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Recognizing that tourism is a vital part of a community's economic development, the Alabama-Mississippi Rural Tourism Conference is a collaborative effort focused on assisting smaller communities in bolstering tourism.

The conference will be held at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa in Florence. Cost is $95 if registered before Oct. 10 and $150 after that date.

At 3 p.m. on Oct. 24, an early arrivals tour -- the Reid, Wright and Blue Tour – is planned. It includes shopping at Billy Reid's, a designer of men and women's clothes in historic downtown Florence. Reid has several national design awards under his fashionable belt including GQ's Best New Design of 2010. The Wright part of the tour includes visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Rosenbaum Home. The house is the only structure in Alabama and the only house in the Southeast that is open to the public designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the world's most famous architects. The blue part of the tour includes a visit to the W.C. Handy Birthplace and Museum, where participants will see the piano that St. Louis Blues and other Handy music classics were composed, and the original log cabin where the blues legend was raised.

"Dynamic speakers will present innovative ideas and relevant information that attendees will find useful in facing the unique challenges of promoting rural tourism with limited budgets," says Tom Chesnutt, a tourism specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The annual conference is hosted alternately between Alabama and Mississippi, however anyone associated with or interested in the rural tourism industry is invited to attend.

Some of the topics to be discussed this year include "How to Be Found – Optimizing Website Presence Through Google," by Nilay Patel with Network Solutions; Can We All Just Get Along for the Betterment of Our Community?" by Joe Sumners, director of the Economic and Community Development Institute at Auburn University; "How to Brand and Market Your Community" and "Is a Festival Right for Your Town?" both by Ben Muldrow, Arnett, Muldrow and Associates, Greenville, S.C.; "How to Evaluate and Justify Spending on Events," by Al Myles, Southern Rural Development Center, and Rachael Carter, Mississippi State University Extension Service, Department of Agricultural Economics; "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho – Down the Trails We Go," by Gary Brennan, Alabama Tourism; "Treasure Hunt…Using Flea Markets and Local Music in Tourism Development," by Judy Sizemore, director of Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, and Dr. Van West, director, Center for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University; and "Show Me the Money (grants, etc.)," by Alan Barefield, Mississippi State University Extension Service, Department of Agricultural Economics.

For more information or to register, go to:


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