Shelia Jackson sang it.

The packed audience applauded it.

“Sweet home, Alabama” was the main topic at the Female Factor Wednesday at The Studio in downtown Troy.

Stamps, a semi-retired publications manager for the Alabama Department of Tourism and 2012 Employee of the Year, was the guest speaker. And, Stamps did what she does best, cheer for the home state.

Having 30 years experience with the state tourism department, Stamps knows Alabama like the back of her hand. She now takes advantage of every opportunity to share her stories about “Sweet Home, Alabama” and to encourage residents to take “stay-cations” and see what Alabama has to offer.

“When the Alabama Department of Tourism wrote its bylaws, it mandated that the department could not advertise within the state,” Stamps said. “That makes it rather difficult to let residents know what we have right here in our own backyard.

“With the downturn in the economy, fewer of our residents were traveling outside the state so it became even more important to let Alabama residents know about all Alabama has to offer.”

The Tourism Department found a way to highlight Alabama through its “Year of …” promotions.
In 2004, the tourism department unveiled its statewide promotion, “The Year of the Garden.”

“The idea behind the promotion was that you could go to Callaway Gardens in Georgia but why not go to the beautiful Bellingrath Gardens or Jasmine Hills Gardens right here at home,” Stamps said.

“The Year of the Garden” was an incentive for people to see Alabama first and the “Year of … ” became an annual promotion.

“We’ve had the ‘Year of’ the Great Outdoors, Alabama Art, Alabama Sports, History, Small Towns/Downtowns among others but the Year of Food in 2005 really took off so we had it back in 2012,” Stamps said. “The brochure, ‘100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die’ received a huge response and is still very popular. People continue to use it as a guide to great places to eat when they travel around the state.”

Alabama’s next promotion will be the “Year of Barbecue” and it should be extremely popular, too, Stamps said.
Troy Tourism Director Shelia Jackson told the all-female audience that Troy and Pike County should also be considered as stay-cation destinations for travelers around the state.

“And, we also should look in our own backyard for entertainment,” she said. “We have a variety of entertainment events offered by the Troy Arts Council, the Johnson Center for the Arts, the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, the Troy Recreation Department and Troy University and the We Piddle Around Theater and Studio 116 in Brundidge,” she said. “There’s no place like home and Troy and Pike County are great places to call home … and for stay-cations.”

Female Factor is sponsored monthly by Troy Regional Medical Center.

To read the entire article, go to:

Site selection experts rank Alabama fourth-best state for doing business

For the second consecutive year, Alabama ranks fourth overall among national economic development publication Area Development’s “Top States for Doing Business” and placed first in the sub-category of competitive labor costs.

“These high rankings mean that site selection consultants recognize that Alabama possesses the advantages that make the state attractive for companies looking to open new facilities or to expand their existing operations,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said in a prepared statement.

The state also placed fourth nationally in the survey’s key categories of both business environment and labor climate.

“We have the skilled workers, training programs and the business climate that companies need to compete and succeed,” Canfield said said.

The annual rankings survey site selection consultants, and Alabama’s strongest showings came in the automotive manufacturing and aerospace sectors, with a nod given by the publication to the state’s “long-term economic development plan known as Accelerate Alabama” and the “strength of its significant and growing accomplishments in transportation manufacturing.”

Launched in 2012, Accelerate Alabama targets 11 key industry sectors for growth and focuses on attracting new investment and high-paying jobs associated with those sectors.

Specifically, the report singles out Alabama’s automotive industry for achieving the following milestones:

The state’s three assembly plants – Mercedes-Benz in Vance, Honda in Lincoln and Hyundai in Montgomery – combined in 2013 to produce a record 915,000 vehicles.
Mercedes in recent months launched mass production of its C-Class sedan in Vance.
Toyota moved forward with a $150 million expansion of its engine plant in Huntsville.
The state’s auto-supplier sector added some 2,300 new jobs in the year ended June 30.
“They’ve done a nice job in Alabama for Mercedes,” Sean McAlinden, executive director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., told Area Development.

Meanwhile, the growth of Alabama’s aerospace sector has not gone unnoticed by economic developers and recruiters with Area Development crediting the state as both “the traditional home of Saturn rocket manufacture during moon-shot days” and the future home of Airbus’ first A320 final assembly line on U.S. soil.

Specifically, the publication singled out Decatur’s United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin formed because the American satellite launching market wasn’t big enough to support both companies. It builds its launch vehicles – the Atlas and Delta families — at a facility employing 1,800 on the Tennessee River.

And although Airbus’ $600 million aircraft assembly plant, still under construction at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, won’t come online until summer 2015, Area Development said the project will serve to bolster an already strong engineering presence in the state.

“It will also prompt development of a supplier infrastructure, joining Boeing’s operations in the state to make Alabama one of America’s air-transportation manufacturing leaders,” the report states.

The 2014 survey results mark the fifth consecutive year Alabama has scored among Area Development’s top five states for doing business.

To read the article online, go to:

Mercedes to bring 26,000 employees to Birmingham, spend $30 million

Over the next four years, a steady stream of Mercedes-Benz employees from around the world will visit Birmingham to participate in Mercedes new “Brand Immersion Experience.”

The two-day three-night experience will take employees to the Tuscaloosa County plant where they will visit the Mercedes museum, tourist center and manufacturing space. The employees will have an opportunity to drive the cars and see “where the cars are born,” said Gareth Joyce, vice president of customer service for Mercedes Benz USA at a plant tour on Friday.
Mercedes-Benz 2015 C-Class test drive and plant tour

VANCE, Alabama — Mercedes-Benz C-Class by by MBUSI in Vance Alabama. Media from around the world were invited to the Vance assembly plant for a test drive, tour of the assembly line and panel discussion with Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. (Joe Songer/

Approximately 26,000 Mercedes employees will fly into Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport for the experience and will be bussed to the plant daily. The employees will be staying in Birmingham hotels and dining in Birmingham restaurants as part of the program, Joyce explained.

“We are excited to work with Mercedes to host these employees over the next few years,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell. “Our efforts to attract visitors and tourists from around the world to give them an opportunity to learn about Birmingham’s historic legacy and spend time and money in the city is starting to pay off. We look forward to this being the first of many large groups and conventions to frequent the city.”

The program, which will start pilot testing at the end of September, is estimated to cost approximately $30 million over the course of the next four years. The program will begin in earnest before the end of 2014. Two groups of employees will come through the program each week, and approximately 70 groups will go through the program each year.

“The only time we’ll pause is during the big football matches,” Joyce said.

The Brand Immersion Program was announced on Friday along with expansion plans for the facility. Mercedes-Benz will have the capacity to manufacture 300,000 cars per year at its Tuscaloosa County plant by 2015, up from a record 185,000 in 2013. In July, Mercedes announced the manufacture of its 2 millionth vehicle.

Mercedes also announced that an SUV similar to the Concept Coupe SUV announced in April will be manufactured at the Tuscaloosa plant starting in 2015 and will be called the “ML Coupe.” The car will be the fifth model built at the Tuscaloosa plant, along with the new C-Class Coupe, the M-Class, the GL-Class SUV and the R-Class crossover.

Although right now the Brand Immersion Experience is only budgeted for the next few years, Joyce said the program could be extended indefinitely if all goes well.

“I see the potential to make this an evergreen program,” Joyce said. “With the rate at which the brand is growing, I can see continuing to use this as a development platform into the future.”

Joyce said that Mercedes is always looking for creative ways to give both employees and customers a more complete experience.

“We are always in pursuit of the complete package,” he said, adding that an immersion at the Tuscaloosa facility would enable employees to get a better feel for the Mercedes brand, thus enabling them to serve Mercedes customers better in future.

Employees who attend the Brand Immersion Experience will be on a “journey” through Mercedes history (via the museum) and future (via the plant), Joyce explained.

“They’re going to learn about performance, safety, heritage, and what we’re doing in Alabama. It’s exciting,” he said. See

NASCAR announced the 2015 schedules

NASCAR announced the 2015 schedules for its top three national touring series Tuesday – the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck – and Talladega Superspeedway’s slate will resemble 2014. The tradition of the first weekend in May will continue May, 1-3, at NASCAR’s Most Competitive ribbon of asphalt with a triple header consisting of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, as well as the ARCA Racing Series. On October 23-25, the Biggest and Baddest race track on the planet will play host two pivotal races in title chases for both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola and GEICO 500, respectively.

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