Dersham said the tour originated in Muscle Shoals, and included a visit to the Mentone area, where participants ate and shopped at the Wildflower Café – then, on to stay the night at DeSoto Lodge.
He said he met the tour bus the next morning and got on as a guide, directing the tourists to and through such area attractions as DeSoto Park, Orbix Glass, the Alabama Museum and Gift Shop, and the Big Mill Antique Mall.
That particular tour even included an unexpected encounter with Randy Owen. While visiting Owen’s home, Dersham said Owen came outside, encouraged tourists to get off the bus, and spoke with three World War II veterans who happened to be among the tour participants.
“All three of the vets were almost 90 years old,” Dersham said. “It was totally unplanned that Randy would greet us; they just wanted to see his house. But, he was very gracious – and, of course, he is a very big supporter of our troops. He really took a lot of time thanking the vets for their support, which just tickled them to death.”
Dersham said DeKalb currently draws about three or four such bus tours per year, but he and other representatives of the tourist association are working to up that number to three or four per month.
“If you think about it, this just brings a great deal of money, and a great deal of tax revenue into the area,” he said.