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 info@tourdekalb.com

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.