The Bell Still Rings for Madison Station Polar Express Christmas on Main

MADISON — Yes, the bell still rings for any organization wanting to decorate a Christmas tree for the seventh annual Madison Station Polar Express Christmas on Main, but Friday is the final day to register.

Hosted by the City of Madison and the Madison Station Historic Preservation Society, the event kicks off the holiday season with decorated Christmas trees displayed along Main Street in historic downtown and sponsored by the Madison business community.

Part of the Polar Express Christmas on Main, the trees will be on display Nov. 28-Jan. 2. Trees will be selected for the Mayor’s Choice, Most Creative and Honorable Mention awards to be announced at the Jan. 11 City Council meeting.

Trees are $100 for for-profit organizations and $50 for nonprofit organizations and can be decorated Nov. 20-27.

An official tree lighting will take place virtually Nov.29.

The number of Christmas trees available is limited so register by Friday to ensure your company is part of this annual holiday celebration.

For more information, contact the Madison Chamber of Commerce at 256-325-8317.

City of Huntsville Housing Expo Goes Virtual to Help First-Time Homeowners

Owning a home is a central pillar to financial security, and the City of Huntsville’s Community Development Department hopes to make the process easier with its upcoming 2020 Virtual Housing Expo.

Aimed at assisting potential and first-time homeowners in demystifying the home-buying process, the Virtual Housing Expo will take place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.  During this all-virtual event, local and national subject matter experts will conduct a series of live and pre-recorded workshops on topics ranging from aging-friendly housing to addressing the barriers to Fair Housing.

Free to the public, the Virtual Housing Expo will also feature a virtual exhibit hall offering resources for homeowners, renters, residents facing foreclosure, residents seeking credit counseling, small business owners, seniors, youth and veterans.

“Home ownership is often the most significant financial investment a person can make,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “Learning how to successfully navigate the purchasing process can seem overwhelming – particularly for first-time buyers and those living in lower income neighborhoods.

“The 2020 Virtual Housing Expo has the resources to help Huntsville residents realize their dream.”

The Housing Expo is designed to provide a “one stop shop” for critical resources related to housing. Residents will find answers to important questions – Is it better to rent or own? Can I receive assistance with a down payment or closing costs? Once I purchase a home, what will it cost to maintain?

“The 2020 Virtual Housing Expo is a great opportunity to learn firsthand from industry leaders who are ready to assist you with your housing needs,” said Community Development Interim Director Scott Erwin.

Turkessa Coleman, the event’s primary planner and a member of the Community Development team, explained how this year’s digital format will help more people attain that all-important firsthand knowledge.

“Because of the public health pandemic, we had to reimagine the format of this important resource,” Coleman said. “With a new, user-friendly website and the ability to rewatch sessions and interact virtually with panelists, we have a safe way for Huntsville residents to get the information they need to make their housing dreams a reality.”

Participants are encouraged to pre-register by visiting Huntsvilleal.gov/HousingExpo. Attendees who pre-register by 5 p.m. Friday will also be eligible for door prizes.

Interested businesses who would like to be included in the virtual exhibit hall may apply until 5 p.m. this Friday.

Who should attend?

Anyone interested in learning more about the following:

  • Home purchasing assistance
  • Tenant & landlord resources
  • Affordable housing showcase
  • Aging in place planning
  • Small business strategies
  • Remodeling & repair demos
  • Financial literacy training
  • Veteran’s resources
  • Millennials and new housing trends
  • Credit and foreclosure counseling
  • Access to affordable rentals

Trash Pandas to Light Up the Area with Drive-Through Christmas Spectacular

MADISON — The home of the Rocket City’s “boys of summer” has been transformed into a “Winter Wonderland.”

Hundreds of thousands of lights will be on display when the Rocket City Christmas Spectacular comes to Toyota Field this Friday through Jan. 3.

Guests can drive through the magical “Santa’s Mountain” themed light show around Toyota Field for just $25 per car. The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. nightly. Visitors will be able to simply tune into their vehicle’s radio and experience a spectacular synchronization of music and lights. Tickets can be purchased online at reserve.imclutch.com/trashpandas, or on the day of the event – credit cards and mobile pay are encouraged.

“We want to turn Toyota Field into the best holiday destination in North Alabama for years to come,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Our plan is to expand and improve our Winter Wonderland year after year.”

Guests can also park their car after driving through the lights and enter the Winter Wonderland within the stadium at no additional cost. There will be holiday activities for all ages, including hot chocolate stations, cookie decorating, s’mores making, character visits, shopping, and more. The Winter Wonderland will be open through Dec. 24 during the Christmas Spectacular and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

CDC and Madison County health guidelines will be followed at the Rocket City Christmas Spectacular.

Huntsville Brings Home Top Peak Awards from Alabama Mountain Lakes Association

 

GADSDEN — After taking it on the chin for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Alabama’s $3 billion tourism industry found plenty of good reasons to celebrate at the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association’s 2020 PEAK Awards.

Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau (left); and Jennifer Moore, vice president of Tourism for the Convention & Visitors Bureau (right); with award winners Pete Doyle, general manager of the Holiday Inn Research Park; and Marie Bostick, executive director of the Land Trust of North Alabama. (Photo/John Dersham)

Presented as part of the AMLA Annual Meeting in Gadsden, the awards recognized 11 North Alabama hospitality industry professionals and venues for their leadership despite extraordinary challenges that threatened to devastate the North Alabama tourism industry.

Five of the 11 awards went to venues based in Huntsville – including one of three President’s Awards.

Jana Kuner, public relations and customer service manager at Huntsville International Airport, received a President’s Award, presented to any person or organization whose tourism-related project created awareness or presented a positive image for North Alabama in the past year. Kuner’s role in helping stop a human trafficking incident at the airport this year earned her the recognition.

“We were honored to receive the President’s Award from Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism this year,” said Kuner. “Even more than that, we are pleased to be able to shed more light on human trafficking and to hopefully be able to continue to make a difference by keeping our passengers safe.”

“The Peak Awards showcase the work, service, creativity and contributions of those who are leading the way in the North Alabama tourism industry,” said Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association President/CEO Tami Reist. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, it has been and continues to be a challenging year for the tourism industry. This year’s winners have demonstrated a commitment … to showcase the best of North Alabama during these unprecedented times. It is a well-deserved win for each of the recipients.”

Awarded Organization of the Year, the Land Trust of North Alabama was recognized for opening its eighth nature preserve – Bethel Spring Nature Preserve in February, offering new trails for the community and visitors to explore.

“Land Trust of North Alabama was thrilled to be recognized by Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association as Organization of the Year,” said Marie Bostick, the Land Trust’s Executive Director. “North Alabama has a wealth of natural beauty and throughout this unusual and challenging year we were reminded how beneficial and rejuvenating those spaces can be.”

The Apollo 50th Anniversary Celebration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, a multimonth series of events that culminated the week of the Apollo 11 mission was named Event of the Year.

“We are honored the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association selected the Apollo 50th Anniversary Celebration for its event of the year award,” said Pat Ammons, senior director of communications for the center. “Two years of planning went into the events that brought people from all over the world to Huntsville to celebrate Alabama’s role in putting Americans on the moon.

“It was thrilling to be able to share those accomplishments with so many.”

Pete Doyle, general manager of the Holiday Inn Research Park, brought home the Tourism Professional of the Year award. (Photo/John Dersham)

Pete Doyle, general manager of the Holiday Inn Research Park, an anchor in Huntsville’s MidCity development, brought home the Tourism Professional of the Year award. He moved to Huntsville from Nashville in 1990 to manage the former Holiday Inn Space Center on University Drive and took the helm at the larger Research Park property in 2000. He led the 195-room hotel property through a newly completed $4.5 million renovation.

He is past president of the Huntsville Lodging Association and the Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association and serves on the City of Huntsville Lodging Recruitment Committee.

“I am quite honored to be recognized in an industry that has been my life is very humbling and appreciated,” Doyle said. “In over 30 years of work here in Huntsville, I have witnessed massive growth to our community that seems at warp speed now. That makes it a very exciting time and it has always been my pleasure to assist and give my input when asked by either our Convention and Visitors Bureau, Von Braun Center, Chamber of Commerce or City Hall to improve our stature.”

Zenovia Stephens, center, of Black Adventure Crew was named Top North Alabama Ambassador of the Year. (Photo/John Dersham)

Zenovia Stephens of Black Adventure Crew was named Top North Alabama Ambassador of the Year. Originally from Chicago, Zenovia and her husband’s love for exploring North Alabama with their sons and finding creative ways to be adventurous at home, have her active in the community. She serves as a board member for Chaffee Elementary School PTA and a volunteer at the Southeast YMCA.

“I’m honored that my work in promoting the adventure and beauty of Alabama, and the need to diversify the great outdoors has been recognized,” Stephens said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to showcase all our state and lead in helping to change the outdoors narrative.”

AMLA is dedicated to the promotion and development of the travel industry in the 16 counties that make up the North Alabama tourism region. The membership consists of chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus, attractions, campgrounds, festivals, communities, counties, golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, accommodations, vendors, financial institutions, and individuals.

Other winners were Decatur’s Cook Museum of Natural Science chosen as Attraction of the Year; Philip Formby, operations director for the Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheatre, won the Good Neighbor Award; and Haley Newton, facilities operator for Joe Wheeler State Park, won the Northern Star Award.

Maryanne Floyd, communications director for Decatur Morgan County Tourism, was named Young Professional of the Year; the Lasting Impression Award went to Scotty Kennedy, curator of the Red Bay Museum; and the Chairman’s Cup went to Fred Hunter of Absolutely Alabama.

There were two additional President’s Award winners: Hilda Smith, director of sales and events for the Hampton Inn by Hilton in Winfield, and Mindy Hanan, president/CEO of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

(Top photo: Jana Kuner, public relations and customer service manager at Huntsville International Airport, receives a President’s Award from the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association. Photo by John Dersham)

Construction Begins on Alabama A&M Event Center and Arena

There’s some hoopla happening on The Hill!

After years of anticipation and planning, construction has begun on Alabama A&M’s 132,000-square-foot event center and arena, Turner Construction’s Huntsville office announced Thursday.

The new Alabama A&M University event center/arena will host sporting events, commencement exercises and other campus activities.

The new space will include an arena with a 6,000-person capacity, locker rooms, training rooms, an Alabama A&M athletic Hall of Fame, and a kitchen with the capability to provide meals for all events on campus.

The arena will host sporting events such as basketball and volleyball games, commencement exercises, and other university functions.

“The center will provide the university with a much-needed facility where we can host major functions, such as commencements, convocations, our annual scholarship gala, and athletic events,” said A&M President Andrew Hugine Jr. “It will be a state-of-the-art facility just off of North Memorial Parkway, and we are thrilled to be making this addition for our students and the community, which will transform the landscape of North Huntsville.”

The Alabama A&M University Athletics Hall of Fame will have a home in the new facility.

Turner is the construction management agent for the project. Under the CMa approach, the construction manager serves as an extension of the project owner’s staff and is responsible for construction management services, including advising, coordinating, and inspecting project design and construction, and competitively bidding the various construction components to trade contractors.

Turner will work with architecture firm Nola Van Peursem and engineering firms Moody Nolan (arena consultant); The EE Group (electrical engineer); Mims Engineering (mechanical/plumbing/fire protection); Johnson and Associates (civil engineer); LBYD (structural engineer); Camacho (food service); and Bostick Landscape Architects. The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.

“We are excited to partner with Alabama A&M on our fourth project together,” said Tyce Hudson, project executive at Turner Construction Company in Huntsville. “We have experienced a lot of success together and there is no doubt that this is going to be the best project yet.

“It is going to be an excellent facility for Alabama A&M University and the community.”

Taste of Huntsville Holding ‘Dine on 9/29,’ an All-Day Eating-Out Celebration

For 40 years, hundreds of Huntsville-area restaurants and pubs have gathered at the Von Braun Center on a Tuesday evening in late September to enjoy The Taste of Huntsville, an event that has become known as “a spectacle for your taste buds.”

The Huntsville-Madison County Hospitality Association is calling for an all-day “Dine on 9/29” celebration this year. The event is a show of community support for the area’s restaurant and hospitality businesses, which have taken the COVID-19 pandemic like a pie in the face over the past few months. 

“Dine on 9/29” calls on residents to enjoy socially distanced indoor dining, patio dining, take out, or delivery from restaurants across the Tennessee Valley. Folks are urged to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and even before-and-after cocktails from area restaurants.

“In my more than 15 years in the hospitality industry, I never could have imagined a pandemic that would devastate our industry like COVID-19 has,” said Desirea Stewart, president of Huntsville-Madison County Hospitality Association. “Our industry may be hurting, but we are strong and open for business. It is important now more than ever, to show our support for our local restaurants, hotels, attractions, and venues. 

“We look forward to our entire region dining on September 29th to support our hospitality family.”

Taste of Huntsville 2020 Chair Lindsey Pattillo Keane said local restaurants are a joyful respite during a stressful and challenging 2020. 

“Canceling our Taste of Huntsville 2020 on September 29th was for the best; however, we are thrilled to support our hospitality industry in an impactful and different way,” she said. “We invite all of the Tennessee Valley to ‘Dine on 9/29’, to offer a surge of support for our restaurant community.”

Rather than including only those venues able to cater food into the VBC, “Dine 9/29” will include every restaurant in North Alabama, and patrons are encouraged to tag the restaurant location and share photos from their dining experience utilizing the #dineon929 hashtag on the Facebook Event Link

The HMCHA will award nine gift cards for $29 each to participants who tag #dineon929 throughout the day on their Facebook page.

With more than 50 restaurants and beverage vendors participating every year, Taste of Huntsville draws more than 1,000 attendees to the fall event where they feature food, desserts, beverages, and novelty snacks from across the Tennessee Valley. 

 

Contenders for 2020 Small Business of the Year Announced

More than 160 businesses and individuals are in contention for top honors at the 35th annual Huntsville-Madison County Chamber Small Business of the Year Awards.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oct. 20 event will be a virtual presentation. It will be from 4-6 p.m. and fees are $25 for individual members and $50 for individual nonmembers.

The categories and contenders are:

Culinary Business of the Year

Emerging Business of the Year

Local “Creative” of the Year

Government Contracting: Professional Services of the Year

Government Contracting: Technology Business of the Year

Medical Practice of the Year

Nonprofit of the Year

Professional Services Business of the Year

Retailer of the Year

Service Business of the Year

Technology Business of the Year

Woman-Owned Business of the Year

Young Professional of the Year

Russell G Brown Executive Leadership Award

On your marks. Get Set. Finish! Athleticism Not Required for Annual .12K Microthon

Butler Green, that .12 kilometer stretch of greenspace at Campus 805 between Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer Brewing, is the site of a most unusual “race.”

The annual Rocket City .12K Microthon steps off Oct. 18. The event is a benefit for the special needs arts program at Merrimack Hall.

And you do not have to be in athletic shape to compete!

In fact, if you can run huffing and puffing, walk upright, crawl on hands and knees, skip like the day is young, or roll triumphantly across the finish line, then you will receive a t-shirt; a finisher’s medal (bottle opener); a Golden Ticket to food and beverage at any participating Campus 805 brewery or restaurant; and a “0.12K” bragging rights sticker that says, “Hey I’m better than you.”

Run in waves, the races and overall festive atmosphere begins runs from 2-4 p.m. Registration cut off is 4 p.m. Oct. 15. To register, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/AL/Huntsville/RocketCityMicrothon)

Three years ago, Lesley and Darryl Burnette started the Rocket City Microthon in honor of their daughter Kate, who was a fan of Merrimack’s programs during her short life.

Merrimack provides visual and performing arts education and cultural activities to children and adults with special needs. In its first two years, the .12K has raised $40,000 for the center and is coordinated completely by volunteers.

There is a $15 Race Fee for the .12K race and other packages include:

  • The Golden Ticket Stand-Alone Package for $15
  • The Runners Package for $25
  • The Slackers Package for $50 does not require any physical effort whatsoever, and yet you get all the swag of crossing the finish line
  • You may add on a Beer Drinker’s Package with two extra Golden Tickets for $15

All county and state COVID-19 guidelines will be in place, including the starting line which is marked with six-foot spacing. The Campus 805 businesses will also observe social distancing in the food and drink lines.

 

Trash Pandas to Host Beer & Wine Fest

MADISON – There aren’t any cheers from the fans, yet, but visitors may hear “cheers!” next month at Toyota Field.

The Rocket City Trash Pandas will host a Beer & Wine Fest on Oct. 17 featuring some 40 local and national selections. The Trash Pandas will announce the lineup of breweries and wineries in the next few weeks.

This event is only for guests 21 and up – no children are allowed. Admission is $35 per person with VIP tickets for one-hour early access are available for $45. Designated driver tickets cost $5. VIP tastings begin at 1 p.m.; other guests can enter at 2 p.m. The festival runs until 5 p.m.

In addition to tastings, guests will be able to vote on their favorite beverages, and the staff will present “Best Beer” and “Best Wine” awards at the end of the day.

Toyota Field concession stands will be open throughout the event with traditional ballpark fare and additional full-sized beer and wine for purchase. Parking is free, and valid IDs will be checked upon entry.

CDC guidelines and Madison County mandates will be followed at the stadium. Guests’ temperatures will be taken at the gate and masks are required for entry. Vendors will adhere to proper sanitizing and social-distancing practices.

Tickets can be purchased online at TrashPandasBaseball.com/Events, at the Toyota Field Ticket Office, or by calling 256-325-1403, option 1.

Women Honoring Women Event Going Virtual

In a sign of the times we are in, the 2020 Women Honoring Women event is going virtual. And the event slated for Sept. 17 is reaching back to its past in this format.

“We have an opportunity to introduce a new aspect of the Women Honoring Women event,” said event chair and Women’s Economic Development Council Foundation Board Member Vicki Morris. “We are going to take the event to a virtual format, and we are going to enlist the help of a few former honorees.

“They will be our inaugural doyenne group.”

A doyenne is someone who is knowledgeable or uniquely skilled as a result of long experience in her field of
endeavor. The list of doyennes are former Women Honoring Women honorees. They include Cathay Anderson, Penny Billings, Sybil Cleveland, Joni Green, Sherry Kolodziejczak, Kim Lewis, Shelia Nash-Stevenson, and Alicia Ryan.

The WEDC Foundation has set a goal of $100,000 to support its scholars program, which also provides mentors to aid women in their professional development.

For information, visit wedcfoundation.org or the WEDC Facebook page.