Thursday, June 22, 2017

June Brides

Wedding season is upon us, which means many couples in Calhoun County are looking for the perfect place to say “I do.” The scenic views surrounding Calhoun County give couples a beautiful backdrop for their special day. We spoke with garden enthusiast turned wedding floral designer Kathryn Bowen of Kathryn Anne Weddings to find her picks for the best scenic wedding venues in the county.

Long Leaf Botanical Gardens & Event Center 

Tucked away behind the Berman Museum and the Anniston Museum of Natural History, The Long Leaf Botanical Gardens & Event Center offers a space for couples wanting a quiet and intimate wedding venue. 
There are options for either an outside ceremony, surrounded by a beautiful garden, or an indoor ceremony using the elegant event center. The gardens are still in progress, so this venue will only become more beautiful as time goes on. To get information on this venue, contact Gina Morey at (256) 237-6261 x325 or email

The Michael Wedding Barn

Formerly The Foundation Ranch, The Michael Wedding Barn is a beautiful venue for couples who want to be surrounded by the beautiful scenery Calhoun County has to offer. This 100 acre farm on Choccolocco Rd in Anniston, AL has many different locations for a ceremony, indoors and outdoors. The newly built, elegant barn holds up to 500 guests, perfect for any unexpected weather situations. For more information on this venue, email or visit their Facebook page.

SouthWind Plantation

Right off HWY 431 in Wellington, AL, the SouthWind Plantation is an elegant venue with stunning views anywhere you look. The 6,000 sq. ft. event barn was built from timber milled from trees that fell during the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that struck the area. This unique barn has two floors and can be used for both ceremonies and receptions. For couples wanting an outside affair, the area by a serene creek and large arbor would be a great option. Email for more information or call (256) 453-6323. 

Fiddler’s Green

This beautiful property in Jacksonville, AL is perfect for a classic outdoor affair. With several different areas for both the ceremony and reception, there is an option for everyone. The Main House, The Chapel, and the Cabin serve as a wonderful backdrop for a ceremony. A reception could be held in The Garden, the General Store, or The Cabin. Fiddler’s Green can accommodate up to 250 guests outside and 65 guests inside the chapel. For those interested, couples are welcome to use several antique decorations at no extra cost. To get more information on this unique venue visit

Cider Ridge Golf Club

Located in Oxford, AL, this is an ideal venue for those wanting an intimate wedding. The newly renovated clubhouse can seat up to 60 guests inside and up to 80 guests outside. The 2 adjoining rooms and outdoor patio overlook the 18th hole and give guests the ultimate view of the mountains. The Cider Ridge Golf Club offers on-site catering, custom menu and wine selections, and bridal and groomsmen party gold packages. For more information, visit or call (256) 861-7222.

Wanting to bring the outdoors inside? Kathryn uses local greenery and flowers to incorporate the lush Alabama scenery into her designs, often times using flowers out of her own garden. Whether the bride is looking for more of a rustic look using wood and ferns, or a more elegant look with local flowers, any theme can use what Alabama has to offer. To get more information on Kathryn Anne Weddings, visit her website: or check out her work on Instagram and Facebook

While summertime in Calhoun County is beautiful, the weather can be unpredictable. While speaking with Kathryn, she mentioned the importance of having a “Plan B” ahead of time. If couples are planning on an outdoor wedding, it is important to also plan for an inside affair either by renting a tent for guests, or checking with the venue to see what options are available. This should be done well in advance in order to avoid stress during the special day.

For more event venues, check out

Blog by: Mackenzie Corbin

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Historic Churches

Temple Beth El
1301 Quintard Avenue, Anniston
Adjacent and to the right of the Chamber, you’ll see the town’s only Jewish synagogue, dedicated in 1891. The single story, Byzantine design features arched transom doorways and windows and a high gable roof.

Parker Memorial Baptist Church
1205 Quintard Ave., Anniston 
Across the street from the Temple Beth El, Parker Memorial was constructed of native stone between 1888 and 1891. This church is one of Anniston’s most prominent landmarks. Architect George Kennerly’s design features an interior of Italian wood and beautiful lancet stained glass windows. Early business leader, Duncan T. Parker, bequeathed a sum for the main auditorium in memory of his wife, Cornelia. The name was then changed from 12th Street Baptist Church to Parker Memorial.

Grace Episcopal Church
1000 Leighton Avenue, Anniston 
Commissioned in 1882 by the town’s founders General Daniel Tyler and Samuel Noble, the beautiful Gothic structure, often called “A Poem in Cedar and Stone” was designed by George Upjohn. The exquisite native sandstone masonry was done by Simon Jewell, who was also the stonemason for Parker Memorial and First Christian Church on Leighton. The interior is executed in cedar, brass, and stone, the architectural theme of Solomon’s Temple as described in the First Book of Kings.

St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church
West 18th St. and Cobb Avenue, Anniston 
This church was built by John Ward Noble in 1888 for the working men of West Anniston. A drive through the grounds of one of the finest late nineteenth century churches in Alabama shows the Romanesque style of architecture designed by William Hulsey Wood, the architect of St. John the Divine in New York City. Features include hand-carved stonework by Simon Jewell, an imposing 95-foot bell tower housing twelve bells, a series of memorial windows, hand-carved interior trusses by Bavarian woodcarvers, and an Italian marble altar. The Parish Hall contains a set of lithographs showing the history of Christianity, said to be the only set of its kind in existence.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
Intersection of Ladiga and Church, Jacksonville 
Consecrated in 1856, this beautiful English Gothic frame structure is Jacksonville’s oldest church building and is on the Alabama Register of Landmarks.

First Presbyterian Church
Corner of Church and Clinton, Jacksonville 
A gem of English architecture completed in 1865, it served as a hospital during the War Between the States and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

First Baptist Church
101 East Oak Street, Oxford 
Organized in 1836, the congregation moved to this site when it was donated by E.S. Simmons in 1860. The first wooden frame structure was replaced by the present building in 1910.

 Dodson Memorial Presbyterian Church- c. 1857
841 Main Street, Oxford 
The Presbyterian Church at Oxford was organized before the 1850’s, and the present sanctuary was constructed in 1857 by slave labor on land deeded from Dudley Snow. John McIver Forbes was a pioneering settler to Benton County, Alabama and owner of a vast amount of property and slaves. McIver was also instrumental in completion of the church, he camped out until the work was complete. The total cost of construction was $2,500.
It has been rumored that the church played an important role during the Civil War, as an Underground Railroad Station. Evidence to support this was from a crawl space from underneath the pulpit.
In 1891, major improvements and renovations were completed on the sanctuary including the addition of stain glassed windows, and Eastlake Style woodwork. The exterior was also heavily modified.
In honor of Professor John L. Dodson, the Hugh Church Court renamed the Oxford Presbyterian Church to Dodson Memorial Presbyterian Church. Professor Dodson was the founder of the Oxford College, and a long time member of the Church. The Oxford College resembled the outer architecture of the Presbyterian Church.

First United Methodist Church
212 Snow Street, Oxford 
The Congregation was founded in 1849. The present Normanesque, oversized brick structure was begun in 1872.

If your church has history you'd like to share, please email 

For our complete Historic Driving Tour, stop by the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, call (256)237-3536 or check out

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fun Ways to Get Active

Everyone wants to be bikini ready for summer, and exercise doesn't have to be boring or extremely difficult. Make this year a year to get active and #OptOutside!

From more challenging hikes to shaded strolls, Calhoun County has many places to go. Climb to the highest peak at Cheaha State Park. From shorter trails with rewarding views like Bald Rock or Pulpit Rock or longer distance trails like the Silent Trail or Pinhoti, there are options for everyone to take in the gorgeous views and sights around our State Park.
We also have great local trails at the Anniston Museums and Gardens, Mountain Longleaf Wildlife Refuge and Henry Farms in Jacksonville. If off road is not your style, we've got the fabulous Ladiga Trail, which could keep you busy all summer if you divide it into sections. We also have Lagarde Parks path, the path in Golden Springs at Norwood Hodges Community Center, the paths at Oxford Lake, and the Paths at Choccolocco Park. There are so many different trails of various distances and elevation changes, creating a path for everyone.

From the North to the South, we have fabulous creeks offering a great spot to cool off during warm Alabama summers.
Terrapin Creek is equipped with three outfitters to provide kayaks or canoes for the whole family to spend a day on the creek. Pack a lunch and enjoy your float as you paddle along the foothills of the Appalachian.
The City of Oxford will soon have kayak and inner tube rentals available for those wishing to paddle Choccolocco Creek from Cider Ridge to the new Choccolocco Park sports complex.

For the avid cyclist or recreation cyclist, Calhoun County has trails matching every skill level. For the more advanced mountain biker, we have local trails like Henry Farm and Iron Legs and the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trails, complete with challenging climbs and thrilling downhills. Coldwater offers trails of various distances and levels, from the one mile Baby Bear to the Momma and Papa to distance routes like Bomb Dog.
For the beginner cyclist or a place to get the whole family out, try Ladiga Trail. This trail, the longest paved rail trail in the U.S., offers whatever distance you'd like to conquer. The trail also offers picnic pavilions and benches for rest stops along the way.

Our region is blessed with many great golf courses. From courses that host our area high school teams like Pine Hill, Indian Oaks, Cane Creek and Cider Ridge, to courses like the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trails' Silver Lakes, each course has its own personality. From a tricky Par 3 or a dogleg fairway, to wide open fairways and quick greens, there is something for every golfer, from the entry level golfer to the pro.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Summer Sun Fun

Calhoun County is known for outdoor recreation, and Alabama is known for warm humid summers. So, where can you explore outdoors and cool off at the same time?

Terrapin Creek, Piedmont
This creek, running from Cleburne through Calhoun to Cherokee, is excellent for floating and fishing. With outfitters like No Worries Kayaks, Redneck Yacht Club and the Terrapin Outdoor Center, there are several options for various size groups to rent kayaks or canoes and float. So pack a lunch and head for a day at the creek.

Neely Henry Lake, Ohatchee
Whether you'd like to fish, kayak, boat, sail or just swim, Ohatchee Beach has the spot for you. Locals operate many boat ramps for the numerous recreational opportunities. There is also primitive camping and hiking trails along the Alabama Power undeveloped shoreline land. So, take the whole family to #OptOutdoors this summer.

Germania Springs, Jacksonville 
Complete with a dog park, playground and easy access to the Ladiga Trail, Germania Springs is a great shallow spot for the little ones and family with paws to cool off this summer. If you have a birthday to celebrate or a family gathering to host, there are even pavilions available through Parks & Recreation!

 Zinn Park, Anniston
Located conveniently in downtown Anniston, the Splash Pad is across the street from the Solohub Justice Center and in Zinn Park, close to the MLK Pavilion and playgrounds! These splash pads are a fun way to cool off during the hot summer and admission is free.

Oxford Lake, Oxford
Oxford not only has the brand new Choccolocco Park, they also have the beautiful Oxford Lake, located next to the Civic Center. The Civic Center is also home to tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, the Freedom Park playground and a public swimming pool. This area is ideal for summer fun, from fishing on the pier to practicing favorite sports and splashing around in the pool.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Perfect for a Picnic

Calhoun County and the northeast Alabama region are filled with beautiful Appalachian views, perfect enough for a picnic.

Anniston Museums & Gardens are surrounded by beautiful hillside property, including Lagarde Park. This area features a playground, a track, small pond and picnic tables. Don't forget to stop by the Anniston Museum of Natural History and the Berman Museum of World History while you're there.

Choccolocco Park is surrounded by the rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, including Cheaha State Park. The Park Grounds feature playgrounds, paths of varied distances, a lake, the ball parks, pavilions and picnic tables. Take the family to a ballgame while you're there.

Germania Springs is quaintly located adjacent to the Ladiga Trail, Roy Webb Road and Highway 21 in Jacksonville. This park features a dog park, playgrounds, baseball and football practice fields, and the longest paved Rails to Trail path, the Ladiga/Silver Comet. Be sure to take your bike, since the Alabama "skies are so blue."

The Chief Ladiga Trail Campground is ideally located where the Ladiga Trail meets the Pinhoti Hiking Trail and Terrapin Creek. So, take your bike, your hiking boots and your kayak, and you're set for the whole weekend.

Ohatchee Beach is conveniently located on the Neely Henry, so bring your boat and your water skis or a kayak and enjoy the serene rolling hills along the lake, complete with great fishing spots, picnic tables and boat launches.

Elwell Park, much like Germania Springs, is perfectly located along the Ladiga Trail, complete with picnic pavilions, basketball courts, a BMX track, dog park and playground. The area is ideally shaded to block of the occasionally brutal sun and heat.

J.R. Striplin Park in Hobson City is perfect for grilling out, taking a walk around the track and watching the kids play on the playground and ball courts.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cheaha Cometh

This Sunday, May 21st, Jacksonville, AL will host an estimated 800 cyclists from 9 countries and 26 states for the 25th annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & Ultra, as well as the 3rd annual Chief Ladiga Cruise. To get insight on what this ride is like from the cyclist's point of view, we spoke with Steve Vinyard, a seasoned cyclist who has participated in the Cheaha Challenge several times.

When did you first hear about/start riding the Cheaha Challenge?

I first heard about the ride in 1993, when the Cheaha Challenge first started. I was not able to ride that year due to a neck injury, but started that next year in 1994.
Since starting in 1994, I have participated in the Cheaha Challenge about 14 or 15 times.

Tell me about the Ultra. What made you want to go to that next level?

The Ultra began in 2005 when Brooke Nelson became director. She wanted to add a level of difficulty to the Cheaha Challenge. I had ridden the 100 + mile course before and wanted to challenge myself. I wasn’t able to ride the Ultra last year, but I will be returning in 2017.

What do you do to prepare for the ride every year?

I make sure I have the right equipment. I make sure to check the weather forecast, just in case I need specific gear or need to adjust your tire pressure. I train and ride the hills beforehand. I like to pay attention to my diet and health, maybe dropping a little bit of weight, if needed.

When riding, what is going through your head?

It is a long time to be on your bike so you have some time to reflect. It is very important to remind yourself to eat and drink during the ride, as your body will need the calories. Keep your cadence while riding and save your muscle strength for the end. Be sure to ride the course properly and to stay as cautious as possible. This is especially crucial when riding in a pack. One wrong move can send you into a collision with another cyclist.

How do you stay motivated during the ride, especially during the extra challenging parts?

It’s a big event. You spend a lot of time and energy preparing. Sometimes things happen that prevent you from finishing the ride, but there is a natural motivation that keeps you going. Also, knowing that Brooke Nelson will burn your finisher shift if you don’t complete the ride will keep you motivated!

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in riding the Cheaha Challenge for the first time?

Know your course ahead of time and ride the hardest parts so that you know what to expect.

What is the best part of the Cheaha Challenge, in your opinion?

It is the most organized ride. The support from the community is felt throughout the entire ride. You feel safe on the road knowing how well everything is put together. I have participated in several rides, and this is one of the best.

To kick off this exciting weekend, on May 20th, Jacksonville State University is welcoming the cyclists and their families to the area by holding the first Jacksonville Arts & Music (JAM) Fest on campus. This family friendly event will showcase what Calhoun County has to offer with music and drama performances, several food vendors, and local artists.

Blog Interview by: Mackenzie Harris Corbin

Thursday, May 11, 2017

History comes alive this weekend in Calhoun County!

Two exciting events will take place on Saturday May 13th, celebrating part of the history and heritage of Calhoun County.
Legend of Lick Skillet Music & Heritage Festival
From 10 AM to 4PM, residents and visitors will come together in Downtown Oxford to celebrate the history and growth of the city once named “Lick Skillet”.
This annual celebration includes many food vendors (BBQ Boss, Southern Girl Coffee, and Hubbard’s Off Main- Just to name a few), arts and craft booths, live music from several local artists, and more! Gomey the Storyteller will join in on the festivities, telling his tales every hour, on the hour. There is even pie eating contest scheduled for those who are up for the challenge!
This festival is fun for all ages. Admission is free.
Freedom Riders National Monument Community Celebration
On January 12, 2017 President Obama declared two sites in Anniston, the former Greyhound station and the site of the Freedom Riders bus burning in 1961, National Monuments. The community will celebrate this proclamation on May 13 from 3PM-7PM outside the historic Greyhound bus depot on 10th and Gurnee Ave., Anniston, AL.
Included in the celebration is special announcements from the National Parks Service, a meet & greet with Freedom Riders, food and craft vendors, live music, and performances from local youth.

Presented by the City of Anniston, Calhoun County Commission, and the Freedom Riders Park Board, admission is free to the public. 

Blog by: Mackenzie Harris Corbin