Sweet Home Alabama in New York City

Sweet Home Alabama in New York City

PHOTO: DeKalb County Tourism Executive Director John Dersham with his granddaughter Tristan (16) at the Alabama Department of Travel and Tourism's Little River Canyon Exhibit in New York City. (John Dersham | DeKalb County Toursim)

Contributed by Tristan Dersham, on behalf of DeKalb County Tourism

NEW YORK CITY, NY — So cool, during the week of June 12 I accompanied my grandfather, John Dersham to the “big apple” for one of the most exciting weeks ever.

The state of Alabama Department of Travel and Tourism was having a week of high profile promotions to attract visitors to Alabama. New York is the perfect place to promote; think about it, eight million residents and thousands upon thousands of visitors from all around the United States and the world at any given time.

Many people do not perceive Alabama to look like it does. This promotion, and ones from the last several years, focuses on giving potential visitors a clearer vision of who we are, what we have to offer and how our landscape looks. Last year there was a sugar white Alabama beach scene set up where people could have their picture taken on an Alabama beach with Sweet Home Alabama embedded in the picture.

Many of the visitors to the Alabama Beach in NYC did not realize Alabama had beaches and they were impressed by the pure white sand and rich blue skies of our Gulf Coast setting. Due to the success of this promotion, it was decided by the Alabama tourism department to show the world we have mountains and a very deep canyon too. This is where my grandpa and I come in.

Grandpa is President/CEO of tourism for DeKalb County, home of Little River Canyon National Preserve on Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne. The Director of tourism for the state, Lee Sentell, invited my grandpa to serve as an ambassador for the Little River Canyon promotions which included a 20 story tall photograph adhered to the side of a building near Madison Square Garden.

It was breathtaking when we walked around the corner of 34th and 8th Avenues and there it was…gigantic, colorful, and all lit up. It made us feel so proud of our state and our area. Just think, Little River Canyon in New York City, wow, it was a spot of bright green in a seemingly  never ending mile after mile of shades of gray and black. Thousands of people are here on the streets walking around night and day and there is no way to miss this gigantic view of Little River Canyon.

In addition to the skyscraper art, a miniature Lookout Mountain was built at the Flatiron North Plaza. The miniature mountain was about the size of an average living room. You would climb steps to the top and at the top you put on 3D goggles to view a 360 degree virtual Little River Canyon video. I could not believe the sensation I had as I turned around 360 degrees looking at the canyon as if floating in the sky above the canyon looking all around, up and down feeling like I was walking about the green lush forests below.

Everyone loved it. There were lines all day to see it; in fact, we stayed an hour later than planned just to allow the line to go down. Once visitors viewed the video, they were invited to have their picture taken in front of the mountain with the Empire State building in the background. They were emailed their picture with Sweet Home Alabama in New York embedded in the image. People from all around the world came to see Little River Canyon in New York City and they all were impressed. They said they’d like to visit Alabama and many who have never been to Alabama were in disbelief, we did not look at all like they imagined.

Another Alabama tourism, “Sweet Home Alabama” event during the week included a media event in Brooklyn to show and sample the Alabama Kraft Breweries. The 360 video of Little River Canyon was shown there too. On another day, a large Mobile Marti Gras Float was in Times Square, there was a live jazz band and costumed dancers. Large crowds gathered to celebrate the oldest and the original Marti Gras, which began in Mobile, in 1703.

My grandpa and I took lots of pictures and shared them on social media all during the week to help get the word out even more. This was a very successful week with thousands and thousands more people getting to witness our, “real” Alabama. I think they will come see us!