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Variety of summer activities available statewidecomment (0)

April 12, 2007

By Linda Holloway

Summer is a great time to relax, and Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a great place to relax. Another place you will enjoy is Franklin County, where a watermelon seed-spitting contest is part of a popular festival.

For musical entertainment, attend a play in Birmingham that will have you singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Alabamians enjoy the familiar feel of vacationing in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach segments of the Gulf of Mexico. The area has rebounded well since hurricanes Ivan and Dennis hit in 2004 and 2005, respectively, said Mike Foster, vice president of marketing for the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a thriving and growing family destination. We … are excited about the continued growth of restaurants and attractions."

For a relaxing beach experience, visit Alabama Point in Orange Beach, where you will find 6,000 feet of beach, large sand dunes and a 225-foot boardwalk. At the Gulf Shores public beach, you can enjoy restaurants, three open-air pavilions and a picnic area. Surf fishing is also a popular activity at the Gulf State Park. "At the end of the day, it will always be the 32 miles of sugar-white sand and blue-green water that attract families to the Alabama Gulf Coast," Foster said.

For information, call 1-800-745-7263 or visit www.gulfshores.com.

Follow the yellow-brick road to Birmingham’s 26th Street South where Summerfest Musical Theatre brings the classic tale of Dorothy and friends to life with its production of "The Wizard of Oz." The production will take place at the Virginia Samford Theatre July 19–Aug. 5.

"Summerfest was originally created to provide the productions as part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s academic year and then broke off to provide productions as a part of Birmingham’s Town and Gown Theatre (now the Virginia Samford Theatre)," said Nicole Smith, director of marketing and public relations for Summerfest.

"Summerfest Musical Theatre has now grown to become one of Alabama’s only year-round professional musical theater organizations, with productions at both Virginia Samford Theatre and the Summerfest Cabaret Theatre located downtown."

If you have an aspiring actor in the family, then Summerfest offers more than 300 children ages 7 to 18 an intense two-week musical theater education during its Youth Musical Theatre Workshop in June. Students are accepted into the workshop by audition. There is also a junior workshop, which does not require auditions, for children ages 5–6 years old, and the advanced workshop is open to college students as well as workshop participants ages 14 and older.

For more information, call 205-324-2424 or visit www.summerfest.org.

A perfect way to cool off on an Alabama summer day is with a slice of juicy, ice-cold watermelon. You can have all the watermelon you want Aug. 17–18 at the Franklin County Watermelon Festival in Russellville.

"The festival is now one of the largest events in northwest Alabama," said Lisa Stockton, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. The festival was named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society from 2001 until 2005, and the annual attendance has grown to almost 30,000 people, Stockton noted.

The festival officially kicks off at 7 Friday evening with the cutting of the first watermelon. Food vendors, arts and crafts, games and musical entertainment will be available on opening night.

On Saturday, the festivities begin at 9 a.m. along Jackson Avenue in downtown Russellville.

Highlights include free watermelon, arts and crafts, games, food, antique cars and trucks, a tennis tournament and a 5K and one-mile fun run.

"Visitors can enjoy watermelon contests such as best decorated, seed spitting, best tasting, largest and — our favorite — most unusual," Stockton said.

For more information, call 256-332-1760 or e-mail franklincounty@charter.net.

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