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Sweet Home Alabama in New York City

Alabama’s Department of Travel and Tourism staged a week of high profile promotions on the streets of New York City in June to attract visitors to the state. Similar to promotions held in previous years, this year’s event focused on giving potential visitors a vision of what Alabama offers, and provided a vivid look at its landscape via virtual reality glasses that allowed viewers to “see” Little River Canyon National Preserve on Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne.

Tristan Dersham, 16, granddaughter of DeKalb County Tourism President and CEO John Dersham, accompanied her grandfather to New York for the experience and the two wrote about their experiences for Alabama Living:

The director of tourism for the state, Lee Sentell, invited my grandpa to serve as an ambassador for the Little River Canyon promotions, which included a 20-story tall photograph adhered to the side of a building near Madison Square Garden. It was breathtaking when we walked around the corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue and there it was…gigantic, colorful and all lit up. It made us feel so proud of our state and our area.

Just think, Little River Canyon in New York City! It was a spot of bright green in a seemingly never-ending mile of shades of gray and black. Thousands of people were here on the streets walking around night and day and there was no way to miss this gigantic view of Little River Canyon. In addition to the skyscraper art, a miniature Lookout Mountain was built at the Flatiron North Plaza. The mountain was about the size of an average living room. You would climb steps to the top and at the top put on 3D goggles to view a 360-degree virtual Little River Canyon video.

I could not believe the sensation I had as I turned around 360 degrees looking at the canyon as if floating in the sky above, looking all around, up and down feeling like I was walking about the green lush forests below. Everyone loved it. There were lines all day to see it; in fact, we stayed an hour later than planned just to allow the line to go down.

Tristan and John Dersham helped welcome visitors in NYC.

Once visitors viewed the video, they were invited to have their picture taken in front of the mountain with the Empire State building in the background. They were emailed their picture with “Sweet Home Alabama in New York” embedded in the image. People from all around the world came to see Little River Canyon in New York City and they all were impressed. They said they’d like to visit Alabama and many who have never been to Alabama were in disbelief, as we did not look at all like they imagined.

Another Alabama tourism “Sweet Home Alabama” event during the week included a media event in Brooklyn to show and sample the Alabama craft breweries. The 360 video of Little River Canyon was shown there, too.

On another day, a large Mobile Mardi Gras float was in Times Square, with a live jazz band and costumed dancers.

My grandpa and I took lots of pictures and shared them on social media all during the week to help get the word out even more. This was a very successful week with thousands more people getting to witness our “real” Alabama. I think they will come see us.

See the 360° video for yourself. Click and drag while the video is playing to get the full effect.