Third graders at Tuscaloosa Academy recently presented “A Walk to the Wall of Fame.” Each student chose a famous person who impacted the America in a large way to study. The students then dressed up and presented monologues to parents, teachers and friends. Some examples of historic figures that students chose included Ben Franklin, Bill Gates, and Albert Einstein.
Front row (L to R): Emma Kronauer, Jonathan Gebrehiwet, Paul Schaefer, Harley McNeal, Tyler McNeal and Boots Plott
Middle row (L to R): Silas Stohler, Sol DeBoise, Spence Burchfield, Jonathan Koontz, Aiden Kelley and Edgar Huffaker
Back row (L to R): Geoffrey Love, Preston Lancaster, Jalyn Copeland, Lilli Eckert, Ashley Humann, Collin Holt and Noah Doenges
Photo: Chelsea McKenna
Written in Memory of Alex Sokol, founder of alabamaforever.org.
I snapped this photo just as the Blue Angels were finishing up their show recently in Tuscaloosa. Many had left. In fact, we were on our way down the road to beat the traffic when I heard them fly over again. I dropped my chair and bag to catch them zooming “under” the moon.
To my surprise, I got this: One Angel, almost jumping the moon.
In life we are in such a hurry to get to the next place that we often miss the treasures right where we are.
As the Blue Angels fly over, even when they are zipping our new Bama Gymnastics coach around at a G or two, the dots on the ground are just that. From a plane window we can each have that perspective, hundreds of lined houses represented by squares and rectangles.
Within each of those squares or rectangles, perhaps, is a family dynamic: a husband coming home from work, a teenager practicing to win a tournament, and a mom who just wants to make it another day. And yes, in some other houses, there is perhaps a happier scenario. But from above, do our mini-dramas really matter?
Those Blue Angels are able to zip from one side of the country to the other sometimes in the same amount of time it takes us to throw our latest useless hissy fit.
There is a birth every eight seconds and a death every 12 seconds. Each of our life events is just a blip on a globe that continues to spin without our permission.
And we certainly have no idea just how long we have.
Today, as I look out over the water on the lake, I wonder, what are we really here for? This past month we celebrated Easter, a time when many of us are reminded that there is more to life than this existence.
We are one in 7,235,277,626 at the time of this writing. (www.census.gov/popclock/)
Each of us was created for some special purpose, and for more than what goes on in the small circle of dirt that we each inhabit.
I hope that as the summer nears, you will make goals to stretch your boundaries, reach out to others and find what it is you were created for. Use your mess if you believe that is your message. Embrace who you are and why you were born. And remember: Whether you believe in God or not, you cannot deny that the little print on the tip of your finger wasn’t put there by accident. Your fingerprint is entirely unique to you. Find a place to leave it, and here’s hoping you shoot for the moon!
Blessings from Lake Tuscaloosa,
A Memorial Day service to honor military veterans is planned for Monday, May 25 at the Tuscaloosa Veterans Memorial Park. The hour-long program, which begins at 9 a.m., is free and open to the public.
The guest speaker at the Tuscaloosa Memorial Day service is nationally recognized author, consultant and trainer John O’Malley, who served in the United States Marine Corps from 1961 to 1965. O’Malley has published a dozen books, including Men of Men: Stories of Courage, about Medal of Honor recipients with ties to Alabama.
Major Jeff Brown, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Park Association, says O’Malley is a Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the Hoover Chamber of Commerce Freedom Award.
“We’re thrilled to have Mr. O’Malley as our Memorial Day speaker. John will present a professional, inspirational message that will pay tribute to our brave veterans.”
The Memorial Day service will also include the unveiling of a monument to Sgt. Ross Franklin Gray, a World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from Bibb County who distinguished himself by showing extraordinary heroism in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
As a platoon sergeant, Gray launched a one-man attack, under heavy small arms fire and a grenade barrage, until he had destroyed six enemy positions. By doing so, he disarmed an entire mine field before returning to his platoon. Although he remained unscratched through 12 trips back and forth to destroy the mines behind enemy lines, Sgt. Gray was killed six days later, on February 27, 1945, by an enemy shell that inflicted fatal wounds in his legs. For his personal valor, daring tactics and tenacious perseverance, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman.
The program will also feature the Presentation of Colors by the Paul W. Bryant High School USMC JROTC Color Guard, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and Armed Forces Medley and Gun Volley salute, and “Taps” by the Tuscaloosa County American Legion Honor Guard.
After the ceremony guests are encouraged to tour the Park’s military exhibits and visit the Honor Roll of Veterans monument. The Memorial Day Ceremony is sponsored by the Veterans Memorial Park Association and the Tuscaloosa County Park & Recreation Authority (PARA).
For more information, visit www.tuscaloosaveteranspark.org.
Photo: Veterans Memorial Park Association
Druid City Living is proud to present to you a new series: Tales of Tuscaloosa. Local author and historian Jim Ezell is busily writing a collection of historical stories about the Druid City and surrounding areas, in hopes of publishing a book ahead of Tuscaloosa’s bicentennial celebration in 2019.
What began as genealogy search in 1992 quickly turned into a much larger project. As Ezell searched through over a century of newspapers on microfilm at the University of Alabama’s Hoole Special Collections Library, he became fascinated by other articles about Tuscaloosa’s rich history.
DCL’s Tales of Tuscaloosa will highlight one of Ezell’s articles each month. We hope you all enjoy these stories.
A Tale of Two Ships: May 5, 1942
By Jim Ezell
It had been a long voyage from Calcutta crossing the Indian and Pacific Oceans, through the Panama Canal and into the Caribbean Sea. The SS Tuscaloosa City, a merchant steamer, was bound for New Orleans and heavily laden with nearly 8000 tons of ore, jute, rubber, and shellac. She was making 12 knots (about 14 mph) southeast of Grand Cayman Island and about 200 miles west of Jamaica when suddenly a cylindrical object lunged from the water, submerged again, and seconds later struck the starboard (right) side with a thunderous explosion.
It was the afternoon of May 5, 1942, only six months after Pearl Harbor and American entry into World War II. The Tuscaloosa City had been torpedoed by the U-125 (Unterseeboot 125), a German submarine. Kapitänleutnant Ulrich Folkers’ second torpedo struck 20 seconds later. Harold Hendrickson, Master of the Tuscaloosa City, ordered his 34 officers and crewmen to abandon ship. One lifeboat swamped throwing five men into the water—fortunately none were killed or seriously injured in the attack or drowned in the sea. The Tuscaloosa City remained afloat but a third torpedo finally sank her. Folkers pointed out the men in the water to those in the remaining lifeboat and questioned the crewmen. He then indicated the way to land before leaving. A few hours later all were picked up by the SS Falcon and landed at Cartagena, Columbia.
The SS Tuscaloosa City was one of a number of cargo vessels constructed by the Chickasaw Shipbuilding and Car Company of Chickasaw, Alabama in the years 1920 and 1921 for a US Steel subsidiary. Some were named for cities in Alabama such as Birmingham, Ensley, and Selma. All averaged about 7000 tons and were of a robust design for handling odd shaped steel products, liquids, and general cargo. The Tuscaloosa City was fitted with unusually heavy 30-ton cranes. In 1930 she was transferred to the Isthmian Lines and home ported at New York.
Under terms of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, American commercial vessels and crewmen became part of the Navy during war. The Tuscaloosa City was one of 75 vessels lost in May 1942 during the height of the “Battle of the Atlantic” when allied shipping was constantly attacked to prevent supplies from reaching the United States, Canada, Britain, and Russia.
Most German submarines did not survive the Battle of the Atlantic. In 1943 the U-125 was stalking a convoy east of Newfoundland when it was rammed by HMS Oribi. The sub was scuttled and the crew took to the water but the British were not authorized to rescue enemy survivors. Folkers and his 54 man crew perished in the cold water.
The wreck of the Tuscaloosa City was never salvaged or visited by divers. She lies beneath the Caribbean Sea in the Cayman Trough—a deep ocean trench three to five miles deep.
Photo: Jim Ezell
By Tori Linville
Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was created as a national way to honor fallen service members. Over two dozen cities take credit for creating the national holiday, according to the Memorial Day website. While Waterloo, New York, officially got the credit, every state finds its own way to celebrate. Check out some of the activities we’ve found for this Memorial Day, May 25.
Memorial Day Tribute – Gulf Shores/Fort Morgan
The Memorial Day Tribute in Gulf Shores will host special guided tours throughout Fort Morgan on Saturday, May 23. Historical interpreters will guide the tour dressed in period uniforms of the U.S. Army. Information about artillery and garrison life will also be featured.
Admission for adults will be $7. Senior admission will be $5 and child admission will be $4. For more information, visit fortmorgan.org.
SEC Baseball Championship – Hoover
The championship game falls on May 24 at 3:30 p.m. Memorial Day weekend will already be in full swing by the time the champions are given their trophies. So why not pop over to the Hoover Met and relax while watching America’s favorite past time?
Tournament tickets for all nine sessions are only $120, while tickets for six sessions are only $66. If staying indoors for hot dogs and Cracker Jack popcorn is more up your alley, the championship game will be available on ESPN 2.
To see more information about the tournament and game dates, visit secsports.com/championship/baseball.
Alabama Jubilee – Decatur
Decatur will host its annual Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic on May 24 and 25 at Point Mallard Park. Events including an arts and crafts show, The Southland Flywheelers Antique Tractor show, the Lexi Lee Walk Silent Auction and more will be held during the two day event. Each day will begin at 6 a.m. with a pilot briefing for the key grab race, followed by the race from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
Sixty balloons from around the U.S. will be featured, and the evening Balloon Glow event can’t be missed. The event is free, with the only fees being a $1-2 charge for shuttle bus services for remote parking lots.
To find event rules and more information, visit alabamajubilee.net.
Fallen Heroes Memorial Day Dedication – Mobile
Mobile will hold a Fallen Heroes Memorial Dedication at Battleship Memorial Park on May 25. Former Marine Infantry Officer and Iraq veteran Nathan Cox built the Alabama’s first memorial to honor fallen service members who lost their lives in the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the event’s website. The memorial will be on permanent display as a reminder of the loss.
The park has memorials honoring Lower Alabama Vietnam Veterans, a War Dog memorial, The Alabama Telephone Pioneers Living Memorial, a Korean War Memorial and more. Jan. 9 marked the park’s 50th year since its opening.
For more information, visit ussalabama.com.
Biscuits Baseball – Montgomery
Nothing says Memorial Day like more baseball. The Montgomery Biscuits will take on the Tennessee Smokies for a Memorial Day showdown at 12:05 p.m. on May 25 at Riverwalk Stadium.
Tickets for lawn, box and super box seats are $9, $11 and $13, respectively. To find out more on how to get your local baseball fix, visit milb.com.
For more history about Memorial Day, and even access Memorial Day resources such as speeches, essays and articles, visit usmemorialday.org.
David Fonseca, a junior at Holy Spirit Catholic High School in Tuscaloosa, has scored in the top 2.5 percent among Hispanic and Latino students who have taken the recent PSAT/NMSQT. David is invited to participate in the National Hispanic Recognition Program based on his score.
By Christopher Chase Edmunds
With Hangout Festival 2015 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look at which acts stood out – which ones drew people’s attention even when there were two other bands playing at the same time. These are the bands that made the sunburn and pure exhaustion worth every second.
#6 – The Suffers
The Houston soul/funk outfit rocked an 11:30 am set that made waking up and arriving early worthwhile. The Suffers used their big sound, complete with a full horn section and plenty of percussion, to draw everyone’s attention to the small BMI Stage. Everyone – and I mean everyone – was grooving to new music with an old school feel.
#5 – Lake Street Dive
If you love when bands cover your favorite songs, and you just so happen to appreciate the upright bass, Lake Street Dive is the band for you. The four-member group treated everyone at the Palladia Stage to jazzy renditions of the classics. The band is currently best known for YouTube videos of their soulful covers of songs like “I Want You Back” and “Rich Girl,” but with other soul and jazz groups like the Alabama Shakes and St. Paul and the Broken Bones on the rise, look for Lake Street Dive to make a splash soon.
#4 – Skrillex/Jack Ü
Sonny John Moore does not disappoint. The producer better known as Skrillex (and one half of the new duo Jack Ü) is a Hangout veteran, and both of his performances this year were top-notch. The Jack Ü show had the Boom Boom Tent rocking, drawing more people as they were leaving an average Foo Fighters concert. When Skrillex took the Surf Stage the next day, he dropped a new remix of “Red Lips,” which die-hard fans have been waiting for ever since pieces of it were leaked about a month prior to the festival.
#3 – Phantogram
This electronic rock duo pushed the limits of the audio equipment of the Palladia Stage, as well as the patience of the security staff. The group deployed large inflatables into the crowd, starting a frenzy that featured the band’s roadies sprinting on stage to keep inflatable hamburgers from damaging guitars and microphones. Lead singer Sarah Barthel could be seen smiling throughout the entire performance, in between relentless headbanging sessions. This group got a lot of attention for their song “When I’m Small,” mainly because it was used in several TV shows and commercials recently. Look for Phantogram to continue wreaking havoc in both the electronic and rock realms for the foreseeable future.
#2 – Paramore
There are very few, if any, performers that can say they rocked the beach as hard as Paramore. Lead singer Hayley Williams was electrifying to say the least. The band’s irresistibly catchy pop punk/emo rock had a packed beach crowd jumping, kicking and yelling their favorite angsty lines at the top of their lungs. The band played plenty of songs from their most popular album, Riot!, but Williams politely asked permission to play new material also. Let’s just hope for a Paramore comeback to contrast all the feel-good pop music.
#1 – Zac Brown Band
There’s a reason why Zac Brown Band was scheduled as the Saturday headliner. Not only does the group put on an awesome live show, but their music screams beach party. The massive crowd enjoyed the usual ZBB suspects, including “Chicken Fried,” “Colder Weather” and “Homegrown.” The best parts of the performance, however, were the incredible covers of “Enter Sandman,” “Kashmir,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Die-hard ZBB fans knew this was coming, but to those of us who were dragged to the show by our friends, this was an incredibly nice surprise. Simply put, each member of ZBB could be a superstar on their own, but instead, they join forces to put on some of the best live shows for the current generations.
Photos: Christopher Chase Edmunds
The 2015 Leadership Academy was sponsored by the Office of the President, the Honors College and the Capstone Council at The University of Alabama. The University received hundreds of nominees of high school students before selecting 124 teens for its annual Leadership Academy in April. The Capitol School was proud to nominate Melanie Mew as the school's representative for 2015. She is the daughter of Dr. Wendell and Mrs. Norma Mew of Northport.
Photo: Barbara Rountree
As part of the Memorial Day activities in Tuscaloosa on Monday, May 25, a picnic is planned at Tuscaloosa’s Veterans Memorial Park immediately following the special service to honor military veterans.
All veterans and their families are invited to attend the Memorial Day Picnic. The program begins at 10:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you or someone in your family is a veteran, this is a family-friendly activity that everyone can enjoy while celebrating the holiday.
The Memorial Day Picnic is sponsored by the American Legion Post 34, the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority, Buffalo Rock, PEPSI and McAbee Construction.
Sprayberry Education Center held the annual awards day ceremony on Thursday, May 14, 2014. The following awards were presented: Teacher of The Year – Traci Hollyhand (Preschool Teacher), Para Educator of the Year – Jonette Boone (Autism), Support Employee of the Year – Diann Kearley – Nurse and Chris Jacobs “Can Do” Award – Tyler Williams, Multiple Needs student.
The Chris Jacobs award is presented each year in memory of Chris Jacobs, who was a Sprayberry student, who exemplified a real “can do” spirit, overcoming many obstacles while inspiring others to do the same. Chris was the son of Audrey and Linda Jacobs.
Pictured are: Traci Hollyhand, Jonette Boone, Tuscaloosa County Schools Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Swinford, Diann Kearley, Principal Neal Guy and Sprayberry student Tyler Williams (front).
Photo: Carla Allen
By: Chloe Ballard
Are you on a budget and looking for affordable things to do in your town? Here are some suggestions for things to do in the larger cities across Alabama.
Railroad Park has been hailed as “Birmingham’s Living Room” as it provides a historically rich area for recreation in the middle of the city. Railroad Park connects Birmingham’s downtown area with UAB’s campus and the Southern park of Birmingham. There are 19 acres of green space and it is a great place to enjoy a picnic, play a sport with friends, jog, and more.
Huntsville Museum of Art
Did you know that after 5 P.M., entrance is only $5? What a great way to save money and enjoy one of the city’s finest establishments. The museum offers viewings of world-class art exhibits, but also classes and workshops for those who want a more hands-on experience. The museum is perfect for those wanting to find something to do for date night or with the entire family.
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) plant tours
Come see how Hyundai vehicles are made from: welding, painting, and assembly. And you can do it for FREE! For reservations, please visit their website.
Swim in the Gulf of Mexico and explore the boardwalks in the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. As well, visit Indian Shell Mound Park. For more information, visit http://www.dauphinisland.org.
By Marlena Rice
My nearly two-year-old son, Beaux William, tends to wake up with demands on Saturday and Sunday mornings. His first words to me will either be “juice” or “milk,” or, if I awake to a pair of his tennis shoes on my face, I know that immediately after milk, juice and breakfast, there will be a walk, a wagon ride, or a trip to the playground in our near, early-morning future.
One morning, I noticed something just a little bit different. After our typical exchange of baby demands (and Mommy accepting and meeting said demands), my little man handed me my glasses – and my cell phone. As I thanked him, I immediately began the internal parenting skills debate all mothers have: Have I done something wrong? Have I ignored him too many times in lieu of a cell phone conversation? No. But it’s easy to question these things. Our little people are impressionable and, as their first teachers, we teach them some of their most important lessons.
Since that moment, I’ve made more of an effort to make sure that my social media posts, text messages and calls are kept to a minimum during family time. And I’ve also taken note of what other parents are doing, sometimes with great dismay. One recent morning, I watched as a father took his child out of the backseat of his car – a normal thing to see. What was unnerving, was that the father was talking not to his child, but into an ear device that seemed to be attached to an even larger device protruding from his pants pocket.
Today’s new generation of parents are extreme multitaskers who thrive in a fast-paced, online-centered and social media-driven world that our parents didn’t have. Our time is limited, and in an attempt to live “full” and do all of the things we aspire to do, we do it all at once. We go to work and work, talk with old friends on Facebook messenger on our smartphones all while watching, responding and fielding texts from our children’s teachers as they notify us about school things. And let me tell you, it is exhausting.
Cleary, this is a problem. What’s the solution?
Here are some tips on how to multitask and stream your two lives together – and I’ll keep it brief, since we’re all busy enough!
Start rebuilding “old-fashioned” relationships
The next time you think about beginning a stream of social media conversations with your friends, ask them to meet you for lunch. It will save you some email time, and you can have an interaction with another human being that isn’t family or work-related.
Limit your time on social media
If you’re addicted to reading Facebook posts about what your friends are going through in their daily lives (minute by minute), let it be something you only do during your alone time: on your lunch break or right before bed.
Incorporate your children in your online expeditions
If you like to shop online, let your children shop with you for some of their items and you will kill two birds with one stone; spending time with your babies while getting your shopping fix! Also, if you like to listen to music, juice up your iPod or cell phone and play it for everyone. Move furniture around if you have to, but DANCE! Little ones love this because not only does it shake away any and all structure for a few minutes but its good exercise, and it’s fun.
Maximize your car rides
When you have little people, driving them around is a great way to make them listen to you. The next time you’re headed to the grocery store, or school and work, sing together, ask questions and just talk without worrying about making that telephone call or checking that email. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn, and how many laughs can come of it.
Turn it off
This is hard for some of us because our work is not the typical 8-5 but is more like the typical 24/7. But, if you have the opportunity to turn off your device without worry that you’ll miss something more important than the people you love, turn it off, enjoy the internet silence and make noise with the people in your life instead.
Photo: Marlena Rice
Fifth graders at Verner Elementary learned about life in early America during a recent "Colonial Day." Students rolled hoops, wrote with quill and ink, made a wooden Jacob's ladder toy, participated in a mock trial, sewed, and danced to eighteenth century music. Students from Northridge High School helped during this celebration of history by playing a colonial ballad and showing the younger students how to play string instruments. This is the second year Verner students have had hands-on learning through "Colonial Day," thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of West Alabama.
Photos: Kathy Perkins
Junior ROTC Cadets from Bryant High School were recognized by the American Legion Post 34 during a recent Change of Command Ceremony at Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa.
JROTC Cadet First Lieutenant Richard J. Downey received the American Legion Military Excellence Medal and JROTC Cadet Ayesh Whitt was awarded the American Legion Scholastic Excellence medal. Over 100 students, parents and faculty members attended the ceremony.
From left to right, Nicolas Britto, Adjutant, American Legion Post 34; JROTC Cadet First Lieutenant Richard J. Downey; JROTC Cadet First Lieutenant Ayesh Whitt; and Major Jason York, U.S. Marine Corps, retired, Senior Marine Instructor.
Photo: Nicholas Britto
Have you ever been to a vacation spot so fast and so beautiful, that you wish it were your home? That’s how I feel anytime I stay along the stunning Gulf Coast. From the shores of Mississippi to the vast, emerald waters of the Florida Panhandle, to the sugar white sands of the Alabama Gulf Coast, the area offers numerous vacation spots boasting genuine, natural beauty.
By Christopher Chase Edmunds
So you’ve made plans to attend Hangout Festival, and you can’t wait to enjoy some great music on the sugar white beaches of Gulf Shores. Here are some key items that you need to pack to make the most of your Hangout experience.
Hydration is key on the beach, so make sure you bring a Camelbak or something similar. There are hydration stations all over the festival grounds, so you can refill anytime you need some cool H2O. Water bottles will work too, but Camelbaks will make life a lot easier because of the added storage space for other essentials like sunscreen and sunglasses.
Towel or Blanket
Unless you like sand in your shorts, bring something to spread out and mark your territory while waiting for your favorite band to take the stage. The two main stages are on the beach, so you will need a blanket or towel at some point during the weekend. A common practice is to dig makeshift couches into the sand, so watch your step.
Totem or Flagpole
If you plan on attending Hangout in a large group, bring a totem of some kind. Your group will split up at some point since there are so many good acts to see, so a tall flagpole or sign unique to the group will save a lot of time and frustration when everyone tries to meet up for the headliner later in the day. Keep in mind that cell service is spotty at best, so make a plan and stick to it.
This may sound obvious, but Hangout is literally on the beach, so pack plenty of sunscreen just like you would a family vacation. The worst thing you can do is get sunburnt on the first day of the festival. Bring a hat and sunglasses, but don’t worry about looking cool; functionality is all that matters at Hangout, so make sure that sun hat keeps the back of your neck nice and shady.
A Friendly Attitude
Alabama is known for its southern hospitality, so be nice to everyone you see. Strike up a conversation with the people near you. Everyone is here to have a good time, and odds are you share good taste in music. Have fun and make some friends!
Photo: Christopher Chase Edmunds
College Park, the home of female education in 19th Century Tuscaloosa, will be the site of fun, food and live music as well as home and garden tours this Saturday, May 16 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is part of the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society’s 2015 Heritage Celebration.
TCPS chose College Park as one of its four celebration sites because of the unique history of the area.
“Before the neighborhood was developed it went through a number of transitions. Where our homes now stand, off Queen City Ave. at 6th Street, in the early 1800s, stood the Alabama Female Athenaeum, a girls school begun by the Baptist Church. One of its biggest supporters was Dr. Alva Woods, the first President of the University of Alabama,” according to Claire Friday, President of the Preservation Society.
The National Commander of the American Legion Michael D. Helm visited Tuscaloosa last week. He was welcomed by Central High School Junior ROTC Cadets Daizauhn Cloyd and Jovanna Pearce. The cadets presented Mr. Helm with an Alabama Football and a Roll Tide Cap during an American Legion Post 34 luncheon honoring Mr. Helm. Central High School Junior ROTC is sponsored by Post 34.
From left to right: JROTC Cadet First Lieutenant Daizauhn Cloyd, American Legion National Commander Michael Helm, center, and Junior ROTC Cadet First Lieutenant Jovanna Pearce.
Photo: Nicolas Britto
Dear friends and neighbors,
The month of May will make history for the City of Tuscaloosa. For the first time since 1964, the Alabama League of Municipalities will have its annual convention here in Tuscaloosa.
Our City will be added to the Alabama League of Municipalities’ annual meeting rotation. This annual conference normally takes place in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile; however, this year, Tuscaloosa will have the honor of hosting more than 1,000 visitors May 16-19, renewing a tradition.
The convention is days away, and we expect to have a record number of people attend, including elected officials and leaders from all over the state of Alabama.
As City staff started to plan this convention over a year ago, we realized how important it is to have a space that can accommodate a convention of this size, not only for the League, but also for other businesses and industries that want to hold their conventions here but haven’t been able to because of inadequate meeting space size.
With that being said, the City and University of Alabama are working to expand the Bryant Conference Center. The City of Tuscaloosa has initiated a funding agreement with UA and will be investing $2 million for the 24,000 square feet expansion. The project is currently in the design process, and construction is scheduled to start the summer of 2017.
This expansion is a great opportunity. Hosting the Alabama League of Municipalities conference will be a major success for our hospitality industry and will show visitors all of what Tuscaloosa has to offer.
We’re excited to showcase Tuscaloosa to our great state and know that all visitors will be impressed.
Renovations are already underway at the Kentuck Museum Building in historic downtown Northport, but more financial help is needed to ensure that the two-story, nearly 100-year-old structure is restored to glory. On Friday, April 10, the Kentuck Board of Directors announced it is embarking on a $1.1 million capital campaign to raise funds for the project.
Kentuck Steering Committee Chair David Pass said to date, they’ve raised just over $700,000, thanks in part to the City of Northport’s $300,000 contribution in December, and additional help from Alabama Power Foundation, which donated $50,000.
“We still have a long way to go, and we need help,” Pass said. “It’s going to take everybody who loves Kentuck’s support to hit the goal that we have. But it will be well worthwhile once we do.”
In March of 2013, a bat infestation and subsequent cleanup forced Kentuck officials to move out of the building. Structural damage was later found, sending repair costs soaring. Now, plans are moving forward to restore the Museum.
Pass said this is a “long-overdue aesthetic renovation,” one which allows for multi-use areas for classes and community events.
“Our goal is to create a bright, modern, visually compelling space where the West Alabama community can come together to make art and celebrate art.”
The construction project involves a complete renovation of the Museum, making both floors useable by artists, staff and community members. The first floor will include exhibition space for artists and an improved floor plan for the Kentuck Gallery Shop, as well as a kitchen and ADA accessible restrooms. The second floor, which was previously used for storage, will house staff offices and a large conference room.
Harrison Construction received the renovation contract for the building; Ellis Architects designed the new layout. The two local companies previously teamed up to renovate the Allen and Jemison Building at Seventh Street and Greensboro Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa into the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center.
Kentuck Executive Director Amy Echols is excited about the partnership with the two companies.
“Their quality workmanship, support of cultural community assets, and attention to historical details make them a perfect fit.”
How To Help:
If you’d like to contribute to the renovation effort, visit www.kentuck.org/restore. Make the checks out to Kentuck and mail them to:
Kentuck Art Center
503 Main Avenue
Northport, AL 35476
Anyone wishing to donate can also call the Art Center at (205) 758-1257.
Photo: Christopher Edmunds