Alabama beach sports commission rebranding, adding leisure events

The Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission is now Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events

March 1, 2021


Ally Dorrough, APR • Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events •
1-800-745-SAND • 251-968-9327 (direct) • 334-391-7745 (cell)

GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – With a changing sports tourism economy and a big move to bring major leisure events into its fold, the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission is rebranding to Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events. The addition of events will increase the organization’s promotional and grant support of existing events in the destination that generate a specific level of overnight stays in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in addition to attracting new events.

“Timing is everything, and we desire to continue to elevate the quality of life for our local residents by attracting events and festivals that fit our family-friendly atmosphere on the Alabama Gulf Coast,” said Michelle Russ, CSEE, vice president of sales, sports and events for GSOB Sports & Events. “We are applying a similar sports event grant framework for leisure events with various levels of support based on factors such as attendance and media coverage.”

As the organization expands its offerings, recent leadership changes and a new staff person are part of the path forward. Russ, former director of sales for the Sports Commission, was named Vice President of Sales, Sports & Events in December 2020. Sarah Cooper, former senior event coordinator, is now the Sports & Events Operations Manager. New to the team is Brittany Roh, who brings valuable meetings sales experience from The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection, in Point Clear, Alabama, as an additional Sports & Events Sales Manager.

Event planners interested in applying for major event grants from GSOB Sports & Events may contact Russ at Sports planners and rights holders may find the grant application here.

For information on upcoming athletic and major leisure events along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, visit, or call 1-800-745-SAND.

Birmingham to host 2021 Sports eta symposium

The Sports Events and Tourism Association (Sports ETA) has announced that Birmingham, Alabama will host the 2021 Annual Symposium, April 26-29. The Sports ETA Symposium is the annual meeting of the Sports Events & Tourism Association, the non-profit trade association for the sports events and tourism industry since 1992. Throughout the week, sports destinations will meet with hundreds of decision-makers responsible for organizing sports events.

Along with the Greater Birmingham CVB, the Sports Alabama team looks forward to welcoming everyone to “Sweet Home Alabama” for the Sports ETA annual Symposium. We hope to showcase what Alabama has to offer and encourage visitors to return, to either host an event or enjoy a vacation.

State leaders help introduce Alabama Statehood Forever stamp

Several Alabama leaders gathered recently at the introduction of a stamp commemorating the state’s 200th birthday.

Among those present at the unveiling of the stamp were Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison Mayor Paul Finley and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

The U.S. Postal Service introduced the Alabama Statehood Forever stamp during the Alabama200 ceremony at the Early Works Children’s Museum in Huntsville, according to a postal service release.

“Since becoming America’s 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819, Alabama has built a rich history grounded in the diversity, tradition and hard work of its people, and the natural beauty and wonderment of its land,” said USPS Acting Chief Human Resources Officer Isaac Cronkhite, who officially dedicated the stamp. “Alabama has been pivotal in the growth of our nation to constantly strive to be a more perfect union.”

The Alabama Statehood Forever stamp features an existing photograph taken at sunset in Cheaha State Park.

Alabama photographer Joe Miller shot the picture from the park’s Pulpit Rock Trail, and Pulpit Rock is visible in the foreground.

Orr serves as chairman of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, a group “created to guide and support the commemoration of the anniversary of Alabama’s statehood.”

Orr said the introduction of the stamp was one part of a “very multi-faceted program” conducted by the Bicentennial Commission.

Your guide to hosting an event in Alabama!

Check out our new Alabama state sports guide to read about the facilities available throughout the State and who to contact to schedule your next event.


NASC Sports Legacy Fund to raise money for Knoxville’s DreamBikes

Every year, the NASC Sports Legacy Fund awards an annual grant to an organization that provides opportunities in sports and encourages a healthy lifestyle. This contribution is part of the legacy NASC leaves. This year, the NASC Sports Legacy Fund is benefiting an organization in need in the host city of the 2019 NASC Symposium, Knoxville, TN, and we need your help to do so! Since 2009, the NASC Sports Legacy Fund has donated more than $140,000 to beneficiaries in the host cities of the NASC Symposium.

DreamBikes, the 2019 beneficiary, is an organization that strategically places their stores in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods to give paid, hands-on job training to teenagers. Employees learn how to refurbish bikes, use POS software, and deliver great customer service. DreamBikes provides lifelong skills to their teen employees, helping them to shift gears and find a bright future.

Help us, help DreamBikes. There are several easy ways to do it.

  1. Add a cash donation when you renew your organization membership or register for the 2019 NASC Symposium
        – If you’ve already registered and/or renewed your membership, give us a call, and we can add it for you!
  2. Donate a silent auction item
  3. Sponsor a silent auction table ($100 per table)
  4. Bid on a silent auction item

Questions? Contact Michelle Wessels at for more information.

Learn more about the NASC Sports Legacy Fund and how to donate. Watch this video to learn more about the Sports Legacy Fund.

10 reasons to visit Alabama this summer

Credit to Tracey Teo, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If you have a bad case of spring fever, there’s just one cure — a road trip!

Why not drop by and say hello to our neighbor to the west, Alabama. If it’s been a while, you’ll have some catching up to do because much has changed — for the better. Here are 10 reasons to visit now.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Young, aspiring astronauts are over the moon about the recent opening of Intuitive Planetarium and digital theater, a state-of-the-art facility that whisks viewers away on a thrilling exploration of the cosmos. Advanced technology that makes IMAX look about as cutting-edge as a manual typewriter provides a breathtaking tour of the Milky Way and a flight through Saturn’s rings. That’s not the only reason to visit this massive space museum. “Apollo: When We Went to the Moon,” is a new exhibit that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It chronicles space exploration from the turbulent Cold War Space Race era to the first footprints on the moon and takes a look at how that historic achievement brought nations together to work toward a common goal of learning more about what lies beyond our Earthly boundaries. (Planetarium combo ticket $32-$29, free for children 4 and younger. One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, Ala. 800-637-7223,

A visitor feeds a giraffe at the Alabama Safari Park in Hope Hull, Ala. Contributed by Alabama Safari ParkPhoto: For the AJC

Alabama Safari Park

Kids may leave this new drive-through park believing unicorns are real. Arabian oryx have two long horns that align so perfectly, they look like a single horn from the side, and some believe these very real creatures gave rise to stories of a mythical one. By the early 1970s, this antelope was extinct in the wild due to over hunting, but captive breeding programs in American zoos saved the species. Calves grazing quietly in a verdant pasture are a welcome sight to those familiar with the species’ struggle for survival. But eventually, you’ll have to tear yourself away from these cuddly babies because, with more than 700 animals on 350 acres, there’s much to see. In the walking section of the park, kids can feed giraffes and get acquainted with small, gentle birds at the Budgie Adventure Aviary. ($16.95-$14.95, free for children younger than 2. 1664 Venable Road, Hope Hull, Ala. 334-288-2105,

RELATED: Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood is a hot destination for a night on the town.

Noccalula Experience

The Noccalula Experience is an outdoor performance at Noccalula Falls Park and Campground in Gadsden that recounts the legend of Indian princess Noccalula and her true love. It debuts May 31 and runs for five weeks this summer. The audience physically follows the action, which takes place in the state park’s most scenic spots and concludes at Noccalula Falls, a natural marvel that seems to have all the power and strength of the Indian maiden herself. (2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, May 31-July 7. $22.50-$20, free for children younger than 3. Discounted pre-sale tickets are available. Noccalula Falls Park and Campground, 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden, Ala. 256-549-4663,

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A Road Trip Through Alabama, Where Creatives are Grappling With the Past and Building a Brighter Future

Alabama is a place of boundless creativity and abundant natural resources — with an unfathomably painful past. On a road trip from top to bottom, Kevin West finds the state’s residents reckoning with its legacy and coming up with entirely new definitions of what it means to be Alabaman.

All credit is to Travel + Leisure Magazine for this article.

The devil was beating his wife as I crossed the Alabama state line. I was driving from Nashville, in a hurry to reach Muscle Shoals, and I had gotten to the point where I-65 snakes down from middle Tennessee’s Highland Rim. When the highway levels out again and runs straight, you’re in the cotton-growing Heart of Dixie, as Alabama has been known since the 1950s.

The windshield wipers on my rental car frantically tried to keep pace with an August downpour. Then, in a clap, the sun broke through and electrified the gloom, even as the rain continued to fall — in Southern folklore, that’s the devil beating his wife. Luminous spray trembled above the road, and sunlight bounced off wet pastures on either side. Light and mist rose together, particulate gold. On the stereo, Aretha Franklin’s voice climbed through the verses of “Mary, Don’t You Weep,” shining in glory with the sun. When the clouds closed again, I was off the interstate and on a two-lane behind a car with the license plate LUV BAMA. I passed a field of King Cotton, its leaves dark as poison ivy.

Muscle Shoals was not meant to be on my itinerary, but I was in Nashville when I heard about Aretha’s death, and decided to pay my respects at FAME Studios, where the Queen of Soul laid down tracks that would eventually become her career-defining hit record, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. I bought a funeral wreath and a vintage LP of Aretha’s Gold to leave as tributes and drove to FAME in a car called Soul — honest to goodness, the rental agency issued me a Kia Soul. The studio would close at five.

When I got there at 4:15, the nice man in the front office listened to my story and said the last tour of the day had already begun, but I was welcome to join it. I pushed open a door into the carpeted studio. A FAME sound engineer interrupted his tour to greet me. “Come in,” he said. “I’m telling some stories about Aretha Franklin.”

He was in the middle of a famous one: how Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler had brought Franklin to FAME to record with the Swampers, the house band that would go on to back the Rolling Stones, Etta James, and Paul Simon, earning the group — and FAME itself — music immortality. The session lasted just one day because of a drunken fight between Aretha’s husband and a musician. The Swampers later flew to New York to finish the album’s title track as well as “Respect,” Aretha’s first number one hit. The Queen had arrived, and her reign began on a single day in this very room, the sound engineer said.

The visitors glanced around, shook their heads, made little noises. One spoke: “It was a….” he said, before words buckled under the weight of his awe. The engineer finished the thought for him — for all of us. “It was a milestone.”

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12 Reasons to Visit Huntsville, Alabama

Credit to Apryl Chapman Thomas & Southern Hospitality Traveler


Here are 12 reasons (and there are plenty of more) to visit Huntsville:

1. Home to 1,500 space artifacts from the spaceflight program, it’s no surprise that the U.S. Space and Rocket Center holds the distinction of being one of the most comprehensive U.S. manned space flight museums in the world.It is also home to Space Camp, Aviation Challenge Camp and Robotics Camp as well.

As the state’s most popular attraction, plan on spending some time here. You don’t want to miss viewing artifacts like the Skylab Training Module, Pathfinder Shuttle Shack and more, like the grave for “Miss Baker,” the squirrel monkey-naut. Check out the collection of rockets in Rocket Park or challenge yourself on simulatorslike Space Spot or G Force Accelerator. Over in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration is the Saturn V Moon Rocket, one of three in the world, suspended from the ceiling. You’ll realize how small you are as you walk under it. Be sure to take you time looking at the different exhibits covering space exploration.

2.At Huntsville Botanical Gardens, it is very easy to lose track of time as you leisurely explore its 112-acres. Enjoy the scenic Four Seasons Gardens or find inspiration at the Herb Garden or Vegetable Garden. No matter where you go in the garden, there is always something to see. Don’t skip over the Nature Center, where you’ll find Purdy Butterfly House, the country’s largest open-air butterfly house.

3. No doubt about it, history is a big part of Huntsville. Downtown is home to three historic districts: TwickenhamOld Town and Five Points, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Twickenham has one of the largest concentrations of antebellum homes in the South with over 65 structures. It is here that you’ll find Alabama Constitution Village. The living history village highlights the years of 1805-1819, and the Alabama’s entry into the Union as the 22nd state during the 1819 Constitutional Convention.

Also located within Twickenham District is Howard Weeden House Museum and Garden. Among the many other points of interest in this district include the I. Schiffman Building (birthplace of actress Tallulah Bankhead), and the Harrison Brothers Hardware Store.

For those who enjoy exploring historic cemeteries, Maple Hill Cemetery, located in the Five Points Historic District, is both the largest and most historic cemetery in Huntsville. It is the final resting place for five former governors as well as soldiers from the War of 1812 and Revolutionary War.

And that’s just a start when it comes to Huntsville’s history. There are plenty of more attractions (like North Alabama Railroad Museum and Veterans Memorial Museum), and places (like Historic Huntsville Depot and Alabama State Black Archives Research Center and Museum) to keep every level of history lover busy.

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