Monday, August 26, 2013

Food is the star at the Alabama Festival of Flavor (Oct 19)

As a native Alabamian I take special pride in the upcoming Alabama Festival of Flavor, since it will showcase the food, wine, beer, arts and crafts of my home state. Last year’s inaugural event got off to a very good start and the changes planned for this year’s event are exciting.

The 2nd annual Alabama Festival of Flavor will take over the streets of historic downtown Foley on October 19, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Vendors will display and sell products made in Alabama, such as local honey, handmade soaps, crafts and works of art. A free Kids Fun Zone will entertain the younger crowd.

Entry to the festival is free and there will be numerous free seminars conducted by professional chefs on a variety of food preparation subjects, such as how to prepare fresh fish or grow a garden. Regional jazz performers will fill the air with festive music.

One of the events I’m most interested in seeing is the Amateur Heirloom Recipe Cook-off. Home cooks will compete in three categories 1) appetizers 2) entrees 3) desserts using their family recipes handed down from generation to generation. Each cook must incorporate one key ingredient in their dish that will be provided to the contestant, which should be an interesting twist to “grandma’s recipe.” Tickets will be sold to sample these tasty treats and vote on the People’s Choice award. I am fascinated by this concept and look forward to tasting the creations.

Two other ticketed sections of the festival center around wine, beer and food. The Alabama Beer and Wine tasting tent will serve Alabama-based beer, wine and various dishes and the cuisine for the VIP tent will be premier international wines and food.

Enjoy back-to-back fall festivals in October at the National Shrimp Festival (Oct 10-13) and Alabama Festival of Flavor (Oct. 19). Plan to spend two weeks so that you can attend both events and provide promo code 13FOL to get the second week free (some restrictions apply).

Join us to find out what’s cooking on the coast.

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Get your taste buds ready for the Alabama Festival of Flavor
Gulf Shores Annual Shrimp Festival

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Flying High on the Coast in Gulf Shores


Pure exhilaration is how I felt stepping off the tower platform and flying through the air high above Lake Shelby on the Hummingbird Ziplines a few days ago. This amazing experience, at the Gulf Adventure Center in the Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, lasts about two and one half hours and begins with gearing up and practicing close to the ground.

In "Ground School" each person is taught how to safely maneuver through the course. The primary function to learn is how to use the brake pad on your gloves to slow your descent when necessary. There are two guides to send you on your way and catch you, sometimes literally catching you. Our guides were fun, funny and placed each one of us at ease.

Groups of twelve “zippers” set off on the adventure every 45 minutes and by the end of the course you are new best friends. Our group ranged in age from 12 years old to a 73-year old celebrating her birthday with her family. Interestingly there were only 2 guys in our group but of course that varies. My companion and I were the only locals and we met and bonded with visitors from Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Pennsylvania. It’s so cool to cheer on your fellow flyers and either encourage them to fly or congratulate them as they reach the tower you just landed on.

The minimum age to participate is 8 years old but the primary criteria to ride the Zipline is weight – a minimum of 65 lbs. and a maximum of 260 lbs. The scientific principle is the heavier the person the faster they fly across the cable to the next tower, although it seemed to me that everyone in our group went equally fast.

The scenery is extraordinary because you overlook the beautiful beach, Gulf waters and Gulf State Park fishing pier as well as the waters of Lake Shelby with its abundant wildlife. These incredible views of both waters are possible because Lake Shelby is the closest body of fresh water to salt water in the world. If you get lucky you just might see some of the resident alligators in the ponds as you zip to your next station high above this 6,000-acre park. The seven towers were designed to blend in with the natural setting and are built from natural wood, no concrete, using giant poles harvested specifically for this attraction.

One of my favorite parts of the experience was the professional photography capturing this special moment, since it’s impossible to take photos while you are flying through the air. If you have a pocket that zips or closes with Velcro, you can take along your camera or camera phone and take photos from the towers.

The Hummingbird Ziplines at Gulf Adventure Center is open year round, so the time of year you choose to explore this coastal treat will determine what you should wear. Closed-toe shoes are a must and tennis shoes are preferred. If the weather is warm shorts and a cool shirt are best. I suggest that you eat a hearty meal and drink a bottle of water before you begin, since there are lots of steps to climb on each tower. 

Calling a day or two in advance is necessary because this experience is extremely popular. You will pay when you reserve your day and time and you can even download the waiver so that you can complete it in advance. This saves time when you arrive and gives you the chance to check out the items in the gift shop. You know you will want a t-shirt or other souvenir of your coastal adventure. Our group went on the 5:15 p.m. zip and that placed us flying towards the sunset over the lake on our final leg of the journey.

I highly recommend adding the Hummingbird Ziplines to your “to do” list on your next visit to Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan or Perdido Key. In fact, I’ll bet one time won’t be enough and you will repeat this exhilarating trip at different times of the year. The attraction offers a loyalty program making each future adventure cost less.

See you at the beach.

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