Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Officials try to lure BASS HQ to Morgan

By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Tourism officials hope Decatur’s reputation as a top venue for fishing tournaments and the recent purchase of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society by a Morgan County native will lead BASS officials to make the River City their new corporate headquarters.

“Why not just give it a shot?” Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, asked of sending invitation letters to Don Logan and Jerry McKinnis, two of three men who bought BASS from ESPN earlier this month. “No risk, no rewards,” she said, reiterating a motto she said she learned from David Bronner, chief executive officer of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Her letter said she would like to discuss BASS moving its headquarters from Orlando to Decatur and noted Decatur’s central location to the Bassmaster Tournament Trail and proximity to eight lakes and rivers.

“Our city and community leaders, lodging and retail establishments all understand the importance of catering to professional and recreational anglers,” Reist’s letter reads.

Reist said she heard Logan, a Hartselle native and former CEO of Time Warner, was interested in moving BASS from Florida closer to Birmingham, where he now lives. She added that Logan’s mother and a sister still live in the Hartselle area and his granddaughter looks after his mother.

BASS was founded in Montgomery in 1968 by Ray Scott. It is the largest membership organization of bass anglers in the country, with more than 500,000 members. ESPN bought it in 2001 and expanded it to include media platforms including three magazines and a popular website.

The purchasing party will assume ownership of all BASS assets, BASS said in a statement announcing the sale. As part of the agreement, BASS’ core TV programming assets — the Bassmaster Elite Series and Bassmaster Classic — will remain on ESPN networks.

Logan, before his retirement in 2002, oversaw Time Inc., America Online, Time Warner Cable and the Time Warner Book Group. The Auburn graduate is an avid fisherman.

His business partners in the endeavor are outdoorsman McKinnis, host of ESPN’s second longest-running show, “The Fishin’ Hole,” and Jim Copeland, who is on the board of directors of three Fortune 500 companies.

Reist met Logan in March when Logan was the guest speaker for the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the letter regarding the headquarters, Reist invited Logan to attend the Sept. 17 groundbreaking ceremony for the new Ingalls pavilion.

“The letter was the first step,” she said, adding BASS has not responded to the letter. “I haven’t called because I know any time you’re going through a buy-out or change, they have more fish to fry than to worry about us. The letter was more or less just opening the line of communication. We just wanted to send out something and let him know that we’re ready to work with him.”

BASS and Decatur have had a working relationship for more than a decade, with Decatur serving as a host site for multiple Bassmaster tournaments, including the prestigious Elite series. BASS officials spoke highly of Decatur’s performance in hosting large tournaments and called Ingalls Harbor one of the finest facilities of its kind in the nation.

Meeting Notes

by Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau
The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau conducted the following business during in monthly meeting for August:

Reported end of fiscal 2010 figures showing revenue was $65,553 below budget projections. After adjusting the budget expenses during the year, the bureau ended fiscal 2010 with a $39,118 deficit.
Reported July revenue was $64,832, which was $9,934 above budget projections. July expenses exceeded the budget by $10,745, so the month had a $848 deficit.
Reported the city collected $81,872 in lodging taxes in May, up 6 percent from the same month in 2009. For fiscal 2010, the city has collected $623,854 in lodging taxes, down 12 percent from fiscal 2009. The bureau receives 75 percent of lodging taxes for operating and advertising.
Reported the $2-per-night room occupancy tax generated $47,775 in May, up $5,814 from the same month last year. For the year, the tax has generated $356,075. The money goes toward developing tourism products, such as Ingalls Harbor.
Reported Decatur hotels filled 58 percent of their available room nights in May, up 7 percent from the same month in 2009. It was the highest rate for May going back to 2002.
Reported special events in July filled 776 hotel room nights, creating an economic impact of $394,838. The largest event was spillover business from the Jehovah’s Witness district convention in Huntsville that generated 508 room nights. The same convention also filled 205 room nights in June.
Paul Huggins

Bass Fishing League returns

As many as 320 anglers coming to Decatur in 2011
By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

The FLW Bass Fishing League will bring its regional championship and as many as 320 anglers to Decatur and Wheeler Lake in October 2011.

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau said the event could have an economic impact of more than $400,000, based on figures from the previous time Decatur and Ingalls Harbor hosted the BFL tourney in 2008.

Bid fees and support services for the event will cost the visitors bureau $5,000.

“It’s a really good for what we get out of it and what we put into it,” said Tami Reist, visitors bureau president.

The event, one of six regional championships nationwide, will draw anglers from Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee. The top six boaters and co-anglers from the regional will move on the BFL All-American, considered the Super Bowl to the BFL angler.

The tournament will be Oct. 13-15.

FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world and offered anglers the chance to win more than $33 million through 231 tournaments in 2009.

Weekend angler
BFL’s competition circuit is devoted to the weekend angler and operates like a development league. Top BFL performers can move up to FLW Outdoors’s American Fishing Series (formerly known as the FLW Stren Series) or the top-tier FLW Tour.

FLW Outdoors will bring its American Fishing Series Invitational to Decatur on Nov. 4-6. It expects to draw about 200 anglers.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making themselves at home on River City turf

Not Ghana back down
Young players from Africa nation training in Decatur
By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

They may live 6,500 miles away on another continent, but the teenage girls from Ghana looked no different from American teens when they entered Decatur Mall on Wednesday.

They went straight for stores with cell phones, iPods and shoes.

But, though they may look like typical middle school and high school girls while trying on shoes, when they lace up their soccer cleats, there is nothing typical about their play. They are the under-17 national team for the West African nation, and they have been in Decatur since Aug. 15 preparing for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Trinidad-Tobago next month.

How good are these youths competing at the world championship level? Well, how many 13- to 17-year-olds do you know who could defeat a collegiate team from the Southeastern Conference, which they did Tuesday, knocking off Mississippi State, 1-0. Think of it this way: How well do you think a collection of football players from Brookhaven Middle School and Decatur High School would fair against an SEC team?

Local residents can see for themselves Thursday at the Jack Allen Soccer Complex.

Game against UNA

The Ghana team will take on the University of North Alabama women’s soccer team at 7 p.m. Admission is free. It will be the second of four exhibition matches against college teams, as Ghana plays Georgia on Friday in Columbus, Ga., and Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Monday.

“The were very, very good,” Edne Yeke, Ghana assistant coach, said about Mississippi State. “That is what we play, so that is what we expect.

“It was very tough, stiff competition,” she said. “That is what we want, and that is what we need. We came here purposely for training.”

Soccer is the biggest sport in Ghana, followed by field hockey and basketball, Yeke said.

The children play soccer at an early age but don’t become part of organized teams until they’re at least 10, she said. There are no youth, recreation leagues like in America, she said, and Ghanaian youths get invited to join club teams when they distinguish themselves on school playgrounds or just playing against friends in the streets.

Tonight’s game is especially meaningful for Sarah Beth Henderson, a freshman walk-on at UNA who played forward and midfield for Decatur High. The game is a chance to show her new teammates her hometown, but she said she’s most excited about the level of competition Ghana brings.

“This opportunity to play an international team is amazing,” she said, noting UNA has about 10 players from Great Britain. “We can help them and they can help us grow as a team. So we’re just thrilled to death. We’re all pumped for it.”

Scott Spencer, former head of the Alabama Youth Soccer Association, who steered some major tournaments toward Jack Allen and now coaches the Atlanta Beat, a women’s professional soccer team, helped set up the collegiate exhibition matches.

Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said getting the collegiate competition was big for Ghana and that the team considered moving its training site to California until Spencer lined up the colleges.

The Ghana team chose Decatur earlier this summer based on the recommendation of a collegiate coach who brought his team to Jack Allen. The facility, which has 10 international size, lighted soccer fields with laser-graded turf, lived up to its reputation.

“We’ve enjoyed the fields,” said Ghana player Beatrice Sesu, 15. “We don’t have fields this good in Ghana.

“It helps us a lot,” she added. “It gets you used to the fields we will play on when we get to the World Cup.”

Yeke agreed that a key part of the team’s training is getting accustomed to the high quality fields, and she added that Decatur is fortunate to have such a nice facility as Jack Allen.

“If Africa can get such facilities you have here, no one can turn us,” she said.

Ghana also chose Decatur because coaches wanted to train in hot, humid weather like they would experience in Trinidad-Tobago.

The team, which is staying at the Country Inn & Suites, generally practices in the morning and early evening. The players take a day off training after an exhibition match, so they don’t have many days left to practice here.

Sesu said it hasn’t been all work while they’ve been in town. The team has enjoyed resting at the hotel and everyone looks forward to visiting the U.S. Space and Rocket Center the day before they leave for the World Cup on Sept. 2. The team also accepted a Decatur caterer’s offer to use her kitchen to prepare their own meals.

Jackie Grimsley, owner of The Casual Gourmet, has brought the team into her kitchen on Somerville Road Southeast several times.

“A lot of what they cook is not much different from what we eat, except everything is much hotter. It’s unbelievably hot. It will get rid of every evil spirit you ever thought you have,” she joked, noting they use a lot of habanera and chilli peppers.

“And they’re eating a lot of steamed veggies. They do fresh vegetables every day,” Grimsley said.

Sesu said getting to cook their own food is a big help not only because it reminds them of home, but much of the American food is too greasy compared to what their stomachs are accustomed to digesting; so getting good, familiar food also has helped with training.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meeting Notes- Morgan County Commission

by SHERYL MARSH, The Decatur Daily

The Morgan County Commission conducted the following business during its meeting Thursday:

Approved a $45,770 bid from Autoclear to provide X-ray machines for courthouse security.

Approved giving a $2,500 contribution to Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau and $1,500 to Racking Horse Association World Celebration.

Approved a deed tax refund of $118.51 for Sandra W. Whatley, Renasant Bank.

Approved leave without pay for Dana Hendrix, a county employee.

Authorized the chairman to execute a contract with Godwin-Barnett to design a parking lot in the old jail annex space.

Approved certificates to subdivide or consolidate properties for Samuel and Arlene Nisly with Millard and Mary Yoder, Reeder Road in District 3.

Designated Sept. 27 through Oct. 2 fall cleanup week in the county.

Authorized the chairman to advertise for bids to remodel the old parks and recreation building on Shull Road.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Wildlife Festival Canceled

From staff reports, The Decatur Daily

The Southern Wildlife Festival has been canceled for 2010 after 28 years as an annual event, organizers said Thursday.

The festival had been scheduled for Aug. 20-22. There are plans to resume the festival in 2011, and dates will be announced, according to a release from the Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The festival has traditionally been held in October but was moved to the third weekend in August for 2010 in an attempt to avoid conflicts, such as with football season, and revive dwindling attendance. Organizers had said they were struggling to attract the same number of artists in August as had been part of the show in the past, and that apparently was one factor in the cancellation.

In October 2009, the two-day art show and sale attracted 30 artists, including painters, carvers and photographers.

The show also featured demonstrations with live birds of prey and a hand-carved, working duck decoy competition and exhibition.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Group makes plans for Civil War's 150th anniversary

By Deangelo McDaniel, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

If you’re not a Civil War history buff, you may not know that the orders authorizing the first shots in the bloody conflict came from a man whose legal and political career started in Lawrence County.

LeRoy Pope Walker, the first secretary of war for the Confederate States of America, opened a law office in Moulton in the 1840s and represented the county in the Alabama House of Representatives.

It was after a series of correspondence with CSA President Jefferson Davis that Walker authorized the bombardment of Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

The story of Walker’s role in the regional conflict is one fact historians from three states will recall during the 150th anniversary of the start of the war in 2011.

The Tri-State Civil War Association met in Decatur on Tuesday to discuss plans for the celebration. The organization consists of historians and tourism and visitor bureaus from Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

“We’re not in competition because this war touched us all,” said John Culpepper, the association’s co-chairman.

Culpepper is city manager for the city of Chickamauga in Georgia. The association, he said, grew from Georgia’s more than five-year-old Civil War Commission.

Culpepper said the potential for tourism in each state is unlimited. He said descendants of former soldiers are always interested in visiting battle sites where family members fought.

“When they plan vacations, they’ll be looking for hotels and places to eat,” Culpepper said.

Tami Reist works for the Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She attended Tuesday’s meeting and plans to post Civil War events in the area on the organization’s website. Reist also has been collecting Civil War era stories that will appear in a book.

“This should be a big year for Alabama,” she said.

There were no major battles in Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties, but the area was strategically important to both sides because of the Memphis to Charleston Railroad and the Tennessee River.

By the time Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysess S. Grant in April 1865, more than 600,000 Americans had died and the Tennessee Valley was a shell of its former self.

“Nothing changed this area like the Civil War,” Pond Spring Site Director Melissa Beasley said.

Pond Spring was a parole headquarters after Lee’s surrender. It was also a camp site for both armies during the war.

In June 1864, Confederate Col. Josiah Patterson of Morgan County used Pond Spring as his headquarters. The Union Army attacked him.

“The balls rattled like hail over the place, and one of the Negroes had a piece taken out of the knee of his pants,” Amanda Morgan Sherrod wrote about the attack.

Peggy Allen Towns has been researching and writing about black soldiers in the area. She attended the tri-state meeting. Culpepper said the celebration should include the black experience.

Towns recently obtained the pension records of LaFayette Garth. They reveal that despite being sick, Garth refused to leave the battlefield when Union forces destroyed Gen. John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee in 1864 in Franklin, Tenn.

“There are so many stories about the black soldiers that have not been told,” Towns said.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Catching dragonflies

18-year-old emerging artist part of the Carnegie’s public art trail
By Patrice Stewart, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Hanging out with insects at Cook’s Natural Science Museum doesn’t bother Whitley Fleming.

As long as she has her drawing equipment, she’s OK to sit for hours with the ants, beetles and spiders.

Her familiarity with dragonflies and other insects made it natural for the budding artist to paint two critters for this summer’s Dance of the Dragonflies while also building her own portfolio.

She saw the Carnegie Visual Arts Center’s 2010 public art trail as a chance to contribute pretty, attention-getting items to Decatur while also getting experience with a different category of art.

The 18-year-old, who has drawn and painted from a young age, hopes to have a career as a graphic designer. Look for her illustrations in a bug book in the future.

See Also:

“My mom works at the Cook’s museum in Decatur, so I was able to go by there and see the different bugs,” said Fleming, the daughter of Darron and Allison Fleming of Trinity.

“Since I like to draw, it’s a nice place for me to go and sit and draw the different insects. They’re not alive or moving, so it’s easier to get your proportions right while seeing them close up,” she said.

A recent graduate of Master’s Hand home-school program, she completed a summer art appreciation course at Calhoun Community College. She has been awarded a fine arts scholarship to Calhoun for 2010-11.

Fleming did not participate in the Carnegie’s “Arts Aflutter” butterfly trail last summer, but she decided to get involved in the Dance of the Dragonflies trail after learning about it last winter through the Carnegie’s Facebook page.

Area artists were asked to submit drawings of their ideas. Dragonfly sponsors could chose from the samples, and the Carnegie committee matched some up.

“They were trying to keep it geared toward the city of Decatur and things we associated with Decatur, so I thought about the Cook’s Museum and the Alabama Jubilee balloon festival,” Fleming said.

She submitted two designs, and both were chosen. They can be viewed on Old Decatur streets until the Dragonfly Ball on Aug. 14, when the painted metal beauties will be auctioned or go to their sponsors.

“Nature’s Wonder” is the name Fleming gave her dragonfly painted in green and yellow with insects like ants, grasshoppers and other varmints. The sponsor is the Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association Inc., and this piece is at 511 Oak St. N.E.

“I was thinking of the different insects that I remembered seeing in this area when I was little,” she said. “There’s a firefly on there like those that I remember catching around here, and I added some butterflies, too.”

“The Sky’s the Limit,” Fleming’s other dragonfly, features clouds and hot-air balloons. It was chosen to represent the Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau and stands in Founders Park at Bank and Church streets.

One of the best parts was painting her dragonflies in a warehouse where many experienced artists were working.

“It was neat to meet the other artists, learn from them and see that they have jobs around here, too,” said Fleming. “Art is my passion, and I’ll be excited to see what it opens up.”

Insects are not her only topics, however.

She entered a drawing of an octopus in last year’s “Embracing Art” exhibit of area art at the Carnegie and also earned honorable mention the past two years in the Junior Duck Stamp art competition at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.

As a home-schooler, her art teacher was Michelle Wilson of Hartselle. Last fall, Fleming’s mixed-media work, titled “Memoirs,” was the only local piece chosen to be displayed with about 60 from around the state at an exhibit at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

Vote for your favorite

Have you viewed all the art on the Dance of the Dragonflies trail and voted for your favorite online?

You only have another week and a half, so it’s time to get out and see this second annual display of public art sponsored by the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and many companies, agencies and individuals.

Fifty-nine painted metal dragonflies are on display, featuring everything from area attractions, flowers, river life and the Delta IV rocket to memories of individuals.

Some dragonflies even capture the “Coffee and Camaraderie” of the morning coffee club at the City CafĂ© and Alabama football’s bragging rights on a “Braggin’ Fly.”

There are too many to list here, but they can be seen on the arts center’s trail website, www.carnegieartstrail.org. Trail brochures can be downloaded from the website or picked up at the Carnegie. And if you walk or ride along the trail, you may also spot some butterflies from the 2009 public art project that are now in permanent locations chosen by sponsors.

Dragonfly Ball

The public art trail will officially end with the Dragonfly Ball on Aug. 14, when large and small dragonflies will be auctioned.

The event, planned at Burningtree Country Club from 7 to 10 p.m., will include music by The Valley Cats dance band, heavy hors d’oeuvres, complimentary signature drinks and cash bar. Tickets to this Carnegie fundraiser must be purchased by Friday at $75 per person. Call 341-0562 for information.