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Outdoors: Classic returns home with big impact

By John N. Felsher

When the top 56 professional bass anglers in the world compete in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, one will take home a check for $500,000 and possibly millions more in endorsement contracts. Regardless of who wins, though, Alabama will reap the benefit.

The 44th annual Bassmaster Classic will take place in Birmingham and on Lake Guntersville from Feb. 21-23. The competitors will run out of Guntersville City Harbor to fish the 69,100-acre lake for three days and bring their daily catches to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena, located at 2100 Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard North in Birmingham, for the official public weigh-ins.

When the “Super Bowl of Fishing” comes to town, it makes a huge impact. Besides the anglers, thousands of fans, media and others will pour into Birmingham. Many fans from surrounding cities and states only come in for one day, but many anglers bring their families and stay more than a week. In addition, representatives from hundreds of companies around the world will gather for the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, held in conjunction with the tournament weigh-ins at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

“More than 100,000 people attended the 2013 Classic in Tulsa, Okla.,” says Michael Mulone, a B.A.S.S. spokesman. “When we bring a Bassmaster Classic to a state, there’s a sense of pride for both the state and B.A.S.S. The B.A.S.S. staff alone books nearly 4,000 hotel rooms. That doesn’t count all the companies bringing exhibits to the event or fans coming from out of town. When a Bassmaster Classic comes to a town, it usually leaves about a $21 to 24 million economic impact. The lion’s share of the economic impact will be in the Birmingham metropolitan area.”

Birmingham hosted seven previous Classics, most recently in 2010 when Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Mich., won on Lay Lake. The 2014 Classic will be the 12th such event held in Alabama since 1971, more than twice as many as any other state. The hosting Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, better known as B.A.S.S., began in Montgomery and now calls Birmingham home.

Although Bassmaster magazine ranks Lake Guntersville Number 4 on its list of the top 100 bass lakes in the nation, the largest lake in Alabama only hosted one previous Bassmaster Classic. In 1976, Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., won his first of four Classics on the Tennessee River impoundment.

While the Bassmaster Classic hasn’t visited Lake Guntersville in 38 years, other major tournaments ran on the lake. In 2010, former Bassmaster Classic champion Skeet Reese from Auburn, Calif., caught more than 100 pounds of bass during three days of competitive fishing. The year before, Aaron Martens won a Bassmasters Elite Series tournament on Lake Guntersville with more than 107 pounds.

Martens, of Leeds, heads a pack of nine Alabama anglers vying to win the big event in their home state. Originally from a suburb of Los Angeles, Martens moved to Alabama because of the great fishing the state offers.

“We moved to Alabama to be more centrally located to the lakes we normally fish,” he says. “Alabama is beautiful and the people are really nice. Alabama, particularly the Birmingham area, is the heart of bass fishing in America. This area has a lot of great lakes and rivers to fish.”

Martens fished in 14 previous Classics since 1999 and placed second in four of them, losing twice to Kevin VanDam. In 2002, he placed second behind Jay Yelas on Lay Lake. In 2013, he earned his second Angler of the Year title. During his career, he earned more than $2 million in tournaments winnings with six victories in B.A.S.S. events.

The home team also includes Chris Lane of Guntersville, the only former Bassmaster Classic champion from Alabama fishing the current event. Lane will make his fourth Classic appearance, having won five events since 2000 including the 2012 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River in Shreveport, La. Lane grew up in central Florida, but moved to Alabama in 2009. He’ll compete against his brother, Bobby, from Lakeland, Fla.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to compete in my hometown,” the former champion says. “Competitive bass fishing has a lot of roots in Alabama. This is where B.A.S.S. originated. As far as I’m concerned, Lake Guntersville is the best bass lake in the country. I look for records to fall for the amount of people coming to the amount of boats on the water watching their favorite anglers to the amount of weight coming to the scales.”

Other Alabama competitors include Gerald Swindle of Warrior fishing his 14th Classic. Randy Howell of Springville fished 11 previous Classics. Steve Kennedy of Auburn competed in six Classics and Greg Vinson of Wetumpka will make his second appearance. Coby Carden of Shelby and David Kilgore of Jasper will each fish their first Classics.

Also making his first Classic appearance, Jordan Lee will represent Auburn University. The 22-year-old student from Cullman qualified for his first Classic by winning the 2013 Carhartt College Series National Championship. The youngest competitor this year, Lee was the runner-up to his brother Matt in the 2012 Carhartt College Series, making the second year in a row that Auburn University sent a student to fish the big show.

Fans watching the weigh-ins should see some impressive catches with so many excellent anglers competing in one of the best bass fishing lakes in the nation at the best time to catch monster bass. In late winter, bass normally reach their largest size of the year as females swell with eggs before the spring spawn. A big female largemouth in February could carry several additional pounds of eggs before she deposits them into a nest in March or April. To avoid depleting the resource, tournament will release any bass brought to the scales.

“It’s going to be a tough tournament,” Martens says. “The best anglers in the world will be fishing it at the right time of the year. One of the things I look forward to when fishing a Classic is meeting people. We get to meet a lot of fans from all over at these events.”

All year long, Lake Guntersville gives up numerous bass in the 3- to 8-pound range and some in the 9- to 12-pound range. Charlie Bertus of Huntsville landed the official lake record largemouth, a 14.50-pound lunker he caught on Feb. 21, 1990. In 2010, Duanne McQueen of Stockbridge, Ga., landed the lake record smallmouth, a 5.85-pounder.

“Late February is a great time to fish Lake Guntersville, but it all depends upon the weather,” Lane says. “I’m expecting some giant limits of bass. I think it will probably take about five bass weighing 25 to 30 pounds per day to win. I think the big bass might be in the 10- to 12-pound range. The lake has some giant bass so it wouldn’t surprise me if someone caught a bass in the teens.”

For complete schedules and more information on the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, visit www.bassmaster.com/classic.

Worth the Drive: Crepes, crepes and more crepes!

The fresh produce at The Market and the Crepe Myrtle Cafe are ample reasons to visit Blooming Colors in Auburn.
The fresh produce at The Market and the Crepe Myrtle Cafe are ample reasons to visit Blooming Colors in Auburn.

By Jennifer Kornegay

There are several food and restaurant types common across Alabama: places like meat ‘n threes, BBQ joints and catfish houses. But in Auburn, tucked behind Blooming Colors garden nursery is The Market (selling fresh, local produce), and tucked behind that is The Crepe Myrtle Café. And in this small café, they specialize in one thing: crepes. In fact, almost the entire menu is devoted to this sophisticated substitute for a sandwich.

Crepes? And only crepes? It may sound a little risky to have such a narrow focus. And crepes are certainly not a Southern staple. I can hear my dad’s booming bass voice declaring (jokingly), “Real men don’t eat quiche!” I imagine whoever coined that phrase (which he loved to repeat any time my mom served quiche) would feel the same way about crepes.

But a single bite of these singular creations is all it will take to make you a believer (even if you are the manliest of men), and bring you back time and again so you can try every single version of crepe that the café makes. They may serve crepes almost exclusively, but there are many, many different types of crepes. Or more accurately, there are many, many different ways to fill the basic crepe.

There’s the Caesar with roasted chicken, melted mozzarella, romaine lettuce and tomatoes drizzled with classic Caesar dressing. There’s the Steak and Bleu, a mouth-watering mix of juicy marinated flank steak, roasted peppers, caramelized onions and tangy blue cheese crumbles. Or the Mexican, with citrus marinated chicken, Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, sour cream and homemade salsa.

The Tomato Lover and Roasted Veggie crepes take delicious advantage of The Market’s access to amazing area produce; both are stuffed with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, onions, mushrooms, peppers and more, and this ingredient list changes based on the season and what’s at its peak.

Imagine one of the best Greek salads you’ve ever had rolled into a thin, airy crepe, and you’re actually fantasizing about the café’s Greek Chicken Crepe. Briny (kalamata olives), salty (feta), crunchy (raw spinach), hot (pepperoncini peppers) and smoky (roasted red peppers) merge into one fabulous flavor. And while the Tzatziki sauce makes it a messy affair to eat, there’s a napkin dispenser on each table, so you can do it.

There are 11 savory crepe options and eight dessert crepes to choose from at The Market.
There are 11 savory crepe options and eight dessert crepes to choose from at The Market.

Eleven different savory crepes are always available, plus soups and salads and a few “daily special” offerings. But note the word savory in the above sentence. There are still more crepes: A selection of eight dessert crepes makes it hard to resist ending your lunch on a sweet note. Crepe traditionalists will swoon over the Nutella Crepe. With an ooey-gooey smear of the chocolate-hazelnut spread sliding between layers of slightly chewy crepe, this delight rivals the confections peddled from street carts in Paris. The Apple Sizzle challenges your mom’s apple pie. And the Peaches N’ Cream, with its grilled whiskey-soaked peaches, sweetened sour cream, brown sugar and candied pecans, takes the crepe far below the Mason Dixon line.

Even if, for some reason, none of these sound appetizing to you (maybe you were born without taste buds or lost them in a tragic accident), there are other reasons to visit. Blooming Colors is jam-packed with plants and pots and garden accessories. And The Market is a bigger, cuter version of your favorite roadside veggie stand. Rows of wooden crates hold whatever happens to be growing at the moment, shelves are stacked with jars of raw local honey and homemade salsas and sauces, a freezer is full of casseroles to go and a table displays rustic pottery made by an area artist.

Visit The Market for the best bounty from Alabama farmers, ripe and ready to take home. And visit the café for crepes, crepes and more crepes.

 

The Crepe Myrtle Café at Blooming Colors

Open for breakfast and lunch

1192 Donahue Drive, Auburn

334-887-0887

www.crepemyrtlecafe.com

 

Gardening: plants to love

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By Katie Jackson

It’s February, the month when we celebrate love, and if you want to establish a more loving relationship with your landscape and garden there is no time like the present to find a botanical soulmate—or mates.

While fall is prime planting season for trees, shrubs and many other perennials, most can still be planted successfully from now through early spring. But, as with all good long-term relationships, compatibility is key to a successful future so take time this month to explore your options before you commit.

Personally, I’m drawn to plants that are both good looking and low-maintenance. Luckily, I can find just that combination of virtues in plants that have roots right here in Alabama and the Southeast: native plants.

Native plants are already adapted to our environment so they are capable of flourishing without much pampering. They’re also supportive and nurturing, providing food and shelter for birds, insects and wildlife in our ecosystems. And there are so many to choose among—trees, shrubs, ferns, vines, herbaceous perennials, grasses and bulbs—so there is a native plant to match any spot in the landscape.

Looking for something tall and handsome—a tree for instance? I am madly in love with silverbells and native dogwoods and magnolias, all of which are good-looking and give me flowers. But there are also plenty of other appealing options—both blooming and non-blooming, deciduous and evergreen—to consider, such as hickories, oaks, maples, cedars, plums and pines, to name a few.

Drawn to smaller plants that are big on looks? There are lots of potential matches on the native shrub list. If you love those flowers, try native azaleas and hydrangeas as well as buttonbushes, sweetshrubs, buckeyes and viburnums. Want a fruitful relationship? Native holly, beautyberry and winterberry shrubs produce gorgeous berries that are lovely to behold and loved by birds and other critters…or plant native blueberries so you and the wildlife can eat.

If you want plants that will stick around for a long time but still add lots of color to your life, explore the many choices of flowering native herbaceous perennials such as aster, hibiscus, phlox, coneflower, coreopsis, yarrow and many, many others.

Want something that gives you cover but won’t take over your life or landscape? Try native honeysuckle or wisteria, passion vine, trumpet vine and jasmine. Prefer something dignified but interesting? Native grasses, ranging from the whimsical, wispy color of purple muhly grass to the simple beauty of native sea oats or rushes, could be just the match. Have a yen for a shady character? Get yourself some Christmas, Southern wood, shield and lady ferns.

As you can see, the possibilities for new loves in your garden are extensive. Thankfully you don’t have to choose just one, but you may want to know more about them all before you commit. To my knowledge there is no online matchmaking service available to link gardeners with plants (though maybe that’s a great idea for some enterprising, tech-savvy entrepreneur). However, you can do your own research (online or at your local library or garden center) to find out more about each plant’s personality and traits. Three online options are the Plant Native website (www.plantnative.org/rpl-algams.htm), the Alabama Plant Atlas site (floraofalabama.org) and in the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s publication Herbaceous Perennials for Alabama (www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0566/ANR-0566.pdf). Another source of information on plants (both native and nonnative) that will stick with you for better or worse is Felder Rushing’s book Tough Plants for Southern Gardens.

As you’re looking for new loves, though, don’t forget your old flames. Take care of the plants that are already in your life and landscape and start planting those good-provider plants for the spring and summer. Now is the time to plant cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes, mustard, asparagus, English peas, Irish potatoes, onion sets and strawberries!

 

February Tips:

Divide and move perennials, unless they are beginning to show new growth.

Clean up limbs and other yard debris that may have fallen in the winter weather.

Order seeds for the spring and summer garden.

Plant roses and hardy perennials.

Transplant deciduous shrubs and trees unless the buds have begun to swell.

Start warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers and summer bedding plants, in cold frames or indoor settings now.

Prune summer flowering shrubs now. Don’t prune the spring bloomers until after they flower!

Check seeds you have saved from last year to make sure they are still viable (seed coat in good condition and not rotted).

Clean out moldy or sprouting seeds each time you refill bird feeders.

Give your sweetheart live plants, seeds or gardening tools for Valentine’s Day.

Attend gardening workshops and classes or get involved with your local gardening groups.

Shop for off-season garden supplies that may be on sale this time of year.

Repair and spruce up window boxes, lawn furniture, bird houses and feeders, garden tools and other outdoor equipment and items.

 

 

 

Remember Valentine’s Day with a gift from the heart

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By Marilyn Jones

For some, Valentine’s Day is a romantic holiday. But for others it’s a day to remember everyone they love: parents, children and friends.

“The person I always think of every Valentine’s Day since I was very young is my dear mother,” says Vickie Ashford of Birmingham.  “I am the tenth of 11 children.  My mother always found a way to make each and every one of us feel special.

“That’s why I don’t have to think twice about making her feel special every day, and especially on a day dedicated to love,” she adds. “She loves flowers, but not cut flowers, only those that she can plant and watch grow, enjoying them longer.  Now, at age 87, she especially likes to enjoy her gifts as long as she can.”

“On Valentine’s Day I always think of how my dad would stop at a local drug store and bring home chocolate covered cherries for my sister and me, and a Whitman’s Sampler for mom,” recalls Meg Lewis of Montgomery. “Now I try to do something small for the office and my close friends.”

“I remember my husband and children,” says Machelle Steiner of Dauphin Island. “The people I love want chocolate, so I buy them candy, a card and some sort of trinket for Valentine’s Day. I’ve done this for years.

“I don’t think it’s just a romantic holiday, I think it’s about remembering the ones we love,” Steiner adds.

Valentine candy and other treats

Morgan Price Candy Company in Decatur is a great source for everything chocolate. They’ve been creating candy for Valentine Day and all year round since 1987 when Mary Morgan began a mail order candy company out of her home and a church kitchen. Because of the quality of her candy and attention to detail, her business grew until she had to open a candy store.

Today the tradition continues under the guidance of Nancy Curl. The candy, made from time-honored recipes, is available at the Decatur store and can be shipped to all parts of the country.

“Hope’s Cheesecake in Gulf Shores ships nationwide as well,” says Kim Chapman of Silverhill. “If you’re remembering someone out of town, they make it easy to send a nice gift. Just about everyone loves cheesecake.”

For the cheese lover, Belle Chèvre in Elkmont is an excellent choice for goat cheese. Belle Chèvre has produced a variety of internationally acclaimed cheeses since 1989 using European farmstead techniques.  Belle Chèvre offers individual cheese selections, breakfast spread, cheesecake, cookies and gift boxes at their store. These items can also be shipped.

 

Gift Shop Ideas

Black Belt Treasures in Camden has many handmade options available for purchase, including pottery.
Black Belt Treasures in Camden has many handmade options available for purchase, including pottery.

“My wife appreciates gifts that remind her of nature or perhaps something hand made,” says Mark Lyman of Tillman’s Corner. “That’s why I look for gift shops with handcrafted items.”

Black Belt Treasures in Camden is an exceptional place to buy made-by-hand creations. “We’re a nonprofit arts center representing more than 300 artists,” says Kristin Law, Art Program and Marketing Manager.

The sprawling store offers everything from baskets and pottery to folk art, sculptures and quilts.

“We also have a wide array of art classes taught by our regional artists — and a gift certificate to a class also makes a great gift for Valentine’s Day,” adds Law. “I have personally had couples take my pottery and hand-built ceramics class together.”

“Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment in Huntsville is the Southeast’s largest center for the arts,” says Charles Winters of Huntsville. “There are working artists, small businesses, restaurants and live performances in this building that used to be a textile mill.

Down south, several locally owned shops at The Wharf in Orange Beach, including Fish on a Dish Unique Gifts, stock works of locally created art and handcrafted items including paintings, sculpture and jewelry.

Another excellent source for unusual items is museum and tourist attraction gift shops. At the Coastal Arts Center at Orange Beach, the gift shop one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, pottery and artwork. Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore also has a spacious gift shop filled with unusual gifts including a large selection of Coke-related merchandise.

 

Romantic Getaways

Getaways are always great gifts for couples to give each other and Alabama has a lot to offer for those not wanting to journey far from home. Check out one of the bed and breakfast destinations in Alabama, such as Winston Place in Valley Head at the base of Lookout Mountain.  If skiing is something you enjoy, Cloudmont Ski Resort in Mentone offers skiing, horseback riding and hiking trails. And in Montgomery, the Harriett II Riverboat offers Valentine’s romantic cruises including dinner, roses, champagne and live entertainment.

Sure, Valentine’s Day can be construed as a “Hallmark” holiday, but isn’t it fun to turn it around and make it about the love we have for the special people in our lives?

I’m sure Saint Valentine would approve.

 

For more information:

Morgan Price Candy Company: www.morganpricecandy.com

Hope’s Cheesecake: www.hopescheesecake.com

Belle Chèvre: www.bellechevre.com

Black Belt Treasures: www.blackbelttreasures.com

Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment: lowemill.net

The Wharf: alwharf.com

Coastal Arts Center: ‎www.coastalartscenter.com

Bellingrath Gardens and Home: www.bellingrath.org

Alabama Bed and Breakfast listing: www.bedandbreakfast.com/Alabama

Cloudmont Ski Resort: http://cloudmont.com/

Harriett II Riverboat: www.funinmontgomery.com/parks-items/harriott-ii-riverboat

Alabama-made: Places to see, touch and taste Alabama’s manufacturing

By Jacqueline Rosser

What do cars, cookies and bamboo bikes have in common? Like many other great products, they are all made here in Alabama. Take shopping local to a whole new level and head to the factories to see your favorite Alabama products in production. You’ll develop a brand new appreciation for “Made in Alabama” and have some great family fun too.

The Honda plant in Lincoln gives visitors a look at how the Odyssey and Ridgeline are produced. Photo by Honda
The Honda plant in Lincoln gives visitors a look at how the Odyssey and Ridgeline are produced. Photo by Honda

 

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama

Do you drive a Honda? Tour the Honda Manufacturing Plant in Alabama and see how your ride is made. Many of Honda’s vehicles are produced at their Lincoln plant. On the tour you’ll walk the production floor watching sparks fly as the weld robots assemble the Honda Odyssey, Ridgeline, the Honda Pilot SUV and more. From engines to paint colors and more, you’ll see what it takes to make an award-winning vehicle.

The free tour of the Honda plant is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Visitors must be at least 12 years old. Wear fully enclosed shoes and long pants.

www.hondaalabama.com/

 

Golden Flake Chips

Crunchy and delicious Golden Flake Chips are a lunchtime staple across Alabama. Pay a visit to the Golden Flake factory in Birmingham to watch plain potatoes transform into deep fried delights. One of the highlights of the tour is the fresh samples of warm chips, pork rinds, etc. shared with visitors along the way. If you can’t make it to the factory Golden Flake offers online tours on their website.

Tours are typically offered Monday-Thursday at set times each morning. Small groups (less than 10) generally don’t need a reservation, but you may want to call in advance (1-800-239-CHIP) to verify availability. Visitors must be at least 5 years old. Wear closed toe/heel shoes suitable for walking.

www.goldenflake.com

 

Golden Eagle Syrup

Since 1929 Alabamians have been enjoying Golden Eagle Syrup’s delightfully sweet flavor. If this is your favorite syrup, or even if it’s not, a tour of the production facility in Fayette is fascinating. You can visit any time, but it’s much more enjoyable when they’re in production (generally Tuesday-Thursday).

Call 205-932-5294 for more information about the tour.

www.goldeneaglesyrup.com/

 

Bud’s Best Cookies

Hop aboard the CookieLand Express and travel to a delicious world filled with cookies. Bud’s Best Cookies tour in Birmingham shows visitors how their signature bite-sized cookies are mixed, baked, packaged and shipped. Come with an appetite; you’ll enjoy samples on the tour and to take home.

Tours are free, but reservations are required. Set up your tour by calling their offices at 800-548-1504.

www.budsbestcookies.com

 

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama

Honda isn’t the only automotive manufacturer that calls Alabama home. If you’re in Montgomery, take the family over to the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama plant. This busy Alabama facility assembles almost 1,500 vehicles each business day.

The Hyundai plant tour is free for visitors age 6 and up. Reservations are required and can be made online up to a year ahead of your visit. This tour often fills up well in advance; book early if you want to go.

www.hmmausa.com/

 

Watch a motorhome come together in the Red Bay factory of Tiffin Motorhomes. Photo courtesy of Constellation Imageworks
Watch a motorhome come together in the Red Bay factory of Tiffin Motorhomes. Photo courtesy of Constellation Imageworks

Tiffin Motorhomes

Have you ever wondered how a motorhome is made? Head to Red Bay and take a tour of Tiffin Motorhomes, home of some of the best motorhomes in the country. You’ll meet the expert craftsmen that help construct the beautiful homes on wheels and see production in action.

Tours are held Monday-Friday at 9:30 am. Appointments are not necessary for small groups. Large groups (10 or more) should call in advance to schedule an appointment. Full details are available on the Tiffin Motorhomes website.

tiffinmotorhomes.com/

 

Working Cows Dairy

Meet the farmers behind Working Cow Dairy when you stop by their Slocomb farm at milking time. Jonny de Jong, CEO of the family run farm, says, “We suggest people come by at 7 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon to see the cows being milked and things of that nature.” While you’re at the farm, stop by their store and pick up a bottle of fresh and delicious Alabama organic milk.

www.workingcowsdairy.com/

 

HERObike staff at work on a bike in their Greensboro headquarters.
HERObike staff at work on a bike in their Greensboro headquarters.

HERObike

When you think of bikes, you probably don’t think of bamboo, but once you watch the bike making process at HERObike in Greensboro, you’ll likely associate the two forever. While HERObike doesn’t offer a formal tour, the studio is very open and visitors are welcome to come in and watch the production at any time. If you like what you see and want a bamboo (locally grown in Alabama) bike of your own, classes and kits are available for purchase.

www.herobike.org

 

Blue Bell Creamery

After enjoying an informational tour of Blue Bell Creamery in Sylacauga visitors are treated to a serving of their luscious ice cream. The tour features a video presentation and a walk overlooking the production area.

tours2

The Blue Bell Creamery tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and is offered Monday-Friday. There is a small charge for the tour which includes a serving of ice cream. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 256-249-6100.

www.bluebell.com/

 

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International has been producing vehicles at its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Vance (Tuscaloosa County) since 1996. Visitors can tour the factory and check out the history of Daimler-Benz in the Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center’s Museum, the first of its kind outside Germany. Adjacent to Daimler’s only U.S. automobile manufacturing plant, the center exhibits propel people down a multimedia path through the past, present, and future of automotive technology.

Factory Tours are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. Tours typically last about two hours.

Cost is $5 per guest.  Advance reservations are recommended. Call 205-507-2252 or 888- 286-8762.  MBUSI recommends visitors download its Tour Guidelines and Requirements from its website at www.mbusi.com, and reading the Factory Tour FAQ guide before calling for reservations.

 

Back Forty Beer Co.

If you think a brewery tour and children don’t mix, think again. Back Forty Brewery’s Grains to Glass tour in Gadsden is fun for adults and children alike. Children will enjoy munching on freshly malted hops while adults indulge in local craft beers as they explore the brewing process. Brad Wilson and his brother Jason run the brewery (5th generation in the beer business) and seek to make this manufacturing facility family and community friendly. Speaking of the brewery Brad said, “We want to reach out to the community… we want to be a place where people can come and handle the business of their day and interact with the community.”

If you come in for a tour, don’t be surprised to see Brad’s almost two year old daughter Keller running around in her pink brewing boots. They do more than just make beer here; they foster family and community connections.

Tours are offered on Saturdays 3-9 pm. No reservation needed.

backfortybeer.com/

 

 

 

Photos:

Back Forty Brewery- Photo credit: Eric Wright

Bud’s Best- Photo Credit: Kristie LaRochelle, KP Studios

Hero Bike- Photo Credit: HERO

Honda- Photo Credit: Honda

Hyundai- Photo Credit: Hyundai

Super Bowl of fishing is ‘part of the American lifestyle’

Kevin VanDam, a professional bass angler from Kalamazoo, Mich., lifts up his world championship trophy after winning his fourth Bassmaster Classic Title, on Feb. 20, 2011, in New Orleans. Photo by John N. Felsher
Kevin VanDam, a professional bass angler from Kalamazoo, Mich., lifts up his world championship trophy after winning his fourth Bassmaster Classic Title, on Feb. 20, 2011, in New Orleans. Photo by John N. Felsher

By John N. Felsher

Called by many the “Super Bowl of Fishing,” the 44th annual Bassmaster Classic returns home to Alabama when the best anglers in the world gather to fish Lake Guntersville Feb. 21-23.

The biggest event in professional bass fishing started in Alabama. In 1967, Ray Scott of Pintlala started collecting membership fees for an organization dedicated to people who like to catch largemouth bass. He dubbed the organization the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, better known as B.A.S.S. Scott established the first headquarters for his organization in Montgomery.

In the late 1960s, Scott organized fishing tournaments and gave away prizes to anglers who caught the heaviest stringers of bass. In 1971, he created a championship for those anglers and called it the Bassmaster Classic. Thus began four decades and counting of professional bass fishing at the highest level.

Today, B.A.S.S. officials announce the Classic venue a year in advance, but in those days, Scott kept the tournament location secret to keep competition equal. In October 1971, Scott picked 24 anglers and flew them and their wives to Atlanta. There, they boarded a chartered plane with about 30 outdoor writers, destination unknown. The group landed in Las Vegas, Nev., to fish Lake Mead.

When it ended, Bobby Murray, a 26-year-old competitor from Hot Springs, Ark., made history by becoming the first Bassmaster Classic champion in history. For the effort, he collected a check for $10,000. Legendary lure maker Tom Mann of Eufaula, Ala., took second.

“It was a mystery flight,” Murray remembers years later. “When the airplane reached 10,000 feet, they told us where we were going. We could pack 10 pounds of tackle and four rods. They were trying to make the playing field as fair as they could. Before the first Classic, not one of the 24 anglers had ever been on Lake Mead.”

At the time, few people knew anything about professional bass fishing. When a brief story about a guy winning $10,000 for catching bass in Nevada went over the news wires, few editors believed it. Who would get paid to catch fish and then release them?

Now, the 56 anglers from 23 states fishing the 2014 Bassmaster Classic will compete for a share of the $1 million purse, plus potentially millions more in endorsement contracts. This year, the Classic competitors will fan out over the 69,100-acre Lake Guntersville. After three days of practice, they will begin their daily competition each morning at 7 a.m. at the Guntersville City Harbor. All 56 competitors fish the first two days. Only the top 25 anglers fish the final day.

While the original competitors weighed their fish on a floating boat dock before about 30 writers and 30 spectators, thousands of fans and hundreds of journalists will gather in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena to watch the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. The free public weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. daily.

“We had more than 100,000 people attend the 2013 Classic in Tulsa,” says Michael Mulone, a B.A.S.S. spokesman. “This will be one of our biggest Classics in size and scope. We’ll use more expo space in Birmingham than we’ve ever used before and all events are free. The Bassmaster Classic is not just a fishing tournament. It’s part of the American lifestyle.”

While waiting for their favorite professional anglers to return with their catches, fishing fans might also wish to visit the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo. Hundreds of companies will put up displays for fishing fans to peruse. The free expo will be from noon to 8 p.m. Feb. 21, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Feb. 22, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23.

At the Expo, visitors can explore more than 220,000-square feet of exhibit space at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and attend seminars on different topics at sponsor booths.

“At the Expo, people can mingle with their favorite professional anglers and prominent people in the fishing industry like Bill Dance, Hank Parker and others,” Mulone says. “Most people are not going to play in an NFL game and throw a football like Peyton Manning, race against Jimmy Johnson in NASCAR or compete against Tiger Woods on a golf course, but they can all use the exact same equipment in exactly the same place as Kevin VanDam to catch bass.”

Visit www.bassmaster.com/classic.

Funny stuff: Be my Valentine…I dare you

By Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson

Humor_valentines

Many folks, middle-aged men mostly, do not look forward to Valentine’s Day.

Not just because they are expected to send the woman they love flowers and candy and such stuff. They can handle that. But they fear that the object of their affection might consider the gift insufficiently romantic and judge them thusly.

That happened to a guy I knew who briefly lived under the mistaken assumption that the true measure of love was presenting your dear one with a gift that you would buy for yourself – give unto others as you would have them give unto you, or something like that.

He loved to fish.

See where this is heading?

What better way to say “I love you” than with a new rod and reel?

The relationship was over before the year was out.

That’ll learn him.

Personally, I do not look forward to Valentine Day’s because it brings back memories of when I was in elementary school. Of all the events on our calendar, none created more consternation and concern, anxiety and angst than the ceremony of acceptance and rejection that occurred every Feb. 14.

Teachers seemed to love it because preparation kept us busy. They knew that the idle hands of pre-adolescents are surely the devil’s workshop.

Preparing started innocently enough. No sooner was Groundhog Day past than our teacher would bring out the scissors, colored paper and paste, from which the artistic among us (usually the girls) would create hearts and flowers.  Cupids were too complex for our meager talents, but the guys had lots of fun drawing bows and arrows.

All this creativity notwithstanding, as the day approached we nervously waited to see who would give what to whom.

Freud, or one of those other like-minded psychologists, contended that there is a “latent period” in young lives when they are not interested in the opposite sex.

Freud never attended my elementary school, where most of my classmates skipped any “latent period” that might have been lurking in the corners of our young lives.

Boys wanted girlfriends and girls wanted boyfriends.

Problem was, the number of what might today be called “trophy” selections was limited, so a lot of the girls “liked” the same “cute” boys, and most of the boys “liked” the same “cute” girls.

The exchange of valentines on Valentine’s Day would force a public declaration of affection, followed by reciprocation or rejection.

As the day approached, you could cut the tension with a knife.

Symbolism was everywhere.

What if you gave “cute girl” your handmade valentine and Bubba trumped you with a store-bought better one?  What if Johnny upped the ante with a Milky Way taped to his card?

Then there was the gnawing fear that Billy Ray would give his token of love to the “cute girl” you “liked,” and she would give him one in return – leaving you with a broken heart.

And what was going through the minds of those who were afraid they would get no valentines at all.

Teachers attempted to remedy that situation by instructing us to give valentines to everyone. Most of us responded by passing out to classmates those massed produced cards bought in bulk from the drug store. Then we gave a “special” Valentine to the “cute girl” or the “cute boy” that we wanted to sit with us in the lunchroom.

Thus by the end of the day we all knew who “liked” whom, who was “popular,” and whose love was and would remain unrequited.

Think of the scars left on our adolescent psyches.

Oh, we got over it, mostly.

But every Feb. 14, it comes back to haunt some of us.

Now, should I go with flowers or candy or something from Bass Pro Shop?

Ed. Note: This is the first in a series of periodic columns on humorous people, places and things in Alabama. Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is retired professor emeritus of history at Jacksonville State University whose most recent book is The Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera,  featured in the January 2013 Alabama Living. His work appears in the Anniston Star and Northeast Alabama Living.

 

Alabama Recipes

Pasta

I consider pasta one of my love languages. With so many variations and ease of preparation, anyone can discover and prepare many delicious pasta dishes. Valentine’s Day is coming up and I hope you will try one of these pasta recipes. Cooking for your honey is always a sweet way to his or her heart, and cooking is a great way to show you care about someone. –Mary Tyler Spivey

 

Cook of the Month

pasta1

Baked ziti 

John Piraino, Baldwin EMC

1 pound dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 26-ounce jars spaghetti sauce (don’t use any “chunky style” sauces)
12 slices provolone cheese
1. cups sour cream
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 ⁄8  cup sugar
2 teaspoons dried basil

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes**, drain. In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add 1. jars of spaghetti sauce (mix remaining with ziti**), sugar and basil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with tall sides with non-stick cooking spray. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, provolone cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cheeses are melted.

**Tips: mix first layer of ziti with some sauce. Cover with foil before baking. Last 5 minutes, remove foil to get cheese nice and browned. For cooking ziti, cook 2 minutes less than package suggests, as it will finish cooking while baking. Use taller casserole  dish, lower ones tend to overflow.

 

 

pasta2

Easy pasta pesto with chicken  

3/4 pound shell-shaped pasta
12 ounces cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1 11-ounce container pesto
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, sliced into thin strips
1 cup halved red grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Cook pasta in boiling, lightly salted water according to package directions. Drain. In a large bowl, toss pasta, chicken, pesto, red peppers, tomatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley.

Pamela LaRue Parker, Arab EC

 

 

pasta3

Pasta and peas

4 tablespoons chopped green onions
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 can English peas, drained
1 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh sweet basil if available;
If not, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1/2 pound ditalini pasta
romano or parmesan cheese

Saut. green onions in olive oil until wilted. Add drained English peas, water, sweet basil, salt and pepper. Cook about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain off most of the water and add peas mixture to the pasta. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle Romano or Parmesan cheese on top. Serves 4 people.

Sara Jean Brooklere, Baldwin EMC

 

 

pasta4

Lasagna

1 pound ground chuck
1/2 cup water
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons vinegar
2 teaspoons crushed oregano
9 cooked lasagna noodles
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8 ounces sour cream
2 cans tomato soup
12 ounces mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces provolone cheese

In saucepan, brown ground chuck, onion, garlic and oregano. Add soup, water, salt and vinegar. Simmer 30 minutes stirring now and then. In 9×13-inch pan, arrange 3 alternate layers of meat sauce, noodles, sour cream and cheeses. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until top cheese is brown. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Jamie Petterson, Tallapoosa River EC