Thursday, October 19, 2017

It feels like home!

Known as the "friendliest campus in the south," Jacksonville State University welcomes home the Gamecocks this October for Homecoming! Complete with parades, tailgates and activities, campus is buzzing for Hoco 2017!

October 24-
- Harvest Festival -  4:30-7 p.m. 
Families are invited to bring their children to trick or treat the quad. 

October 26- 
J-Day - 2-6 p.m. 
Come out to the Theron Montgomery Building Lawn for this field day of relay races, music and free food
- Homecoming Pep Rally - 8 p.m. 
Join us as we crown the 2017 Homecoming King and Queen. Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium.

October 28
- Gamecock Gallop 5K - 8 a.m. -
- Homecoming Parade - 10:30 a.m. -
- Football Game - 3 p.m. - 
Gamecock Football vs. Southeast Missouri, with a halftime presentation of Alumni of Year and Homecoming Court winners. 

There's so much more, so make plans Gamecock Fans! 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Do you wish to go to the festival?"

It's October, and Fall Fests are in full swing.
OxfordFest always kicks off the month, the first Saturday of each October, shutting down Historic Downtown Oxford, bringing in hundreds of vendors and thousands of visitors. This annual arts and crafts festival also features like music, food, kids activities and fun for all ages.
Cheaha State Park hosts their annual Chili Cook-off, aka "Chill-o-ween" and Salsa Challenge. At the Bald Rock Lodge, to go along with the tasty treats, there will be folk music, storytelling, haunted hikes, games, crafts and more.
The Anniston Museum of Natural History also hosts an annual Fall Fest. This year's fest features the museums "creepy crawlers," the Sensory Safari, a haunted Bird of Prey Trail, face painting, hay rides, costume contests and more!
Fall also means it's time for the Coldwater Mountain FatTire Fest, featuring demo bikes, beer garden, poker ride, vendors, guided rides, and more!
From JSU Football to OPAC and Knox Concert performances and much more, October is packed with excitement!


Friday, October 6, 2017

Fall into Adventures with your BFFs

Looking for something fun to do with friends over the weekend? Look no further...

  • North Alabama Wine Trail
Enjoy tastings with six Appalachian wineries, including: Albertville's Jules J. Berta, Anniston's White Oak Vineyards, Attalla's Wills Creek Vineyards, Fruithurst Winery Co., Heflin's High Country Cellars, and Hokes Bluff's Maraella Winery. Each winery stamps your "passport," and once it's filled, submit it to receive your commemorative gift. 
  • Aim for Par or Bullseye
From the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail to the award winning Cider Ridge, take in the perfect temps, changing leaves and autumn breeze while hitting the links. If golf isn't your thing, the Civilian Marksmanship Program offers indoor air rifle range or their Marksmanship Park, featuring sporting clays, shotgun fields and rifle & pistol ranges.


  • Hike & Bike 
    • Calhoun County is blessed to have so much outdoor recreation. From the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trails to the highest point in Alabama at Cheaha State Park, there is so much to experience in the fall. If camping is your thing, we recommend pedalling up the Ladiga Trail toward the Alabama Georgia Line, and near the Ladiga Campground, between miles 6 and 7, you'll find the Pinhoti Trail, a 338 mile trail connecting to the Appalachian Trail. 

    • Test Time 
    Test your problem solving skills and try out Oxford's interactive live escape room, Escape Zone! It's a fun way to encourage communication and try to breakout of the room in 60 seconds or less. 

    Saturday, September 30, 2017

    Sounds of Fall


    For 60 years, as football season approaches, the echos of the drumline signal the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners are ready to take the field. Some locals "sneak" into practice to admire the sound of around 500 musicians, color guard and marching ballerinas, or drive around town with their windows down to take in the sounds of the Southerners.
    video

    Although the first band for JSU was formed around 1923, and the first full time band director did not start until 1948, in the fall of 1956, the Marching Southerners and Ballerinas made their official debut.
    The Marching Southerners' unique sound reminds one more of a orchestra than a typical marching band. Their unique sound is packed with trumpets, bass trombones and 20-J tubas. Their look is military-like in precision and artistic in formations.

    The Marching Southerners have played in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee and on the U.S.S. Missouri for the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Crowds rise to their feet in applause after each and every performance. Once you see them perform, in person, you'll understand why they're regarded as one of the best marching bands in the land.

    Thursday, September 14, 2017

    Drop the Keys

     
    Calhoun County is blessed to have the longest paved rail to trail project in the US running through its heart, connecting the cities of Piedmont, Jacksonville, Weaver and Anniston. Cities like Anniston and Oxford are developing bike share plans that include bike routes and lanes. In the meantime, you can see much of our County while staying on your bike.
    Our part of the trail picks up 13 miles outside  Piedmont at the State Line, where it connects to Georgia's Silver Comet trail leading into Smyrna.
    The City of Piedmont maintains this entire section, which wanders through and along the edge of the Talladega National Forest and includes beautiful views of Terrapin Creek, intersects with the Pinhoti Hiking Trail and surrounds you with picturesque landscapes including Dugger Mountain. As you enter Piedmont, trail users frequent the Eubanks Welcome Center, for the facilities or the hospitality and history one finds there. The trail runs through Piedmont's quaint downtown, which includes the infamous Solid Rock Cafe, with it's delicious occasional Sunday buffet, menu favorites like Chicken Salad, and the always refreshing Powerade slushie.
    Continuing for about ten miles, trail users make their way to Jacksonville, via Germania Springs Park. The trail then enters the campus of Jacksonville State University, just a few hundred yards from many notable restaurants like Cooter Brown's Rib Shack, Effina's, Java Jolt and much more! Along the trail, the Jacksonville Train Depot, much like Eubanks, is another stop that trail users frequent for facilities and may be asked to sign in for tracking trail visitors.
    Making their way to the south, trail users pass the Jacksonville Community Center, Jacksonville's Kitty Stone Elementary and Jacksonville High, before entering Weaver. Near the community center as well as the schools, users will notice trail spurs for locals to use in safely accessing the trails. As they cross Weaver's Main Street, users will notice Elwell Park, complete with parking adjacent to Weaver's Police Station, a great trail head if trail users plan to leave their car over night.
    While the trail currently goes a short distance into Anniston, plans have been developed to continue the trail to what was once Fort McClellan via a spur as well as completing the old rail-bed to the downtown area, connecting users to Amtrak's Cresent Line Route in Anniston as well as the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trails.

    In addition, as one may notice on Strava and other route tracking apps, there are also several road routes area cyclist frequent, including the Dugger Mountain Wilderness, DeArmanville and Golden Springs, Skyline Drive at Cheaha State Park and much more. 

    Friday, September 8, 2017

    Eco-tourism

    Calhoun County is surrounded by nature, hints the tagline "natural attraction," so where sound your adventures begin?
    The Chief is a family oriented pathway that wanders 33 miles through the countryside of Calhoun and Cleburne counties and it connects the municipalities of Piedmont, Jacksonville, Weaver and Anniston.
    Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail
    Coldwater Mountain is a series of flow trails designed and built by the International Mountain Biking Association. The current more than 35 miles of trail can be accessed via Coldwater Road or Monsanto Road.
    Terrapin Creek
    Looking for a peaceful float, check out No Worries Kayaks. They rent out kayaks, shuttle you to Terrapin Creek, and help you unload and load your kayaks.
    White Oak Vineyards
    White Oak Vineyards, producer of Southern Oak Wines, is located in beautiful Choccolocco Valley near Anniston and I-20, offering tastings each weekend. 
    Blackberry Hill Alpacas
    This 60 acre farm also has a gift shop and opens for field trips and more! 
    This private ranch does ask visitors to call before visiting, but they're happy to serve the Southeast with "America's Original Red Meat." Grass-fed/pastured. 
    Open for the month of October, Bennett Farms is a fourth generation farm with pumpkins, farm animals, corn crib, hay rides, pipe slides, and much more!
     All this plus parks and more make for a way to opt outside, explore outdoor and see the world.

    Monday, September 4, 2017

    Date Night

    You've got your typical dinner and a movie, but what are some fun unique date night alternatives?
    Test Your Team
    One of the newest attractions in Oxford is Escape Zone, a 60 minute escape room. How long will it take your team to solve the clues and breakout? It's a good way to test how well you work with others, too.
    Seats for a Show
    Between the Knox Concert Series and the Oxford Performing Arts Center, Broadway and Grammy talent takes the stage, bringing world renowned talent to our back yard.
    Enjoy Events
    This fall includes great events like Sudsfest and JSU football, which make for an entertaining time with food and fun!
    Don't know what you want to eat? We've got a great list of diverse culinary choices constantly being updated at www.VisitCalhounCounty.com.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017

    Founding Fathers

    Last weekend, the town of Hobson City celebrated its 118th Founders Day. Founded on August 16, 1899, Hobson City is the oldest incorporated African American city in Alabama and the third oldest in the United States. 
    During the time prior to its founding, Hobson City was known as the Mooree Quarter of Oxford, and its African American citizens were allowed to vote in city and county elections. After an African American justice of the peace was elected in a municipal election, the boundaries were redrawn to leave the settlement in the county. 
    Three years later, citizens petitioned to become their own municipality. Today, the town continues to celebrate the accomplishment of their determined founders with a Heritage Festival, this year featuring presentations from the University of Alabama and UNC Chapel Hill, as well as the town's annual 5K. 
    Calhoun County has a rich civil rights history, stories of a few brave citizens defending the rights of many. Just a few miles away, the newly declared Freedom Riders National Monument and Civil Rights trails recount these moments in history. From the moving images of the bus burning and violence surrounding the Freedom Riders to the stories of local citizens standing up for equal rights for all and a city responding, Calhoun County is honored to recognize the bravery and courage these citizens displayed to achieve all they did. 

    For more information, visit: 



    Thursday, August 17, 2017

    Where See the Solar Eclipse

    Truly, as long as there aren't many clouds in the sky, you can see it anywhere, but with around 90% totality, Calhoun County has some places that are hosting eclipse events!
    • Business like Floors to Go in Anniston are hosting celebrations with FREE viewing glasses, food, t-shirts and hats, beginning at 12 Noon on Monday.
    • JSU's School of Science is hosting a viewing party on the lawn at TMB. Solar glasses, water and shade will be provided for the public!
    • The Oxford Public Library is also hosting a viewing party, complete with solar glasses, as supplies last, or a viewing of NASA's livestream.

    Make sure to secure your certified solar glasses before you decide to step outside and gaze at the sky! NASA also has "how to's" for making your own Solar Viewing Projector, if you couldn't secure the glasses. 


    Friday, August 11, 2017

    Picture Perfect Murals

    Looking for the perfect backdrop? Look no further than city walls turned to canvases for artists, from near and far.

    Garden Scene, Oxford
    Tucked in an alley off Main Street, where Choccolocco comes to a T, this "Garden Scene" looks reminiscent of Italy or Greece, especially with Sarah Cavender Metalworks' blue door next door.

    Anniston's Mural Trail
    While Anniston has begun a mural trail throughout the historic downtown area, in the alleys behind the Classic and the Peerless, visitors will find various hand-painted masterpieces from local artists, including the newly designated Freedom Riders National Monument Mural off Gurnee Avenue, commissioned by the Spirit of Anniston.  

    Patriotic Pride
    At Jacksonville High School's Football Stadium, one will find a tribute to veterans, an American flag waving in the wind, visible from hometown hero Ben Tomlinson's new smart house.

    Piedmont Collage
    Riders along the Ladiga Trail know they've reached Piedmont by the visible mural just off the trail and Main Street, and next to the famous Solid Rock Cafe, visitors can also find an alley of artistic works, from Einstein to the Beatles.


    Once you've snapped a pic, let us "tag" along with #VisitCalhounCo or #IGoCalCo! 

    Anniston Mural Project


    Friday, August 4, 2017

    Calhoun County Arts Groups & Collectives

    From growing arts scenes, events and venues, Calhoun County has many talented artists, whether musicians, painters, photographers, writers or other art forms. Various groups allow these artists to collaborate and develop works and events together to make Calhoun County a great place to work, live and visit.

    This group of artists has partnered with businesses, the City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville State to create events and created a community innovative and collaborative artists to build opportunities to show works, share resources, and support projects of others.

    This group was created to coordinate and assist with cultural activities and develop outlets for arts in the Jacksonville Community. These artists and those passionate about arts organize historical, craft and community events that showcase local talent. 

    This organization is a "catalyst" for creative economy, implementing socially engaged art and projects that respond to challenges in the community, leverage the creativity of citizens, and aim to create opportunity. 

    Artworks Alliance
    This organization of artists and art supporters bring together those in and around Oxford to create special events, competitions, collaborations, community programs and promote artists, musicians, actors, dancers and writers in the community. 

    This Piedmont group works with the goal of promoting local artists and introducing the artists to the community and together to create. From free music events to festivals and more, this group organizes community activities. 



    Friday, July 28, 2017

    Seize the last days of summer

    As the back to school time nears, check some family fun off your bucket list.

    In case of rain:
    Looking for something educational and fun, look no further than the Anniston Museums and Gardens. Explore the earth; see a safari and mummies at the Anniston Museum of Natural History.
    More of a history buff? Explore the collections of spies and collectors at the Berman Museum of World History, with evens Greek Helmet more than 2000 years old.

    Want adventure?
    With all the rain we've had lately, water levels are up and perfect for floating Terrapin. In so areas, you barely have to paddle. Pull off on the shoals, take a picnic or a swim, and spend the day on the creek. No Worries Kayak will take care of you!

    Go out for a spin!
    Local trails are great for the whole family! From easy, car free, treks, try Ladiga. The trail is relatively flat, with mile markers to help you remember how far you have to go to get back to your car.
    Coldwater's Baby Bear trail is great for beginners, with wider paths, difficulty options, downhill rolling beginning and slow climb back. If cycling isn't your thing, it's only a mile loop, if you stay right, and all the trails are great for walking.

    Put your family to the test!
    Get those critical thinking skills going again and challenge the family to Escape Zone. See if you can solve all the clues and breakout in under an hour! It will get your brain and your heart going; plus, it makes everyone work together.

    Relax
    If you're a teacher dreading going back or a parent overwhelmed from the summer, take some time away at one of our local wineries, like White Oak. Each sell onsite and offer tasting of both sweet and dry local wines! Uncork the bottle and unwind!


    If you're opting for a staycation, try a new restaurant, stay in a local hotel and play in our great parks! Some allow fishing! Some have pools and splash pads! Some have Boundless playgrounds, perfect for everyone! #OptOutside

    Friday, July 21, 2017

    Fiddle-dee-dee... BBQ

    One staple associated with the south, after all it's mentioned in the first ten minutes of "Gone with the Wind," is barbecue. The slow cooking of smoking with indirect heat and grill is packed with flavor. Calhoun County is home to many barbecue havens, all with their own flavors, styles and sauces.

    Cooter Brown's Rib Shack
    8464 Alabama Hwy 204, Jacksonville AL 35265 - 256-435-1514Alabama's 100 Dishes to eat before you die has its share of BBQ, including Cooter Brown's Ribs. Don't let the little shack deceive you. They also have Hillbilly Egg Rolls, a tribute to Carolina BBQ.

    Baby Boy’s BBQ
    1292 Ponderosa Trail, Eastaboga AL 36260 - (256) 454-8246
    If you're able to attend a community event, these guys will probably be there, food truck and all, perfect for a summer day outside. 

    Betty's Bar-B-Q
    401 S Quintard Avenue, Anniston AL 36201 - 256-237-1411
    This family owned restaurant is always packed at lunch, as is evident as you may struggle to find parking, but they dish out so community renowned BBQ specials. 

    Bill's Bar Be Que, LLC
    916 West 10th Street, Anniston, AL 36201 - 256-770-7175
    This family is known and loved by the community, respected for his knowledge, experience and dedication to the community. There isn't make community events that they'll miss. 

    Brad's Bar BQ
    1809 Hwy 78 East, Oxford, AL 36203 - 256-831-7878
    This is another respected family. It's all in the family, working together to dish out the best meals they can, conveniently located in Oxford near the mall. 

    Dad's Bar-B-Que
    3105 McClellan Blvd, Anniston, AL 36204 - 256-238-4323
    700 Noble Street, Anniston, AL 36201 - 256-238-4323
    This local chain dishes out smoked chicken and bbq with several choices for sauces. Try the "honey mustard," and you won't regret it. 

    Local Joe's at Alexandria
    8314 Alabama Highway 144, Alexandria,  AL 36250 - (256) 241-6796
    Voted Alabama's Small Business person of the Year for 2017, this local chain is known for its catering, but the smoked turkey and BBQ highlight the spread. 

    Don't take our word for it! Experience BBQ yourself! Visit and taste test the deep roots of Alabama BBQ! 

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    "Sweet Home Alabama"

    There's one place that can completely capture those "skies so blue," Cheaha State Park. Home to Alabama's Highest Point and the JSU Mountain Center, the park also hosts hiking trails, including the Pinhoti, mountain bike trails, a handicap accessible walkway to Bald Rock, an observation tower at the highest point, campgrounds, cabins and chalets for rent, a motel and restaurant, museums and so much more!
    Towering 2,407 feet above sea level, Creek Indians named this spot "Chaha," or high place, with views that seem to go on forever in the heart of the surrounding Talladega National Forest.
    Surrounded by natural beauty, this location is perfect for a picnic, photographs and events. There are so many recreational opportunities! Come enjoy tranquility and stand in awe of the surroundings.
    Cheaha State Park also offers tons of programs for the whole family. From Pottery and Basket Weaving to campfire talks and discovery hikes, Cheaha has something for everyone.
    *Make time to check out the Pulpit Rock Trail. Complete with Native American Trail Marker Tree Points, this short but steep walk offers the most rewarding view overlooking the lake and national forest. 
    Adventure is waiting! Learn more at VisitCalhounCounty.com!

    Thursday, July 6, 2017

    Dixie Youth Little League World Series

    Come scout and discover future baseball stars during the Dixie Youth Little League World Series August 4 through 10 at Choccolocco Park in Oxford
    August 4th, 36 teams will participate in skills competitions and the World Series Opening Ceremonies. Tournament play will begin August 5th. 
    Choccolocco Park is an outdoor sports complex with state-of-the-art amenities for baseball, softball, track and field, and soccer. The park also has three walking paths that go around the historic Indian mound, a 30-acre lake, and plenty of green space in between, that connect for a total of 2.7 miles.
    With amenities for every person in your family, including a Boundless Playground to include children of all abilities, Choccolocco Park welcomes you to come and enjoy our facilities to their fullest extent. 
    Located just off Leon Smith Parkway near the Oxford Exchange and Commons, the park trails feature interpretive plaques capturing the history of the 19th century Muscogee (Creek) Nation that called Choccolocco home. 
    Come discover this diamond of Calhoun County and all of its treasures. From delicious food to outdoor and cultural adventures, we've got it all and more! Check out VisitCalhounCounty.com! Adventure Awaits! 

    Thursday, June 29, 2017

    Safety on the Water



    Summertime is the perfect time to take advantage of the great paddling adventures Calhoun County has to offer. There are many exciting places to hit the water, but remember, safety first! Keep these five tips in mind for a safe and fun trip.


    1. Wear a life jacket!

    There have been multiple instances of drowning in Alabama this year, most could have been prevented if the individual was wearing a life jacket. Alabama law requires all children under the age of 8 to wear a life jacket while on the water. Although this law is aimed towards children, people of all ages should be wearing a life jacket at all times while in the water. This one piece of equipment, often overlooked, could mean the difference between life and death.

    2. Take a course

    Before beginning a water adventure, it is encouraged that first time paddlers take a safety course. There are many skilled instructors around the county that can teach paddlers basic safety and directional skills to make the trip easier to enjoy.

    The Cheaha Canoe Club has classes for beginners and more skilled paddlers. This class is led by certified American Canoe Association instructors and requires an RSVP, as they only take small groups at a time.

    Kids ages 9-18 can join the 4-H River Kids program. This program is designed to give kids the opportunity to acquire paddling skills, learn about ecology, and water safety. 


    3. Never paddle alone

    It is important to never get on the water by alone. In the event of an emergency, having an extra person to call for help or administer first aid can be very helpful. Plus, it’s always nice to share the adventure and beautiful scenery with a friend!

    4. Know where you’re going

    Be sure to make sure the area you’re paddling is appropriate for your skill level. Beginners should stick with Class I rapids, where the water is moving but still easy to manage. Review maps and trails to ensure you don’t end up in water that you cannot navigate.


    5. Plan ahead

    Check the weather conditions. Be aware of water and weather temperatures. If there is low visibility or fog, stay off the water. Check water levels. If the water levels are too high, it can be very dangerous. The currents may be too heavy and debris may clog up the rivers.

    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 gmorey@annistonmuseum.org

    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 themichaelbarn@aol.com 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 southernladyenterprises@gmail.com 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 www.fiddlersgreenalabama.com/weddings-receptions/.

    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 www.ciderridgegolf.com/weddings/ 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: http://kathrynanneweddings.com/ 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 www.visitcalhouncounty.com/events/event-venues

    Blog by: Mackenzie Corbin