Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy 125th Birthday and Best Boom Days ever by John Dersham

This is all about a 125th City of Fort Payne birthday celebration with Mayor Chesser cutting the cake, a Hula Hoop lady, a Yo Yo guy and Frisbee Dogs; all professionals and all providing entertaining demonstrations, all day. There was a Fort Payne movie Premier of “Muscle Shoals” and a grand “Wet Willie” finale with an enthusiastic crowd watching a group of great performers pouring out every ounce of energy and excitement possible into their music. Included in the Thursday evening premier of Muscle Shoals the movie was a guest discussion panel consisting of Muscle Shoals talent including David Hood and Jimmy Johnson of the famed studio band, The Swampers. There was Russell and Dennis Gulley of Jackson Highway fame, Pierce Pettis who was a staff writer at Muscle Shoals Sound Publishing and Dick Cooper, long time writer and photographer at Muscle Shoals Sound and the current curator of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in the Shoals.
These things were just a part of the best Boom Days ever. The weather was perfect and a good crowd was achieved by the official opening at 10 A.M. There was solid music all day with 34 acts on six stages including Wet Willie. The music began at 10 AM and ended when Jimmy Hall and the Wet Willie gang left the stage around 10 P.M. The high quality of the music was just one element of this very special Boom Days, after all, it was also our city’s 125 Birthday Celebration and a fun celebration it was. For me and many of the people I talked to as I strolled the Boom Days event from pre-opening till closing it was the best Boom Days ever.  The Boom Days committee did it right. They blended fine art, crafts, music, with special events in the Opera Block with museum exhibits (Sacred Songs) Depot Museum and annex, with Wine tasting, a quilt show. Katie Sunshine the professional Hula Hoop exhibition artist and Matt Mullins the Duncan Yo Yo expert took their show to various parts of the Boom Days route from Gault Ave. to City Park and the Rotary Pavilion. You could not miss these experts if you were with us at Boom Days.  There were Dean’s Disc Dogs-wow is all I can say. These Border Collies had one and only one focus…catch the Frisbee (Disc) no matter where the master throws it. Another exhibit had a demonstration of a Border collie herding sheep. There were lots of food and fun times everywhere. I was amazed at the diversity of the event list. There was so much going on everywhere all the time that no matter where you were from 1st street through the 5th block, from City Park down 5th to the Alabama Walking Park and Rotary Pavilion there was entertainment, vendors, artists and demonstrations. I never had a dull moment all day.
Since I am in tourism for a living I tend to judge our success by our ability to bring people from out of town. Cities that have festivals get a lot more tax revenue if out of towner’s come in and spend the night, buy gas, eat and according to nationwide tourism research a tourist will spend more money on retail shopping while traveling than they do at home. This means they are more likely to buy a piece of art at Boom Days than a local person would. This was the best year ever for out of town visitors attending Boom Days. Judging from visitors in our information center, our lodging partners at hotels, cabins, B&B and campgrounds and from on the street conversations it is our estimate that of the 7,000 thru 8,000 visitors over the course of Boom Days week 30% of them were from out of town and half of them spent at least one night in area lodging. This equates to a lot of tourism expenditures in our city and county. DeKalb Tourism will see the real numbers in a couple months as our state collects the sales and lodging tax numbers for this period.
Everyone I talked to had a really fun time at the 9th annual Boom Days Heritage Festival and that in itself makes it a wonderful thing to offer to our community. A special thanks to Mayor Chesser and the Fort Payne City Council for supporting and participating in this wonderful annual event.  Happy 125th Anniversary Fort Payne.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fort Payne Boom Days Heritage Festival by John Dersham

One thing for sure, there is always plenty to do in DeKalb County. If you don’t think so or don’t try to follow just take a look at our Calendar of Events listed on our DeKalb Tourism website at The first thing you will think when you see our list of events is you had no idea there would be so many offerings all year long. Our focus here is the ninth annual Fort Payne Boom Days Heritage Festival. This event emanates out of the rich cultural history of Fort Payne. In 1889, wealthy New Englanders mostly from Boston came to Fort Payne to establish an Iron and Coal industry. In doing so they brought their culture to us…an Opera House, large Victorian homes, a much better than average railroad station, a fantastic hotel and many beautiful downtown buildings. Many Boom Days era buildings still exist today. Boom day’s festival takes place in the historic area of downtown Fort Payne. It incorporates the 1889 Iron and Coal block, the city park which was the former front yard for the DeKalb Hotel which burned in 1918. The railroad station, the Alabama walking park and Rotary Amphitheater are all included, including several blocks of downtown from 1st to 5th streets. Boom Days which has events beginning on Sunday, September 14th with the Joe Underwood Gospel singing at the Ft. Payne City Hall Auditorium at 3 P.M. and terminating on Saturday the 20th with a full day of more than 30 music acts on six stages. On Thursday, September 18th the highly successful movie Muscle Shoals will be featured in the DeKalb Theater at 7 P.M. with a meet and greet with legendary Shoals artists Jimmy Johnson and David Hood. New features this year include Katie Sunshine a Hula Hoop dancer extraordinaire, Dean’s High Flying Disc Dogs and Matt Mullins from Duncan Yo-yo will demonstrate and teach you how to REALLY use your Yo-yo. In addition, you will see top notch artisans from oil painting to wood carving, pottery and glass, and the list goes on. There will be lots of food and beverages including a beer garden and wine tasting at Hunt Hall. There is a classic car show, kid’s inflatables and much, much more. This festival has so many things going on you need to stay the whole day because the entertainment and venues are changing all day long. The event concludes Saturday night with legendary Wet Willie performing at the DeKalb Theater at 8 P.M.
Last year Boom Days Heritage Festival won two major awards. These awards are hard to get. There are more than 300 festivals competing just in North Alabama each year and thousands in the southeast region. Southeast Tourism Society who covers the 12 state southeast honored Boom Days with the fall event of the year and Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association (northern 16 counties in AL) honored Boom Days with the Festival or Event of the year award. The criteria include quality and diversity of the agenda, it must be unique and it must support the integrity of the community.
You will not want to miss Boom Days Heritage Festival 2014 on Saturday, September 20th starting at 8 A.M. and running all day on into the evening. For all the details about the event and the schedule of events and musical artists visit