CONTACT: Karen Beasley, Director of Marketing & Communications
Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association
PHONE: 256.350.3500 / 800.648.5381

Rock the South Named North Alabama’s Event of the Year

Decatur, Ala. (September 21, 2023) - The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) has honored Rock the South with the 2023 Event of the Year award. The award is among 11 that comprise the 2023 PEAK Awards that were presented today at the AMLA Annual Meeting held at Lake Guntersville State Park in Guntersville, Ala.

Representing the highest achievement in North Alabama tourism, the PEAK Awards program pays tribute to tourism leaders, attractions, festivals and organizations that set the bar for North Alabama’s $4.3 billion tourism industry. 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.

Originally intended to be a one-year celebration of recovery from the tornado outbreak across the state of Alabama April 27, 2011, Rock the South has continued to expand to become a massive celebration of the Cullman area and what it has to offer. Since the first event in 2012, Rock the South has given away nearly a million dollars to multiple community partners including Cullman City Parks and Recreation, The Link of Cullman County, Cullman Caring for Kids, Curt’s Closet, Alabama veterans and others. 

Every major country music star from Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Dierks Bentley, Florida-Georgia Line, Alan Jackson, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton, and Eric Church have graced the Rock the South stage. Even though Billboard rates Rock the South as the 6th Best Country Music Festival in the United States, Rock the South will always be a festival about two things- giving back to the community and celebrating southern culture. 

Due to the popularity of Rock the South, the event added a third day in 2023. Now running Thursday through Saturday, the festival was able to contribute more revenue to the local economy and more money to its charities. In 2023, over 100,000 people were in attendance and over $70,000 was raised for the various charities. 

“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.  

The full list of awards and winners is as follows:

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 Pearl Leaders” 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.