Thursday, November 21, 2013

Changing Seasons by John Dersham

I always look forward to each changing season. It is such a beautiful process as each season brings forth it own set of moods, feelings and memories of all the same season from the past. I think I look forward to them all nearly equally with perhaps spring and fall being my favorites.
In the spring I look forward to those first warm sunny days when you get that timeless irresistible desire to get outside and enjoy the feel of the warming sun on your face.
Our area is very special because we live in the last climate zone that in my opinion has a true four season change. We have the advantage of having more days of the year that are comfortably warm than our neighbors further north and more distinct falls and winters than our neighbors to the south. Once you get south of Birmingham the fall color is less, much in part due to the lessening hardwood forests which dwindle as you move south, but also the warmer temperatures don't trigger the wonderful color in fall like we have here. We get cold weather and some snow too. From someone who lived much of my life much further north, I can say our seasons go through an equal change in look but we have the advantage of warmer annual temperatures and more warm days in both spring and fall and  in winter too. I prefer living in a climate with four distinct seasons, like ours. Much of my enjoyment each year revolves around the climate changes and the changes in look and feel that each seasonal change evokes.
This time of year as fall foliage begins to fall to the ground and temperatures drop I start getting in the Thanksgiving and Christmas feeling. The thoughts of family times, laughing, good conversations and plenty of food and holiday music always trigger wonderful thoughts of Thanksgivings and Christmas’s of our past.
…so from our house to yours, I wish all of you a blessed and joyous holiday season. Have fun, be safe and eat well.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Southeast Tourism Society - Fall Forum by John Dersham

The Southeast Tourism Society is the largest regional tourism organization covering our 12 southeastern states. They are well known nationally and internationally and are considered one of the best tourism organizations in the world. STS is a leader in Governmental affairs as they relate to the tourism industry and they are the nationwide leader in providing educational services to those of us in the tourism industry. They have a spring and fall symposium each year. These three day seminars are held at various destinations within STS’s twelve state geography. This year our Fall Forum was in Jacksonville, Florida at the Omni Hotel. As is the case with most of their events there were from 125 to 175 tourism professionals from all over the twelve state STS region who came to learn the newest information that guides us all toward staying current on the latest ways to manage our organizations and the newest methods to market our destinations. In this rapidly changing business and technology environment those who stay current with how their potential visitors get their information provide a definite advantage in making sure their potential visitor will be exposed to their destination using whatever technology is the most popular at the moment. In less than two years more than 50% of vacation planning is done on a smart phone or a tablet. Five years ago that number was near zero. In addition, people are making reservations and making last minute changes to where they are going, as they travel using handheld wireless technology. It is critical to have a mobile ready website or App for viewers to use or we potentially lose out. DeKalb Tourism has been mobile ready for several years now and visitation to our mobile website is increasing monthly as traditional website views has leveled out.  It has only been about 15 years that people have been using the internet to plan their travel, prior to that the age old newspaper and magazine ads, printed travel guides and trade shows were the standard method to deliver your destination information. Then came radio and TV and now all of these means are used but as more and more potential visitors use electronic information, we as destination marketing organizations prioritize our advertising budgets to use more web ads, social media, electronic newsletters and mobile friendly websites. STS brings to their conference the top speakers who are best educated in particular applications that untimely influence everyone attending. Last week in Jacksonville we had a host of professional speakers that coached and helped develop our skills at learning how to use all of the electronic applications to our advantage, including how to measure the data and how to change our strategy to better target our potential visitor. We can now seek out our potential visitor just by matching their interest sets to our offerings. This is amazing stuff. We no longer have to mail out a generic untargeted flyer and hope to get a few interested in our destination. Now we can figure out a pool of people who like to do the things our area offers and then we find places and methods to advertise where they are mostly likely to see it.
Southeast Tourism Society hosts its annual Marketing College in Dahlonega, Georgia each year at North Georgia College and University. This is a three year certified program to educate tourism professionals with a diploma specific to the travel industry. Kayla Worthey, our Marketing Manger and I have attended Marketing College and received our Travel Marketing Professional diploma.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Canyon Fes set for Saturday by Kayla Worthey

The 5th Annual Canyon Fest Celebration is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, November 2 at Jacksonville State University’s Little River Canyon Center on Alabama Highway 35.  This festival was designed to celebrate folk life, arts and nature, and to benefit the children of the community.
It will feature ongoing arts & crafts, demonstrations, art sales, food vendors, storytelling, live animals and children's activities. You can also tour the new exhibits at the Canyon Center.
There will be demonstrations of Native American games and weapons, and tools used by Native Americans. There will also be a lot of games and activities to keep the children busy.
You will enjoy fantastic live musical performances from noon to 4pm at the festival. At 12pm,
Matt Downer, the local fiddler and music historian who revived the Great Southern Old Time Fiddlers Convention can be heard on the front porch of the Canyon Center. At 1pm, local musician, Curtis Strange will perform and at 3pm there will be a special performance by the Army Material Command (AMC) Band at the new Canyon Center Ampitheater.  
The AMC Band, with its eight Music Performance Teams, travels extensively throughout the country and overseas supporting 30 installations, 26 major tenants, seven Army Field Support Brigades, 11 subordinate commands, and four separate reporting activities within the AMC enterprise.  The AMC band has performed in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirites.
There is no fee for Canyon Fest, but donations are welcome. For more information about this festival, call 256-782-5697.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Fort Payne, Ala. – With the arrival of autumn and its beautiful display of colors, a visit to Lookout Mountain in the northeastern corner of Alabama in October proves to be just as colorful as it is fun. Three unique events --a new Christian worship event, a Little River Canyon celebration, and a two-day arts and crafts festival-- attract thousands of visitors high atop Lookout Mountain for free family fun at a time when Nature is preparing for a spectacular fall season.  

A new 72-hour outreach and worship event is set for October 10-13, 2013 on Lookout Mountain. The Courage is a free worship concert featuring dozens of Christian bands, solo artists, and speakers. During daylight hours, there will be organized community service groups going out at each hour for volunteers to participate in with worship time continuing throughout the day and night. Over 30 bands are slated to perform including For His Reward, Bay of Believers, Matt Stinton, David Walker, Unspoken, Big Daddy Weave, Against the Downpour, Bread of Stone, Leeland, Shane and Shane, Chris August, John Tibbs, The Ember Days, McKenzie Lockhart, Noah Cleveland, Joe Guerra, and Derek Johnson.

According to event organizers, the event was established to serve the people of DeKalb County who are in need. DeKalb County saw the highest death toll in Alabama during the massive tornado outbreak in April 2011, and today, many are still recovering emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The three-day event starts at noon on October 10 and lasts until noon on Sunday, October 13 and will be held at Twilley Fields Event Grounds located at 13675 Alabama Highway 176, less than two miles outside of Little River Canyon National Preserve in Fort Payne. Admission is free but a ticket is required for entry and may be downloaded from 

Visitors will make their way to the Little River Canyon on the second Saturday for a day of guided hikes, music, food, and more. Set for October 12, 2013, Rendezvous at the Rim and Half Marathon celebrates the arrival of autumn in the Little River Canyon offering a day of guided hikes, live music, and other fun centered on nature. Runners will take to the streets beginning at 8 a.m. for the Little River Canyon Half Marathon, possibly one of the most scenic half marathons in the country. The certified course loops 13.1 miles on paved roads, starting and ending at the Little River Canyon Center. Proceeds benefit outdoor education programs and local conservation efforts. Registration is available online at

At 8:30 a.m., Rendezvous at the Rim gets underway with Growl Prowl where children are led on an interactive hike with a naturalist. As they encounter animal clues along the trail, the children become different animals following the leader in animated motions, such as hopping like a rabbit, leaping like a frog, and buzzing like a bee.

Throughout the day, a variety of activities will keep festivalgoers busy and entertained. Bring your camera and join DeKalb Tourism Director and former Kodak executive John Dersham for a photography improvement hike. All ages are invited to participate. Festivalgoers can participate in a tree, wildflower and geology identification hike or learn about the history of the Little River Canyon from Park Ranger Larry Beane and the DeKalb Historical Society.

Children will also want to check out Critter Tales, a hand-on program about animals including live snakes led by Jacksonville State University Field Schools Assistant Director Renee Morrison, and there will be a Un-natural Trail Hike where children can practice their observation skills by looking for items along the trail that do not belong there.

Additional activities include live music, natural history hikes, nature art, a bug safari and fly fishing and rock climbing demonstrations and there will be plenty of concessions for breakfast and lunch. The event wraps up at 3 p.m. Admission is free.

The town of Mentone welcomes autumn and its colorful display with a two-day celebration. Sponsored by the Mentone Area Preservation Association, Colorfest is set for October 19 and 20, and this year’s event introduces two new fun events – A 5K Color Run and Scarecrow Holler, a scarecrow-building contest and display.

On Saturday morning, gates open at 9 a.m. to a beautiful display of arts and crafts from over 70 premier artists and craftsmen in Mentone Brow Park with breathtaking autumn views in the background. Swing by Mason Park to admire Scarecrow Holler and vote for your favorite handmade scarecrow and be sure to visit the Children’s Farm Fair across the street from Mason Park for pony rides, crafts for the kids, pumpkin painting and other family-friendly activities. Saturday night at 6 p.m., festivalgoers will not want to miss the pig roast and live music hosted by Wildflower CafĂ©. The Farm to Table Pig Roast will feature Birmingham chef James Lewis who was named one of America’s best new chefs of 2011 by Food & Wine and a James Beard Foundation 2013 finalist for best chef in the South region. Mountain Song Farms, a local farmer of woodland raised heritage breed hogs, pastured chickens and mixed pesticide free produce, will provide the pig and fresh vegetables.

Rise early Sunday morning for the Color Craze 5K Run at 8am before heading back to the festival when gates open at 11am. Throughout the weekend, a steady stream of music from talented local musicians featuring the "Sounds of Mentone" can be heard in the Brow Park pavilion.

On Friday night beginning at 5 p.m. (and until supplies last), One world Adventure Company will host a Fish Fry at the Mentone Inn Pavilion. For a $10 donation, get a taste of some of the best hand breaded fish along with homemade hushpuppies, slaw, dessert, and drink. Following dinner, enjoy live bluegrass and folk rock music by The Gypsy Begonias at 8 p.m. in Mentone Square.

Brow Park is located off of Alabama Highway 117, north at the caution light in Mentone. All activities are held rain or shine and festivalgoers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets. Admission is free.

For more information on Rendezvous at the Rim and Colorfest or on additional things to do in and around DeKalb County, contact DeKalb Tourism at 888.805.4740 or visit   

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fall in Northeast Alabama by John Dersham

Pretty soon our good friend October will arrive. Just like every year she will bring her magical weather wand and a full palette of gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, red, crimson and plum. She will whisk away the heat and humidity of summer and bring us bright blue skies and clear air so we can see forever across a canvas of mountains, hills and valleys all in fall splendor. We love our area in the fall. We brag about our beauty and our great fall colors and we should because it is not just us locals that say this about us, it is our visitors too. Every fall people from all over the Deep South migrate north to see our fall foliage. Many of our fall visitors live in Birmingham and further south in Alabama, they live along the Gulf Coast or coastal plains in Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida. We represent the closest area for them to travel that has fall colors equal to anywhere further north of us. Our cooler temperatures and hardwood forests are the reason. The coast and coastal plains don’t have as defined of seasonal changes and they don’t have the trees like the Maples, Dogwoods, Black Gums, Sweet Gums, White, Red and Scarlet Oaks that give us the rich diverse color palette we see here in Northeast Alabama. For the same reasons we don’t see as many visitors from areas north of us especially if they live in the mountains. They already have the same features where they live. We are fortunate to be located where most everyone living more than 50 miles south of us would find our area to be distinctly more scenic in the fall than where they live. Fall is our second largest tourist time, just behind June and July.
We have a lot for visitors to do here in the fall, in addition to the scenic value and usually great weather we have festivals, like Fort Payne Boom Days, the VFW DeKalb County Fair, Mentone Colorfest, Collinsville Turkey Trot, Rendezvous at the Rim and Canyon Fest at the JSU Canyon Center and Little River Canyon N.P. and lots of local events with an outdoor setting. It is a great time for those of us that live here to get out for a daycation in one of the prettiest, friendliest places you’ll ever find.
For more information about upcoming fall events in DeKalb County visit our website at or call us at 256-845-3957.