Thursday, December 30, 2010

A White Christmas by John Dersham

Wow! Wasn’t this the picture perfect White Christmas in DeKalb County? The last time we had snow on Christmas day was in 1989 and the last measurable one was 1969 (I have been told). Snow actually occurring on Christmas day is not very common in the southeast. I was not able to find out how many white Christmas’s we have had in Fort Payne but I was able to find out about Nashville TN and Atlanta GA. Nashville has only had a white Christmas three times in 100 years and Atlanta had it’s first White Christmas in 186 years.
Our snow here was a pretty one and great for making snowmen. We had all of our family with us arriving on Christmas Eve and staying through our Christmas snow. We played outside, built a snowman and enjoyed the beautiful scene out our front window. Our two granddaughters, ages nine and two, enjoyed it a lot.

Speaking of winter in DeKalb County, here are a few outdoor things to do this winter. Take your camera and capture our beautiful winter scenery.

Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort

It has been a good season for skiing at Cloudmont this year. If you have not been please come up and visit. Cloudmont offers two 1000’ beginner-intermediate slopes. Enjoy two “pony lifts” to take you to the top of the slopes. The slopes have an elevation of 1,800’ and a vertical rise of 150 feet.
If you have never skied, don’t worry. Personalized instruction is given to skiers of all ages. Group or private lessons are available. Cloudmont has skis, boots and poles available for rent in the Ski Lodge.
Please call before you come to verify skiing conditions. Cloudmont is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6-10 p.m. Call to check conditions at 256-634-4344 or go to

Water Falls and Hiking

Now is a great time of the year to hike or tour our water falls. There is plenty of water to really enjoy the scenery of our rivers and water falls. If you don’t mind the cooler temperatures it is a great time to hike and enjoy our beautiful woodlands without the canopy of leaves. We have plenty of hiking available at Little River Canyon National Preserve, DeSoto State Park, Bucks Pocket State Park and High Falls Park. We have wonderful water falls at Little River Canyon, DeSoto Falls and High Falls Park.

For more information on places to go and things to do, contact us at the Tourist Association at 256-845-3957 or visit us at

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kodachrome film, digital Photography and Photo tips for Christmas by John Dersham

“Kodachrome, it gives you those nice bright colors”…from the hit song written and recorded by Paul Simon in 1975. It is the only hit song ever about a film.
Kodachrome was invented by Leopold Gadowsky and Leopold Mannes, two American musicians working for Kodak in 1935. Their invention brought color photography to the amateur picture taker for the first time. Kodachrome also became the film of professionals. All those famous old National Geographic pictures were taken on Kodachrome. Kodachrome is 75 years old this year. Kodak stopped making Kodachrome about a year ago and on December 30, 2010, Kodachrome will officially die. The only lab left in the world processing Kodachrome (Dwayne’s Photo-Parsons, Kansas) will discontinue this very unusual and difficult process called K-14. Kodachrome film is archivally stable and images from its early years still look as they did when they were made.
Just how good is Kodachrome? Kodachrome 35mm equals a digital camera that shoots 40 mp. There are only a few professional digital cameras that resolve that high. The real difference in Kodachrome is the color pallet. It has wonderful skin tones and a broader range of tone, color and contrast than is available on any digital media.

Tips for Christmas pictures: Most digital cameras have very good low light sensors. This means you can take pictures in your living room in low light. Unless your room has a lot of window light, I recommend you use your camera flash. It helps fill in shadows and people will look better. Try to shoot close to your subject so you do not have too much in your scene that is not part of your subject. To shoot nice portraits use window light. Place your subject near a window and look at their faces to make sure shadows do not fall in the wrong places. Hold your camera level and still. Use your camera viewfinder to compose, if it has one. If you are shooting at night and want a good Christmas tree picture and you want it to look like it is night, then turn off your flash and sit the camera on a tripod or other stable hard surface to keep it from shaking during exposure. You should not hand hold a camera with a shutter speed of less the 1/30 of a second. Set your ISO on your camera to at least 800 to 2000 for nighttime interior scenes. Remember to switch it back to 200-400 when outside. Take time to compose your pictures before you shoot them. This will help you have more interesting compositions. Remember, the purpose of photography is to record history. Once you snap the picture it becomes history. Careful consideration of composition will give you pictures that you will what to look at over and over. Download your pictures often and file them with a description as well as the date. Back up your pictures to a CD or another off line backup system. You do not want to loose your valuable memories the next time your computer crashes. I suggest you have the pictures you like best printed on photographic paper at a lab, like Walgreens or Wal-Mart. Photographic paper will last 100 years or more, as long as they are not hanging in direct daylight. For more detailed information on taking good holiday pictures you can Google “photo tips” and you will find a lot of quality picture taking information.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

American Trails Symposium by John Dersham

Last week I attended the 20th bi-annual American Trails Symposium. This year it was held in Chattanooga. There were 600 hundred attendees from all across the US and Canada. Chattanooga was chosen this year, much in part, due to its progressive implementation of various types of trail systems throughout the city and on Lookout Mountain, Raccoon and Signal Mountains. Chattanooga in conjunction with its Parks and Recreation Department has been aggressively pursuing various forms of alternative transportation for residents and tourists, including an electric bus system that runs through downtown. If you have been to the Chattanooga riverfront area lately you will see the great walking and bike trails along the Tennessee River. You will also find the historic Walnut Street Bridge (1890) that was saved from the wrecking ball by volunteer groups whom raised money to restore it to a fantastic walking bridge across the Tennessee River. This bridge leads you to the great parks, shopping and entertainment on the west side of the river. On the east side is downtown Chattanooga and The Aquarium, The Hunter Museum and all the river attractions, food, shopping and entertainment. Chattanooga is currently in the process of developing a rental bicycle system for downtown and electric car recharge stations. These are progressive systems of which there are only a few already in operation in the US. All of this helped capture the City of Chattanooga this very exciting and very lucrative conference at the Marriott/Chattanooga Civic Center.

Many of the attendees of this conference work for our National Park System, National Forest Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Land Management.. There were many people representing private environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy, etc. There were educators, Parks and Recreation and tourism people there. Everyone was interested in learning the process of planning, developing and executing the construction and maintenance of a trail or trail system. The conference began on Sunday and concluded on Wednesday. There were multiple classes being held at the same time. Each attendee selected the classes that best fit their needs at the time. I choose the seminars that dealt with the development and marketing of trail systems that would have a tourism faction to them. In these times of concern about our overweight population and lack of exercise, outdoor exercise and entertainment has become an increased area of focus in the United States. I represented North Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association which includes our northern 16 counties of which DeKalb is a part of. As you may have seen Alabama Mountain Lakes has a fall promotion called “Go Take a Hike” which is intended to help get people out on trails and get some exercise and enjoy all the beauty of North Alabama. It is of interest to tourism to encourage tourists to make part of their travel plans, hiking. In DeKalb County we are blessed with many trails of which can be used to help market the total tourist experience in DeKalb County. There is currently a Lookout Mountain Trail being developed that will begin in the new Moccasin Bend National Historic Park in Chattanooga and go all the way to Gadsden on Lookout Mountain. It will take about seven years to complete.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fall in DeKalb County by John Dersham

Fall in DeKalb County

There are a lot of people visiting our county this fall. Our visitor numbers have been very good despite less than great fall color. From mid October thru mid November each year DeKalb County is full of people making there fall foliage journeys to our area. There are a number of reasons we are the destination of choice for people on there fall pilgrimages. We are a short drive for a weekend trip for 11 million people living in a 200 mile radius. We are the nearest mountains for people coming from the coastal areas and we are the first area coming north that has outstanding fall color. We have a good interstate system to get tourists here. We are a relatively low cost destination. We have the kind of lodging choices that are popular for leisure weekend get-a-ways. We have wooded rental cabins in the mountains, B&B’s, beautiful campgrounds and plenty of hotel rooms. We have good roads that don’t have a lot of traffic. This makes the fall scenic drives more relaxing. Our tourist customer picks us for these reasons. We are not crowed like Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge but we have the beautiful fall foliage, great fall temperatures, good places to eat and shop and plenty to see and do. Our Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway which is listed in Readers Digest’s top scenic American drives is always a popular choice for auto and motorcycle visitors. Once on the parkway tourists can take the Canyon Rim Drive at Little River Canyon. They can visit Little River Falls then drive the scenic parkway north to DeSoto State Park and Falls. After that Mentone is a sure choice for their fall foliage pilgrimage.
One of the great things about our area is our growing diversity of things to do. Every year we are adding more destinations for tourists to visit. This year we added the fantastic new N.E. Agri-Business Center in Rainsville. They are booking events very quickly and are an all new source of tourism for us. We have always been a leisure tourism county but now with the Agri Center we are an events based tourism county too. This weekend it is the Tri State Arenacross, motorcycle and ATV event. The event features professional freestyle riders. The events are on Friday and Saturday at the Agri Center.
Also on Saturday is our annual Turkey Trot Festival in Collinsville. This is a great fall event full of fun activities including music, food, kid’s games, the famous greased pig chase and Turkey Toss. There is much more too. It is held in the center of downtown Collinsville.
For more information about these events and more things to do in DeKalb County this weekend visit us at or call us at 256-845-3957. You can visit our information center at 1503 Glenn Blvd S.W. (H-35) in Fort Payne.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Made in the U.S.A. by John Dersham

Made in the U.S.A.

I attended a tourism conference last week in Oxford Mississippi. One of the topics was entitled “Extraordinary Results in Ordinary Communities” by Vaughn Grisham. He is currently the Director of the McLean Institute for Community Development and he is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Mississippi. His lecture was about developing tourism in extremely small rural towns. In his discussion he talked about the ever changing culture in our country and in the world. He gave some interesting statistics about our cultural shifts that I want to share with you. In 1800, 95% of the U.S. population was farmers and it was pretty much the same worldwide. 100% of the population lived in cities smaller than 50,000. This was because in 1800 there were no cities of 50,000 people. New York City was the largest city (still is) and New York City and all its boroughs were only 30,000 in population. Then came the industrial revolution and by 1959 nearly 50% of our population worked in manufacturing jobs of some type and 75 % of our population lived in cities. Now 15% work in manufacturing and more than 90% of our population lives in cities (including suburbs). The largest segment of our population now works in service related industries, food, retail, medical, information management, IT support and the largest of all industries in the US is tourism. Tourism brings the most dollars into local economies and employees the most people of any other industry in the U.S. Here is the good news for us. Tourism is 100% made in the U.S.A. and cannot be exported…ever. Tourists visiting DeKalb County every year provide my job and my staff’s, all the hotel/motel jobs, State and National Parks, attractions, museum’s, etc. Even a portion of the jobs at restaurants and mini markets are there due to tourism. These jobs cannot be exported. Last year 67 million dollars were spent by tourists visiting DeKalb County. This money brought in badly needed tax revenue and provides 171,000 jobs in Alabama, 29,000 jobs in North Alabama and nearly 1,500 jobs just in DeKalb County. Tourism is a Green Industry. It does not pollute the environment and the crime rate among tourists while on vacation is lower than local crime rates nationwide. It requires no local funding for schools, trash collection or other city services. The money coming in from tourism helps support our city and county governments so they get more money to support us that live here. In a time when our country is in dire need of jobs and income we are blessed to have tourism that remains strong and is growing. This year federal tourism programs hope to attract more international business than ever before. This will help bring more international income to the US economy.
Yeah Tourism!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tourism Hierarchy by John Dersham

The DeKalb County Tourist Association is one of sixteen counties that comprise North Alabama. All sixteen counties are included in Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. We at the DeKalb County Tourist Association focus our efforts on bringing travelers to DeKalb County. Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association concentrates on bringing people to all of North Alabama and the State Department of Tourism and travel markets the entire state of Alabama. In addition we belong to the Southeast Tourism Society which works with 12 southeastern states marketing travel to the southeast. Then lastly there is the US Department of Travel and Tourism which promotes travel nationwide and internationally. All of these entities focus on getting people traveling and showing them where to go and what to do. We all tell our potential customers about the highlights of our areas, the key tourism draws and we inform them about lodging, food, shopping, attractions, museums and festivals etc.
Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association is an extremely valuable tool to all of us in the tourism industry in North Alabama. Since they are a larger size than any of the individual counties they have more buying power with magazines, newspapers and other forms of advertising, in turn, they offer co-op advertising to their members, giving us the opportunity to buy advertising at lower prices. They have an extensive brochure rack system spread all across North Alabama of which we as members get to have our brochures delivered across the region. AMLA communicates our press releases and other information on their extensive communication network. They include our things to do and see on their website. They offer educational seminars to members and they play a major role in helping tourism related issues be heard by city, county, and state elected officials. AMLA attends major travel shows in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Columbus, Nashville, Chattanooga and New Orleans all of which members may attend also to promote their businesses. I attend several of these each year to promote DeKalb County. The show is free to us as a member when we help work the show, so all we pay is travel expenses. AMLA is a top performing organization headed by Dana Lee Jennings. She is an extremely dynamic individual with a skilled team of tourism professionals whom help all of us improve tourism results in North Alabama. This is one of the reasons tourism is a shining star in a tough economy. North Alabama consistently outperforms the economy and outperforms tourism in other parts of our state. Next week AMLA will have a press conference to introduce one of its quarterly advertising plans. This one is called “Go Take a Hike” which focuses on the promotion of hiking in North Alabama. For more information about North Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association visit

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fairs, Festivals and Tourism in DeKalb by John Dersham

Fairs, Festivals and Tourism in DeKalb

This week is the 55th annual DeKalb County VFW Agricultural Fair. This is an extremely well attended event each year in DeKalb County, and rightfully so. This fair is not your ordinary county fair thanks to a lot of hard work from Charles Stephens (Fair Chairman) and all the volunteers and members of the local VFW Post. The thing that separates our fair from other county fairs is the abundance of true leadership from volunteers and local clubs whom are well organized. These organizations provide us great exhibits like; the flower show, bakery show, vegetable show and canned products show. Then there is the 4-H club and all of its animal entries, demonstrations, competitions, all of which add animals to the visitor’s plethora of things to do and see at the fair. If you are an artist then you can enter and show your art or photography. There is a tractor show and on Friday and Saturday nights there is live music. All of this is in addition to the great midway games, food and rides.

The next big event after the Fair (not counting the fact Football is a weekly big event) is the Colorfest in Mentone on October 16-17. This festival is one of our local favorites bringing many local people to it, but it also attracts many out of towners who plan their fall trips here based on this wonderful weekend of fun activities. This same weekend we have the 1st Annual Alabama Thunder Bikers Festival and Concert in Dogtown. There will be live music from Adam Tomlin Band, Jonathon Alverson & The Hillbilly Circus Band, Cool Hand Luke and more. Tickets for the three day event are $30.00. It will be located at North South Cycles- 665 County Rd 251 off Jennings Rd.

DeKalb Tourism summer review:
This was a good summer for DeKalb Tourism. We started the summer with radio advertising all across the gulf during the oil spill. Our ad did not mention the disaster but was an invitation to come spend some time with us in the mountains and valleys of DeKalb County. We talked about our scenic attributes, our places to stay and things to do and see. Year to date we are up compared to last year by 10%. This is a great contribution to our local economy in a time when the economy continues to struggle. Tourism is a clean industry that brings in tax revenue without the built in cost of supporting a full time resident. In talking to other tourism organizations our growth is well above average for the year. Additional advertising included TV ads on 33/40 in Birmingham and on Comcast in North AL and TN. We continue to use some newspaper and magazine ads in addition to our heavy use of the internet and social media sites. Our new fiscal year begins in October and we will have the added advantage of having the new N.E Agri Center events added into our portfolio of offerings here in DeKalb County.
For more information on events in DeKalb County contact the DeKalb County Tourist Association at 256-845-3957 or view us at

Friday, September 17, 2010

All New Tourism for DeKalb County

On Sunday my wife and I went to the ribbon cutting ceremony at the all new Northeast Agri Business Center in Rainsville. This facility is something we can all be very proud of and promises to be the beginning of some all new entertainment for us, but will also provide an all new source of tourism to the county and a new source of revenue for our cities and towns.
In looking at the history of tourism in DeKalb County we have been a leisure tourism destination for more than 100 years. Our first tourists came to beat the summer heat from Birmingham and other places where the mountains provided a little relief. The Mentone Springs Hotel opened in 1884 to accommodate tourists coming to the Inn’s healing springs. In the 20’s came the Mentone Inn. We had summer camps opening, and cabins being built as second homes. Other early attractions were Sequoyah Caverns and Cloudmont Golf and Ski Resort and Shady Grove Dude Ranch. In 1939 DeSoto State Park opened its doors to camping and cabins and a little later the lodge. On Sand Mountain, Buck’s Pocket became a state park in the 60’s. Later came the group Alabama. They have been a tourist attraction for three decades now. In the early 90’s Little River Canyon became a National Preserve. In recent years many more rental cabins, B&B’s and hotels have been added to our area. We’ve added some fun county festivals along the way in many of our towns to attract tourists and locals to a day or two of special entertainment. Throughout all this time DeKalb County has remained primarily a leisure tourism county using our scenic beauty and friendly fun small towns as our draw.
It is only now that we have a new tourism draw that is event based. The new Northeast Agri Business Center in Rainsville is a state of the art Agri Center that will be attracting a wide variety of one, two and three day events. All of these have a regional scope and are sure to attract overnight visitors from all over our southeast region. Many of these events will take place at night leaving visitors the daytime hours to eat, shop, tour our attractions, parks, towns, museums and all will add dollars to our local economy. Many of the tourists coming to these events will be new visitors to DeKalb County. It is our desire to show our visitors the upmost in southern hospitality so when they go home they will tell their friends about us and from that we will continue to grow. It is very exciting that in these difficult economic times we are getting this wonderful uplifting boost to our economy. To learn more about the new Northeast Agri Business Center visit their website at

John Dersham

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Mule Day to Boom Days by John Dersham

From Mule Day to Boom Days

Monday my family and I attended our fifth Ider Mule Day in a row. We love this annual festival. This year we had the perfect weather and the attendance was outstanding. We love the traditional rural events like the Mule and Horse Pulls. We like looking at the classic tractors and walking around seeing all the animals that are in the parade then go into the festival to compete in various shows. It is fun to see the covered wagons and the classic cars. My granddaughters love the animals too, but they especially like to play in the amusement area.
Our next big event in DeKalb County begins this evening with the Willstown Conference. Make your plans now to attend as many of these fantastic events as you can at this year’s Boom Days Heritage Celebration. For more information check out or view the DeKalb County Tourist Association’s website at
BOOM DAYS 2010 – Event List
Dates, times, events and participants are subject to change.
Thursday, Sept. 9
Willstown Conference – City Hall Auditorium / 7:00 pm - Willstown Conference
Saturday, Sept. 11
First Federal Country Music Show - DeKalb Theatre / 8:00 pm
Leah Seawright
Sunday, Sept. 12
WZOB Joe Underwood Gospel Concert – City Hall Auditorium / 3:00 pm
Monday, Sept. 13 thru Friday, Sept. 17
Pap Baxter Singing School – Opera House / 6:00 pm
Thursday, Sept. 16
Mayor's Cup Golf Tournament – DeSoto Golf Course / 9:00 am
Times-Journal Keynote Concert – City Hall Auditorium / 8:00 pm
Rodney Dillard & The Dillard Band
Hannah Martin Scholarship 5K Run – First Methodist Church Parking Lot / 8:00 am
Pancake Breakfast – City Park Parking Lot / 7:00 am – 11:00 am - Pancakes! Yum!
Bud Light Wheels of Time Car Show – Alabama Park Parking Lot / 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
SPCA Pet Parade – Depot Museum Parking Lot / 10:00 am
101.7 The Storm Theatre Courtyard Stage – DeKalb Theatre Courtyard / 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Southern Vogue
Mike Cooley
Terry Hutcheson
D-C Gas Barbecue Bash – Alabama Park / 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
WQSB Alabama Park Stage – 11:30 am – 3:30 pm
Rock Candy Band
Gildan City Park Art Show - 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Lisa Opielinski - Lisa O., Artist
Jimmy Frazier
Frederic Payet - Payet Art
Athlone Clarke - About Athlone
Fleetwood Covington - Fleetwood Covington
Kenny “The Tin Man” Hoff - The Tin Man Art
Lydia Randolph - Lydia Randolph
Andrei Palmer - Andrei's Artistic Automobiles
Will Henry Cobble - Will Henry Cobble
Katie Bird Cobble - Katie Bird Cobble
Gee’s Bend Quilters - Quilts of Gee's Bend
Mae Gray - Mae Gray Pottery
Mike Miller
Randy Cochran - Wood Studio
Robert Frito Seven - Robert Frito Seven
Cal Breed - Orbix Hot Glass
Walter Howell - Walter Howell
Terry Hale - Hale Fire Glass
Kimberly Dawn Clayton - Kimberly Dawn Clayton
Lenton Williams - Lenton Williams
Mighty Fine Art Assault Team - Tommy Moorehead
Charles McFarland - Art Sculptures By Charles
Verizon Wireless City Park Stage – City Park - 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Dean Mitchell
Daddy Grant & the Williams Brothers
Un-reconstructed - Un-Reconstructed
Smoky Greenwell & Mark Penton
Pierce Pettis & Grace Pettis - Pierce Pettis & Grace Pettis
Sacred Harp Singers - Sacred Harp Singers
The New Binkley Brothers
Depot Museum Exhibits - 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Hosiery Museum Exhibits - 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Landmarks of DeKalb Book Sale – Hosiery Museum / 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Quilt Exhibit – Richard C. Hunt Hall / 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Devan Lowe Downtown Stage – 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Asbury Methodist Praise Band
Dewey Wayne - Dewey Wayne
J.M. Van Eaton & The Rockin’ Sunabillys - J.M. Van Eaton
Johnny Neel & Criminal Element - Johnny Neel & Criminal Element
Blackberry Smoke
Holiday Inn Express Children’s Activity Center – City Park / 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
WFPA Food Court - 4th St. NE Parking Lot / 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
WoodMasters Opera Block Stage – Gault Ave. @ 5th St. NE / 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
The New Binkley Brothers
Terry Hutcheson
Mike Cooley
Fleetwood Covington
Kyle Langley
Corvette Show – Gault Ave. @ 3rd St. NE / 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Westmoreland Tire Carriage Rides - Downtown District / 12:00 noon - 6:00 pm
FPFD Fire Simulator / Ladder Truck - 400 Block / 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Pap Baxter Heritage Gospel Singing – Opera House / 6:00 pm
Fort Payne Cinemas Rock & Roll Show - DeKalb Theatre / 8:30 pm
The Handlers
Anders Osborne

Friday, August 27, 2010

Governors Conference on Tourism by John Dersham

Governors Conference on Tourism

Last week I attended the 40th Annual Governors Conference. This year it was at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery. Every year the Alabama Travel Council Inc. and the Alabama Department of Tourism host this great annual event. Attendees represent individuals whom make their living in the tourism industry throughout our state.
The primary function is to learn what is going on in our industry, nationally and in Alabama. We have guest speakers from all over the US who teach us the latest in tourism marketing and advertising. We get updates on how each area of Alabama is doing this year. We get to network with others and get great ideas to bring home with us. Some of our guest speakers this year were:

* Roger Dow-President of U.S Travel Association- Roger is the official face of tourism for the U.S. He can be seen regularly on network and cable news.
*Lee Sentell- State Director of Tourism and Travel - Lee unveiled the marketing and advertising plan for 2011 with a recap of this year. Lee and the Alabama Department of Tourism have won multiple prestigious nationwide tourism awards for their “Year of“ programs such as: Year of Small Towns and Downtowns (this year), Year of Alabama History, and Year of Alabama Arts. There have been eight such themed “Year of” programs all focusing on one aspect of our great state. Next year will be the Year of Alabama Music.
* David Bronner - CEO Retirement Systems of Alabama and the owner of Renaissance Hotels, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and 46 television stations in 13 states.
*Legislative Update with Representatives Craig Ford, David Grimes, Johnny Mack Morrow, Cam Ward, Richard Lindsey and Senators Lowell Barron, Wendell Mitchell and Del Marsh. Each Legislator updated us on issues and legislation concerning tourism related subjects. The primary legislative issues tourism is interested in are; Later School Start Date and regulated, taxed Gambling. Passage of each would generate more tourism to Alabama and more money to the general fund of Alabama which helps support education.
*Roger Brooks-CEO of Destination Development International - Roger is a leader in developing long term branding for tourist destinations.

In addition to a great three days of continuing education concerning important tourism topics, we had our two gubernatorial candidates speak to us. Dr. Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks took the stage to tell us their platforms and to comment on their position in tourism related legislation. They both agreed that tourism is crucial to the income of Alabama and critical to the state’s general fund. Tourism is the state’s largest employer with nearly 168,000 jobs. Last year tourism brought 9.3 billion dollars in spending to Alabama.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yard Sale Travelers Love DeKalb County by John Dersham

Last Thursday and Friday I spent most of each day at The World’s Longest Yard Sale. In the last couple years we have been talking to yard sale customers finding out where they are from, how far they are going in the yard sale and why they picked our portion of it. In doing this we learn a lot about our area. We also get the opportunity to give people our travel brochures and tell them all the things we have to do and see in DeKalb County. We invite them to make DeKalb County an overnight stay on their journey and encourage them to come back for a vacation.

This year I talked to people from Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky and of course Alabama. In my rather informal count of out of state plates I found in my couple days we seemed to have the most traffic from Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. I think many people coming up from the gulf start in our area since it is near the beginning entry of the yard sale. The DeKalb County Tourist Association is a key contact for the World’s Longest Yard Sale. Our website is linked to the WLYS and our phone number is given out as a source of information. Due to our high number of calls we get the opportunity to encourage our callers to visit our area for the yard sale. We tell them that we have a lot of yard sale vendors to visit but they also have a scenic venue to enjoy. We explain how the yard sale runs along the 93 mile Lookout Mountain Parkway, passing by Little River Canyon National preserve, DeSoto State Park, waterfalls and Mentone. We tell them about our nearly 150 rental cabins and 9 B&B’s. We tell them about Fort Payne, our hotels and restaurants, shopping, parks and museums.

In speaking with yard sale visitors I found some common reasons they landed in our area. Here are some of the reoccuring responses; scenic beauty, lots of vendors, no big cites with high traffic, lots of places to eat and spend the night. Some other comments came from people who make a vacation out of the yard sale. They have family or friends with them and they enjoy the leisure aspects of our area, such as hiking at DeSoto, taking the Little River Canyon rim drive, stopping at the water falls or milling around Mentone. Several stated they had been to various parts of the yard sale in the past, but were returning here because they like our section the most.

I feel DeKalb County is the ideal setting to combine shopping with vacationing. This is a theme we are trying to promote at the Tourist Information Center. We feel the language of yard sale combined with leisure travel fun, attract people to our area.

The WLYS is big business for DeKalb County. It fills our lodging facilities and restaurants. It brings unusually high sales to our area mini-markets and gas stations. Tourism is clean money that brings great amount of revenue to our county without high costs. Our visitors come and they spend money and add valuable revenue to our County and to our communities without the high cost of providing city and county services. Tourism usually brings quality people with good expendable income. We rarely have tourists committing crime in our area. The yard sale is big business and is very important to our local economy each year.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Collinsville Trade Day by John Dersham

It seems most everyone loves to mill around looking for a particular item they need or want to have. In just a couple weeks thousands of people from all over the USA will descend upon our area for the World’s Longest Yard sale. For us living here in DeKalb County we have something equivalent every week of the year. Every Saturday morning 52 weeks a year from daylight till noon you can shop for your treasures.
Collinsville Trade Day is an entertainment format of its own. People of all ages will find something there to occupy their time. My family loves to go to trade days. My wife, my daughter and granddaughters love the animals. It’s like a petting zoo with everything for sale. There are miniature horses, goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, pigs and more dogs and cats of every breed than you can imagine. For the animal lovers there are also the suppliers of cages, leashes, collars, dog clothing and maintenance items. The men in my family usually separate from the women at some point so we can concentrate on our “stuff”. First there is hardware and lots of it. If it’s a tool you will find it there. I like coins. There are a number of coin sellers there every week. The same is true for knives, sports cards and other collectibles. If you want fresh vegetables then you’ve come to the right place. If you like gardening, trees and shrubs you’ll find multiple vendors selling plants. You will find hand made arts and crafts, furniture, antiques, clothing, cosmetics, toys, cd’s, household d├ęcor, and several places to buy food and drinks while you are there. If you liked boiled peanuts you have come to the right place. Do you need fishing or hunting gear then Trade Day is the place.

Collinsville Trade Day is more than just one of the largest outdoor markets in the south; it is an experience all in its own. Even if I had nothing in particular I was interested in looking at, just watching the people scurrying around having a great time is well worth the trip. All age groups are well represented and with that come a great diversity of interests.

Collinsville Trade Day is truly a DeKalb County Icon. It is very special. It is not just another flea market or outdoor market, it is an entertainment experience. It is located just south of downtown Collinsville on H-11. The property is appealing adding to the overall experience. It is a rural setting with a great view of Lookout Mountain just to the east.
If you haven’t been or haven’t been lately I recommend the trip. It will be well worth it and may start a habit. For more information visit or call 866-262-2127.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Traveling the USA on a Photo Trip by John Dersham

Last week I spent the entire week on a photo excursion through seven states. Over the last forty years I have taken trips like this nationwide. In doing so, I have gotten a very intimate look at our wonderful country from coast to coast. I usually travel the back roads using interstates only to pass through sections I was not planning to photograph on the current trip. Most of my images are subjects I find as I travel. I shoot the “Americana” landscape and town views and not so much of the well known attractions or destinations. The work I like to do is spontaneous to the moment, determined much by the look of the moment. The quality of light plays a big role in whether I will shoot a particular scene. Some scenes I really like but the lighting is not suitable at the time. In those cases I make a note of the location, the time of day the light will be better and hope to return one day to take the picture. The photography I pursue requires quite a bit of preparation. I shoot large format sheets of film in a camera that requires a tripod for use. The sheets of film have to be loaded in a darkroom. When I travel I have to stay in motels/hotels where I can make the bathroom totally dark to reload. The camera takes a film holder which holds two sheets of film. I carry twenty-five film holders. This gives me fifty pictures before I have to re-load the holders. It takes about 10 minutes to set up the camera, adjust the movements of the camera for correction of distortion, figure exposure and focus. This type of camera is totally manual. The sheets of film I use are 4x5 inches. Because of the size of the negative and the high resolution of the lenses, my images equate to 400 million megapixels in digital terms. I process the film and print the film in my darkroom. Once the film is scanned on a high resolution scanner then my image is digital and I can do anything with it just as if I started with a digital camera. The reason for using large format film to begin with is the unbelievable difference in quality from the standpoint of resolution, tonality, and contrast. Film contains subtle differences in color, contrast and overall tonality not possible in digital. Film contains 32,000 variations of tone, contrast and color where digital is capped at 1,000. This is why most movies are still shot on film and then scanned to digital. The subtle nuances are important to the film maker and to fine art photographers, such as me.
On this trip I visited Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. I took two lane roads through the mountains and small towns. Everywhere I went I met friendly people whom stop to see what I am doing. Not many people these days see someone along the road with their head under a black focusing cloth looking like its still the Civil War era. Most people think my equipment must be antique but actually my equipment is still currently available gear. There are many photographers using the same kind of equipment professionally or for their art. To see my work visit

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Travel and Tourism Trends by John Dersham

We live in a world of which our needs, desires and goals are changing rapidly, as our technology and economic trends continue to dramatically impact our culture. We no longer live in an environment where any of us can expect our careers to be for a lifetime, or the products we buy to still be current technology just a few years later. I worked for Eastman Kodak for nearly 30 years, film had already been around for almost 100 years when I started my career with the company. During my tenure we continued selling more rolls of film and processing more rolls than any year prior, for nearly 130 years. In the early 2000’s, film and processing sales declined to the point that more than one half of Kodak’s worldwide jobs were eliminated. Kodak is just one of the examples of how our culture changes with technology. The way we view, handle and share pictures has been re-invented with these technology changes.

The travel industry is no different. Tourists are doing things differently than they used to. Travelers are changing as the culture changes and the things travelers wish to do on their vacations are changing too.
This spring I had the opportunity to attend the spring conference for the Southeast Tourism Society. At this seminar guest lecturers from the tourism industry gave attendees updates on tourism trends concerning what people are doing, where they are going, how they use technology to plan their travel, where they spend money, and what they expect out of their travel experiences. Last week I had the opportunity to have a one and one half hour private consultation with Judy Randall of Randall Travel Marketing. Judy is one of our nation’s foremost travel and tourism experts. She was also a speaker at the seminar I had recently attended. Judy gave me the opportunity to talk about DeKalb County. Her role was to help me utilize proven travel trends to help us plan how we promote and advertise DeKalb County.

Here are some current travel and tourism trends:

*Internet (Websites) is now the single largest way potential travelers plan their vacations.
*Social Media has become a credible source for travel information for many consumers, because it is not paid advertising.
*The consumer is responding to things they see and hear and are less reliant on the older technology of reading brochures, newspapers and magazines. The consumer will not spend much time viewing any given destination. They want to see a visual that will make a quick impression.
*Tourists are changing their destinations. Our National Parks, for many years, were our nation’s largest tourist attraction. In recent years, attendance has been down as tourists pick destinations that offer temperature control, push button entertainment, and a faster pace.
*Young people as a whole are not as outdoor oriented as former generations and mothers planning family vacations are picking locations that will keep the kids motivated.
* During this time of economic downturn travelers are spending less per trip on food, less on retail shopping and they are looking for bargains in lodging and packages that bundle travel plans.
* Billboard advertising is being replaced with travelers whom have GPS and internet services in their hand as they travel.
*Leisure scenic travel is still big, but people travel with air conditioning, GPS and Internet connections with DVD players for children in the backseats.
*International Travelers are looking for the “Americana” experience. DeKalb is a perfect fit. They have already been to New York, Disney and Vegas.
*Lodging is changing too. The Baby Boomers who were attracted to Bed and Breakfast locations are aging and with that their desires for quaint and cozy has changed to easy, fast service where they can enter easily, leave easily and have all the conveniences within arms reach. According to Judy Randall, young adults want service, comfort, and an electrical outlet within arms reach at all times. They insist on a strong cell signal everywhere they go. Judy says B&B’s have been especially impacted by the cultural and economic shifts of the last several years. Cabins remain a popular choice among couples and families. Customers want the modern conveniences at their cabin rental. Hotel chains are constantly upgrading to meet customer demands.
*Festivals are still big, and growing due to the fact they offer lots of things to do that are fast paced, entertaining and are usually full of music and food and don’t cost much to attend.
*Attractions are changing too. The high tech attractions that are visual and electronic oriented are very popular among thirty-five and younger ages while the Baby Boomers and seniors like more traditional scenic or educational attractions.
*Motorcycle tourism is big now due to high gas prices and the popularity of group motorcycle clubs. We get a lot of motorcycle tours here especially on the Lookout Mountain Parkway.
Here in DeKalb County we are blessed with beautiful scenery, easy driving tours and lots of places to go and things to do. Our primary audience here is the Baby Boomers who enjoy the beautiful relaxing venues we have to offer. Of the younger population we attract those who have an outdoor preference. Those who like hiking, bicycling or do more adventure sports like rock climbing, repelling, kayaking, etc.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer Tourism in DeKalb County by John Dersham

Summer Tourism in DeKalb County

We are cautiously optimistic that this summer’s tourist season in DeKalb County will be better than one year ago. We are currently running television commercials in Birmingham on 33/40 which covers most of the middle portion of Alabama. We are running another set of commercials and infomercials on the Comcast interconnect that covers eight cable TV channels in a viewing area that includes North Alabama and Southern Tennessee. These commercials cover two week periods at peak travel planning times.

Last year DeKalb County outperformed the state and the country in tourism revenue. With that said I must note that tourism was down nationwide for one of the first times in history. Major tourism cities suffered as did major destinations, like Orlando-Disneyworld and Las Vegas. These declines ranged from eight to twenty percent. Tourism as a whole out performed the economic trends of the nation. Alabama was down a modest seven percent and DeKalb was down five percent. These numbers are based on calendar year. DeKalb ended up in the top ten percent of the best performing counties in Alabama. Counties in Alabama ranged from being down thirty percent to up twenty percent based on tourism conditions particular to each county.

We are a return destination. Our visitors love DeKalb County and they return to us often. We are a short, easy drive for points south to the coast in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. Approximately thirty percent of all tourism in Alabama emanates from Alabamians. Our second largest group of travelers comes from the above mentioned coastal states. The reason being that we are among the first picturesque, tourism related mountains as you travel north from the gulf coast. In tough economic times like now we feel assured we will continue to perform well based on our historical travel trends.

We are very concerned about the situation in the gulf. The impact of the oil spill on our environment and on tourism is not well known or predicted yet. According to state tourism the beaches in Alabama have remained free of oil, thus far. The cancellation rates have been high anyway and that impacts north Alabama too. Many people coming from northern points to the gulf stop and spend some time with us before going to the coast. If they cancel their gulf coast visits we could be impacted. We feel comfortable, however that we are located so well that we will pick up new short drive (300 miles or less) customers that will come here instead of the beach.

Thus far this year our tourism numbers are a mix of growth and declines. Much of this year’s successes or failures have been based on weather conditions. Rain this spring and cold weather in the winter kept many home. On the other hand we have had periods of significant tourism in the county and our year to date numbers are up a little from a year ago.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Working for You- The DeKalb County Tourist Association by John Dersham

Working for You- The DeKalb County Tourist Association

Over the last few weeks we have had inquires about the various services we provide to our members.
To help you better understand all the things we do, I have included our Mission Statement and a list of services we provide.
We very much appreciate our members and we strive to be a service to them and to our community by bringing important tourism related spending to our county.

Mission Statement

• To perpetuate economic growth and development through tourism.
• To promote, advertise and publicize natural, historic and man-made attractions.
• To serve in cooperation with state, county and city governments to promote tourism.
• To work with our local Chamber of Commerce, schools and colleges to encourage and develop long lasting educational and promotional development of our industry.
• To belong to and work with other tourist associations on a regional, state and national level to build relationships that educate and promote a healthy tourism industry.
• To provide outstanding marketing and promotional support to assist in the growth and development of our member’s businesses.

Membership Benefits
The DeKalb County Tourist Association is the primary organization promoting tourism in DeKalb County. We are a non-profit organization and are funded by the county lodging tax, memberships, grants and city appropriations.

Here are ways membership works for you:
Tourist Information Center - We are open seven days a week to answer questions about our area, give directions and show guests places to go and things to do, where to eat and shop, historical locations, scenic attractions, lodging, parks etc. As a member we promote your business verbally and by giving our customers your printed information. We send visitors to you when they are looking for your kind of business.
Official DeKalb County Visitor’s Guide - Members are included in the single most distributed travel guide promoting DeKalb County. We give our visitor’s guides out in our information center; we mail them out from phone and internet requests, we distribute them at conventions and travel shows, at welcome centers, mini markets, hotels, motels, state parks, and many other places all throughout the southeast.
Official County Tourism Website - You are included on our website with a description of your business, a direct link to your website and email, phone number, address and other requested information. We average 30,000 website visits a month and we are the primary resource worldwide for people needing travel information about our county. Included in our website is an interactive version of our DeKalb County Visitor’s Guide. This one can be printed or viewed on line. It has a page turn feature, you can magnify the images and it contains live links to your website. In addition our website has links to online video’s and articles. You can request to have your video or article reviewed for inclusion on our website.
Travel Writers - We work closely with travel writers and other news media to see that articles are regularly considered for publication in magazines and newspapers nationwide. We submit press releases to magazines, newspapers and radio stations to promote travel articles on places, events and businesses in DeKalb County.
State Affiliations - We network closely with the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, The Alabama Tourism Department, the Alabama Travel Council, Chambers and CVB organizations all across our state.

Here are additional member services we offer:
*Digital Marquee at one of Fort Payne’s busiest intersections. We promote your business on it.
*Weekly newspaper Column to promote Tourism in DeKalb County
*Member educational seminars
*Television advertising campaigns
*Radio Advertising
*Magazine and Newspaper Ads
*YouTube videos
*Facebook and other social media sites
*Presence as an exhibitor at state and regional travel shows
*Provide education and presentations to local clubs, civic organizations and area businesses
*Provide help with member ad campaigns
*Support local activities and festivals
*Provide general information about our county, our towns, municipal services, churches, history, maps and a host of general information for the community, for the traveler and for new residents.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fort Payne Boom Days Images by O.W. Chase circa 1889 by John Dersham

It is an honor for me to present twenty nine archival printed silver halide photographic prints to Landmarks of DeKalb County, Inc. This is a gift from myself and family and is an intended contribution to the preservation of our rich history here in Fort Payne. The prints presented here are part of the original 6 ½ x 8 ½ glass plates/negatives photographed by O.W. Chase circa 1889. Mr. Chase was hired to make these images for the purpose of making brochures promoting Fort Payne to New Englanders during our Boom Days. These images now 121 years old, are a blessing to our community and serve as an unsurpassed view backward into our rich history. I want to thank Judy and Joe Brown for entrusting me with these delicate glass negatives, so I could print them in my darkroom.
O.W. Chase was a hired professional photographer using a professional large format view camera. Due to the large size of the negatives, the capture of detail and tonality is still unsurpassed by any professional digital camera today. Only today’s large format cameras with improved film emulsions and sharper lenses could improve the technical quality of O.W. Chase’s body of work.
In the days of O.W. Chase’s photography only trained professionals were doing this work. A little later in the same era George Eastman (Kodak) was introducing the first ever consumer photographic cameras and film. Prior to this time there were no snapshots. This means many small towns like Fort Payne had no photographic history dating as far back as the late 1880’s. We are very fortunate to have had a Boom Days.
The prints in this collection are from twenty nine of O.W. Chase’s collection of an estimated 85 glass plates shot in or around 1889, in Fort Payne.
For the sake of historical preservation I have printed these images using archival printing, processing and mounting processes. I have used silver rich double weight fiber based photographic paper of Chlorobromide formula that appears similar in tonality to the photographic papers of the 1880’s. All of the prints have been Selenium toned which further protects the silver from oxidation. This collection of prints is printed to provide medium to medium soft contrast in order to preserve the delicate details in the highlights and shadows of the scene. In accordance with the archival process used, these images should provide a lasting image for several hundred years.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Travel South Showcase by John Dersham

Travel South Showcase

Last week I attended the Travel South Showcase in Birmingham. This convention gives us the opportunity to sell group tour operators our destination. Travel South is an organization that includes representatives in the tourism industry from twelve southern states. The annual showcase, which can take place in any of the twelve member states, is an intense two days of scheduled meetings with tour providers. The providers that come to this convention may be different each year. The companies present each year are the companies interested in booking tours to southern destinations.
Each year people like myself who are in the tourism industry sign up to attend this convention. The work begins a couple months in advance when each attendee begins booking their appointments for the upcoming convention. Each appointment is an opportunity to convince a tour provider to use our destination, as a trip. The tour providers come from all over the world and they number into the hundreds. They have one thing in common this year; they are at this convention because they want to plan some southern tours.
I booked as many appointments as I could get into the two day schedule. I came prepared with tour plans, brochures, maps and a cover letter. I had nine minutes available per individual meeting. In these nine minutes I got the chance to sell the tour planner on using DeKalb County as one of their upcoming destinations. This year I had 40 meetings. The tour providers I met with came from all over the country and the world. Some of the meetings I had were with tour providers from Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and three different ones from the UK. We are beginning to receive more interest in our area from international markets.
In the last couple years DeKalb County has had five tours. Each tour spends an estimated $28,000 dollars in DeKalb County. The groups usually come by bus and have between 35 and 45 people on the tour. We strive to get them to spend at least one night in one of our lodging facilities. We help with their planning, where to go and what to do. We often ride on the bus with them and serve as an on bus guide and also give the history and key footnotes about our area.
Each tour we line up adds important dollars of revenue to our local economy. Each tour also increases our visibility and promotes valuable word of mouth advertising. This is why we try to provide the very best customer service to these companies and to the guests on board the buses. We want them to go home and tell their friends and family that DeKalb County Alabama was one of the prettiest and friendliest places they have ever visited.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

True Adventure Sports by John Dersham

True Adventure Sports

Ah, it is finally spring in beautiful, wonderful DeKalb County. It is time to get out after having to hibernate most of the winter and enjoy all the wonderful outdoor venues we have in our county.
One of our outdoor venues may be one you have overlooked, or have never participated. True Adventure Sports is a local guide service and outfitter. They specialize in guided trips which include; rappelling, rock climbing, flat-water and whitewater kayaking or canoeing, backpacking, extreme night hiking, wild cave tours, mountain biking, camping, hiking and zip lines. True Adventure Sports can provide food, lodging and transportation for groups and they provide all necessary gear for their guided trips. TAS offers classes in rappelling, rock climbing and knot tying. If you want to go it on your own but do not have the equipment, True Adventure Sports offers rental equipment for canoeing, and kayaking. They offer rental tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, headlamps, shoes, trailers, jet skis and mopeds. Note: minimal rental times vary by product.
A few days ago I spoke with owner, founder and entrepenuer Israel Partridge about his ever growing business. He reported to me a number of projects in the works and some others scheduled to begin in the near future.
“We have added a permanent 250’ Zip Line just off Little River Canyon that is now in operation, and are adding five more segments to that to make it a canopy tour. We offer it day or night, with it being lit by tiki torches by night making it a tiki tour.
We also have two 80’ swinging bridges under construction connecting the zip line tour.
We have added a 100’ sky swing at the same much like a sky coaster location off the canyon.”
“We are under construction with a new building featuring a full climbing gym, indoor rappelling towers, confined space rescue chambers, retail store, and bunk rooms. In addition we have plans for a coffee bar in the gazebo connected to the outside of the building.”
“By next summer we are adding an Olympic size swimming pool for classes and swim membership.”
Israel stated the building project is under way, but will most likely not be finished until the end of the summer. You can see some earlier pictures of the construction at the website listed below.
True Adventure Sports is located at 13102 AL Hwy. 176 in the Dogtown, Lickskillet area near Little River Canyon National Preserve. For more information about True Adventure Sports and a list of their upcoming events call True Adventure Sports at 256-997-9577 or check out their website at

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Selling DeKalb County at Travel Shows by John Dersham

Selling DeKalb County at Travel Shows

This year the DeKalb County Tourist Association will attend a number of travel shows. These travel shows help us sell our area as a travel destination. The DeKalb County Tourist Association works at these travel shows in conjunction with North Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association and the Alabama Department of Tourism and Travel. In total we have about 50’ of exhibit area. Thousands of people over a 7-10 day period visit each large travel show. We get hundreds that come by our exhibit and talk to us about our area. It gives us a chance to encourage potential travelers to come here on their vacation. This winter I worked the Cincinnati and Indianapolis travel shows. Other people representing tourism in North Alabama worked Louisville, St. Louis and New Orleans. Later this spring the DeKalb County Tourist Association will have our exhibit at three mall travel shows, including; Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin, TN, Hamilton Place in Chattanooga, TN and Mt. Berry Square in Rome GA. We pick the markets we want to attend based on a collection of information coming from website inquires, information collected in our information center guest book, and phone calls. This gives us information on where people are from. We are a drive to market. We find most of our visitors come from 300 miles or less. Our guests come because of our relaxing scenic venues. They come from non mountainous areas just to have a mountain get-away. We are the closest mountains for many parts of Louisiana, Southern Alabama, Florida Panhandle, Mississippi, Central Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, mostly along the I-65, and I-59 corridors. We find East Tennessee and North Georgia are not big customers of ours because they have their own mountains. Many people coming to our area and to other locations in North Alabama are coming to fish, hike and camp. Others come on scenic driving tours and many of these tourists seek out B&B’s or rental cabins. Golf at the Robert Trent Jones trails is big in some parts of North Alabama as is sports tournaments. DeKalb County fares best in the leisure traveler market. Our area is very well known and very well liked in all of the areas I mentioned above. Our Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway is host to many motorcycle tours, antique auto tours and regular scenic passenger travel through Little River Canyon National Preserve and DeSoto State Park and DeSoto Falls. In addition our scenic parkway is the host road through our section of the extremely popular World’s Longest Yard Sale, every August.
In addition to visitors, we are getting quite a few people moving to our area from the above mentioned; especially Louisiana and Mississippi. During the winter months we get a nice share of Canadians and Northeasterners coming south to escape awful cold and snowy weather. Many go to Florida and work their way back up through our area.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beautiful, Wonderful and Historic Fort Payne by John Dersham

We live in a wonderful town. It is very scenic and is full of friendly people. It is a wonderful place to work and to do business and it is a fantastic town to raise a family. The Boom Days of Fort Payne helped give our town a very distinct history, visually and culturally, Fort Payne is very special and quite different town from any other in Alabama.
Some of you may know I am a photographer with a perpetual darkroom for nearly 50 years. I am also a history buff. The combination of the two interests allows me an opportunity and the desire to combine my interests toward preservation of historical photographs.
Last summer Judy and Joe Brown were nice enough to entrust me with their 6x8 Glass Plates (negatives) taken in the late 1880’s for a brochure of Fort Payne with the intent of promoting Fort Payne to New Englanders as a prosperous and upcoming industrial town focusing on coal and iron. The brochure would hopefully inspire new business and industry to move their operations to Fort Payne. The plates themselves are unusual in that they are 6x8 instead of the customary 5x7, which was popular at the time. It is believed the original camera that took the pictures is the one that is part of the Landmarks of DeKalb County Inc., archives.
The plates that I am printing will be done on 11x14 silver rich bromide photographic paper which is archival in nature and will provide a look similar to the papers of the subject matter era. I am using archival chemistry and putting the images through a selenium toning process that turns the silver to selenium, which is more stable. I will dry mount the images using 100% acid free rag mounts with acid free dry mounting tissue. The expected life of the prints is 300 years. In order for the prints to be archival, no retouching can be done on the prints. This means whatever is on the negative will show on the print. Over time many of the negatives have scratched, or patches of the emulsion have come off. At the same time I make the prints I will make a high resolution digital file on Cd. Once the images are digital then the blemishes can be removed for future digital printing or publication.
The prints (approximately 35), will be a donation from me and my family to Landmarks of DeKalb County Inc. Judy Brown has told me they plan on exhibiting the prints in Hunt Reception Hall. I am honored to play a role in helping preserve our rich history here in Fort Payne.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lookout Mountain Photography Club by John Dersham

Lookout Mountain Photography Club

There is a new Photography club in DeKalb County for all of you photo enthusiasts.
The Lookout Mountain Photography Club formed on Jan 15th and is part of the Mentone Area Arts council.
The Lookout Mountain Photography Club has the intent to create the following;
A place for photography lovers to meet and talk and learn about photography on a monthly basis.
The club will have guest speakers whom will talk about their area of expertise in photography.
The club will have show and tell. You will be invited to show your prints, slides, or digital media.
The club will offer photo contests to interested parties. The competitions will be done by subject matter. A guest judge will pick winners based on the criterion of the subject matter chosen for that month.
The club will have field trips for its members. The field trips will provide an opportunity to photograph interesting or scenic places with other interested parties whom you can share information and photo technique.
The club will have a Facebook Fan Page (Lookout Mountain Photography Club) for members to submit photos and to talk about their work.
Photography is a wonderful hobby. It allows you many diverse niches of which to become interested. Any subject can become your art. It can be people, sports, landscape, still life, texture, close up, flowers, insects or it can be a host of fine art alternative methods. You can use film, shoot digital, video, have a darkroom, use Photoshop or pursue both. Photography equipment is fun to own and talk about. Photography is a hobby for anybody, at any age. The more pictures you take and the better your technique becomes the more enthused you get about improving your work.
The next club meeting will be February 19th at 6:30 p.m. at the Mentone Inn. I (John Dersham) will give a PowerPoint slide presentation on photo composition and impact. There are no dues to join. The club is open to all people interested in photography.
For more information contact John Dersham at the DeKalb County Tourist Association 845-3957 or Neal Whitt at the Mentone Area Arts Council at 634-3334.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let’s Ski! by John Dersham

Last weekend I spent much of the time driving around our county taking pictures related to tourism for our county. The roads were mostly free of travelers until I got to Cloudmont Ski Resort and it was packed. What a great sight it was to see so many people enjoying DeKalb County and the only Ski Resort nearby and the only one in the state of Alabama. It was a beautiful Saturday morning about 10:00am when I arrived to find a crowded parking lot and skiers lined up to take the pony lift to the top for their exciting ski ride to the bottom. It was the perfect day for such a thing. It was cold but the sun made it perfect out here. Both slopes were in full operation and all the surrounding scenery was snow and ice covered. This is exactly why hundreds were there and thousands will come during the season at Cloudmont which lasts from the middle of December till it becomes too warm to make snow and keep it on the slopes. There have been some years skiing continued into March and occasionally April.
Cloudmont is fun for the whole family from the beginner to serious amateur. Equipment to ski and lessons are available as you arrive.
If you haven’t been skiing now is the time to give it a try. You will have fun. For more information call 256-634-4344 or go to