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I said last week I would write about some events in our area that have happened lately so I’m going to do just that. They both are connected to the Pinhoti Trail and were planned to bring people to the area. The first was a weekend event in Sylacauga, the Second Annual Pinhoti Fest, and the second one was Birds, Beats and Bach at Flagg Mountain.
Both drew in people from other areas of the state and country. Again, I’m going to tie these into the need for hotels/motels, restaurants and gas stations in Coosa County. Sorry, but I’m a believer in “build it and they will come.”
The Pinhoti Fest was a three-day event that was held at Noble Park to kick off the fall hiking season with an estimated 1,500 people in attendance. It is now an annual event that is sponsored by local businesses and individuals to provide information and equipment to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Many of the Trail Towns along the Pinhoti Trail participated to promote the services that are available – hostels, shuttles, resupply points, restaurants, etc.
Representatives from the Alabama Trails Foundation, Alabama Forestry Commission, Conservation Fund, Alabama Hiking Trails Society, Pinhoti Outdoor Center, and Friends of the Talladega National Forest were among the more than 40 groups, organizations and businesses that were available with promotional information.
Entertainment was provided all weekend at the main stage, and other activities like “How to cook using Ziplock bags” and tent workshops were held around the site. Drawings were held for giveaways, book signings were held, and picture opportunities with Smokey the Bear and Bigfoot were available. There was fun for the entire family!
The headliner for the event was Dale “Grey Beard” Sanders who holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest person to paddle the 2,340-mile-long Mississippi River from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. He accomplished this on September 8, 2022, when he was 87 years old.
Grey Beard also was the oldest person (at 82 years old) to through hike the Appalachian Trail until our own Sunny “Nimblewill Nomad” Eberhart broke the record at age 83! They are good friends and competitors.
A viewing of a 30-minute portion of the documentary “GreyBeard: the Man, the Myth, the Mississippi” was shown at the Sylacauga Library before he spoke at the Pinhoti Fest. The full documentary is approximately 90 minutes and is available at www.GreybeardTheDocumentary.com.
The other event was held at the tower area of Flagg Mountain on Sunday, September 24, and was sponsored by the Alabama Trails Foundation, Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Audubon, and Alabama State Council on the Arts. A total of approximately 100 people from all around the state met at the cabin area on the mountain and were then transported by passenger trailers to the parking area just below the tower.
The Alabama Forestry Commission provided a ranger to share information on the long leaf pines and other trees that are found in the area. They also explained the importance of controlled burns to protect against forest fires and help maintain the health of the forest.
As the visitors then walked the concrete path that winds back and forth up the mountain for about a quarter mile they encountered Meg Ford, a classically trained violinist, who was playing soothing music they could hear along the way.
At the end of the path at the tower parking was Haleigh Black and Davis Little playing an acoustic guitar and violin. They had recently returned from touring Ireland and Scotland. The final musical group, Iron Giant, was across the tower lawn where they played a variety of percussion instruments including drums, wind chimes and cymbals that provided differing musical styles that drifted across the area.
The Alabama Audubon had an exhibit set up in one side of the tower with information on birding in Alabama. They also had information available on the different activities they sponsor around the state.
There were about seven people that we could identify as residents of Coosa County. The others were from all around the state, and only a few had ever been to Flagg Mountain before. These people were very impressed with what they saw, and I really think many will come back again and tell others about the experience.
This was the first of what will hopefully become regular events at Flagg Mountain in the future. If you are interested in hearing about these events around the state, follow the Alabama Trails Foundation’s Facebook page.
So, again, where could these people spend money while they were here? Depending on the direction they came from Rockford, Stewartville, Weogufka, and the 280 corridor would have been wonderful places for them to stop for gas, food, or even lodging. But, none exists.
This is just the beginning of what can put Coosa County on the map as a great place to visit. We are a friendly people and can provide great Southern hospitality to welcome visitors to our area and to help contribute to our tax base.
Again, we are missing the tourism boat. The tourism industry is one of the largest contributors to revenue in Alabama. If you have never thought much about it, check out the Alabama Travel website at www.alabama.travel or the Alabama Tourism Department at www.tourism.alabama.gov.
OK, now I’m ready for a vacation – how about you?