Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Running event gives economic boost to Valley

By Nancy Glasscock, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

OAKVILLE — Officials expect a record number of high school runners from the Southeast to compete in the Jesse Owens Classic on Saturday, bringing an economic boost to Lawrence and Morgan counties.
More than 3,000 runners had registered by Monday for the 5-kilometer race at the Oakville Indian Mounds Park. Lawrence County High cross country coach and race director Stanley Johnson said he expected 3,500 to 3,600 runners to enter. He estimated 8,000 to 10,000 runners and spectators will be at the park during the race.
In 2008, a meet record of more than 3,300 registered.
“I know from talking to the hotels that we should do really well,” said Tami Reist, Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau president. “A lot of teams here for (the Chickasaw Trails race) rebooked for (the Jesse Owens Classic).”
Guests spent $65,000 reserving 180 hotel room nights in Decatur in 2008 for the Jesse Owens Classic. Restaurants in Moulton receive an increase in sales for breakfast and lunch on race day, said Kim Hood, executive director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
Gas stations also see a boost when guests fuel up to leave, she said.
“It’s unbelievable how many people will be there,” Hood said. “A lot of people have no idea the economic impact.” Monday, runners had two days left to register. The number will probably increase as some “last-minute” runners enter, Reist said.
Butch Walker, director of the Oakville Indian Mounds Park and Museum, worked on eroded hills Monday to make the race course safe for runners, Johnson said. Wednesday, mowing will begin followed by finish line set up and course marking Thursday and Friday.
The Jesse Owens Runners Club organizes the race. The club consists of East Lawrence, Hatton and Lawrence County.
Volunteers needed
The Jesse Owens Runners Club needs volunteers for course monitoring and work at the finish chute. To volunteer, contact Stanley Johnson at 566-4410.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Me Again gives trainer a title ride

It’s Me Again gives trainer a title ride
By Paul HugginsStaff Writer

PRICEVILLE – Moments after It’s Me Again won the racking horse world grand championship, Barbara Agnich rushed to her co-trainer, Rick Parish, and handed him a towel to wipe sweat off his face.
Agnich had been in the center ring before, after winning the world grand championship in 2005, and knew the pressure a rider feels during the high-stakes competition.
Surprisingly to Parish, he didn’t need the towel. The Dallas, Ga., trainer even described the competition as “relaxing.”
“That was just unbelievably fun,” he said. “(It’s Me Again) did all the work. I just got to sit there.”
It’s Me Again beat out a field of three other horses during the finals of the Racking Horse World Celebration. Shadow’s Rebel Yell trained by Jamie Lawrence for S.A. Barber of Arab was the reserve grand champion. She’s A Treasure trained by Mark Taylor for Herman Nunley Jr. of Iuka, Miss., finished third.
Parish said he simply didn’t feel the same stress he felt when he won in 1997 on Guaranteed Perfect. He attributed the calmness to being a little older and mellower and already having a championship under his belt.
That’s not to say Parish didn’t feel any pressure. He knew he had the favorite going into Saturday night’s final, which actually didn’t start until after midnight Sunday morning. He also knew he held the reins of one of the most prolific racking horses in history.
The 7-year-old stallion has always had success at World Celebration. During his career, he won the world grand championship for 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds and 15.2 & Under show classes.
Last year, It’s Me Again’s owner, Arvolle Brown of Corinth, Miss., rode his horse to the amateur rider world grand championship.
“I always wanted to win the amateur world grand championship,” he said, “and after I did that last year, this was the next step.”
It’s Me Again made it well known in April he was going to be a top contender for the world championship when Benjie Wagoner rode him to the Spring Celebration title. Despite the strong showing, Brown switched trainers in June after the Shelbyville Classic, choosing Parish and Agnich, he said, because they focused more on racking horses instead of splitting time training racking and walking horses.
Parish said he, Agnich and It’s Me Again “clicked” almost immediately when they came together. Chemistry is an overlooked ingredient to getting to the championships circle, he said, because horses have diverse personalities.
“Everyone can’t get along with every horse,” he said. “But by the third day with (It’s Me Again), we knew we were going to do something special together.”
Owned entire life
It’s Me Again is a rarity in that Brown has owned him his entire life. He still owns It’s Me Again’s parents. What About Me is his sire and Pride’s Fashion Cut is his mother. What About Me was a great show horse, too, Brown said, winning just about every title his son won, except for the overall world grand champion. Brown, who started riding and showing racking horses in the late 1980s, said he never believed he would own the industry’s top horse.
“I always dreamed about it. It’s something you always wish for, but, no, I didn’t think it would happen to me,” he said. “It’s Me Again is one of the few that come along.”
Parish and Agnich agreed, saying the horse has the most important attribute of a champion: He loves to work.
“He likes his job,” Agnich said. “He wants to get out there and try to please. He’s a people pleaser.”
Parish added, “You never have to ask him to work. He wants to work. He’s one of the greatest horses I’ve been around.”
The naming of the world grand champion ended the nine-day horse show as the Racking Horse Breeders Association of America appears to be on the upswing.
The show had more than 1,300 entries this year, an increase for the second straight year. Official totals were unavailable, but organizers said campsite rentals, stall rentals and admission tickets all had increases this year compared to last year. The show also saw the sale of the arena property to the State Product’s Mart Authority, a deal the association has sought for several years.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Me Again wins Racking Horse World Championship

by Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

PRICEVILLE — It’s Me Again trained by Rick Parish won the Racking Horse World Grand Championship early Sunday morning.
The championship competition started shortly after midnight at Celebration Arena in Priceville.
The 7-year-old stallion owned by Arvolle Brown of Corinth, Miss., beat out a field of three other horses.
It’s Me Again had won the Spring Celebration in April.
Shadow’s Rebel Yell trained by Jamie Lawrence for S.A. Barber of Arab was the reserve grand champion. She’s A Treasure trained by Mark Taylor for Herman Nunley Jr. of Iuka, Miss., finished third.
The naming of the world grand champion ended the eight-day show and the 2009 racking horse show season.
This year’s show featured more than 1,300 entries, which was an increase for the second straight year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cause to celebrate

Cause to celebrate
Products Mart to buy arena
By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

It was all smiles around the Racking Horse World Celebration on Friday as word spread the State Products Mart Authority agreed to buy Celebration Arena.
“It’s the best day in years,” said Judy Jones, past president of the Racking Horse Breeders Association of America and longtime advocate for it to sell the property.
“We are thrilled to death,” she said, showing the signed contracts that the sale, for all intents and purposes, is a done deal.
Waiting period
The sale must be posted publicly for seven days before the association can ratify it. A couple of weeks ago, the association approved the terms of the contract, and since nothing changed in the final negotiations, it’s just a formality to make the sale official, members said.
The sale was the culmination of months of negotiations among Products Mart, the racking horse association and the Morgan County Commission.
The association has tried to sell the arena for several years. It thought it sold the property in 2008, but the buyer had to back out of the contract before closing because of financial problems.
The association bought the 38-year-old, 118-acre site for $1.3 million in 1994. At the time, members thought the arena would pay for itself with events throughout the year while also ensuring the association would get to stay in Priceville, its home since conception.
In a three-way agreement, the Products Mart will pay the association $650,000 up front, the association will pay $30,000 a year rent for the next five years (four weeks usage per year) and the commission will appoint a parks and recreation board to operate the arena.
Dewey Hannon, of Amory, Miss., was one of the association members feeling upbeat after hearing of the sale.
“I think it’s going to be great for the community and for the equine industry as a whole,” he said. “We’re going to get some professional people in here now and promote this up.”
Hannon has wanted to spend money to improve the barn he rents three times a year, and he said he and other members will do so as they see Products Mart make improvements.
With the five-year-lease agreement, the association gets to keep revenue made from parking receipts as well as barn and stall rentals. The arena has about 650 stalls that rent for $100 each.
As part of the sale, Products Mart also agreed to build an outdoor, covered arena within the first year. It also agreed to make renovations and improvements to the property.
Ed Hiers, racking horse association president, said the outdoor arena will provide large horse shows, such as World Celebration, a much-needed warm-up ring.
It also gives Products Mart an extra revenue source, he said, because some small events lack the funds to rent the large arena, and other events, such as quarter horse shows, need two separate rings.
Beth Lake of Tuscaloosa, who showed racking horses at World Celebration for more than 20 years, said she was happy to hear about the sale and said she’d like to see air conditioning in the arena, restroom upgrades and brighter lighting.
Lake no longer shows horses but attends as a vender. She owns Pillows Abound Inc., which does embroidering and monogramming.
“I can only hope the improvements they need to make to this place won’t change the ambiance it has had,” she said. “We’re a family-oriented event; we don’t need to be too businesslike.”
Barbara Fitch, of London, Ky., who has attended World Celebration for about 25 years, said she would like to see a new indoor arena someday, but more pressing needs are drainage and electrical improvements around and in the barns.
“I think it will be a real plus for the county if they develop a park around this place,” she said. “It will be good to have some upgrades and also allow us to put all our money back into the industry. “Growth in our industry means growth for businesses in Decatur,” Fitch said.
Jones and Hiers said the best part of the sale is that it gets the association out of the arena business so it can put all its resources into promoting the breed.
In recent years, the association saw its membership dwindle to less than half what it was 10 years ago, and Decatur felt an economic sting.
In 2000, World Celebration attendees booked 2,529 room nights in Decatur. Five years later they bought 1,187 room nights.
Jones and Hiers said the association needs to work on showing off the breed outside its traditional Southeast and Midwest regions and refocus on supporting small shows in each state. If there is a strong network of Saturday night shows through the show season, it will lead to a resurgence of World Celebration.
“I’ve been coming here for 30 years,” Jones said, “and I want to come for 30 more, if I can live that long.”

It's Me Again favored to win

By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

I’ve successfully predicted the racking horse world grand champion several times, but my educated guess has never been easier than this year.
It’s Me Again, trained by Rick Parish for Arvolle Brown of Corinth, Miss., will take the top title Saturday night at the conclusion of the 38th annual World Celebration in Priceville.
Why am I so confident? Just keep reading.
I’ll go ahead and tell you now; I’ve never owned a horse. The only thing that comes close is I took a course called animal and dairy science at Auburn before I settled on my journalism major. It taught me a lot but nothing that made me so adept for frequently picking world champions.
My first successful pick came in 1998 — my third year covering World Celebration — when I chose The Finalizer, trained by the late Kenny Ailshie. But that was luck. I simply thought the name sounded cool.
As I continued to cover the shows, though, I began to understand what impressed the judges. For the 2003 world championship stake, I checked my score sheet against the judges and found mine was identical to three of the five. The horse I picked first, If Only, finished second, however, because another judge scored it fourth or fifth.
Prediction record
Still, I’ve predicted a good number of world grand champions without even seeing them perform. Starting with Finalizer, I was perfect three straight years, with Papa’s Choice in 1999 and Pursuing Perfection in 2000. My last perfect pick came in 2005, when Barbara Agnich became the first female trainer to win the grand championship atop Tragedy.
The best way to start picking a grand champion is to look at winners of either the aged stallions or style classes earlier in the week. The top horse often comes from one of these two qualifiers. The 2003, 2002 and 1999 champs all won the aged stallions class. Four other winners the previous nine years came from those two classes but didn’t win their respective qualifiers.
Surprises do happen, such as Jose’s Pushover last year. Even though it won the 2008 Spring Celebration, the stallion sneaked in under my radar by qualifying in a show class for 4-year-olds. This year, I also considered Totally Twisted, trained by Joe Dan Carter for Bill Easley of Marion, Ill.; Unreal, trained by Jamie Lawrence for S.A. Barber of Arab; and Dale Earnhardt, trained by Keith Ailshie for Jordan Fox of Limestone, Tenn.
Twisted was second in the aged stallions and open gentleman classes this year. Unreal, the 2002 champ, won the style class Sunday night. Earnhardt won the 15.2 & Under class earlier in the week and was the reserve grand champion last year.
So that brings me to why I picked It’s Me Again. I could say it’s because the 7-year-old stallion won the aged stallions preliminary seven days ago and won the Spring Celebration in April. I also could say it’s because he has a proven trainer, Rick Parish, who won atop Guaranteed Perfect in 1997.
The simple truth is I couldn’t get any trainers I saw Friday to say whether they planned to enter the championship. Just inside the side entrance of Celebration Arena, however, a large banner proudly displayed It’s Me Again would seek the world grand championship.
So my only confirmed choice is naturally my top choice. But you read it here, first.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gaited mules make debut at World Celebration

Not too stubborn to rack
Gaited mules make debut at World Celebration
By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

PRICEVILLE — You’ll never see one racing in the Kentucky Derby, but the sure-footed mule has made steady strides in becoming a popular breed in the show ring.
The offspring of female horses and male donkeys made their Racking Horse World Celebration debut Thursday night, and based on success in other show circles, it could become a more common competitor.
“Most of us think of a mule as pulling a plow or a wagon, maybe a little trail riding,” said Jamie Lawrence, a racking horse trainer from Cullman County who will bring two racking mules to Celebration. “But saddle mules, I’d say they have become more popular for showing in the last four, five years or so.”
Like racking horses, racking mules perform the same smooth, four-beat gait where only one hoof hits the ground at a time, but the mules don’t compete against horses. They have their own show classes, and Celebration will feature two more. The open style racking mule class will compete Friday night, and the open Tennessee walking mules competition will be Saturday night.
Gaited mules are new to Celebration, but they have circled show rings for nearly 20 years. Shelbyville, Tenn., home to the Tennessee walking horse, has held the Great Celebration Mule Show for 18 years. The three-day show in July had 455 mules and donkeys this year from four separate national associations.
In 1995, the upstart American Gaited Association joined the event and featured one show class with 22 mules. This past July, the association had more than 30 gaited mule classes with some classes featuring more than 30 entries.
“It’s just been unbelievable how it has grown,” said Bill Moore, president and one of the founding members of AGMA. “We had 17 or 18 states represented this year.”
He attributed the growth to several factors: A small reason is gaited mules are novelties, and many equine enthusiasts simply like to be involved with something new. A big reason would be the mules are excellent for trail riding.
“It’s a real sure-footed animal. It doesn’t fall or slip,” Moore said, noting the Grand Canyon uses them for tours that take park visitors along narrow, rim trails.
Mules also are intelligent, which has led to the mistaken belief they’re stubborn, he said.
“They’re just too smart to do some things people want them to do,” Moore said. “Basically, anything dangerous or something where the animal is unsure of its footing.”
Mules also live longer, have fewer medical problems and eat and drink less than horses, he said.
Kenneth Neely, a Clarkrange, Tenn., resident who will bring a couple of gaited mules to Celebration, said his main interest for getting gaited mules was trail riding. Besides having more stamina than horses and more awareness of their surroundings, he said, mules take better care of themselves than horses.
“They’ll back off when they get tired,” Neely said, and noted that’s also a reason they’re labeled as stubborn.
As for their performance in the show ring, Neely said, mules don’t display “the big lick” with a long stride and front legs reaching high. The leg action more closely resembles the pleasure horse classes, he said.
Lawrence said a mule’s sure-footedness and smooth-riding gait are a profitable combination, and trainers will do selective breeding with a male donkey with a high-pedigreed racking or walking mare in hopes of producing an outstanding mount.
“They’ll bring good money because they’re real rare,” he said. “A sale price could range from $7,500 to $15,000 for top ones.”
Gaited mules likely will continue to grow in numbers at World Celebration, Lawrence said, because they already made a strong showing at small, local horse shows, sometimes with more than a dozen in a class.
“There are a lot of them in this area, North Alabama, so we felt the need to add them in Celebration,” he said. “Number one, just for fun, and also to generate revenue and interest with the crowd.”
Mule facts
A mule is a cross between a male donkey, called a jack, and female horse, called a mare. A hinny is the opposite, a cross between a female donkey, called a jenny, and male horse, called a stallion. The neck and croup of mules are shaped like horses. The head, ears, tail and short mane all resemble donkeys.
Between 1850 and 1860, the number of mules in America increased 100 percent. More than 150,000 mules were foaled in 1889; by then mules had almost entirely replaced horses for farm work.
Carefully loaded, a mule can carry 300 to 350 pounds, and it can normally cover 20 to 25 miles in a day’s march.
While there are extremely rare cases where a female mule produces a foal offspring, all mules are considered sterile. Mules have 63 chromosomes, compared to 64 and 62 for horses and donkeys respectively. The odd number in mules prevents the chromosomes from properly pairing and creating successful embryos.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Appraisals, auction help lure collectors to Decatur

By Ronnie Thomas, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Billy Prince takes two views of the economic downturn when considering the 14th annual National Fishing Lures Collectors Club show this weekend at Holiday Inn.
And both, he said, are positive.
“With the economy like it is, the people who have such a passion for collecting fishing lures come to the shows more or less as a family thing, like a mini-vacation,” said Prince. “They do this rather than taking two weeks and going to the Bahamas.”
Prince said also there are collectors who’d like a little extra change in their pockets to see them through until the economy strikes full force, like a largemouth bass attacking attractive bait.
“That’s the other side to the economy we’re seeing,” said the Decatur man who has been involved with the club about 28 years. “People are turning loose of the old tackle they’ve had for years and selling it.”
Prince, vice president of Region 3, which covers seven southern states, said both philosophies will be at work in Decatur, where the show runs Friday for the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
Registration for the show is $10, for members only. Non-members can get a temporary membership for $5 that covers both days. Nonmembers cannot bid in the auction.
Those who come as temporaries will get free appraisals and identification on lures they bring.
“If they want to sell them, we’ll run them through the auction at the show,” Prince said. “The club gets 10 percent of what the lures bring. It’s their option to sell or not to sell after the appraisals.”
Prince said the show has been sold out for months, and that it was 85 percent sold out at the end of last year’s show.
“We’ve added 10 more tables, bringing the total to 100 tables. That’s all that we can possibly get in the banquet hall,” he said.
Economic impact
Each year, the show is a stimulus for the local economy.
“We book around the same number of room nights every year,” said Donna Oliver, director of sales at Holiday Inn. “Last year, we booked 125.”
Lori Boger, group sales director for the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that number translates into an economic impact of almost $77,000.
Prince said collectors come to sell, buy and trade, and that one is coming from as far away as West Palm Beach, Fla., another from Chesapeake, Va.
“We’re anticipating collectors from about 14 different states,” he said.
Prince said some collectors don’t exhibit anything. They come only to buy.
“They don’t rent tables,” he said. “We usually have more than 40 in that category.”
Prince gives himself as an example of the trend when he traveled to shows in Grand Rapids, Mich., Peoria, Ill., and Denver, Colo.
“I travel light,” he said. “I don’t have room in the trunk to load it down. I don’t carry much at all to sell, just what I can get in a briefcase. That’s what these people coming to Decatur will do. They also will be looking for stuff to add to their own collection.”
Prince will display two of his recent acquisitions at the registration table. They are mechanical type, spring-loaded lures, a Johnson Automatic Striker from the 1930s and an Anderson Minnow from the 1940s.
“They’re not for sale,” he said. “They’re just pride and joy.”
About the club
The National Fishing Lure Collectors Club is a 5,000 member non-profit, educational, international organization founded in 1976. Its primary objectives are to foster awareness of fishing tackle collecting as a hobby and to assist members in the location, identification and trading of vintage fishing-related equipment.
It is the largest group in the world devoted to this hobby.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Arena board gets commission OK

By Ronnie Thomas, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
Now that the Morgan County Commission has approved incorporating a Public Park and Recreation Board to manage Celebration Arena, only one step remains for the State Products Mart Authority to purchase the 118-acre site at Priceville.
That could come from the seller, the Racking Horse Breeders Association, this weekend as the Racking Horse World Championship winds down.
Donna Kauffmann, the association’s acting manager, said the
breeders’ board meets Friday at 8 a.m. Most expect the board to review the contract from Products Mart and present it to the general membership for a vote at a meeting Saturday at 9 a.m.
On Tuesday, the Morgan County Commission opened the door for Products Mart to make its $650,000 offer for the 38-year-old facility by unanimously approving the Park and Recreation Board to manage and oversee day-to-day operations.
Products Mart said that’s the only way it would agree to purchase the arena.
Another stipulation Products Mart has in its counter-proposal to the breeders association is that the association agrees to $30,000 annual rent on a five-year leaseback.
Products Mart Board Chairman Ed Monroe called the County Commission’s vote “a positive step in the right direction.” Monroe said otherwise he is limited on his comments until after the breeders association “actually signs the contract.”
Deadlocked vote
In a June 16 vote to appoint the Park and Recreation Board, the commission deadlocked 2-2, with District 2 Commissioner Ken Livingston and District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher supporting the board and District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark and District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie opposing.
Commission Chairman John Glasscock broke the tie and voted against a resolution to incorporate the board.
Vote change
On Sept. 9, Glasscock told the Products Mart board he would change his vote if the board guaranteed two items in its proposed contract. He wanted the contract to keep a provision that requires the Products Mart board to provide basic maintenance on the arena during the term of the lease. He also wants the Products Mart’s guarantee it will fund through the Park and Recreation Board any operating deficit during those five years.
The resolution authorizing the incorporation of the board calls for five members on the board of directors. Each of the four commissioners will select one person from his district and the commission chairman will recommend a member at large.
The board of directors will then appoint an advisory board of interested citizens. Their function will be to meet from time to time and make recommendations to the board of directors.
Stisher said it is his understanding that someone from Products Mart would be liaison with the Park and Recreation Board to keep abreast of all actions.
Stisher said commissioners will accept applications from citizens wanting to serve after the breeders association reaches a decision on the contract.

Ingalls reels in 3 fishing tournaments

By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Ingalls Harbor hooked three more fishing tournaments for its 2010 schedule, the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau announced Tuesday.
The events will draw fishermen from southern universities such as Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi, female anglers and crappie enthusiasts.
The largest of the three is the Southern Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship set for April 1-3. It will bring 110 anglers from more than 20 schools and be televised on the Versus cable network. In addition to filming the tournament, the channel will televise features about Decatur.
The visitors bureau will spend $5,000 on fees for the college event.
Tami Reist, visitors bureau president, said bringing the collegiate tournament to Ingalls is a great way to show off Wheeler Lake to up-and-coming anglers who could become professional fishermen one day.
A couple of weeks prior to the college tournament, Ingalls will host the Academy Sports Women’s Bass Tournament. It will have about 100 female anglers March 17-20.
Reist said Academy Sports, which opened a new store here in August, expressed an early interest in bringing the event to Decatur and worked quickly to make it happen.
The bureau will spend $4,000 on the bid fee. Weigh-ins will occur at the store.
Crappie USA, which will have a qualifying tournament here in October, will bring one of its three Super Events and Kids’ Rodeo to Ingalls on May 21-22. Organizers expect 150 to 180 anglers. The bid fee to bring the Super Event here was $12,000.
Nine events
Those three events bring the list of fishing tournaments launching from Ingalls to nine.
“We’ve got so much going on at Ingalls, it’s hard to find a good slot for them,” Reist said.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Marching Through Time: Walking Tours of Historic Decatur"

Three different walking tours to take place on October 10, 17 and 24, 2009
Walking Tours Start at 10:00 AM

Take a walk to remember and discover Decatur’s fascinating history! Exercise your mind and body by putting on your walking shoes and exploring three different tour routes that highlight various themes and events in local history. The free Saturday tours begin at 10:00 AM. The tours on October 10 and 24 will begin and end at the 1833 Old State Bank. (925 Bank Street NE). The tour on Saturday, October 17 will begin at Cotaco Park in front of the Morgan County Courthouse and end at First Missionary Baptist Church on Vine Street in Old Town. Guests are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes and clothing appropriate for the walks.

On Saturday, October 10, 2009, local historian Phil Wirey will take walkers on a journey of over 200 years of Decatur history, tracing a new tour route down Bank, Oak and Market Streets that will revel fascinating stories from Decatur’s past. Rediscover the first locations of early churches and Jewish places of worship, and hear little known stories of African-American (Dr. Willis Sterrs, Solomon Sykes) and Jewish (Samuel Frank, Louis Falk, Max Cohn, the Olshine brothers, Ike Kuhn and Ephraim Lyons) business leaders. Through the use of early photos and fire insurance maps, uncover the locations of early movie houses, drug stores, banks, doctor and lawyer offices, variety stores, clothing vendors, grocery markets and hardware stores. The history of the Rhodes Family Cemetery (Lafayette Street Cemetery) will be reviewed, and the location of early hotels such as the McCartney, Americana, Dixie, Echols and the Hotel Lyons will be discussed. Retrace the life of Colonel Lawrence Banks as well as the influential role of the Banks and the Leadingham women on early education in Decatur. Discover Decatur’s connection to historical figures such as Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, James K. Polk, Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. Hear stories about sports legends such as Doc Sykes of the Negro Baseball League and Shorty Ogle of Riverside High and Birmingham Southern. Stories of the “The Quad,” one of the southeast’s most important Paleo-Indian archaeological site, and its researchers, Dr. Frank Soday and his wife Myrtle, will also be told. The tour will conclude by separating fact from legend in the stories of some of Decatur’s most famous women; Anna Burleson who became Mississippi’s first lady under Governor and Senator James Vardaman; Grace Hinds Duggan Curzon (“Lady Curzon”) the Marchioness of Kedleston, and Katherine Carey Lackner, better known as “Miss Kate.” Tour leader Phil Wirey is a native of East Tennessee and is employed by 3M. He has been active in researching the early settlement and settlers of Decatur and Morgan County. He has worked with the Alabama Historical Commission to register the Kimbell and Fennel cemeteries in Trinity, has documented the Garth and Menefee burial plots in Decatur, and is currently seeking state registration for the Lafayette Street Cemetery (Rhodes Family), Decatur’s oldest cemetery. Wirey has also researched the early directors and presidents of the Old State Bank, developed various maps of the Trinity and Decatur area including downtown Decatur city plot maps, Decatur Civil War landmark maps, and various maps that show early homes and businesses in Decatur. He has assisted the English Department at Calhoun College in researching the burial site of southwest humorist, George Washington Harris, whose last residence was in Decatur. Working with the local Methodist church, Wirey has sought information on early church locations, ministers and members in the Decatur area. Recording the history of early prominent African American families in Decatur has also been an area of interest for Wirey, and he recently worked with Sheryll Cashin, Georgetown University professor, in promoting her latest book, The Agitator’s Daughter, which tells the story of the Cashin family of Decatur. The walking tour on October 10 will begin and end at the Old State Bank.

As part of the BIG READ celebration taking place in Decatur and the designation of October as “Mockingbird Month, ” with all citizens being invited to read Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird and take part in activities throughout the city, the October 17 walking tour will focus on the significant history and sites related to the 1930’s. The October 17 tour will begin at Cotaco Park at the Morgan County Courthouse and conclude at First Missionary Baptist Church in Old Town. (Please note the starting and ending point for this tour is different from the others.) The tour will be led by Peggy Towns, Rev. Wylheme Ragland and Karen Bailey Gearhart. During the 1930’s, Decatur was thrust into the international spotlight when the trial of the Scottsboro Boys was relocated to Decatur. Explore this era of change, and a trial that is considered to be one of the most important trials of the 20th century. From the darkness of this trial, two landmark supreme court decisions were issued that are today a cornerstone of the American legal system. 1) Criminal defendants are entitled to effective legal council and 2) people may not be de facto excluded from juries because of race, thus the interpretation that a person’s right to a jury of one’s peers meant that African-Americans could not longer be excluded from jury duty. It is said that the roots of the Civil Rights movement can be traced to this decades-long fight for justice for the Scottsboro Boys. The trial highlighted many of the major social conflicts of the time, and from the darkness of the trial, individuals such as Judge James Horton, emerged as beacons of justice and decency. In his quiet strength and respect for the dignity of all human beings, Horton shared many traits with the fictional Atticus Finch. The tour will conclude at First Missionary Baptist Church on Vine Street in what is known as “Old Town.” Listed on the Alabama Register of Historic Places, First Missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1866 by 21 members in the home of Sister Jane Young. Through the years, the congregation met in several locations when in 1919, Dr. Sterrs, S.S. Sykes and G.F. Oliver obtained a $1460 loan to purchase this property upon which St. Ann’s Catholic Church was once located. The existing church was designed by W.A. Rayfield in 1921 and constructed at a cost of $1250. Rayfield was a prominent African-American architect who was born in Macon, Georgia and educated at Howard University, Pratt Polytechnic Institute and received his BA in Architecture from Columbia in 1899. Booker T. Washington recruited the young Rayfield to develop the Architectural and Mechanical Drawing program at Tuskegee Institute, elevating it to place a prominence and respect. Rayfield went into private architectural practice in Birmingham in 1908, where he is best known for his design of numerous churches, including the 16th Street Baptist Church. Decatur’s First Missionary Baptist Church is said to have been built through the work of “professionals, craftsmen, and donations of ‘nickels and dimes.’”
Following the tour, guests are invited to take part in short book panel discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird as part of the BIG READ. Tour leader Peggy Towns is a 5th District Congressional Aide, and was recently involved in indexing the historic Magnolia-Sykes Cemetery and securing a military marker for Private Amos McKinney, a former slave who served with Company C of the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment. Rev. Wylheme Ragland serves at King’s Memorial United Methodist Church, and has actively researched the leaders of the early Black community. He also assisted in the recognition of Amos McKinney, and is also working to nominate “Doc” Sykes to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Karen Bailey Gearhart, MSW, is interested in the preservation of African-American history, primarily in the period from Emancipation to the present.

General John Bell Hood described Decatur as being “a hard nut to crack” as he engaged in a difficult four day battle to try and reclaim the city in October of 1864. Relive the “Battle for Decatur” on Saturday, October 24 as a re-enactor with the 13th Alabama Partisan Rangers follows past footsteps through Decatur’s Civil War Walking Trail. This
walking tour will begin and end at the Old Bank. Discover how a small battle taking place in Decatur in October of 1864 would impact the success or failure of Sherman’s military plans and the ultimate future of the Confederacy. Trace the lines of the fortifications and view sites and structures that interpret Decatur’s war experience. Get to know the personalities of Col. Charles C. Doolittle, commander of the Decatur garrison; Brigadier General Robert S. Granger, Commander of the Military District of North Alabama; and Union Major General Grenville M. Dodge. Explore the Charge of the 14th U.S. Colored Infantry, led by Company Commander Captain Albert H. Ralph. Recall the tremendous significance of Decatur as a transportation crossroads, possessing both river access, a north-south rail access (Nashville and Decatur RR), an east-west rail line (Memphis and Charleston) and a railroad bridge over the river. The 13th Alabama Partisan Rangers will also be hosting a Civil War Living History Encampment at the Old Bank in the Founder’s Park area fronting the building. Additionally, the Downtown Halloween HOOT will be taking place on this day and there will be a variety of activities taking place throughout the day in the historic downtown. Walking tour guests are invited to attend and enjoy this day of seasonal family fun on the 24th.

The 1833 Old State Bank is located at 925 Bank Street in the heart of historic downtown Decatur. Walking tour guests are invited to enjoy the unique shops and restaurants that are found in Decatur’s historic downtown districts. Inclement weather may cause a change in the schedule for tours. For additional information, please contact 341-4818 or meldunn@decatur-al.gov.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

TLC crew films at Riverfest

By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Smokers and grills the size of small cars are regular sights at Decatur’s annual state barbecue championship event.
Television crews and microphones are not, at least not normally. But for the past week, crews from TLC, the network famous for “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” and “Trading Spaces,” filmed the operations of Riverfest.
The network will feature Riverfest in “The Pitmasters,” a six-episode series slated to premiere in December. The series will follow seven teams who earn a living through barbecue competitions.
“We are hoping the publicity Riverfest will receive will increase the event’s popularity for both the barbecue competition but also for the entertainment,” said Decatur Jaycees member Tiffany Brightwell, who co-chaired the event.

For the love of BBQ

Smell of meat, spices, wood and smoke lures people to Riverfest
By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

In a world where battles about health-care reform and football rivalries rage, at Ingalls Harbor love reigned — the love of barbecue.
Beneath a gray-cast sky and with the threat of rain, the smell of smoke, wood, meat and spices lured barbecue lovers to the 15th annual Riverfest on Saturday.
“We love barbecue. Chicken, brisket, pork, it doesn’t matter as long as it is barbecued,” said Sharon Garner, a Decatur resident attending her first Riverfest, an event hosted by the Decatur Jaycees.
To satisfy Garner’s taste buds, approximately 70 barbecue teams from across the Southeast slaved over grills and smokers for two days.
For Rob Stephens, with the Huntsville-based Fat, Drunk and Stupid team, creating the mouth-watering meats meant no sleep.
“It takes about 10 to 12 hours for the pulled pork and briskets to cook. We put them in about midnight and Rob stays up with them,” said James Hanley, Stephens’ teammate.
With no professional experience, the four members of the team credited their barbecue talents to their upbringing.
“Learned everything about cooking from Mama’s kitchen,” Hanley said.
The Fat, Drunk and Stupid team competed in the four required categories, including chicken, brisket, ribs and pulled pork, and also the two optional categories, sauce and dessert.
Inspired by Elvis
Responsibility for creating the dessert rested with Hanley. Inspired by Elvis Presley, Hanley made the team’s fried peanut butter and banana pudding for the first time Saturday.
It is unknown whether Hanley’s mother would take credit for the innovative dessert.
As teams checked on ribs wrapped in aluminum foil and basted briskets, dozens of judges waited anxiously.
“You may have up to four and a half pounds of meat in front of you. You have to learn how to pace yourself,” said Bill Fowlkes, who attended a four-hour class to become a certified judge.
“It’s hard not to eat all of the meat at once, but at the end of the tasting, I always go back to my favorite or second-favorite dish and clean it to the bone,” added Donnie Garrison, a three-year certified judge.
On the Tennessee River around Ingalls Harbor, a handful of kayakers paddled past the barbecue Mecca in Riverfest’s first four-mile race. Adam Elliott from Natchez, Miss., won the event organized by the Morgan County Rescue Squad.
“I love paddling on the Tennessee River, dodging all of the boats and barges,” said Elliott, who competes in approximately 10 contests annually.
Kayakers not hampered
Just as the rain did not deter the cooks, the weather did not hamper the kayakers.
“It was wonderful. Anytime you are out on the water, it is wonderful,” said Randy Griffin, who finished second, five minutes behind Elliott.
Along with the raft race and the state barbecue championship, the two-day event featured a rock wall, bands and a children’s play area. All proceeds raised through admission costs and beer and soda sales will benefit local charities.
Riverfest winners
J-Mack Cookers claimed the Grand Champion award Saturday in the 15th annual Riverfest barbecue contest. Big Pig Inc. secured second place, with High on the Hog in third.
The top winners in the festival’s six categories are, from first to third place:
Chicken — Pop’s Blazin’ Smokers, JoBeaz Blazin’ Butts and Wings, Crossroads Smokers
Ribs — Smokin’ Triggers, J-Mack Cookers, Big Pig Inc.
Pork — J-Mack Cookers, Lotta Bull BBQ, Big Pig Inc.
Brisket — Cool Smoke, E.M.Azing BBQ, High on the Hog
Sauce — JoBeaz Blazin’ Butts and Wings
Dessert — Wood Chicks BBQ

Racking Horse Championship could help economy this year

By Nancy Glasscock, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Dancing with Evil after a workout at Celebration Arena on Thursday.
The financial impact on Price­ville’s and Decatur’s hotel and restaurant business this week won’t be totaled until after a grand champion is crowned Saturday and owners and trainers load horses and leave.
But no one is optimistic that the Racking Horse World Grand Celebration’s impact will be as large as in 2000, when show attendees booked 2,529 rooms and brought in an estimated $850,000.
Five years later attendance was in decline, with people renting only 1,187 room nights accounting for $547, 846.
But Jimmy Ray Smith, a former tourism board member and member of the State Products Mart Authority of Morgan County, believes this could be the year the attendance graph takes an incline angle.
“Probably the last few years, a lot of people have not been able to travel with gas prices the way they were and the economy the way it is,” he said.
“This year, they may be ready to get out and go show their horses.”
In 2008, guests reserved 774 room nights and brought in $378,000.
Tammy Reist, executive director of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said more people attending the Celebration stay in Priceville than Decatur.
Guests give an increase in bus­iness at Priceville restaurants, owners said.
Priceville eateries
Jody Witt, owner of JW Steakhouse in Priceville, said his restaurant sees an increase in business during events such as the celebration and Kennel Club Dog Show.
Libby Gatlin, owner of Libby’s Catfish & Diner near Priceville, said there is usually a small increase in business at her restaurant, but most guests for the celebration stay and eat in Decatur.
“We do get some business from them, but not like we used to,” she said. “And, I think a lot of them have their own campers and do their own cooking, too.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cookin' in the rain

A little rain and Riverfest barbecue
Cookin’ in the rain
BBQ teams say wet weather adds work but doesn’t hurt taste
By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Chris Byrd, and Chris Perres with Cajun Bandits BBQ crew from Huntsville prepare for this weekend’s Riverfest.Rain won’t beat the heat when about 70 barbecue teams fire up their grills and smokers and compete for $20,000 in prize money during Saturday’s Riverfest at Ingalls Harbor.
But wet weather could keep grillmasters busier as they work extra to keep their cooking operations at the proper temperature.
Some teams will simply have to cook longer.
The National Weather Service forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of showers and possibly a thunderstorm Saturday, with the high temperature near 82.
Showers remain likely, a 70 percent chance , Saturday night with a possible thunderstorm.
“If it rains, it could increase your cooking time a couple of hours,” said Jeff Cooper of the Whiskey River BBQ team from Athens. “And you have to feed it more (fuel) when the wind’s blowing and it’s cool or wet.”
Cooper, whose team finished second in the rib category at last year’s Riverfest, has several cooking methods, but the one that will require the most attention is his cast iron smoker. He had a heavy moving van blanket draped over it to add insulation and hold the heat inside.
The rain can cool cast iron cookers fairly quickly, Cooper said, but some of the more expensive modern smokers with thermostat controls won’t be affected at all.
Riverfest, which began Friday, is a state barbecue championship sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. It is part of a circuit of competitions in which teams can earn points and qualify for the national championship. The grand champion Saturday will receive $3,000, and the reserve champion $2,000. The top five finishers in each meat category also will receive cash prizes.
Barbecue vendors will sell ribs, chicken, pork and brisket. Non-barbecue vendors will have roasted corn, hot dogs and hamburgers, gumbo, nachos and smoked turkey legs.
The event also will feature live bands, children’s activities, a rock climbing wall and a raft race. Pepsi Bottling of Decatur is a new sponsor this year and will bring the No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR vehicle, which includes a video game and simulator.
“We’ll go on rain or shine,” said Tiffany Brightwell, co-chair of the event. “The bands will go on as long as it’s not lightning and the rain’s not blowing in on their equipment.”
Helping charities
Riverfest uses all the money from competition entry fees for prize money.
The Jaycees depend on gate receipts and beer and soft drink sales for revenue. All proceeds go toward local charities, Brightwell said, so it’s important people come out and support the event.
Riverfest admission is free until 3 p.m. and $10 per person afterward.
The Cajun Bandit team from Huntsville actually welcomes the rain because it provides a chance to show off a conversion kit the team sells.
Chris Byrd, team member and co-owner of C&C Grillin Co., said he and his partner, Chris Perres, specifically designed the alterations to work with dome-top Webber grills. Perres works at a metal fabrication and plating shop.
The main change they made is that the lip of the dome lid covers the outer edge of the conversion kit side, thus preventing water from dripping in and cooling the coals.
The cooker is so well sealed, weather has little effect on it, Byrd said, and it’s much less expensive than many models. The kit costs $175 and could work with a $75 Webber.
One of his customers, Blue Smoke, won the state championship in Washington and another championship in British Columbia. Word on their adaptation quickly spread, and calls for orders quickly followed.
“Just about everybody who buys ours is in competition barbecue,” Byrd said.
Attendees will find all manner of cooking operations at Riverfest, ranging from $10,000 custom-made stainless steel smokers to homemade rigs.
Stainless steel cooker
Joey Boyd of Jobeaz Blazing Butts & Wings out of Athens has a stainless steel cooker he converted out of a water heater.
“It doesn’t take a lot of fire to heat it up, but once the fire goes down, it will cool real fast,” he said.
If it rains, Boyd said, he’ll have to add more wood fuel, but he’s cooked enough in the rain to know how much it takes to keep it at the desired temperature.
“Cooking in the rain doesn’t affect the taste of the meat. It just makes it miserable to cook,” he said.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fun's here in all directions

EDITORIAL, The Decatur Daily

Anyone who can’t find something relaxing to do this weekend isn’t trying. Look in any direction and you will find early autumn celebrations that are bound to bring entertainment and opportunities to visit with friends.
You may even try to squeeze in a high school football game tonight and a college game or two on Saturday.
It’s overload, but a fun challenge.
For us, the hub of events is the annual Riverfest at Ingalls Harbor and the Racking Horse World Celebration at Priceville.
A little more to the south, Hartselle is having its annual Depot Days Festival.
To the north, Athens is on the route for the annual Trail of Tears motorcycle ride, and Florence will be the site of a remembrance and celebration of Native American history.
Huntsville has a full schedule of events that includes Oktoberfest on the Redstone Arsenal field.
If you wish to dance, you may dance. If horses are your interest, magnificent animals bred and trained as show competitors will perform during the World Celebration, which is the largest Racking Horse show in the U.S.
If classic cars are your thing, you can find them.
Just good fun, eating and drinking?
The 15th Riverfest is your best bet, but all of the events are family-appropriate.
So, get out this weekend, take the family, grab a date, a friend or show up single for several days of great entertainment.

Horses, music and barbecue

Horses, music and barbecue
Racking Horse World Celebration, Riverfest get under way Friday
By Nancy Glasscock, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Danny Odum works out Dancing with Evil in the show arena on a rainy Thursday as they prepare for this weekend’s World Grand Championship at Celebration Arena in Priceville. The horse was the Mare Gelding World Champion in 2008. Odum was the Men’s Amateur World Champion.
People can enjoy music, barbecue and nightly horse shows starting Friday at Riverfest and the Racking Horse World Celebration.
Horses and their owners were preparing Celebration Arena at Priceville for the search for a new world grand champion Thursday. Preparations were also under way for Riverfest at Ingalls Harbor. Both events draw participants from around the United States.
As many as 5,000 to 7,000 usually attend Riverfest, said Tiffany Brightwell, director of investor relations at the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce. Sixty-two professional and amateur barbecue teams from as far away as California will compete, cooking for prizes totaling $20,000.
North Alabama bands will perform at night.
“We tried really hard to make it a local event,” Brightwell said. “We wanted to make it a good, inexpensive family event.”
Riverfest gates open at noon. Musical entertainment begins at 4 p.m. with Southern rock by Dusty Winsett and Dusty French.
The event continues at 10 a.m. Saturday with a raft race for canoes and kayaks.
Food vendors and a children’s area with inflatables will be available.
Rain didn’t deter participants in the Racking Horse World Celebration from decorating barns and grooming and exercising horses at Celebration Arena. The rain did keep horses, owners and trainers indoors, which wouldn’t be typical in sunny weather.
Danny and Ava Odum of Odum Stables in Creal Springs, Ill., were among those preparing for performances.
“We decorate our barn, and each horse has to be bathed, trimmed and that’s basically what we’re doing,” Ava Odum said.
The Odums have several grand champions and the 2008 winner. They brought 15 horses, including Dancing with Evil, a world champion gelding, for this year’s competition.
“We have fun and fellowship and just have a good time, and winning is a bonus,” Odum said.
Glen Weeks drove from Houston, Texas. He and Bill Easley of Mount Vernon, Ill., were exercising horses and helping them get used to a new place, which Weeks said takes about 14 hours.
The indoor arena was open, so the rain was only an inconvenience, he said.
Racking horses are a family tradition for Bee and Connie McAdams of Shorterville.
“I was raised in it; my wife was raised in it,” Bee McAdams said. “My wife’s father (Larry Missildine) was the Reserve World Grand Champion in 1977.”
McAdams and others will show horses in more than 140 classes designed for children and adults, amateurs and professionals. The Racking Horse Breeders Association of America, headquartered in Decatur, also plans horse sales, a barn decorating contest, a golf tournament and activities for young riders.
The event continues through Sept. 26.
Riverfest schedule
Noon: Gates open
4-5 p.m.: Dusty & Dusty (Southern rock tunes by Dusty Winsett and Dusty French)
5-6 p.m.: Mike Roberts (Huntsville-based acoustic and rock singer/songwriter who plays with the band 5 O’Clock Charlie)
6-7:15 p.m.: Blackeyed Susan (Huntsville-based party band)
7:45-9 p.m.: Rearview Ghost (Huntsville-based modern hard rock band)
9:30-10:45 p.m.: Lynam (Birmingham-based rock band)
10 a.m.: Gates open; raft race for canoes and kayaks
Noon-2 p.m.: cooking demonstration and book signing with Chris Lilly, author of “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book”
3-4 p.m.: Trinity Mountain Boys (Trinity-based bluegrass, folk and country band)
4-5 p.m.: Barbecue awards ceremony
5-6 p.m.: Kosmic Mama (Huntsville-based R&B/rock/blues band)
6:30-7:30 p.m.: Black Label (Huntsville-based rock/alternative/metal band)
8-9:15 p.m.: Eyes Around (Huntsville-based rock/alternative/indie band)
9:45-11 p.m.: Bishop Black (Decatur-based Southern rock group)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Breakout band: Rearview Ghost

Rock group brings raw sound to Riverfest’s stage Friday
By Patrice Stewart, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Rosia Fiore worked behind the scenes to plan the 15th annual Riverfest with the Decatur Jaycees, the service organization that sponsors the festival at Ingalls Harbor.
She’ll play several roles this weekend: coordinator, volunteer and ... lead singer.
Between helping coordinate the VIP area and bands’ sound and lighting needs, she will take center stage Friday night at 7:45 to perform with the band Rearview Ghost
As a member of the Riverfest entertainment committee, Fiore helped book North Alabama bands, including her own, though they will play for free.
“We are really big on trying to work together with other bands. It’s great to have a lot of area bands help out and know that after the event’s bills are paid, the rest of the money goes to charities,” she said.
Fiore’s fiancĂ©, Phillip “Flip” Cooper, plays bass and helps manage Rearview Ghost.
“I’ve been to Riverfest four years in a row, usually eating while volunteering because Josia put me to work, but this will be my first time to play it,” Cooper said.
Despite the possibility of passion and jealousy that hurt some partnerships, Cooper and Fiore find their relationship works within the band.
“Honestly, it’s probably the best way for me to have a relationship,” Cooper said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get out of band mode and into normal relationship mode, but we get to do everything together.”
The band also includes guitarist Craig Shadix and drummer Eddie Carpenter. Cooper, who grew up in New Hope, knew Carpenter from their teen band days.
Fiore describes herself as “the baby of the group,” because this is only her second band, while the others have been playing since they were about 15 in bands such as Bad Karma, 40 Cycle Hum and Horse.
While there have been some changes in band members, the name Rearview Ghost has stayed the same.
The current members are spread across the Valley, with Shadix in Hartselle, Carpenter in Huntsville, Cooper and Fiore in Madison and co-manager Russ Housman in Tanner, where the band rehearses. Their day jobs range from computer shipping and banking to graphic design to playing “Mr. Mom.”
After hours, however, they can be found rocking out on stage in the Valley. They’ve played at Sammy T’s, Crossroads Music Hall, The Station and Sports Page, and participated in the “Rock the Boat” event in Huntsville last year.
“Request that we play some places in Decatur next,” Fiore said.
How would you describe your music?
“We have a ’70s kind of hard rock sound. We’re not too heavy, but we don’t back off because have female vocalist,” Cooper said. “We don’t try to make it too pop; we try to stay who we are, although we do different kinds of music: blues-based, hard rock, some with a kind of pop-Southern rock feel — but we are primarily a rock-and-roll band that’s not afraid to venture off and do other things.”
Fiore describes their music as “a very raw rock sound — vintage with a modern flair.”
Cooper said he has a problem with a common trend in music today — bands sounding alike.
“We don’t try to pigeonhole ourselves with just one sound. We want to branch off and do what we feel like doing — from Motown to Metallica,” Cooper said. “If it’s good music, we don’t care what genre it is.”
How to you write your original music?
Fiore said they write most of their songs “the way we feel like writing them.”
She and Cooper, who started the band three years ago, write the lyrics, she does the melodies and harmonies, and Shadix adds some guitar riffs.
“Sometimes we’ll take three songs and combine the parts we like from each to make one song,” Fiore said.
What’s your favorite song?
“I’ve got mixed feelings on that,” Cooper said. “ ‘Open Book,’ the one we shot a video for, is our crossover song, and people who like pop rock or maybe even country will like it.”
But Cooper prefers the group’s heavier stuff, like the ’70s hard rock feel of “Fade,” which will soon be on a compilation CD put together by Valley Planet. And people who like harder rock favor “Karma Queen,” he said.
“Then there’s our blues-based song, ‘Fly,’ which isn’t completely finished yet, but I’ve had people try to buy it from me,” Cooper said.
A Nashville keyboard player who toured with Fleetwood Mac is set to play keyboard on the recording.
What was it like to shoot a music video?
“It was extremely cold and windy and a long day, and I had to sing over and over again and warm up with a bottle of whiskey,” Fiore said, “but it was a lot of fun.”
They shot the video (see it at myspace.com/rearviewghost) on the rooftops of downtown Huntsville.
How do you record your music?
“Releasing an album is a tough thing to do this day and age, but we are trying to put together a full album. We want it to be good and solid, and if it takes us a while longer because we want to write some new songs, so be it,” Cooper said.
The group has been recording along the way at Tombstone Studios in Nashville and Soundworks Studio in Decatur with Dave Pittman.
Their next recording session will be with producer Dave Anderson at Muscle Shoals Sound, where legends like the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and Bob Seger recorded hits.
They plan to return to a more organic-sounding recording — back to reel-to-reel and tape, with fewer computers, Cooper said. They also plan to release a record on vinyl.
“You can cheat your sound with computers, and it seems like something’s missing or stripped away from the soul of the music,” Cooper said. “Dave has a modern feel for things, along with microphones and other gear from the ’60s and ’70s that I’m really excited about.”
What else are you working on?
Cooper hosts a radio show on WTAK 106.1 every Wednesday night at 10 showcasing area talent.
“If anyone has a band and a good recording, let me know, because we are trying to build a local music community, and there are a lot of talented bands around here,” he said.
Three months into it, he has played nearly 300 artists from North Alabama, and this week was dedicated to Riverfest bands. After its Riverfest gig, the band will play Oct. 3 at Whiskey’s in Huntsville.
Rearview Ghost describes its sound as ’70s hard rock — vintage with a modern flair. But bassist Flip Cooper says, “If it’s good music, we don’t care what genre it is.
Craig Shadix, guitar (pictured above, at left)
Flip Cooper, bass, manager (center)
Josia Fiore, vocalist (seated)
Eddie Carpenter, drums (right)
On the net
Want your band featured?
E-mail abrunty@decaturdaily.com for more information.
If you go
What: 15th annual Riverfest, featuring music, children’s area, raft race, barbecue contest and more, presented by Decatur Jaycees
When: Gates open at noon Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Ingalls Harbor, 701 Market St. N.W.
Cost: Admission is free until 4 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday. Evening sessions cost $10 per person; $15 weekend passes are for sale at the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Call 341-0301 or see www.decaturjaycees.com.

Riverfest schedule
Noon: Gates open
4-5 p.m.: Dusty & Dusty (Southern rock tunes by Dusty Winsett and Dusty French)
5-6 p.m.: Mike Roberts (Huntsville-based acoustic and rock singer/songwriter who plays with the band 5 O’Clock Charlie)
6-7:15 p.m.: Blackeyed Susan (Huntsville-based party band)
7:45-9 p.m.: Rearview Ghost (Huntsville-based modern hard rock band)
9:30-10:45 p.m.: Lynam (Birmingham-based rock band)

10 a.m.: Gates open; raft race for canoes and kayaks
Noon-2 p.m.: cooking demonstration and book signing with Chris Lilly, author of “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book”
3-4 p.m.: Trinity Mountain Boys (Trinity-based bluegrass, folk and country band)
4-5 p.m.: Barbecue awards ceremony
5-6 p.m.: Kosmic Mama (Huntsville-based R&B/rock/blues band)
6:30-7:30 p.m.: Black Label (Huntsville-based rock/alternative/metal band)
8-9:15 p.m.: Eyes Around (Huntsville-based rock/alternative/indie band)
9:45-11 p.m.: Bishop Black (Decatur-based Southern rock group)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tourism Society Honors Morgan

By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

The Southeast Tourism Society selected the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau for the “Shining Example” Award for Convention and Visitors Bureau of the Year.
Shining Example awards recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of tourism in the 12 Southeastern states. The Decatur bureau’s award was for organizations with less than a $1 million budget.
Criteria for the award include overall performance, marketing accomplishments and creativity in design, development, and implementation of projects from June 1, 2008, to May 31, 2009.
While 2008 saw a downturn in the economy, the local bureau ended its fiscal year with another record in lodging taxes.
For the fiscal 2008, the city collected more than $867,000, a 10 percent increase from the previous year.
The bureau introduced new products and services, including a Geocaching Passport to entice the emerging geocaching market to explore Morgan County, Welcoming All Visitors Exceptionally educational seminars for tourism professionals in the county and the Decatur Volksmarch, a 5K and 10K non-competitive fitness march through the city’s two historic districts.
Partnerships with surrounding counties also attracted high-profile sporting tournaments, which generated additional revenue for Decatur and Morgan County.
Tami Reist, bureau president, said recognition by such a prestigious organization was an honor.
“This award recognizes the many accomplishments of the CVB team as well as our commitment to visitors and our community,” she said. “Receiving this accolade is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the board of directors led by Norman Roby and each CVB staff member.” The bureau staff includes Squee Bailey, sales coordinator; Sharon Holder, office manager; Lori Boger, group sales director; Kayla Riggs, special events director; Delores Powell, housing director; and Carolyn Cameron, weekend visitors assistant.
The Southeast Tourism Society has members representing state travel offices, attractions, hotels, motels, resorts, convention and visitors bureaus, airlines, bus companies, car rental agencies, newspapers, magazines and other travel-related organizations.

Meet Me at the Museum - Children's Art Class at the Carnegie

Meet Me @ the Museum
Starting September 16th
An after-school art program for elementary aged children. Each class will explore a different medium or element of art.
Instructor: Linda Lee
September 16 - December 9
3:45 PM - 4:45 PM
$85 members /$100 non-members
207 Church Street, NE Decatur, Alabama 256-341-0562 www.carnegiearts.org

September at Memi's on Bank

Join Memi's on Bank Street TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17th for Canvas and Conversation with SCOTT WILLIS. $55.00 6-9 p.m. Space is limited...you know the rest of the story...don't wait to sign up or you'll miss a spot! Bring your favorite beverage and enjoy a night at Memi's on Bank! 350-0101 or memipottery@charter.net for a reservation.

NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED. Ha. Yet another opportunity to have a fun night out at Memi's on Bank MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 21st for CANVAS and CONVERSATION with RICKIE HIGGINS. $55.00 5:30-8:30 p.m. Who could make a telephone look so good?? Rickie Higgins! If you have not seen his work go to Willis Gray Gallery and check it out. It's fabulous. 350-0101 or memipottery@charter.net for a reservation.

Have you started thinking about the HOLIDAYS? Memi's has! We have Christmas ornaments in stock ready for you to paint or put that precious hand print on, new wooden frames with crosses on them, our latest hot item...copper and wood crosses for indoors or out. And of course don't forget about the DHS and AHS shirts that have been flying out the door~
Memi's is thrilled to be a part of the Enrichment Program at Decatur Heritage Christian Academy this Fall. For 5 weeks we go to the school on Friday afternoon and work with a group of students on a pottery or clay project. We love to travel...let us know if you have a group you would like for us to work with! We'll be loading up to hit First Baptist on the 29th for their Ladies Ministry Craft Night. You should see what they did last time...beautiful pieces of pottery!
Don't forget to book your HOLIDAY PARTY sooooon....we are filling up! We can do pottery or Canvas...you pick!
SEPTEMBER 17th....Canvas and Conversation with Scott Willis
SEPTEMBER 21st...Canvas and Conversation with Rickie Higgins
SEPTEMBER 26th...1/2 price studio fee for one day only!

Jameson Inn Decatur Named for Top Service Award

The Jameson Inn hotel brand was ranked #1 in customer service for the first half of 2009 by the Market Metrix Hospitality Index (MMHI) among its segment of hotels. This marks 5 ½ consecutive years Jameson Inn has ranked #1 in customer satisfaction nationally.
“It is great to know our dedication to our guests has been recognized again,” said Betty McGee, general manager of the Jameson Inn in Decatur. “Even in a down economy, our commitment to an excellent lodging experience is our overriding goal” McGee went on to say.
Most Jameson Inn hotels have completed recent renovations to keep the properties fresh and attractive to travelers and have new double sided pillow top Dreamium™ beds that feature triple sheeting and many pillows on each bed. “Nothing matters more to our guests than a really comfortable bed with fresh linens and lots of pillows,” said Dan Burdakin, President of Park Management Group.
Based on 35,000 customer interviews each quarter, the Market Metrix Hospitality Index prides itself on being the largest and most in-depth measure of hotel, airline and car rental performance available today. No other customer satisfaction index offers MMHI’s reporting frequency, volume of customer interviews, cross-industry results or innovative satisfaction measures, according to Burdakin.
The Jameson Inn in Decatur is located at 2120 Jameson PL SW Decatur, Alabama 35603. Betty McGee can be reached at 256-355-2229 or 800-JAMESON (526-3766).

Friday, September 11, 2009



The Southeast Tourism Society (STS) has selected the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau (DMCCVB) for the “Shining Example” Award for Convention and Visitors Bureau of the Year (budget under $1 million). The Shining Example Awards recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of tourism in the Southeastern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia & West Virginia. Criteria for the award include overall performance of the organization, demonstrable accomplishments through effective tourism marketing and creativity in design, development and implementation of projects within June 1, 2008 through May 31, 2009. Last year’s recipient was the Blacksburg & Christiansburg (Va.) Visitors Center.

While 2008 brought about a downturn in the economy, DMCCVB ended its fiscal year with another record year in terms of lodging taxes. For October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008 fiscal year, the city collected over $867,000 which is a 10% increase from the previous year. New products and services recently introduced include a Geocaching Passport to entice those travelers interested in the emerging geocaching market to explore Morgan County via hidden caches located throughout the county, WAVE (Welcoming All Visitors Exceptionally) educational seminars for tourism professionals in Morgan County, and the Decatur Volksmarch, a 5K and 10K non-competitive fitness through the city’s two Historic Districts. Strategic partnerships with surrounding counties also attracted high profile sporting tournaments, which in turn, generated additional revenue for Decatur and Morgan County.

“It is an honor to be selected for Convention and Visitors Bureau of the Year from such a prestigious organization in the tourism industry,” said DMCCVB President Tami Reist. “This award recognizes the many accomplishments of the CVB team as well as our commitment to visitors and our community. Receiving this accolade is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the board of directors led by Norman Roby and each CVB staff member.”

The 2009 Shining Example Awards will be presented at the 26th annual fall meeting of STS scheduled for September 9-10, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1983, the Southeast Tourism Society is dedicated to the promotion and development of tourism to its member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The membership includes state travel offices, attractions, hotels, motels, resorts, convention and visitors bureaus, airlines, bus companies, car rental agencies, newspapers, magazines and other travel-related organizations.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Riverfest adds race to grilling contest

By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
Even if everything you toss on the grill comes out dry or burned, you still have a chance to win money at the 15th annual Riverfest in two weeks.
The Morgan County Rescue Squad has offered a river race during the state barbecue championship with two $250 cash prizes.
It will have two categories: canoes and kayaks. All entries must be manufactured boats and cannot feature any battery- or engine-powered propulsion.
The Sept. 19 race will begin at 10 a.m., starting and ending at Ingalls Harbor.
Racers will paddle up river under Hudson Memorial Bridge, circle a rescue squad boat and return down river to the finish line. The length is about two miles.
Each entry can have no more than two people aboard. For a list of rules and registration forms, visit www.decaturjaycees.com.
Barbecue and bands
Organized by Decatur Jay­cees and sponsored by Valley Budweiser, Riverfest will continue to feature about 70 pitmasters from across America, as well as barbecue vendors selling ribs, chicken, pork and brisket.
Non-barbecue vendors will have roasted corn, hot dogs and hamburgers, gumbo, nachos and smoked turkey legs.
The two-day event also will present 10 bands as well as children’s activities that include inflatable rides.
The U.S. Army rock climbing wall will be a new activity.
Pepsi Bottling of Decatur is a new sponsor this year and will bring the No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR vehicle, which includes a video game and simulator.
Chris Lilly, vice president of Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue and leader of the local restaurant’s world champion barbecue team, will give a barbecue demonstration Sept. 19 from noon to 1 p.m.
Afterward, Lilly will autograph copies of his new cookbook.
Another new item is the Rooster and Hen Party on Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. The party is open to all former Jaycees. Those who plan to attend must register with hstephens2005@aol .com by Wednesday.
Riverfest admission is free until 4 p.m. on Sept. 18 and 3 p.m. on Sept. 19. Evening sessions cost $10 per person.
Weekend passes costing $15 are for sale at the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce and the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Riverfest band line-up
Riverfest 2009 will feature all North Alabama bands for entertainment.
Sept. 18
4 to 5 p.m. – Dusty & Dusty
5 to 6 p.m. – Mike Roberts
6 to 7:15 p.m. – Blackeyed Susan
7:45 to 9 p.m. – Rearview Ghost
9:30 to 10:45 p.m. – Lynum
Sept 19
3 to 4 p.m. – Trinity Mountain Boys
4 to 5 p.m. – Barbecue awards announced
5 to 6 p.m. – Kosmic Mama
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. – Black Label
8 to 9:45 p.m. – Eyes Around
9:45 to 11 p.m. – Bishop Black

Products Mart willing to deal

Products Mart willing to deal
Celebration Arena purchase could happen if Racking Horse Breeders Association meets conditions
By Ronnie Thomas, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

If the Racking Horse Breeders Association of America agrees to $30,000 annual rent on a five-year leaseback, State Products Mart is ready to purchase Celebration Arena from the association for $650,000.
There are other stipulations in the contract that the Products Mart board unanimously approved Wednesday after a two-hour meeting.
For example, the board will construct a secondary warm-up arena between the stables and the rear entrance of the main arena. The board also will provide money for improvements and renovations to the 38-year-old, 118-acre site.
The breeders association purchased the arena for $1.3 million in 1994, according to Judy Jones, an association board member and past president.
The association’s decision on the sale could come during the upcoming Racking Horse World Celebration.
Donna Kaufmann, the association’s acting manager, said the breeders’ board will meet Sept. 25 at 8 a.m. The general membership will meet the next day at 9 a.m.
Products Mart board attorney Tom Caddell said he’ll put a closing date of no later than Jan. l into the contract.
A sticking point with the Products Mart board since March is that it wants the Morgan County Commission to approve appointing a Parks and Recreation board to manage the Priceville arena. Commission Chairman John Glasscock, who in June broke a 2-2 tie against a resolution incorporating the park board, has changed his mind.
“If (Products Mart) follows through with two items in the contract, I’m committed to vote for appointing the board,” he said.
Glasscock wants the contract to keep a provision that requires the Products Mart board to provide basic maintenance on the arena during the term of the lease. He also wants Products Mart’s guarantee it will fund through the Parks and Recreation board any operating de­ficit during those five years.
District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher said the appointment of a board will be on the agenda at the Sept. 22 commission meeting.
The Products Mart board acted after presentations by business and financial consultant Jim Gregory and certified public accountant David Scott.
The board hired them to do a feasibility study on the arena.
They presented a report that summarized revenues from events in 2008.
Scott said he separated revenue of the Racking Horse Breeders Association of America events, which totaled $90,400, without the association paying rent or concessions.
The other events generated $139,300, for total revenue of $229,700.
In looking toward the future — for example, the hiring of a manager/marketing director — Scott projected total expenses of $214,200, leaving a net income of $15,500.
The previous offer for the arena would’ve allowed the breeders’ association to retain all revenues generated for the three Racking Horse Breeder events, leaving a projected net loss of $74,900.
That loss would be reduced to $44,900 under the Product Mart board’s counter-offer that requires $30,000 annual rent.
Scott said the study doesn’t take into account new shows that a marketing director might generate.
“It may be a diamond in the rough and take a lot of polish to become a jewel in Morgan County’s crown,” Scott said of the arena.
Gregory said the arena scheduled at least 64 days of events this year, noting that some are recurring. He said renting the arena for another 100 days annually is conceivable.
The Products Mart board approved paying Scott $4,187.50 for his services, Gregory $3,902.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Singin' In The Rain- Music in the Park

Movie Begins at Dark
Founders Park at the 1833 Old State Bank

Come dance on the mall at the Old Bank, maybe even grab your umbrella and swing around the light post just like Gene Kelly! The Old State Bank and the City of Decatur Parks and Recreation Department invites you to cast your cares aside and come enjoy a movie that is often considered one of the best musicals ever made, topping the American Film Institutes's 100 Years of Musicals list and ranking 5th in its updated list of the greatest American films! The 1952 musical comedy starts film legends Gene Kelly, Donald O'Conner, and Debbie Reynolds and humorously depicts Hollywood's transition from the silent movies to "talkies." Loved for its legendary music and choreography, you will eave with a smile on your face and a spring in your step!

Bring your lawn chair or blanket! Admission is free. For more information, please visit www.decaturparks.com or call 256-341-4818. In case of inclement weather, the movie will be cancelled.


The staff of the Decatur Morgan Co. CVB is happy to announce the arrival of Kayla’s baby boy..

8 lbs. 7 ounces, 20 inches
Born September 6, 2009

Kayla, Brett, & Camden are doing very well.
Please keep them in your thoughts & prayers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Alabama’s African-American Folklore, Folk Songs and Spirituals

Alabama’s African-American Folklore, Folk Songs and Spirituals will be the focus of an exhibit and public presentation held at the historic 1833 Old State Bank on Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 2:00 PM. This program is a part of Decatur’s “Big Read” exploration of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Dr. Alan Brown of the University of West Alabama will speak on the six different types of songs (field calls, spirituals, field blues, play party/ring game songs, work songs and lullabies) collected by ethnomusicologists in the 20th century. The discussion will center on the inspiration and original functions for these songs, as well as how this has changed through the years. Brown is also the creator of the exhibit, Ruby Pickens Tartt: An Alabama Original , which will be on display in the Old Bank. Tartt dedicated her entire life to documenting and preserving African-American folklore and folk songs. Historians and folklorists state that without the work of Miss Tartt, “the wit and wisdom of an entire generation of Black geniuses would have been lost forever.” This free public program and exhibit is made possible through the support of the Alabama Humanities Foundation as the Old Bank joins in the celebration of “Mockingbird Month!”

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mounds of tourism

Mounds of tourism
Economic downturn bringing more visitors to Oakville attractions
By Nancy Glasscock, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

OAKVILLE — Built using baskets of dirt 2,000 years ago, the Copena Burial Mound was the final resting place for bodies encased in clay plaster and covered with layers of dirt.
The false stone crypts where settlers were entombed in the mid-1800s still sit on top of the mound in the Oakville Indian Mounds Park, which also contains the largest Woodland Indian mound in Alabama.
In a bad economy, more people are visiting the Indian mounds and the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum, directors said.
Both are open Sunday and Labor Day.
“I don’t know what to attribute it to,” said Butch Walker, director of the Oakville Indian Mounds Park and Museum. “But we do not have an admission fee, and that may be one thing. It might’ve helped with the economy like it is, because people know they can get in for free.”
Walker said 300 visitors signed in on weekends last month, not including visitors who used the park for camping or fishing.
The Jesse Owens Memorial Museum has had 12,000 visitors since January, an increase of about 30 percent over the same time period last year.
In 2008, it had visitors from 18 countries and 37 states.
The museum is free for individuals and small family groups. For groups of 10 or more, there is a $2 admission charge. Admission into the park is always free.
Established in 1986, the Oakville Indian Mounds Museum has more than 20,000 artifacts. The Oakville Indian Mound, the largest Woodland ceremonial Indian mound in Alabama, 27 feet high on 1.8 acres, is believed to have been a cultural center for the Copena Indians.
Experts believe the mound is more than 2,000 years old and constructed from dirt carried in baskets from the Oakville Pond area about 300 yards east.
Also in the park are three picnic pavilions, two outdoor restroom facilities, a shop/meeting building and paved roads.
More than 3,300 runners visited the park last year for the 10th annual Jesse Owens Classic high school cross country meet. More than 1,900 runners were at the annual Chickasaw Trails meet.
Changes at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum include a remodeled exterior at the replica of the home where Owens was born, sidewalks, and additional items at the gift shop, said Nancy Pinion, a director.
Glass display cases contain memorabilia, including programs from the 1936 Olympics, replicas of track uniforms and shoes, and medals and trophies from Owens’ high school years. Visitors can watch movies about Owens in a mini theater and test their athletic skills in a broad jump pit that commemorates Owens’ 1936 Berlin Olympic gold medal jump of 26 feet, 5 5/16 inches.
Adjacent to the museum, a wooden house with cracked walls and blankets on the floor for beds is a replica of the home Owens lived in until he moved with his family to Cleveland at age 9.
Ron and Ivey Cotton, of Hanceville, toured the Jesse Owens Museum on Thursday and said they planned to visit the Oakville Indian Mounds the same day.
“We’ve been through Moulton a number of times, and we finally decided we’d come out about two weeks ago,” Ron Cotton said, adding that they made the trip because of the historical significance of Owens’ accomplishments in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
The number of visitors at the park and museum could decline if more school systems restrict field trips to save money, Pinion said.
“We had a workshop here for Huntsville history teachers during the summer, and they were so impressed with the facility, but were worried they wouldn’t be able to bring students because their system might not allow them to take trips because of the economy,” she said.
The Jesse Owens Memorial Park relies on donations, admission from tours and the County Commission for funding. The Oakville Indian Mounds Park is funded by donations and grants, as well as vendors, parking fees and admission for rides at the Lawrence County Multicultural Indian Event.
Lawrence museums
The Jesse Owens Memorial Museum is open from 9 a.m. To 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:30 p.m. To 5 p.m. Sunday.
the Oakville Indian Munds Museum is open from 7:30 a.m. To 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. To 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Both museums will be open Labor Day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Alabama Hotels Fare Better Than U.S. Average

Alabama hotels have suffered less than the nationwide average in occupancy rates and room prices so far this year, state tourism director Lee Sentell told 270 officials Sunday at the opening of the annual tourism conference at the Grand Hotel. The percentage of occupied hotel rooms in the U.S. dropped 7.1 percent during the first six months of the year versus Alabama’s decrease of 6.6 percent, he said, quoting Smith Travel Research. Family vacations in June pushed Alabama’s occupancy rate up to 58 percent as compared with the six-month average of 53 percent, he said. The average room rate dropped 8.6 percent nationally compared to a 3 percent drop in Alabama during the same period, Sentell said. Nationally, the average room rate for the first six months of the year was $98.78, compared to Alabama’s average rate of $72.19.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Discover Decatur

Have you made that short drive across the river lately? Decatur has undergone an exciting transformation in recent years, and today, offers a cornucopia of activities that give new meaning to weekend fun.

Scheduled for September 18-19, Riverfest tickles your tastebuds with its State Barbeque Championship while a new raft race kicks the fun up a notch at this year’s event and good southern music fills the air both days. Downtown Decatur rocks every weekend at the Brick Deli & Tavern with performances by emerging and established artists representing a variety of music from rhythm and blues to rock ‘n’ roll. The Princess Theatre welcomes country music legend Ricky Skaggs along with Kentucky Thunder on November 19.

The new Jack Allen Recreational Complex and Ingalls Harbor have placed Decatur on the national radar for hosting world class events. National soccer tournaments hit the field in September and November with pro and amateur anglers rolling in to town in October. Fierce competition continues at the Celebration Arena with annual horse and dog shows.

Did you know Decatur is home to a library built by millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie? Today, the Carnegie Visual Arts Center calls the former Carnegie Library home and every third Friday, the fun heats up after the sun goes down with Fri@5, a relaxing evening of art and entertainment.

Cooler weather is an inviting time for scenic walks. The new Decatur Volksmarch takes you through the Old Decatur and New Albany Historic Districts on 5K and 10K walking trails. Combined, these districts represent one of the finest and largest collections of Victorian and earlier 20th century craftsman and bungalow homes in Alabama. Modern day treasure hunts are also found in Decatur with our Geocaching Passport.

I would like to invite you to make that short drive to Decatur. For a complete list of upcoming events, visit us at www.decaturcvb.org.

Decatur to read and celebrate TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

The Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts hosts a Big Read project in Decatur that will focus on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Alabamian Harper Lee. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Decatur is among 268 cities participating this year in the largest literature project in the United States. The Princess Theatre will partner with the Decatur Public Library and other organizations and volunteers to bring the entire community together to read and discuss Alabama’s most famous novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The Big Read highlights not only literature, but also what can be accomplished in partnership.
More than 40 activities will take place in Big Read Decatur from October 1-31, 2009. Mayor Don Stanford and Senator Arthur Orr will declare October Mockingbird Month at the free Kick Off event on Thursday, October 1 at noon at the Princess Theatre for a Celebration and 50th birthday party for Harper Lee's classic novel. The public is invited to bring a brown bag lunch, with the Theatre providing drinks and the Friends of the Decatur Public Library serving desserts featured in the book, including pound cakes, a Lane cake, ambrosia, cookies, biscuits-syrup-butter, lemon drops, tootsie rolls, and brownies.
A free Keynote Lecture: "How a Lady from Monroeville, Alabama Taught the World About Tolerance" is scheduled on October 1 at 7 p.m. with Alabama's premier historian Dr. Wayne Flynt. The themes of tolerance, justice and humanity raised in the novel remain relevant.
Other community-based reading programs feature activities such as book discussions at a variety of venues, an exhibit and discussion at the Morgan County Archives about Decatur’s most famous civil rights case, the Scottsboro Boys Trial, a historic walk through 1930s Decatur during the Trial, movie screenings, music at the Old State Bank, crafts and discussions at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and a National Touring dramatic performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The Decatur City Schools have scheduled arts education activities that include a teacher workshop with Dr. Flynt, a student workshop with actors, an Essay Contest for high school students, and a multi-disciplined arts event by Austin High School entitled “A Night in Maycomb.”
A full calendar of events for BIG READ DECATUR is available at www.princesstheatre.org and http://neabigread.com/communities/?community_id=2082. For information, call the Princess Theatre Box Office at 340.1778.

Eighty-one Semi-Finalists Selected for Model Search!

At 12:01 a.m. September 1st, Julianne Lowman, Marketing Director for Decatur Parks & Recreation stared in disbelief at her computer screen. By the time the Point Mallard Model Search contest entry deadline arrived, the computer displayed nearly 1500 potential models. The contest, which began June 1st, allowed anyone to enter their child between the ages of 6 months and 13 years old to vie for a chance to be used in Point Mallard’s 2010 advertising campaign. Lowman knew she now needed to select 75 semi-finalists from this massive collection for an interview and photo session, then eventually narrow the field to twelve which include one grand prize winner. But for the time being, she simply clicked on page after page of adorable faces wondering how she would make such a decision.
“Selecting 75 kids from a field of nearly 1,500 was just so difficult. So, I added a few more. I felt I needed to see a few more of the children in person to make a better judgment as to their commercial abilities or potential, which is the reason the top seventy-five is now eighty-one.” Lowman says she will base her final decision on several factors; the child’s commercial appearance, personality, independence and ability to follow instructions. “It’s not about being cute, because they all are. It’s about being marketable based on the photos submitted. I wish I could have picked another one hundred!”
“Of course that is based on age, but there are just some kids and babies that are very good at posing regardless of age. I also try to keep kids in an environment they can relate to, then talk with them or photograph them while they play.”
The 1,469 contestants was narrowed to the following semi-finalists;
1. Alivia Thompson age 6 Months of Moulton
2. Natalee Jordan age 10 months of Decatur
3. Dalton Turley age 10 1/2 months of Toney
4. Rylan Chandler age 11 months of Pulaski, TN
5. Brenton Hines age 12 months of Lexington
6. Adley Willis age 13 months of Harvest
7. Jackson Crowder age 14 months of Huntsville
8. Cole Mullin age 16 months of Decatur
9. Campbell Click age 18 Months of Owens Cross Roads
10. Kyleigh Blackney age 20 months of Decatur
11. Amari Strawder age 21 months of Hartselle
12. Savannah Littrel age 2 of Athens
13. Alice Jinks age 2 of Athens
14. Halee Maddox age 2 of Albertville
15. Chaseton Jackson age 2 of Moulton
16. Trey Greenwell age 2 of Decatur
17. Kohl Oyervidez age 2 of Decatur
18. Aliyah Pacheco age 3 of Albertville
19. Kelly McGregor age 3 of Decatur
20. Allyson Barribeau age 3 of Madison
21. Xavier Carter age 3 of Huntsville
22. Tristan Day age 3 of Decatur
23. Carmen Williams age 3 of Muscle Shoals
24. Illora Goodwin age 3 of Hartselle
25. Kailyn Boman age 3 of Albertville
26. Jada Appleton age 3 of Trinity
27. Gavin Chambers age 3 of Pisgah
28. Nathan Necaise age 4 of Somerville
29. Josee B. Steelman age 4 of Huntsville
30. Kennedy Hawthorne age 4 of Huntsville
31. Sariah Maloney age 4 of Decatur
32. Tyus Smith age 4 of Hillsboro
33. Abigail Grimes age 4 of Trinity
34. Caitlin Kelly age 4 of Madison
35. Kyle Dodd age 4 ½ of Madison
36. Seth Coggins age 5 of Decatur
37. Skyler Cato age 5 of Decatur
38. Daniel Galyean age 5 of Huntsville
39. Tyler Palmer age 5 of Trinity
40. Cameron Filyaw age 5 of Madison
41. Samuel Wilson age 5 of Madison
42. Tyden Kortman age 5 of Elkmont
43. Brookelyn Soohoo age 5 of Huntsville
44. Sebastian Pendegraph age 5 of Trinity
45. Charlie Owens age 6 of Trinity
46. Lulu Boyle age 6 of Decatur
47. Halle Hilton age 6 of Trussville
48. TeAja Thompson age 6 of Madison
49. Libby Williams age 6 of Owens Cross Roads
50. Tatum Lee age 6 of Madison
51. Chandler Click age 7 of Owens Cross Roads
52. Logan Maloney age 7 of Decatur
53. Kayla Rodriguez age 8 of Harvest
54. Isabella Stephenson age 8 of Decatur
55. Dylan Brotherton age 8 of Madison
56. Jordan Hale age 8 of Hartselle
57. Dalton Gibson age 9 of Madison
58. Mally Green age 9 of Hartselle
59. Tori Argenti age 9 of Hartselle
60. Laken Hilton age 9 of Trussville
61. Ashley Lindley age 9 of Danville
62. Lakota Lopez age 10 of Athens
63. Ashlyn Wheat age 10 of Decatur
64. Cassandra Hargrove age 10 of Huntsville
65. Rachel Hardaker age 10 of Harvest
66. Morgan LeeAnn Sturgeon age 10 of Toney
67. McKenna Maloney age 10 of Decatur
68. Autumn Edmondson age 10 of Falkville
69. Brooklyn Sawyer age 11 of Decatur
70. John David Whitten age 11of Decatur
71. Sarah DeFalco age 11 of Madison
72. Jordan Nicole Sturgeon age 11 of Toney
73. Tatyana Jones age 12 of Decatur
74. Brylie Mason age 12 of Decatur
75. Jessi Schoel age 12 of Decatur
76. Selena Henderson age 12 of Madison
77. Chance Letson age 12 of Hazel green
78. Braxton Higdon age 12 of Decatur
79. Nathan Maloney age 12 of Decatur
80. Brittany Bell age 13 of Decatur
81. Kristina Chambers age 13 of Woodville
After an interview and photo session the field will be narrowed to twelve with one child being selected as the grand prize winner. The grand prize winner will be featured on an interstate billboard and in a television commercial for the park’s 40th Anniversary in 2010. All finalists will have the opportunity to be featured in fashion shows, brochures, flyers, internet ads and much more. The top twelve finalists including the Grand Prize winner will be announced with the unveiling of the 2010 Anniversary Calendar for Point Mallard in November.