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(Pictured from left to right) National Tourism Day attendee Frank Ray and tourism department employee Patrick Greenia at the food station during Wednesday’s event. Local businesses and restaurants donated food and drinks for tourists to enjoy a free lunch at the Alabama Welcome Center,

Welcome center celebrates national event

LANETT — The Alabama Welcome Center in Lanett celebrated its annual National Tourism Day on Wednesday afternoon at its location off I-85 South.

May is National Tourism Month in the United States. During different days throughout the month, the eight welcome centers in the state of Alabama are celebrating the tourists who pass through.

“It’s an opportunity to allow you to rest and break up your travel,” Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy said at Wednesday’s event. “The thing that people will hopefully take away from today’s event is a lasting memory of when they did come into Alabama and to the city of Lanett, they were able to stop, eat, relax, get an opportunity to meet other people that they would not otherwise meet and give them an opportunity to socialize as well.”

Some of the stations that were featured at the Lanett celebration provided information on local attractions, hotels, and motels for each of the tourists. Free food from local restaurants like Conecuh Sausage Co., Inc., Pig Out, Bud’s Best Cookies, Mr. Ice, and Priester’s Pecans was offered to attendees as well. The Whistle Stop Pickers were among the musical acts who performed at the event, according to Alabama Welcome Center Manager Laura Smith.

The staff at the Lanett stop is what separates the welcome center off of I-85 South compared to other welcome centers in the state, McCoy said. During Wednesday’s event, McCoy presented the Welcome Center with a proclamation for National Tourism Day.

“The ladies and gentlemen who work here are some of the finest individuals who have been nationally recognized and throughout the state of Alabama with friendliness, courtesy, and the whole personality of people coming here,” McCoy said. “They’ve received rave reviews all over the state and I think that’s a testament not only to them but the entire area of the people who live and work here. It’s a great community and we’re just happy to share it with those who are coming through today.”

Making the tourists feel special for just a few moments every day is one the highlights for the Welcome Center employees, according to Smith, who recently celebrated her 32-year anniversary working at the center.

“It’s wonderful, that’s what we do, we’re people persons,” Smith said. “We love people, so that’s what we try to do, make them feel at home. They’re at home when they get to the welcome center and that’s what a lot of our guests say, is that they feel at home with us. That’s a blessing.”