Thursday, November 6, 2014

Some of the best moments in life are spontaneous and unexpected by John Dersham

I had a wonderful gratifying happenstance last Saturday...or maybe it was meant to be. I have had an exhibit of my fine art B&W photography at the JSU Canyon Center at Little River Canyon N.P., since it opened in 2009. The print on the wall in this picture has been a part of this show much of the time. I change the pictures every now and then. This picture is of Paul C Marsh General Store in Locust Fork, AL. I shot this on 8x10 film in 1991. The family store closed a few years later and I had not seen the owners since I took this picture. I went to the Canyon Center today to attend Canyon Fest which comes the first Saturday in November each year. As I and family arrived from the parking lot into the building where my prints are on display a gentleman asked me if I was John Dersham.  I said yes and he explained he was Dan Marsh, the person in my picture of the general store. Since 23 years had passed it took me a moment to recognize him. He had seen me on Absolutely Alabama TV show recently and was told the now somewhat famous picture of him and his wife inside the general store was on display at the Canyon Center. He had never been there. In addition, several people have taken pictures of this picture on the wall and put it on social media with comments about them being related to the owner or having been in the store as a kid or working there, anyhow the Marsh's knew this print was here. I had sent them a darkroom print of this image years ago, just after I took the picture, but today they came to see it on display and it was a thrill to see Mr. Marsh again. He explained his wife had passed away a number of years ago. The thrill of this story is he had no idea he'd see me but he and his son and daughter-in-law brought with them the original painting Mrs. Marsh was painting in the picture I took.  In addition, they brought a painting she did later of my photograph. I never knew she made this painting of the photo. So in this picture taken with my smart phone is Dan Marsh, who in the original 8x10 film picture is standing behind the counter on the right and his wife painting the one in my current photograph and also shown is one she painted later of my B&W photograph. This was an honor and a whole lot of fun. Dan Marsh, his dad Paul C. Marsh and their family operated this store for 50 years. The building was built in 1931, the Marsh family bought it in 1945 and father and son and family members worked there and operated the store through 1994. This has been a popular photograph for me, mostly because of the all “Americana” look and feel of a time that has mostly passed away. When I was a young man starting photography, 50 plus years ago, scenes like this were more common. By 1991 when I took this image, scenes like this were becoming quite rare. There are still some places like this and if you know of one I’d love to photograph it on 8x10 film like I did this one.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mentone's Annual Colorfest by Kayla Worthey

For more than 30 years, the Annual Colorfest has drawn thousands of people to Mentone’s little village causing it to come to life with artists, musicians, local chefs, visiting patrons, and even nature seems to respond.  They come to drink in the cool, crisp mountain air, admire the glory of the fall foliage, and enjoy the festivities. Set for October 17-19, 2014, Colorfest brings together many different forms of art, the sounds of live music, fabulous foods and other family-friendly activities as Mother Nature sets the stage for a spectacular autumn season.

Colorfest will kick off with its traditional Friday night Fish Fry and bonfire hosted by One World Adventure at the Mentone Inn backyard pavilion from 3:30pm to 7pm. Cost is $10 each and includes a heaping plate of fresh catfish, Dave’s hushpuppies, homemade slaw, drink and dessert. Hang around and enjoy a two-hour tribute to the Beatles by David Lusk from 8pm to 10pm. Bring your lawn chair and/or blanket.

Get up early Saturday and “get your run on” at the Color Craze 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run before the festival. Participants will enjoy a scenic route beginning at Mason Park while being doused with colored powder.  Registration begins at 7am with the first wave of runners starting at 7:50am. Be sure to admire the Scarecrow Holler display while you are at Mason Park and go back to vote for your favorite handmade scarecrow during festival hours.

On Saturday morning, gates open at 9 a.m. to a glorious display of arts and crafts from over 70 premier artists and craftsmen in Brow Park, which offers perhaps the most spectacularly breathtaking bluff views in Mentone.

Exciting, down-home mountain music fills the air with the “Sounds of Mentone” – 2 days of a steady stream of music from some very talented local musicians. Live music will keep festivalgoers on their toes throughout the weekend with a line-up of energetic and professional local musicians that include Taylor Poff, Marc Womack, Ryan Keefe, Jerry Bloom, Jordan Brown, Jared Cushen, Jess Goggans, Silvia Constantino, Lisa Crow, Larry Joe Hall, Terry Hutcheson and David Lusk, all slated to perform at the Brow Park pavilion.

This year they bring an additional blast of local talent to the festival in the form of singers and musicians from area schools. These young performers will be on stage throughout the weekend at the Children’s Festival – located in the side parking lot of Kamama Gallery. Performers include Hannah Blansit, Taylor Henderson, Bri Wells, Abigail Goolesby, The Fowler Sisters, The Inputs, Moon Lake Chorus, Chris Robert’s Jazz Group and winners of the Singing with the Stars competition, Kenadie Lee, Payton Sells and Tatum Campbell.

Another new addition to The Children’s Festival will be The Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama. Along with pony rides, pumpkin bowling, glitter tattoos, cookie decoration and a dunking booth where festivalgoers have the opportunity to soak their favorite (or maybe least favorite?) politician or other community leader, you should have plenty to enjoy while at The Children’s Festival.

Be sure to browse the entire town at your leisure when you go. There are lots of shops, boutiques and unique places to discover.  Catch a ride in a horse drawn carriage near brow park and then head into town to enjoy some fantastic fall displays set up by many businesses that are participating in the Pumpkin Patch Jubilee decorating contest.

Look for the "Taste of Mentone" signs when your tummy starts talkin'! During festival hours, the Taste of Mentone participants will give you an opportunity to taste some of the best cuisine in the south!

The Mentone Business Association (MBA) is overseeing a free family friendly scavenger hunt that will lead you all over town in search of clues that offer a treat with each one found. If you complete the game, you can qualify to win a cash prize. You can visit MBA’s booth at the festival to register and get game rules. 

Festival hours are 9am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday. Handouts will be available at various locations around the Town of Mentone and will include a full schedule of events as well as a guide map. Admission is free, so bring the whole family and enjoy the festivities and the beautiful fall season.

Colorfest is presented by Mentone Area Preservation Association and sponsored by Jet Polymer Recycling, DeKalb Tourism, Skelton Orthodontics, Kamama Gallery, Wildflower CafĂ©, Mentone Realty, Custom Home Designs, First State Bank, Dixie Salvage, First Fidelity Bank, Wilson Funeral Home & Crematory, Accel Graphics, The Citizens Bank, Bruce’s Foodland, Westmoreland Tire, Valley Head Drugs, BJ Foodmart, Mountain Top Country Store and Mentone Camps (Desoto, Laney, Skyline, Riverview, and Alpine).

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy 125th Birthday and Best Boom Days ever by John Dersham

This is all about a 125th City of Fort Payne birthday celebration with Mayor Chesser cutting the cake, a Hula Hoop lady, a Yo Yo guy and Frisbee Dogs; all professionals and all providing entertaining demonstrations, all day. There was a Fort Payne movie Premier of “Muscle Shoals” and a grand “Wet Willie” finale with an enthusiastic crowd watching a group of great performers pouring out every ounce of energy and excitement possible into their music. Included in the Thursday evening premier of Muscle Shoals the movie was a guest discussion panel consisting of Muscle Shoals talent including David Hood and Jimmy Johnson of the famed studio band, The Swampers. There was Russell and Dennis Gulley of Jackson Highway fame, Pierce Pettis who was a staff writer at Muscle Shoals Sound Publishing and Dick Cooper, long time writer and photographer at Muscle Shoals Sound and the current curator of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in the Shoals.
These things were just a part of the best Boom Days ever. The weather was perfect and a good crowd was achieved by the official opening at 10 A.M. There was solid music all day with 34 acts on six stages including Wet Willie. The music began at 10 AM and ended when Jimmy Hall and the Wet Willie gang left the stage around 10 P.M. The high quality of the music was just one element of this very special Boom Days, after all, it was also our city’s 125 Birthday Celebration and a fun celebration it was. For me and many of the people I talked to as I strolled the Boom Days event from pre-opening till closing it was the best Boom Days ever.  The Boom Days committee did it right. They blended fine art, crafts, music, with special events in the Opera Block with museum exhibits (Sacred Songs) Depot Museum and annex, with Wine tasting, a quilt show. Katie Sunshine the professional Hula Hoop exhibition artist and Matt Mullins the Duncan Yo Yo expert took their show to various parts of the Boom Days route from Gault Ave. to City Park and the Rotary Pavilion. You could not miss these experts if you were with us at Boom Days.  There were Dean’s Disc Dogs-wow is all I can say. These Border Collies had one and only one focus…catch the Frisbee (Disc) no matter where the master throws it. Another exhibit had a demonstration of a Border collie herding sheep. There were lots of food and fun times everywhere. I was amazed at the diversity of the event list. There was so much going on everywhere all the time that no matter where you were from 1st street through the 5th block, from City Park down 5th to the Alabama Walking Park and Rotary Pavilion there was entertainment, vendors, artists and demonstrations. I never had a dull moment all day.
Since I am in tourism for a living I tend to judge our success by our ability to bring people from out of town. Cities that have festivals get a lot more tax revenue if out of towner’s come in and spend the night, buy gas, eat and according to nationwide tourism research a tourist will spend more money on retail shopping while traveling than they do at home. This means they are more likely to buy a piece of art at Boom Days than a local person would. This was the best year ever for out of town visitors attending Boom Days. Judging from visitors in our information center, our lodging partners at hotels, cabins, B&B and campgrounds and from on the street conversations it is our estimate that of the 7,000 thru 8,000 visitors over the course of Boom Days week 30% of them were from out of town and half of them spent at least one night in area lodging. This equates to a lot of tourism expenditures in our city and county. DeKalb Tourism will see the real numbers in a couple months as our state collects the sales and lodging tax numbers for this period.
Everyone I talked to had a really fun time at the 9th annual Boom Days Heritage Festival and that in itself makes it a wonderful thing to offer to our community. A special thanks to Mayor Chesser and the Fort Payne City Council for supporting and participating in this wonderful annual event.  Happy 125th Anniversary Fort Payne.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fort Payne Boom Days Heritage Festival by John Dersham

One thing for sure, there is always plenty to do in DeKalb County. If you don’t think so or don’t try to follow just take a look at our Calendar of Events listed on our DeKalb Tourism website at The first thing you will think when you see our list of events is you had no idea there would be so many offerings all year long. Our focus here is the ninth annual Fort Payne Boom Days Heritage Festival. This event emanates out of the rich cultural history of Fort Payne. In 1889, wealthy New Englanders mostly from Boston came to Fort Payne to establish an Iron and Coal industry. In doing so they brought their culture to us…an Opera House, large Victorian homes, a much better than average railroad station, a fantastic hotel and many beautiful downtown buildings. Many Boom Days era buildings still exist today. Boom day’s festival takes place in the historic area of downtown Fort Payne. It incorporates the 1889 Iron and Coal block, the city park which was the former front yard for the DeKalb Hotel which burned in 1918. The railroad station, the Alabama walking park and Rotary Amphitheater are all included, including several blocks of downtown from 1st to 5th streets. Boom Days which has events beginning on Sunday, September 14th with the Joe Underwood Gospel singing at the Ft. Payne City Hall Auditorium at 3 P.M. and terminating on Saturday the 20th with a full day of more than 30 music acts on six stages. On Thursday, September 18th the highly successful movie Muscle Shoals will be featured in the DeKalb Theater at 7 P.M. with a meet and greet with legendary Shoals artists Jimmy Johnson and David Hood. New features this year include Katie Sunshine a Hula Hoop dancer extraordinaire, Dean’s High Flying Disc Dogs and Matt Mullins from Duncan Yo-yo will demonstrate and teach you how to REALLY use your Yo-yo. In addition, you will see top notch artisans from oil painting to wood carving, pottery and glass, and the list goes on. There will be lots of food and beverages including a beer garden and wine tasting at Hunt Hall. There is a classic car show, kid’s inflatables and much, much more. This festival has so many things going on you need to stay the whole day because the entertainment and venues are changing all day long. The event concludes Saturday night with legendary Wet Willie performing at the DeKalb Theater at 8 P.M.
Last year Boom Days Heritage Festival won two major awards. These awards are hard to get. There are more than 300 festivals competing just in North Alabama each year and thousands in the southeast region. Southeast Tourism Society who covers the 12 state southeast honored Boom Days with the fall event of the year and Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association (northern 16 counties in AL) honored Boom Days with the Festival or Event of the year award. The criteria include quality and diversity of the agenda, it must be unique and it must support the integrity of the community.
You will not want to miss Boom Days Heritage Festival 2014 on Saturday, September 20th starting at 8 A.M. and running all day on into the evening. For all the details about the event and the schedule of events and musical artists visit

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fyffe’s Tribute to Flying Objects Set for August 23

Fort Payne, Ala. – In 1989, numerous sightings of unidentified flying objects throughout Fyffe led the small community to be known as the UFO Capital of the World, and later to be recognized by the state as the UFO Capital of Alabama. As a tribute, the community comes together to host the Fyffe UFO Day Festival. Now in its tenth year, the Fyffe UFO Day Festival is an unforgettable family outing celebration where the only flying objects spotted over Sand Mountain are colorful hot-air balloons.

Set for August 23, 2014, the UFO Day Festival offers plenty of colorful, giant balloons, arts and crafts, games for children, a 5k run, an antique car and tractor show, an assortment of food vendors, and live music throughout the day. Slated to perform are The Sharp’s Quartet, The Southern Mountain Band, Still Kickin’, Jacob Stiefel and the Truth, B-Sharp Band, Smokin’ Guns, The Big Band and others. Gates open at 9 a.m. but festivalgoers are encouraged to arrive around 6 a.m. to watch hot air balloons launch and float away.

New for this year is the Fyffe UFO Day 5K. Registration begins at 7 a.m. with the race getting underway at 8 a.m. Registration is available online at Cost is $25 in advance or $30 day of race. Proceeds will go toward a practice facility for the Fyffe cheerleaders.

Hot-air balloon rides across the Sand Mountain area are available, weather permitting, by advance reservation only. For more information, visit or call 256.461.8612 or send an email to

Hours are 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. at the Fyffe Town Park on Graves Street. All activities are held at the Fyffe Town Park on Graves Street unless noted otherwise. Parking and admission is free. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets.

For more information on UFO Day Festival, call DeKalb Tourism at 888.805.4740 or visit

About DeKalb Tourism
DeKalb Tourism is a not-for-profit organization promoting tourism and economic growth in DeKalb County. Our mission includes to provide outstanding customer service to all guests; to provide complete and detailed information about DeKalb County, its history and attractions; to leave visitors with a positive experience; to develop strong positive long term relationships with the people and businesses of our communities; and to be a leader in the education and promotion of our county, locally, nationwide and internationally.