Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year Everyone by John Dersham

Happy New Year from DeKalb Tourism. We hope you have a blessed and wonderful new year.
In case you are traveling for the New Year’s holiday I thought I would pass along some information on where to go and what destinations around the USA and world bring in the most people for their New Year’s celebrations.
I happened to see a quiz on the news the other night. They asked us to name the number one New Years tourist destination in the USA. I suppose most people like me guessed New York City. According to USA Today the award goes to Orlando who claims they will have 53 million visitors in 2012 as opposed to 50 million for New York City. Orlando’s tourism department “Visit Orlando” claims their numbers are calculated for people come from 50 miles or more. This is a standard tourism calculation. New York City claims Orlando includes a much larger geography in their count which includes multiple counties and New York’s number is only the city and its boroughs. Visit Orlando claims they will have the highest number of tourists in the US for New Year’s celebrations.
Travelocity travel experts have compiled a list of the top 10 New Year’s Eve destinations in the country where travelers can celebrate the New Year, based on Travelocity bookings. From big cities to laid-back beaches and mountain hideaways, the list reveals the diverse locations where travelers plan to welcome 2012.
Top Ten United States
1-Orlando 2-New York City 3-South Florida 4-Las Vegas 5-Los Angeles 6- Denver 7-Cancun 8-San Francisco 9-Phoenix 10-Chicago.
If you have an international preference here is a list of the top ten New Years destinations according to
1-Sydney, Australia 2-New York City 3-Berlin, Germany 4-London, England 5-Toronto, Ontario 6-Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 7-Tokoyo, Japan 8-Los Angeles 9-Paris, France 10- Disney World Orlando.
To hear more about these destinations and how the rating was determined you can go to the following websites for more information. and

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Photography Tips for the Holiday Season and Beyond by John Dersham

Tips for Holiday 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 than 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 want 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 lose 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.
Here are some more tips:
• Good lighting: For scenery shots the best time is early or late in the day. This time of year you should try 8:00am through 11:00 am and 2:00pm through 4:00pm. When the sun is at an angle in the sky the quality of lighting on your scene is much more interesting than when the sun is straight up as it is mid-day.
• Use your flash: When shooting people outside at a range of ten feet or closer, always use your flash. This helps eliminate unsightly shadows on your subjects’ faces.
• Hold your camera level: If you hold your camera level and parallel to your scene you will avoid distortion. Example: when you are at the beach, water is always level. If you hold your camera at even the slightest angle your water will look like it is going uphill. It is easy to tell if your camera is level by looking at the horizon line of your ocean view. If it is a straight line and not angled, then your camera is being held level. The same holds true for shooting landscapes, buildings, road scenes, etc.
• Composition: Good pictures are composed like a piece of art. Before you take a picture look at your available angles. Pick angles that flatter your scene by having a leading line running from the foreground into your scene. Do not crop important subjects too close the edge of the scene. Your horizon line should not be in the middle of your scene, in most cases your foreground should lead into the primary subject with the sky being a third or less of the scene, unless a primary element of the scene is the sky. Remember to hold your camera level and steady. Look at your lighting, shoot at angles where the lighting contributes to your composition. It is best when your primary subject is not in the dead center of the picture. It should be up or down or left or right of center.
• Use your viewfinder: If you have a viewfinder on your camera it is better to compose through it and not through the LCD panel on the back of your digital camera. Using the LCD panel is less stable, is prone to not holding the camera level and is harder to see your composition, especially outside. If your camera can only be used by viewing through a LCD panel then be aware of camera stability and composition.
• Hold your camera with both hands: Your camera should be held steadily using two hands with the camera held squarely and firmly. One hand shots are unsteady and will rarely be held level and parallel to the scene. This is true even if you are shooting at an unusual angle like down on the ground or crouched.
• Make sure when taking pictures of people, their faces are well lighted and do not have unattractive shadows on their faces. Make sure the background behind your subject is simple and free of distractive clutter, such as trees that appear to be growing out of your subjects head.
• If you are shooting a picture that is intended to deliver a message, such as a festival or fair, make sure you show people in the scene doing things and laughing and smiling. Show kids and babies. Show the action of people participating in the event. When promoting tourism or an attraction, you want it to look well attended.
• Shoot your digital pictures on your camera’s highest resolution then resize them smaller if needed for internet use or small print sizes.
• Download your pictures to your computer chronologically and by subject. Make them easy to find no matter how many folders you have.
• Always back up your image files and keep them stored in a different physical location. Use a storage service or back up to CD, thumb drive or other external drive and store those items in a different building or a safety deposit box. Remember, the purpose of photographs is to capture a moment in time, permanently. Losing your images due to computer crashes or accidental catalog problems is very disappointing and can be an irreplaceable loss.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friends of the Preserve at little River Canyon N.P. by John Dersham

I have been honored to be the first President of the Friends of the Preserve at Little River Canyon N.P. We began a year ago last March and have been active in establishing our 501(c)3 and getting our bylaws and articles of incorporation done. During the course of the last year we have attended multiple festivals, trade shows and exhibitions to gather members and to discuss the attributes of a “friend” organization as it relates to our National Preserve. There are many friends groups for different National Parks. Many of them are quite well established. I am glad we now have one to offer the public at Little River Canyon.
Here is our Mission Statement:
Little River Canyon is a National Preserve located on Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama. The Friends of the Preserve at Little River, in partnership with the National Park Service, works to support the highest level of preservation, protection, management and interpretation of the natural, cultural and historic resources of approximately 13,000 national park acres.
On October 22nd, we had our first annual member meeting and picnic at Lynn Overlook on the canyon rim. It was a fun day of music food and great conversation. On November 5th, we had our first annual Run the Rim 5K race. There were 65 entrees in this fun and scenic fund raiser along the rim of Little River Canyon.
Friends groups help with providing assistance in efforts to help keep the park clean, trails trimmed and they help with educational services to the travelers visiting the park. Becoming a member of the Friends of the Preserve is a way to support the maintenance, protection and beauty of our beautiful National Preserve. As a member you will be invited to participate in events hosted by the Friends of the Preserve that both celebrate the beauty of our park and also provide the badly needed human resources to help make our park a more valued and enjoyable destination for our visitors and also our local people who enjoy all the wonderful things to do at LRC.
If you have not been to Little River Canyon in the last month, you need to visit the beautiful new boardwalk trail. You enter it at the parking lot at Little River Falls. We should be very proud of the constant improvement the National Park service is dedicating to our preserve. Many Thanks to John Bundy and his staff at Little River Canyon N.P. We are so fortunate to have the wonderful N.P in our backyard.
To learn more about Friends of the Preserve at Little River Canyon go to our website at or visit us on Facebook at Friends of the Preserve at Little River Canyon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Hard Times People Still Travel by John Dersham

In a time when the unemployment rate is high and the underemployed is even higher, people are still taking trips. Even in bad overall economic times when it seems most all factions of the economy are down, tourism is continuing to perform at a rate well above the economy. There is an inherent desire among most people to get away from the daily routine and go elsewhere. For us in DeKalb County we are very fortunate to have an extremely high level of appeal to leisure travelers from nearby cities that just want to get away from it all for a few days. We are a weekend tourist destination. Due to the fact we are a two-three hour drive for eleven million people we are a great choice for two, three and four day mini trips. The downturn in the economy beginning in 2008 coupled with higher gas prices has contributed to people taking trips of less distance for a shorter time. This has helped us in many ways due to our close distance, low costs, friendly hospitality and an easy place to get around in, once here.
Last week I attended the State Tourism quarterly meetings. These meeting are always very informative and are a valuable tool for staying abreast on current trends in tourism. They help us know what to promote, how to promote and they give us a good sense of forecasting the upcoming year. In the state of Alabama, tourism dollars spent in our state have more than doubled in the last eight years. Much of this can be attributed to Director Lee Sentel and his staff who have consistently engineered award winning marketing programs to lure tourists to our state. Last week Lee told us the State of Alabama has had a fantastic year and the badly affected Alabama Gulf Coast had a banner year.
More and more cities, counties, states and the federal government are placing a lot more focus on tourism as the proof of economic development thru tourism has become an all star. The proof of our successful numbers both in collecting tax revenues and in creating jobs has created a focus by legislators at all levels to find a way to enhance tourism to the United States and to our local destinations.
This fall in DeKalb County has been a banner season. Colorfest in Mentone had its highest attendance in many years contributed by combining the Mentone Areas Art Council and Mentone Area Preservation Association to form a committee headed by Neal Whitt to re-invent the festival. It worked! Beginning in early October and still happening currently, guests to our county on fall foliage vacations is very high. We anticipate stable tourism through Thanksgiving then typically we have a soft time in total but will have good crowds at Cloudmont Ski and Golf resort in Mentone.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

DeKalb County in full fall splendor by John Dersham

I think we have the most beautiful fall foliage each year of any county in Alabama. There is a reason for this. These reasons are comprised of geography, climate, soil conditions and the types of trees that grow here. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what makes fall color and when it occurs. According to the United States Department of Agriculture fall color begins and is accentuated by cool nights and sunny days.

Why Are Some Autumns More Colorful?

Temperature and moisture greatly influence autumn color. Since each of these varies greatly, no two autumns are ever alike. A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. Since carotenoids are always present in leaves, yellow and gold colors are fairly constant from year to year. In order for the brilliant scarlet, purple and crimson colors to develop, bright sunlight in the early fall is needed. Bright sunny days increase food production in trees and plants. These sugars are trapped in the leaves spurring the production of anthocyanin pigments, providing the red tints to fall foliage.

The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn color. A late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. A warm period during fall lowers the intensity of autumn color. Trees defoliated by insects during the growing season may also show less fall color.

In DeKalb County we are blessed by being part of the Cumberland Plateau and belonging to the Appalachian foothills. This gives us our wonderful mountains and valleys but also gives us the wide variety of acid loving plant species associated with the Appalachian Mountains. This area predominately a deciduous hardwood area helps account for our beautiful fall color, as does the particular tree species in abundance here which include some our most colorful trees in the fall.

Our most colorful trees in fall:
Southern Red Maples (Red, yellow or orange in fall)
Sugar Maples (Orange-Red)
Black Tupelo/Black Gum (red-crimson)
Sweet Gum (yellow to purple)
Hickories (yellow)
White Oak (brown to purple)
Chestnut Oak (Yellow)
Dogwood (reddish purple)
Sourwood (crimson)
Post Oaks, Black Oaks, other Oaks (brown to yellow)

Many tourists start visiting us in early and mid October thinking they are hitting the peak of fall color. Records show that in the last fifteen years the peak of color has happened in early to mid November in our region. At DeKalb Tourism we get many phone calls and emails from tourists checking in advance so they time their trips here to match the fall foliage. The State of Alabama keeps a color tracker on their website in the fall to help tourist plan their trips. We use that to help assist our customers.

Beautiful fall drives:
*Little River Canyon-Canyon rim drive
*Lookout Mountain Parkway/DeSoto Parkway from Dogtown to Mentone
*The trails at DeSoto State Park
*Bucks Pocket State Park
*High Falls Park

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Eddie’s Winter Wonderland By Kayla Worthey

Christmas is one of my absolute favorite holidays! There is just something about Christmas traditions, spending time with family, our elf on the shelf, and delicious homemade foods; mamaw’s mashed potatoes, grandmother’s mac-n-cheese, auntie’s green beans, nana’s cookies and mom’s turkey and stuffing. One of my favorite Christmas traditions has become Christmas at Eddie’s! I have 10 Christmas trees inside my house that we decorate every year, each with their own theme. We have our formal tree, our family tree, Kowen’s tree, Kinsley’s tree, our Alabama tree (don’t hate me Auburn fans!), our hunting/fishing tree, and 4 small tabletop trees for the bathrooms! Each year we add at least one ornament to each tree, and this year was no different! This past weekend the Open House kicked off the holiday season at Eddie’s.
If you have ever been to a store that sells ornaments, they usually have them arranged in sections hanging on the wall or on racks. Well not at Eddie’s! Eddie has a special way of getting you in the Holiday spirit!
He runs a florist/nursery for most of the year that transforms into the most amazing Winter Wonderland I have ever witnessed. There are over 140 trees on display, each decorated exquisitely with their own theme. You will find ornaments ranging from western to whimsical, cartoons to retro, Victorian to collegiate – there is truly something for everyone. Eddie and his amazing entourage have decorated each tree with a stylish brilliance. As you enter the building, you will be greeted by the friendly staff and handed an empty basket, for your convenience, of course! My daughter happily took the role of basket holder.
You can stroll through each room and shop at your leisure. The rooms themselves are an amazing sight, decorated with props and insane artistic talent. Choose ornaments from the trees, from baskets scattered about, from the walls, or wherever you may find them. Decorations can be taken from the walls or mantels. Everything is for sale! It almost feels wrong to ruin their beautiful displays, but don’t feel bad, all the empty space you leave only creates a clear canvas for these artists to express their talents all over again. If you need assistance with an item, someone will be nearby to help.
If you need decorating ideas or inspiration, trust me, this is the place to get it! Visit Monday through Saturday from 8am to 5pm and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm in Henagar at 9112 Alabama Hwy 40.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It is Time for Some Fall Fun by John Dersham

Here in DeKalb County Fall is a favorite time of the year for many tourists visiting our area. Many people come here for our fall foliage from the Gulf Coast and from the Coastal Plains where they are not as fortunate as we when it comes to fall color. Beginning now through Thanksgiving we will have many tourists spending time with us to enjoy our beautiful scenery and rich color.
There is a lot for our tourists to enjoy hare and equally as much for our local residents.
This weekend is our annual Colorfest in Mentone. This will be the biggest and greatest Colorfest in many years, as planners have really ramped up to provide the best artists, music, food and activities. There are more events than ever. It all starts on Friday evening and runs through Sunday at 5:00 pm. Leah Seawright with legendary former Alabama drummer Mark Herndon will perform Saturday night. For more information about this event you can contact DeKalb Tourism at 256-845-3957. In addition we have a brochure you can pick up at our information center at 1503 Glenn Blvd S.W in Fort Payne. This year’s Colorfest is a joint effort of MAPA (Mentone Area Preservation Assoc) and MAAC (Mentone Area Arts Council). Come out and enjoy fall at Colorfest.
For those of you who love family activities that revolve around the fall season we have two great places in DeKalb County for you to take your family this season. One is on Lookout Mountain at Dogtown and the other is on Sand Mountain in Rainsville.
Awe Shucks in Dogtown has opened its door for its first year. They are located on the Lookout Mountain Parkway (Dogtown Rd.). This Saturday Awe Shucks is having a craft fair starting at 10am, with several different venders, so come out and get some gifts, take a hay ride to get a pumpkin, see if you can find all the check points in the corn maze (Each check point has a different reward from local businesses) and have some fun with the family. Awe Shucks offers a beautiful pick your own pumpkin patch and a cornmaze. They offer the following fun things to do; 4.6 acre corn- maze, a country store, pumpkin painting, kid’s corner with games and a fun little train to drive the kids around. They also offer fire pits for rent and Smore kits for sale. Check Awe Shucks Facebook page to find hours of operation and upcoming events. For more information call 256-996-4657.
On Sand Mountain we have Down on the Farm. This is a wonderful place to take your school or church classes. Down on the Farm is another wonderful place to spend the day with your family. It offers pumpkin picking, a corn maze, hay rides, pumpkin painting, a goat walk, kids play area and a cow train. There is a snack bar and petting zoo. There are many other things to do here too. For more information about times, events, pricing and other activities visit or call 256-638-6200.
I highly recommend that you take your kids or grandkids to either one of these great and fun places this fall. You will be pleased and the kids will have a great time.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here is what Tourism provides to DeKalb County by John Dersham

On September 22nd my staff and I attended the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association annual meeting. We are members and I am currently on their board and am presiding as Co-Chair for these next two years.
At our meeting we had as our guest speaker, Dr. Steve Morse from the University Of Tennessee (no bad words please). Dr. Morse is an Economist for the university with his specialty being Tourism. He came equipped with the economic impact numbers for each of North Alabama’s sixteen counties. It is very impressive to see how big tourism is to the income of Alabama. In fact, Tourism is the largest non-agricultural business in the state. Tourists last year spent nearly 94 billion dollars in Alabama and 171,000 people make all of or most of their living in tourism.
DeKalb County generated 62 million dollars in spending by tourists in the county last year. We have 1,000 full time tourism employees and 400 part time. Tourism generated $16,150 per day in tax revenue to the county and to local municipalities. DeKalb County tourists provided $9,358 to the state daily. In 2010 DeKalb County had 29,390 households. If every household in DeKalb County had to pay extra income taxes because there were no tourists, it would mean every house hold in DeKalb County would have to pay $201 more per year. Tourism is a clean industry whose jobs cannot be outsourced to another country. It does not require infrastructure to have tourists. No garbage collection, no schools and very little direct repair costs are caused by tourists.
Tourists are people who come from outside of our local economy and spend their money that was earned elsewhere, in our local economy on their visits. In recent years, as the rest of the economy has declined tourism has helped rescue the bad economy. People still travel. They need a break and a change of scenery and we are a tank of gas here and back for eleven million people. Tourism has become a favorite topic among federal, state and local governments as more effort is being placed nationwide to grow the economy through tourism.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The 56th Annual DeKalb County VFW Agricultural Fair by John Dersham

Don’t miss the fun, it is going on now through Saturday.
We have one of the best county fairs anywhere in this part of the country. In fact our fair is like a state fair on a little smaller scale. Fair Chairman Charles Stephens and his VFW officers and all the volunteers have done a fantastic job this year, just as they have done every year in the past.
DeKalb Tourism sets up a booth each year at the fair and on Monday night we had the annual ribbon cutting to open the fair. The premises were beautiful and squeaky clean. You could not find any dirt, litter or debris on the floor or grounds by the time of the ribbon cutting.
The night the fair opens is always fun and rewarding because our local elected officials, business and community leaders all come out and greet everyone on opening day.
From the vantage point of a guy who moved around the country a lot before moving to Fort Payne, I find something unique about Fort Payne and DeKalb County. There is a fellowship and comrodary here that is strikingly noticeable to an outsider. All you have to do is spend a few hours or days here and you start noticing it right away. It shows up when you go to the store, or when you go get your driver’s license or conduct business at a bank or real estate office or restaurant. This is very evident when visiting our fair.
DeKalb County boasts one of the highest, if not the highest, return rates among it tourists in Alabama. People come here year after year. Yes, we have beautiful scenery, great parks and quaint downtowns and lots of places to spend the night. We have good places to eat and shop and lots of recreational activities and a lot of places to just plain relax. But with all that said the magic is in our people. We have the most consistently and genuinely nice people of anywhere I have lived, worked, or visited. This is an aspect of DeKalb County that you can say in tourism ads but it’s like car dealers saying they have the lowest prices ever. It is just words until you see for yourself. Our tourists return because they found what I say to be true and above all things that make them return to us each year it is the quality of the people, the customer service, the easy going pleasant way we do business. It is you that make my job easy and fun.
The fair continues through Saturday with lots of great fun and events. Come see the winning art, produce, animals, flowers, and baked and canned goods. There is entertainment each night and special events. For more information on times, prices and events check out

Friday, September 23, 2011

We Sure Live in a Wonderful Town by John Dersham

It is a great pleasure for me to help promote our wonderful city. Anyone who visited Boom Days Heritage Celebration on Saturday would have to feel good about what they saw. The weather was perfect, the streets were filled with smiling faces, people meeting friends…laughing and sharing in a great day of entertainment against an extremely scenic backdrop.
I am thrilled with the work of Mayor Jordan and our City Council and all city employees and volunteer participants that have made our downtown area a show place. The restoration of the Iron and Coal Building is well underway and all the new windows and doors, along with the new sidewalk and fence were done for us just before Boom Days. Mayor Jordan along with lots of help from Johnny Eberhart in planning and execution along with wonderful carpentry and construction work by Tony Keef and his team are making our “Boom Days” heritage new again. The restoration of the “Opera Block” and currently the Iron and Coal building has come from grant monies achieved through historic building preservation grants. The city qualified for these grants which require the restoration to mimic the original 1889 construction as closely as possible. The city used a number of resources including some architectural professionals who helped review the building and helped uncover changes that were made over its 121 year history. This would enable restoration to look like the original construction. The city also used original Boom Days pictures of the building to help bring it back to the original appearance. If you were at Boom Days you saw the new windows and doors which are exact duplicates (in appearance) of the 1889 construction. The windows and doors were crafted in Alabama. As much work as possible has been as local as possible.
It was such a pleasure for me and my family to spend the day on Saturday walking around our beautiful town. My son was here from Nashville for Boom Days. It was his first visit to our Boom Days Heritage Celebration and he was impressed. He loved the music, the arts and crafts, the people, the weather and the layout of the festival and the whole theme of it. He commented on the cleanliness of the town and was impressed by the dedication to the downtown park system with our City Park, Alabama Walking Park, the idea of the new pavilion and the blending of the original 1889 Boom Days architecture into downtown. He liked the fountain in the park, the old Boom Days brick used in the making of the fence at City Park and The Depot Museum. As a tourist here, he was impressed.
We really do have a town to be proud of. Hats off to Mayor Jordan, the city council, Greg Conkle and the Parks and Recreation team and all the city employees and volunteers from Landmarks and others who have dedicated themselves to keeping Fort Payne a “one of a kind city” in Alabama.
The one comment I hear most from our out of town guest s and the one that makes me proudest is our people. I hear this comment everyday in my job and I witness it every day personally. We are the friendliest people and we provide the best customer service, anywhere and all with a smile.
I am proud to call Fort Payne my home.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Northeast Alabama Agri Business Center By Kayla Worthey

The Northeast Alabama Agri Business Center opened its doors on September 12, 2010, with two of its three phases of construction completed and has been a major contributor in growing tourism in DeKalb County this year.
With the arena being just over 71,000 square feet and having a permanent seating capacity of 3,400, this facility has the capability to host some major events. Designed to specialize in rodeos, horse shows and other livestock events, this arena was created with a 250’ X 150’ dirt performance floor, a 25,000 square feet warm up and staging pavilion, a 214 stall stable barn, and an open air exercise area. In the past 12 months this spectacular building has been home to many rodeos, the World Famous Lipizzaner Stallions, Alabama Quarter Horse and Barrel Horse Associations as well as the US Team Roping Championship.

It has also housed main events like arena cross, motor cross, monster truck shows, truck/tractor pulls and demolition derbies, which are all entertaining shows to witness in person!
The facility also has the ability to transform into a concert setting with ease. Elevated lighting platforms for stage lights are already in place. Approximately 2,000 portable chairs can be set up on the temporary wooden floor in front of the stage making the total seating capacity 5,400 for hosting concerts like John Anderson and John Michael Montgomery. This setting is also ideal for events like high school and college graduations, wedding receptions, and other local events and shows.
Anyone wishing to stay overnight for an event has access to the 69 RV spots located behind the barn with full hookups including sewer for livestock trailers and recreational vehicles. In addition there are hotels and restaurants nearby.
You can visit the center’s website at for more information on the facility and for a complete list of their events.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bringing New Life to Your Old Photographs and Negatives by John Dersham

Remember all those old pictures you and your family have been taking for generations, on film? Do you have your negatives and prints in a drawer or shoe box, or neatly in a photo album? With the advent of digital imaging most people have changed the way they look at and share pictures. The standard has shifted from handing friends and family hard copies of pictures or showing them your photo album to emailing them or putting them on Facebook or other online photo galleries. In the last few years looking at pictures electronically has surpassed traditional viewing.
Let’s remember the purpose of taking pictures is so we can preserve a moment in time permanently. Traditional photographic materials like film and photographic prints can last for 100-200 years if stored under normal conditions inside a drawer or closet in a house. So now that technology has changed, what are you doing with your old prints and negatives? Are you showing them to anyone anymore? Wouldn’t it be nice to share them on Facebook or put them on an online gallery where you and the whole family and your friends can remember the old days again, even if they live far away? The answer is that you can. There are print and negative scanners available from all the major companies like HP, Epson, Lexmark, Kodak, Dell and many more. If you buy a dedicated film scanner there are models that allow you to scan negatives and slides of all sizes and prints too. The quality of your scanned images will be as good as your original negative, slide or print. If you had a good 35mm camera and have the negative, your images will be equal to those currently being shot on digital Single Lens Reflex. If you have a lot of images taken on the former 126 instamatic format or 110, the scanned pictures will be equal to the original quality. The nice thing about scanning your negatives, slides and prints is that once done, your images can be treated like any other digital picture. You can color correct them, crop, enlarge, print, email them or post them online. You can also take the digital files and have them printed at any photo lab. In addition you can name each image as you scan it, or you can name your whole roll of film you scan, or both. You can record your family history in chronological order. Storing the pictures on your computer will make for a great long term way to look at and share your memories.
Warning! Save your picture files to a back up drive, CD, DVD, thumb drive or online storage service. Do not think your digital images are safe and permanent on your computer without a backup. One day a computer crash, virus or the loss of your hard drive will take all your images away, including the ones you shot on digital to begin with. Digital photography is only as permanent as your storage methods. Always have a backup.
You can buy a dedicated film scanner at some mass merchants like; Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and Camera stores. You can also buy them online at Amazon, Adorama, B&H Photo and Video etc. Canon and Epson seem to have the best film scanners for home use. Epson also makes professional film scanners, as does Nikon. You can pay from $75.00 to $300.00 for one that scans negative and slides. If you have a lot of negatives and prints to scan and they are different sizes, I recommend the Epson 700 or 750M Professional. These will scan negatives of all sizes up to 8x10 and also scan prints up to 8x10 and cost about $700.00 A 35mm negative or slide scanned at 6400 DPI will produce about the same file size as a digital SLR camera of about 18MP. Most people find scanning at 2400 DPI to be sufficient for their needs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ider mule Day

Ider mule Day

Labor Day is always a great day because the town of Ider hosts its annual Mule Day. This is the 25th year of this all day fun filled family event. There are things to do from start to finish and you will not want to miss any of it. No need to pack a lunch, there is plenty of hot food, snacks and drinks for sale at multiple locations throughout the park.

While many years ago, farmers came to the Ider area to display their mules, today, the mountaintop town celebrates the tradition with the annual Ider Mule Day. Set for September 5, 2011, the event kicks off with the Wheels of Time Cruisers Open Car Show at 8 a.m. A parade featuring mules, horses, carriages, antique cars and tractors take to the streets at 9:30 a.m. Tests of strength follow with a mule pull at 10:30 a.m. and a draft horse pull at 1 p.m., and in between the fierce pulling competitions is the mule and draft horse show beginning at 11 a.m.

The day-long event also offers an antique engine and tractor display, an antique tractor pull, arts and crafts, and games for children. Live entertainment featuring bluegrass and gospel singing fills the air from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and plenty of barbeque and other food vendors along with Ider Rescue Squad’s famous homemade ice cream will be available.

Admission is $2 per person and children under 6 years old are admitted free. All activities are held in and around Ider Town Park located off of Highway 75 at 183 Sweet Gum Road.

For more information on this event, call DeKalb Tourism at 888.805.4740 or visit

Friday, August 26, 2011

Photography Tips 101 by John Dersham

In this day of totally automatic cameras that take good looking pictures without working hard for them, could also be the reason for a lot of bad photographs. Here is what I mean. Photography has always been about the finished image and not the medium to get the picture. Good quality images that are interesting to look at require some knowledge and some compositional planning. The ability to take clear photographs easy and fast does not have anything to do with taking GOOD pictures. A good picture is one you or anyone else will enjoy looking at time after time. It will look good in a photo album or on the wall, or in a publication. Here are some important tips for making your photographs stand out.
• Good lighting: For scenery shots the best time is early or late in the day. This time of year you should try 7:00am through 10:00 am and 3:00pm through 7:00pm. When the sun is at an angle in the sky the quality of lighting on your scene is much more interesting then when the sun is straight up as it is mid-day.
• Use your flash: When shooting people outside at a range of ten feet or closer, always use your flash. This helps eliminate unsightly shadows on your subjects’ faces.
• Hold your camera level: If you hold your camera level and parallel to your scene you will avoid distortion. Example: when you are at the beach, water is always level. If you hold your camera at even the slightest angle your water will look like it is going uphill. It is easy to tell if your camera is level by looking at the horizon line of your ocean view. If it is a straight line and not angled, then your camera is being held level. The same holds true for shooting landscapes, buildings, road scenes, etc.
• Composition: Good pictures are composed like a piece of art. Before you take a picture look at your available angles. Pick angles that flatter your scene by having a leading line running from the foreground into your scene. Do not crop important subjects to close the edge of the scene. Your horizon line should not be in the middle of your scene, in most cases your foreground should lead into the primary subject with the sky being a third or less of the scene, unless a primary element of the scene is the sky. Remember to hold your camera level and steady. Look at your lighting, shoot at angles where the lighting contributes to your composition. It is best when your primary subject is not in the dead center of the picture. It should be up or down or left or right of center.
• Use your viewfinder: If you have a viewfinder on your camera it is better to compose through it and not through the LCD panel on the back of your digital camera. Using the LCD panel is less stable, is prone to not holding the camera level and is harder to see your composition, especially outside. If your camera can only be used by viewing through a LCD panel then be aware of camera stability and composition.
• Hold your camera with both hands: Your camera should be held steadily using two hands with the camera held squarely and firmly. One hand shots are unsteady and will rarely be held level and parallel to the scene. This is true even if you are shooting at an unusual angle like down on the ground or crouched.
• Make sure when taking pictures of people, their faces are well lighted and do not have unattractive shadows on their faces. Make sure the background behind your subject is simple and free of distractive clutter, such as trees that appear to be growing out of your subjects head.
• If you are shooting a picture that is intended to deliver a message, such as a festival or fair, make sure you show people in the scene doing things and laughing and smiling. Show kids and babies. Show the action of people participating in the event. When promoting tourism or an attraction, you want it to look well attended.
• Shoot your digital pictures on your camera’s highest resolution then resize them smaller if needed for internet use or small print sizes.
• Download your pictures to your computer chronologically and by subject. Make them easy to find no matter how many folders you have.
• Always back up your image files and keep them stored in a different physical location. Use a storage service or back up to CD, thumb drive or other external drive and store those items in a different building or a safety deposit box. Remember, the purpose of photographs is to capture a moment in time, permanently. Losing your images due to computer crashes or accidental catalog problems is very disappointing and can be an irreplaceable loss.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tourism Legislative Grants by John Dersham

The Alabama Department of Tourism has been awarded a onetime pool of money to offer to tourism CVB’s, cities, communities and attractions to help bring tourists to Alabama. The state tourism budget was cut this year but the Alabama Legislature approved some onetime compensation in the form of this grant to help lure people to Alabama.
If you are interested in applying, time is running out. Grant requests must be filled out and a letter of support must come from Representative Greeson or Senator McGill. The State Department of tourism must have your request by September 1, 2011. The grant is for 2012.
Here are the guidelines:

Tourism Legislative Grant Guidelines
The 2012 Tourism Legislative Grants Program is designed to attract out-of-state tourists and generate revenues by promoting attendance at attractions and community wide special events. Since out-of-state visitors spent more money than local attendees, the highest priorities will be given to attractions and events that bring tourists from other states. Grants will be capped at $25,000.
It is probable that more money will be requested than the amount appropriated by the Alabama Legislature. Every attempt will be made to disburse funds broadly and fairly across the state to non-profits and historical attractions. Sen. Arthur Orr and Rep. Jim Barton, who chair the General Fund, favor funding as many different applications as possible. Should multiple applications from the same area be received, the highest priorities will be given to the project(s) with the potential of generating the highest returns to the state’s economy. This guideline may be waived depending on the total number of applications received. It should be noted that the amounts that applicants have received from the General Fund in the past will not be a factor in the amounts awarded in this process. The Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama Tourism Department operate similar General Fund grant programs funded by the Alabama Legislature. No applicant will receive grants from both agencies.
Please attach a letter of support from a Legislator from your district.
A budget for your project should also be submitted. The deadline for applications is September 1, 2011. If your project is approved by Alabama Tourism, you will be notified by the Legislator who wrote your support letter. Funds will be dispersed on a quarterly basis, as funds are available from the State Finance Department.
PLEASE NOTE: A support letter from your Legislator must be submitted with this application. Any application without a support letter will not be considered.
Send questions to 2

Requests for 2012 Tourism Legislative Grant funds must be made on an official form available from the Alabama Tourism Department. No organization, nor any of its subdivisions or affiliated groups, will be approved for more than one Legislative grant (as described in this package) from the Alabama Tourism Department. Each nonprofit organization will be required to submit its tax-exempt identification number or its tax exemption letter from the Internal Revenue Service.
Please Note: Applications must be postmarked by September 1, 2011.
The Tourism Department will release no grant funds until the applicant and the Tourism Department have received a fully executed agreement signed by the grantee, the Director of the Tourism Department, and the Governor of the State of Alabama. Funds will be disbursed on a quarterly basis as funds are available from the State Finance Department.
A. Attractions and Tourism Agencies --
1) Attractions and tourism agencies are eligible for funds for operations, marketing and program enhancements.

B. Festivals and/or Events --

1) Grant funds to be used for marketing community wide festivals and/or events. No monies shall be used for talent or salaries or any other overhead costs.

C. Local Governmental Organizations –

1) Funds may be used for attractions or events as outlined above, or facility enhancements that will attract tourists or events.

A. All applications will be reviewed by the Alabama Tourism Department and recommendations for funding will be based upon the project's impact on tourism in Alabama.
B. The Alabama Tourism Department will make recommendations for funding of applications to the Governor for final approval.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Marketing College in Dahlonega Georgia by John Dersham

Last week I completed my third and final year of Marketing College at North Georgia College. The program hosted by STS (Southeast Tourism Society) is now 20 years old. It is a certified education for people in the travel industry. It has been a wonderful education for me. I have looked forward to all the great educational tools I get each year in class. We also receive updates on the travel industry from people who make their livings forecasting travel trends.
Here are a few of those trends to 2011;
2010 was a rebound year after the 2008-2009 economic downturn which produced little growth or losses in most areas. 2011 has slightly fallen back into the economic downturn status. Here is what the forecasters are saying. People are travelling and spending nights out at a slight increase over 2010 but are spending less money on their trips. Travelers are eating well but not going to as many attractions per trip. Due to the conservative spending travel attractions are forecasted down from a year ago. Most impacted are museums, caves and other historical locations. High action locations like Theme Parks and children related venues are doing fine this year. Consumers are changing travel habits too. Hotels are doing well but B&B’s have suffered as Baby Boomers get older and desires are changing and the X and Y generations lean toward fast action, full service, pools and fast access to internet, good mobile connections, food and entertainment. In looking at our numbers here in DeKalb it appears the national trends are true here too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Little River Canyon in Fort Payne atop Lookout Mountain By Kayla Worthey

My family is what you would call an “outdoorsy” family. My husband and I have always enjoyed the outdoors, whether it is hiking, fishing, swimming, or just good ole yard work. And my kids LOVE the outdoors! From the time they were born, we have had them outside. They are the ones you see in the grocery store covered in dirt and you wonder why we never bathe them. Well, we do, most of the time twice a day. I say let them be kids. A little dirt and mud never hurt anyone. It is good for the soul, or so I have been told! We can only hope that is true.

Winter months are tough around my house because neither of my children handle being cooped up very well. Neither does my husband, for that matter. So at the first sign of warm weather our household becomes a much happier place! To celebrate the HOT weather we have been having, we decided to plan a family day at Little River Canyon.
Growing up here, Kevin and I have visited the canyon many times, but this would be my children’s first trip. Our first stop is to the new parking area on Hwy 35 at the falls. The kids were so excited to see the waterfall! Now, my children are 21 months apart so you can imagine the everyday battles that we go through. They will stop at nothing to protect each other, but they also have no problem trying to hurt each other! So while we are making our way down the paved path toward the falls, we referee between the two the whole way. “She is trying to get my backpack”, “KoKo, leave me alone”, “mom, Kinsley hit me”, “He is touching me”… you get the idea.
When we arrive at the water, a momentary calm comes over them. They forget that the other one exists for a moment and the looks on their faces are priceless. They turn to look at us as if to question, “Can we get in there?” and at the first nod of my head, they are gone! Kevin and I hurry behind them trying to keep up. There were so many children splashing about, you would think that we were in a water park. The water is so clean and clear and cool. It is so refreshing that Kevin and I eventually succumb to the temptation of basically bathing in the water ourselves. Watching my children play in the water reminds me of my childhood and makes me appreciate again having the opportunity to grow up in such a peaceful and beautiful place.
After a short while, they begin to notice that there is more around them than just water. Kowen begins to redirect his attention toward the rocks. After inspecting a large area, he finds his treasure. The most beautiful rock he has ever seen, or so he says. Kinsley finds herself at the water’s edge chasing a frog. He hops and she hops, over and over again. Finally she spots her own rock that seems to be much easier to catch and the poor little worn out frog has no idea how lucky he is.
So the kids with their new found treasures and us with a lot of wet clothes, we head back out toward the car. Now our next trip was supposed to be around the canyon rim for breathtaking views, but I think home is a better option at this point since both kiddos are already asleep. Sigh…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Daycation in DeKalb County by John Dersham

How about a weekend day trip in your own home county?
We are blessed with a pleura of places to go and things to do just a short drive away.
Let’s begin early Saturday morning at Collinsville Trade Days. This is one of the south’s largest outdoor markets. It is located in historic Collinsville just south of town on H-11. The event held each Saturday morning hosts a multitude of shopping interests for every age and every interest including fresh fruit and vegetables, boiled peanuts, nursery plants, hardware, coins, antiques, toys, cloths, furniture, house pets and farm animals. If you are a collector this may be the place you find that one item of which you have been looking for a long time. Come early because by noon the event is winding down.
After completing your shopping spree at Trade Days go north on H-11 into the quaint and historic downtown Collinsville. If you are hungry try a great lunch at Nessa’s located on Main St., at the corner of Chambers. Nessa’s specializes in fine dining in a beautifully remodeled original downtown building. Look for their schedule for live music on some weekend evenings.
Now that you have filled your tummy it is time for a beautiful little drive. Travel H-11 north to Colbran at H-81 turn right and go up the Colbran gap to Lookout Mountain. Make sure you stop at the top of the Colbran Gap and enjoy one of DeKalb County's finest valley views. Get your camera ready for this photo opp. Next stop is straight ahead to Dogtown and home of world famous Akins Furniture, known for 135,000 square feet of great furniture at great prices. At the Dogtown intersection you will be at the junction of H-81 and Lookout Mountain Parkway. Go straight ahead through the intersection where it will become H-176 heading east toward Little River Canyon National Preserve and the canyon rim drive. Follow the sign for 176 to the left and enjoy one of our county’s most scenic and peaceful drives. Along this route you will have multiple scenic overlooks with good parking and great views of the canyon. At the end of H-176 you will turn right onto H-35. Cross the bridge and pull into the Little River Falls parking lot on the right. There is a short (handicap friendly) walk to the water falls. Here you can view the Little River Falls. This time a year there are some great little swimming holes carved into the rocks on the river floor, so bring your swimming suit, towel and suntan oil and enjoy one of the prettiest places on our planet… right here at home? Make sure you stop and explore the Canyon Center on H-35 just before you leave the park.
Your next jaunt is a mid afternoon drive north on the Lookout Mountain Parkway to Mentone. Head west on H-35 to the flashing yellow light and take a right onto H-89 (Lookout Mountain Parkway) and drive the mountain top road to DeSoto State Park and DeSoto Falls. For a fun break stop at the DeSoto State Park camp store. Here you will find refreshments, ice cream and nature gift items. If you would like a beautiful short hike take the Azalea trail that emanates just behind the camp store. When complete continue heading north on the lookout mountain parkway following the signs to Mentone. Once in Mentone it will be time for a stroll around town and a visit to the gift shops. This little town has so much character with its show place ion the Mentone Springs Hotel. This hotel built in 1884; now a B&B is one of Alabama’s premier historic buildings and is considered the oldest hotel in the state. The Mentone Springs Hotel offers a delight to the eye and to the palette with its two restaurants, including The Springs Restaurant. Now head down the mountain on H-117 and stop halfway down the mountain at Miracle Pottery and see the beautiful work of one of our county’s most known artist, Valinda Miracle. Now to end your day with a great cool down stop for a tour of Sequoyah Caverns, truly one of the prettiest caves ever to be seen.
For more information about things to do and see in DeKalb County for your “Daycation” visit us at Wow! What a great daycation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

True Adventure Sports By Kayla Worthey

This area is known for its great outdoors. Our main attractions are some of the most beautiful natural landscapes around. You can visit Sequoyah Caverns in Valley Head for a guided tour of the cave and stunning reflecting pools. You can drive around the Little River Canyon National Preserve and witness breathtaking views. You can tour DeSoto State Park on its many hiking trails or you can stroll down for a refreshing view of DeSoto Falls. These are all great adventures to take, but if you are looking for something a little more adventurous, let me introduce you to Israel Partridge and his staff at True Adventure Sports.
They offer some kind of guided adventure almost every day of the week. You can choose from a list of adventurous thrills like Rock Climbing, Rappelling, Bouldering, Wild Cave Tours, Extreme Night Hikes, Zip Lining, a Sky Swing, Laser Tag and Treasure Hunts. They also offer Do-it-Yourself rentals on bikes, canoes, kayaks, mopeds, jet skis, and camping gear. If you are interested in learning, they have an array of classes such as GPS navigation, Practical Ingenuity, Orienteering, Certification classes and much more.
After my long, tiresome weekend, I decided to try the scariest (for me anyway) and least strenuous to start out, the Zip Line and Sky Swing Combo. We all meet up at the True Adventure Sports store located on Hwy 176. I was amazed at all the store had to offer. Drinks, snacks, t-shirts, Chaco and Merrell shoes, all kinds of camping gear, and a lot of things that were unfamiliar to me since I am not an everyday adventurer. After we sign our waivers, we load up to head out into the woods. I am starting to get a little nervous at this point, but am quickly calmed by the beauty of the Canyon. We drive a few miles down the canyon road before we arrive at our destination. We all unload and our guides grab the bags of gear. We hit the trail and almost instantly we are there. Our tour guides distribute our harnesses and helmets and then just sit back and watch as we make absolute fools of ourselves trying to figure out how to put them on. You can only imagine some of the conversations that came up in the next 5 minutes. Apparently there are a lot of different ways to incorrectly tie yourself up in one of these things, none of which are very flattering if you know what I mean. So after getting their daily intake of laughter, the girls decide that they better help us. Thank you very much since we have managed to embarrass ourselves beyond belief at this point. So, we get strapped in…correctly this time, and each guide double checks our straps and our helmets before we take off.
First up is the Zip Line! Towering almost 40 feet above us and spanning about 250 feet through the woods, it looks awesome! One by one we climb the tower and hook in. We get our brief lesson on what to do and then we are off. There are screams, yells, laughs, and hollers for the next hour! We even had a water balloon fight break out, staged by our hosts of course. Everyone was able to jump once facing forward and once going off backward. I think our nerves are gone now so bring on the sky swing!
We all follow the path down to the swing. Our guide makes his way up to the platform in the tree about 35 feet up. Who is first? I start my shaky climb to the platform and before I know it I am hanging backwards in a tree. What have I gotten myself into? All of a sudden I begin my free fall back toward the ground and I try to scream, but nothing comes out. Now I am facing the ground and heading into a full motion swing and finally I can breathe! What a rush of excitement! For the next few minutes I enjoy the breeze of the gentle, giant swing. After they release me from the swing and my feet are on the ground again, I can’t stop smiling!
Thank you Israel, Tyler, Elizabeth and Brandy. You guys were awesome and so was this trip! I can’t wait to come back for my next adventure!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

DeKalb Tourism 2 by John Dersham

DeKalb Tourism is the primary organization promoting tourism in DeKalb County. We are a non profit organization and are funded by the county lodging tax, grants and city appropriations.

Here are the ways we promote:
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. We promote businesses 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 with QR code – Our guide provides current and potential tourists information about all the things to see and do in DeKalb County, which would be inviting to the tourist. This guide is 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 – Tourism related businesses 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 services we offer:
* Digital Marquee at one of Fort Payne’s busiest intersections. We promote your tourism related 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 video’s
*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.

*We promote businesses that out of town tourists would be interested in visiting. We do not represent local businesses that do not have a tourism draw. We do, however offer information at our information center to guests that ask about non tourism businesses like, auto service, health care, construction, retail (non tourist related) etc. We keep information on real estate and related information for people who would like to move to DeKalb County.

If you have questions please contact DeKalb Tourism at 256-845-3957

Thursday, June 30, 2011

DeKalb Tourism by John Dersham

In 1953 the DeKalb County Tourist Association was formed by a group of local attractions. They joined together to form an association that would help promote their attractions to potential tourists that lived outside of DeKalb County.
Over the last 58 years tourism to DeKalb County has dramatically grown and has gained many facets not present at the beginning, such as Agri-Tourism, Eco Tourism, Festival Tourism, History and Genealogy Tourism, food and music tourism, antique and flea market tourism and artists and craftsmen related shows, businesses and events. During all of these years you had to become a member of the DeKalb County Tourist Association in order to be included in our advertising plans.
As the gamut of things visitors like to do when they travel has grown and the dollars they spend in our county has grown it became apparent to us that a more inclusive business model would help bring more business to our county and a chance to grow tourism to the next level here in DeKalb. Since we are funded by dollars collected in taxes at lodging facilities and on Alcohol sales it became important that we deliver a message about tourism that covers all the topics that a potential visitor would find appealing here in DeKalb County. As tourism grew the portion of dollars from memberships became a smaller part of our income and the larger part became the dollars coming from public spending.
Last year our board voted unanimously to become a non-member organization that would promote all entities in the county that would be a draw to the potential visitor. Beginning January 1, 2012 we will no longer have members. The conversion process began January 1 of this year when we began our transition year from a member to non member organization. Since memberships were paid on anniversary dates it required a year for all memberships to expire. Beginning next year we will add in other venues that appeal to the traveler but would typically have not drawn membership. Examples of this would be things that appeal to our tourists like food and entertainment, Agricultural events and farmers markets, sports events, flea markets and antique shopping. DeKalb Tourism promotes on TV, radio, in magazines and brochures all throughout the Southeast and Midwest. We promote beginning 50 miles away and go up to 500 miles. We are a drive to market so we do not spend ad dollars to promote longer distances. By definition, a tourist is someone visiting and spending their money 50 miles or more from where they live. DeKalb Tourism’s ad campaign is to entice people to make us their travel destination by talking about the big picture, our beautiful scenery, parks, cabins, campgrounds, B&B’s, Hotels, artists and shows, restaurants, hiking, waterfalls, relaxation, good food and music. Once the consumer is interested in us then our website and brochures help direct them to where they want to, stay, play, eat, shop, etc.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Tourism Update by John Dersham

Last week I attended the annual retreat for the Alabama Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (AACVB). AACVB consists of organizations throughout the state that are in the Destination Marketing business, just like DeKalb Tourism.
At this meeting we always have guest speakers that are experts in various parts of the destination marketing business. This year we had seminars on the latest products and services for mobile applications and internet marketing. This is an ever changing realm and our industry has to stay on the cutting edge of this technology. It is imperative that we stay up with the current trends so we know the way our potential visitors get their information. We had seminars dealing with budgets and our current political climate. The trend is to do more with less money. Many budgets have been cut. This increases the need to work smart and utilize free or low cost internet marketing as much as possible, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging etc. Another seminar concerned itself with current trends in advertising, what works, what does not and what has cooled off and what is hot. The bottom line is tourism is like all other industries we have to stay up with the current trends that work or get outdated and loose market share.
Much of this years meeting dealt with the current state of tourism in Alabama, how are we doing, and what are our challenges. Most CVB’s had an opportunity to talk about their results and their marketing plans for this year. Some of the challenges for all of us are the sluggish economy, a tendency to hold on to money, high gas prices and severe weather conditions. In north Alabama and in Tuscaloosa the April 27th tornados have negatively impacted tourism. The consumer thought is much like last years oil spill in the gulf. The perception is that our area has been ruined by the tornados and we will not be a good place to visit this summer. We are currently running a TV, radio and press campaign telling our potential travelers that DeKalb County and all our tourist attractions are open and looking good...
Overall there is a downward trend in tourism for most CVB’s this year. 2010 was a greatly improved year over the prior several but this year is tending to look more like 2008 and 2009 for most of us.
DeKalb Tourism is dedicated to trying to maximize our money to spend as much of it as possible on advertising. It is critical that we track the results from each type of advertising we do. This way we know what works and what does not and how much it costs for each form of advertising. DeKalb Tourism will keep doing all we can to bring those very important tourism revenues into our area. Tourism is big business and it is especially large here when considering the small size of our population.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Tourism Has Begun by John Dersham

Our official beginning of the summer tourism season began last weekend with our traditional Memorial Day Holiday. For many years school has ended just before Memorial Day and people make their first summer trips. Destinations to water and mountains are very big on Memorial Day. It is usually the first time weather is warm enough for swimming and sunbathing. Picnics and camping are big on this holiday too.

This year we have some challenges to overcome in order of having a successful summer season. We have been impacted by a consumer belief spawned by television media that north Alabama will not make a good summer destination because it was so badly damaged during the April 27th tornados. Even though all of DeKalb County's tourist attractions are open and look fantastic a perception contrary to that exists.
In order to get the word out that we are open for business, DeKalb Tourism has sent out an “Open for Business” press release of which we have already received some television and newspaper coverage. We are running a radio and television ad campaign across north and central Alabama and southern Tennessee that starts out by letting people know that despite severe damage and loss of life and property in parts of DeKalb County that our famous and beautiful tourist attractions are open. This includes all parks, museums, hotels, cabins, B&B’s, campgrounds, artist shops and sports locations. We are hoping this ad campaign will invite people to plan their summer vacations here in DeKalb. The other challenge we have is our high gas cost. This is having a nationwide impact on travel but I believe we will be ok. The fact that we are only one tank of gas away for 11 million people and we have a good interstate system coming to us should entice visitors who do not want to make a longer trip this summer.
Last year we had an excellent year in tourism. We rebounded from the economic downturn of the prior couple years. This year has been soft however beginning the year with snow storms, then ice and finally the tornados. I feel good about our recovery now and feel we will have a good summer vacation season.
I’d like to pass along a special thanks to all the wonderful people in DeKalb County that rallied to support all the people who lost loved ones, were injured or lost material property during the tornados. We really shined here in DeKalb. When the chips were down we showed just how much we care with the tremendous outpouring of physical and financial help. Thanks, everyone.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Proud to be a Rural Southerner! By Kayla Worthey

I was born in Fort Payne, Alabama and raised in Mentone on Lookout Mountain. I went to Moon Lake Elementary School and graduated valedictorian from Valley Head High School. I went on to Northeast Alabama Community College until I moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta is still in the south, but big cities do not possess that sweet southern charm that the rest of us small towns so proudly boast.

Growing up here, there were a few things that I learned in my adolescent and teen years. People here are friendly. Everyone here waves, weather they know you or not, or at least gives you a raised finger (and no, I don’t mean the middle one either). They speak when they pass you by, it doesn’t matter if they have never met you. And we say yes ma’am and no sir. The recent comradeship after the storms just proves that our communities are families and not just a group of towns.

Now I had a lot of new lessons to learn when I moved to Atlanta. Everyone in the south is not so friendly. But I managed to spread a little of my southern charm to some great friends and my accent earned me the nickname “Bama” by few. At first, I was embarrassed, but quickly learned to be a proud “southerner” and embrace my southern heritage!
While I enjoyed my years learning new cultures and ways of life, refining myself and my palate, when the time came I was glad to be back home. I learned to appreciate our southern lifestyles and our natural surroundings. There is a lot to be said about trees, and grass, and rocks and NOT so much concrete, asphalt and steel. We are so fortunate to live here and I think we take for granted what beautiful lands and natural resources and attractions we have.
I challenge you to show your family DeKalb County and the surrounding areas. Have you or your family ever been to Little River Canyon National Preserve, DeSoto State Park, High Falls Park, Bucks Pocket State Park, Sequoyah Caverns, Fort Payne Depot, the list goes on and on. Did you know that we have a State Scenic Byway right here on Lookout Mountain? There are so many things in our area that we take for granted, or at least I know that I do. Beautiful, natural landscapes surround us every day and we tend to forget that they are so rare.
If you want to show your family the area, visit our website at or come by our office at the corner of Airport Road and Hwy 35 and we will give you maps and informational materials. We can even help you plan your journey if you like. With so many things to see and do, the possibilities are endless!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Fort Payne, Ala. – On April 27, 2011, cities and communities came to a halt as over 40 tornadoes came through Alabama killing over 230 and leaving millions of dollars in damage. While DeKalb County was severely impacted in certain areas, its visitor information center and all tourist attractions and accommodations were spared and are open for business as usual. Volunteerism has been spectacular throughout DeKalb County as many people have opened up their homes and there wallets to help victims of the deadly tornado’s. Now a massive effort to restore and clean up damaged or destroyed properties has begun.

The beautiful tourist areas in Fort Payne and Mentone (on Lookout Mt.) are ready and anxious for their summer vacationers to come and enjoy the quaint peaceful beauty and to enjoy all the wonderful things to see and do in the area.

“The summertime is an excellent time to visit DeKalb County,” said John Dersham, executive director of the DeKalb Tourism. “We want to encourage visitors to not cancel vacation plans as all attractions throughout DeKalb County are open and ready for summer travelers.”

The 23-mile drive along the Little River Canyon National Preserve provides countless photo capturing moments of the 700-foot deep gorge. For those wanting to experience nature on foot or by water, miles of hiking, whitewater kayaking, and canoeing are available at Little River Falls, DeSoto State Park and High Falls Park. “The scenic areas of Lookout Mountain, Little River Canyon, DeSoto State Park, and High Falls Park were unaffected and still remain beautiful today as before the outbreak of severe weather,” added Dersham.

Situated atop Lookout Mountain among the many scenic waterfalls and majestic overlooks are a variety of accommodations. According to Dersham, none of the cabins, B&B’s, hotels, or campgrounds located in DeKalb County sustained any damage and are available for reservations. For those with any concerns may contact the property directly to confirm or inquire about reservations.

Tucked away at the foot of Sand Mountain is beautiful Sequoyah Caverns and its “looking glass lakes”, which reflect the thousands of intricate rock formations and nature’s magnificent underground creations. Sequoyah Caverns is a comfortable 60 degrees year round making a summertime visit an ideal time to visit.

“Tourism and travel are important to DeKalb County and we realize we are very fortunate that these areas were not directly impacted. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those in our county and state that were not as fortunate,” said Dersham.

For information on all attractions and special events, contact the DeKalb County Tourist Association at 888.805.4740 or visit

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alabama Showbird by John Dersham

Events generate tourism dollars to our community. Many people think of tourists as the people that visit us on their vacations. The ones that come to our State Parks, Little River Canyon, our camps or to the Alabama Museum and Gift Shop. The same people that rent our cabins, stay in Hotels, campgrounds and B&B’s. The same ones that eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores. These visitors come for a leisurely trip to enjoy our fantastic scenery and pleasant small town experiences. This has been our traditional tourist in DeKalb County.
There is another kind of tourism that is critical to any community and we are beginning to receive more of it. It is event based tourism. Event tourism is travelers coming to our area for a specific event, such as; a local festival like Boom Days, Ider Mule Day, Sand Mountain Potato Festival, Mentone Rhododendron Festival, Collinsville Turkey Trot or Fyffe UFO Days. They may be here for a concert, rodeo, horse show or ATV event at our new Agri Business Center. It can be a sporting event like a baseball or swimming tournament at our Parks and Recreation locations. All of these events bring money to our communities from people to who travelled from outside our area to come here. They buy gas, eat, shop, spend the night in our hotels, cabins, campgrounds etc.
The weekend before last the Alabama Showbird Association had a big event at our VFW Fairgrounds. Many people may not realize just how big of a tourism draw an event like this might be. Heath Locklear is Vice President of the Alabama Showbird Association this year. He asked us to have a booth at the event to promote our county. In a note to me from Heath on Facebook here is how he recapped the event,

“Hey John. I wanted to thank you for sending Misty over to the show with the tourist info. I wanted to give you some figures that I thought were really encouraging for this being our first show. At 9:00 am I had several club members go around and try to get a rough headcount. We took those figures and estimated 450 people inside the show at one time. That's not counting the 30 or 40 people that were outside selling and buying birds and supplies. We had 700 birds in the show. This did not count all the birds that were for sale. We confirmed 29 motel rooms that were rented for the show that weekend. Not counting the people that stayed at the State Park. We could not have been happier. We have already begun work on our next spring show and have plans for it to be even bigger. We have decided on doing a show program next year and selling ads to help cover the cost. Our idea is to target mainly the local mom and pop stores so that the exhibitors will be encouraged to visit downtown and other local businesses. Any ideas that you have on the subject would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for all your help.
Talk to you soon,”

Heath’s comments point to the local aspects of an event like this and making sure our local businesses feel the benefit of visitors spending money in our town.

The Alabama Showbird Association is a non-profit group dedicated to the raising and showing of all breeds of poultry. Founded almost 50 years ago, they believe today just as the founders did, that raising poultry is a great hobby for young and old alike. Nothing quite compares to the pride and feeling of accomplishment that one gets from seeing one of his or her birds being admired by a large group of his or her peers. And the lessons learned and passed to younger generations are priceless.
For more information visit

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Manager is as Good as his People by John Dersham

I just began my fourth year in tourism. When I was hired by our board of directors I had been a 30 year veteran at Eastman Kodak, in management and marketing. I was convinced from the job description that the job as Executive Director of Tourism would be a good fit for my history. I already had a sincere love and passion for our beautiful county. After being moved four times by Kodak to different parts of the country our move here was hand picked by my wife Kyle and I who started coming here on vacation a few years prior.
The first thing I asked our board when hired, was to tell me about our staff, how long have they worked here? What are their ambitions and do they feel they are stable performers who have accrued a solid working knowledge of our business? I learned a long time ago that a manger is only as good as the people who report to him/her. I hit the jackpot in this category. So much so, that we have the exact same staff that I started with four years ago. These individuals are dedicated, reliable, and loyal and they offer first class customer service to our visitors at our information center and to our phone callers. They also help the hundreds of people each week requesting information from our website or from social media accounts. They, along with our board which is made up of seasoned tourism professionals and local business professionals really helped me jump start my career at DeKalb Tourism. The board also introduced me to the key players in state and regional tourism that would help me even further.
At DeKalb Tourism we have four employees. They include me as Executive Director, Kayla Worthey (Marketing Manager), Michele Wooden (Administrative Assistant) and Avice Pearson who works Fridays and every weekend including most holidays. Avice is 100% reliable, she is always here when she is supposed to be and she is always early. Last year we promoted our Administrative Assistant Kayla Worthey to position of Marketing Manager and promoted Office Assistant Michele Wooden to Administrative Assistant.
You may have noticed Kayla Worthey is now writing some of our weekly columns. Some weeks when I am traveling it is hard to get the column done and turned in on time. Kayla came to me with a couple very interesting pieces of writing she had done. She wrote first person about herself and family’s personal trips to locations around DeKalb County. I was so impressed by her writing and by the idea she had that I asked Jared Felkins at the Times Journal if we could use Kayla’s articles on weeks I could not produce one. They agreed and now you will see Kayla’s very personal stories of journeys around beautiful DeKalb County. Kayla is a graduate of Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College. Marketing College is a certified continuing education degree for the tourism industry.
I feel very fortunate after having a very wonderful career at Kodak to reside in another extremely interesting and rewarding career and it is a sincere blessing to have begun this position with wonderful, hard working knowledgeable people whom were already in place.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Southeast Tourism Society Spring Symposium by John Dersham

Last week our marketing manager (Kayla Worthey) and I attended the Southeast Tourism Society’s Spring Symposium at the Sand Destin Golf and Beach Resort. The Southeast Tourism Society (STS) is a member organization that provides tourism promotion and education to its members. They cover 12 southern states and are known to be a leading provider of educational services to the tourism industry, including a certified continuing education program called STS Marketing College which is held every summer in Dahlonega, GA. It is a three year program of which you graduate. Another series of classes is held each year for alumni. At our just completed spring conference our class of 2010 was given their diplomas at a luncheon to honor them. One of our own, Kayla Worthey graduated last year and I am due finish this summer. People from throughout the tourism industry are invited to attend this one of a kind program. STS is in their 21st year of offering Marketing College.
Twice a year STS hosts their symposiums, once each spring and another in the fall. The location moves around so that each of the 12 states will eventually be included. The Sand Destin Golf and Beach Resort is a gated 2400 acre resort complex of homes, condo’s, hotels, vacation rentals, golf, swimming, the beach and a town of it’s own with shopping, restaurants, entertainment etc. This facility has 800 employees. STS always picks a member business to host its conferences.
I really like the spring conference because it consists of two educational components. There are the general mainstream seminars then there are the more specific SETTRA White Paper seminars which deal with the academics of tourism. Here we learn the forecasts, trending, short and long term projections, etc. One of the White Paper seminars dealt specifically with the short and long term effects of the gulf oil spill on tourism, the overall economy and the environment. Since Kayla comes to this symposium too we get to split up and she goes to one and I go to the other. This way each seminar is covered by one of us.
The forecast for this year in tourism is good in most of the 12 states covered by STS. In North Alabama we are in the zone that shows the best growth. There are several other areas in the same zone, some are in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Among the seminars some of the topics included were; The Gulf Oil Spill, Engineering a Tourism Experience, Attracting increased revenue at College sports events, Hiring an Efficient Staff, The Political Advocacy Game, The National and Regional Forecast and a panel discussion about successful Main Street Programs.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Moonlight Bistro in Mentone By Kayla Worthey

My family and I went to dinner last week at the Moonlight Bistro in Mentone. All I can say is DE-LI-CIOUS! In case you don’t know, The Moonlight Bistro used to be the famous “Log Cabin Deli”. Owners Michael Goss and Christine Ballenger bought the restaurant back in August, made some minor changes, did some spring cleaning and voila! The place has a warm and cozy atmosphere, with a wood burning fireplace and candlelit table centers. The staff is very friendly and adds to the total ambiance of the place.
To start us off, we got greedy and ordered two appetizers because we couldn’t decide. The Fried Calamari…tender golden brown rings mingled with fried peppers dipped in succulent sauce…superb; and the Anastasia Island crab dip…warm, served with toasted freshly baked bread, I couldn’t stop eating…to die for. Before we had time for all of that to fully digest, our entrees had arrived.
My husband dined on Lemon Pepper Rainbow Trout with mashed potatoes and pasta salad. Of course I had to try it, just a taste. It was absolutely perfect! I went on the lighter side (wink) and ordered the fried green tomato sandwich. Beer battered and fried perfectly with the most delicious aioli to top it off. I honestly could not put it down. Let me go back a moment and tell you that I was very reluctant to order this meal. Fried anything on bread is not appealing to me, but I LOVE fried green tomatoes, so I had to give it a shot. One of the best decisions I have ever made (in the way of food anyway). It was out of this world!
My children are Kowen, 3 years and Kinsley, 17 months, and they are very pick-and-go eaters. We decided after all the appetizers they could just share a corn dog basket with fries, thinking they would never eat it all. We were wrong! It must have been yummy in their little tummies because there was none left and that never happens! The French fries were very good.
For dessert, we tried the hot fudge cake, one of their delightful homemade treats! Warm, rich, delicious chocolate with ice cream, do I really need to say anything more?
So with that said, our compliments to the chef and his team! We will back again, maybe for lunch next time. On my list are the gourmet chicken salad and Philly Cheese Steak sandwich! And for dessert I must try their deep fried oreos.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Springtime in DeKalb County by John Dersham

We have some of the most beautiful places anywhere, right here at home. It is time to renew your love for all the natural attributes and beauty of our county and get out there and enjoy spring. Our water falls are at their max. They are gorgeous right now.
It has been a cold cloudy wet winter but the sun and the warmth are here for us all to enjoy.
Here in DeKalb County we are blessed with plant species from the north and from the south. This gives us a wider gamut of beautiful spring flowers in bloom at the same time. Nothing like getting out there for a drive or a hike and seeing our wide variety of blooms from our early Daffodils and Bradford Pears to Redbud, Cherry, Plum and Peach to White and Red Dogwoods, Azaleas, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons. The sky is blue, the air is warm so head out and enjoy beautiful DeKalb County.

Here are some places that are at their peak of spring beauty right now.
Little River Canyon and Canyon Center: Little River Falls, Graces High Falls, hiking trails, scenic drive on the canyon rim, picnics, boulder outcrops with white water. The Canyon Center at the Preserve. 256-845-9605
DeSoto State Park: DeSoto Falls (104 foot drop), picnics, hiking trails, playground, country store (souvenirs, local crafts and basic groceries), nature center, swimming pool (summer), resort lodge and cabins. 13903 County Rd 89 Fort Payne 256-845-5075.
Sequoyah Caverns and Ellis Homestead: beautiful scenery, famous cave with spectacular reflecting pools, swimming pool (summer only), historic location since 1841, picnics, rock climbing/repelling, store, crafts, souvenirs and restrooms. 1438 County Rd 731, Valley Head 256-635-0024
Buck’s Pocket State Park: Camping, picnics, fishing and boating, hiking and beautiful scenery. 393 County Rd 174, Grove Oak 256-659-2000.
DeKalb County Public Lake (New Improvements) 120 acre lake, fishing, boat rentals, bait, picnics, refreshments. 720 County Rd. 194 Sylvania 256-657-1300
High Falls Park: Beautiful vistas, large water falls, walking bridge, hiking trails, picnics, rest rooms and playground. 256-623-2281
Fort Payne City Park and Alabama Walking Park and Depot Museum:
Located in downtown Fort Payne- walking, picnics, playgrounds, museum, shops and restaurants.
Historic Town of Mentone: located at the top of Lookout Mountain on H-117. Visit quaint gift and craft shops, antique stores and restaurants. For a beautiful view from the brow visit the Mentone Brow Park just behind the White Elephant Antique store and Mentone Springs Hotel.

For more information visit us at the DeKalb County Visitor Center located at 1503 Glen Blvd S.W., Fort Payne or call 888-805-4740.
Please visit to see all of the wonderful places to go and things to see in our wonderful county.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Northeast Alabama Home & Garden Show By Kayla Worthey

The Northeast Alabama Home & Garden Show is a non-profit corporation that was founded 28 years ago for the purpose of giving businesses in our area an opportunity to exhibit their company’s products. Every year The Home and Garden Show is held at the DeKalb County Schools Coliseum in Rainsville on the third weekend in March. And every year, my family and I attend.
The first year, my husband and I were building a home and found a lot of useful information about windows, vinyl siding, shutters, gutters, bath tubs and showers, flooring, landscaping, and so much more. Going in, I think I just expected to hopefully find some new ideas, but we actually found a supplier for our siding and gutters and set up an appointment with a landscaper. We also came away with many other new ideas for the house and made some contacts for furniture in the future.
The second year, we had just moved into our new house and had a four month old little boy running the household! We were “strolling” this time and found all kinds of children’s clothing and accessories just perfect for the new little man in our lives. I spent some time at a booth specializing in Tupperware products that proved to be very handy for a new mom. Then I quietly tip-toed over to a booth advertising the word “spa”, while the boys picked out rose bushes as part of my first Mother’s Day. On our way out, I was paid back for the “spa” stop. The boys spent an hour touring the tractors, lawnmowers and other equipment outside.
I won’t bore you with any more of our personal findings, but you can see why we return again and again! I even saw booths for financial investment planners and tax preparation, both of which I already take advantage of! This year with two children in tow, I can only imagine what this adventure will bring.
Now on top of just being a visitor myself, I also have the pleasure of working this event one day each year and meeting a couple thousand or so of the friendliest people around. I forget sometimes how nice it is to live in the south, with everyone’s sweet southern charm and hospitality.
I would like to personally thank the board of directors for their time and efforts each year making this show such a great event! Well done ladies and gentlemen and I can’t wait to see what this year holds!
Hope to see you all there this weekend, March 19th & 20th!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Accidental Tourism by John Dersham

Most people think of tourists as people who have planned their travels and are taking their vacations to a particular planned destination. They have booked their lodging, figured out what they are going to see and do. Many even plan where they will eat or shop. It is true that much of tourism is done this way, especially if the tourist is going a long distance and especially if they are flying.
There is however all kinds of tourists and all kinds of tourism that generate income to whatever destination, of which, they arrive. By definition a tourist is anyone traveling and spending money more than fifty miles from the area of which they live. This means business travelers are also tourists. This is why a big part of the tourism industry focuses on attracting conventions and special events like trade shows to their town or city. Sports events are a major tourism draw, as are festivals and concerts. Many larger cities focus much of their tourism attention on attracting the major events and conventions. In order to solicit this business your location must be able to accommodate large groups for lodging and for meetings.
Another form of tourism is the “Accidential Tourist”. These are tourists who venture out on a day trip, or a weekend trip without a plan. They hit the road with a basic direction and a possible final destination but their trip is comprised of finding things to do and see along the way. This is very popular tourism to DeKalb County. We get many people year around that come in our information center whom have more or less just stumbled into our area, they like what they see and what to do more. They see our road signs for different attractions, they see our mountains and they find us inviting. They may have heard a little about us already and decided to come this way and see for themselves. They travel without reservations. They shop, eat and see attractions on any visual whim they get. Motorcycle tourists are especially prone to this type of tourism. Tourists are also people who stop and get off the interstate because what they see at our exit(s) attracted them. We may have been just the right spot at the right time of day to find lodging for the night. They same is true for people stopping to eat at any time of the day, or to fill up with gas and buy snacks. All of these people are spending money in our communities and bringing in badly needed tax revenue.
DeKalb County is historically a leisure tourism county. People come for our relaxing scenic environment. They come for our state parks and national preserve, they come to rent a cabin or camp or stay in a B&B. They come to mill around Mentone or Fort Payne. They come for our yard sales and antique shops. They come to relax. The opening of our N.E. Agri Business Center in Rainsville has added event tourism to our list of attractions. Event based tourism attracts people to an area specifically because of an event like our upcoming rodeo at the Agri Center or the upcoming John Michael Montgomery concert. A fishing tournament at DeKalb County Fishing Lake is event based tourism too.
Tourism is a critical part of our revenue stream in DeKalb County. We are very fortunate to have so many wonderful things to do and see here in DeKalb County.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What a Difference 100 Years Makes by John Dersham

One hundred years ago my grandfather John Alexander Dersham, of whom I am named had been married to Lena (Shoemaker) Dersham for only two years. Lena received her college education graduating in 1906. 100 years ago not many women graduated from college. She went on to teach school for 35 years. My grandfather was an accountant for the Pennsylvania railroad. Soon they would have three children, one was my father. All three kids received Masters Degrees from Penn State and Bucknell. Even in the 1930’s the percent of kids going to college was very small. They lived in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. Mifflinburg was a German farming community about 40 miles from State College, the home of Penn State University. Mifflinburg had a cabinet factory and a silk mill but mostly they were known as the Buggy Capital of the US. At one point there were more than fifty shops making buggies. Some were large companies and some where one man shops. My Great Grandfather Alexander Dersham was a farmer and buggy maker. Mifflinburg was the Detroit of buggy making. Then one day came the horseless carriage and Mifflinburg began building bodies for cars. Mifflinburg had no river close enough to get steel to them in large enough quantities and Mifflinburg had no way to keep up with Detroit and other cities on the Great Lakes, or on a major river system. By 1910 demand for horse carriages was nearing its end and Mifflinburg was beginning to loose out in the increasing demands for auto bodies.
One hundred years ago Fort Payne had already seen its Boom Days come and go. In the late 1880’s and early 1890’s New Englanders brought wealth and industry to Fort Payne. They built fine homes, factories and buildings, many of which are still with us today. In 1889 Fort Payne had grown to more then 3,000 people but by 1910 the Boom had been over for nearly two decades and Fort Payne had all but dried up leaving buildings empty and beginning to crumble with age and neglect. There were more houses, buildings and factories than there were people and companies to occupy them. By 1910 Fort Payne was down to only 300-400 residents which was nearly the same as the pre Boom Days. In 1907 the first hosiery mill opened and very, very slowly the town began to grow again as Fort Payne became the “Sock Capital of the World”.
Just for fun I have listed some facts from 1910. This came from the National Archives and floated around on the internet last year.
The average wage in the US was 22 cents per hour. The average worker made between $200-400 a year. A Dentist made $2,500 and a mechanical engineer around $5,000. The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower. The average life expectancy for men was 47 years. Only 14% of homes had bathtubs. 8% of homes had a telephone. There were 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads in the US and you could only buy gas from a drug store. 95% of births took place at home. 90% of doctors were not college educated. Sugar cost 4 cents a pound, eggs were 14 cents a dozen and coffee was 15 cents a pound. Most women washed their hair once a month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo. The five leading causes of death were pneumonia and influenza, Tuberculosis, Diarrhea, Heart Disease and Stroke. The population of Las Vegas was 30. Crossword puzzles, canned beer and ice tea had not been invented yet. Two out of ten adults could not read or write and only 6% of Americans had graduated from high school.18% of households had at least one full time servant or domestic help. There were only 230 murders reported in the entire US.