Inaugural Tourism and Recreation All Stars announced

COLUMBIANA – Alabama’s top tourism official helped three local business organizations honor the first recipients of the Shelby County Tourism and Recreation All Star Awards.

The Chelsea Business Alliance, Montevallo Chamber of Commerce and The Shelby County Chamber announced the Tourism and Recreation All Star nominees and winners during a luncheon Thursday, Oct. 3, at Columbiana First Baptist Church.

Those recognized were entities that “excel each and every day in making Shelby County a more attractive destination for tourists and visitors,” according to a press release.

Twenty-eight nominees were announced in three categories: lodging, restaurant, and attractions/recreation.

In addition, a “Rising Star” category was presented to an organization that has distinguished itself in its first year.

Nominees included:

  • Attractions/recreation: Alabama Wildlife Center, Blue Water Park, Cat-N-Bird Winery, Chelsea Community Center, Flip Side Watersports, Helena Hollow, Kidz Town LLC, Morgan Creek Winery, Oak Mountain State Park, Shiloh Clays, Teshua Farms, and Tinglewood Festival.
  • Lodging: Best Western Plus Birmingham, Candlewood Suites Alabaster, Fairfield Inn & Suites Pelham, Hampton Inn & Suites 280 – Eagle Point, Hampton Inn & Suites Pelham, and Homewood Suites – Inverness.
  • Restaurant: Applebee’s Bar & Grille of Chelsea, Bayleaf Authentic Indian Cuisine, Beef O’Brady’s Helena, Bellini’s Ristorante & Bar, Brook Highland Bar & Grill, Champy’s, Chicken Salad Chick, Joseph’s Table, Station 31 Kitchen, and Taco Mama 119.

The nominees were reviewed and evaluated by an independent panel based on criteria developed by the Chamber’s Tourism & Recreation Work Group:

  • Social media engagement.
  • Community engagement.
  • General information, including customer service ratings, efforts to attract tourists and visitors to Shelby County and local communities.
  • While not a requirement for nomination, organizations who invest in either the Chelsea Business Alliance, the Montevallo Chamber or The Shelby County Chamber received a bonus point.

Those named Tourism and Recreation All Stars included:

  • Attractions and recreation: Alabama Wildlife Center, Blue Water Park, and Tinglewood Festival.
  • Lodging: Candlewood Suites Alabaster and Hampton Inn & Suites 280 – Eagle Point.
  • Restaurant: Applebee’s Bar & Grille of Chelsea and Taco Mama 119.

Shiloh Clays was awarded the Rising Star distinction.

Lee Sentell, director of Alabama Tourism since 2003, helped celebrate the positive impact that tourism and recreation have on the state, Shelby County and all communities.

The tourism industry accounts for 4,500 jobs in the county, Sentell said and also noted that statewide revenue from tourism has increased from $6 billion in 2003 to more than $18 billion.