Thursday, April 29, 2010

Russell supports Ingalls funding plan

By Evan Belanger, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Decatur Councilman Ronny Russell says he’ll support a plan to borrow surplus money from the city’s financial reserve to fund construction of a 25,000-square-foot pavilion at Ingalls Harbor.

City officials discussed Monday a plan to loan up to $2.8 million for the project from the city’s reserve, which has a $4.99 million surplus from previous years.

Russell, who was not present for the meeting, was expected to oppose the plan after he alleged last year that city officials had artificially created the surplus by reinterpreting the city’s reserve policy.


But he said Wednesday he had no problem with plan, because the money would be paid back through revenue generated by the local Hospitality Association’s $2-per-night room-occupancy fee charged for local hotel stays.

“What is being proposed here is completely a different scenario from simply raiding the city’s reserve and having no plan to repay the funds,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.

Russell said he still opposes redefining the reserve policy without declaration of financial emergency, and that he will not support a proposal for repayment of the loan to go to funds other than the reserve fund.

But he said investment in Ingalls Harbor is worthwhile.

“We’ve seen great return on our investment at Ingalls, and I think the pavilion will add to that, and I think it’s needed,” he said.

Requested by the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Hospitality Association, the proposed building project is intended to expand use of the city-owned facility beyond its primary function as a site for fishing tournaments.

Funded by outsiders

The City Council will consider a resolution Monday to advance up to $2.8 million to cover the project’s cost.

Mayor Don Stanford emphasized Wednesday the cost of the pavilion would be covered primarily by out-of-town visitors because local residents are not likely to stay in Decatur hotels.

Decatur needs pavilion as meeting place

Editorial, The Decatur Daily

The proposed pavilion at Ingalls Harbor is an opportunity for Decatur to have a multi-purpose meeting place and help with further re-establishing a resident-friendly waterfront.

City Council members are poised to vote on a funding resolution Monday that probably includes a 25,000-square-foot pavilion that will cost something less than $3 million.

The consideration to build the facility is not if the city needs a gathering place that can seat 1,500, but the city’s ability to finance it.

One proposal is for the city to front the money and for the Hospitality Association to repay the cost from its $2-per-night hotel room occupancy fee. The hotels’ self-imposed fee is for such purposes. The fee is not tax dollars.

The association already is repaying the cost of the harbor improvements through the fee, and a spokesman says it can take on the additional payment.

Tami Reist, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the fee generates about $400,000 per year and is enough to pay for the pavilion and continue to pay the existing debt.

Decatur’s riverfront is a work in pro­gress, but it has made gigantic strides after the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce and the city built the Riverwalk at Rhodes Ferry Park.

The addition of a pavilion will bring thousands more people to Decatur. Most of all, it will give Decatur residents greater access to the south bank of the Tennessee River.

Concerts by the River series kicks off Monday

By From staff, wire reports, The Decatur Daily

Start your summer on a high note as the Paul Stroud Concerts by the River kicks off Monday.

Rhodes Ferry Park will be the site of the Monday concerts through Sept. 6. The free concerts begin at 6 p.m. and usually conclude by 8 p.m.

Expand your musical horizons and enjoy some of the Valley’s most talented performers throughout the summer. The series will showcase a range of musical genres including country, contemporary Christian and Celtic; jazz, blues and gospel; and classic rock, bluegrass and big band.

New this year is a portable stage for the performers which was secured through support from state Sen. Arthur Orr for the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Monday night will feature the Bluegrass Soul Pickers, a five-piece band from Hazel Green. Their versatile sound ranges from hard-driving instrumentation and vocal harmonies to a smooth, soulful finesse.

The group formed in 2003 when three friends followed their dreams to sing, write and record the bluegrass style of music they listened to growing up. Members of the band include Shane Norman on mandolin, Lorne Wilde on upright bass, Buddy Mason on guitar, Brett Anderton on dobro and Weston Stewart on banjo. Visit

Concert-goers are invited to bring picnic baskets, lawn chairs or blankets.

The concert series, which began in 1991, now bears the name of the late Paul Stroud, a founding member of the Sophisticated Swingers who encouraged local musical talent and served as the series coordinator for many years.

Call 341-4818, e-mail or visit for updates to the following schedule.

In case of inclement weather, cancellation decisions will be made after 4 p.m.

May 10: Austin High School Jazz Band, 6 p.m.; Rocket City Jazz Orchestra, 7 p.m.

May 17: Decatur Youth Symphony with special guest soloists, 6 p.m.; Decatur Youth Orchestra, 7 p.m.

May 24: Radio X, 6 p.m.; country singer/songwriter Cristina Lynn, 7 p.m.

May 31: Memorial Day, no concert

June 7: Akoustik Juice, 6 p.m.; the Terry McNeal Band, 7 p.m.

June 14: “Tribute Night,” Dorothy Cole as Tina Turner, 6-8 p.m.

June 21: Reginald Jackson and Friends, 6 p.m. (followed by a free movie screening of “Where the Wild Things Are”)

June 28: Sophisticated Swingers, 6 p.m.; Taylor McClain, 7 p.m.

July 5: Ghost Train, 6-8 p.m.

July 12: Michael Quarry, 6 p.m.; Madison Community Band, 7 p.m.

July 19: Slip Jig, 6-8 p.m.

July 26: Robert Montgomery and Friends, 6 p.m.; the Dixie Bluegrass Boys, 7 p.m.

Aug. 2: Jeff Whitlow and the Old Barn Band, 6-8 p.m.

Aug. 9: The Orr Sisters, 6 p.m.; Kenn Orr, 7 p.m.

Aug. 16: LaChelle Hood, 6 p.m.; Bob Walters Banned, 7 p.m.

Aug. 23: Susan Hood, 6 p.m.; Crosspoints Worship Band, 7 p.m.

Aug. 30: Gary McKenzie and Satchel Tweed, 6 p.m.: vocal showcase featuring students of Studio La Bella Voce, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6: The C.O. Jones Band, 6-8 p.m.

Movies in the Park

The free Movies in the Park screenings will begin June 5 with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Founders Park at Old State Bank. The family-friendly films will begin at dusk. Other films include:

June 21: “Where the Wild Things Are,” Rhodes Ferry Park

July 17: “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” Delano Park

Aug. 6: “Million Dollar Duck,” Point Mallard Park

Aug. 21: “The Princess and the Frog,” Point Mallard Park

Aug. 28: “The Perfect Game,” Wilson Morgan Park

Sept. 11: “The Wizard of Oz,” Founders Park

Sept. 2: “Bedtime Stories,” Rhodes Ferry Park

For more information, call 341-4818 or see

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

City loan may list Ingalls pavilion

By Evan Belanger, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

The city of Decatur could jump-start construction of a 25,000-square-foot pavilion at Ingalls Harbor by fronting up to $2.8 million to cover the project’s cost.

The City Council will consider Monday a resolution calling for the city to advance funds for additional facilities at the city-owned harbor on the Tennessee River.

Requested by the local visitors bureau and the Hospitality Association, the improvements are intended to expand use of the facility beyond its primary function as a popular site for fishing tournaments.

Specifics call for construction of a large pavilion capable of seating 750 people at tables and a maximum of 1,500 people without tables.

The proposal also includes additional parking, lighting, irrigation, landscaping and electrical work.

Director of General Services Wally Terry said the project would satisfy the city’s need for a large meeting place.

“We have long needed a space to house more than 300 or 400 people,” he said.

“We’ve had gatherings with some of our companies — Nucor and others — that wanted to have their meetings here and we just didn’t have a space big enough.”


According to the resolution, any money fronted by the city would be paid back from revenue generated by the Hospitality Association’s $2-per-night hotel room occupancy fee.

“It’s kind of like they buy a car for us, and we pay the payments,” said Tami Reist, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It was not clear Tuesday how the city would structure the debt.

During a work session Monday, city officials discussed using funds from a $4.9 million surplus left from previous fiscal years.

“That way they don’t have to go to the bond market, because unfortunately, it costs so much to go to the bond market that it’s not worth it for $2.8 million,” Councilman Gary Hammon said.

However, that proposal is expected to draw opposition from Councilmen Ronny Russell and Billy Jackson, who claim city officials artificially created the surplus by reinterpreting the city’s financial-reserve policy last year.

Also, the proposed resolution leaves the city the option of reimbursing the debt through a future bond issue, but multiple city officials have described that as a precautionary measure.

Terry said Tuesday he was not aware of any immediate plans for a bond issue or a bank loan.

It was also unclear Tuesday how long paying off the debt would take.

Reist said the room-occupancy fee is expected to generate about $400,000 this year, and that about $167,000 of that would go toward paying off existing debt associated with Ingalls Harbor.

She said she is confident that the fund can support both the proposed and existing debt, estimating the combined annual payment would be about $340,000 if the city borrows the money.

Terry said the city has yet to determine a payoff schedule, which would likely be decided later as project progresses.

The resolution is expected to pass the council Monday.

“I think it will, but let me say that’s based on me being supportive and my hope that the other councilmen will be, too,” said Council President Greg Reeves.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dream coming to Ingalls

International bass tourney to be held in US for first time
By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

A U.S. congressman, an Alabama state senator and local leaders gathered at Ingalls Harbor Friday. The attraction — Koto Kiriyama, a professional angler originally from Japan.

“Wheeler Lake was chosen and selected for the launch of the inaugural American Dream Tournament, marking the first time the international bass fishing tournament will be held in the United States,” announced Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Huntsville, called the tournament a recruiting tool.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, described it as an international relationship builder.

For Kiriyama, the competition’s organizer, the tournament is about bridging two nations.

“This is about connecting people and having more of a cultural understanding between Japan and the United States,” Kiriyama said. “I have loved fishing since I was 5. My whole life is about bass fishing. When I moved here 15 years ago, I didn’t speak any English and bass fishing helped me survive. I met a lot of good people who helped me learn the language and culture.”

Winners of the inaugural tournament, scheduled for Oct. 23 and 24, will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Japan’s Lake Biwa, linking Kiriyama’s adopted country with his native country.

Officials expect more than 100 two-man teams to compete for the trip to the lake, where an angler caught a record-tying largemouth bass weighing more than 22 pounds.

The 2010 competition will be the fourth annual American Dreams Tournament.

North Alabama’s reputation for bass fishing and the support from the area’s tourism officials landed Ingalls Harbor the hosting duties, said Kiriyama, a six-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and champion of the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament at Lake Erie.

Originally held in Japan, the tournament awarded the winning team with a trip to fish at the BassCat Invitational in Arkansas.

“The winners come back and talk about how they are able to widen their view of life, and this is what I would like to achieve,” Kiriyama said. “I want to make Decatur an international city and help people understand other cultures.”

The tournament further strengthens an already strong relationship between Decatur and Japan, said Orr, citing the presence of Toray, Daikin and Toyota in the Tennessee Valley.

Along with cultural and industrial benefits, the tournament will produce financial benefits.

“The tournament is expected to provide an economic boost to the local economy through revenues generated by lodging, dining and retail sales, and the international exposure generated from hosting the event will further elevate Wheeler Lake into the fishing spotlight,” Reist said.

Since Ingalls Harbor opened in 2006, Decatur’s fishing reputation has climbed, capturing the industry’s attention and attracting regional and national tournaments.

So far, tournaments hosted at Ingalls Harbor have translated into an economic impact of $4 million.

For more information or to register for the tournament visit or

Friday, April 23, 2010

New arena owner has racking horse crowd celebrating

By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

PRICEVILLE — The 38-year-old Morgan County Celebration Arena has been called a broken-down old horse barn.

Some saddle-bred horse owners once described it as too unsafe to keep their horses there, and its former owner admitted it didn’t have the money to keep up with maintenance.

So why are participants at this week’s Racking Horse Spring Celebration beaming with the same sense of optimism their predecessors did when the facility opened in the early 1970s?

After three decades of unfulfilled promises to make the arena capable of hosting much more than horse shows, the new owner, the state Products Mart Authority, has shown it will make good on its promises.

Facility improvements, and the stated vision for as much as $1 million in additional improvements, are among the reasons the Racking Horse Breeders Association of America feels it is at the threshold of a new era, said Chris Walker, association president.

For starters, Products Mart, which bought the arena and the surrounding 218 acres in December, has built a covered warm-up arena. That had been on the association’s wish list for 10 years, Walker said, but it never had the funding.

In addition, the new owner made improvements to basic and longstanding needs, he said.

There’s a new water system, which is bringing adequate water pressure to all the barns. The concession stand received a thorough cleaning, and truckloads of fresh gravel helped smooth out ruts and pot holes around the property.

The first World Celebration was held in Birmingham, but the racking horse association’s founder, Joe Bright, and three local doctors built the Southeastern Horse Center giving the breed a permanent home from which to grow.’

Outdoor ring

It started as an outdoor ring. Then a roof covered the track, and in 1975, at a cost of $96,000, the walls were added, enclosing a 316-by-225-foot area.

At that time, it touted itself as the largest horse arena in the Southeast.

During its first decade, it hosted motorcycle races, tractor pulls, bluegrass festivals, 4-H competitions and flea markets, in addition to several large horse shows. In 1980, billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot visited the arena to watch his walking horse compete.

But as early as 1982, the owners wanted out, and two years later they gave the facility to the Boys Club of Decatur. The club hired a full-time manager to promote the arena, and 1985 showed promise.

That year, country music stars Waylon Jennings, Charlie Daniels, Lee Greenwood, Sawyer Brown and B.J. Thomas performed there, as did the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

But the arena went through three separate owners by 1990, with each aiming to bring in more events between horse shows. One owner even spoke of adding air-conditioned sky boxes and two restaurants.

Despite unfulfilled promises in the past, the RHBAA is confident Products Mart will not fail, Walker said.

Enthusiasm is apparent in the barns, where rented stalls for horses increased significantly this year. Last year’s Spring Celebration filled 180 to 200 stalls. This year’s event filled about 300.

Ed Monroe, Products Mart chairman, said he believes the arena can be in use every weekend if managed and equipped properly. He envisions it hosting high school graduations, large family reunions, concerts, motocross, tractor pulls and other sporting events.

‘Diamond in the rough’

“It’s just a diamond in the rough that hasn’t been polished in a good while,” he said.

Once the arena starts showing its full potential, Monroe said, it will be easier to get more investment from local groups and governments as well as state and federal grants.

His vision calls for repairing leaks in the roof, hooking up to natural gas so heaters can be installed and used for winter events, renovating restrooms, putting in new bleachers, installing powerful air return systems to allow events like tractor pulls that stir up a lot of dirt, and painting the entire facility.

“I guess our ultimate goal is to get grant money and build a new (agriculture) center that will be nicer,” he said. “But we’re going to maintain the one we got now and keep it in use.

“We’ve been promised a lot of help from state and federal (governments),” Monroe said. “If that transpires, we’ll be able to have that a showplace within a year or so.”

Meeting Notes

Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau
By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors conducted the following business during its monthly meeting Thursday.

•Reported the city collected in $49,077 in lodging taxes in January, a 10 percent increase compared to the same month in 2009. It was the first monthly increase of fiscal 2010. Officials attributed the increase to contractors brought in by Nucor Steel and the Tennessee Valley Authority to work on plant outages.
•Reported the room occupancy rate citywide for January was 33 percent, up 1 percent from the same month last year.
•Reported the $2-per-night room occupancy fee generated $27,063 in January, which was $190 more than the same month last year. For the fiscal year, the fee has generated $190,951.
•Reported the bureau had $40,189 in revenue in March compared to $44,754 in expenses, for a net loss of $4,565. Total revenue for fiscal 2010 was $273,293 compared to $322,829 in expenses for a net loss of $49,536.
•Reported special events in March filled 541 room nights for an economic impact of $323,895.
•Passed a resolution to send a letter of recommendation to the Decatur City Council in favor of it adopting Garth-Dancy Cemetery for its historic value.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tour of Homes

CHATTERBOX-The Decatur Daily

Take advantage of the season and enjoy the annual Spring Pilgrimage Tour of Homes on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Decatur Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
The following homes will be open: Carol and Ken Hamilton, 2206 Country Club Road S.E.; Pam and John Howell, 2500 Meadowbrook Road S.E.; and Arabelle and Richard Wilder, 2009 Penny Lane S.E.
Afterward, head for the spring garden party at Decatur Country Club for refreshments made using recipes from cookbooks published by the Women’s Chamber.
Advance tickets are available for $10 at Jimmy Smith Jewelers, Tammy Eddy Antiques, Family Security Credit Union and the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
On tour day, tickets will be $15 at all tour homes and the country club.
This Spring Pilgrimage will benefit Hospice of the Valley, Meals on Wheels, the Decatur Public Library, Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts and Calhoun Community College Foundation Scholarship.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A born (to be Wilder) DESIGNER

Wilder home — featured on tour April 25 — mixes old and new for an eclectic look
By Patrice Stewart, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

If you are perplexed when deciding what furnishings and accessories you need, Arabelle Wilder has some advice.

“If you love it, buy it and find a place for it,” said Wilder.

That’s what she does, along with incorporating family heirlooms into the design of a room.

You can see this eclectic look next Sunday afternoon. Wilder’s home will be one of three open for touring during the Spring Pilgrimage Tour of Homes sponsored by the Decatur Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

Allow plenty of time so you can view all the art, pottery and accessories Wilder has collected, as well as the many updates made through the years to the house.

“I call it traditional with a little artsy flair,” said Wilder. “But it took years of collecting pieces and art — and I just love to go to art shows.”

When decorating, she said, you might start with “a sofa or a rug or something else you love, and then go from there. For me, it’s more interesting when things don’t match.”

In 2000, her family moved into the house at 2009 Penny Lane S.E. that had belonged to her parents, the late Paull and Arabelle Jernigan.

She and her husband, Dick, and sons Richard and Knox gave the house where she grew up their own touches while keeping reminders of her parents.

The green silk damask living room sofa, for example, was the Jernigans, and although Wilder elevated it, she did not reupholster the 1960s piece but simply added new decorative throw pillows.

In the den, Wilder kept the colorful oriental print drapes and matching fabric-covered cornice boards that her mother put up about 35 years ago, when those windows looked out onto a patio.

Today the windows give a glimpse into a sunroom created where the patio once was, and beyond to the new terrace with arbor, outdoor stone fireplace and rock waterfall feature.

“I’ve added things through the years, because your taste changes some, and colors change. But I stick with the same kinds of things so I can move them from room to room,” Wilder said.

Her father was an accountant for Pearce & Gresham Co., a construction firm, and this house, built in 1957 for attorney Russell Lynne, was the only residence built by the company, which did mostly commercial buildings.

Her parents bought the house in 1966 and later made some renovations, such as converting the garage into a playroom that features a pool table, a game table and comfortable seating. They added a half bath and laundry room and enlarged the master bedroom to include a sitting room with fireplace and walk-in closet.

After her mother died in 1998 and the Wilders took ownership, they added the sunroom with vaulted ceiling and brick floors and the terrace features. Over the years, they also renovated the kitchen with Corian countertops, stainless steel appliances and a piece of marble found at an antique store for the breakfast area.

“We did everything in stages,” she said.

Slate, stained

The Wilders had some slate floors installed, and in some spots, such as the den, they ripped out the carpet to use concrete floors scored and stained brown. The renovated bathrooms have slate floors and countertops, showers and garden tub accents.

Her mother already had added the distinctive brown marble covering the brick hearth in the den (one of three fireplaces in the house) years ago.

Treasured items — like a marble-topped antique table that belonged to her grandmother and a pair of etched glass hurricane globes passed along by an aunt — anchor the rooms.

The heirloom antiques are supplemented by her own “finds,” like a hand-carved Venetian table with a faux finish that she found in an Atlanta antique shop. She displays it in her foyer, below a painting by Mississippi artist Patt Odom.

Paintings and groupings of art can be seen on every wall. Wilder has hung only a couple of her own paintings, while preferring instead to display pieces from local artists or those she finds at art shows and festivals.

Art collector

Pottery “face jugs” by Jerry Brown in Hamilton join figurines, bowls and other pieces from potters in Oxford, New Albany and Peppertown, Miss., on her den mantel and bookshelves.

Wilder likes diversity. “I don’t stick with any certain potter or artist,” she said.

She has a collection of works by Decatur artists, including Rickie Higgins, Scott Willis, Johanna Littleton, Trina Hunter, Joyce Lowery, Judy Seymore, Patsy Roby, Susan Estes, Robin Roberts, Glenda Sartain, Lucinda Burchel, Sloane Bibb, Lee Nabors, Matt Welch, Linda Livingston, Lori Clark, the late Shirley Perry and others.

Some are sentimental in nature. The sunroom has a corner of art created by son Richard, now a student at The University of Alabama, when he took art lessons at ages 6-8. Wilder also treasures a painting by a neighbor, the late Barbara Baugh, that she was given by a daughter.

For Wilder, a bathroom is another place to display some of her art collection. Hanging in the hall bath are 22 pieces of colorful folk art such as alligators, while the master bath artwork features angels and crosses.

Stained-glass pieces hang here and there, and the sunroom has, in addition to skylights, an antique fixture that holds candles.

And if you look high in the sunroom, that’s where she agreed to let her husband display the mounted heads of three deer he shot in Canada. She wouldn’t allow them inside the house, but she owed him a little space for his collection, probably because he is handy around the house.

Wilder’s art collection spills out of the house, too. The terrace and nearby yard and fence are sprinkled liberally with folk art and birdhouses that add a touch of whimsy.

“I pick up stuff everywhere — especially if it’s funny and makes me laugh,” said Wilder, pointing out a wooden pig attached to a fence that she got at a Junior League auction. Friends also look for things they know she will like, such as the cigar-smoking fish on a stake beside the terrace.

A born decorator

Wilder is a born decorator, and many people request her help with interior design and accessorizing, but you won’t find her name on a business directory of registered designers. While she has taken art classes as a child and an adult and minored in art, her college majors were psychology and sociology.

When hired to assist, she tries to work with what people already have and with local businesses that can supply other items.

“I’ll help them pick out colors and furniture and help them decide how to move things around,” she said.

Scott Willis, instructor for Wilder’s evening painting class, recognizes that talent in fellow artists and designers.

“Arabelle was fortunate to be born with this innate ability to put things together, and she has a good eye for color,” said the Willis Gray Gallery owner. “It comes naturally to her, and people call on her for assistance.”

He describes the Wilder home as a “comfortably casual, transitional style” where she mixes her family pieces with other antique finds and handcrafted items she finds at art festivals.

“Her palette is very warm and earthy,” said Willis, “and you won’t see anything very light or white or bright.”

He mentioned her floor treatments, including colored, scored concrete, “which is a more up-to-date floor treatment to mix with antiques, plus rugs to soften everything.”

Spring Pilgrimage Tour of Homes

On April 25, you can tour three homes in Southeast Decatur and then drop by a garden party for treats.

The Decatur Women’s Chamber of Commerce sponsors this Spring Pilgrimage Tour of Homes as a fundraiser for local projects.

From 1 until 4 p.m. April 25, these homes will be open:

•Carol and Ken Hamilton, 2206 Country Club Road S.E.

•Pam and John Howell, 2500 Meadowbrook Road S.E.

•Arabelle and Richard Wilder, 2009 Penny Lane S.E.
Afterward, head for the spring garden party at Decatur Country Club for refreshments made using recipes from cookbooks published by the Women’s Chamber.

Advance tickets are available for $10 at Jimmy Smith Jewelers, Tammy Eddy Antiques, Family Security Credit Union (Sixth Avenue and behind Decatur Mall) and the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

On tour day, tickets will be $15 at all tour homes and the country club.

Proceeds will benefit Hospice of the Valley, Meals on Wheels, Decatur Public Library, Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts and a Calhoun Community College scholarship.

Monday, April 12, 2010

UNA earns split after Watts' gem

By From staff reports, The Decatur Daily

After dropping a 6-3 decision to No. 24 Arkansas-Monticello in the early game, the North Alabama softball team was able to salvage a split for the day by defeating Christian Brothers 4-0 on Sunday to wrap up play at the Gulf South Conference Crossover at Decatur’s Wilson Morgan Park.

The split on the final day gives the Lions a 22-25 overall record, including a 4-3 mark at the four-day event. UNA is also 9-12 in league play and leaves the Crossover in the same position it entered tied with West Alabama for the fourth and final spot for the upcoming GSC tournament.

North Alabama was able to pull even with the Tigers by downing CBU in the final game. Laurin Watts (8-13) picked up her third career shutout after striking out nine in the complete-game victory.

The freshman’s performance in the circle was much needed because of the lack of offensive output in recent games. Against CBU, the Lions scored four runs off seven hits but left 13 runners on base.

Andrea Palmer was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored as UNA plated single runs in the top of the second, third, fifth and sixth innings to get the win.

In the early game, the Lions committed a season-high five errors in the 6-3 loss. Only three of UAM’s runs were earned as the Cotton Blossoms took a 6-0 lead into the seventh inning. UNA was able to plate three runs before watching the rally fall short.

A two-out triple by Emily Barnes scored Allie Peterson and Ally Pridmore to break up the shutout. Palmer singled home Barnes to make the score 6-3 before UAM’s Faith Lund entered to pick up the save by recording the final out of the game.

Palmer and Peterson had two hits each in the game while Jennifer Sexton took the loss in the circle.

With the loss, Sexton falls to 14-12 after allowing six runs off 10 hits in six innings of work.

North Alabama will step outside of GSC play to close out the home portion of its 2010 schedule next week.

The Lions will host Miles on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

UNA tied for fourth spot in GSC East

By staff reports, The Decatur Daily

For the second straight day, the North Alabama softball team had to settle for a split at the Gulf South Conference Crossover after winning the early contest and dropping the second.

Following a 2-1 extra-inning victory over Ouachita Baptist, the Lions were unable to plate a run in a 2-0 loss to Delta State on Saturday at Wilson Morgan Park.

The split by UNA, along with a pair of one-run wins by West Alabama on the same day, puts the two teams back into a tie for the fourth-and-final East Division spot for the GSC tournament. Both teams own a 7-11 conference record with two crossover games and six division games remaining, including a double-header between the two teams on the UWA campus.

In the first game on Saturday, the Lions pounded out 11 hits but needed a two-out single by Andrea Palmer to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The hit scored Heather Suddoth from third base and secured the win.

Jennifer Sexton went the distance in the circle for North Alabama, pitching all nine innings and scattering five hits. With the win, the senior improves to 14-11, while her eight strikeouts ups her season total to a GSC-leading 185 on the year.

Maggie Eades was 3-for-4 at the plate while Ally Pridmore, Suddoth and Natalie Harrison each posted 2-for-4 showings.

In the second game, Delta State’s Edie Oliver won a 2-0 pitching duel over UNA’s Laurin Watts. Oliver tossed seven innings in the complete-game shutout and added a pair of strikeouts to get the win.

The Lions will close out play at the crossover with a pair of games on Sunday. UNA will take on Arkansas-Monticello at noon, then face Christian Brothers at 2 p.m.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cajunfest part of downtown celebration April 16

Seafood dinner tickets available through Friday
By Andrea Brunty, Living editor, The Decatur Daily

Cajunfest will return to Rhodes Ferry Park on April 16 as part of a downtown celebration in Decatur.

The Decatur Jaycees will host the event, which features seafood, music and art, in partnership with 3rd Friday Downtown and Fri@5 at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center.

“We wanted to support what they were already doing and help bring people downtown and bring it down to the river and have it be a little more intimate,” said Jaycee Heather Thompson, event co-chair with Ken Hess of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q.

The festival, sponsored by Valley Budweiser and Pepsi, will be from 5 to 9 p.m.

Roland’s Cajun Catering in Huntsville will bring fresh crawfish and shrimp from the Gulf on the day of the event.

The $25 dinner ticket will also include sausage, potatoes, corn, jambalaya and two drinks. The deadline to purchase tickets is Friday.

This year, Thompson expects to sell about 150 tickets. She said a limited amount of tickets will be available next week. Last year, the event drew almost 500 people because it was held in conjunction with the Bassmaster Elite Series at Ingalls Harbor.

Tickets are available at, Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, Bank Street Antique Mall, Sugar Magnolia’s and The Paper Chase. Call Thompson at 256-338-3272 for information.

If you don’t have a dinner ticket, however, you can still hear a zydeco band play for free. The Nashville-based band Roux du Bayou will return for its third annual Cajunfest.

“The crowd just really liked (the band), and they really wanted to come back,” Thompson said.

Local artists will display and sell their work in an art walk.

The Jaycees decided to invite nonprofits like Parents and Children Together, Families and Children Experiencing Separation and Habitat for the Humanity to offer information and raise awareness at booths.

“We wanted to shine a spotlight on what they’re doing,” Thompson said. “That’s kind of why we exist — to support them (through volunteering and raising funds).”

3rd Friday, Fri@5

Cajunfest is one of three downtown events happening within four blocks of each other April 16.

The 3rd Friday Downtown will kick off at 3 p.m. with special sales at downtown merchants along Bank Street, Second Avenue and several side streets until 8 p.m., said Gloria Arthur of Bank Street Antique Mall.

Live entertainment will include country/gospel vocalist Steve Partridge and guitarist David Higginbotham on Bank Street and music in front of Willis Gray Gallery on Second Avenue.

At Oak and Church streets, the Carnegie Visual Arts Center will host its monthly Fri@5 artists’ reception featuring the exhibit “Out of the Kitchen.” The 5-8 p.m. event costs $15 for guests and $5 for members and includes wine and appetizers.

MCATS buses will run to each event April 16, Arthur said.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Southern bass college cup goes to Tennessee Vols

By Paul Stackhouse, Sports Writer, The Decatur Daily

Eight happy anglers clad in bright orange shirts couldn’t help themselves.

As emcee and tournament director Jann Swaim announced that the University of Tennessee had won the Southern Collegiate Bass Championship on Wheeler Lake, the eight fishermen cheered as they climbed on the stage at Decatur’s Ingalls Harbor on Saturday.

Tennessee finished with a two-day total of 43.07 pounds of bass to claim the large golden cup that goes to the champion. The Vols barely beat out two other schools, both from the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee Tech finished in second place with 42.85 pounds, while Chattanooga came in third at 41.98.

“This is so surreal for me,” Tennessee freshman Hunter Shults said. “Believe it or not, this is only my second tournament with the team and now I’m a member of a championship team.

“We felt pretty good about our chances last night, but then we had like a two-hour weather delay this morning before anybody could launch their boat. We got a little bit nervous about that, but not too much.”

The cup now belongs to Tennessee for one year. To keep it at their school, the Vols will have to win the same tournament again next year. Montevallo won in 2008, followed by North Alabama last year.

The Tennessee team also will receive two paid motel rooms (five days, five nights) at the Boat U.S. National Championships, which will be in May in Lewisville, Texas.

College teams are allowed to bring as many as four two-man teams to the event, but only the top two weights were counted each day.

Shults and junior David Lambert were one of four teams that represented Tennessee in the tournament. The team brought in a five-bass limit to the scales that weighed 11.42 pounds on the first day and then 11.27 pounds Saturday.

Lambert said he and Shults found a good hole to fish, and that was the key in helping their team win.

“We caught a bass bigger than the 1-pounders that were biting a lot,” Lambert said. “But we weren’t fishing real shallow like most of the teams. We decided to work deeper water, and it paid off. The 4.6 we caught was in about 6 to 8 feet of water, and I caught it on a jig near a main river channel ledge.”

Northwest-Shoals placed fourth with 40.18 pounds, followed by Auburn (38.73), UNA (38.55), Kennesaw State (37.28), Alabama (35.95), Georgia (32.96) and Clemson (32.32).

UNA anglers Ryan Salzman of Decatur and Andy Page of Athens said the late start hurt their chances for a big bass.

“We fished the same spot that we did Friday,” Salzman said. “Some of the bigger fish were starting to move up, and we had a limit in about an hour. I think the bigger bass here are being caught real early now and the time we missed may have killed our chances at some kicker fish.”

Even though no big fish were caught, Page said the two anglers still had a great time.

“We probably caught 20 to 25 fish,” Page said. “We had to do a lot of culling and I mean culling by ounces because a lot of them were the same size fish.”

The big bass of the tournament was caught Friday by Auburn’s Jordan Lee. That fish tipped the scale at 5 pounds, 3 ounces.

Teams that fished in two of the three qualifying tournaments were allowed to participate in the championship.

The Versus network has announced plans to do a television show of the tournament, scheduled to run in August.

Southern Collegiate Bass Championship final results

Here are the final standings of the Southern Collegiate Bass Championships at Wheeler Lake and much bass each team caught in pounds.

School Day 1 Day 2 Total
1. Tennessee 20.22 22.85 43.07
2. Tennessee Tech 18.67 24.43 42.85
3. Chattanooga 20.46 21.52 41.98
4. Northwest-Shoals 22.59 17.59 41.98
5. Auburn 19.95 18.78 38.73
6. North Alabama 15.75 22.80 38.55
7. Kennesaw State 18.36 18.92 37.28
8. Alabama 19.42 16.53 35.95
9. Georgia 17.51 15.45 32.96
10. Clemson 17.01 15.31 32.32
11. Bethel University 11.28 17.41 28.69
12. Ole Miss 16.27 11.27 27.54
13. Birmingham-Southern 10.46 14.84 25.30
14. Jacksonville State 13.56 11.72 25.28
15. Middle Tennessee State 10.48 13.38 23.86
16. Gadsden State 11.09 12.67 23.76
17. UAB 8.87 14.58 23.45
18. Freed-Hardeman 14.26 9.09 23.35
19. Troy 10.29 11.86 22.15
20. Mississippi State 8.75 12.51 21.26
21. Georgia College 13.46 5.74 19.20
22. Austin Peay 5.99 12.04 18.03
23. South Alabama 9.26 3.20 12.46

College bass touney full of fun for all

By Paul Stackhouse, Outdoors, The Decatur Daily

The Southern Collegiate Bass Championship at Ingalls Harbor in Decatur was something new and refreshing.

That’s not to say professional bass tournaments like those run by Bassmasters or FLW are boring, but the Southern Collegiate tournament offered a different scene, and the several hundred people in attendance seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

The tournament was started only three years ago, but it’s already built a nice base.
When the Bass Boss Ray Scott started tournament bass fishing in 1967, it grew and it grew fast. The bass fishing industry grows bigger each year with millions of people involved.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working the professional tournaments in which an angler could win $100,000 or even $500,000. I plan on continuing to follow the two major circuits closely. I enjoy writing about them just about as much as I enjoy fishing in a local tournament every now and then.

But now, colleges and even high schools are getting into the bass tournament scene. Both are in the beginning stages, but the possibilities are endless.

There were 117 anglers representing 23 colleges at the tournament. I spoke with many of the college students and found each one to be supportive of their team. Each one showed excitement by just being a part of this new adventure. They were just glad to be there, and each angler was extremely polite.

Something else I noticed at the tournament was no harsh words were spoken by anybody that I could hear. There was some smack talk between Alabama and Auburn, but it was all in fun and not harsh at all.

These students essentially are paying their own way to fish in the college bass tournaments. They have to supply their own boats and pay for motel rooms and travel expenses. They pay to play and are happy to be there.

Each one of the anglers I spoke with felt the college bass tournaments now will grow into something big in the near future. And I agree that things are on their way.

“I see big things happening in due time. In 3-4 years there will probably be a qualifying process and from there this sport will take off,” said Auburn academic advisor Jann Swaim, the tournament director.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's no spring break

Tournament leader Northwest-Shoals is no small fish in college bass tourney
By Paul Stackhouse, Sports Writer, The Decatur Daily

It didn’t take long for the smack talk to begin when The University of Alabama anglers found out they trailed Auburn University at Decatur’s Ingalls Harbor on the opening day of the Southern Collegiate Bass Championship on Wheeler Lake.

The eight Crimson Tide fishermen made it known the tournament wasn’t over, and many made references about waiting until tomorrow, which brought high-fives from many of the anglers.

The contestants in the tournament, which finishes with the second and final round Saturday, are students from 23 different colleges.
Like basketball players scoring points for their team, the individual boats consists two anglers and are allowed to bring in a limit of five bass.

Some teams have up to four boats in the event but only the weights of the top two will count for the day’s catch. Teams with only one boat in the tournament are allowed to bring in 10 bass.

The boats will take off from Ingalls at about 6:30 a.m. with the championship weigh-in beginning at 2 p.m. There is no admission fee to watch the weigh-in.

Northwest-Shoals Community College claimed the lead Friday after bringing in 22.59 pounds of bass to the scales.

Chattanooga sits in second place at 20.26, while Tennessee is in third place at 20.22.

Rounding out the top 10 are Auburn (19.95), Alabama (19.42), Tennessee Tech (18.67), Kennesaw State (18.36), Georgia (17.51), Clemson (17.01) and Ole Miss (16.27).

Northwest-Shoals anglers Andrew Hamilton and David Allen, a pair of sophomores from Florence, brought a bag of bass to the scales weighing 12.27 pounds to help their team catapult to the top of the leader board.

“I’ve fished all of the Tennessee River’s lakes from Guntersville to Kentucky Lake,” Hamilton said. “So, you could say I’m familiar with Wheeler. I’ve fished some FLW tournaments on these lakes, also, which has helped me learn a lot about the Tennessee River.”

Allen said that confidence is high for his team.

“We feel pretty good about things right now,” Allen said. “We’ll talk about it tonight some and just hope they start biting again tomorrow.”

Auburn is playing host to the tournament. The Auburn team of Jordan Lee of Cullman and Kiron Browning of Texarkana, Texas, brought in a five-bass bag weighing 13.22 pounds, which led all boats Friday.

“I feel pretty confident about tomorrow,” said Lee, a freshman. “We caught a lot of small fish today, a lot of male bass, and I wouldn’t mind catching something like that again, but we really need to get a big fish to help the team.”

Browning said their strategy for Saturday is not to change much from what they did Friday.

“We’re going back to the same area, and I feel like we can catch little keepers there all day, but we have to look for something bigger,” he said. “The big female bass just haven’t moved into the shallows yet, so I’m not real sure how we’re going to go after the big fish. Basically, you could say we’re not going to change much.”

North Alabama rests in 11th place with a weight of 15.75 pounds.

UNA’s Ryan Salzman, a junior from Decatur, and Andy Page, a freshman from Athens, managed to bring in a bag of bass weighing 7.90 pounds. Even though their numbers are low, their spirits are high.

“I’ve lived on this lake my whole life,” Page said. “I know anything can happen here and we can make a big difference in our team weight tomorrow by having a good day.”

Salzman pointed out that he’s not a believer in the home lake jinx that many tournament anglers talk about.

“I’m not a believer in the bad luck,” Salzman said. “We won the regional last year on Wilson, so that just shows we don’t have a home lake jinx against us.

“Tomorrow, we’re going to work on finding a better pattern, and I believe we’re going to have a much better day.”

Jann Swaim, an academic adviser at Auburn, is the tournament director at the Southern Championship. He stressed that teamwork is the key to winning.

“We make it well known that there are not any individuals here,” Swaim said. “At the motel tonight, I feel the teams are going to be discussing a lot of strategy. That’s the way it needs to be. They will practice a team strategy tonight, and we encourage them to do the same on the water. It can really help them to communicate during the day.”

The winning school advances to the Boat U.S. Nationals in Lewisville, Texas.

Southern Collegiate Bass Championship first-day results

Here are the standings after Day 1 of the Southern Collegiate Bass Championships at Wheeler Lake on Friday. The tournament finishes Saturday with a 2 p.m. weigh-in at Ingalls Harbor. Spectator admission is free.

School Boats Total pounds
1. Northwest-Shoals 4 22.59
2. Chattanooga 2 20.46
3. Tennessee 4 20.22
4. Auburn 4 19.95
5. Alabama 4 19.42
6. Tennessee Tech 2 18.67
7. Kennesaw State 2 18.36
8. Georgia 4 17.51
9. Clemson 2 17.01
10. Ole Miss 2 16.27
11. North Alabama 4 15.75
12. Freed-Hardeman 2 14.26
13. Jacksonville State 2 13.56
14. Georgia College 2 13.46
15. Bethel University 2 11.28
16. Gadsden State 4 11.09
17. Middle Tennessee State 3 10.48
18. Birmingham-Southern 1 10.46
19. Troy 1 10.29
20. South Alabama 1 9.26
21. UAB 2 8.87
22. Mississippi State 3 8.75
23. Austin Peay 1 5.99

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wheeler impresses college bass anglers

By Michael Wetzel, Assistant sports editor, The Decatur Daily

First impressions can go a long way.

And for Tennessee sophomore Phillip Hopper, the fishing conditions on Wheeler Lake on Thursday were impressive. He said his bass-fishing team in its first outing on the lake caught six keepers, which included a 3-pound largemouth pulled from the Elk River.

That’s not a bad day for a group of college anglers, but Thursday was just for practice.

Hopper, a 20-year-old sophomore studying management, knows team’s chances of winning the Southern Collegiate Bass Championship this weekend improve if the weather and fish cooperate.

And the forecast looks good.

“We’re going to try to win this thing,” Hopper said. “I’m going to go out there, have a good time and we’ll see what happens. It’s all about finding sweet spots.”

Hopper said his success Thursday came on spinner bait. More than 130 college anglers from more than 20 colleges and universities will be vying for the championship cup and a trip to the Boat US Nationals in Lewisville, Texas, in May.

Tournament organizers say Tennessee, Alabama, North Alabama and Georgia are considered the favorites.

Alabama junior Matt Carter is from Owens Cross Roads and has fished out of Ingalls Harbor plenty, he said. He hopes to use that familiarity to his team’s advantage.

“We’ve got the best schools in the South here,” said the business major. “But we’re Alabama. I’ve had some luck on Wheeler in the past. I hope that continues.”

Southern Collegiate Bass Championship Tournament Director Jann Swaim simply shook his head when asked about the pleasant weather that welcomed the participants to Decatur.

“The weather all season hasn’t been kind to us,” Swaim said. “Now, we come here and this wonderful weather. I’m not sure these guys will know what to do out there on the water with this great weather.”

After starting their morning at Ingalls Harbor, the angler gathered at the Point Mallard pavilion Thursday evening. After registering and enjoying snacks, the group was welcomed by Decatur Mayor Don Stanford.

At an awards ceremony Thursday night, Matt Lee of Birmingham-Southern received the award for reeling in the biggest largemouth during the season.

John Young of Tennessee won for hooking the biggest smallmouth.

North Alabama was recognized for winning the regular season with a 5-1 mark.

Georgia won the individual points championship.

Fishing begins for real at 6:30 a.m. Friday from Ingalls Harbor. Weigh-in is 3 p.m.

Saturday’s launching starts at 6:30 a.m. with the final weigh-in at 2 p.m., followed by the awards ceremony.

Careco Media will be filming for the Versus television network throughout the weekend.

Spectator admission is free to the public.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Decatur reels in college fishing teams

By Michael Wetzel, Assistant sports editor, The Decatur Daily

When Jann Swaim was a youngster fishing on Wheeler Lake, he never thought he would one day be directing a college bass fishing tournament involving his favorite schools.

But beginning with Thursday’s practice session, Swaim, an academic adviser at Auburn, will be the man in charge at the Southern Collegiate Bass Championships at Ingalls Harbor in Decatur.

At daybreak Thursday, some of the 30 teams will be launching at Ingalls Harbor. Tournament fishing starts at 6:30 a.m. Friday and ends Saturday with the final weigh-in at 2 p.m.

The winning team advances to the Boat U.S. Nationals on Lewisville Lake in the Dallas area in late May. Swaim promises fans attending a “totally different atmosphere” than at the pro bass events.

“The anglers will be wearing their school jerseys,” said Swaim, a native of Huntsville. “The kids want to win. The same rivalries that exist in other sports exist in bass fishing.”

He said alumni groups and just general college fans have been showing up at weigh-ins to cheer for their favorite schools.

Swaim has seen the Southern Collegiate event grow from eight teams in 2008, its first year, at the Joe Wheeler State Park Lodge, to this year’s largest field.

He compared this season-ending tournament to that of the SEC basketball tournament.

“It’s like a second season,” he said. “Regardless of how your team did in the regular season, you get a second chance to win the championship.”

College anglers worked the waters of Guntersville, Pickwick and Neely Henry during the regular-season series. Bass fishing is a club sport at Auburn, the host school. Swaim said the school helps with hotel and food, but the boats, trailers, fishing gear and insurance costs belong to the student anglers.

“Bass fishing is another way for kids to be included as a member of a team for their college,” said Swaim, 53. “These kids are the future of the sport. There are some really good anglers at these schools.

“But there’s more to it than just fishing. The kids learn to be responsible, and they really seem to enjoy the networking that comes along with meeting kids from other schools.”

Swaim added his club had Auburn grad and pro bass angler Steve Kennedy speak with the members.

“The No. 1 thing I see the kids need to work on is being patient,” Swaim said. “They want to throw their lines a few times and race off to the next spot. I try to stress that they slow down and be more methodical with their time on the water.”

Auburn and UAB have dominated in the past couple of years, but Swaim said this year’s favorites are probably Alabama, North Alabama and Tennessee. He called regular-season points champion Georgia a darkhorse. Georgia’s Randy Tolbert and non-boater Chase Simmemon won the regular season individual series with 276 points. Swaim said a film crew for the Versus television network will be in town covering the event.

While Auburn and some of the other larger schools may field four boats with two anglers a boat, only the top two weights from two of the boats will be counted after the weigh-ins. Swaim said to even the playing field, some schools with only one boat in the tournament can bring 10 fish to the daily weigh-ins.

He said it may take more than 70 pounds to win this weekend’s tournament.

Helping Swaim will be his wife Jenny and assistant director Darrel High.

Spectator admission is free. Friday’s weigh-in is at 3 p.m. and Saturday’s at 2 p.m. Live streaming of the weigh-ins can be found at

College bass fishing tournament

The third annual Southern Collegiate Bass Championship will be on Wheeler Lake on Friday and Saturday. Spectator admission is free.

The schedule of events


Practice begins at 6:30 a.m. at Ingalls Harbor.

Angler dinner at 5 p.m. at Point Mallard pavilion with regular-season awards and tournament rules to follow.


Launch at Ingalls Harbor, 6:30 a.m.

Weigh-in at Ingalls Harbor, 3 p.m.


Launch at Ingalls Harbor, 6:30 a.m.

Weigh-in at Ingalls Harbor, 2 p.m.

Awards to follow weigh-in.

Schools on Wheeler Lake

As of Wednesday afternoon, here are the schools registered to compete in the third annual Southern Collegiate Bass Championships on Wheeler Lake which begins Friday morning:

Auburn, Alabama, North Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama-Birmingham, Virginia Tech, South Alabama, Northwest-Shoals Community College, Jacksonville State, Gadsden State Community College, Tennessee Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Austin Peay, Kennesaw State, Radford and Freed-Hardeman. Registration continues through Thursday afternoon.