Have you ever wondered what role our Tourism Office and Visitor Center have in Limestone County? The primary purpose of the ALCTA is to invite people to Athens and Limestone County to visit our attractions, enjoy our restaurants and shops, learn about our history, and take in the beauty of our county.
They are also known as “temporary tax payers” because in order to do these things, they spend money in our retail businesses and purchase gas and food, all of which includes sales taxes.
In Limestone County’s five towns, the tourism industry brings historians, naturalists, hikers, bikers, equestrians, kayak enthusiasts, fishermen, Civil War historians, artisans, storytellers, musicians, sporting events, horse shows, rodeos, seminars, meetings, conferences, class, church & family reunions, and many, many jobs!
We also develop tourism through the promotion of permanent attractions such as the Alabama Veterans’ Museum and Belle Chevre Creamery tours. This year, we had outstanding attendance at our many tours of our Historic Districts, Cemetery Stroll, and Antebellum homes. Our largest tour was from India. The group was made up of students learning about the U. S. and our education programs. They toured Athens State University and received greeting from Mayor Marks and the President of ASU, Dr. Robert Glenn. The University’s Archivist, Mrs. Sarah Love, toured the group throughout the campus of ASU and invited them to consider ASU for their collage of higher education.
The Alabama Travel and Tourism Department sent 9 Music Travel Writers to Athens for the 50th Anniversary of our Old Time Fiddlers Convention. These nine travel writers each stayed two nights in our local hotels, dined in our locally owned restaurants, and also shopped in our downtown businesses. We not only received great publicity from the articles they wrote, but the sales tax money from every place they enjoyed.
Also, the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention also brings in approximately 15,000 people to Limestone County. Most come in early in the week for the 2-day competition and take the time to visit our attractions, trails, and places like Russell Stover and Preston’s Western Ware.
Another area you may not think about as a tourism activity is the Limestone County Archives. People of all generations are searching for their ancestors. They come to Athens because they are looking into their family genealogy. As our families spread across the United States, discovering and preserving those precious times of yesteryear can take several days, and many make it their primary goal of their vacation time.
Athens also can boast about its very own drive-in theater positioned alongside our walk-in theater. This drive-in is one of only nine in the state of Alabama still operating. Though many others have closed, we still enjoy reminiscing about our youth while attending our outdoor drive-in theater, which brings people to Limestone County for their opportunity to experience the family fun.
Tourists come into Limestone County communities to Elkmont for the Songwriters’ Night, and to hear the performers at the Red Caboose. The free Summer Concert Series we know as “Singing on the Square” from April to August, hosted by the Tourism Office, is always well attended. Entertainment facilities such as Yesterday’s Events feature nationally recognized singers and impressionists like Kevin Adams and the music group, “The Flashbacks” which brings in 90% of out of town guests for each performance. You see, music is in the fabric of Limestone County.
Our Athens Storytelling Festival, a week-long celebration of our tales, liars, and lies bring people from over 25 states to hear the best storytellers in the South. Our Amateur night also brings in not only local residents to try their hand at stretching a few yarns, but people from neighboring counties to see how good they can tell a big-ole-whopper!
We encourage our guests to attend our educational and historical activities such as our free guided historical walks held each Saturday in April, and programs like Earth Day, High Cotton’s Art Camps, as well as the Athens Main Street Farmer’s Markets held throughout the summer. The Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association / Athens Visitors’ Center is located in the historic Athens Utilities Building, built in 1906. Big Spring Memorial Park sits just behind our location, with beautiful, relaxing fountains and various species of ducks. Athens-Limestone County is rich in history, culture and music, but our eye is fixed on the future and new growth opportunities for our town. We invite you to visit with us.
ALCTA is open Monday-Friday, 8:00AM – 4:30PM, and in the summer on Saturdays from 8:00AM to 12:00PM. Come by for a tour of our historic building. Look through the rack of brochures, information leaflets, and post cards. We are always pleased to tell you more about Limestone County.
By: Teresa Todd, President, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association