Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway by John Dersham

We have one of America’s most scenic drives right here in DeKalb County. The Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway is a state scenic byway and is in the beginning stages of becoming a National Scenic Byway. Lookout Mountain Parkway runs from Gadsden, Alabama to Chattanooga, Tennessee through the Northwest corner of Georgia. The parkway runs 103 miles from its beginning at Noccalula Falls in Gadsden to its terminus at Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. The mountain itself is 93 miles long but the parkway meanders for added scenic value to its travelers. Over the last several years Lookout Mountain Parkway has been honored by Readers Digest as one of America’s Most Scenic Drives and by National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s Driving Tours of Appalachia. Thirty seven miles of this beautiful drive are in our county giving our county the longest single portion of the drive.
Lookout Mountain Parkway is beautiful year-round with its host of scenic venues along the way including Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama then north through beautiful rural countryside up to Little River Canyon National Preserve. The scenic parkway includes an alternate drive along the rim of the canyon with multiple easily accessible overlooks that provide breath-taking views into the canyon. Little River Canyon National Preserve is host to many, many plant and animal species, some of which are native only to the canyon. Lookout Mountain Parkway runs through the portion of the eastern USA that is the transition geography between northern and southern plant and animal species and in this particular area many species of both northern and southern plants and animals thrive. After Little River Canyon you head north toward DeSoto State Park. From DeSoto State Park you will enjoy a seven mile wilderness drive to Mentone. Along the way you will see a short drive off the parkway to go visit the 104 foot DeSoto Falls. In Mentone you will find a host of cabins, B&B’s, restaurants and quaint artsy gift shops. Located in Mentone is the Mentone Springs Hotel built in 1884 which is now a B&B, it is the oldest hotel in Alabama still in operation. From Mentone follow the LMP signs that will lead you into Georgia and north along the eastern brow of Lookout Mountain. You will gradually work your way north toward Cloudland Canyon State Park, which is a short drop off the parkway. Cloudland Canyon is another marvel of Mother Nature that will make your Lookout Mountain Parkway trip well worth while. As you head toward Cloudland Canyon you will finish your trip back on the western brow of the mountain until you head down the mountain in Chattanooga. Along the western brow you will find Lookout Mountain Flight Park. It is the largest and most popular Hang Gliding resort and school in the US. Later along the drive you will pass Covenant College, known as the castle in the clouds from its prior days as a resort hotel. It can often be seen covered in fog when viewed from I-59 and I-24. Other things to see in as you head toward Tennessee are the famous Rock City located just before the Tennessee state line. Rock City is known for its view of seven states and for its incredible rock formations. As Lookout Mountain begins its decline down to Moccasin Bend on the Tennessee River you will find the quaint artsy town of Lookout Mountain Tennessee. Just off the parkway are Point Park Civil War Park and the famous incline railroad bringing you up or down from the foot of the mountain below. Finally there is Ruby Falls. This water fall is underground inside Lookout Cave. You ride in an elevator into the cave for this magnificent view of Ruby Falls. Lookout Mountain Parkway is the host to the southern portion of the very popular World’s Longest Yard Sale every August.
John Dersham Executive Director of the DeKalb County Tourist Association will serve as President of the Lookout Mountain Parkway Association in 2010.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

DeKalb County Has Two Great Arts Councils by John Dersham

Considering we are a relatively small county from a population point of view we are blessed with an inordinate amount of interest in the arts. We have two large arts councils in our county in the Big Will Arts Council and the Mentone Area Arts Council.

The Big Wills Arts Council (BWAC) is designated by the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) as a Local Arts Council (LAC) and has operated under the authority of the City of Fort Payne since the early 1990s. Since that time, the BWAC, under the directorship of Russell Gulley, has been noted as an exemplary rural arts program by the Southern Arts Federation (SAF), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the ASCA.

The mission of this 501 (C3) non-profit organization is:
To aid, encourage, advise, and to correlate all activities dedicated to the promotion of cultural arts in this area, to include, but not be limited to, increasing our youth's appreciation of the arts through education, preserving this area's contribution to the arts and humanities, and encouraging an on-going participation therein.

Today the organization’s primary focus is arts in education programming. Director Russell Gulley is one of the few teaching artists in Alabama that has been studying "Integrated Arts Curriculum" as sponsored by the Alabama Institute for Arts in Education (AIEA) and instructed by Karen Erickson, noted master teaching artist with the Kennedy Center in Washington. Russell is on the ASCA's Roster of Arts in Education Artists, has for two years (2007 and 2009) participated in the ASCA’s Alabama Rural Schools Touring Program presenting his “Intro: Folk Music, Blues and Tradition” residency and concert program, and is currently serving the Fort Payne City Schools as an Artist in Residence in Music in his 3rd year.

Russell has been involved in local community arts for over 2 decades and has served the state on grant review panels, as President of the Board of Directors for the Alabama Folk life Association (AFA), is a graduate of the AFA's "Alabama Community Scholars Institute" sponsored by the ASCA and the NEA, and is dedicated to preserving the state's cultural heritage. (Information and text provided by Russell Gulley.)

The Mentone Area Arts Council was established by a group of farsighted individuals in 2004 and was incorporated in 2006. It received its designation as a private, non-profit organization in 2007. Growing steadily from humble beginnings, the Council now has well over 100 members, from as far west as Fort Worth , Texas, as far north as Bethesda, Maryland, and as far south as Tampa, Florida.

The Arts Council plays a significant role to enrich the quality of life for people in Mentone and neighboring communities by raising funds for the arts, sponsoring events, providing educational opportunities, and strengthening cultural resources for the benefit of all businesses and citizens in the Mentone area. Our primary focus is on three areas, namely, our artists, the Lookout Mountain community, and providing educational opportunities for children in our local schools and adults as well.

Our artists are an overlooked, valuable part of the cultural makeup of the Mentone Area. In the 1920’s, people from all over the country were attracted by the clean air and mineral springs in the Mentone Area for health enrichment, rest and relaxation. For the same reason, artists settled in the area where mountain environs were conducive to creativity and innovation. Their skills have been passed down for generations and today, we have located over 250 fine artists in the area who are contributing to the cultural fabric of the community and its economy on a daily basis. (Information and Text provided by Neal Whitt.)

This Christmas buy local and buy some of your gifts from our very talented artisans in DeKalb County.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lookout Mountain Photography Club

Mentone Area Arts Council to Form Lookout Mountain Photography Club
With John Alexander Dersham
A new club for photography buffs is forming. The Lookout Mountain Photograpy Club is to be an informal group, sponsored by the Mentone Area Arts Council, with the specific purpose of bringing together people who have an interest in photography and to promote fellowship, fun, education and knowledge of photography. It is for all skill levels and the goal of the club is to encourage members to develop their photographic skills and to provide a venue for members to learn, share and display their photography, in their endeavor to become better photographers. To this end, the club will conduct programs, competitions, seminars, workshops and field trips. The club will also be a good neighbor to the community and wherever possible, engage photography in the community.

You Are Invited To Attend The Organizational Meeting
of the Lookout Mountain Photography Club

The organizational meeting of the Lookout Mountain Photography Club will be led by John Alexander Dersham. John was a career executive with Kodak prior to becoming the Executive Director of the DeKalb County Tourist Association. His photographs are prominently displayed throughout the corporate offices of Kodak around the country. His works are also displayed in a number of galleries in North Alabama. He recently participated in the highly acclaimed, Alabama Waterways, A Photographic Celebration, photography exhibit in Mentone.

When: 6:30 PM, Friday, December 11, 2009

Where: The Mentone Inn
Highway 117
Mentone, Alabama

For additional information, contact John Dersham at

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Collinsville Historic Turkey Trot was a Hit!

November 14th was the Annual Collinsville Historic Turkey Trot. The Cherokee Ani-Yun-Wiya Nation shared a piece of their heritage beautifully in song, dance and drumming. The weather was perfect for their historic “turkey toss” from the roof of the newly restored library. The festival was very well attended by those listening to local musicians, tasting great southern food, enjoying the tractor show and participating in such games as the “greased pig chase” and “money in the hay”, great for all ages! They also introduced a new event this year called “Poker Run”.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don’t Say there is Nothing to do in DeKalb County by John Dersham

Sometimes I hear people say there is nothing to do in our area. They must have blinders on. Every week 52 weeks a year there is more than any one person could attend. If you doubt this please view the DeKalb County Tourist Association website, and click on our calendar of events. You will be amazed at the fun things we have to do.
This last weekend was Canyon Fest at Little River Canyon National Preserve and The Battle of Missionary Ridge at Sequoyah Caverns and Ellis Homestead, just to name two. It was the perfect fall weekend, with some fall color still abounding and both days were clear, sunny and warm. The two events I am talking about were fantastic and both were extremely well attended. Roy Jones of Sequoyah Caverns said 1,400 people were present for their two day event re-enacting the Civil War Battle of Missionary Ridge. The property at Sequoyah Caverns and Ellis Homestead is tucked at the foot of Sand Mountain and Little Wills Ridge. It is a large, extremely scenic acreage and a perfect location for this event. Civil War re-enactments are much more than the battle itself. It is a view of life of that era. Present at the re-enactment are artists and craftsmen making Civil War era goods. They are all dressed in the period. There is period music, food, a tin type photographer and a Ball on Saturday night. The Battle of Missionary Ridge is held each November and is a must see if you have not been yet. If you have not visited Sequoyah Caverns and Ellis Homestead, or have not visited lately it is well worth going. The spectacular property and beautiful cave with its famous reflecting pools and formations makes for a great outing. For more information visit or call 256-635-0024.
On Saturday Canyon Fest was held at JSU’s Canyon Center at Little River Canyon National Preserve. There were more than 1,000 people at this beautiful day full of arts, crafts, music, food, games, rock climbing, a dog agility demonstration and much more. We are very blessed in DeKalb County to have a lot to see and do and even more so when you figure in the scenic aspects of our events and the beautiful drive to get there.

We have had an outstanding fall tourist season here. There have been a lot of people in town since middle October. People from all over the country have stopping in our information center. We find the majority of our visitors this time of year are from points south that come here because of our outstanding fall color in comparison to where they live.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

10 Ways to Sing in the Rain on Lookout Mountain in Alabama by Sarah Wilcox from Moutain Laurel Inn

1. Relax while listening to the wonderful sound of the rain through either an open window as you nap or sleep for the night or in a rocker on a porch found at a store, restaurant, cabin or bed and breakfast.
2. Investigate the many historic buildings and stories on Lookout Mountain starting in Mentone with St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, Mentone Springs Hotel, Hitching Post and the White Elephant galleries. Historic buildings abound in Fort Payne with Sallie Howard’s Memorial Chapel, the Depot Museum, the Old Mill Antiques and DeKalb Theater.
3. Shop until you drop. Go bargain hunting at Dixie Salvage in Fort Payne, Akins Furniture in Dogtown or Upscale Resale in Valley Head. Discover unique shops in Mentone’s Log cabin village, downtown Fort Payne or atop Sand Mountain. Experience artists working in their own studios and galleries such as Orbix Hot Glass in Lickskillet and Miracle Pottery in Valley Head.
4. Explore Sequoyah Caverns where the weather forecast is always 60 degrees, no rain and cool (oh so cool reflection pools and passageways). Learn the history of Ellis Homestead and feed the animals.
5. Release the artist from within. Perfect opportunity for unique photography, for painting on the porch, for writing poetry or for playing a song on the instrument of your choice at any of the variety of lodging in the area.
6. View all the waterfalls in the area that will love the rain: High falls in Geraldine, Desoto Falls in Mentone, and Little River falls in Fort Payne to name a few.
7. Treasures abound. Perfect opportunity to find one of the 258 geocaches in the area and not be discovered in your journeys. See to get going. If you are clever, bury your own cache to add to the website.
8. Excite your taste buds. Go on a scavenger hunt to discover which restaurant in the area has the best appetizer and the most decadent dessert. It will be a hard choice as the area has great “hole in the wall” type restaurants with grandma’s buttermilk pie to fine dining with crab cakes and homemade sauce.
9. Refresh and renew. What a great excuse for finding the time to truly relax and enjoy a good book, watch a movie or have a great conversation. Many businesses in the area such as a restaurant, hotel, cabin or bed and breakfast provide the perfect atmosphere for physical, mental and emotional refreshment.
10. Start singing with good rain gear and the right spirit to enjoy all the great hikes and views in the area such as DeKalb County Public Lake, Little River Canyon and DeSoto State Park. Unless you are the wicked witch of the west, you won’t melt.

DeKalb County on Lookout Mountain in Alabama is open and inspiring during sun, rain, sleet or snow so come enjoy today. For more details see or call 1-888-805-4740

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Look What is Happening on Lookout Mountain Alabama

Looking for something to do this weekend? Visit Lookout Mountain Alabama and see the beautiful fall foliage as well as the many activities to keep you busy!

Check out all of these Holiday Open Houses going on November 7th & 8th:
Eddie's Florist is host to more than 75 beautifully decorated Christmas trees, each with a different theme. Ornaments ranging from whimsical, cartoons to retro, Victorian to collegiate - there is truly something for everyone in the tastefully decorated Christmas Wonderland! Open Saturday from 8am to 5pm and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm. Located on Sand Mountain at 9112 AL Hwy 40 in Henagar. 256-657-3841

Myrtle Jane's Antiques is home to unique furniture, gifts, and a selection of architectural items to beautifully decorate your home or cabin. Come by and visit Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm. 256-845-4830

The Wishing Well has a beautiful assortment of home decor, including tableware sets, fine china, wall art, and of course Holiday decorations. They also carry children & women's clothing and accessories. Stop by & visit on Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. 256-845-7355

Little River Canyon is hosting Canyon Fest this Saturday, November 8th from 10 am to 3pm. Come enjoy live music, nature & arts activities, arts demonstrations & sales, great food, children's activities & fun at this festival designed to celebrate our natural world and to benefit the children of our community. For more information call 256-782-5697.

Take a scenic moped tour on Lookout Mountain and let your guide lead you on a breathtaking ride that will make several stops such as scenic overlooks, tourist shops, antique stores, nature walks, a cafe for lunch, water falls, and art galleries. Gas is included. Saturday, November 8th from 10am to 4pm. For more information call 256-997-9577.

The Battle of Missionary Ridge will be taking place at Sequoyah Caverns & Ellis Homestead this weekend, November 7th & 8th. This event features A Sutler’s Village, live re-enactments with artillery and Civil War cannons, Civil War-era food, and much more. 800-843-5098

Try your hand in a Paperweight Class at Orbix Hot Glass. Feel the heat, gather from the furnace, sculpt the glass into your own design. It is ultimately about the experience, some experimentation and a couple nice paperweights to take home or to the office to show your friends. Class size at the largest will be five students so everyone has adequate time at the bench working. There will be material provided before the class for you to review and become familiar with concerning safety and basic glassblowing vocabulary. November 7th from 5pm to 9pm. 256-523-3188

Take a guided Archaeology Tour of Cherokee and DeKalb Counties on Saturday, November 7th. Join JSU archaeologist Dr. Harry Holstein for a guided tour of sites throughout Cherokee and DeKalb counties. Participants will visit the 19th century Cornwall Iron Furnace, a Spanish contact site at Coosa village, a rock shelter in use as early as 3000 B.C., and much more. Bring your own food and drinks. Pre-registration is required. November 7th from 9am to 3pm. (Ages 14 and over). For more information call 256-782-5697.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tourism Fiscal Year Results by John Dersham

Despite tough economic times tourism in DeKalb County maintained results well above national averages. The key to our success in tough times is our location and low cost to visit. We are blessed with a great amount of natural beauty and the venues to support tourism. We have 11 million people within a 200 mile radius of us and a good interstate system to get people here. We have become a regional favorite for tourists seeking a relaxing scenic get-a-way where parks, attractions, lodging, restaurants and shopping is all readily available at costs well under the national average. Our top states for DeKalb County tourism are Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia. We also get many visitors from Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana whom love our mountains and lakes and we are not too far for two or three day vacation. This year there has been a strong nationwide trend toward shorter travel distances and a lower expenditure per person. We are ideally suited for these trends. Lodgings income reports for the year show tourists are continuing to visit our area in substantial numbers. The area adversely affected is a loss in lodging year to date due to fewer corporate travelers on the road. This is fueled by a high un-employment rate and a trend toward companies cutting travel budgets and using electronic communications in place of face to face visitation.
This spring when the calendar year results are released we think tourist’s revenues for the state will be down especially in the areas of retail and restaurant spending. Our overall income from tourism should come in well above the national average in DeKalb County and in the state. Alabama is an upcoming state in the area of tourism. Unlike Florida, New York, Vegas etc, we are still developing our markets and should have solid long term growth for years to come in DeKalb County and in our entire state.
I am including a press release from the state concerning Alabama’s fiscal year results.
Alabama’s hospitality industry fares much better than rest of nation
Alabama's hospitality industry fared much better than the national average during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the Alabama Department of Revenue says. Because of the recession, spending in the state dipped approximately 7 percent while the national average was down 14 percent. Tourism Director Lee Sentell said the department reduced spending by 12 percent in anticipation of the national slowdown in travel. "The Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area had a good summer and we anticipate travel to pick up in 2010," he said.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

54th Annual VFW DeKalb County Agricultural Fair by John Dersham

Our fair is another example of the close fellowship we enjoy here in ....DeKalb.. ..County..... The fair exemplifies of a whole lot of people volunteering their time, working together with civic organizations, agricultural organizations, art and cultural clubs, local businesses and schools to produce one of the finest county fairs you will see anywhere in our region. Year after year our VFW fair is a big success. It is the effort of so many people representing various entities in our county that make it so successful, including the efforts of the fair staff and committees headed up by VFW Fair Chairman Charles Stephens. The difference in our fair, compared to other counties in our region has nothing to do with the midway and the carnival portion , but instead, the well organized, highly attended locally produced venues.

We treat our fair just like most everything else we do here in ....DeKalb.. ..County..... We get involved and we participate. If you question this go to any local football game on Friday night and further more go to an away game and see how many are there from our home towns. We are exactly how we Americans like to define ourselves. We support the efforts of our communities in the area of schools, law enforcement, political offices, volunteer agencies, churches, local civic organizations and clubs. We support fighting for our freedom and for our way of life. When there is a disaster we are out in force to help.

Today in this crazy world where everything seems to be changing minute by minute it is nice to live and work in a community that has transcended these changes and kept its identity even in a world of high tech, population shifts and population diversity. We still seem like the good old ..USA.. and for that I am proud to call ....DeKalb.. ..County.... my home.

Now is a time we are being tested. Now is a time we must come together and hold up our values and our heritage of living and working in the best country in the world. It is up to each of us to uphold the values of which we have lived our entire lives. Maybe it is time we stop complaining about losing anything and instead put all our effort toward becoming what we want to be, as an individual and as a country. We can speak out about the injustices we see and we can also take action. One action is to tell companies choosing to make their products in other countries that we will do without their products, until they are made here again. It is a small step but all steps are small. My wife and I check every label to see where a product is made, if it is not made in the ....USA.... we will try to find a similar product, that is. I know this will not work on all items but it will work on many. If we all do this, maybe the message to corporate ....America.... will resound with more authority. We obviously expect other countries to make things too but what we don’t expect is our American companies with an office in the US and expecting us to buy their products that keep officer paychecks coming… at the same time offer no employment to their own people. Also, maybe we should let Wall Street know it’s not ok to hoard the profits at the cost of US citizens. The list goes on and the element most honored in our county is what will ultimately make a positive difference. These things are honestly, integrity, moral values, determination, invention, persistence and community spirit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

All in a Day’s Drive-Fall Foliage Package for Holiday Inn Express

Take a scenic drive that showcases the beauty of Lookout Mountain all adorned in its beautiful array of fall colors. As an afternoon scenic drive beckons you along the Lookout Mountain Parkway, through Desoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve and across Sand Mountain to DeKalb County Public Fishing Lake, High Falls Park and Buck's Pocket State Park, enjoy the brilliant colors from sugar maples, scarlet oaks, hickories, red maples, and sweetgums. Accommodations are provided by the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fort Payne and will include a full hot breakfast, snacks and bottled water, and dinner for two at Golden Rule in Fort Payne (two entrees and drinks).
Packages start at $ 139.99 (for a standard room) Code IJHD1- Call (256) 997-1020 for reservations or visit our website at Blackout dates apply.

News Flash! Sequoyah Caverns #1 on Trip Advisor

As everyone knows social media is one of the biggest things going right now in promoting tourism.
We are very excited to announce that Sequoyah Caverns is currently the #1 ranked attraction out of 245 in the state of Alabama on Trip Advisor.
Consumers rank their experiences at attractions, lodging restaurants and other tourist related venues. Each location will have an average score based on all the input they have received. Travelers rank their experiences 1-5. There are requirements for number of inputs in order to have fair averages.

Congratulations to Roy Jones and all the people at Sequoyah Caverns in Valley Head-DeKalb County Alabama for holding the number one position.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Great New Agri-Tourism Attraction is Coming to DeKalb County by John Dersham

Two weeks ago I attended the ground breaking of the new Agri-Center of Rainsville. The ground breaking was well attended. Reports said there were more than 200 people present for the event. The Agri-Center has been in the planning stages for eight years. Carey Baker (Chairman of the Agri-Center Board) and the Agri-Center board members have been diligent planners for this complex. They have all worked very hard together with the community to get the funding required to have a state of the art facility that will be a first class facility and the very best Agri-Center in our region.
The Agri-Center is slated to be open by November of next year, with a projected economic impact of $8mil the first operating year and the potential of doubling the second year. Carey and the Board are intending to hire a professional facility manager with experience in booking major events at large facilities. The search for this professional will begin soon. This facility will function as a regional Agri-Center and will draw attendees from all over Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi, with some events reaching further.
The Agri-Center of Rainsville is a 43 acre development consisting of a 17,000 square foot Community Affairs building, a 71,300 square foot arena seating 3,800 for performance events with additional seating to 5,400 for concerts. There will be 208 covered stalls with all the amenities, a 25,000 sq. ft. warm up pavilion, a picnic area, a two acre lake with a fountain and a RV campground. The arena is heated and cooled and will be equipped with high versatility lighting and electrical needs to accommodate the most sophisticated concert or arena event.
Some of the events the Agri-Center will be seeking are as follows; concerts, trade shows, motocross, ATV, horse shows, tractor and truck pulls, monster truck shows, bull shows, Rodeo’s, circus, Television tapings, dog shows, flower shows and the list is endless. The arena floor is 150’ by 250’ with a 40’ high ceiling. The seating capacity and arena size enable this facility to host an extremely large range of major events.
The DeKalb County Tourist Association is looking forward to the Agri-Center becoming a major tourist draw to DeKalb County.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ider Mule Day John Dersham

Every Labor Day for more then 100 years Ider has held Mule Days. In the early years Mule Day was a time for farmers to come to show off their mules and to buy, sell trade and barter their animals. Much of DeKalb County’s rich agricultural past is anchored in the hard work and labor of a mule or a team of mules.
Ider Mule Days is now a very successful highly visited festival in celebration of Ider and Sand Mountains rich agricultural traditions. Every year I and family go to Mule Day. We love it. Mule Day is a delightful mix of traditional Agricultural related events like, horse, mule, donkey and miniature horse shows and competitions, horse and mule pulls, a tractor show and carriage rides. Mule Day is still a day to buy, sell, trade and barter your animals. In addition to the traditional aspects of Ider Mule Day there is an antique and collector car show, arts and crafts, food and music, kiddie games and rides, including pony rides.
Mule Day begins every Labor Day with a grand parade which brings in the animals and owners into the Ider City Park. The parade begins with local fire and police vehicles, the Ider marching band, area elected officials, local civic organizations, antique cars, horse and mule drawn carriages and individual riders of horses, mules , kids on miniature horses and even Uncle Sam was there in his classic horse drawn carriage.
Ider Mule Day is a very well attended that is well planned and is always a pleasure for people of all ages. Mule Day was wonderful this year, the weather was perfect and there were plenty of events and things to do that fill the entire day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Big Things are Happening in Fort Payne and Fyffe by John Dersham

This weekend is the opening of our highly anticipated Smithsonian Exhibit called New Harmonies. New Harmonies will be held at Richard C. Hunt Reception Hall from Saturday August 29 through Saturday September 19, with it’s conclusion in conjunction with our Boom Days Heritage Celebration. Admission is free.

The DeKalb County Tourist Association is running a series of television commercials about New Harmonies and Boom Days. They will run on Comcast’s entire cable network throughout North Alabama and Southern Tennessee. The commercial will be aired 386 times on the following channels; CNN, Fox News, the Travel Channel, Discovery, TNT, USA, The Golf Channel and Animal Planet. In addition we will have a 10 minute infomercial on Comcast’s long play channel. These commercials will begin on September 3 and air through September 19. Our objective is to bring an increased number of out of town guests to New Harmonies and to Boom Days. We are promoting these events in a way that will encourage tourists to spend several days with us to see the sights of our area including New Harmonies and Boom Days. Our strategy is to grow our attendance at our festivals and at the same time grow sales to area attractions, accommodations, retail and to restaurants.

New Harmonies is a wonderful exhibit. I drove down to Chatom Alabama a few weeks ago to photograph the exhibit in order to make our commercial. New Harmonies is a must see for all of us. It is a celebration of American’s musical roots including an exhibit of DeKalb County’s rich musical heritage and culture. To enhance the total offerings of New Harmonies and Boom Days there will be a series of musical events and concerts nearly every day from this Saturday through the end of Boom Days on Saturday September 19.

A tremendous amount of planning and strategizing has gone into making New Harmonies and Boom Days an unbelievably wonderful and rewarding three weeks of music, education and fun for the whole family. Russell Gulley (Big Wills Arts Council) and Collins Kirby (Boom Days Heritage Celebration) and their committees have done a wonderful job at filling the schedule with quality events and at the same time bringing a real sense of community spirit and volunteerism that will help make this a wonderful three weeks in our community and in our county.

A brochure with all the dates and events for New Harmonies and Boom Days is available at the DeKalb County Tourist Association 845-3957 or the Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce 845-3957. A majority of these events are FREE to the public.

Fyffe UFO Days is this Friday and Saturday. This event was spawned from international media coverage pertaining to hundreds of reported UFO sightings in Fyffe in earl y 1989. There will be fun for the whole family beginning Friday morning with the lift off of hot air balloons. The event will have live music both days with Billy Joe Royal as the featured performer on Saturday night at 8pm. Additional events will include a civil war reenactment, a tractor show, The 501st Legion Star Wars Storm Troopers costumers and lots of street vendors for gifts and food. For more information call the DeKalb County Tourist Association at 845-3957.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Great Community Spirit by John Dersham

There are many things that contribute to making Fort Payne a very special city. We are a city of wonderful community spirit and unity. I have found the people of our town work together with a wonderful sense of caring about each other and share a genuine concern for our town, and our county. This can easily be seen in the multitude of civic and social organizations that thrive in Fort Payne. Considering our relatively small size we have unusually well developed long term community organizations that have been in existence for many years. In my position as Director of Tourism I have had the opportunity to be the guest speaker from time to time at our local organizations. I always come away from these meetings so very impressed with the sincere effort each of these organizations and their individual members make toward the humanities. I also find this community spirit to exist in our city and county government and in this newspaper. It is a blessing to work with city and county leaders who are focused on maintaining and improving the quality of life for everyone. I have found a genuine concern for our citizens is the norm in our community and not the exception. Every where I go I find people are guided by strong deeply rooted religious, moral and ethical values. The presence of these things has become the foundation of our outstanding quality of life. We are blessed with the happiest friendliest people you will find anywhere. This fine attitude emanates from our rich religious and cultural background. For those of you who are new to our area or are not familiar, here are a few of our local organizations of which you may want to inquire; The Rotary Club, The Lions Club, The Kiwanis Club, The Master Gardeners, Fort Payne Garden Club, The Culture Club, Landmarks (history), Big Wills Arts Council, Mentone Area Arts Council, Altrusa International, DeKalb County Amateur Radio Club, DeKalb County Council of the Alabama Homemakers and Community Leaders Club and Duos and Solos Square Dancing. Many of our other DeKalb County towns have excellent civic organizations and clubs. For more information about these or others you can call the DeKalb County Tourist Association at 845-3957.

More Community Spirit:

The DeKalb County Tourist Association has been honored by receiving a beautiful landscaping job by Lee Buffington at Turf Tamer and a host of volunteers and donors whom provided this beautiful new look under a community project called Project Green Shape. Many, many thanks to all involved. I also want to thank the Master Gardeners and the DeKalb County Commission for our gardens and the maintenance of our property.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

“I Drove, I Stopped, I Shopped Till I Dropped” by John Dersham

World’s Longest Yard Sale

America’s most scenic shopping mall begins its 23rd annual event Thursday, August 6th and runs through Sunday, August 9th. This year the yard sale covers 654 miles from Gadsden, Alabama to West Unity, Ohio.
The World’s Longest Yard Sale has become more than a place to shop for that special item you could not find anywhere else…it has become an annual vacation for thousands of people who flock to various parts of the yard sale. They shop, they visit state and national parks, they camp, they stay in hotels/motels, B&B’s or cabins. They visit attractions along the way, they eat and buy gas. All of these things add tax revenue to our local economy. This year we expect more than 30,000 visitors will participate in DeKalb County. Governor Bob Riley has named the yard sale one of Alabama’s top ten events. HGTV runs an annual TV show about the WLYS and Jay Leno included a clip on The Tonight Show.
During our economic downturn more people are using this event as a vacation. They are taking an extra day or two before or after the yard sale to see the sights. During our recession second hand merchandise has been the only retail category showing substantial growth.
The DeKalb County Tourist Association receives more requests for information pertaining to the WLYS than any other event held in our county each year. Everyday, all year long we get phone calls and internet inquires from people nationwide and from all over the world requesting information. In addition to the requests for information coming directly to us through our marketing, we are linked to the official WLYS website and get many requests for information via that source.
Our portion of the yard sale is very, very popular due to our total travel experience. People wanting to make this a scenic get-a-way love our area. The DeKalb County portion of the yard sales runs across Lookout Mountain (Scenic) Parkway. The Lookout Mountain Parkway has received national recognition in National Geographic Traveler and Reader’s Digest Magazines as one of America’s best scenic byways. We have Little River Canyon National Preserve, DeSoto State Park and falls, the city of Fort Payne and Mentone as places to visit; tourists can spend the night and eat without getting far from the parkway. Many tourists tell us they enjoy our area the most because we offer great value. Our prices for accommodations and food are under the national average and we are an easy drive for more than 11 million people living within a 200 mile radius of DeKalb County. DeKalb County offers a great mix of attractions and things to do along the way.
If you have not participated in this event I encourage you to get out and enjoy yourself. You will find food vendors, restaurants and portable toilets along the way all to help make your search for treasures more comfortable.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bucks Pocket State Park by John Dersham

Bucks Pocket State Park is a narrow gorge cut into Sand Mountain on the western edge of DeKalb County. South Sauty Creek has gradually carved out this beautiful heavily forested area with high bluffs and scenic views. Bucks Pocket is and upstream tributary of Lake Guntersville.
Nobody today seems quite sure of how Bucks Pocket got its name. Folklore legend ranges from renegade Cherokee Indians living nearby trapped a buck deer on a high rock ledge. The deer decided to take leap off the ledge into the deep rock pocket below, thus creating the name Bucks Pocket. A second version of the name is said to come from a farmer named Buck who once owned the land now in the park. He would build fences and ran cattle across the canyon. People would come by and ask his wife where Mr. Buck was and she would tell them he was in his pocket. Other folklore claims the park was once a battleground for buck deer that roamed the area by the hundreds. Another story tells of unsuccessful candidates for public office would go lick their wounds at this location after an unsuccessful run for office. No body knows for sure how Bucks Pocket got its name but in makes for an interesting conversation.
Bucks Pocket State Park is a beautifully secluded wonder of nature considered a natural pocket of the Appalachian Mountain chain. It is a 2,000 acre nature lover’s paradise. The parks picnic area offers a canyon rim vista into the pocket below. Bucks Pocket State Park offers fishing, camping, hiking and a picnic area with a playground. The campground hosts 36 sites. If you have not yet invested in an RV the campground can rent one to you. The campground is complete with tables, grills, shelters, laundry, bathrooms, showers and a playground.
One of the really great hikes at Bucks Pocket is the Point Rock Trail. The trail runs from the park office along Little Sauty Creek up the canyon to Point Rock. Another hiking trail is the Primitive Trail which begins in the Privative Campground and follows South Sauty Creek until it flows in Lake Guntersville. This trail is and easy walk along an old road. This trail is good for a larger group or horseback riders.
Fishing is available in the park. There is a boat launch and fishing area at Morgan’s Cove on Lake Guntersville, just downstream from Bucks Pocket.
For those of us living on the eastern side of DeKalb County, Bucks Pocket provides a nice little vacation without spending much on gas or drive times to get there. Take your tent or RV, your fishing rod, hiking shoes, a picnic lunch and your camera and go have a great day or two in a quiet place that seems a million miles away, but is close to home. For more information call 1-800-ALA-PARK or visit

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Piece of Paradise by John Dersham

DeKalb County Alabama is a piece of paradise in the Northeast corner of Alabama. Here you will find beautiful and famous Lookout Mountain and Sand Mountain. Between the two mountains is Wills Valley. DeKalb County is a county full of scenic wonders and peaceful serene views. On Lookout Mountain you will find The Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway and along its way you will find Little River Canyon National Preserve the second deepest canyon east of the Mississippi River. When you travel north on the parkway you will see DeSoto Falls (104 feet) and DeSoto State Park. The scenic parkway winds through the woodlands with trees overhanging the road; here you will see log cabins (some for rent) and fabulous fall color. Soon you will come to the quaint mountain village of Mentone. Here you will find the oldest hotel in the state of Alabama. It is called the Mentone Springs Hotel built in 1884 and is now a beautiful B&B with a fabulous restaurant called Caldwell’s named after the hotel founder.
Once you have left Mentone you can come back down Lookout Mountain to the small scenic village of Valley Head. Valley Head has a backdrop of Lookout Mountain. Head south in Wills Valley and you come to Fort Payne. Fort Payne is a beautiful small town that is home to the singing group Alabama. Fort Payne has a historic past. In the late 1880’s business men from Boston came here thinking they would mine Coal and Iron Ore from Lookout Mountain. They came here in high numbers with a lot of wealth. They built an Opera House (still here) and beautiful New England style homes and downtown buildings, many of which are still standing. The Fort Payne Boom Days were short lived however as the Iron and Coal company failed to find much Iron or Coal. In Fort Payne you will find the Depot Museum which is housed in the beautifully restored Fort Payne train depot. Before you leave Fort Payne and you can visit the group Alabama Museum and gift shop.
If you are in the area on any Saturday, 52 weeks a year, you can visit Trade Days in Collinsville. This is one of the largest weekly flea markets you will find anywhere.
Now let’s go up to Sand Mountain. Sand Mountain is a beautiful rural mountain with wonderful small towns and is well know for Agriculture. On Sand Mountain you will find the towns of Rainsville, Fyffe, Henagar, Sylvania (home to DeKalb County Fishing Lake) and Ider. Each of these towns is fun to mill around and shop in. When you go to the western part of Sand Mountain you can visit High Falls Park and Buck’s Pocket State Park. High Falls is one of the most impressive water falls you will see anywhere.
A trip to DeKalb County is a great way to spend a week or of a few days. You will love the relaxing environment and our wonderfully naturally friendly people. Come see us and enjoy!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summertime Tourism by John Dersham

We are currently at the peak of our annual travel season here in DeKalb County. This year we have suffered some of the consequences of our nation’s economic downturn, but not nearly as much as the national numbers for tourism. There are several reasons for this. DeKalb County is a drive to destination with an audience of 11 million people within 200 miles. This makes us an easy two or three day vacation. We are blessed with an interstate system that is easily accessible from most every direction. Over half of our tourist visitors are from Alabama and many of them are from Birmingham and south Alabama where we are viewed as a beautiful quiet mountainous departure from the flatter terrain to the south and from the bigger noisier cities. The same is true from some of our other large markets, which are, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. In a time of a suffering economy, high job losses and more expensive costs of living our fairly close drive to destination fits the bill.
Alabama is a young upcoming state in the area of tourism. We are just getting a good foothold in nationwide and international tourism. Places like Orlando and Florida in general have the opposite problem of being mature travel destinations. This makes it very difficult to achieve growth, especially in a down economy. Orlando tourism is down 40% right now while DeKalb County and the State of Alabama are lest then minus 10% year to date.
Much of our success in tourism is because of you our Tourist Association members who are making your living in the tourism industry. You have done a great job at developing businesses to be consistent with the type of leisure tourism we attract. Tourism entities in DeKalb County have done a great job at developing businesses that fit comfortably into our environment and culture. This is why our tourists come here so often. We have a very high tourist return rate.
Everyday at the tourist association we hear how beautiful, well laid out and relaxing our area is. We often hear people say they are coming here for the same reason they used to go to Gatlinburg, but now, Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is so overdeveloped that it is no longer a comfortable relaxing vacation. Our goal at the Tourist Association is to develop growth in tourism without destroying the very elements that made us a great destination to begin with.
If you have ideas and thoughts about the above subject or any others and you are willing to share we would love to hear from you. Please email us your thoughts, ideas, concerns, success stories and other comments. Email

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 4th of July by John Dersham

Here are some ideas about things to do this weekend in our area:
DeSoto State Park and DeSoto Falls- Picnics, swimming pool, hiking, water falls, park store and playground. More information call 256-845-0051.
Little River Canyon National Preserve - Picnics, Swimming holes, hiking, water falls. Scenic overlooks on the Canyon Rim scenic drive. More information call 256-845-9605
Bucks Pocket State Park - Camping, picnics, hiking, boating and fishing. More info call 256-659-2000.
High Falls Park - Picnics, swimming holes, water falls, playground, hiking trails and walking bridge over Town Creek near the falls. More information call 256-623-2281.
Sequoyah Caverns - Fantastic cave. Known for reflecting pools and beautiful formations, camping, store.
Tigers for Tomorrow. Take a trip to Untamed Mountain, exotic animal park. Here you will be up close and personal with over 40 big cats, wolves and bears in the carnivore compound. Children can interact with barn yard animals at the personal contact yard. Call for hours of operation. 256-524-4150
Alabama Fan Club and Museum. Gift shop and museum. Museum houses awards, achievements and memorabilia of country music’s historic super group, Alabama. More information call 256-845-1646.
Collinsville Trade Day - Saturday morning only. Experience historic Collinsville’s weekly Trade Day. Considered one of the south’s largest outdoor markets. Purchase boiled peanuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, farm animals, pets, antiques, tools, knives, coins, household collectables, toys and much more. Located south of Collinsville on H-11. Come early.
Shady Grove Dude Ranch. Guided hourly horse trail rides. Bunk in the “Roundup” or one of the rustic cabins. More info call 256-634-4344.
True Adventure Sports. Your enthusiastic guides to outdoor activities on Lookout Mountain and Fort Payne, including rock climbing, rappelling, camping, canoeing, kayaking. Call for schedules and costs 256-997-9577.
Golf at Saddle Rock Golf Course. Part of Cloudmont this golf course is open seven days a week. Pretty scenery and some fun challenges for the armature or professional. More information call 256-634-4344.

Current events this holiday weekend:
Thursday July 2
Independence Day Celebration in Fort Payne. Enjoy Fireworks, free hot dogs, soft drinks and American flags. Music by Eclipse. Festivities are at the Fort Payne High School football stadium. More information call 256-845-1524.
Saturday July 4
25th annual Sand Mountain Potato Festival in Henagar. Come see agricultural products, including potatoes. Celebrate our heritage with live music, arts and crafts, entertainment, games and fireworks. Events begins at 10:00am and culminates with a beautiful fireworks display. More information call 256-657-6282.
Saturday July 4
Independence Day Celebration at Sequoyah Caverns. Fireworks and bluegrass music will fill your soul with joy! Come out for a good time at Sequoyah Caverns & Ellis Homestead. 800-843-5098
Saturday July 4
Rock Climbing Adventure with True Adventure Sports. Nestled in the NE corner of Alabama are some of the best and unique sandstone cliffs in the country. Come experience first-hand what rock climbing is all about with guides who are fun, safe and energetic. This trip includes all the gear plus basic instruction. No prior climbing experience is needed. Meet at True Adventure Sports. $34 per person. 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. 256-997-9577
Saturday July 4
Low Country Boil at The Mentone Springs Hotel. We pride ourselves with an array of fresh shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes. This is our most popular dining experience at the hotel. Call ahead for reservations, seating is limited. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 256-634-4040
Saturday July 4 & Sunday July 5
Invitational Art Show at the Mentone Springs Hotel. Several local and invited artist will be displaying their arts at our chapel. The chapel is located one block from the Hotel. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 256-634-4040
Saturday July 4 & Sunday July 5
Overnight Camping Skills Class with True Adventure Sports. Most needed camping skills are brought to you as well as advanced skills such as how to find dry fuels, how to build a fire without smoke, how to start a fire without matches or flint, lean to construction, and safety barriers. Contact True Adventure Sports to see what gear you need to bring. $15 per person 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. 256-997-9577
Sunday July 5
Rappelling Adventure with True Adventure. Come experience the thrill of rappelling down the sheer sandstone gems of NE Alabama. No previous experience necessary. Each trip includes all the gear plus basic instruction. $37 per person 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 256-997-9577

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tourist Association Is Working For You by John Dersham

Our new sign is up and working and our digital display is back in business. Our new sign is more colorful and includes a phone number and website address. Our digital marquee is higher on the pole and easier to read from more directions.
We appreciate all the support we receive from the Times Journal and from the city of Fort Payne and from DeKalb County. Tourism is an important income provider to our cities and our county. We are very fortunate at the tourist association to have leaders whom fully understand tourisms important role.
For those of you unsure of how a tourist association works I wanted to tell you about ourselves.
In 1954 a bill passed that provided a lodging tax to support promoting tourism in Alabama. Many other states operate the same way. The bulk of our income is from this lodgings tax and from our annual membership fees.
Our job is to promote tourism statewide, regionally, nationwide and worldwide to get people to plan a vacation in our county. Here are some of the ways we promote. We run Television commercials, radio ads, newspaper and magazine ads, we attend travel shows where we pass out travel guides and provide information about our destination which includes information about our members. We have a website which includes all the information available about our county, things to do, places to go and where to eat. We circulate travel brochures all around our region. These are displayed in travel racks throughout the southeast. We distribute brochures and other printed media to callers on the phone and ones who order information from our website. If you are a member of our association then your brochures and website information is distributed at our information center in Fort Payne. We pass out your flyers, we advertise your business on our digital marquee and we include you in our advertising and brochure distribution. We make sure visitors to our area know who you are and what business you are in.
Thanks again to all of you for supporting tourism in DeKalb County. If you are interested in membership please contact us at 256-845-3957 or email us at

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Movin’ on up in Valley Head, Alabama! By Kayla Worthey

This past week I decided to get out and visit some very unique places in Valley Head. My first stop was at the Upscale Resale & Gift Shoppe in Valley Head. This is a consignment store of really nice pre-owned clothing, belts, shoes, hats, purses, wallets, jewelry, books, and VHS & DVD movies. You will also find many brand new items including BeeBop & Maggiez flip flops, Reverse-a-purses, and local artist’s handcrafted jewelry and art. The shop is owned by Dianna Carden and has recently been upgraded from her original shop which consisted of about 700 square feet to a newly renovated shop just around the corner of about 5,000 square feet. Much needed space for the quickly expanding shop. Dianna has done a fantastic job of decorating, using beautiful colors and designs and very artistic arrangements of complete outfits for every taste. Since I am 7 months pregnant, I wasn’t really able to purchase any clothing, but I can tell you that I will be back once I have packed my maternity clothes away! I saw some really cute brand name clothing and many of them still with tags! I did however, become the proud owner of a few pair of flip flops, a purse, and a locally handcrafted bookmark. While I am more than pleased with my ever-so-comfy Maggiez interchangeable flip flops, I can’t seem to stop thinking about those other items that I wish I would have bought…I think I may go back this week. Upscale Resale & Gift Shoppe is located at 62 Winston Street on the square in Valley Head. They are open Wednesday thru Friday from 10am to 5pm and Saturday from 10am to 2pm.

My second stop was at Miracle Pottery and Art Gallery where they opened their new showroom this past weekend and let me tell you, it is fabulous! It is owned by Valinda Miracle and she has some of the most amazing pieces of functional and decorative pottery I have ever seen. I honestly believe that she has thought of everything when it comes to pottery creations. Some of my favorite pieces include the salt crock, butter bell, egg scrambler and the bacon cooker. She also has a variety of coffee mugs, baking dishes & serving dishes, complete custom dinnerware sets made to order, mugleys & jugleys, birdhouses, piggy banks, oil lamps, honey pots, apple bakers, business card holders, napkin holders, canvas oil paintings, art prints & much much more! All of their pottery is made with stoneware or porcelain clay and is food safe, dishwasher friendly, oven and microwave proof. I am proud to say that I now own quite a few pieces of this exceptional pottery. Valinda too has made some expansions for her business. Just 3 years ago, she was selling her art from her tiny front porch. As business grew, she moved into a building behind her house and not long after doubled the size of the showroom and redecorated. Now, they decided that time had come to once again expand and she did so in a brand new beautifully designed showroom right next door. She plans to continue to use the old showroom to expand her workspace and also host workshops. She actually has 2 workshops planned for this month for kids! Thanks to a grant from ASCA, the cost is only $3 for children and that includes the 2 day workshop, snacks and self-hardening clay! June 17 & 18 she will be at JSU’s Little River Canyon Center and June 24 & 25 at her shop in Valley Head. The morning workshops are from 10:00-11:45am for ages 6-10 and the afternoon workshops are from 12:00-1:45pm for ages 11-16. Miracle Pottery and Art Gallery is located at 7871 AL Hwy. 117 at the foot of Lookout Mountain and is open 7 days a week.

Next time you are in town or even near town (totally worth the drive!), be sure to stop by and visit these ladies. I am sure you will be happy you did!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alabama Department of Tourism, Mentone and B&B’s by John Dersham

We are very fortunate in Alabama to be an up and coming state in the area of tourism. When you think about tourism you often think about Orlando, Las Vegas, New York, Gatlinburg, New Orleans and the list goes on. People outside of Alabama have not traditionally thought of Alabama as a tourist state, until recent years. Tourism has become big business for our state. It is an enormous income generator and it produces jobs. Much of our success in recent years can be attributed to our State Director of Tourism, Lee Sentell and the Alabama Department of Tourism. Lee is a career tourism professional who was appointed by Governor Bob Riley in his first term. Lee has brought a lot to Alabama tourism through extensive advertising and by creating themed tourism related venues like “The Year of Alabama Food”, “The Year of Alabama Arts”, “The Year of Alabama Sports”, and now “The Year of Alabama History” and next year “The Year of Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns”. We have the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the Birding Trails and a newly developed Wine Trail. All of these themed programs encourage tourism through a host of nationwide and worldwide adverting. They include extensive television and print ads including books and travel guides. Lee Sentell and the state Department of Tourism have won national recognition for their marketing and advertising plans. They have received top honors from various nationwide marketing organizations in the tourism industry. Lee loves DeKalb County and in an article published recently in the Birmingham News Lee was discussing tourism in Alabama and he mentioned that one of our true tourist gems in Alabama are the Bed and Breakfast Inns, in and around Mentone and the Lookout Mountain area.
Here is a little history…Mentone is a quaint mountain village on top of Lookout Mountain at an elevation of almost 2,000 feet. Mentone was founded by John Mason of New York City, who as a young man joined the U.S. Calvary and served a tour of duty in the Mid-West. In 1870, Mason moved his family to Mentone in hopes the pure mountain air would restore his ailing health. He lived until age 92. In 1884 Dr. Frank Caldwell from Pennsylvania whom was an associate of John Mason came to the yet unnamed Mentone destination because of the healing spring he heard about from Mason. Mason’s daughter Alice told of a news article she read talking about Queen Victoria having visited a place in France called Mentone. The article stated Mentone meant “Musical Spring”. Alice requested Dr Frank Caldwell, who was building a resort hotel at the healing springs, to name it Mentone Springs, thus the name Mentone. The Mentone Springs Hotel is the oldest hotel still standing in the state of Alabama. It is now a Bed and Breakfast Inn and has a restaurant called Caldwell’s in honor of Dr. Frank Caldwell. Other B&B’s in the Mentone area are Mountain Laurel Inn (recently featured on Alabama Public Television), Crystal Lake Lodge, Raven Haven, The Mentone Inn, The Antebellum Winston Place (c.1831 mansion) and The Secret. All of these locations offer there own special ambiance. They offer great breakfasts, scenic surroundings and wonderful hospitality from Inn Keepers who know the stories of the area and can give you all the information about where to go and what to do.
Alabama is still in its youth when it comes to tourism. This means we have many years of growth, of which, to look forward. DeKalb County and the Lookout Mountain area have always been tourist destinations dating back to our historical beginnings. With that said we are still unknown to many people inside our state and lesser known to those outside of our state. Everyday at our Tourist Information Center here in Fort Payne we hear our visitors tell us how beautiful our area is. They often seem surprised because they did not realize we had the mountains and the water falls and State Parks and the National Preserve with that beautiful deep canyon.
Thank you, Lee Sentell and the Alabama Department of Travel and Tourism for helping spread the word about our little niche of paradise.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We are the lucky ones! by John Dersham

It took me a long time to make it to DeKalb County Alabama to live. I came here by way of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Missouri, Mississippi then Birmingham and finally DeKalb County. It took me more then 50 years to find the place I never want to leave. Some of you may wonder why I feel this way. If you have lived here all your life (you lucky ones) you may not view it from the perspective of having lived other places to form my comparison. Since I don’t have space here to write a book about this subject I’ll keep it to a few reminders of how wonderful living here is.
Last week I went to our county courthouse to get my drivers license renewed. I was greeted at the front door by a couple gentlemen working the security checks. They were friendly and courteous and laughed at the junk I took out of my pockets to pass through security. They directed me to the location of the driver’s license renewal and upon entering that location I was greeted by a very nice and highly professional lady whom took all my information. If you want to understand how this simple process functions as a comment on the quality of life in our area then go to Philadelphia or Birmingham and do the same thing. When you come out two hours later beaten and abused and having stood in line for hours then you will understand.
We are blessed to live in an area where people are extremely friendly and helpful by nature. They are not stressed out by years of battling the system of living and working in high traffic, long lines, high costs and among people too busy and stressed out to be friendly.
Here in DeKalb County we have a low comparative cost of living. Housing is affordable, property taxes are generally low. We have great churches, plenty of shopping and eating locations and abundance of natural beauty and wide open spaces. We have great attractions to enjoy like Sequoyah Caverns, DeSoto State Park and Falls, Little River Canyon National Preserve and Canyon Center, Bucks Pocket State Park, High Falls Park, DeKalb County Lake, Fort Payne Depot Museum, Alabama Fan Club and Museum. We have seven annual festivals in our county and a host of quaint towns to visit and shop in. There is no better place anywhere to sight see than on our back roads. We are blessed with an abundance of Flora and Fauna and are proud to host both northern and southern species of both. If on occasion you get that itch to shop at a large Mall or eat at a restaurant we don’t have then you are only an hour or a little more to all of that you want in Chattanooga, Birmingham, Huntsville, Rome or Gadsden.
The next time you are out and about in our fine county, think about what I have said and enjoy yourself and feel blessed, as I do, to live here.