Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Walkin' With Outlaws

As a relatively new person to the Shoals area, I’m trying to learn as much about the local history as I can. When I heard about this library sponsored downtown Florence walking tour titled “Walking with the Outlaws”, I knew I wanted to go. As luck would have it, not only was it on a holiday (Labor Day), but it was also my birthday. I chose this event to celebrate, and wasn’t disappointed. The concept of the tour revolves around the life and acquaintances of the notorious local outlaw, “Mountain” Tom Clark. Through out the 10 block walking tour, there were actors staged at key historical location ready to portray certain individuals from Clark’s life.

Overall, I really enjoyed the tour and would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in Shoals history. This was the first attempt at this particular tour, and as expected any first go around, there is a lot of tweaking that needs to happen to make it perfect.

A scheduled start time of 6:30p.m. from the library parking lot ended up being too hard to keep. It seemed as though there was a much bigger turn out to the “Walking with Outlaws” tour then was expected. Not only did they run out of the program’s brochures, but I overheard someone say that they also ran out of tickets. The group standing around the library doors was so big, in fact that they had to split us up into two separate groups.

I was in group two, and in order to let the first group make it far enough through the tour so that we wouldn’t run into each other during the walk, the second group didn’t even begin the tour until a little after 7:00p.m. With my two young children with us, we were planning on spending the estimated hour and a half tour and then getting home at a decent bedtime around 8:00p.m. This definitely did not happen. The kids ended up having to stop the tour early and head back to the car with their Nana.

Our tour guide was an older white-haired gentleman who was lugging around a video camera. He had no real idea of where he was supposed to lead us, and relied heavily on a quickly drawn map he kept in his shirt pocket. He wasn’t much of a tour guide, and was more concerned about getting a nice shot from his video camera than letting the actors do what they do best. At just about every stop, he would direct the actors to move from where they planned to give their talk and come “closer into the light”. By the end, when he actually made the Marshall take ‘Mountain’ Tom out of jail for his portion of the scene, I was pretty annoyed.

Because the actors are working just from a character biography and not from a set script, I feel that some of the facts were overlooked and not mentioned during many of the scenes. There was not enough emphasis on the fact that these stops along the tour were the exact (or close to it) spots where these events unfolded back in 1872.

The second to final scene (which I felt should have been the final scene) depicted the mob dragging “Mountain” Tom to be lynched. The first tour group was about 10 minutes ahead of us, and when they watched this scene it actually ended with the Florence Police Department sending three squad cars to see what was going on. Apparently, someone outside of the tour didn’t know what was happening and was a bit frightened by the mob scene and the fake guns that were drawn. They phoned 911 reporting some sort of fight.

In summary, while there are several improvements that could be made to tighten things up, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and learned a lot about these local historical figures.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Pickwick Belle

The Pickwick Belle is an old-time paddle riverboat that offers musically themed dinner cruises on the Tennessee River. Back in May, the riverboat made Florence Harbor here in the Shoals it's home port after moving from Pickwick, Tennessee.

The boat offers several public sightseeing tours that include holiday-related cruises, family nights, fall-foliage tours and pirate, murder-mystery and wine-tasting events. Of all the tours offered, the most popular is the country legends comedy tour, coming at the end of August, where performers sing and perform music and commercial jingles from the '40s, '50s and '60s. In addition to sightseeing cruises, the Pickwick Belle will be available for special-occasion rentals, including birthdays or anniversaries, as well as dinner cruises and themed cruises.

Prices typically range from $7 to $60 depending on the type of cruise, menu and entertainment involved.

The two-deck Belle has capacity for 149 people. The vessel is 90 feet long, 20 feet wide and has a 1,000-square-foot dining room. It includes a captain, hospitality director, three sailors, two chefs and three attendants. The bottom deck is enclosed and temperature controlled and the top deck is covered but has open sides.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Calling All Thespians

Auditions for the Stephen Sondheim musical COMPANY will be held Tuesday, June 23, 7:00PM at the Shoals Theatre. Singing roles are available for 5 couples (appearing to be in their late 20's to late 30's) and three women (same age range) who will perform as a trio and soloists. Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script and vocal selections from the score. An accompanist will be provided. There are no parts for children and there is no chorus. This is the opening show of the 2009-2010 season. Production dates are September 10-13. Alan Flowers is directing. For more information call 764-1700 and leave message.

Being involved in this theater is so rewarding and so much fun! It's a great way to get involved in your community and act with some talented people Don't be shy! Auditions for Zodiac Players productions are always open to all members of the community and newcomers are encouraged.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Feed the Family Friday

Want to go out to dinner while supporting your local community? Tonight is Feed the Family Friday in Sheffield. Proceeds benefit Shoals Family Success Center. Here are the details.

When: Friday,June 12 4 – 7 PM
Where: Sheffield Recreation Center-2901 19th Ave (across from high school)
What: BBQ Chicken Dinners catered by Whole Hog Express
Cost: $8/ plate

Meal includes ½ chicken, beans, potato salad, roll, drink & dessert
Dine In or Carry Out
Advance tickets available at
  • Sheffield Recreation Center, Sheffield
  • Bank Independent, 710 S. Montgomery Avenue, Sheffield
  • Shoals Family Success Center, 300 Industry Street, Florence
For more information, call 765-0033 or email info@shoalsfamily.net

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Shoals Young Professionals Association

Are you a young professional looking for an opportunity to network? Shoals Young Professionals Association is the prefect place for you to get to know people in the Shoals. These are the goals taken from the SYPA website:

Our Goals :

• To improve the networking and interpersonal skills of our members
• To allow members to develop a working knowledge of the community’s business environment
• To promote our members and their respective businesses
• To retain young professionals in the Shoals area
• To enhance the overall quality of life for our members and the community we serve

SYPA has events each month and sometimes more frequently. They are always entertaining and provide a great place to meet new people and catch up with those you already know. They also provide opportunities to serve your community through fund raisers and charity events.

Today SYPA is celebrating its third anniversary! First of all, congratulations to this organization for their continued growth. What they are doing is improving the lives of the younger Shoals residents. Networking isn't just for your parents anymore. You would be surprised at the connections you can make at these events.

If you have already joined SYPA, good for you! I hope you'll be at the event tonight. If not, tonight would be the perfect opportunity for you to get out and see what you've been missing. Here are the details of tonight's events:

When: Thursday, June 11 5:30-7:30pm
Where: Rosie's Cantina downtown Florence

For more information about SYPA, please visit their website and don't be afraid to contact them. They are some really nice people!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Learning

If you are looking for a way to help your kids keep up with their learning during the summer, you should check out the University of North Alabama Continuing Education website. They offer classes for younger children in Kindergarten all the way up to pre-teens. We sent our child to their engineering class this year and a space class in years past. Their instructors are well qualified and fun. The activities are varied and are so much fun that the kids forget they're learning!

There are some availabilities in the youth classes for next week. Below are the available classes. be sure to register ASAP to insure you get a spot.

  • A Taste of Ballroom Dance (Grades 6-8)
  • Art Exploration (Grades K-1)
  • Explore the Continents (Grades 2-3)
  • Quilting for Children (Ages 7-13)
  • LEGO® Elementary Engineering (Ages 8-12)
If you are interested in these classes, call 256-765-5987 or visit their website.

Now if you're looking for something for yourself, they also have classes for adults. I've taken a few computer-based classes and have gotten a lot out of them. Again, the instructors are very well qualified. The prices range from under a hundred to about $200 depending on the materials they provide. Make sure you check with your employer about compensation, too. If you can use the skills you will learn on the job, chances are your bosses might be willing to pay for the class. Check out their class directory to see if there is something you want to try.

Sweet Basil Cafe

It's close to lunch time and I'm getting hungry. My first thought is of Sweet Basil Cafe and their delicious Red White & Bleu salad. I promise I don't know the people who own Sweet Basil and I am in no way obligated to say that I love this place. And I do love this place. I've been eating at Sweet Basil since I arrived in Florence over seven years ago. And I can honestly say that I have never had a bad experience here, either.

First of all, their lunch menu is diverse and will suit just about any pallet. From sandwiches to soups to salads, this menu boasts fresh ingredients and wonderful flavor combinations. And men, don't be put off by the soup, sandwich, salad offering. Their sandwich selection includes very hearty choices that will fill any belly.

Aside from the every-day menu, Sweet Basil offers a weekly menu that always gets my mouth watering. We have it faxed to our office, but you can check it out online and have it delivered to your email inbox. After sampling these gourmet specialties, I guarantee you will watch the menu like a hawk to make sure you never miss your favorite dish. Mine is the tomato shrimp stack and I'm sad that it is only served very rarely. In fact I haven't seen it in over a year. But I'm always hopeful. Some other favorites are the Kobe beef burger and the shrimp burger.

Now let's talk about their grocery selection. I love to cook for fun and try out new recipes. The problem with that in the Shoals area is there is a shortage of grocery stores with a good selection. I have found, though, that Sweet Basil carries a variety of ingredients that will complete nearly any recipe. From Asian sauces and oils to hard-to-find pastas and gourmet jellies that will compliment any cheese, Sweet Basil has it. They also have a large selection of wines that you can pair with any meal. Do you have a wedding shower or house warming party to attend? Pick out a basket and fill it with sauces, rubs, wines, jellies, cheeses, pastas and even kitchen utensils that any chef or non-chef will enjoy. You don't have to have experience to use these ingredients.

Sweet Basil also caters events large and small. Give them a call to plan your next event. And if you are looking to improve your culinary skills, be on the lookout for Sweet Basil's next cooking class. They will teach you techniques that will make cooking faster and easier.