Montgomery, AL — Movie producer George Lucas' collection of "Star Wars" movie props, Indy Racing League driver Danica Patrick's first competition in Alabama and anniversaries for "To Kill A Mockingbird" and Rickwood Field join the Great Alabama Homecoming on a list of the Top Ten Tourism Events for 2010.
The Top 10 Events of 2010 include the Mardi Gras in Mobile, Opp's 50th Annual Rattlesnake Rodeo, Monroeville's 50th Anniversary of the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," Rickwood Field's Centennial Birthday Celebration,Guntersville's 40th Annual St. William Seafood Festival, The 20th Annual Alexander City Jazz Festival, Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Three Weekends of Speed, the Christmas Light Festival at the Montgomery Zoo and The Great Alabama Homecoming.
"These 10 events celebrate milestones in tourism in Alabama," said tourism director, Lee Sentell. "We celebrate the inaugural Indy Grand Prix in Alabama while we honor the 100th anniversary of the oldest ballpark in America, Rickwood Field. These events run the gamut as we showcase our state's rich heritage in 2010, The Year of Small Towns and Downtowns."
The family-friendly Mardi Gras celebration in Mobile is the oldest in the U.S. For two weeks from January 16 through February 16 city streets are filled with marching bands, parade goers and brilliant-colored floats. The month-long festivities conclude on Fat Tuesday with floats carrying masked riders throwing moon pies, doubloons, beads and candy to the crowds.
Several of the events celebrate milestone birthdays and anniversaries. The Annual Rattlesnake Rodeo in Opp celebrates its 50th anniversary with a weekend of entertainment, snake races and wrangling, karaoke and buck dancing March 26-27. Monroeville celebrates the 20th annual production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the courthouse square and the 50th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Performances of the play run from April 23 – May 22. Rickwood Field celebrates its100th anniversary with events and exhibits across Birmingham. Baseball fans, former players and visitors are invited inside the oldest baseball park in America for a birthday bash on August 18, the day the park opened in 1910.
Guntersville celebrates its 40th Annual St. William Seafood Festival. Visitors can feast on St. William's famous seafood that includes Creole-style gumbo, Cajun boiled shrimp and fresh crawfish. The 20th Annual Alexander City Jazz Festival on June 11-12 includes the dedication of a historic marker to commemorate The Year of Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns and the 100th anniversary of the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce.
Two of the Top 10 events celebrate firsts, Three Weekends of Speed and the Star Wars exhibit. Three Weekends of Speed kicks off with the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports featuring Danica Patrick. The Grand American Rolex Sports Series and 8th Annual Porsche 250 race are also at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham April 9-11. On April 17 hundreds of cyclists gather for races in downtown Anniston in the Sunny King Criterium and April 18, cyclists will endure the "Toughest Ride in the South" as they participate in the Cheaha Challenge Century. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits the Talladega Superspeedway for the first time April 23-25 with the Aaron 499 Dream race.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center will showcase "Star Wars" movie props, hands-on modules, costumes and interactive displays as part of the "Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit June 25- September 6. It's the largest traveling exhibit in the history of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the exhibit's first time to show in the southeast.
The Montgomery Zoo's Christmas Light Festival is a month long event in December. Thousands of holiday lights illuminate the zoo in shapes of animals and Christmas themes.
The Great Alabama Homecoming includes more than 200 cities across Alabama from Abbeville to York. Each community will stage special Homecoming celebrations throughout the year as part of The Year of Small Towns and Downtowns. Activities include the unveiling of historic markers, music events, church and school homecomings, parades and special anniversary celebrations. All homecoming events are highlighted in red in the 2010 calendar of events.
The Top 10 events were selected from more than 1,300 listings in Alabama Tourism's 2010 Calendar of Events. The 96 page publication also showcases 213 Great Alabama Homecoming events that will take place every weekend from mid-March through mid-December in celebration of the Year of Small Towns and Downtowns. The dates and descriptions of the Homecoming listings are printed in red.
The cover of Alabama Tourism's 2010 Calendar of Events features a new design from previous years with photos of Azaleas in bloom at Bellingrath Gardens and Trowbridge's ice cream parlor in Florence. A photo and greetings from the Governor and First Lady appear on page one of the calendar.
The 2010 Calendar of Events is available at Alabama's Eight Welcome Centers, by calling 1.800.ALABAMA or online at www.alabama.travel.