The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) announces the recipients of the 2021 PEAK Awards. The program pays tribute to tourism leaders, attractions, festivals and organizations that set the bar for North Alabama’s $2.6 billion tourism industry. The awards presentation is part of the AMLA Annual Meeting held today at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center in Florence, Ala.

Representing the highest achievement in North Alabama tourism, the PEAK Awards honor individuals, events and organizations that have had a major impact on tourism in North Alabama. “The PEAK Awards recognize the best of North Alabama’s tourism and travel industry, and this year’s nominees and winners have all done an exemplary job in delivering an exceptional visitor experience,” said AMLA President/CEO Tami Reist. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still in the forefront, it continues to be challenging times for our industry and I want to take this time to celebrate our local tourism leaders, attractions, festivals and front-line workers who all work tirelessly during these unprecedented times.”  

Twelve awards were handed out at the awards presentation, held during the annual meeting. This year’s award winners are:

Organization of the Year

The Organization of the Year award is presented to the AMLA member organization that has contributed significantly to the betterment and development of tourism in North Alabama in the past year.

Winner:  Athens Main Street

Event of the Year

The Event of the Year award is presented to the AMLA member special event or festival that has made a great contribution to tourism in the past year.

Winner:  Piney Chapel Farm Heritage Days

Attraction of the Year

The Attraction of the Year award is presented to the AMLA member attraction that has made a great contribution to tourism in the past year. 

Winner:  Cathedral Caverns State Park

 Good Neighbor Award 

The “Good Neighbor” Friend of Tourism Award is presented to a person or organization whose body of work has had a significant impact on tourism in the past year.

Winner:  Lee Pitts, Pitts Outdoors 

Northern Star Award

The Northern Star Award is presented to an individual, such as a ranger, guide and a front line employee, who has gone “above and beyond” expectations.

Winner:  Katrina Cope, Holiday Inn Express (Gadsden)

 Young Professional of the Year Award

The Young Professional of the Year “Green Apple Award” is awarded to a person who has been in the tourism business less than seven years and has exhibited extraordinary leadership skills and initiative associated with their position.

Winner:  Haley Rutland, Marshall County Tourism and Sports

 Tourism Professional of the Year

The Tourism Professional of the Year award is presented to an individual or employee of an AMLA member organization who has made a great contribution to tourism in the past year.

Winner: Anna Mullican, Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center and Park

Lasting Impression Award

The Lasting Impression Award is presented to an attraction, event, person or organization that has provided a “lasting impression” on tourists thereby improving the overall image of tourism in North Alabama.  

Winner:  Lucy Orr, Downtown Turtle Trail (Decatur)

 Chairman’s Cup 

The Chairman’s Cup Award is given annually to a travel writer or media person who has over time demonstrated support of AMLA, the region and its tourism activities. 

Winner:  Connie Pearson, travel writer and blogger 

President’s Award

The President’s Award is presented to any person or organization whose tourism-related project created awareness or presented a positive image for North Alabama in the past year. 

Winners:  K.R. Yedla, Ph.D., chairman and founder, Yedla Management Company

Senator Tom Butler

Ewell Smith, volunteer, Athens, Ala. 

It Only Takes A Spark Award 

The award recognizes an individual or organization who is igniting change and making a positive impact on the tourism industry in North Alabama through their initiative, creativity and spirit.

Winner:  Rocket City Trash Pandas

 Top North Alabama Ambassador of the Year

The award recognizes the work and achievements of the top performing North Alabama Ambassador in the past year.

Winner:  Cody Hood, Addison, Ala.

About Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association

AMLA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and development of the travel industry within the 16 northernmost counties of the state. It is supported by 500-plus members consist of chambers of commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureaus, attractions, campgrounds, festivals, communities, counties, golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, accommodations, vendors, financial institutions and individuals.  Counties included within the AMLA region are Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan and Winston. Additional information on North Alabama destinations, accommodations and special events is available from the AMLA by calling 800.648.5381 or by visiting their web site at

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