Thursday, November 17, 2016

Very unusual fall by John Dersham

Our fall tourism was normal in numbers of visitors and the number of events held. Visitors came and they filled our hotels, campgrounds, B&B's and rental cabins. They will keep coming at least through Thanksgiving, but that is where the similarities end. When it comes to the environmental conditions things are very different than any year since I have been in tourism and for everyone I talk to, we have witnessed the hottest driest summer and fall on record. The southeast, including our area has been blanketed in smoke from thousands of wildfires throughout the region and a number of them in our area. The heat and the drought have devastated ponds, rivers, creeks and our waterfalls are 100% dry for the first time anyone seems to remember. Trees are dying and some will not come back out. The heat and the drought were too much and when spring comes some trees will not bud again. When I moved here I planted Hemlock and Spruce trees that are known to grow here in tree hardiness Zone 7 according the Arbor Day Foundation. In fact, there are a number of native stands of Hemlocks in North Alabama, but this year seems to have crossed the line. These trees are more typical in points a little further north and I fear trees like the Hemlocks, Blue Spruce and Norway Spruce along with woody plants like Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel will have a high death rate due to the excess heat and drought. I hope I am wrong. Overall, I feel climate change might move Zone 7 further north when climate calculations are revised.
Overall, we did not get many complaints from tourists disappointed that our fall color was not quite up to normal, but it was still good. Some were disappointed we had no waterfalls, but those came from people who lived outside the drought area that did not know how dry it was here. Those that live in our region kind of expected there would be very little water or none.

I hope the late fall and winter rains will come soon to restore our rivers and creeks and bring water to our ponds, trees and wildlife.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tourism this fall season by John Dersham

We have had a good fall season with a lot of visitors filling our parks, filling our lodging facilities, attending festivals and events and many fall foliage seekers. I typically, from the tourism point of view, consider our fall tourist season to start with Fort Payne Boom Days Heritage Celebration the third week of September and ending after Thanksgiving. These dates represent the span when we get the largest amount of visitors coming to our county to enjoy fall. Within that time frame are the primary things that attract our out of town visitors; Boom Days, DeKalb VFW Agricultural Fair, Mentone Colorfest and the primary one is not an event but the landscape and the weather. Our visitors come to enjoy our beautiful scenery during fall and our beautiful fall foliage. Visitors come because the weather is cooler and clearer and we usually have less rain in September and October but this year everything is different. The good news is the visitors are still coming for the same reason; the bad news is they are not getting our typical fall environment. Our record drought and record heat has left our rivers and waterfalls 100% dry for the first time anyone can remember. Fall foliage has gotten pretty nice now but overall is not up to normal. Trees near lakes or rivers that have water look good but when you look at the mountainside the colors are mostly shades of brown with a hint of red and yellow but not quite as vibrant as usual. The drought has caused many trees to shed their leaves early or they have just turned brown. Most of our visitors don't seem too surprised that they are not getting to see water in our waterfalls. Most live within the drought area and knew it would be dry here. Some people however from outside the drought area like from Louisiana, parts of Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky that did not have the severe drought are disappointed when they get to our major waterfall attractions and they are not flowing at all. We had a tour bus of 53 retirees from Birmingham a couple weeks ago. I served as the step on guide. They had a great time and loved our scenic beauty but when we visited DeSoto Falls and Little River Canyon they were more amazed by the dry riverbed and no water coming of the falls then they were by its inherent beauty. It became a topic of conversation and agreement about climate change and what is going on that in October it has been in the high 80’s and low 90’s all month. I had personal plans to take an updated picture of Little River Canyon this fall for advertising. The lack of water made me cancel that picture for this year. Can you imagine an advertising shot of Little River Canyon with a dried up river bed and no waterfalls?
Now that we are into the first week of November we are nearing the peak of fall foliage color and soon the leaves will fall and as we move toward Thanksgiving, by then most all signs of fall will be gone and our landscape will turn to winter. We have many visitors that come for Thanksgiving. They rent cabins or camp and have Thanksgiving with family that meets them here. It has become good tourism business for us. It also marks the end of our fall tourism season. After Thanksgiving everyone turns their focus to Christmas and winter weather sets in and people cozy up at home and our area gets quiet in the places that were full of tourists just a few weeks prior.
During the winter season we get visitors when Cloudmont Ski Resort is open and we get some winter visitors who like to hike and ride bikes or camp in the winter landscape and they like the cooler temperatures. For the most part our tourism season slowly begins again in middle and late March as school spring breaks come about and the first hints of spring dot the landscape with yellow Daffodils and grass that is beginning to turn green.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fun in November in Northeastern Alabama

Fun in November in Northeastern Alabama

Fort Payne, Ala. (October 27, 2016) – November is an inviting time to visit northeastern Alabama. Autumn’s colorful foliage, cooler temperatures and two free festivals set the stage for an exciting getaway for families. The annual Canyon Fest, set for the first Saturday in November, celebrates one of the state’s most popular attractions, Little River Canyon, and the Collinsville Historic Turkey Trot, which follows on the second Saturday, features a variety of family-friendly activities and its wildly popular turkey toss.

Art, science, nature and music come together Saturday, November 5, 2016, in celebration of the natural wonder of the Little River Canyon. Now in its eighth year, Canyon Fest offers a day of live music, nature, art activities, and fun for the entire family. Dozens of artists and exhibitors will be on hand offering demonstrations and selling their work.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and all activities are held at the Little River Canyon Center located at 4322 Little River Trail NE (472 Alabama Highway 35) in Fort Payne. There is no admission fee, but donations supporting the Little River Canyon Center will be accepted. For more information on Little River Canyon, visit 

The Collinsville Historic Turkey Trot is set for Saturday, November 12, 2016. The family-friendly event features live music, arts and crafts, a chili cook-off, a Moon Pie eating contest, petting zoo, carnival games, inflatables, pony rides and other activities for kids, and what makes this event truly unique is the turkey toss from the roof of a building in downtown Collinsville. Live music gets underway at 9 a.m. and scheduled to perform are Still Kickin’, Logan Graves, Rattlesnake Rattlers, Marc Womack, and The Underwoods.

New for this year’s event is the Turkey Trot 5K Challenge and Fun Run using beautiful Halls Gap as the route. Prizes will be awarded to the overall top three finishers and top three finishers in each age group and gender and will be presented inside of the Historic Cricket Theatre on Main Street. On-site registration and check-in will begin at 7 a.m. outside of the Collinsville Public Library. The Turkey Trot 5K Challenge will start at 9 a.m. and the Fun Run follows shortly thereafter.

Turkey Trot began in 1912 as a promotional scheme for the Oliver Hall Company, a large general store located in Collinsville. The highly advertised event brought people from the surrounding area to Collinsville where turkeys, guineas and chickens were released from a scaffold built on top of the Hall’s store. The waiting crowd scrambled to catch a bird that would end up on their Thanksgiving dinner table. The Birmingham News reported as many as 10,000 crowded the streets for the exciting day that included bargains in all businesses as well as the Oliver Hall Company. Today, turkeys are still released from the roof of a building to a waiting crowd but the turkeys tossed are Beanie Baby turkeys that the lucky person can trade in for a frozen bird. In addition to attracting visitors to Collinsville for a day of fun, the event has become a major fundraising activity for the restoration of the Cricket Theatre.

Sponsored in part by the Collinsville Historic Association, the Collinsville Historic Turkey Trot’s hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and admission is free. All activities are held in and around historic downtown Collinsville.

For more information on Canyon Fest and Turkey Trot or on additional things to do in northeastern Alabama, contact DeKalb Tourism at 888.805.4740 or visit  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fall Tourism Season is here by John Dersham

Mentone Colorfest, Fort Payne Heil Harvest Festival and Third Saturday Sunset Cruise In
I love this time of year. The days are sparkling clear, the air is cooler and the look of the harvest with all those lovely warm fall colors of pumpkin orange and shades of brown, yellow and red appear in the landscape. Halloween is nearing as it leads into Thanksgiving. School is on, it is football season and the mowing and weed eating and the tremendous heat of summer are ending for the year and family and friends are gathering more to enjoy the fellowship of the fall season.
It is also a very big season for tourism. Our visitors flock here from points south throughout south Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana , Georgia and Florida to come to the mountains and see some stellar fall color that they do not see where they live. We have some of our most enjoyable events of the year during fall season starting with Fort Payne Boom Days Heritage festival, the DeKalb County VFW Agricultural Fair in September and now this weekend Mentone Colorfest and Fort Payne 3rd Saturday Sunset Cruise In and Main Street Block Party, which will celebrate Oktoberfest this Saturday evening from 5-8. Be prepared to have your picture taken in some German garb, it will be fun. In addition we will have classic cars, music, food and retail shopping for this gala closeout of our best ever season of 3rd Saturday Cruise In events.
Heil Environmental will be hosting the 4th annual Harvest Festival on the Heil Campus Saturday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST. The event is open to the public and tickets can be purchased at the gate for $1.00 each. There will be a 5K Color run that begins at 9 a.m


Veterans, Police Officers, Firefighters, EMTs and Heil employees will receive double tickets with appropriate identification.

All proceeds from the event will benefit local charities.

In addition, Heil has been selected to host the NAM Manufacturing Day event in conjunction with the Fall Festival. The goal is to bring publicity and community interest to the manufacturing industry. We hope that you will join us in celebrating this huge honor!
It is also Mentone Colorfest weekend. This annual event is a favorite among our visitors who pick this weekend to come enjoy fall in our beautiful mountain village of Mentone.

Colorfest Schedule of Events
Brow Park Hours:
Saturday, 9am-5pm
Sunday, 11am-4pm

Friday, October 14
5pm Food Trucks By Mentone Market, MAPA (til 8pm)
5pm Chris Hale
6pm Bonfire and Concert by Will Dooley and Friends (til 9pm)
Saturday, October 15
10am Karaoke (til 4pm)
5pm Food Trucks by Mentone Market, MAPA (til 8pm) 5pm Terry Hutcheson
6pm Bonfire & Concert - Permagroove
(til 9pm)
Sunday, October 16
12pm Storytime - Debbie Happy Cohen
1pm Singer - Cathy
2pm Storytime - Kylie Laine Peterson, Mini-Miss Rhododendron
2:30pm Abby Schrader
Brow Park Stage
Saturday, October 15
10am Jess Barker
11am Larry Joe Hall
12pm Curtis Strange & Dr. Rob
1pm Daniel Hughes
2pm Lisa Crowe
3pm Amy Snider
4pm Katrina Barclay
Sunday, October 16
11am Trey Headrick
12pm Scarecrow Holler & Pumpkin Patch
Jubilee Winners Announced
12pm Dana Owens
1pm Jared Cushen
2pm Marc Womack
3pm David Lusk
Special Events
Boat Rides from DeSoto Falls
Friday, 1 til dusk
Saturday, 9am til dusk
Sunday, 11am-4pm
Scarecrow Holler at the Mentone Springs Hotel Site
Scavenger Hunt will be held all over town during festival hours. Game forms will be available at the MAPA/Info tent at Brow Park and must be returned to the MAPA/Info tent by 3pm on Sunday.
Children’s Fair - pony rides, balloon animals, games and more
Farmers Market  at the Mentone Inn Square

Thursday, October 6, 2016

First Annual Fiesta Cultural Latina by John Dersham

This Saturday, October 8th, we have our first ever community wide Latina Festival at the Fort Payne Rotary Pavilion from 5-9 P.M. You will be delighted with music, food, drinks and dancing, all with a Latina cultural flavor. This event is hosted by Fort Payne Main Street and will be for everyone in our community to come to and enjoy sharing this beautiful and enjoyable kid friendly celebration that brings the rich Latina culture to all of us here in DeKalb no matter our race or nationality. This event will bring us all together to see, enjoy and learn more about our Hispanic communities in Fort Payne and DeKalb County. The schedule for the event is as follows.
5:00-5:15 - 1st Dance Group Performs

5:15 - 5:40 - Gio Perez Solo Performance

5:50 - 6:05 - 2nd Dance Group Performs

6:15 - 6:35 - Acoustic Instrument with Multiple Performers

6:45 - 7 - 3rd Dance Group Performs

7:15 - 9 - Main Act

Drawings, Food, Fun, Park Access for the Kids, Beer-Wine-Tequila Mixers (Signature Drink: Margarita).As the Director of Tourism and as a board member of Fort Payne Main Street I am especially happy about this event. It will be another contribution to our growing list of downtown Fort Payne events that we offer. Wow! It excites me to think how wonderful downtown Fort Payne will be when all of our storefronts are filled and the windows are dressed and we have growing choices to shop and eat, drink and have a great time. The thing is we are already having a good time, so just think about having even more.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Boom Days Heritage Celebration and \3rd Saturday-it here!

Boom Days Heritage Celebration and \3rd Saturday-it here!

 Boom Days Heritage Celebration is a family-friendly event offering an incredible lineup of music, a children’s entertainment area, arts and crafts, exhibits and more. Now in its eleventh year, the annual event attracts music fans from across the southeastern United States. Along with headliner Atlanta Rhythm Section, the lineup includes over 30 bands on seven stages. This year’s event Friday night and all day Saturday from early till late. 

On Friday, September 16, a special kick-off event featuring Highway To Hell and Appetite For Destruction is set for the Main Stage from 5 to 10 p.m.

Covering five blocks in the downtown district, street performers will take to the streets as a variety of music flows from seven stages on Saturday, September 17. Early risers can enjoy a feast at the Kiwanis Pancake breakfast beginning at 7 a.m. (admission charged). The city’s downtown district will be closed to traffic from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Activities held throughout the day include our traditional 3rd Saturday vintage automobile cruise-in, cultural and historical exhibits on display at the Depot Museum and Hosiery Museum, a children’s activity area in Alabama Walking Park, and sidewalk sales from downtown merchants. The popular pet parade takes to the streets at 10 a.m., there will be a wine tasting in the Coal and Iron Building at 1 p.m. (admission charged) and dozens of skilled artisans including quilters, potters, painters, and workers in iron, wood, and glass will be demonstrating their talents in City Park.

Live music cranks up at 10 a.m. and thirty-seven bands on seven stages are lined up for this year’s event. All outdoor music is presented for free. Scheduled to perform (subject to change) are:

City Park Stage
10:00 a.m. Trade Day Troubadours
11:00 a.m. Will Dooley and the Tatum Brothers
12:00 p.m. Eric McKinney and Bent Creek
1:00 p.m. Grace Pettis
2:30 p.m. Judge Talford

Courtyard Stage
10:00 a.m. Michael Cooley
11:00 a.m.  Jared Cushen
12:00 p.m. Dana Owens
1:00 p.m. Billy Louvin
2:00 p.m. Chris Hale
3:00 p.m. Marc Womack

Rotary Pavilion Stage
10 a.m. Wolves of Chernobyl
 11:30 a.m. Jess Goggans Band with Ryan Chambliss
1:00 p.m. Permagroove
2:30 p.m. If Birds Could Fly

Rock the Block Stage
11:00 a.m. Prolific
12:30 p.m. Soul Karnival
2:00 p.m. 3 Times Driven
3:30 p.m. The Protest
5:00 p.m. Men and Mountains
6:30 p.m. Katrina Barclay
8:00 p.m. Headwires

Fort Payne Opera House
11:00 a.m. Underwood Sisters
11:15 a.m. The Underwoods
11:30 a.m. Simply for Jesus
11:45 a.m. The Williams Brothers
12:15 p.m. 5 for the Lord
2:00 p.m. The Church Sisters
3:00 p.m. A Tribute to the Louvin Brothers

DeKalb Theatre Stage
5:00 p.m. N 2 Christ
5:30 p.m. Soul Redeemers
6:15 p.m. The Spiritual Highlights
7:00 p.m. The Gospel Legends
8:00 p.m. Doc McKenzie and the Hi-Lites

Main Stage
4:00 p.m. Jacob Stiefel
6:00 p.m. The Kentucky Headhunters,
8:00 p.m. Atlanta Rhythm Section

The Atlanta Rhythm Section has been a part of the Southern Rock scene for more than 40 years. In 1977, “So In To You” became the band’s breakthrough single, reaching the U.S. Top 10, and the album from which it came, A Rock and Roll Alternative, went gold. Their platinum follow-up album, Champagne Jam, broke into the Top 10 in 1978, together with the blockbuster single “Imaginary Lover.”

During the late nineteenth century, Fort Payne experienced a huge coal and iron boom, and in the twentieth century, a boom in textile manufacturing led to the city’s one time claim of “Sock Capital of the World.” As a nod to its manufacturing heritage, the mountaintop town hosts the Boom Days Heritage Celebration. In 2015, it was named Event of the Year by the Alabama Tourism Department during the 2015 Alabama Tourism Awards.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Ider Mule Day - Labor Day Festival

Set for September 5, 2016 and now in its 30th year, Ider Mule Day is a one-day family-friendly festival in celebration of the town’s agricultural heritage and along with mules, tractors, and horses, there will be a parade, live music, a vintage baseball game and more.

Mule Day kicks off at 9:30 a.m. with a parade featuring mules, horses, carriages, antique tractors and wagons. At 10:30 a.m., the competitions get underway. The mule pull gets the action started followed by a draft horse show. A trail horse competition is slated for 11:30 a.m. Entry fee to compete is $10 for children 12 years old and under and $15 for adults. For more information, call 256.899.4011.

The daylong event also offers an antique engine and tractor display, blacksmith demonstrations, a car, truck and motorcycle show, arts and crafts, and a vintage baseball game will take the crowd back to 1860 when the rules to play by were a little different than today. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.

Live music gets underway at 11:30 a.m. A great entertainment line-up featuring Just One, Jordan’s Crossing, Shaunta Dalton, Consider the Ravens, Resource and Master of Ceremonies Ryan Watkins will keep festivalgoers on their feet and plenty of food vendors will keep everyone’s appetite satisfied.

Admission is $2 per person. All activities are held in and around Ider Town Park located off of Highway 75 at 183 Sweet Gum Road. Pets are not allowed inside of the park. For more information, visit 

My family and I try to go every year. Mule Day is one of our favorite family days together each year. We always get there in time for the parade that begins at 9:30 AM. This parade is filled with rural Americans finest visual attractions such as horseback riders, ponies, hay wagons, horse drawn carriages, mules, tractors, antique automobiles, elected officials, fire departments, police departments, local school marching  bands and all the other colorful things that are working their way to the park for a great day of wonderful family oriented events.
Our family loves the look and feel of rural America. I guess that is why we city folk moved to the top of Lookout Mountain on a farm. We love all the animals at Mule Day and the events that go with it like the Mule Pull and Draft Horse Pull. It is amazing to witness the strength and drive of these very large animals. There will be a big crowd at the horse arena cheering for their favorite horse and mule. As you walk around the park you will see people brushing and washing their horses, ponies and mules. There are competitions for each category. You can hitch a ride on a horse pulled carriage and enjoy a ride more similar to 100 years ago. For the kids there are pony rides, miniature train rides,  inflatable’s for jumping or getting lost in brightly colored plastic balls. This event has something for everyone in the family. You will find antique cars and tractors, arts and crafts, live music and food and drink all taking place in Ider City Park. This is an event you will not want to miss and it makes a fantastic way to spend your Labor Day holiday.