CONTACT: Karen Beasley, Director of Marketing & Communications

Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association

PHONE: 256.350.3500 / 800.648.5381



AMLA Announces 2023 PEAK Award Winners


Decatur, Ala. (September 21, 2023) - The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) announces the recipients of the 2023 PEAK Awards. The program pays tribute to tourism leaders, attractions, festivals and organizations that set the bar for North Alabama’s $4.3 billion tourism industry. The awards presentation is part of the AMLA Annual Meeting held today at Lake Guntersville State Park in Guntersville, Ala.

Representing the highest achievement in North Alabama tourism, the PEAK Awards honor individuals, attractions, events and organizations that have had a major impact on the travel and tourism industry in North Alabama. “With the PEAK Awards, we celebrate and recognize the best of the best in the North Alabama tourism industry. These individuals and organizations go beyond the call of duty to enhance the visitors’ experiences and are the reason the tourism and travel industry continues to be a driving force in North Alabama’s economy,” said AMLA President/CEO Tami Reist.  

Eleven awards were handed out at the awards presentation, held during the annual meeting. This year’s award winners are:

Organization of the Year

The Organization of the Year award is presented to the AMLA member organization that has contributed significantly to the betterment and development of tourism in North Alabama in the past year.

Winner: Tennessee RiverLine  


Event of the Year

The Event of the Year award is presented to the AMLA member special event or festival that has made a great contribution to tourism in the past year.

Winner: Rock the South  


Attraction of the Year

The Attraction of the Year award is presented to the AMLA member attraction that has made a great contribution to tourism in the past year.

Winner:  Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater


Good Neighbor Award

The “Good Neighbor” Friend of Tourism Award is presented to a person or organization whose body of work has had a significant impact on tourism in the past year.

Winner: Julie Patton, Guntersville Museum 


Northern Star Award

The Northern Star Award is presented to an individual, such as a ranger, guide and a front line employee, who has gone “above and beyond” expectations.

Winner: Tim and Kim Horton, Willow Oak Lodge   


Young Professional of the Year Award

The Young Professional of the Year “Green Apple Award” is awarded to a person who has been in the tourism business less than seven years and has exhibited extraordinary leadership skills and initiative associated with their position.

Winner: Blaze Bishop, Franklin County Chamber of Commerce 


Tourism Professional of the Year

The Tourism Professional of the Year award is presented to an individual or employee of an AMLA member organization who has made a great contribution to tourism in the past year.

Winner: Danielle Gibson, Decatur Morgan County Tourism  


Lasting Impression Award

The Lasting Impression Award is presented to an attraction, event, person or organization that has provided a “lasting impression” on tourists thereby improving the overall image of tourism in North Alabama. 

Winner: Jim and Faye Lacefield, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve


Chairman’s Cup

The Chairman’s Cup Award is given annually to a travel writer or media person who has over time demonstrated support of AMLA, the region and its tourism activities.

Winner: Payton Walker, Tennessee Valley Living on WAFF 48 


President’s Award

The President’s Award is presented to any person or organization whose tourism-related project created awareness or presented a positive image for North Alabama in the past year.

Winner: Angie Pierce, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association     


North Alabama Ambassador of the Year

The award recognizes the work and achievements of a top performing North Alabama Ambassador in the past year.

Winner: Jennifer Clark, Berry, Ala. 


In addition to the PEAK Awards, six individuals have been named a North Alabama “String of Pearls” leader. The “String of Pearls” award was created to recognize North Alabama’s cornerstone professionals in the tourism and travel industry. In 1960, Dick Ordway, Decatur Chamber of Commerce Director and one of the visionaries and founders of AMLA said, “Even back then we saw North Alabama had a number of quality destinations laid out across the region next to the Tennessee River like a string of pearls.” His efforts were the cornerstone for the creation of AMLA and his vision is what the “string of pearls” recognition is based on. Honorees are:

John Dersham, executive director, DeKalb Tourism

Trisa Collier, welcome center administrator, Alabama Tourism Department

Leigh Cross, Alabama Tourism Department

Debbie Wilson, executive director, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios

Katy Norton, president, Marshall County Tourism and Sports

Leslie Ecklund, CEO, Burritt on the Mountain


Images of award recipients are available upon request by calling AMLA at 800.648.5381 or by sending an email to



About Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA)

AMLA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and development of the $4.3 billion North Alabama travel industry within the 16 northernmost counties of the state. It is supported by 500-plus members consisting of chambers of commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureaus, attractions, campgrounds, festivals, communities, golf courses, restaurants, accommodations and vendors. Counties included within the AMLA region are Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan and Winston. Additional information on North Alabama destinations, accommodations and special events is available by calling 800.648.5381, by visiting and by following us on social media @VisitNorthAL.