Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ingalls Pavilion Rental Procedures

City establishing Ingalls pavilion rental procedures Decatur officials and the tourism bureau are devising rental procedures for the new Ingalls Harbor pavilion, slated for a late October opening. The 27,000-square-foot structure will be the largest meeting space in the River City, featuring two stone fireplaces, retractable doors and an exterior built with timber from the demolished Robinson building. Today at noon, Tami Reist, director of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, will discuss reservation policies and rates for the pavilion with city officials. The tourism bureau plans to market the facility to companies for conferences as well as to individuals for receptions, banquets and parties. TIFFENY OWENS- The Decatur Daily

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Restoration of Delano Park

Posted on August 18, 2011 by Anna Atchison at

It began as a small, grass-roots project birthed in the hearts of a few women. The Friends of Delano Park assembled to raise public awareness of the historic and cultural significance of the park. Today, Delano Park is considered a Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area.

“There is nothing more practical in the end then the preservation of beauty.” Theodore Roosevelt

Historic Delano Park was unattended for years. Realizing the value of this asset, Barbara Kelly, Sally Smartt, and Nell Standridge began taking proactive steps toward the restoration of Decatur, Alabama’s Delano Park. “We can all make something out of nothing,” explained Barbara Kelly. “You make your own success story.” The preservation of this civic park carries with it the hope that future generations will enjoy it for years to come. This is a story of hope.

After the combined devastation of the Civil War and Yellow Fever epidemic, the Decatur Land Improvement and Furnace Company chose renowned architect Nathan Franklin Barrett to design a master plan to rebuild the city. This plan centralized around a community park and recreational green space. Since its construction in 1887, Delano Park has been the heartstrings of its community.

The Riverwild Children’s Garden and accessible playground is a significant component of the renovations. Riverwild is a place for children of all abilities and their supporting equipment. Currently, it is the only wheelchair accessible playground in the county.

For this project they sought the help of PAGE½DUKE Landscape Architects. “Ben Page is a poetic visionary, and we valued the concept he developed on our behalf,” said Smartt.

Appropriately named Riverwild, the design coalesces around providing visitors the opportunity to interact with flora and fauna native to the Tennessee Valley. Ben Page was thrilled to be involved in a civic project that accomplishes what so many talented minds had envisioned in its development. The biodiversity and rich history of the Tennessee River Valley is commemorated by way of sculptures, graphic panels, and large river rocks distributed throughout the Riverwild Children’s Garden.

Sculptures of native wildlife inhabit the park. Renowned artist, Bruce Larsen, crafted a sixteen-foot dragonfly on a bending reed. Resting gracefully above the grasses below, the sculpture is constructed mostly of salvaged steel with an antique boat motor for its body. Larsen also welded the archway at Riverwild’s entrance.

“Public art gives people pause. Art is a language that not everybody understands or appreciates, […] but it can make their wheels turn.” Bruce Larsen

Southern sculptor, Frank Fleming, also installed his work among the river rocks and foliage. A bronze family of frogs and a large turtle were among the first of his pieces installed at the park. Fleming most recent edition was a bronze beaver. “It was Ben Page’s idea to have that beaver climbing up over the rock and showing its teeth to the children,” Fleming chuckled.

“We are definitely in an era of building; the best kind of building – the building of great public projects for the benefit of the public and with the definitive objective of building human happiness.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

It is for humanity that we safeguard natural resources. Securing civic parks for public pleasure provides the possibility that natural beauty remain a cherished aspect of our culture. Delano Park exhibits the qualities of a timeless community treasure in a celebration of diversity.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Robbery on the river

Thieves burglarize, vandalize Pickwick Belle at Ingalls; losses total $23,000
By Ronnie Thomas
The Decatur Daily

Joe Colley, owner of American Steemer in Decatur, cleans the carpet on the lower deck, which was soaked by fire extinguishers in the overnight assault. The Pickwick Belle is cruising out of Decatur this summer as its owners gauge the suitability of moving the operation from Florence to the River City.

Thieves made off with a flat screen, a sound system and other items that totaled $23,000 after they broke into the Pickwick Belle on Thursday night or early Friday while it was docked at Ingalls Harbor.

The thieves also vandalized the 90-foot paddle wheel riverboat before making off with the 55-inch flat-screen television, two 21-inch TV sets, the sound system and cash, authorities said.

“We only had about $200 in cash” on the boat, said Jimmy Kennedy, cruise director. “We kept it in the microwave in the kitchen. It appeared they might have tried to take the microwave, too, but it was bolted down.”

The thieves rendered the dining room unfit for use by soaking the carpet and chairs with a fire extinguisher.

But the boat still plowed the Tennessee River on Friday.

“We couldn’t serve out of (the dining room), but we were not going to let someone ruin our party,” said Tami Reist, director of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We cruised and ate out on the top deck.”

Kennedy said Pickwick’s operators do not keep security personnel onboard because the boat has no sleeping quarters.

“Police patrol the area frequently,” he said. “Tami told me she has spoken with the mayor (Don Stanford), and he vows to beef up security.”

Sgt. John Crouch, spokesman for the Decatur Police Department, said the intruders boarded the boat from the pier and went to the river side to gain entrance.

Windows broken

Kennedy said they broke a window in a door that leads to the dining room.

While Crouch could not say whether one or more persons were involved, Kennedy believes it took at least two people to lift the large-screen TV over the railing at the pier.

Erin Mooneyham, who works for The Casual Gourmet, a Decatur catering service, said she and fellow employees got the unpleasant surprise when they arrived at the boat Friday morning.

“We were about to load the food for the cruise when the cops stopped us,” she said. “Then we found out what happened, and they were still checking for evidence. But we only had to wait a few minutes to get the food out of the hot van and into the kitchen. Then we tried to help everybody with the cleanup. There was a blanket of white dust on every surface.”

Reist said Kennedy called her about 9:15 a.m. and told her what happened. She said Paul Floyd and his crew came from the Decatur Parks and Recreation Department to assist, placing chairs on the pier to dry out.

Pickwick Belle Capt. Mike Tyner said fortunately the perpetrators did not damage anything in the pilot house. “We were supposed to depart for the cruise at 11:30 and we were only about 10 minutes late,” he said. “We can’t thank the people of Decatur and the city officials enough for their help.”

On schedule

The Pickwick remained on schedule, pulling back into Ingalls Harbor at 1:30 p.m.

Kennedy said the crew completed its cruise last Sunday and went home to Savannah, Tenn.

“The boat was here all that time and no problems,” he said. “We returned Thursday and worked on the boat, cleaning it up. We left at 5 p.m. We discovered the problems when we arrived at 9 (Friday) morning.”

Hank Mabe of Decatur, who made his first trip on the boat, said the inconveniences didn’t bother him.

“They did a good job cleaning up,” he said. “We had a good time cruising and eating on top.”

Ann Eyster, 88, and her traveling companion, Jackie Harris, 44, both of Decatur, said they enjoyed the experience.

“I’ve ridden it before and loved it then, too,” Eyster said. Harris said she made her first trip but “would love to do it again.”

Larry Brewer accompanied his parents, Calvin and Lucy Brewer, all of Hartselle.

“This was our first trip,” Lucy Brewer said. “I hope they decide to make Decatur their home.”

There were 33 people onboard.

Kennedy said the boat can accommodate 72 people for dinner and 149 for sightseeing.

Cruising today

Cruises are on tap again today and Sunday. The Pickwick Belle will remain in Decatur through Sept. 10 as the company tries to determine if it wants to relocate here from Florence.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Civil War reenactment scheduled

by Nancy Glasscock staff writer at the Decatur Daily

A Civil War Re-enactment commemorating the four-day October 1864 Battle of Decatur will be Sept. 3-4 at Point Mallard Park.

The 14th Alabama Cavalry, the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry and Camp 580 Sons of Confederate Veterans will host the re-enactment from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The annual event tells the story of Decatur’s small, but significant role in the war. More than 200 re-enactors representing both North and South will transform Point Mallard Park into a weekend encampment complete with mock battles.

A Civil War camp featuring displays of authentic equipment, dress and drills is open to the public with maneuvers and battles taking place at 2 p.m.

Admission is free. For more information, call the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-524-6181 or 256-350-2028.

Burglars vandalize Pickwick Belle

By Ronnie Thomas staff writer at The Decatur Daily

One or more persons boarded the Pickwick Belle riverboat while it was docked at Ingalls Harbor overnight and burglarized and vandalized it, authorities said.

Sgt. John Crouch, a spokesman for the Decatur Police Department, said boat operators discovered the theft at 8:45 a.m. Friday.

“They entered the boat from the pier side and went over to the river side, where they broke out a window on an emergency exit,” Crouch said. “They stole about $23,000 worth of electronics, including flat-screen televisions and a sound system.

Crouch said the culprits discharged one or more fire extinguishers inside the boat.

Tami Reist, director of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, spoke to The Daily while cruising on the boat Friday.

“I got a call about 10 a.m.,” she said. “We called police and they came out and did an investigation. “But we weren’t going to let someone damper our spirits and ruin our party. We couldn’t serve out of the dining room because they sprayed the fire extinguisher all over the carpet. We’re cruising out on the top deck.”


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Civil War Reenactment

by Nancy Glasscock staff writer at The Decatur Daily.

A Civil War Reenactment commemorating the four-day October, 1864 battle in Decatur will be held Sept. 3-4 at Point Mallard Park.

The 14th Alabama Cavalry, the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry, and Camp 580 Sons of Confederate Veterans will host the Battle from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The annual event tells the story of Decatur’s small, but significant role in the War Between the States. More than 200 re-enactors representing both northern and southern forces will transform Point Mallard Park into a weekend encampment complete with mock battles.

A Civil War camp featuring displays of authentic equipment, dress and drills is open to the public with maneuvers and battles taking place at 2 p.m. The Union troops will win the day during one battle reenactment while the Confederates will capture the contested ground during the next day’s skirmish.

Other activities include a living history of daily camp life where spectators are encouraged to visit with soldiers, Civil War relic displays, drill and firing of mid-19th century muskets mounted cavalry patrols and Civil War related items for sale by sutlers. Everyone is invited to a ladies’ tea at 9:30 a.m. and to the Military Ball at 7 p.m. Both events are held on Saturday at The Chapel in Point Mallard Park.

The historical reenactment is held in honor of General Joe Wheeler and Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan, who both resided in North Alabama at some point during their military careers. The City of Decatur was an important transportation site for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War due to the Memphis and Charleston’s railroad bridge crossing the Tennessee River. During the 1864 battle at Decatur, Confederate General Hood attempted to break Union supply lines at the crucial railroad crossing at Decatur. He was not successful and had to cross the river at Florence. Decatur’s involvement in this campaign and the fierce four day battle caused General Hood to refer to the city as “a hard nut to crack.”

Admission is free. For more information on the Battle for Decatur reenactment, call the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-524-6181 or 256-350-2028.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'You Don't Know Dixie'

Calhoun professor to provide commentary on History Channel’s ‘You Don’t Know Dixie’
By Catherine Godbey
The Decatur Daily

An article written about George Washington Harris and YouTube videos landed Randy Cross his first nationally televised gig.

The History Channel’s “You Don’t Know Dixie” features interviews with Ty Pennington, Trace Adkins, James Carville, Jeff Foxworthy, Hershel Walker and the Calhoun Community College English professor. The two-hour special, described by producers as a “positive, celebratory and insightful program,” will debut tonight at 8 with a rebroadcast at midnight.

Producers interviewed Cross last month at the home of Glynn and Cathy Tubb. The all-day interview covered topics essential to the South and the region’s influence on the country.

“We talked about everything — Tabasco sauce, Bear Bryant, Alabama football, religion and inventions. I had no idea a Southerner invented refrigeration,” Cross said.

The special aims to answer questions such as “How did the South get its twang?” and “What exactly are grits?”

Country music legend Charlie Daniels will narrate the program, while Cross (who has not been privy to a sneak preview) will provide commentary between some of the segments.

The producers pursued Cross after reading an article he wrote about George Washington Harris. With a little Internet research, the History Channel discovered videos Cross’s wife posted on YouTube of him telling stories at the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts.

“They emailed me first about two or three months ago. I printed it off and took it home and asked my wife if she thought it was a hoax,” Cross said. “She told me not to send my bank card number to them.”

The English professor at Calhoun since 1982 and two-time Fulbright Scholar corresponded with the producers for three to four weeks prior to filming, which consisted of him sitting in a chair all day reading a script.

“One time I tried to get up and see what the shot looked like. But since I wasn’t sitting down, I could only see the chair. The chair looked good,” Cross said.

Cross plans to keep his debut performance low-key, watching the episode with his wife and son.

“It is easier when I get embarrassed to hide from my wife and son than from a whole roomful of people,” Cross said jokingly.

Along with teaching at Calhoun, Cross, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Tennessee Army National Guard, has published articles in American Literature, The South Atlantic Review and the Mark Twain Journal, and has delivered lectures on Southern literature.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Churning River City Waters

Rain doesn’t dampen spirits in Pickwick Belle Decatur debut
By Holly Hollman Staff Writer at The Decatur Daily

The Pickwick Belle’s paddle wheels churned the murky waters of the Tennessee River on Saturday as rain pelted its passengers on the top deck.

Capt. Michael Tyner maneuvered the authentic paddle wheel riverboat through Ingalls Harbor in Decatur and brought the vessel to rest by a gang plank.

Passengers of Pickwick Belle’s maiden Decatur voyage shouted, “Beautiful,” “Very nice,” and “We loved it,” as they ran from the gang plank to their cars in a hurry to dodge an evening rain shower.

“We enjoyed it even though it rained,” said Dave Bennett, of Madison, who took the summer sightseeing cruise with his wife, Karen. “We went under the train bridge, and they pointed out the Meow Mix plant. I didn’t even know that was there.”

The Pickwick Belle has docked for cruises in Florence and its home port of Pickwick, Tenn., since 2007.

It added Decatur to the schedule this year.

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau set up a tour in February in an attempt to lure the Belle and give the city an economic boost by drawing tourists.

Pickwick Belle’s Hospitality Director Jimmy Kennedy said the Decatur area has shown interest in the cruises. A reservation list indicated the cruises are drawing visitors from Morgan, Limestone, Lawrence and Madison counties.

Kennedy said Saturday’s “Jimmy Buffett Dinner Cruise” was sold out, so the staff has added another on Aug. 21.

That cruise includes dinner and music by a Buffett impersonator. An Elvis impersonator will be on board Aug. 20.

Kennedy said the slow moving riverboat gives passengers a chance to learn about the area because a tourism official points out interesting spots along the way.

“We only reach a maximum speed of 5 mph,” Kennedy said.

“You can see the beauty along the river. We go down toward Point Mallard and then turn and come back.”

The Pickwick Belle will be docked in Decatur through Sept. 10, and will offer lunch and dinner cruises, music, games and a Civil War-theme outing