Since 2017, the American Village in Montevallo has planted tulips in December for the community to enjoy in the Spring.  This year over 100 thousand bulbs were planted. This herald of spring has become an attraction that draws people from many miles away as the beautiful blooms are a stunning compliment to the entire Village campus. 

The blooms will only be around for another few short weeks so get there soon!


You can walk among the blooms and pick the ones you like and take them home. Come and pick a few Skyliners or some Monte Orange’s to add to your bouquets. This is a fun afternoon for young and old alike.


The American Village
Montevallo, Alabama

The American Village in Montevallo, Alabama is a unique creation. The Village was the idea of CEO Tom Walker. He had drawn out the facility on a napkin while at lunch one afternoon in the mid 1990s.  Tom’s vision was and is to create a place where people can learn about what it means to be an American Citizen. The Village was founded in 1999. The 183 acre Village is the culmination of his vision that sits on a hill just outside the small town of Montevallo. 

The American Village is committed to teaching young people about our founding generation and what it means to be an American. At the Village, they teach history in a “hands on” manner with a staff of a dozen historical interpreters, including, Martha Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and Abigail Adams who bring history to life.  

Thomas Paine

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

The centerpiece replica of Mount Vernon stands as symbol to our forefathers and our country’s history. Here, you will see a full scale of the Oval Office. Docents and historical interpreters educate visitors in how the government works. A statute of George Washington, a replica from the Virginia estate greets you upon entrance. A replica of the assembly room where the Constitutional Convention was held educates visitors about the founding of America. The room where Washington received guests has also been replicated with faithful execution of the color palette.

Bruton Parish Church

Bruton Parish Church

The Bruton Parish Church is a faithful reproduction on the Williamsburg, Virginia site.  Here, visitors can hear historical interpreter Patrick Henry give his impassioned ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ speech.  The magnificent wood pulpit was imported from England and the boxed pews where the wealthy would be seated and pipe organ are accurate replications. 

The Village does host occasional services at the Parish Churchr.  While visiting the Church, a local craftsman and wood carver overheard the need for a lectern and pulling a quarter out of pocket and asked if the Village wanted a lectern, ‘like this’ he asked, indicating the quarter.  Just a few weeks later the elegantly wood carved Eagle lectern was in place.

National Veterans Shrine

The village holds several inspirational surprises for its visitors, none are as inspiring as the National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor which opened in 2014. The National Veterans Shine, which resembles Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia, was created to honor the service and sacrifice of our county’s Veterans.  It serves to help visitors understand who our veterans are and what they did for the United States. 

Both inside and outside of the Shrine pays tribute to our Vets. Lady Liberty stands tall at the entrance holding a staff that commemorates the original thirteen colonies. She stands on the crown and sword of Britain and the shackles of slavery she has yet to tread on. Enshrined at the time the statute was revealed was dirt from hallowed ground of thirty battlefields from around the world along with water from Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Register of Honor

Veterans Register of Honor

The Shrine has everything to do with elevating the individual. Every veteran is someone’s child and they need to tell their story. In the Veteran’s Register of Honor, veterans tell their story through an online database. Visitors can view the register of Veterans stories through kiosks located in the Shrine.  Visitors are encouraged to upload their Veteran’s story through the website.


Add this unique and inspiring destination to your travels.  You will likely bring home a beautiful bouquet as well a wealth of knowledge about America.


The Culinary Academy Pastry Class, The Grand Hotel, Point Clear, Alabama


Grand Hotel

Kimberly Lyons, the pastry chef at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama is a talented 29 year-old.  She thinks about her dishes “constantly” she told me, usually about how to improve them.  She attended Culinard at Virginia College and she was hired by the Grand Hotel five and half years ago. She worked her way up in the kitchen to head pastry chef and is grateful to the chefs there who have trained her. Kimberly is invested in the culinary career.  “I love what I do.” she said.

Chef Kimberly Lyons

Our group of dessert hungry guests assembled in the Lagoon Room.  With the tables adorned in white table clothes, we sat engrossed as Kimberly melted chocolate, whipped cream, beat eggs until they were frothy and combined them into three tasty classic desserts, Bourbon Chocolate Mousse, Crème Brulee and Crepe Suzette.

Chocolate Mousse

Creme Brulee







Crepe Suzette

As each dish was completed, we were treated to tasting of the dishes.  While this was not a hands-on class, the guests were encouraged to ask questions about the recipes. Kimberly took us through each step of the recipes and provided plenty of suggestions to modify the creations to everyone’s particular taste or occasion.

After class, I asked Kimberly what her favorite dessert was, she pulled up her sleeve.  “Macaron’s” she said, showing off her forearm tattoo of the French treat. She is truly invested and loves what she does.



We purchased a few house made macarons at the Local Market before leaving the Grand for the ride home. They were definitely worth the price.








The iconic Fairhope hotel recently completed a thirty-two million dollar renovation and part of that transformation took place in the kitchen.  “I could order whatever I wanted.” Kimberly said.  She was thrilled that there is now a hot and cold kitchen, which means she can make every kind of dessert at any time.  This is especially important to a chef in humidity prone South Alabama.


The Culinary Academy is a big draw for Saturday’s at the Grand, along with the Beverage Academy on Friday evenings. The trick is to come to the Beverage Academy on Friday night and stay over for the Saturday class. For the November 17 class, the chefs will be preparing Thanksgiving side dishes and in December, its make your own Gingerbread House.  The December event is so popular that two classes are offered.  It will surely be a family fun sellout!  The Grand Hotel’s 2019 Culinary Academy should delight as Kimberly has the pastry classes laid out. Whether they are cooking savory or sweet, do not miss a chance to enjoy the southern charm of this historic hotel that overlooks Mobile Bay.

Mobile Bay



Barber Motor Sports Museum, Birmingham, AL -A walk in the fast lane

Barber Motorsports

“Oh, wow!” I exclaimed upon entering the Barber Motor Sports museum. It is gigantic! Five towering floors filled with the world’s largest motorcycle collection.  It also contains racing automobiles and bikes which adorn every nook and cranny.

Wall Art

There is even a race car on top of the elevator!

The Chase

A massive sculpture, “The Chase”, commissioned from California sculptor Ted Gall, greets visitors at the entrance of the museum. These three enormous statues of men with masked faces riding large wheels weigh between 3,500 to 3,800 pounds and fits in well with this vast complex.

Inside Barber

Birmingham native, George Barber, Jr., son of Barber Dairies founder, George H. Barber is the founder of the Motor Sports Museum. Barber Jr. who ran the dairy was also a real estate developer.  Barber had raced Porsches in the 1960’s and began collecting motorcycles in the 1970’s. In 1994, his collection of motorcycles was established as the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum. In 1998, Barber Jr. sold the dairy. In 2003 the museum moved to its present Birmingham location.  Barber himself was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2014.

The nine hundred and thirty acre sports complex contains the museum and a 2.38 mile sixteen turn world class road racetrack. The track serves as site of Indy Car Series Grand Prix of Alabama races.

Race Track





Of the fourteen hundred motorcycles in Barber collection, some nine hundred are on display at any one time. The museum welcomes some three hundred thousand visitors yearly including some three thousand foreign visitors.

Motorcycles stacked high

Some two hundred different manufactures’ from twenty counties over the past one hundred years are represented in the museum.  The Lotus 21 is featured in the world’s most extensive collection of Lotus cars.

Lotus cars





Jim Roger’s motorcycle that circled the globe

One display drew particular interest, that of Jim Rogers, a thirty-seven year old investment banker who in 1990, with his girlfriend motorcycled around the world.  They traveled some six-five thousand miles and setting the world record for land travel. He wrote a book “Investment Biker” about the journey.


A lucrative part of the Motor sports arena is the North American Porsche Driving School where individuals can experience Porsche racing cars on the track. Prices there can range from $1800 for a day to $9600 for four days depending on what level of experience you care to have.

The facility hosts the 14th Annual Barber Vintage Festival in October which will feature the American Historical Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA).

Easy Rider

This unique automotive museum should not to be missed in Birmingham. Individuals who admire motorcycles and cars will flock to this bastion of automotive bliss.


Ozan Winery, Calera, AL

Ozan Winery

Just off Interstate-65 at exit 228 is an oasis of venticulture in Alabama. Ozan Winery, established in 2005, sits on a hill in Calera, Alabama surrounded by Norton grape vines.

Tasting room



On this warm Saturday, my friend and I found ourselves seated at a small tasting table ready to sample the offering of twelve wines, from a Chardonnay to dessert wines.


Wine stock

We found our favorites in the Peach and the Norton Silver red wine. The wines are aptly named for their flavor.  Lunch of a chicken salad sandwich and delicious sides of pickled vegetables accompanied our robust tasting.

Our train


After enjoying our wine, we spent the afternoon, “riding the rails”, in a 1950’s train from the nearby Heart of Dixie train museum. Onboard we opted for the pleasure of the air conditioned 1905’s passenger car.

Train car




Here is a quick video of the train switching locations to continue our short journey.  Video_20180602143635


Ozan is a popular site for weddings as the vineyard adds a touch of elegance. The winery itself offers small plates and tastings daily, except Mondays.  On most spring and summer weekends, you can have a magnificent wine tasting and train ride in the morning or afternoon. Ozan has recently begun distilling spirits. Their Yella whiskey, White whiskey and Vodka are tasty additions to their award winning wine.

Medal winners



New distilled spirits







Heart of Dixie

Not far from Ozan is the Heart of Dixie Train Museum, which features a number of rail cars and massive locomotives.  Run by local train enthusiasts, the Heart of Dixie makes a fun stop to learn about Alabama’s railroad history.  The Heart of Dixie has twenty-five miles of track which is privately maintained to preserve Alabama’s railroad history.

Porter’s hats





Ozan’s Hard Working staff

If you’re traveling north or south on I-65, take some time and stop in at Ozan and enjoy some of their tasty treats at Café Vino and the sumptuous wines.  You’re sure to leave with a bottle or two!


The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum, Montgomery, Alabama

In the two most recent additions to the civil rights trail, I found both the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum to be powerful experiences. I was pleased to see and hear the respect that was being paid by the visitors at each location.  Sculpture is an integral part of the site.

Sculpture of slaves by
Kwame Akoto-Bamfo


Overloooking the Memorial

The six acre Memorial site is designed to contextualize this horrific past of racial terror in our counties history. It is part of our collective history and these events should be remembered, recognized and reconciled.

Expanse of the Memorial

Comprised of eight hundred and five Corten steel markers hung from the ceiling and etched with the names of the victims, one for each county where a lynching took place throughout the United States the Memorial is an impressive structure.

Beginning the Memorial

Upon entering, you start at eye level then the markers rise as you continue your journey through stories of those individuals lost to these horrific acts.


Humphey’s County MS marker




Over time the markers will weather in the elements and the site will continue to be transformed.


To the side of the Memorial is a field of markers waiting to be claimed and installed by the counties they represent.  Leaving the grounds of the Memorial is another sculpture.

Raise Up
by Hank Willis Thomas





Legacy Museum Entrance

The Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum is located a short distance from the Peace Memorial, on the site of a former slave warehouse were the enslaved were imprisoned. The eleven thousand square-foot museum was erected midway between an historic slave market, main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were sold at the height of the domestic slave trade.

Slavery evolved
provided by EJI

The exhibit take visitors through an in depth look from the beginning of slavery to the mass incarceration of African Americans today. Just before the Civil War, Montgomery was the capital of slave trade and one of the state largest slave owning states in the United States.


Some of the displays and recorded stories recounted here can be graphic and difficult to view but it is important to recognize and reconcile this into our mass consciousness. To date, the team at EJI has documented over four thousand lynching’s that occurred between 1877 and 1950.

Legacy Museum Jars
provided by EJI

Large jars of dirt that has been reclaimed from many lynching sites and are displayed in order to move toward reconciliation and to right the wrong done to the lynching victims and their families.


Both the Peace Memorial and Legacy Museum are the singular vision of Attorney and Author Bryan Stevenson; he is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

A brief video from my visit to the Memorial.


Oprah Winfrey had an inside look at the Memorial and Museum before its opening in April on 60 Minutes.

“We want to tell the truth, because we believe in truth and reconciliation but we know that truth and reconciliation are sequential.  We can’t get to where we’re trying to go if we don’t tell the truth first.”  Bryan Stevenson said of the Memorial and Museum.


Bryan Stevenson further explains. “This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”

If you are in Montgomery, I urge you to visit these two powerful monuments.



My thanks to the Equal Justice Initiative for providing pictures of the Legacy Muesum.





Written by Trey Ellis and Richardo Khan, Fly follows the stories of four Tuskegee Airman during their Army Air Corp pilot training.  Chet, Oscar, J. Allen and W.W. have their own reasons for joining up but the one through line is their love of flying and desire to serve the county.  The four young actors who star in this production are exceptional in their roles. Each seems to be in touch with the unique and historic nature of the piece.

The staging of the play is simple with footlockers and chairs which are imaginatively transformed into planes. The most intriguing part of the show is the Tap Griot or Inprovographer, Omar Edwards.  He is tap dancing marvel and moves the story along with the rat-a-tat-tat of his shoes.  His athletic moves astound the audience.

Fly made its world premiere at the Crossroad Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ in October, 2009.  The Montgomery production was part of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s 2017-2018 season.  This poignant look at the Tuskegee Airmen is to be treasured as part of Alabama’s aviation and black history.

Alongside the February production, the Alabama Humanities Foundation with its sponsor Airbus, provided the attendees several stand alone and interactive displays regarding our aviation history.



Aviation in Alabama







Exhibit Tour schedule:

  • Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham, March 23-April 23, 2018

To inquire about the exhibit schedule or venues, contact Laura Anderson, AHF Director of Operations, at 205-558-3992 or email landerson@alabamahumanities.org.




Festival of Flowers-25th Anniversary


25 years!

Festival of Flowers began in 1994 as the brain child of Tommy Zieman, Jr. after his visit to a flower show at the Royal Hospital in London. The yearly fundraiser for the Providence Hospital Foundation has grown to the largest outdoor flower in the Southeast.  The show moved to its present location at the Providence Hospital campus in 2006 from its initial location at Springhill College. The Providence location has allowed the show to grow to its 300,000 square feet of space that draws some 15,000 visitors each year.

Azalea Trail Maids always begin the show







Blake Smisson, lead designer and landscape architect for the show, designed the “Walk in the Park”, which features a carousel and multiple fountains for visitors to enjoy their morning or afternoon stroll.


Bellingrath fountain





Along with the festive displays are a number of horticultural seminars for the novice and accomplished flower enthusiast.

More flowers!








Local artist, Augusta Hyland Wilson’s work is featured in the park like setting.  There is also a photographic exhibit featuring local photographers.

A number of vendors are in attendance featuring flowers and outdoor sculptures.

Plane wind art


The festival is an enjoyable and relaxing way to spend an afternoon.