I’m not kidding! This really is a great time to be alive in Bibb County. As someone from my professional past once exclaimed “We live in exciting times!” There are numerous examples of why times are exciting here.
We have a manufacturer of world class motor vehicles (Mercedes) within a stone’s throw, as well as numerous suppliers, two of whom are in the county. Mercedes itself is expanding into the county to meet global demand for their vehicle markets. This will create even more employment opportunities for Bibb County area residents.
Woodstock and West Blocton have excellent leadership and initiative in their town governments, as well as potential for growth. Those towns are also partnering with each other to keep sewage costs affordable for their citizens and outlying customers.
Both towns have excellent new homes for their libraries, which provide internet access and computer usage for those without it, as well as a higher quantity and quality of reading and research materials.
As for festivals, each town now has a signature festival. Woodstock will be hosting its 3rd music festival this fall, and it has begun an initiative to raise awareness and empathy for suicide prevention.
As for West Blocton, this is the 30th year for the Cahaba Lily Festival that takes place tomorrow. There is also next month’s Fish Fry/Old Timer’s baseball game and the turnip green supper this fall.
In addition to all of those activities—and there are plenty more in both towns—there is the West Blocton Farmers Market that kicks off tomorrow, in conjunction with the Cahaba Lily Festival! The Market will be held in the residential section of Main Street from 9AM-12Noon. You can find plenty of details by searching, liking and viewing “West Blocton Farmers Market” on Instagram and Facebook.
Hats off to Mayor Daniel Sims, Market Manager Kathy McCulley, and Market Board members John Sloan, Bethany Sloan and Blane Sherron for making the Market happen so quickly!
I didn’t know a thing about West Blocton even considering a Farmers Market until very late March, when they reached out to our office. An exploratory meeting was held on April 1, and lo and behold they’re having a Market TOMORROW, Saturday, May 18! Great job, y’all!
Finally, Alabama is celebrating its Bicentennial! Bibb County Schools, all of the municipalities, and countless volunteers hosted an exhibit last month at the Board of Education in Centreville with local artisans and historical items of interest.
With that celebration in mind, I want to share the following article written by Ben “Southernness” Johnson, a Master Gardener in Cullman County about Bibb County. Ben initiated and is completing the mammoth task of doing a feature on EVERY Alabama county. He completed the Bibb County article in early March. Rita Dunn and I really enjoyed talking with Ben about Bibb County’s assets, and we hope you enjoy reading this informative and at times humorous piece, complete with a drawing of a Cahaba Lily by one of our Bibb County 4-H youth!:
THE 67-COUNTY, ALABAMA GARDEN PARTY—BIBB COUNTY
Plant explorers, the Indiana Joneses of the botanical world, travel from all over the globe to Bibb County, Alabama. This is a place of tremendous, plant diversity and exquisite beauty that a plantsman’s diary recorded as a “lost world of botanick species.”
The Cahaba River, Alabama’s longest stretch of free-flowing water, is almost 200 miles long. It reaches from above Birmingham and lazily meanders through ancient and mysterious land of great beauty all the way to Selma. The uplands surrounding the river are forested with mountain longleaf and loblolly pine. The most-treasured part of this natural wonder is in Bibb County, and the most treasured plant for many to discover is the ethereal wildflower, “Hymenocallis coronaria,” the Cahaba River Lily.
The Cahaba Lily, also called the shoal lily, or Cahaba Shoal Lily is like the Hope Diamond or a Michelangelo drawing valued for its gorgeousness and rarity. This plant is celebrated on Alabama vehicle license plates and has its own popular celebration, The Cahaba Lily Festival, the third Saturday in May in West Blocton. This big, annual Alabama garden party in Bibb County is about both the thoughtful stewardship of natural gifts and about our state’s appreciation for beauty.
*PLANTING AN IDEA–The Bibb County native Cahaba Lily is an aquatic perennial and could point the way for a thriving future of hydroponically grown plants in the area. Imagine how popular, nutritiously superior, yummier-tasting Bibb County Bibb Lettuce could be in America’s grocery stores. I’m already imagining the story with the photograph of a Bibb County lettuce farmer in Whole Foods, Publix and WalMart. What Vidalia, Georgia is to onions, Bibb County, Alabama can be for lettuces.
Some plants thrive more with hydroponics than others. Lettuces love to be grown in water so let’s not just limit our vision to Iceberg but to better-grown romaine and arugula. For the best, think of any plant that squooshes when you squeeze it, bruises when you muddle it: tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, mint, basil, berries. Someone get Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP on the line, Bibb County needs a “green food” sponsor to get Alabama’s hydroponics industry thriving.
Here are more pleasurable and positive ways that PLANTS + PEOPLE come together in Bibb County, Alabama:
*BIBB COUNTY EXTENSION OFFICE—every county in the state is part of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, which supports farmers, growers, arborists, gardeners with training and advice; Bibb County has a future-thinking agent, Matt Hartzell, who values plants and progress, understands agri-business and plant tourism and realizes what they can mean to the people in the county;
*CAHABA RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE—3,689 protected and managed acres and one of the newest designated plant and animal sanctuaries in the US; hunters are required to obtain a William R. Ireland/Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area permit and license; Alabama is grateful for future-thinking philanthropists like Bill Ireland and groups like The Nature Conservancy for helping save our natural resources for the next 200 years
*KATHY STILES FREELAND BIBB COUNTY GLADES PRESERVE—home to 61 rare plant species, a botanical wonder that is currently “THE MOST BIOLOGICALLY DIVERSE SITE” in Alabama
*BIBB COUNTY NATIVE PLANTS AND PEOPLE—the original name for Bibb County was Cahawba County when it was established in the Alabama Territory on February 7, 1818, “cahawba” means “above water” in the native Choctaw language; the name was changed to honor William W. Bibb, Governor of the Alabama Territory and the first Governor after statehood;
*BIBB COUNTY LAUNCHED ALABAMA’S BIGGEST NEWSPAPER—the Woodstock community was an early settlement on the old Huntsville to Tuscaloosa stagecoach line; what would become Alabama’s biggest newspaper, “The Birmingham News,” (part of AL.com) began here in the early 1800s;
*BRIERFIELD IRONWORKS STATE PARK—the Brierfield Furnace originally produced decorative wrought iron popular in antebellum architecture, but during the American Civil War the furnaces were converted to produce naval armaments; the site is now a 486-acre state park where visitors are welcomed to hiking and nature trails, swimming, and it is also on the West Alabama Birding Trail; of special interest are the Mulberry Church built in Bibb County near Centreville in 1897 and relocated to Brierfield Park, as well as the Historic Ashby Post Office that is available as a conference center and meeting space; historic cabins and farmhouses are also available for overnight rental;
Y’ALL COME to Bibb County on your 67-COUNTY, ALABAMA GARDEN PARTY tour through this “state within a garden.”
Many thanks to Matt Hartzell and Rita Dunn of the Bibb County office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System; and to Rick Edmonds for the Twix-And-Tween Barbecue Sauce recipe.
BIBB COUNTY LETTUCE WRAPS with TWIX-AND-TWEEN BARBECUE SAUCE
This delicious garden party entrée salutes Bibb County, Alabama. The classic, Alabama-concocted barbecue sauce was created by the famous Twix-And-Tween Barbecue which was a “must eat” friendly place on the Bibb County stretch of highway between Montgomery and Tuscaloosa. For more than fifty years, the Twix-And-Tween only closed on Christmas Days. The Twix-And-Tween was owned by Hugh and Margaret Ann Edmunds and started in Centreville in 1952. Their fun-loving son, Rick, who shared this recipe, claims to have “the best tastebuds” in the family. The Edmunds closed the business just a few years ago, but the sign is still there and it is a great, VERY ALABAMA place for a cellphone selfie or an Instagram photo.
TWIX-AND-TWEEN BARBECUE SAUCE
2 cups ketchup
1 cup dill pickle juice
¾ cup yellow mustard
3 Tablespoons hot sauce
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
Pinch of garlic salt
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a pot on medium heat. Bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into jars and refrigerate. Will last for several months.
BIBB COUNTY LETTUCE WRAPS
6 leaves of Bibb County lettuce
4 ounces grilled chicken, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 Tablespoons Bibb County pecans, chopped
Directions: Stir the chopped chicken, celery and pecans in a bowl. Divide the mixture among the lettuce leaves. Drizzle with Twix-And-Tween Barbecue Sauce. To eat, wrap the lettuce leaves around the mixture. Serves 6. Enjoy with lots of stories about Bibb County memories of stops at the Twix-And-Tween to and from the ballgames in Tuscaloosa!