Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BASS anglers descend on Wheeler for Southern Shootout

By Paul Huggins
Staff Writer

Nearly 400 anglers from seven states are scheduled to begin a three-day tournament today on Wheeler Lake as part of the BASS Federation Nation’s Southern Team Shootout.

The event features 66 six-person teams from fishing clubs in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Kentucky. Teams will start each morning at 6:30 from Ingalls Harbor. Weigh-ins, also held at Ingalls, will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Charles Graybeal, president of the Tennessee BASS Federation, chose Wheeler Lake for the event based on personal experience that all competitors will catch a lot of fish.

“It’s a great fishing lake. I love Wheeler,” he said. “I wish we had more lakes like this.”

The BASS Federation Nation tournament circuit is not a professional series that focuses on an individual winner. It is strictly a team competition with a foundation in local fishing clubs.

“This tournament is all about fishing with your partner and having a good time,” Graybeal said.

Each team pays a $600 entry fee, and all entry fees go directly back to participants as prize money.

The 66 teams will share in $237,000. The team with the heaviest fish weight from three days will win $2,400. One out of every five teams will win some type of cash prize.

Teams began arriving Saturday for pre-tournament practice, and all were in town Monday for tournament meetings. The Jameson Inn and Holiday Inn & Suites are host hotels for the Southern Team Shootout. The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau will report the economic impact of the event after counting hotel rooms filled after the tourney ends.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Racking Up Gain

Racking up gains
Event’s revenues, participation up
By Paul Huggins

PRICEVILLE — Racking horse officials say they’ve experienced their greatest breeding season in a long time, only they’re not talking about equine genetics.

Revenue and optimism have grown beyond what they hoped for after agreeing to terms to sell Celebration Arena to the State Products Mart a year ago.

“Excitement breeds excitement,” said Chris Walker, Racking Horse Breeders Association of America president, from Crossville, Tenn.

The positive outlook on the racking horse breed’s future is evident everywhere around the arena grounds. It’s in the new registry ledgers that show a 26-percent increase this year.

See Also:
Horsin' around

It’s in the rear parking lot packed with horse trailers. It’s in fuller campsites. It’s in the barns that have more stalls rented than last year.

And it’s in brimming confidence for a 5-year marketing plan aimed at the grass-roots level.

Horse entries for the nine-day World Celebration, which concludes Saturday, are up 10 percent from last year.

The show rented out 530 stalls through Monday, 200 more than last year.

All but three of the 69 camper sites are occupied, the highest in years.

New registrations
Registration of new racking horses rose significantly from 304 in 2009 to 410 so far in 2010.

All that growth points to more revenue than in previous years.

“They say if you’re treading water in this economy, you’re doing good,” Walker said.

“But we’ve done better than treading water, we’ve seen an increase in revenue. We’ve outdone the rest of the economy. I think that speaks volumes.”

Racking horse growth bodes well for Decatur. Until recent years when the RHBAA saw its membership nosedive, World Celebration was the city’s largest tourism event annually. In 2003, World Celebration filled more than 2,500 hotel room nights.

Start of decline
A steep decline began in 2004, and last year, the show filled 302 room nights. The economic impact dropped from about $1 million in 2003 to $150,000 last year, according to figures from the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Walker and other racking horse officials said the growth stems from the most important factor in the economy: confidence.

The membership has regained confidence, they said, particularly with the association staff and with management of the arena. The latter is now under control of the Products Mart.

Judy Jones, RHBAA past president from Naples, N.C., and Fred McRoy, head of the association’s personnel and property committee from Olive Branch, Ill., said for several years, members grew frustrated by overextended staff and volunteers who couldn’t keep pace with basic needs. Often, association officers from out of town had to deal with facility issues, such as electric outages.

Cost issues
McRoy said it usually wasn’t simply a matter of finding someone to do repairs; it was finding someone affordable.

“I hardly ever get a call now,” McRoy said.

“Before, it was almost an every day deal,” Jones added.

The Products Mart, which officially bought the arena and property in January, made upgrades to the facility, including new water lines and a covered warm-up area, and has shown it will quickly respond to needs, both big and small, when horse shows come to the arena.

“When you have a problem and somebody is there to help you, it means a lot, and we didn’t have people who took care of that.” McRoy said.

Jones said selling the arena allows the association to focus full attention on promoting the racking horse breed.

Small shows throughout the spring and summer benefitted from financial and personal assistance this year, she added, and more attention to the grass-roots level should generate more interest in the bigger shows like World Celebration.

Jim Morris, former chairman of the personnel and property committee from Perryville, Mo., credits the extra attention given to association members is probably the chief reason there was a 26-percent increase in racking horse registrations this year. For the first time in years, the general public could see RHBAA officers unstressed and upbeat, he said.

“I’ve seen more enthusiasm with everybody down here, more enthusiasm than I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Morris said.

McRoy conceded he was pessimistic when he joined the RHBAA board three years ago, and it was wearing him out to spend 28 days out of the year in Priceville attending to facility issues.

“When I joined the board three years ago, I had to ask, ‘Why are you doing this. What is the future,’ ” he said.

“After we sold this place, I saw a future. I can see the positives of it. This year, I’ve enjoyed it.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Decatur officials considering fee increases to help balance budget

By Evan Belanger, The Decatur Daily

Decatur Mayor Don Stanford’s proposed budget for fiscal 2011 includes a host of revenue-generating fee increases, as well as numerous spending cuts.

City officials discussed the budget during a finance meeting Wednesday. Proposed fee increases included a 2-percent hike in the city’s 6-percent lodging tax and a 0.9-percent increase in garbage-collection rates.

Also proposed
Other budget proposals included a $1-per-month fee to be collected on all utility bills to recoup the cost of operating and maintaining street lights, traffic signals and outdoor lighting in public parks.

Another proposal projected $250,000 in additional revenue if the city hires Revenue Discovery Systems of Birmingham to help identify and collect delinquent taxes from companies and individuals that have done business in Decatur without purchasing a business license.

As expected, Stanford’s budget also called for numerous spending cuts, including the reduction or elimination of 27 public-service contracts and a $500,000 cut to the city school system. It would cut spending in nearly every city department, too.

The combined fee hikes and spending cuts increase Stanford’s revenue projection for fiscal 2011 from $51.94 million as of Sept. 1 to $53.32 million. That’s an overall revenue increase of nearly $1.4 million to project a $110,423 surplus for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1.

Work in progress
Stanford and General Services Director Wally Terry stressed the budget was still a work in progress and that none of the proposals would become official until approved by the City Council.

“We want to look at all options to us ahead of time and that’s all we’re doing,” Terry said.

Of the city’s five councilmen, only Councilman Roger Anders attended the full meeting. While Councilman Billy Jackson stayed for part of the meeting, he left after discussion of a Fire and Rescue Department grant concluded.

Prior to the meeting, Jackson said he did not plan to stay for the full session because he did not want to condone the Wednesday finance meeting, which he said excludes the public from city business.

In reaction to the budget proposals, Anders asked for research showing how the proposed 8-percent lodging tax would compare with other cities’ lodging taxes. He also said he was concerned about cutting municipal appropriations to which the council had already committed.

“We’ll do our best to see what we can do about getting that back to them,” Stanford responded.

In addition to the proposals included in Stanford’s budget, Finance Supervisor Linda McKinney presented contingency options for the council to consider during upcoming budget hearings.

Those projected $120,000 in additional revenue if the city begins charging for public services it currently provides free and $500,000 in savings if the city cuts what a finance document referred to as “an identified service.”

City officials declined to say what services they may charge for or what service they may cut.

“Until we’re 100 percent sure that this is what we’re going to do, we’re not going to start speculating to the news media or to the public about, ‘We may do this, we may do that,’ ” Stanford said.

Another contingency proposal projected $800,000 in additional revenue if the city begins charging a sales-and-use tax in its police jurisdiction.

The proposed budget comes as the city officials project a $1.5-million budget deficit this year and a second consecutive year of declining revenue during fiscal 2011, after flat revenue in fiscal 2008 and 2009.

“We cannot expect to live on the revenues that we’ve lived on for the past four years,” Terry said.

“We’ve got to look at all options, and some of those options might not be viable, but if we don’t look at them and discuss them as a community, we won’t know that.”

Councilmen Gary Hammon, Ronny Russell and Greg Reeves did not attend the meeting.

Public service cuts
A draft of Mayor Don Stanford’s proposed budget for fiscal 2011 calls for numerous cuts to public-service agencies contracted with the city. Finance Supervisor Linda McKinney said the proposed cuts are based on several factors, including how much the agency received previously and the percentage that the city funding accounts for in the agencies’ budgets (*—proposed for 2011):

Agency 2010 Budget 2011* %Change
Decatur Public Library $372,081 $334,873 (10)
Morgan County Emergency Management District $566,474 $550,000 (2.9)
Decatur-Morgan County Emergency Mgt. Agency $26,791 $23,442 (12.5)
North-central Alabama Regional Council
of Governments (NARCOG)/Regional Planning $18,486 $18,846 0
North Central Alabama Mental Health Board $19,402 $0 (100)
Morgan County Economic Development Association $76,274 $64,883 (14.9)
NARCOG/Transportation Planning $26,100 $26,100 0
North Central Alabama Mental Retardation Authority $12,585 $10,680 (15.1)
NARCOG/Senior Aid Program $2,000 $0 (100)
Morgan County Health Department $148,200 $118,560 (20)
North Alabama Meals on Wheels Program $19,760 $15,808 (20)
Foster Grandparents Program $14,301 $0 (100)
Dec.-Morg. Co. Chamber of Commerce/BRAC program $9,534 $0 (100)
Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts $49,400 $40,000 (19)
Morgan County Area Transportation System $148,200 $150,000 1.2
Decatur-Morgan County Seniors Council $59,112 $53,200 (10)
Decatur-Morg. Co. Convention and Visitors Bureau $522,000 $560,000 7.3
Morgan County Rescue Squad $9,534 $8,342 (12.5)
Pryor Field Airport Authority $30,000 $30,000 0
Mainstreet Decatur $33,370 $0 (100)
Decatur-Morg. Co. Chamber/Cornerstone Partnership $38,137 $40,000 4.9
Hospice of the Valley $5,434 $0 (100)
American Red Cross $5,434 $0 (100)
Decatur Beautification Board $19,068 $18,000 (5.6)
North Central Alabama Mental Health/Facets $16,208 $0 (100)
ARC of Morgan County $7,074 $5,659 (20)
Dec.-Morg. Co. Chamber/Business Dev. Board $28,602 $22,882 (20)
Volunteer Center of Morgan County $10,488 $0 (100)
Carnegie Visual Arts Center $4,940 $20,000 304.9
Parents And Children Together $4,767 $0 (100)
Morgan County System of Services $4,800 $4,800 0
Decatur Community Free Clinic $74,100 $59,280 (20)
Morgan County Child Advocacy Center $24,700 $20,995 (15)
Junior Achievement of North Alabama $4,767 $0 (100)
Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority $74,100 $74,100 0
Decatur Youth Symphony $14,302 $13,500 (5.6)
Calhoun Community College Robotics Complex $250,000 $250,000 0
Downtown Arts Center $200,000 $300,000 50
Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center $60,000 $90,000 50
Total $3,010,885 $2,923,950 (2.9)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Several spending votes pulled from City Council agenda

By Evan Belanger, The Decatur Daily

Decatur Council President Greg Reeves has delayed votes on two transportation-enhancement projects, pending the outcome of upcoming budget talks.

Reeves said Tuesday he called off the votes, which would have authorized projects to revamp a portion of Bank Street downtown and beautify the U.S. 31 causeway, because he was not sure the city will have the needed $134,430 in its incomplete fiscal 2011 budget to match grants for the projects.

While he described the projects as needed and said he would know more as the city continues its budget process, he also said the city may have to wait until fiscal 2012 to fund its portion.

The 2010 grants awarded by the Alabama Department of Transportation total $537,720 in federal funding, not including the city’s matching funds. Grant Administrator Allen Stover said the city must start the projects by 2012 to accept the grant money.

Hiring vote delayed
In related matters, Reeves also delayed a vote that would have hired the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama at a cost of $17,000 to help the city adopt a new budgeting system. Reeves said he expects that item will make it back on the council’s agenda for consideration Sept. 20 or Oct. 4.

At the request of Tami Reist, director of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Reeves also canceled four votes that would have increased the bureau’s take from the city’s lodging tax from 75 percent to 95 percent.

The extra funding was intended as part of a plan for the visitors bureau to begin funding the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts and the Carnegie Visual Arts Center.

But Reeves said the plan may be unraveling because Reist had concerns the proposed funding was not enough to cover the extra expense. Reist said the votes were tabled because they were uncertain if the funds would be available in the city’s 2011 budget.

It was not clear Tuesday when the council will consider a budget for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Riverfest 2010

From the Decatur Daily

According to Norman Roby, there will be butts burning in Decatur this weekend, and you don’t want to miss it! The 16th annual Decatur Jaycees Riverfest will roll into Ingalls Harbor on Friday and Saturday with fun, food and entertainment like you have never seen or heard of around these parts.

The 2010 event kicks off with the unveiling of a historic marker celebrating the heritage of Ingalls Harbor and its future as a world-class entertainment venue. The unveiling is set for noon Friday. The Carolina Chocolate Drops will headline the event on Friday night at 9:45. Be sure to register Friday before 8 p.m. for the 5K Rib Run that will begin Saturday morning at 8 a.m. followed by awards at 9:30. Registration is $20 in advance or $25 the day of the race and is sponsored by Pepsi and Fleet Street Sports. Saturday also features a canoe/kayak race at the Riverwalk Marina starting at 10 to benefit the Morgan County Rescue Squad with entry fees at $25 for a two-man (or woman) team. Over $500 in cash and prizes will be awarded.

Enjoy the variety of foods and the new addition of arts and craft vendors along with what promises to be a grand adventure. One-day passes are $10 and weekend passes are $15. They can be purchased through the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce or the Convention and Visitors Bureau, both on Sixth Avenue, online at or at the gate for cash only.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Horton's program a winner for all involved

Paul Stackhouse, Outdoors, The Decatur Daily

Across the years, I have personally got to witness smiles on the faces of youngsters and special needs adults while participating in Tim Horton’s “Fishing for Kids” program.

It’s just one of the many ways that the professional Bassmaster Elite Series angler from North Alabama has given back from his many seasons of fishing success.

The 2010 edition of “Fishing for Kids” is coming up Oct. 9 on Pickwick Lake out of McFarland Park in Florence.

Hearing from Decatur’s Don Gowen this week, he made it known that volunteers are needed to make this year’s event the best ever.

Gowen with the Bassmasters of North Alabama is assisting Horton in gathering things needed for the day of fun and fishing.

One of the much-needed items are boats and boat captains to take the participants out on the lake.

The boat captains are asked to show they have at least $100,000 minimum of liability insurance.

While on the subject of boats, people with pontoon boats that can be used are also needed because some of the special-needs folks will be fishing from wheelchairs.

I think that statement alone speaks for itself just how special of a project this is.

Gowen also pointed out the need for volunteers to help with the tournament and the event picnic. People are needed to help with everything from registration to organization.

To hold such as event cost plenty and funding is needed to help offset the many expenses of the program.

Gowen said sponsorships are low this year and all donations and contributions are greatly appreciated.

Since Tim began the program in 1997, nearly 1,500 children and adults have taken part in the fun. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve heard Horton speak with upbeat emotion about “Fishing for Kids”. He is known to say how he gets more enjoyment out of this program than anything else he does in the world of bass fishing. That says quite a lot coming from someone as successful as Horton.

The boaters and volunteers will need to be at McFarland Park no later than 10 a.m. the day of the tournament as the participants will be arriving shortly afterward. If you know of any special-needs child or adults, or disadvantaged youngsters who would like to participate in the event, you need to sign up as soon as possible so proper preparations can be made.

For further information, you may call Brad Whitehead at 256-483-0834. Also, you may visit Horton’s website at

Shootout time
The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau is hosting the Southern Team Shootout Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, 2010, which is making its first appearance on Wheeler Lake.

The tournament is open to BASS Federation Nation Club members and is a fish with your own partner event.

The entry fee to participate is $600 per team and there is a 100 percent payback.

Takeoffs ill be at 7 a.m. with 3 p.m. weigh-ins at Ingalls Harbor.

For more information, visit and click on the “Things to do” link. You may also call the DMCCVB at 256-350-2028.

Decatur City Council Meeting Notes

From the Decatur Daily

The Decatur City Council will consider the following during its 6 p.m. meeting Monday at City Hall:

A $20,843 contract for Coin Laundry Equipment to furnish, deliver and install two tumble dryers for the Decatur Police Department.
A $26,650 contract for Landfill Service Corp. to furnish and deliver alternate daily cover for the Landfill Department.
A zoning text amendment loosening signs restrictions in the B-5 Central Business District.
A request from Janice Simpson to annex 39 acres south of Mud Tavern Road and west of Rockwood Road Southwest.
The abatement of unsafe conditions at 608 W. Moulton St. belonging to BBVA Compass Bank.
The abatement of unsafe conditions at 1023 Sixth Ave. S.W., belonging to Angela Rollison, America’s Wholesale Lender.
The abatement of unsafe conditions at 802 Cashin St. N.W., belonging to Mary Jane Harris.
Assess a total of $9,430.53 against 2808 Lexington Ave. S.W., 1507 17th Ave. S.W., 2311 Amberly Lane S.W., 1010 Ninth Ave. S.E., 2105 Covington Lane S.W., 2212 Willow Ave. S.W., 1918 Montgomery St. S.W., 1920 Montgomery St. S.W., 1715 Betty St. S.W., 310 W. Moulton St. N.W., 1408 Locust St. S.E., 840 E. Moulton St., 905 Austin St. S.W., 125 Bluebird Lane S.W., 315 Larkwood Drive S.W., 714 Cashin St. N.W., 1031 Bedford Drive S.W., 219 Memorial Drive N.W., 1005 Sixth Ave. S.W., 305 Lafayette St. N.W., 1913 10th St. S.E., 218 Sixth Ave. S.W., and 1900 Enolam Blvd. S.E. for the cost of nuisance abatement.
Three appointments to the Medical Clinic Board.
An appointment to the Board of Zoning Adjustment.
An appointment to the Planning Commission.
A resolution to correct and clarify appointments to the Downtown Redevelopment Authority.
A $7,250.80 change order to the contract with Flagship Contracting for the Alabama 20 sewer extension.
A license for Ducks Unlimited to hold a special event Nov. 4 at 2901-D Point Mallard Circle S.E.
A resolution authorizing the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau to administer operating funds to the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts and the Carnegie Visual Arts Center.
A resolution authorizing and directing the mayor to execute a 12-month contract with the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau in the amount of 95 percent of the city’s lodging tax.
An ordinance authorizing and directing the mayor to execute a lease agreement with the Carnegie Visual Arts Center for property at 207 Church St. N.E.
An ordinance authorizing and directing the mayor to execute a lease agreement with the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts for property at 112 Second Ave

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sword and the Stone

Amy Pollick, The Decatur Daily

A few months ago, we told you about the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau coming across a Diet Mountain Dew bottle that no one on staff could open.

The staff jokingly informed Ronnie Dukes, marketing manager for Pepsi Cola Bottling of Decatur, and Dukes, who is a bureau board member commonly known as the Pepsi man, sent one of his employees to deliver a bottle they could open.

The rest of the story: The bureau kept the stubborn bottle and repeatedly asked visitors to try opening it. All failed. So at a recent board lunch meeting, the staff placed the bottle in front of unsuspecting Dukes. They expected to see him struggle and get a good laugh. Instead, Dukes unscrewed it, seemingly without straining.

“To be able to open that bottle, he really had to be the Pepsi man,” said bureau business manager Sharon Holder.

Cook-off looks like another fine feast

Paul Stackhouse, Outdoors, The Decatur Daily

Serving as a judge for the Alabama Wildlife Federation Cook-off last year at Ingalls Harbor, I was simply amazed at all of the dishes and recipes that came through the taste-test trailer. The dozen or so judges were constantly saying how the cooking teams once again out-did themselves. I personally had second helpings of some venison, turkey and fish plates.

Well, it’s that time of year again as the 15th edition of the AWF Cook-off will visit Ingalls Harbor on Oct. 5, 2010, with the outdoor chefs handing out their delicious plates beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The 2009 event had to be one of the biggest outdoor related parties that Decatur has ever seen. More than 1,200 outdoor enthusiasts came to enjoy all the fun and festivities.

“It will be tough trying to top last year’s cook-off, but we’re certainly going to give it a try,” said AWF’s Sam Glover last week. “We’re going to have more than 1,000 square feet of tent set up. That in itself means we’re expecting a lot. The way it’s looking, I look for us to have another fantastic get-together.”

Once again, AWF is seeking cooking teams to come in and prepare their outdoor dishes for everyone to enjoy. The cooking competition involves three categories, which are fish, fowl and game.

Besides the great food, there will be a deejay playing music. An ever-growing silent auction will be there, too.

Chances to win a Browning shotgun and other prizes will be available. Door prizes will be distributed, too.

One of the door prizes is a 12-gauge Remington 3-inch, 870 Express shotgun. A youth gun also will be given away along with Summit Tree Stands, a hard gun case and more.

Admission is $35 per couple/person at the gate. The admission price includes food and one membership in the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

The membership does include a year subscription to AWF’s outdoor magazine.

For ticket or cook team information, call David Thomas (256-606-4161), Glover (256-318-0157) or Jill Stone (256-318-4422). There is no admission fee for cooking teams or children under 15 years of age.

More Ingalls activities
The Alabama Bass Federation has selected Decatur, Wheeler Lake and Ingalls Harbor to host the 2010 annual Alabama Junior Bassmaster State Championship Tournament, where young anglers from across the state will vie for a chance at earning a berth in the Junior Bassmaster World Championship.

The state tournament is set for Sept. 25 from 8 a.m. through 2 p.m. The official weigh-in will be at 2:30 p.m. at Academy Sports located at 1205 Wimberly Drive S.W., in Decatur.

The event is sponsored by the Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau and is hosted by the Bassmasters of North Alabama and their junior club (Junior Bassmasters of North Alabama).

“Ingalls Harbor has been the location for numerous professional fishing tournaments and now junior anglers from across Alabama will have the opportunity to fish where the pros have been competing and experience our world class fishing facility,” said Tami Reist, president of the DMCCVB in a release.

Alabama BASS Federation Nation members and major Elite Series or WBT PRO-Anglers will serve as boat captains for the tournament.

Once a junior member reaches the age of 11, they can begin competing against others in the program. The two age groups are 11-14 and 15-18.

For more information on the Junior Bassmaster State Championship, contact Alabama Bass Federation National Youth Director Bobby McDonald at 205-854-6246 or 205-903-0919 or visit and click on “Youth”. Also, for further details you may contact the DMCCVB at 256-350-2028 or visit its website at and click on the “Things to Do” link.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

'This is our history'

Snapshot of Civil War life at Battle for Decatur re-enactment
By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

What’s more entertaining than dressing in wool uniforms, cooking without electricity and living in the 19th century? For Jim and Cathy Wilson, nothing.

About eight weekends each year, the Lacey’s Spring couple leaves their comfortable clothing, stable shelter and modern-day technology behind to travel across the Southeast from North Carolina to Georgia as Civil War re-enactors.

“Re-enactments are living history presentations. They are a way to portray life as it actually was during the Civil War, so that our children and grandchildren can understand what took place and what their ancestors went through,” said Jim Wilson, a member of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, Company G, Wheeler’s Escort.

This weekend, while some families celebrate the long Labor Day holiday with barbecues and boating, the Wilsons will celebrate by re-creating the Battle for Decatur.

At Point Mallard on Saturday and Sunday the ground will shake, the air will fill with smoke and men will fall just as they did 146 years ago on the banks of the Tennessee River, the current location of Old Decatur.

“This is our history,” said Larry Thomson, a member of the Sons of the Confederacy. “This is what happened right here in Decatur when the Confederate and Union troops fought in 1864.”

Created from memoirs, personal accounts and historical documents, the re-enactment details the four-day battle that ended with a Union victory where thousands of men fought and 605 men died.

The battle, acted out by more than 200 re-enactors from across the southeastern United States, will feature cannons, horses and gunpowder, bringing to life the history typically relegated to words and paintings in 1,000-page social studies textbooks. In this battle, however, the North will win Saturday and the South will win Sunday.

“This was one of our nation’s most interesting periods. It shaped the country forever,” Wilson said. “Most people don’t know that 2 percent of the U.S. died during the war, either through battle or disease. Our main objective is to bring to light to the public the reality of the events that transpired at that time.”

As a fifth-grader in Rossville, Ga., Wilson learned of the reality as he toured the battlefields of northeastern Georgia.

“As a Boy Scout I hiked to all of the battlefields in the Chickamauga campaign. That piqued my interest in what went on in the battles and how the soldiers lived,” Wilson said.

Family affair
Eight years ago, Wilson turned his passion into a hobby and joined the 1st Alabama Cavalry. After six months of listening to him rave about the events, Cathy Wilson accompanied her husband to the re-enactments — a frequent occurrence during the Civil War when the men were not on a campaign.

“People don’t realize sometimes women joined their husbands, who were mostly commanding officers, at the garrison camps,” Jim Wilson said. “At the re-enactments my wife cooks and dresses just like the women of that time did. She goes to the ladies’ tea and we go to the dance together. It is a snapshot of what life for troops and their families was like.”

Along with the re-enactments, Civil War relics, mounted cavalry patrols, garrison camps and performances by the 5th Alabama military band will transport visitors from the 21st century of laptops and cell phones to the mid-19th century.

“People will hear cannons, and if you’ve never heard a cannon before it is quite an experience,” said Thomson, who described himself as a “lowly infantryman” with five years of experience. “There will be horses, cowboying, authentic food, instructors teaching dance at the Military Ball and troops in period dress.”

“Some of the seasoned re-enactors look like they stepped right out of 1864,” Jim Wilson added. “It looks like they were just dug out from a real battle and dusted off.”

Thomson expects about 4,000 spectators to attend the weekend festival.

Events will kick off Friday morning, with a school session for local children.

“We will put the kids and their teachers through drills the troops would go through. We hope to have music from the Morgan County Dulcimer Association. We will also explain to the kids about the battle and its importance in the war,” Thomson said.

On Saturday, organizers scheduled a ladies’ tea and a Military Ball. The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau will host a free guided waling tour Saturday of locations key to the battle. All of the events are free.

The 32nd annual Battle for Decatur is hosted by the 13th Alabama Partisan Rangers, the 6th Alabama Cavalry, 4th Alabama Cavalry Company F, and Camp 580 Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“We want everyone who comes to feel like they are actually in 1864 and living through the Civil War,” Thomson said. “This should be a great show for the entire family.”

If you go

What: 32nd annual Battle for Decatur Civil War Re-enactment

Where: Point Mallard Park

Cost: Free admission to all events.


9:30 a.m.: Ladies’ Tea at the Point Mallard Chapel

10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Camps open to the public

2 p.m.: Battle re-enactment

3-5 p.m.: Camps open to the public

3:30 p.m.: Guided walking tour through Old Decatur

7 p.m.: Military Ball at the Point Mallard Chapel


10 a.m.- p.m.: Camps open to the public

2 p.m.: Battle re-enactment

3-5 p.m.: Camps open to the public.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ghana ties Tide in exhibition

Paul Huggins, staff writer, The Decatur Daily

The national under-17 women’s soccer team from Ghana finished its four-game collegiate exhibition schedule Monday night in Tuscaloosa with an undefeated record after tying The University of Alabama at 2 goals.

The Black Maidens, as they call themselves, finished with two wins and two ties: wins over Mississippi State and North Alabama and ties with Columbus, (Ga.) State and Alabama.

The team has been in Decatur since Aug. 15 training for this month’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Trinidad-Tobago.

Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a team official was highly complimentary of the collegiate competition and facilities at Jack Allen Recreation Complex and probably would recommend Decatur as a training site to Ghana’s U-20 men’s team should it qualify for the World Cup.

The Ghana team will leave for Trinidad-Tobago on Thursday.