The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

6 hours ago

Wonderland Under Warrior returns at Alabama’s Rickwood Caverns State Park

(Rickwood Caverns/Contributed)

Alabama State Parks, a division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, this week announced that one of the state’s unique holiday traditions has returned this year at Rickwood Caverns State Park.

The park’s centerpiece cave system will once again be home to “Wonderland Under Warrior,” a magical experience in which the cave is transformed into a festive underground winter wonderland. Holiday light displays and decorations accentuate the cave’s natural formations.

“Wonderland Under Warrior is one of the top attractions at the park every year, and it’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit,” Rickwood Caverns State Park superintendent Chris Bentley said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased to keep this holiday tradition going for all of our guests.”

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Wonderland Under Warrior runs through December 30, operating from 2:00 until 8:00 p.m. CT on the days it is open, and the last tickets will be sold each day at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per person.

A complete schedule can be found on the park’s website here.

All regular cave tours are suspended for the duration of “Wonderland Under Warrior” and will resume in 2021.

Cave visitors are required to wear masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and guests are required to maintain a social distance of six feet from anyone not in their household. Capacity restrictions will be enforced by park employees in the cave, nature center and gift shop and must be followed by guests. Hand sanitizing stations are also located throughout the cave, and park staffers reportedly disinfect frequently.

The cave temperature remains at 62 degrees year-round, so visitors should not be dissuaded by cold days. The park’s gift shop will be decorated for the holidays and offer unique gifts, ornaments, snacks and hot cocoa to purchase.

Further, “Wonderland Under Warrior” features an out-and-back self-guided tour, so the 110-step ascent at the end of the normal cave tour is not required. This makes the walk easier for anyone with mobility concerns and small children. The entire walk is about a mile in the cave.

“Wonderland Under Warrior has become one of the top holiday attractions in the entire parks system, and we know many visitors look forward to it every year,” commented Greg Lein, director of the Alabama State Parks System. “The parks system offers unique experiences from the state’s Gulf Coast beaches to the gorgeous scenery in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northeast Alabama. Diving deep into Rickwood Caverns is a holiday experience unlike any other, and it represents another way to offer our guests something truly adventurous and memorable.”

Rickwood Caverns State Park is located just off Interstate 65 in Warrior, about 30 miles north of downtown Birmingham and about 75 miles south of Huntsville.

You can view a video of Wonderland Under Warrior from last year below:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Prayer police? City of Birmingham urges ‘skipping the hand-holding’ around Thanksgiving table

(City of Birmingham/YouTube)

The City of Birmingham on Monday afternoon released a video with some rather specific recommendations of what people not do this Thanksgiving.

Mayor Randall Woodfin opens the video by noting the message is intended “especially for our Birmingham city employees.”

The video, shared with the hashtag “#DontDoThat,” subsequently transitions to an on-screen narrator commenting on clips and images which people should — per the City — avoid replicating.

“Remember: practice social distancing and make sure you limit, as much as possible, your in-person contacts to people in your household,” the narrator says after asking viewers not to travel at all during the holiday season.

A clip then plays of two people answering the front door of their house to greet two other people, presumably family members, who are wheeling suitcases. The four people then prepare to hug, before the action pauses and the narrator yells, “Ahhhhhh, don’t do that.”

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The narrator then outlines the recommendation that people should not spend Thanksgiving or any other holiday with family members — or anyone — not in their immediate households this year.

“[A]void shaking hands and hugging,” the narrator adds, pointing to the still-paused hugs about to occur on-screen. “That’s a no-no.”

The next clip shows six individuals, all wearing masks, assembled in a home dining room. One individual beckons for the others to gather around; they then begin to do so and prepare to hold hands, as people often do in prayer.

The clip comes to a halt, with the narrator pointing to the imagery and warning, “Don’t do that.”

“This Thanksgiving, give thanks but consider skipping the hand-holding,” he continues.

The narrator subsequently cautions that the CDC is recommending gatherings of no more than 10 people.

The video shows an image on-screen of four people sitting at a dining table: one adult male, one adult female and two children.

“That’s about right,” the narrator remarks of that image.

Another activity specifically recommended that people not do by the City of Birmingham video also included playing Twister.

WATCH:

View recommendations from the CDC here.

RELATED: Dr. Scott Harris: No shutdown needed ‘if people can just follow the guidance that we have in place now’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Eleven86 is an Alabama Maker of heavenly H2O

(Eleven86 Real Artesian Water/Facebook)

Eleven86 Real Artesian Water (Autaugaville)

The Maker: Marquis Forge

From Genesis to Revelation, water flows throughout the Bible.

Whether it’s the creation, Moses striking the rock, Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine or baptism, there is no doubt water and Scripture are linked.

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When Marquis Forge was looking to fulfill a promise he made when he graduated from Autaugaville High School he was a bit surprised that water was what God was leading him to do.

“I graduate from Autaugaville High School in 1995 and during that speech – I was valedictorian – during my valedictorian speech, I made a promise that if I was to go off and be successful, I won’t forget where I come from,” said Forge, now CEO of Eleven86 Real Artesian Water. “In 2015, I had the opportunity to come back and create – through God’s direction – come back and create MRaine Industries and Eleven86 Real Artesian Water.”

Eleven86 Real Artesian Water is an Alabama Maker from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Forge spent his career in the automotive industry and understood processes and engineering. But rather than building something, the calling he got was to bottle water.

“It was God’s decision, not mine,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about water. Water was not my cup of tea.”

Even the name of the company he chose came from the Bible … sort of.

A phone app told him there were 1,186 chapters in the Bible. In order to ensure people say “eleven 86” and not “one thousand one hundred and 86” Forge and his team decided to spell out “eleven.” Forge later counted the chapters and determined there are 1,189 chapters in the Bible but the team liked the sound of “Eleven86” better and Forge is at peace believing it’s the name God intended.

Eleven86 locally sources and bottles its water in Autaugaville, creating jobs for locals and producing a product that can be celebrated by everyone.

Eleven86, the official bottled water of Alabama, is distributed statewide by Budweiser to more than 480 locations. It is the water distributed at every Retirement Systems of Alabama resort, such as the Grand Hotel, Ross Bridge and all Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses in the state. It’s also sold in  Mississippi and Texas.

“We’re just growing by leaps and bounds,” Forge said. “It’s amazing.”

For Forge, Eleven86 is the latest example of God using water for his glory.

“Not only is it high-quality bottled water, but it has purpose behind it,” he said. “It has a story behind it. It’s prophetic.”

The product: Water locally sourced and bottled in Autaugaville.

Take home: Bottled water sold at more than 480 locations in Alabama. You can also order directly from the Eleven86 website.

Eleven86 can be found online and on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Researchers use new technology in bid to solve centuries-old Alabama mystery of Mabila

(GlobalXplorer/Contributed)

An ongoing research project is applying cutting-edge satellite technology in a quest to finally pinpoint one of Alabama’s – and North America’s – most important “lost” historic sites.

On Oct. 18, 1540, an armed contingent of Spaniards led by explorer Hernando de Soto savagely attacked Native American warriors led by the famed chieftain Tascalusa. The blood-soaked confrontation decimated Tascalusa’s forces and left the fortified Indian village of Mabila a charred ruin. The number of dead – fewer than 100 Spaniards but as many as 5,000 Indians, according to historic chronicles of the event – puts the carnage on par with or greater than the battle of Antietam during the Civil War as potentially the single deadliest day of combat on North American soil.

As devastating as the fight was to the pre-Alabama natives, the monumental clash also ultimately led to De Soto’s demise. After the battle of Mabila, the infamous conquistador pressed deeper into the wilderness with his battle-weakened troops. De Soto ultimately perished – precisely where is also unknown – and what was left of his army retreated to Mexico.

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Nearly five centuries later, the exact location of Mabila – believed to be somewhere in West Alabama, possibly in Clarke or Dallas County – remains elusive, despite multiple efforts to find it. But a Birmingham-based nonprofit, known for using the power of satellite imagery to identify important archaeological sites from Egypt to Peru, is now on the case.

GlobalXplorer was founded by internationally recognized “space archaeologist” Sarah Parcak, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at UAB and a National Geographic Society Archaeology Explorer.

Parcak is also the winner of the 2016 TED Prize, which came with a $1 million award that she used to create GlobalXplorer.

Parcak is a pioneer in using high-resolution satellite imagery to identify subtle patterns on the Earth’s surface that may indicate the location of hidden archaeological sites. Her techniques have helped to locate thousands of potentially significant sites in Egypt as well as important sites connected to the Vikings and the Roman Empire.

Through GlobalXplorer, Parcak and her team trained volunteer “citizen explorers” to scour satellite imagery in Peru to identify, and protect from looters, important ancient ruins. They’ve also, with support from the Alabama Power Foundation, begun to analyze satellite imagery of West Alabama where, in the future, they may locate archaeological sites that will help determine where Mabila might lie.

Chase Childs, GlobalXplorer executive director, said dense tree cover in some sections of West Alabama poses some challenges for using satellite imagery, compared to the open deserts of Egypt. The amount of soil disturbance in west Alabama over the centuries, where native prairie was turned into farmland or cotton plantations, and later became forest or planted tree farms, may also have led to the destruction of some or all of the Mabila site.

Despite the challenges, early analysis, he said, has turned up some intriguing patterns worthy of further, ground-based investigation. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a pause in field expeditions for now.

Childs said GlobalXplorer, following initial investigations on the satellite imagery, will ensure that the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma – the descendants of native Americans who lived in what is now West Alabama and Mississippi but who were forced west in the early 19th century during the infamous Trail of Tears – will be consulted for any potential ground-based work.

“This is a major question remaining for Alabama’s history, and it continues to cause significant debate and discussion in the archaeological community. We are hopeful that the application of these new technologies will help shed light on a potential location for Mabila and help guide future groundwork,” Parcak said.

Childs said more definitive information regarding GlobalXplorer’s findings should be available in a few months. Based on those findings, further research and field studies – by GlobalXplorer or others – will likely be needed to determine if the work has brought the world any closer to locating Mabila. He said the information gathered through this initial phase would be made available to other scholars.

In addition to the scholarly value, finding Mabila could bring an economic boost to west Alabama, drawing visitors and more research dollars to the area, as well as resources to preserve the site, if found.

“One can rightfully say that the lost battle site of Mabila is the predominant historical mystery of the Deep South,” now-retired University of Alabama Professor Jim Knight wrote in “The Search for Mabila,” a 269-page volume about the quest published by the University of Alabama Press. The book, edited by Knight, was the product of a three-day gathering of Mabila scholars hosted by the university in 2006.

Six years ago, Knight participated in a field expedition, also funded by the Alabama Power Foundation, that examined a site along the Alabama River where it was thought De Soto’s troops may have crossed on their way to Mabila. That expedition failed to turn up artifacts that dated the site to around the time of De Soto’s journey.

While that expedition did not blaze a path to Mabila, it did contribute – through process of elimination, if nothing else – to the base of knowledge that may ultimately lead scholars to the site.

For now, the GlobalXplorer project keeps alive the promise of bringing the world closer to the day when the centuries-old mystery of Mabila is solved.

Learn more about GlobalXplorer at https://www.globalxplorer.org/. Learn more about the Alabama Power Foundation at https://powerofgood.com/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 week ago

Baldwin County’s OWA to host fourth annual Christmas tree lighting this Saturday

(OWA/Contributed, YHN)

OWA is ringing in the holiday season in festive fashion this weekend, with its fourth annual Tree Lighting Ceremony to be held Saturday, November 21.

The family entertainment destination in Foley, Alabama, will host a socially distanced Christmas extravaganza, with Saturday’s ceremony to include live entertainment, holiday cheer and more surprises for those in attendance as well as those watching from home via Facebook.

The ceremonial festivities will kick off in the streets of Downtown OWA at 6:00 p.m. CT, per a release.

This year, the 36-foot tall Christmas tree sits at OWA Island, overlooking the 14-acre lake and picturesque fountain in the center of the Baldwin County property.

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The lighting of the tree will be at 7:00 p.m. Attendees will be able to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, in addition to live music and other Christmas performers.

“With the weather cooling down on the Gulf Coast, we are thrilled to welcome the holiday season once again at OWA,” stated Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s director of Marketing/PR. “Our community has welcomed us into their hearts each and every year and our Christmas Tree Lighting has become a way for us to share a little holiday magic with all of you.”

The full schedule of Christmas themed activities on Nov. 21 includes:

6-6:30PM • Live music from A Charlie Brown Christmas
6:30PM • Live stream special performance from Legends In Concert- A Merry Country Christmas at OWA Theater
6:40PM • Santa reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”
7:00PM • Tree Lighting & Fireworks from OWA Island
7-7:30PM • Sting Trio Performance from Downtown OWA
7:15PM Until • Santa & Mrs. Claus Photo Op on the OWA Island

Learn more here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 week ago

Playtime Extravaganza goes on at Children’s of Alabama thanks to volunteers

(Phil Free/Alabama NewsCenter)

More than 150 sick kids at Children’s Hospital will enjoy a mini version of Christmas this week, thanks to employees at Southern Company Services (SCS) and Alabama Power.

Several SCS employees recently spent a couple of hours organizing boxes of toys for the 13th-annual Playtime Extravaganza for Children’s Hospital patients. On Friday afternoon Nov. 5, seven volunteers met at Patrick Snell’s home in Hoover, Alabama, to package small toys into about 150 kid-sized packages.

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Children’s Hospital Playtime Extravaganza goes on thanks to Alabama Power and Southern Company Services volunteers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Volunteers wore protective masks and gloves to make sure the gifts were packaged in a safe environment, in keeping with rules set by Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve done our Playtime Extravaganza project for 13 years, partnering with Children’s Hospital,” said Patrick Snell, this year’s Playtime project coordinator and an applications analyst for Financial Services Information Technology (IT) at SCS in Birmingham. “We usually do a teddy bear fair, a LEGO movie event, a fantastic photos fun fair and other activities during one week in August. It’s really been a year of uncertainty. It definitely took a little creativity to make this happen during the pandemic.”

Indeed, COVID-19 turned the project on its ear. The group couldn’t host the fun-time events on-site at the hospital because of concerns about coronavirus transmission.

“Playtime Extravaganza usually gives the patients a chance to come down, hang out, have a good time and just have a little escape from their daily treatments,” he said. “Instead, we are trying to put Playtime Extravaganza in a box. We’ll take all of the gifts to Children’s Hospital.”

With employees working from home this fall, the Technology organization couldn’t hold its usual fundraisers. Instead, they sent an email to Technology Organization and Energy Management System employees letting them know they could sponsor a teddy bear for $20 and a Playtime Extravaganza kit for $50.

Technology Organization employees ordered the toys and prize-pack items from Amazon and Oriental Trading. The project benefits youngsters in the Child Life program at Children’s Hospital.

“Instead of spending a week with the kids, we’re packaging toys that represent each event into the boxes,” Snell said. “About 31 employees gave $2,205. The Magic City Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization gave $500 to the project.”

Snell’s garage and driveway were converted to work areas for assembling gift bags and boxes. SCS volunteers included Alicia Ford, Leigh Hampton Gorham, Carol Grigsby, Tracy Henderson, Serina Johnson, Melissa Ledbetter and Snell.

Grigsby and Ledbetter kept a safe distance of 6 feet in the garage while packaging hundreds of small toys. Other employees worked at tables outdoors where temperatures were comfortably warm for a fall day.

Ledbetter, who has helped with the project for four years and Grigsby, who has assisted for 10 years, agreed the work is “all about the kids.”

“Seeing how much fun they have is so neat,” said Ledbetter, an SCS employees for 15 years. “It lifts their spirits so much.”

Snell said SCS and APC employees enjoyed the opportunity to help children during the holiday season.

“We spent a couple of hours getting everything done,” Snell said. “It’s been cool to see the response from so many people. We are so appreciative of all our employees and Magic City APSO for making this happen.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 week ago

University of South Alabama scholarship signifies couple’s love for each other, passion for giving

(University of South Alabama/Contributed)

Pam Patterson has worked in public education for more than 45 years. She graduated from high school in Birmingham and always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for her undergraduate degree, the University of Alabama for graduate school and earned additional certifications in education at the University of South Alabama (USA). She has worked in the USA College of Education and Professional Studies for 14 years.

“We moved to Mobile about 30 years ago and we had two boys,” Patterson said. “We had season tickets to South basketball games while they were growing up, and we’ve immersed ourselves in the community ever since.”

The Pattersons have been married for more than 45 years.

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“We kind of hit it off on a Friday night, had a little Fourth of July at the lake on the following Monday and began dating,” said Eric Patterson, Pam’s husband. “Pam was in a hurry to get married and get through school. She finished high school at Briarwood, earned her degree from UAB and at the age of 19 she was back at Briarwood teaching.”

“I figured I better hurry so I could grab him,” Pam said.

The Pattersons have a true passion for giving back to their community, wherever they may be. Eric worked for Alabama Power Company in Birmingham for four years, transferred to northwest Alabama, then moved to Tuscaloosa and lived there for a number of years before moving to Mobile in 1989.

“I have been blessed by a great company,” said Eric, who was a division manager. “Alabama Power is involved in the community, period. It’s been a blessing that I’ve had a company that encouraged us to be engaged and involved in the community. And as I say, it’s because of Alabama Power that we do and get engaged in so many ways.”

Pam’s career was not dependent on staying in one particular place, and she was able to move to continue her passion for teaching while supporting her husband’s career.

“I tell my students, ‘I was made to be a kindergarten teacher,’” Pam said. “I feel just as strongly as people are called to the ministry that I was called to teaching. And that path just worked because I could move with Eric very easily when he moved and fall back into teaching.”

When the Pattersons moved to Mobile, Pam started working at Morningside Elementary, which served a diverse population of students, as most of her career has been in diverse schools.

“I taught there for 15 years, and during that time of teaching I also was on various committees,” Pam said. “I worked with our school in developing our Title I project and did training for Mobile County school teachers. I retired in 2004 and started working with the New Teacher Academy with Mobile County Public Schools. In 2006 I accepted a position at South supervising student teachers, and in 2012 I started working in the Office of Field Services.”

Eric has served on the USA College of Education and Professional Studies Advisory Council since 2016 and currently is the advisory chair. In 2018, he made a donation to South to create the “Pamela Lynne Patterson Endowed Scholarship in Education.”

“Being part of the advisory council has deepened that appreciation and love for giving,” Eric said. “Everything we’re talking about right now starts with Mr. Abe Mitchell and his willingness to help match giving toward undergraduate scholarships for the university. Everything that we’re talking about centers around Mr. Mitchell, and I just can’t say enough to thank him for what he’s done to make things like we were able to do possible because of his generosity.”

Eric surprised his wife with the creation of the scholarship. He hopes the scholarship will honor Pam’s work and dedication to the field of education.

“Pam knew nothing about it, and I didn’t want her to be involved in it at all,” Eric said. “I wanted to find some way to honor this lady. I mean, as I said before, she could have made millions of dollars doing other things. She’s absolutely brilliant. She was valedictorian at Briarwood High School.”

“When I told her about it, the first thing she did was start crying and crying. That was reward enough right then and there to know that it meant a lot to her, and it did because of all that she’s invested in her life.”

The Pattersons know how difficult it is financially for undergraduate education students in their last semester of college. While completing student teaching in schools, it’s difficult for students to work.

“And we do have a number of back-to-school students and a lot of them need to work because they have families, so I wanted our scholarship to be able to help students with tuition in their last semester,” Pam said. “I’m just so thrilled that someone can benefit from this, because I was on an academic scholarship in college and I know. We were married while I was in college, and it was a godsend for us. I’m just thrilled that we can do that for someone else. Again, paying it forward.”

Eric’s involvement in education has not only stemmed from his wife’s involvement with education, but also his time with Alabama Power. While working with the company in Mobile, Eric also worked with the Mobile Area Education Foundation.

“We have supported schools throughout my career in various places throughout the state,” Patterson said. “So, as I’ve moved around, I have been involved with school systems because of Alabama Power’s encouragement and our personal belief in being involved with schools.”

The Pattersons have also supported Distinguished Young Women. Eric was president of the board for two years and Pam was executive director of the organization for three years.

“The primary focus of Distinguished Young Women is to provide scholarships for young women to attend colleges and universities across the country,” Pam said. “Distinguished Young Women is such a beneficiary of University of South Alabama scholarships. More than 25 young women from various states have attended South on scholarships received through this program.”

“We’ve been very heavily involved with that organization and, just again, another one of those benefits of education and another of those things that I love about South Alabama, because Eric and I love Distinguished Young Women. South’s involvement has just been a model for many universities in the state.”

Eric is still involved in fundraising for Distinguished Young Women and is chairman of the scholarship foundation. The two are active members at their church, and Eric coached and served on the board for Cottage Hill Little League. He and Arlene Mitchell in 1990 helped establish the first senior center in Mobile, previously named the Mary Abbie Berg Senior Center.

“Our boys and their children have learned some things also about passing it on,” Eric said. “And everything about me is centered around my faith, and the Lord has blessed me way beyond anything I could have ever imagined with family and everything else. And so here’s another way to try to help somebody else along the way, to pass along some of the good things that we’ve been blessed with.”

The Pattersons have truly embraced the University of South Alabama during their time in Mobile.

“The university has been good to us,” Eric said. “We enjoy the time we spend with folks from the university and, you know, we’re just very grateful for what the university means to Alabama as well as the Mobile area.”

This story originally appeared on the University of South Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Have you visited these Alabama musical attractions?

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Alabama has a rich musical history that has given way to a vibrant musical legacy. We’ve brought you stories of Alabama Music Makers carrying on the tradition in virtually every kind of musical style. There are some places where the musical roots run especially deep. Here are a few Alabama musical attractions everyone should visit.

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2 weeks ago

Talladega’s Jayden Patterson, 10, starts T-shirt, mask business during COVID-19 pandemic

(Jayden Patterson/Contributed, YHN)

Jayden Patterson, a 10-year-old from Talladega, has turned his creative passion into a business supporting community safety during the COVID-19 crisis.

Jayden attends Stemley Road Elementary School, where he is the Community Service League representative. In that role, Jayden spreads and encourages kindness by leading morning PA system announcements.

Jayden has always been creative and enjoys drawing and designing, said his mother, Cecelia. “He even enjoys creating things out of Popsicle sticks.”

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When his great-aunt, Bridget Merritt, made a shirt using a drawing by Jayden, his family knew it was a great business idea. Jayden’s first T-shirt design was posted on social media May 9. Before long, he had sold more than 50 shirts locally, with some shipped to other Alabama and Georgia cities.

After realizing the need for face masks, Jayden began creating them at home with his dad.

His mother said, “He saw that he could do something positive during the time of a pandemic in the world. He wanted to bring some light into the world during the time of darkness.”

Jayden created four original designs and has big dreams for his business.

His family has been very supportive, assisting with the purchase of a heat press and continuing to buy shirts he designs. Jayden’s parents encourage him by providing materials, supervision and transportation.

Jayden’s first design of a bearded man wearing a hoodie is his favorite. His favorite part of the business is “meeting new people and talking to new people.”

When he’s not designing T-shirts, Jayden likes to watch movies, swim, make s’mores and ride bikes with his brother, Javien.

“Jayden is such a kind and caring child,” his mother said. “He is a joy to most people who encounter him; it’s hard for me to choose what we are most proud of. If I must name something, it would be him being an entrepreneur and a leader at such a young age.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Alabama neighborhood lights up early for Christmas as girl lives her final days — ‘We are never alone’

(@GoodNews_Movement/Instagram, YHN)

One Alabama neighborhood is providing light to a family experiencing otherwise dark days.

Good News Movement this week shared a moving social media post about seven-year-old Ally Cheek, whose story was also recently featured on ABC 33/40.

Ally, who lives in the Liberty Park area of Birmingham, is terminally ill, suffering from the deadly neurological disease HECW2.

This disease is so rare that only about 50 people worldwide are afflicted. However, the Cheeks have had two of this small subset of the global population.

Bailey Grace, Ally’s sister, passed away last summer after battling the disease.

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Just 11 months later, Ally started hospice.

What keeps the Cheeks going?

Faith.

Ally’s mother, Morgan, reportedly told Good News Movement, “In a time that many would consider unimaginable — walking through the death of our second precious daughter in less than two years — our neighborhood has reminded us of the Hope and Light that always overcomes the dark. They have bolstered our faith and trust that God is here and that — as the true spirit of Christmas portrays — He is always with us and we are never alone.“

WATCH ABC 33/40’s report below:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 weeks ago

Birmingham’s Glenwood selling southern pecans to benefit those affected by autism

(Glenwood/Contributed)

Glenwood’s Pecans for Autism are available for purchase this holiday season, and every package bought goes to help care for patients with autism.

A nonprofit based in Birmingham, Glenwood provides “person-centered treatment of children and adults impacted by autism and other behavioral health needs,” according to the organization’s mission statement.

They add that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their pecans and other goodies go to benefit their programs and services.

The pecans can be bought online or by calling 866-729-2189.

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Glenwood’s pecans can also be found in person at several locations in the Birmingham area, including some Piggly Wiggly and Nail’s convenience store locations.

According to a release, the pecans sold by Glenwood are “‘first shake’ pecans from southern farms” and they “come in many varieties and products, from the mammoth pecan halves to chocolate covered pecans, the popular roasted and salted, pecan brittle, pecan coffees and many more.”

This year marks Glenwood’s 43rd year of conducting the Pecans for Autism fundraiser. The nonprofit says it “touched the lives of over 10,000 families across Alabama in the past year.”

Besides pecans, Glenwood also sells pecan brittle, pecan coffees and many more treats that can make the holiday season a little sweeter.

Those interested in the fundraiser can find more details and/or place an order here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 weeks ago

Watch: Soldier returns from deployment, surprises family member at Alabama football game

(Tommy Wood/AHSAA, YHN)

This Veterans Day, America celebrates the heroic members of the United States Armed Services, both past and present, who have sacrificed to keep our nation safe and free.

However, appreciation for our service members and veterans does not — and should not — just happen one day per year.

At last Friday’s first-round playoff game between Central of Clay County and Satsuma, one special surprise visitor was recognized prior to kickoff.

Central’s Tyshawn Kerley, as a captain for the game, had just finished the coin flip when the in-stadium announcer asked him over the PA system to remain at midfield.

A video of the scene, which will give you chills, then shows U.S. Army Sgt. Kenneth Malik Howard — Kerley’s cousin — emerge from behind a line of Satsuma players on the visitor’s sideline.

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Howard had just returned from a multi-year overseas deployment and had not seen his cousin in “several years,” per the announcer.

The soldier has served a total of 3.5 years on three deployments, including two years consecutively this last time around.

Watch the moment in which Howard surprises Kerley, following a warm welcome from the Alabama crowd:

Thanks to Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) TV Game of the Week announcer Tommy Wood for sharing this moment.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 weeks ago

Students at Southern Preparatory Academy take part in virtual Veterans Day parade

(Southern Prep/Youtube/Screenshot)

The young men at Southern Preparatory Academy, the premier military high school in Alabama, have recorded a virtual entry for this year’s National Veterans Day Parade.

Southern Prep, which was named Lyman Ward Military Academy until 2019, usually participates in person at the parade which is typically held in Birmingham on Veterans Day.

This year, due to coronavirus precautions, the parade is being held via live stream at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 11. The submission from Southern Prep has been published online in advance of the official parade.

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“We are the corps. of cadets from Southern Prep Academy, as the official military school of Alabama, we want to thank all of our veterans for setting the example for us to follow,” says Cadet Heath Norrell, a senior at Southern Prep and battalion commander of the cadet corps, in the video.

The position of battalion commander is most similar to the position of student body president in an average high school.

Southern Prep enrolls about 100 boys in grades 6-12. It is located in Camp Hill, a small town around 30 minutes northwest of Auburn.

“Here in Camp Hill we know we are standing on the shoulders of giants today because of your service to our great nation,” remarks Norrell in the video.

The National Veterans Day Parade is run by the National Veterans Day Foundation in Birmingham. The landing page for the live stream of the parade can be found here.

“From all of us here at Southern Prep, we want to say ‘thank you and God Bless America,'” concludes Norrell in the clip.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 weeks ago

Ivey pardons two turkeys; Public asked to buy local this Thanksgiving

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey conducted a ceremony at the governor’s mansion on Monday in which she pardoned Clyde and Henrietta, two turkeys who will now peacefully live out the rest of their days on a farm.

The two gobblers were provided by the Bates family that operates Bates Turkey Farm and the famous Bates House of Turkey restaurant in Greenville. The pardoning event was conducted by Alabama Egg and Poultry Association President Johnny Adams.

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture Rick Pate and Becky Bates Sloan, the proprietor of Bates House of Turkey, both spoke at the pardoning and urged the public to buy products made and/or grown in Alabama to put on their tables this Thanksgiving.

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“If ever we needed to support our local businesses, it is this year,” said Bates Sloane at the event, explaining the pandemic knocked businesses like hers “to our knees.”

“As you prepare your Thanksgiving menu … there is certainly sweet potatoes and pumpkin pies and things that can be made with Alabama products,” relayed Pate at the ceremony after agreeing that turkeys should be bought locally if possible.

He also mentioned his department’s Sweet Grown Alabama branding, launched earlier in 2020, which labels locally grown products in stores.

Sweet Grown Alabama provides an online database that allows citizens to find local farmers near them.

Pate also made the official appeal to Ivey on behalf of Clyde and Henrietta, asking her to spare their lives this Thanksgiving season.

Pardoning turkeys in Alabama is a Thanksgiving giving tradition that dates back more than 71 years. The Bates family has always been the governor’s turkey supplier, and one of the turkeys has always been named Clyde.

The 2020 ceremony saw a selection of 5th graders from Montgomery Christian School play a Thanksgiving song for those in attendance.

“Clyde and Henrietta, by the power invested in me, I hereby pardon you from the Thanksgiving table,” remarked Ivey when she took the podium.

The two birds will live out their days on the Bates family farm in Greenville.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 weeks ago

Tuscaloosa’s One Place is an Alabama Bright Light helping families

(Contributed)

Amanda Lightsey believes in families.

“Our primary goal with families is to be successful and safe, and to prevent child abuse and neglect. We also promote self-sufficiency. We have programs for everyone in the family,” said Lightsey, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place. “One is our after-school program, where they provide enrichment activities and a meal for the children. They also receive one-on-one mentoring from University of Alabama students.”

Lightsey has seen students’ grades improve and families coming together to take on different challenges. Specific programs are also available for adults.

“Under the Parent Project, we teach adults about self-development, parenting and how to deal with strong-willed teenagers. The youth come as well and learn problem-solving skills and stress management. We do in-home visitation so the family can stay together, and we also do supervised visitation,” Lightsey said.

Tuscaloosa’s One Place has a Fatherhood Program, where they work with noncustodial fathers to help them build relationships with their children. The Work Force Program helps those fathers with resume preparation and GED exams, as well as job searches.

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Tuscaloosa’s One Place receives court referrals and works with people from other organizations and agencies. COVID-19 has affected how Tuscaloosa’s One Place staff serves clients.

“The needs are greater than they’ve ever been. Stress levels have gone up, and youth violence has gone up. We try to maintain our levels of service. We are doing a lot of Zoom meetings, and we’re still providing wonderful help for families and youth,” Lightsey said.

Enrollment has doubled through Zoom because any family can attend despite transportation barriers they might have had in the past.

Lightsey depends on funding from donors and foundations to accomplish the mission of Tuscaloosa’s One Place. The Alabama Power Foundation has been a long-time partner.

“We have been here for 21 years, and the Alabama Power Foundation has been there for most of those years,” she said. “We have received funding for many of our programs, and support for our fundraisers like the Tinsel Trail that we launch before Thanksgiving. We will have over 200 trees lit up and decorated. Alabama Power Foundation always supports us with that and other programs.”

The social justice movement sweeping across the country has affected Tuscaloosa’s One Place staff members and how they help people.

“The social justice movement has made us more aware. We want to be inclusive of everyone, and we need to reach all populations and all types of families,” Lightsey said. “When we meet with families, we first talk about COVID-19, then we talk about social justice. They are experiencing the movement firsthand.”

On a personal level, Lightsey has reveled in her service with Tuscaloosa’s One Place.

“I am very fortunate to be able to do what I do with Tuscaloosa’s One Place. When you find your purpose in life and be able to live it every day, that’s huge. Getting to see families celebrate their achievements means the world to me, and gives me the motivation to keep going,” Lightsey said. “Great things are possible for all families.”

For more information, please visit, www.tuscaloosaoneplace.org.

Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at karimshamsibasha@gmail.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

Common Ground Montgomery provides at-risk children academic, spiritual and social support

(Common Ground Montgomery/Contributed)

“Beating the odds? No, it’s about coming together to change the odds for these kids to help them find lasting success for generations to come,” said Bryan Kelly, founder and executive director of Common Ground Montgomery.

Founded in 2006, Common Ground Montgomery (CGM) started as Bible study sessions with Carver High School’s football team while Kelly worked as a volunteer coach. Within two years, CGM started its first boys and girls camps and after-school program at McIntyre and Carver community centers in west Montgomery with about 40 students.

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After creating CGM, Kelly moved into the neighborhood with a vision to make a difference. He bought and renovated a former illicit drug house in the Washington Park neighborhood as the primary residence for his young family. That building is now the home of Common Ground. It has become a safe haven for Montgomery-area children and provides a protective and loving environment for all ages, where children can get assistance with homework and participate in extracurricular activities during the school year. After the school year, the doors are open for camp, consisting of tutoring and summer fun.

While Common Ground Montgomery is in the heart of the most underprivileged part of of the Capital City, the impact of its work is immense and does not go unnoticed.

In addition to offering a stable, safe environment for schoolchildren, providing scholastic support through its Leadership Development Program, CGM  provides mentoring, counseling and preschool education. The organization’s vision is to teach principles of unity and neighborhood transformation that create an umbrella of services that mold future, godly leaders. CGM does this by focusing on three main areas: academics, social skills and spiritual studies.

The program mirrors the Montgomery Public Schools calendar and is available each school day 3-6 p.m. During the 2019-2020 school year, before COVID-19, the organization served more than 125 pre-K through 12th grade students and provided transportation from each child’s school to the center, then home. The children also participated in Wednesday Bible study.

Alabama Power Foundation, the charitable giving organization of Alabama Power Company, is a supporter of Common Ground Montgomery and its Leadership Development Program.

“The partnership between CGM and the Alabama Power Foundation has been long-standing and has a proven track record of stewardship,” said Summer Williams, director of development for CGM. “With Alabama Power Foundation’s support, we have been able to grow our programs and pour into the lives of so many children.”

“We offer the program and camp, but programs are not all that we are,” she said. “Our staff is here to try to change the odds for the at-risk youths that we work with on a daily basis. We are present, available and have made a commitment to walk with the children and their families.”

For more information about Common Ground Montgomery and its programs, visit www.cgm.life.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

Jacksonville State-produced documentary on impactful Alabamian Jim Martin premieres Monday on APT

(JSU/Contributed, APT/Contributed, YHN)

Jim Martin, a WWII veteran and one of the first prominent post-reconstruction Republicans in Alabama, is the subject of a new documentary from Jacksonville’s State University’s Longleaf Studios that will be broadcast Monday, November 9, on Alabama Public Television.

Officially titled Forever Wild – The James D. Martin Story, the film documents the life story of a man who went from guiding General Dwight Eisenhower through a Nazi concentration camp to serving in the U.S. House of Representatives to fighting for the state to get its fair share of the oil being pumped off its coastal shores.

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“What Jim did then is paying today, and will continue to pay far into the future,” radio host J. Holland said of Martin in a statement.

APT advises that in “the early 1960s, Martin was one of the first Republicans to seriously challenge the lock on Alabama politics held by the Democratic Party, nearly defeating incumbent J. Lister Hill in the race for the U.S. Senate in 1962.”

Martin, who died in 2017, served one term in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican from 1965-1967 after being swept into Washington on the strength of Barry Goldwater’s victory in Alabama in the 1964 presidential election.

Alabama Governor Guy Hunt, the state’s first Republican governor in modern history, appointed Martin to lead the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources after Hunt surprised many with his gubernatorial win in 1986.

A heavy emphasis of the film appears to be Martin’s time at the helm of ADCNR. The movie’s title refers to the Forever Wild program that Martin established to preserve public lands for enjoyment by citizens.

Other notable aspects of Martin’s time at ADCNR were his fight with oil companies of the state’s share of royalties from oil pumped off Alabama’s cost and his fight to officially canonize Alabama’s coastal boundaries.

“This is an incredible opportunity for JSU to tell one of the many stories that have shaped the state of Alabama,” said J. Seth Johnson, department head and professor at JSU and director of Longleaf Studios, in a release provided by Alabama Public Television.

Longleaf Studios is wholly housed within JSU’s School of Arts and Humanities. It allows students to get hands-on experience producing films and other media while in college. Prodigi Arts, a production studio based in Memphis, partnered with Longleaf on the documentary.

The documentary premieres at 9:00 p.m. on Monday, November 9, on Alabama Public Television stations. Residents of Alabama can find their station here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 weeks ago

Bassmaster champion Randy Howell raffling off top-of-the-line bass boat at annual King’s Home charity event

(King's Home/Contributed)

The 11th annual Kampfire for the King, an outdoor event to benefit the King’s Home charity, will see former Bassmaster champion Randy Howell giving away a premium bass boat to one lucky attendee who makes a donation to King’s Home.

The boat, a 2020 Triton 21TRX-Elite, is valued at over $83,000. To enter the contest for the boat, members of the public can make donations of $100 per ticket online here. One hundred percent of all ticket purchases go to supporting King’s Home.

King’s Home, the Christian charity that will benefit from Howell’s generosity, runs 22 homes for youth, women and adult moms with kids fleeing domestic violence, homelessness, neglect and other horrific situations.

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Kampfire for the King will be held on November 14 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m at the Chelsea campus of King’s Home.

Kampfire will have a cornhole tournament and a fishing rodeo on a stocked pond.

“Area fishing teams are invited out and kids of all ages have the opportunity to pick up a pole and cast for a big fish. Fishing poles and supplies provided by Mark’s Outdoors guarantee a fun day for all! Prizes will be awarded for the best catch,” promised King’s Home in a release.

The fishing event will be led by Howell, who was the 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion. Howell has been a devoted supporter of King’s Home since 2011.

“The Central Alabama Cornhole Club will conduct the cornhole tournament bracket and provide all the supplies. Registration for the tournament is available online for $50 per team up until 9:45 a.m. on the morning of the tournament. Cash and donated prizes will be awarded to the best teams,” the charity added.

More details on Kampfire for the King can be found here.

The full details of the boat being given away by Howell, per the giveaways’ webpage as follows:

• 2020 Triton 21TRX-Elite
• 250 Mercury Pro-XS 4Stroke V-8 with Fury Prop
• Lowrance Ghost Trolling Motor
• 2 Lowrance HDS12 Live Units on Custom BoatLogix Mounts
• Two Blue 8’ Power-Pole Blades
• 10” TH Marine HD Hydraulic Jack Plate
• Gatorguard/Keelshield on Hull
• 17” General Tires and Custom Wheel Package with Stainless Steel Fenders
• Four 31-Series Odyssey Batteries
• TH Marine KVD Hydrowave
• Power-Pole Charge System
• Custom Light Package on Boat & Trailer by Bluewater LED and TH Marine

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 weeks ago

College senior sworn in as mayor of Camp Hill

(Auburn University/Flickr, YHN)

A 21-year-old college senior at Auburn University was sworn in as the mayor of Camp Hill, Alabama, on Tuesday.

Messiah Williams-Cole takes over as the chief executive of the small town with an estimated population of 955.

In a release, Williams-Cole said he would be creating a schedule for himself to make sure he has time for both his studies and his mayoral duties.

“I want to implement things that will increase unity in the town, like doing quarterly town hall meetings that are more informal and that celebrate the community. We need to open up the floor for people to complain if they want, because they have the right to do that as taxpayers,” commented Williams-Cole about his plans for his new job.

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Camp Hill is located in Tallapoosa County about 30 minutes northwest of Auburn. It houses Southern Preparatory Academy, formerly known as Lyman Ward Military Academy.

Williams-Cole says he decided to run “because I was fed up with some of the things going on in the town.”

The new mayor believes the problems faced by his town “aren’t really unfixable,” but rather the previous town leadership was not attacking them properly.

“My main thing is to create a foundation and clear up any debts we have to get our town financially stable,” Williams-Cole remarked.

He good-naturedly thanked his mother for being “my campaign manager, secretary, laundry person, everything.”

Williams-Cole, who plans to graduate in May 2021, studies political science, civic and community engagement and business at Auburn.

“Just knowing I have the position I have and the chance to have an input in my town, it’s overwhelming in a sense. It’s overwhelming to know you have so many ways you can effect change that it’s hard to get your mind around it,” the new mayor said.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 weeks ago

OWA to host comedy shows from Nov. 12-14, including first-ever improv night

(OWA/Contributed, YHN)

OWA on Monday announced an upcoming week of comedy shows filled with laughs for the entire family.

Tickets are available now for the show, which will be socially distanced and run November 12, 13 and 14 at the beautiful OWA Theater in Foley, Alabama.

For one night only, attendees can enjoy a night of improv and comedy in the first-ever Improv at OWA Theater show on Thursday, November 12, at 7:00 p.m. CT. This event will feature comedians Patricia and Andrea Riley; guests will enjoy 90 minutes of family-friendly, interactive improv comedy, where they get to control the direction of the show.

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Then, on November 13 at 7:00 p.m. and again on November 14 at both 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., the laughs keep coming as Christian Comedy Fest takes the stage with comedians Cyrus Steele and Eric Hunter.

“OWA’s goal is to always have something that everyone can enjoy, so in the spirit of the season we have created an event for all ages,” stated Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s director of Marketing/PR. “Improv at OWA and Christian Comedy Fest provides a socially distanced, fun environment to share some laughs with your kids or create the perfect date night experience.”

Tickets to these comedy shows or the bevy of other fun OWA events can be purchased online or at the OWA Theater Box office.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 weeks ago

Alabama’s Fannie Flagg returns to Whistle Stop in new novel

(Andrew Southam/Contributed)

In 1987, Fannie Flagg first introduced us to Idgie, Evelyn, Ninny and the other inhabitants of the fictional and oh-so-Southern Whistle Stop, Alabama.

The best-selling book was “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café,” and it spawned a cookbook and a hit movie starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy and Mary Stuart Masterson.

It’s as a writer that Flagg has found her greatest success, with books including “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion,” “A Redbird Christmas,” “Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!” and “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven.”

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Now, 33 years later, Flagg, who grew up in Woodlawn and still calls Alabama home, is revisiting Whistle Stop in a big way. A sequel, “The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop,” comes out next week, and an NBC series based on the original book, starring country superstar Reba McEntire, is in the works.

“It all happened at once,” Flagg said from her home in Montecito, California. “I didn’t plan this at all. It never occurred to me.”

Flagg grew up in Birmingham, working with Town and Gown Theatre and on Tom York’s “Morning Show.” She came to national prominence working with Allen Funt on “Candid Camera” and was a constant game-show guest in the 1970s. Flagg appeared on Broadway in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and “Patio/Porch” and had small roles in the movies “Five Easy Pieces” and “Grease.”

Her most well-known book, though, is “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café,” which tells the story of Idgie and Ruth, owners of the small-town Alabama cafe; Evelyn Couch, a middle-aged housewife; and Ninny Threadgoode, an elderly woman in a nursing home.

“The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop” focuses on Buddy Jr., Ruth’s son, who lost an arm in an accident.

“He winds up in a retirement home in Atlanta, and he wants to go home, so he escapes from the nursing home,” Flagg said. “The town of Whistle Stop is closed down and he can’t find it, but he reconnects with Evelyn Couch and they bring the town back.”

For Flagg, revisiting Whistle Stop was welcome, particularly in 2020.

“The world is so depressing right now, so it was a real pleasure for me to get away and go back to a time like this,” she said. “It was a real escape for me. There are so many political books out there, so much angry stuff out there, and I just said I’m going to write a book that’s not about politics. It’s just the story of happy people, has a happy ending and is positive.”

Flagg is an executive producer of the proposed NBC series, which she said is “somewhat of a sequel.”

“It’s about the original Idgie’s niece, who is named Idgie, and she comes back to the café,” Flagg said. “I really wasn’t interested in doing it, but I had lunch with Reba, and she’s just so adorable. If there’s anybody in the world I’d want to play her, it would be Reba. She’s so positive and so up.”

The series is on hold because of the pandemic, which has kept Flagg in California, mostly at her Montecito home.

“I have been really sequestered because I have underlying health things and am of a certain age where I’ve got to be careful,” she said. “The hardest thing about this COVID for me is that I usually get to come home to Alabama two or three times a year, and I haven’t been able to get back. So it was kind of fun for me to go back in my mind to Alabama and visit, because I couldn’t do it in real time.”

She also can’t do her normal book tour, which would take her to Birmingham, Fairhope and other Alabama cities for signings. Instead, she’ll be doing a virtual event via Zoom with Books-A-Million on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. A virtual event with Fairhope’s Page & Palette is on Nov. 12.

For the past five or 10 years, Flagg has always thought her new book would be her last, and this one is no exception.

“I think if I do anything else, I’ll do short stories,” she said. “A novel is just getting harder and harder to write.”

And if “The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop” is her last novel, it’s fine with her.

“Alabama is my home, always has been and always will be,” she said. “If it’s my last book, I’m glad it’s set back home.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey meets her ‘mini-me’ ahead of Halloween

(Hal Yeager/Governor's Office)

Yellowhammer News earlier this week reported on Rainbow City’s Cate McGriff, who decided to dress up as Governor Kay Ivey for Halloween.

The fourth-grader went viral, and on Friday, she also went to the Capitol.

Gina Maiola, Ivey’s spokesperson, on Friday afternoon informed members of the media, “Governor Ivey invited a special guest to meet with her in the office, and let me tell you, the resemblance was uncanny.”

McGriff visited with Ivey in the governor’s office, “and their discussion was certainly wide-ranging and productive,” Maiola added.

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“The governor and Cate covered everything from school to their love of dogs. Governor Ivey asked Cate what her favorite subject in school is, and she responded that it was math. Cate also told the governor that she wanted to attend Auburn University just like she did. Governor Ivey asked Cate what she wanted to be when she grows up, after she attends Auburn, and Cate said she wanted to be an engineer, so, the governor quickly advised her to keep working hard on her math,” she continued.

Maiola advised, “One of the highlights of the meeting was when Governor Ivey shared that when she was a young intern for Governor Lurleen Wallace, she had the opportunity to sit behind the governor’s desk. Governor Ivey then asked Cate if she wanted to sit behind the desk, and they recreated the governor’s own photo behind Governor Wallace’s desk.”

McGriff and Ivey posed next to each other, both donning “red power suits” and Auburn University face masks, for pictures on Friday.

McGriff’s aunt has advised that the girl has also spent hours practicing to speak like Ivey.

“Watch out Capitol Press Corps – we have two Kay Iveys in town,” Maiola concluded.

Photo op with Cate McGriff 332

You can view pictures from McGriff’s Goat Hill visit here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 weeks ago

‘Nailed it’: Alabama girl dresses up as Gov. Kay Ivey’s ‘mini-me’ for Halloween

(@MissyCarter/Twitter, YHN)

When Governor Kay Ivey in 2018 became the first Republican woman to ever be elected governor of Alabama, she took the stage to the country staple “This One’s for the Girls” ringing out in the background.

However, Ivey’s status as a role model for girls across Alabama has very much been in the forefront during her tenure as the state’s chief executive.

There may be no greater evidence of this than one young Alabamian’s choice for her Halloween outfit this year.

Missy Carter on Tuesday posted a picture to Twitter of her “adorable niece,” who opted to be Ivey’s “mini-me for her school costume party.”

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Ivey was quick to respond to the tweet, saying the girl, “Nailed it…to a T.”

CBS 42 has since reported that the girl, Cate McGriff, is nine-years-old and lives in Rainbow City.

The original tweet has caught the attention of many across Alabama already, with Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth calling the outfit “great,” for example.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 weeks ago

Birmingham Police Department retires Mounted Unit

(Birmingham Police Department, Alabama/Facebook)

The Birmingham Police Department this week retired its storied Mounted Unit.

A ceremony was held on Monday in which the department said goodbye to the retiring unit’s mounted patrol horses: Blue Boy, Doc and Gumby.

A social media post by Birmingham PD advised the move was made due to “budgetary restraints.”

The unit, founded in the mid-1970s, was part of the Tactical Operations Precinct and performed regular patrols as well as crowd control and public relations assignments. This included representing the department in the respective inaugural parades for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

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The three horses have reportedly “been retired from police service and have all been rehomed into loving families.”

You can read more about the unit here and view pictures of the unit over time here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn