The long-awaited grand opening of the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Office & Visitor Center is scheduled for Monday, June 2 at 10 a.m. The Shoals Chamber of Commerce will be on hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony.  State and local dignitaries including Lee Sentell, Director of the Alabama Tourism Department, will also attend.

“The grand opening represents the completion of a long term goal by our board of directors, staff and elected officials,” said Debbie Wilson, Director of Florence/Lauderdale Tourism. “It also represents a new era in promoting Florence, Lauderdale County and our region as a tourism destination. We hope the Center will be a source of pride for our community and a source of inspiration for visitors in creating memorable experiences.”

Located in McFarland Park, the $2 million Center has impressive displays and exhibits designed by Method-1, a division of ExpoDisplays of Birmingham.. These exhibits feature the area’s tourism assets, including the music heritage, Wilson Dam, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Rosenbaum Home and other architecture, Native American artifacts, as well as tributes to famous faces like W.C. Handy, Helen Keller, Billy Reid and Natalie Chanin. Another highlight is a large aquarium with local fish and information on the abundant fishing that can be found on Pickwick and Wilson Lakes.

Tourism officials broke ground on the Center in early 2013. Architect Robert Whitten was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture for the 7,500-square-foot building. Both Whitten and the local contractor Parallax Building Systems utilized local vendors like Block USA, Monarch Tile and Centiva for all aspects of the design. Award-winning wood artist and furniture maker Robin Wade provided benches, lectern and tables made of local wood.

The offices for the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism staff are now located in the Center. Two Visitor Experience Specialists have been hired to assist travelers. The staff will train a corps of volunteers for the Center this summer.

The grand opening event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 256-740-4141.

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