The Vulcan always watches over Birmingham. Who watches over the Vulcan?

The Vulcan statue of Birmingham has served in a variety of roles since its inception in 1904 as an exhibition piece for the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Currently, the statue stands like a guardian over Birmingham, symbolizing the city’s industrial roots.

The Vulcan

Towering at 56 feet tall on a sandstone pedestal at Vulcan Park and Museum, the statue has pierced the Birmingham skyline for 79 years. It has endured harsh weather conditions including Alabama’s scorching summer heat and the “snow-pocalypse” of 2014. While no natural phenomenon has been able to take the Vulcan down, this cast-iron Roman god of fire and forge still needs some tender love and care every once in a while. Joe Saling is just the man and caretaker that Vulcan needs.

Joe Saling

Saling has served as director of visitor experience at Vulcan Park and Museum for 2 years. In addition to accommodating the best possible experience for guests, Saling oversees park maintenance projects. Prior to working at Vulcan Park and Museum, Saling spent over 30 years in sales and marketing. He worked with Sheraton Birmingham and Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa. Most recently, Saling worked on marketing and community relations efforts for the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook, Alabama. His expertise in hospitality and tourism has served him well in his position at Vulcan Park and Museum.

Vulcan Park and Museum

Even so, taking on the role as the Vulcan’s caretaker did not come without a few learning curves, specifically in the aspects of engineering and construction. Shortly after Saling took the position, the Vulcan needed a new paint job. And the pedestal it stands on needed to be sealed.

“This required understanding the inherent unique challenges with getting the job done, using the right products and doing it with the least disturbance to our visitors,” Saling explained. “Also, how to maintain a federally protected historic monument within the required guidelines.”

The Vulcan undergoes yearly interior and exterior inspections performed by the craftsmen at Robinson Iron of Alexander City, Alabama. “What they tell us is typically what we do,” Saling explained. “And fortunately, we do not have to do anything but every eight to 10 years.” Because the Vulcan is made of almost-indomitable iron, the statue rarely endures damage, aside from the occasional paint chip.

Vulcan Painters of Bessemer, Alabama, maintain the statue’s interior and exterior paint work. When painting the Vulcan, they prep the surface by sanding it down, caulking cracks and imperfections so that they are water-sealed. Then, they use an industrial primer and final coat. The Vulcan’s last paint job was in 2012. According to Saling, the Vulcan is currently in great cosmetic standing.

Over more than a century, the statue has undergone some inevitable repairs and updates—the most notable of those changes being the re-casting of its hand and anvil in 1938.  When the Vulcan was moved from the fairgrounds to Vulcan Park, its hand and anvil were lost and had to be recast. Even so, Saling explained, “one would never be able to tell any difference between the Vulcan today and the Vulcan at its original inception.”

Saling takes great pride in his work as the caretaker of this beloved Birmingham icon. He said the Vulcan represents not only Birmingham’s industrial prosperity, but also the city’s progress. “We equate that with the spear he holds. It points upward to symbolize Vulcan’s persistence and endurance,” Saling said. “Our mission at Vulcan park and museum is to educate and further develop the pride in Birmingham. I think he does that very well.”

 

 

Why Crestline Bagel Company (Cahaba Heights) is the best study spot

Crestline Bagel Company has been serving the Birmingham-area with New-York style bagels for 11 years. In February 2018, Jennifer Yarbrough, founder and owner of Crestline Bagel  Co. opened a second store location in Cahaba Heights. The bagels and service at the new location are wonderful as always, but the unique space is what sets this bakery apart from others of its kind. Here are 10 reasons why you need to make Crestline Bagel Co. Cahaba Heights. your next study spot.

  1. Spacious: This location has several seats and tables. The seating area is arranged to accommodate plenty of space between you and the person(s) next to you.
  2. Affordable: Google maps gives Crestline Bagel Co. one dollar sign for a price rating. “$”
  3. Variety of options: Not a fan of bagels or coffee? That’s ok! There is something for everyone at Crestline Bagel Co. See their menu here.
  4. WIFI: Ask any of the staff for the WIFI password. I won’t give it away, but if passwords can be cute, this one definitely is.
  5. Unlimited Coffee Refills: I love a good coffee shop, but when I’m studying for a couple of hours, one little vanilla latte just isn’t going to cut it. I prefer multiple cups of coffee that I can sip on throughout my entire study session. At Crestline Bagel Co. if your cup is empty, just get up and refill it!
  6. Great scenery: In my humble opinion, one of the best features of the Cahaba Heights location is the scenery. Leaf ‘n’ Petal flower shop is right next door. Enjoy the sights of beautiful plants, flowers and butterflies from any seat.
  7. Clean: Every time I have been to Crestline Bagel Co. (which happens at least once a week), the place is spotless!
  8. Quiet: Don’t get me wrong– Crestline Bagel Co. is a great place to go for socializing with a friend. But it’s a peaceful atmosphere with a comfortable buzz of talking. Nothing too noisy or distracting.
  9. Sun light: Big windows inside the bakery allow for the refreshing natural light to fill up the entire space. I always prefer natural light over fluorescent light in a study space.
  10. Opens early in the morning:  The bakers have to show up before sunrise to start bagel-production. But for customers, the doors open at 6:00 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 7:00 a.m. on weekends. You can get in an hour or two of study time before class even starts!

A National Monument of Our Own

On January 12, 2017 the National Park Service administered Alabama’s first ever National Monument to preserve and uphold the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement. Birmingham, AL has been on the map before officially being established as a home to a National Monument not solely due to it’s rich history, but the Civil Rights Institute’s capability of vividly articulating the struggle has been the cornerstone for this story.

The Civil Rights Institute is a Birmingham must, not just for tourists but also the local community. The institute couples history with art for a cathartic experience and a chronological walk through history. The self-guided tour starts with a short video that sets the stage for the start of the movement, then continues on into rooms of timelines, voice overs, sculptures, replicas of early-1900s buses, water fountains, court rooms, classrooms and more.

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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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Birmingham Oddities

Oddities welcoming each guest.

Stepping up to the black door of 101 23rd Street North, a rickety old wheelchair with bunny costume head hanging off greets everyone coming to experience a new adventure. Stepping through the dark door guests are transported into a world of wonder.

Adam Williams, Birmingham native, takes what he calls home decor to a new level. Williams’ store, Birmingham Oddities, has attracted everyone from artists to children with the unique finds displayed in cases, bookshelves and hanging off the walls and ceiling.

A bookshelf of jarred specimen.

Williams started a personal collection of natural history and science oddities when he was young in the search for things such as fossils and raccoon skulls. It then grew enough to open a store in downtown Birmingham in 2015.

“I love the feeling of wonder,” said Williams. “It makes me go back to being a kid again.” In such a buzzing world, as kids turn to adults, they are “saturated” with noise, losing their sense of wonder.

Willaims wants each visitor to take a journey and have a space to wonder. Check out the oddities he has to offer only on Saturdays in the heart of Birmingham.

Thomas Beavers, New Rising Star Church

Thomas Beavers is the pastor of New Rising Star Church in East Birmingham. He is currently leading the process of purchasing Century Plaza Mall with plans to relocate the church there to accommodate future growth.  I sat down with him to learn more about how he reached this milestone.

Beavers explained that over time, he developed this dream to see former Century Plaza Mall revitalized to serve as a hub for the community of East Birmingham. Not only will this property serve as home to New Rising Star Church, but Beavers also plans to start a charter school in the space. The remaining 743,000 square feet of space will be dedicated to nonprofits and other agents of change whose missions align with the church’s.

As his plan has materialized, Beavers has faced many challenges.  Pursuing this dream has demanded a lot of his time and energy, in addition to the normal strains placed on a church pastor.  He compared his experience with Joseph in the Bible.

“He had a dream and he told his dream to his brothers, and the moment he opened his mouth was the moment he started going through all of these trials. But inevitably, his trouble was transportation to the fulfillment of his dream.  Everything that seemed bad was really pushing him to where God said he would be,” said Beavers.

New Rising Star Church has always been a part of his life. Beavers grew up in the church under the leadership of his grandfather, Tommy Chappell, who pastored for 35 years. Following his grandfather’s retirement, Beavers stepped in as pastor in 2010.

At Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, Beavers wrote his doctoral dissertation on Biblical pastoral transitions. That enabled him to transition smoothly into the role of pastor, moving forward along the path his grandfather had paved.

I asked Beavers if he always knew he wanted to preach. He looked up with a sheepish smile and chuckled to himself, saying, “I got a lot of preachers in my family and I always said, ‘I never want to preach.’”

Despite Beavers’ defiance, the Lord got his attention.

“I was in four car wrecks in three months.   In every car wreck I walked out of the car without a scratch on my body, and I could hear God telling me, ‘I’m calling you to preach, ’” said Beavers.

Beavers originally went to Kentucky State University on a basketball scholarship with plans to become a doctor. Over time, though, he realized that he didn’t have the passion to succeed in medical school, and chose seminary at Beeson instead.  As he accepted the call to preach, his fear was dispelled by peace.

I attended his church one Sunday and I was amazed by the warm welcome I received, as well as the joy that erupted from the congregation’s unified praise. I sat by Beaver’s secretary, Carol Hatcher, who turned to me during Beavers’ sermon and remarked, “The pastor I see behind the pulpit is the same pastor I see day after day.”

Pastor Beavers is a charismatic leader who is passionate about growing his church while also expanding the church’s influence in the city of Birmingham. You can read more about Pastor Beavers and the story of New Rising Star Church in the upcoming Spring issue of The Local.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

“The Phantom of the Opera” is here… inside Birmingham

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/eschipul/4702637227 through Creative Commons

The Broadway classic “The Phantom of the Opera” will grace the stage of the BJCC Concert Hall April 5-16.

Produced by Cameron Mackintosh,  directed by Laurence Connor and overseen by Matthew Bourne, the North American tour presents the musical tale like never before. New costumes, design elements, lighting and staging have been implemented to create an updated version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s esteemed masterpiece.  It features a 52-person cast and orchestra as well as full creative team bringing the drama to the United States. Experience your favorite Phantom, Christine and company moments in a whole new light for two weeks only.

The musical is part of Theatre League’s annual Broadway in Birmingham lineup at the BJCC. It is the last show of the 2016-2017 series before the new series picks up in December. Other acclaimed shows from the past season included “Broadway Christmas Wonderland”, “Dirty Dancing”and “Once”. “The Book of Mormon” will also play as a season add-on in October.

Tickets start as low as $50 and range up to $600 depending on date and seating choice. For more information about ticketing,  the Birmingham production of “The Phantom of the Opera” or the upcoming season, visit http://theaterleague.com/birmingham.

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.