Year of Small Towns & Downtowns Launch Slated for March 9

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More than 200 towns and cities will stage “Great Alabama Homecoming” events and unveil historic markers in 2010 as part of the Year of Small Towns & Downtowns, Gov. Bob Riley announced.

Having grown up in a small town, I know that many people who moved away will enjoy coming back home to see neighbors and classmates they went to school with

More than 200 towns and cities will stage “Great Alabama Homecoming” events and unveil historic markers in 2010 as part of the Year of Small Towns & Downtowns, Gov. Bob Riley announced today.

The Governor will officially launch the tourism campaign Tuesday, March 9 at the RSA Activity Center in Montgomery. The homecomings will continue through mid-December with a majority of the events taking place in the summer.

“Communities will welcome former residents to participate in food, crafts and music events that celebrate each town’s unique characteristics,” Riley said. Historic markers written by local historians and provided by the Alabama Tourism Department will be unveiled, he said.

A total of 215 communities, ranging in size from Mooresville, population 54, to Birmingham, population 300,000, have scheduled events throughout the calendar.

Riley 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. Huntsville will recognize the 50th anniversary of the NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center, Talladega, its 175th birthday, and Lincoln’s centennial.

“Having grown up in a small town, I know that many people who moved away will enjoy coming back home to see neighbors and classmates they went to school with,” Riley said.

Riley said the statewide celebration is reminiscent of the 1989 Alabama reunion that was held during the Guy Hunt administration, but is more focused in small towns. He thanks the Alabama League of Municipalities and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama for encouraging the state’s mayors and business groups to agree to participate.

The governor urged Alabamians to make a note of the dates of their local event and invite friends and family.

“The 2010 promotion will be the seventh yearlong tourism campaign during the Riley administration to focus on specific themes. Programs on arts and food captured national marketing awards,” the governor said. Gardens, outdoors, sports and history were in the spotlight during other years.

Additional groups supporting the program are 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 “Great Alabama Homecoming” Web site at http://www.alabamahomecoming.com.

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Edith parten