Of Food and Festivals

Birmingham has increasingly become a hub for foodies from all over the world.  With people from varying backgrounds come new flavors, styles and innovations.  April 2018 food festivals will transcend common customs and give Birmingham natives a new taste of the inventive city around them.

8th Annual Girl’s Inc. Cajun COOK-Off Saturday, April 7, 2018. 11AM-2PM; Railroad Park

Get some fresh air next weekend and enjoy live music, a kid zone and a mix of Cajun favorites like gumbo, jambalaya and shrimp and grits at Railroad Park.  The cook-off supports Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, a program that provides a wide-range of educational programs for school-age girls in Birmingham. Tickets are $25 for adults and children under 12 get in for free.

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BirmingHome: The Perfect Staycation

There’s one thing that everyone can agree that they enjoy: vacations.  Students and families across Alabama are getting out of school for spring break and heading out on a week’s adventure.  Vacations can be expensive and take a lot of planning, so sometimes you have to opt for a staycation.

Taking this time to explore new areas of the city, try a new restaurant, or visit some old favorites can be just as refreshing and relaxing as traveling to a new city. We at The Local have gathered six Birmingham gems you should visit on your staycation this vacation season.

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Rising Sports: Birmingham Bulls

In fall 2017, Birmingham will again be a home to a professional hockey team.

Art Clarkston, the former Birmingham Bulls owner, signed an agreement with the Pelham Civic Coomplex and Ice Arena in February to host the team. He wishes to keep the same name and logo.

The Bulls will join the 10-team Southern Professional Hockey League, including the Huntsville Havoc. The hockey team formerly played in the World Hockey Association from 1976-79 and the Central Hockey League from 1979-81.

Clarkston owned the Bulls for six years, between 1992-98. They played their East Coast Hockey League games at the Birimngham-Jeffereson Convention Complex during that time, a location that Clarkson and the Bulls initially wanted to stay at for the 2017-18 season.

BJCC representatives say they were in discussion with Clarkson, but have not had any more communication with him regarding certain decisions.

There would have to be intensive and quick work in order for the complex to be ready for the upcoming season. The Pelham Civic Complex, though, is already set up to host hockey games. UAB and the University of Alabama’s club hockey teams play at the complex, which seats 3,200. The contract between the complex and the Bulls will require only 800 seats to be put in.

When the Bulls played in the 1970s, hockey was going through a rollercoaster of popularity. As minor pro leagues shut down, the NHL was gaining traction. Birmingham residents were more curious in the sport than interested in it.

Rising Sports: Magic City Blitz Basketball

For over 70 years the NBA has reigned over the basketball world. But did you know that there is another professional basketball league?

The American Basketball Association was founded in 1967 and has continued to redevelop the game of basketball during its existence. In fact, the ABA introduced the three-point shot as well as slam-dunk contests into the basketball world.

Since innovation is a core value of Birmingham, it makes sense that the city would be home to one of these pioneering teams, so in 2011 Birmingham welcomed the Magic City Blitz. The team was 3-3 in Gulf Coast conference play during their 2016 season.

The ABA organization is not new to the Magic City. The Birmingham Magicians played two seasons in the city and folded in 2006.

Rising Sports: Tragic City Rollers

Birmingham has become a city of revitalization and promise over the years.  That’s why it’s no surprise that it’s home to one of America’s growing sports, women’s flat track roller derby.  The sport now has over 451 leagues worldwide, according to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s (WFTDA) website, since it’s beginning in 2005.

Birmingham’s Tragic City Rollers were also founded in 2005 and joined the WFTDA as a full-time league member in 2010.  President of the Tragic City Rollers Diana Bostick, also known as Lana del Slay, ensures that the league is operating under the guidelines of the WFTDA.

 

Bostick fell in love with the sport because of the strength and diligence of the derby women.  “I was in awe how these women moved, fought and displayed amazing talents and skills. I knew immediately I wanted to be apart of such an ensemble,” she said.

Another one of Bostick’s role is to manage the organization’s presence within the community.  The Rollers have seen growing attendance at their bouts, according to Bostick, and the organization is excited about the support. “People now realize roller derby is much more than circus theatrics. They recognize derby to be a legitimate athletic sport,” she said.

Even though roller derby women skate hard on the rink, they have a soft heart for issues in the community. The skaters enjoy participating in local events and stresses the importance of supporting small businesses and charities in the area.

“TCR strives to always be relevant and maintain a presence within the community. We try to find local sponsors as much as possible so that not only do they support us but we in turn do our best to support them,” Bostick said.

Their 2017 charity partner is Girls Rock Bham Camp, an organization that teaches girls to play instruments and showcase their talents in the community.

The Tragic City Rollers host their meets at the Zemora Shrine Temple in Birmingham against league members from across the Southeast.  The team is ranked 223rd in the WFTDA.

Rising Sports: Birmingham Hammers

Soccer has become an increasingly popular sport since the early 2000s. According to a 2014 ESPN poll, 18 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds were avid MLS fans compared to only 10 percent in 2004.

Kids are not only watching soccer, but also playing it. More than 3 million players are registered under US Youth Soccer while clubs across the country continue to see an increase in participation. Almost 16,000 youth players are registered in Alabama and over 30 had committed to play at the collegiate level last year.

President of the Birmingham Hammers Morgan Copes recognized the growing attraction of soccer in 2013 and set out to bring the sport in a major context to Birmingham.

“Just because there’s a lack of professional sports in Alabama doesn’t mean that there’s not a want for them,” the club’s president said. The Birmingham Hammers’ 2015 exhibition season brought in big crowds, proving to Copes that Alabama would embrace the world’s most popular sport.

The 2016 season was the Hammer’s first season in the National Premier Soccer League, playing teams across the South including teams from Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans. Copes and his staff have taken thorough steps to make the club successful, and will continue to do so in order to improve the organization.

“We’re making sure that we do the little things right so we can keep getting better,” Copes said.

Copes and the Hammers have also used their social media presence to garner fans, with over 6,500 likes on Facebook and 2,000 followers on Twitter.

“Fans have been responsive to our social media platforms and we’re excited about the reaction,” he said.

The Hammers will play their first home game of the season on May 13 at Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex against Inter Nashville FC.

There’s No Place Like: Pelham

Blue Water Park
Blue Water Park is an escape from the heat of central Alabama on a sunny afternoon without driving hours to the coast. The company that used to be Dive Alabama offers scuba diving training as well as rentals for kayaks and paddleboards. Classes are offered throughout the year for all skill levels, ranging from beginners to experienced divers.

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Oak Mountain State Park
Oak Mountain State Park provides a range of activities for people of all ages and activity levels to enjoy. Hiking and mountain biking trails are the most popular ventures in the park, where you can find waterfalls and scenic views. There are also spaces for camping, fishing and picnics. The state park also offers a cable water playground where you can show off wakeboard tricks as you weave through obstacles in the water.

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Pelham Civic Center
During the winter, the Pelham Civic Complex is a favorite gathering place for ice skating. If you’re not skating-inclined, then the ice arena also offers broomball, a cross between quidditch and hockey. The arena is open year-round for these activities as well as training classes, hockey, and figure skating.

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Oak Mountain Emporium
If you’re looking for a less active afternoon, stop by Oak Mountain Emporium. The antique and collectibles shop features items from 40 area dealers, varying from décor and glassware to chandeliers and porcelain. And just for fun- see how many bird items you can count!

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There’s No Place Like Vestavia Hills

Vestavia Hills boasts many simple and natural attractions that will keep both your mind and body active.

Library in the Forest
Wall-scaling windows and colorful leaves invite visitors to take a seat and stay awhile. Located on Highway 31, the Library in the Forest is an urban oasis where anyone can get lost in their imagination or relive history. The public library has thousands of books for visitors to choose from as well as multiple events throughout the week for people of all ages to attend, including 3D printing classes, children’s story times and family yoga.

Klingler’s Café
It’s almost like you’ve jumped the pond and been transported to the world’s oldest region as soon as you enter Klingler’s Café. This local breakfast and lunch restaurant carries European bakery items in addition to their full menu that offers a twist on classic breakfast items. From big breakfast platters and buttery grits bowls to fluffy pancakes and omelets, the small business is packed every time you walk in.

Wald Park
Beautiful afternoons beckon for you, family, and friends to enjoy your time outside, and Wald Park’s facilities allow for all types of activities: playgrounds, baseball fields, a swimming pool and a giant walking loop. With something for everyone to do, it’s easy to get out and get active together.

Shades Crest Road
The best views (and sunsets!) of Birmingham are seen while driving along the top of Red Mountain on Shades Crest Road. In addition to seeing the bustling life below in the valley, you can see the Birmingham terrain go on for miles as the hills roll on out of sight. If you want somewhere to stop and admire the view, try Vestavia Hills Baptist Church to embrace the full ambience.

There’s No Place Like Homewood

Have you ever heard of some of the suburbs of Birmingham and wanted to visit, but weren’t sure what to do there? We here at The Local will take time over the next four weeks to take you to the most popular neighborhoods of Birmingham and highlight the best things to do there.

Homewood is a thriving suburb south of Birmingham that balances the world of commercial retail and local joints, making this city a unique place to spend the day touring.

When you first arrive in Homewood, shop around and get something to eat on the iconic 18th Street in downtown Homewood. The strip of diverse stores and restaurants will bring the small-town feeling to life as you pop in and out of the locally run shops.

18th Street in downtown Homewood.

Next, drive less than a mile over to Do It Yourself Crafts to immerse yourself in a creative and relaxing environment. From making pottery and painting to glass fusing and decorating ornaments, there are a wide variety of crafts you and your friends can make together. Classes are offered throughout the week and spaces are available for parties and group events.

Urban Air is the next stop, especially if you have kids with you. Let them get all their energy out at the indoor trampoline park as they jump on wall-to-wall trampolines, dunk

Homewood antique store in the Edgewood neighborhood.

basketballs in super tall baskets, play dodgeball and flip into the huge foam pits. The family-friendly trampoline park hosts birthday parties for all ages.

 

When it’s time for dinner, the Edgewood neighborhood of Homewood will satisfy your hunger. With all types of cuisines, it’ll be hard to choose what to eat.

Once you’ve finished up your meal (and ice cream from the local creamery) stroll down to Homewood Park, where you can play ball or watch the sunset.

 

Homewood Park

Let us know how your day in Homewood was in the comments below.