Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns promotion kicks off

MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) - More than 200 towns and cities will stage homecoming events and unveil historic markers in 2010 as part of the state's tourism promotional campaign for 2010 -- the "Year of Small Towns and Downtowns" -- Governor Bob Riley announced Tuesday.

Each year, the state's Tourism Department has highlighted a certain aspect of Alabama in its year-long promotional campaigns. Some previous "Year of" efforts have focused on Alabama food, history, sports, gardens and outdoors. The homecoming events will continue through mid-December. Historic markers written by local historians and provided by the Alabama Tourism Department will be unveiled at the events.

"As someone who grew up in a small town in Alabama, I know there's something special about them. They have a unique character and charm. But in Alabama, even our bigger cities have a small town feel. As Alabamians, we're truly fortunate that many of our hometowns really are like Mayberry," said Governor Riley, referring to the fictitious small town that was the setting of the "Andy Griffith Show."

A total of 215 communities, ranging in size from Mooresville, population 54, to Birmingham, population 300,000, have scheduled events as part of the Year of Small Towns and Downtowns.

"It's going to be a great time to reflect on the importance of our small towns and downtowns, and I believe when it's all over, people throughout the state will come away with a greater appreciation for the special place we all call home," said Governor Riley. The Governor encouraged the participating towns to begin campaigns to invite former residents to return for celebrations that will be staged under a variety of names.

Events such as Demopolis's Christmas on the River, Hartselle's Depot Days and Ozark's Claybank Jamboree are well established, while Jacksonville, Ashland, Gulf Shores and York – among others – will host events organized specifically for this year's homecoming theme. Natives of Ensley, long absorbed by Birmingham, will have a function at Tuxedo Junction.

Some towns have convenient anniversaries taking place in conjunction with the events. Huntsville will recognize the 50th anniversary of the NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center, Talladega its 175th birthday, and Lincoln will celebrate its centennial.

The Governor thanked several organizations that are involved in putting the statewide effort together, including the Alabama League of Municipalities, the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, the Community Bankers Association of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the Alabama Historical Commission, the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the Alabama Communities of Excellence, and Your Town Alabama.

The state Tourism Department has posted a list of towns and event dates on its homecoming web site at