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CONTACT: Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association
PHONE: 256.350.3500 / 800.648.5381
Cook Museum of Natural Science Named Attraction of the Year
Decatur, Ala. (September 24, 2020) - The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) has honored Cook Museum of Natural Science (https://www.cookmuseum.org/) as the 2020 Attraction of the Year. The award is among 11 that comprise the 2020 PEAK Awards that were presented today during the AMLA Annual Meeting at 210 At The Tracks in Gadsden, 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. Approximately five years ago, the Cook family of Decatur embarked on a new journey to build a state of the art natural science museum in downtown Decatur, Ala. This $32 million museum opened in June 2019 with a focus on the wonders of the Earth and has had a significant impact on downtown Decatur in terms of economic development and tourism. With no other facility of this kind in the city, the Cook Museum of Natural Science has attracted new foot traffic to the downtown area who would not ordinarily visit, turning downtown Decatur into a tourism destination. Local businesses have felt the impact immediately and are benefiting from the increase in foot traffic and revenue.
Just this year, the Cook Museum became the new home to a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the rarest species of the sea turtle. This turtle is named Kale. Kale came to the museum from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Kale, while still a juvenile, was hooked by a recreational fisherman off a pier on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia in 2019 Due to the size of the hook, an endoscopic procedure could not remove the hook and several invasive surgeries were required. His wound did not fully heal and created scar tissue and a fistula, a hollow space where food and debris can get trapped and cause infections. Due to these complications, Kale is a non-releasable sea turtle. The Cook Museum staff and veterinarians now monitor his condition and give him the care he needs to have a chance at a long and happy life.
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 showcase the work, service, creativity and contributions of those who are leading the way in the North Alabama tourism industry,” said Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association President/CEO Tami Reist. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, it has been and continues to be a challenging year for the tourism industry. This year’s winners have demonstrated a commitment like no other to showcase the best of North Alabama during these unprecedented times. It is a well-deserved win for each of the recipients.”
The 2020 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: Land Trust of North Alabama
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: Apollo 50th Anniversary Celebration
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: Cook Museum of Natural Science
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: Philip Formby, operations director, Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheatre
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: Haley Newton, facilities operator, Joe Wheeler State Park
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: Maryanne Floyd, communications director, Decatur Morgan County Tourism
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: Pete Doyle, general manager, Holiday Inn Research 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: Scotty Kennedy, curator, Red Bay Museum
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: Fred Hunter, Absolutely Alabama
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: Hilda Smith, director of sales and events, Hampton Inn by Hilton, Winfield, Ala.
Jana Kuner, public relations and customer service manager, Huntsville International Airport
Mindy Hanan, president/CEO, Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association
Top North Alabama Ambassador of the Year
The award recognizes the work and achievements of the top performing North Alabama Ambassador in 2020.
Winner: Zenovia Stephens, Huntsville, Ala. (@blackadventurecrew)
Images of award recipients are available upon request by calling AMLA at 800.648.5381 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 www.NorthAlabama.org. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @VisitNorthAL and like us at www.facebook.com/VisitNorthAL.