Friday, April 30, 2010

Falconry Demonstrations Part of Opening Day Activities of Ozark Medieval Fortress

Watch as stone masons, blacksmiths, basket weavers, rope makers and a falconer transport an Arkansas Ozark hillside into medieval times on May 1, when the Ozark Medieval Fortress in Lead Hill opens to the public.

Workers clad in the authentic garb and using materials and techniques of the 13th century are building a genuine medieval castle in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains. A team of historians, architectural experts, and passionate builders are constructing the castle with 45-feet-high towers, a drawbridge, moats, and 6-foot-wide stone walls surrounding an inner yard.

Construction, which started in the fall of 2009, will not be finished when the attraction opens. Part of the allure will be watching 30 masons, carpenters, lumberjacks, and stone carvers work to complete the castle with only medieval tools. The project is supervised by Franco-American scientists with special knowledge of ancient building techniques. It will not be an amusement park, but an educational, environmental and scientific attraction venue.

This socio-historic project is the brainchild of Michel Guyot, who launched a similar concept in Burgundy, France 10 years ago with great success. The idea to build a fortress in Arkansas was born when a French couple who had relocated to the United States visited the Castle of Saint-Fargeau in central France and met owner Guyot. After discussion, they realized that there were no 13th century fortified American castles in the United States and decided to start the castle project, not as a vision of an event in American history, but as a rich and unique educational treasure.

Along with watching the builders, visitors can view other artisans producing tools such as rope and baskets that are used to for construction. As part of the grand opening activities at the Ozark Medieval Fortress, Richard Swinney, a licensed falconer, will be on hand to provide an historical interpretation of hunting techniques using live animals. Falconry is the taking of wild quarry with a trained bird of prey. Although this form of hunting has been practiced for thousands of years, it was particularly popular during the Middle Ages.

Hunting was a prominent part of medieval life, providing both food and recreation. Swinney and three other members of the Bramble Schoole of Defence, a scholarly historical reenactment group based in Springfield, Missouri, will be displaying, discussing and demonstrating a wide array of weapons, equipment and techniques employed in medieval hunting.

“He has a greyhound, a falcon and a ferret,” explained Julie Sonveau, general manager of the castle project. “They will have an encampment here and will be walking around and giving demonstrations throughout the day.”

The fortress accepts volunteers interested in experiencing and helping with construction. Special events will be offered each year, including demonstrations of catapults starting in 2011. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for kids, and will be free for ages 5 and under.

Lead Hill is located halfway between Springfield, Missouri and Little Rock, Arkansas. Group tours are available. For more information, visit or call 870-436-7625. The fortress can be followed on Facebook or at usacastle on Twitter.

by Jill Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Delta Offers Travel Assistance to Customers Affected by Volcanic Ash Clouds Across Northwestern Europe

/PRNewswire/ -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) today announced it is offering customers whose flight plans may be affected by volcanic ash clouds spreading across Northwestern Europe the ability to make one-time changes to their travel schedules without fees.

Customers booked on Delta-ticketed flights to, from or through the following European markets from April 15-18 may make a one-time change to their travel schedule without fees if tickets are changed by April 30, 2010.

-- Amsterdam (AMS)
-- Brussels (BRU)
-- Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
-- Dublin (DUB)
-- London-Gatwick (LGW)
-- London-Heathrow (LHR)
-- Manchester (MAN)
-- Shannon (SNN)

Delta's travel advisory encourages customers to consider postponing or re-routing their travel to avoid inconvenience from flight delays and cancellations expected across the region.

Clouds of volcanic ash from eruptions in Iceland are forcing air traffic controllers to close airspace into several airports across Europe. Delta continues to review operational conditions across Europe and is working closely with European air traffic controllers and airports to be able to quickly advise customers when airports are closed or re-opened. Additional flights delays are possible.

Travel for changed itineraries must begin by May 31, 2010, and changes to origin and destination may result in a fare increase. Any fare difference between the original ticket and the new ticket will be collected at the time of rebooking. Customers whose flights are cancelled may request refunds.

All customers should check their flight status at before arriving at the airport. Delta will continue to monitor the situation and provide the latest updates at

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Priceline Says Average Summer Airfares Could Be Up 25% This Year

/PRNewswire/ -- Summer airfare deals are out there, but finding them this year will take a little more homework, planning and creativity, according to the head of's (NASDAQ: PCLN) airline ticketing service.

"Airline capacity and routes flown are still down compared to recent years," said Mark Koehler, Priceline's Senior Vice President, Air. "We haven't experienced the widespread, aggressive airfare sales seen a year ago. In general, travelers will find that summer airfares could be as much as 25% more expensive than last year, on average, and that's before factoring in extra fees for baggage, pillows, food and such. Travelers who want to save on air travel will need to plan ahead, be flexible and try different approaches to booking their trips." was the first major online travel agency to eliminate booking fees on its published price domestic and international airline tickets. Priceline's airline tickets service offers a full suite of features to help travelers save money on airfare. Entering travel dates and airports will generate an easy to follow grid of airlines and fares. Searches can be modified to look for alternative airports, travel dates and times. Priceline's Inside Track includes a Best Days To Fly calendar, a Price Drop e-mail notifier and a special section that shows typical savings, connections and flight times for Priceline's Name Your Own Price® airline ticketing service.

Name Your Own Price® continues to be a good choice for last-minute travelers who can't find an affordable fare. "Despite the decrease in capacity, airlines are still flying with some empty seats, especially during off-peak travel days and times," said Koehler. "Travelers are having success with last-minute airline ticket bids that are up to 50% below the published fares. The deals are there. The key to finding the best deals is using Priceline's fare search tools to find the off-peak days and times where the bargains are likely to be."

Koehler, an airline industry veteran and United Airlines alumnus, offered his personal tips for trimming the cost of a summer air trip:

-- Pack with a plan (and other ways to cut down on extra fees). Paying
for each piece of baggage means that every item should be scrutinized
during packing to be sure it will be worn or used on the trip ahead.
If not, leave it behind. Some airlines are now charging for larger
carry-ons. Travelers bringing a laptop should be careful not to use
too large a case or stuff it too full - otherwise, the airline may
charge a fee. Shipping certain items ahead may be cheaper than paying
the baggage fee. Travel with a sweater that can double as a blanket
or be folded into a pillow. Have a meal or a snack before getting
onto the plane.

-- Be open to trying different airlines and airports. Summer fares are
likely to vary quite a bit from airline to airline. For example, a
late-June round-trip flight from Boston to San Francisco returned
fares ranging from $453 to $548 depending on the airline and flight
times. Also, if multiple airports are within range, check the fares
to and from all of them. A late June trip from San Francisco to the
Washington, DC, area cost $414 flying into Reagan International and
$403 flying into Dulles.

-- Try alternative travel days. Fares do go up or down depending on
travel days selected. It's just as true now as it is during the
end-of-year holidays. Priceline's popular Best Days To Fly calendar
shows what happens to fares depending on travel dates selected.

-- Pick times of the day that are normally less busy. Time of day is
important. Travelers will find the most affordable seats departing
early in the morning (5-7 a.m.) or late evening (after 8 p.m.).
Mid-day (11 a.m. - 4 p.m.) is a bit more expensive, but still
reasonable. Most expensive are the peak business travel hours (8-10
a.m. and 5-7 p.m.).

-- Use's Name Your Own Price® airline tickets service.
Travelers can save up to 50% on last-minute airline tickets by using's Name Your Own Price® ticketing service. It's easy.
Just choose the travel dates, airports and price. You'll know
instantly if your bid is accepted. With's Name Your Own
Price airline tickets service, travelers must agree to fly anytime
between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on whatever major airline accepts
their offer. There may be up to one connection each way.

-- Need a rental car or hotel room with that ticket? Travelers using's published-price and Name Your Own Price airline
tickets service can now add a rental car with a few mouse clicks. In
addition to not charging booking fees for its published-price airline
tickets, doesn't charge booking fees for its
published-price rental cars. And here's another tip - customers may
find they can get a Name Your Own Price airfare/rental car combo for
less than the price of a published-price airline ticket.

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The Georgia Sea Turtle Center and the Jekyll Island Authority To Celebrate Sea Turtles With the Annual Shell-E-Bration, Nest Fest and Turtle Crawl Triathlon

/PRNewswire/ -- As coastal Georgia begins to welcome in warmer weather, it is also that time of year to welcome a very special annual visitor to Jekyll Island- the sea turtle! Nesting season begins mid-May and continues through August and hundreds of these amazing sea creatures come home to nest on Jekyll Island's sprawling beaches.

Jekyll Island is home to the internationally-acclaimed Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC), an operating sea turtle rehabilitation facility open to the public which is operated by the Jekyll Island Authority, and encourages sea turtle education and preservation through activities and programs and research. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) is dedicated to monitoring the turtles during nesting season and protecting both the turtles and their nests.

Beginning in early spring, Jekyll Island will be celebrating sea turtles with a variety of activities and programs to educate kids and their families on these endangered species. The activities are modestly priced, and many are free and open to the public.

Shell-e-brate Earth Day - Sat., April 17: Guests and residents will celebrate Earth Day this year with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center at the third annual Shell-e-brate Earth Day family festival! From eco-friendly entertainment to earth-tastic arts and crafts, this family fun day has something to offer everyone. This event is free with general admission to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

Nest Fest - May 10-15: Undoubtedly one of the most exciting times of the year at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is the sea turtle nesting season. This years' annual Nest Fest marks the eighth anniversary of this fantastic week-long celebration aimed at educating both children and adults on sea turtles, coastal ecology and eco-friendly behavior. To make reservations for any of the Nest Fest events, please contact the Georgia Sea Turtle Center at 912-635-4444.

Turtle Crawl Triathlon - Sat., May 15: The Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl Triathlon is a chance for participants of all skill levels to come together and enjoy an afternoon on the coast. A full triathlon is offered for the most ambitious of athletes. The race begins with a 1.5 mile swim, then continues to a 40K bike ride and finishes up with a 10K run. For those wanting a more leisurely event, the Sprint Triathlon offers a 600 yard swim, 20K bike ride and a 5K run. A 5K Fun Run/Walk will offer a more relaxed way to benefit the GSTC. A portion of the proceeds go to benefit the GSTC on Jekyll Island.

More about the Georgia Sea Turtle Center:

The internationally-acclaimed Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) is located on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia - Jekyll Island. In addition to rehabilitating injured and ill sea turtles, as well as educating the public and conducting research, the GSTC is dedicated to monitoring the turtles during nesting season and protecting them and their nests during this crucial time as the saga of Georgia's sea turtles plays out every summer on the beaches of Jekyll Island. Jekyll, a state-owned island, has been largely preserved in its natural state, and is a favorite location where many of these threatened and endangered turtles come to nest and hatch. Nest Fest and the Turtle Crawl Triathlon are supported by a grant from the Georgia Tourism Foundation.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Wave of Entertaining Celebrations Comes to Myrtle Beach in May

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina is introducing four inaugural events to its quintessential summer entertainment lineup along with the official introduction of its first-ever oceanfront boardwalk. The month of festivities coined as Myrtle Beach MayFest will be marked by celebrity appearances, music, food and entertainment for all ages, along with a variety of special hotel deals throughout the month.

“May is a beautiful time to enjoy a getaway in Myrtle Beach before the height of summer”

Long-known for its plethora of affordable attractions and activities that appeal to a wide range of travelers, the Myrtle Beach area is energized to preempt summer with its MayFest celebrations.

“May is a beautiful time to enjoy a getaway in Myrtle Beach before the height of summer,” said Brad Dean, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB, “We’re thrilled to host such an array of exciting and family-friendly events to enhance the Myrtle Beach experience for our visitors.”

Kicking off MayFest is the Arts & Film Celebration on May 1st with a lineup that includes free celebrity meet-and-greets with Alex Meraz of “Twilight: New Moon” and Catherine Bell of Lifetime Movie Network’s “Army Wives.” Visitors will enjoy outdoor movies, R&B and jazz bands, food, arts and craft vendors, fireworks and more. The event will be held in conjunction with Arts & Film Celebration Week, April 24-May 2, with the F.A.M.E. (Film, Arts, Music, Entertainment) Festival starting the week.

On May 15, 2010, Myrtle Beach will officially unveil its brand new, mile-long, oceanfront boardwalk with a ribbon cutting ceremony and Beach Music Festival. To welcome this exciting new addition to the beach-front community, Buddy Valastro of TLC’s “The Cake Boss” will be on-site building a celebratory beach-themed flip-flop cake. The weekend will include free performances by eight beach music acts like Ben E. King, the Coasters and the Embers among others, followed by a fireworks spectacular to conclude the weekend.

The month-long party continues with the Beach Blast! Christian Music Festival on May 22, 2010. The ticketed event will feature a host of musical acts including TobyMac and The Afters, Kutless, speaker David Nasser and a variety of food, arts and crafts exhibitors – ending the evening with a fireworks display.

To conclude the May festivities, Memorial Day weekend will feature a free concert with headliner Jordin Sparks - winner of American Idol’s sixth season - along with other Disney & Nickelodeon performers Mitchell Musso, Drake Bell, Jasmine Richards and Savannah Outen. Families will also be treated to very special free celebrity meet-and-greets with such notable Disney & Nickelodeon favorites as: Nathan Kress of “iCarly,” Savannah Outen of “Hannah Montana,” Jasmine Richards of “Camp Rock,” Drake Bell of “Drake and Josh,” Tiffany Thornton of “Sonny with a Chance” and Debby Ryan of “Suite Life on Deck.” Visitors can also enjoy a massive Memorial Day parade with celebrity veteran and NASA astronaut, Buzz Aldrin who is currently competing on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and will serve as the parade’s Grand Marshal.

For specific dates/times and more information on Myrtle Beach MayFest and special hotel offers that include oceanfront accommodations, please visit

The Myrtle Beach area, popularly known as the Grand Strand, stretches from Little River to Pawleys Island, comprising 12 distinct cities along the South Carolina coast. Home to world-class golf, 60 miles of sandy beaches, an assortment of entertainment and family attractions and Southern hospitality, the Myrtle Beach area presents the quintessential vacation experience.

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