By Tiffeny Hurtado
Far away from the Black Forest, Germany-native-turned-American-citizen Juergen Beck wowed many with his video presentation, “The Musical Heritage of Decatur and Morgan County.”
The promotional video for the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Vistors Bureau showcased the area’s cultural jewels nestled in the Tennessee Valley — its local musicians, festivals and its rich history— at the annual Tourism Breakfast and Award Ceremony on Thursday morning. Beck, 44, began shooting local events in the spring and spent another two weeks editing the shots together. On Thursday, he walked away with the vistors bureau’s “Good Neighbor” of tourism award.
Move to America
“In 1995, Beck sold practically everything he owned to move to America to pursue his life-long ambitions,” said Tami Reist, president of the vistors’ bureau.
He worked as a photojournalist for a Huntsville television station, and in 2003, became an American citizen. Beck then established his company, Freedom Light Production in 2005, a name symbolic of his appreciation of America’s liberties and opportunities for advancement.
“I’ve been here eight years now, and I consider Decatur my home,” Beck said. “I’m proud to be a part of it, and I see the potential this area has. I’m happy to call it my home.”
Reist told the gathering: “This annual breakfast is an opportunity to recognize those businesses and individuals who have made vital contributions to Morgan County’s tourism and travel industry.”
In honor of his tireless dedication to Decatur and its citizens, the visitors’ bureau presented the family of the “Father of Point Mallard,” Gilmer Blackburn, with the new “Legacy” award. Ronnie Dukes cited the former tax attorney’s vision as Decatur mayor, which resulted in the development of Point Mallard, the construction of a new City Hall and the establishment of new parks and recreation centers throughout the city.
Another former Decatur mayor was also recognized at the ceremony. Ronnie Dukes presented the Julian Walker “Mr. Tourism” award to his father, former state representative Bill Dukes, adding another honor to the already-long list of distinctions recognizing the public servant. Beverly Walker praised Dukes for his reputation for honesty and for being “rich in non-material ways.”
The vistors’ bureau’s own Kayla Riggs, special events and sports marketing director, won the “Young Professional of the Year” award while the Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic received the “Event of the Year” award. Julianne Lowman, the marketing director for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, also won a marketing college scholarship for the second straight year at the ceremony.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) was honored with the Top Corporate Award winner for generating 7,766 hotel room nights in the Decatur area over the past year.
Other top corporate winners for local hotel room-nights booked included: Nucor with 4,036, International Paper with 2,394, Alphapet Inc. with 2,269, Lockheed Martin with 2,054, Tennessee Valley Authority with 1,857, Daikin with 1,750, BP with 1,663, 3M with 1,555 and General Electric with 1,318.