OK, so I am not from here and it took a good chunk of my life to get here. The truth is I had never visited the state of Alabama other than to pass through it until Eastman Kodak offered me a great promotion to become the General Manager of an Eastman Kodak division in Birmingham.

By that time Kodak had moved my wife, kids and I several times including Nashville TN, Philadelphia PA and Hattiesburg MS. Kyle (my wife) and I had already lived a number of places in our lives prior to Kodak. For me, it included Mifflinburg PA, Cincinnati OH, New York City, Columbia MO and Nashville where my nearly 30-year career at Kodak began. For Kyle, she was from Overland Park Kansas a suburb of Kansas City and had moved to Shelbyville IN near Indianapolis.

Our journeys brought us together 42 years ago in Nashville via a mutual friend. So now, you might wonder what this history has to do with anything related to tourism, which is my typical subject of my weekly column. The truth is it is all about tourism. Kyle and I moved to Fort Payne because while living in Birmingham-Hoover, we, like many other people from the Birmingham area, became tourists visiting DeKalb County. Our kids were grown and had both moved to Nashville at that time.

We started coming up here on weekends doing many of the exact same things our typical leisure tourist do; camping, hiking, visiting the parks, eating, shopping for art, and most of all relaxing and enjoying what we considered the most beautiful part of Alabama. It was quieter than the rush we had lived in most of our lives; less traffic, more scenery and it served as the ideal get-a-way for us.

As time went on, Kodak began the struggle to keep their 120-year business model alive. Even though Kodak invented Digital Photography, they could not find a way to make it profitable. Film, processing, photographic paper and chemicals were where the profit was and it was declining quickly. The company started laying off employees and closing offices and divisions and that happened in Birmingham. I stayed with the company with a small office in Homewood. At that time I was responsible for much of the southeastern states in Kodak Retail Sales & Service and they did not care where we lived as long as it was in my region.

We decided to sell our house in Hoover and move to PARADISE. Kyle loved horses and I loved land so we both wanted acreage. Before you knew it we were living in DeKalb County and loving it.

Tourists feel the same way about our area as I did as a tourist. We have become a location many people retire to, or say they want to. Our visitors come back over and over because we are the exact weekend get-a-way they desire or we are their chosen vacation spot.

Many of you have lived here all of your life and maybe you do not think about this area the way I do. My love for DeKalb comes via the choice of picking this as a place we wanted to live. Our prior moves were chosen by our parents or by Kodak. This was Kyle’s and my first move we have ever made in our marriage that was a destination we picked.

For all the things to do and see and for a calendar of events, please visit our website at www.visitlookoutmountain.com or call us at 256-845-3957.

— John Dersham is president and CEO of DeKalb Tourism.

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