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Stren Series director calls Ingalls nation's best for fish tourneys

By Paul Huggins 340-2395

Praises for Ingalls Harbor have become routine, but tourism officials still enjoyed hearing them Thursday during their annual awards breakfast.

Chris Jones, director of the FLW Stren Series, initially told the 110 gathered at the Holiday Inn that Ingalls is unsurpassed as a fishing tournament facility based on the 40 states he's visited.

"In my book, it's No. 1, and I've seen them all," he said. "If we drew up the perfect tournament facility, it would look just like Ingalls Harbor."

Ingalls, which opened a year ago, is one of the reasons the city set a record in fiscal 2007 for collected lodging taxes.

Both the visitors bureau and the Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association recognized the people and companies that helped make 2007's achievements possible.

Jeff Dunlap, director of Decatur Parks and Recreation, received the visitors bureau's Julian Walker "Mr. Tourism" Award, while Brandy Senn, sales director of Best Western, won Young Professional of the Year, given by the hospitality association.

Presenters praised both for their professionalism in making Decatur a first-class destination while at work and for volunteering to assist with tournaments, festivals and special events.

Lynn Layton received the Good Neighbor Award for his longtime sponsorship of tourism events, including being the first sponsor of the Decatur Daily Criterium.

Layton also contributed vehicles on loan to the Racking Horse World Celebration.

The Governor's Cup soccer tournament, which left its longtime home in Birmingham to come to Decatur this year, bringing with it more than 100 teams, was Event of the Year.

The top five corporations recognized for producing the most hotel room nights are International Paper, 4,029 room nights; Nucor Steel, 3,700; 3M, 2,795; Tennessee Valley Authority, 2,497; and Toray, 2,279.

The city collected $857,945 this year, up 91/2 percent from 2006, said Norman Roby, chairman of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The boost in hotel business was mostly because of increases in fishing and soccer tournaments, motor coach tours and corporate travelers, he said.

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