CONTACT: Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association
PHONE: 256.350.3500 / 800.648.5381

Cathedral Caverns State Park Named Attraction of the Year

Decatur, Ala. (September 23, 2021) - The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) has honored Cathedral Caverns State Park ( as the 2021 Attraction of the Year. The award is among 12 that comprise the 2021 PEAK Awards that were presented today during the AMLA Annual Meeting at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center in Florence, Ala.

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. Cathedral Caverns has been a must see for school field trips for many years, with attendance numbers reaching 40,000 annually. Visitors and locals alike enjoy the cooling sensation of descending underground to observe some of the most amazing natural formations found anywhere. In the past two years the Caverns have become more than just a quick tour for school groups and the occasional visitors and has become a popular destination for competitive runs. Starting in November 2019 with a 5K race that brought over 600 participants, the Caverns saw that having a race where the final stretch takes you inside a cave was a huge draw and an opportunity to build an entirely new audience for the underground wonder. A half-marathon followed in March 2021 and attracted 687 participants from 29 states producing an economic impact of over $161,000 for Marshall County. 

With the addition of both a spring and fall race, the caverns continue to expand, opening a selection of tiny cabins for overnight guests and improving their campground facilities both located onsite. These additions allow the caverns to become a contributor to the growing lodging tax revenue for Marshall County and provide additional options for overnight guests who want to experience the great outdoors.

Representing the highest achievement in North Alabama tourism, the PEAK Awards honor individuals, events and organizations that have had a major impact on tourism in North Alabama. “The PEAK Awards recognize the best of North Alabama’s tourism and travel industry, and this year’s nominees and winners have all done an exemplary job in delivering an exceptional visitor experience,” said AMLA President/CEO Tami Reist. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still in the forefront, it continues to be challenging times for our industry and I want to take this time to celebrate our local tourism leaders, attractions, festivals and front-line workers who all work tirelessly during these unprecedented times.”  

The 2021 awards and 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:  Athens Main Street

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:  Piney Chapel Farm Heritage Days

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:  Cathedral Caverns State Park
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:  Lee Pitts, Pitts Outdoors 

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:  Katrina Cope, Holiday Inn Express (Gadsden)
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:  Haley Rutland, Marshall County Tourism and Sports
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: Anna Mullican, Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center and Park

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:  Lucy Orr, Downtown Turtle Trail (Decatur)
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:  Connie Pearson, travel writer and blogger 

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. 

Winners:     K.R. Yedla, Ph.D., chairman and founder, Yedla Management Company
                   Senator Tom Butler
                   Ewell Smith, volunteer, Athens, Ala.
It Only Takes A Spark Award 
The award recognizes an individual or organization who is igniting change and making a positive impact on the tourism industry in North Alabama through their initiative, creativity and spirit.

Winner:  Rocket City Trash Pandas
Top North Alabama Ambassador of the Year
The award recognizes the work and achievements of the top performing North Alabama Ambassador in the past year.

Winner:  Cody Hood, Addison, Ala. (@ensaneoutdoors)

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 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, counties, golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, accommodations, vendors, financial institutions and individuals. 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 or by visiting Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @VisitNorthAL and like us at