Historically cool: North Alabama Agriplex shares 10 ways Alabama has stayed cool for the last 200 years


A Cullman pup demonstrates how summer coolness is done. He’s available for adoption at the Cullman County Animal Shelter; call 256-734-5448. (Cullman County Animal Shelter)

CULLMAN – As they prepare for this Thursday’s COOLFEST, the North Alabama Agriplex’s Rachel Dawsey and Ben Johnson shared a few ideas on historical coolness:

Alabama summertime can be hot enough to bake a possum in a handbag and summer 2018 is already a scorcher. The North Alabama Agriplex has been exploring cooling traditions in our state and has these ideas to suggest:

  1. DIP BEDDING IN A COOL STREAM AND ENJOY NATURALLY COOL ALABAMA CAVES—Native Alabamians used these techniques for cooling.  
  2. SAVE ICE BLOCKS FROM WINTER PONDS—Early settlers stored frozen water in naturally cooled buildings called “ice houses” for use in the hot months.
  3. HAND-CRANK ICE CREAM WITH NATURALLY SWEET ALABAMA FRUITS—The first ice cream freezers were invented in the 1840s.
  4. DESIGN ARCHITECTURE FOR COOLING—High ceilings, dogtrot breezeways and cross-ventilation were popular in 19th century Alabama buildings.
  5. WEAR COTTON CLOTHING—Natural fibers “breathe.”  Traditionally, Alabama farmers wore long-sleeved, cotton shirts in the summer and women wore loose-fitting dresses at home.
  6. DRINK SWEET ICED TEA—It was first mentioned in an 1879 Southern cookbook.
  7. PLANT A VINE TRELLIS on a, south-facing wall; consider native jasmine, muscadine and ivy.
  8. TAKE A MIDDAY NAP—Alabama farm and town workers took a siesta every day after lunch.
  10. SHARE STORIES ON THE PORCH in the cool, cool, cool of the evening until bedtime.


COOLFEST is a free admission “pop-up” event happening this Thursday, July 26 at the junction of Second Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast in downtown Cullman.  The event begins at 4:12 p.m. and ends at 7:12 p.m. with 412 Public House offering free tastings of fresh Cullman-grown produce, grilled tastings by Alabama Farm Credit, music and storytelling in the fellowship hall of Christ Lutheran Church, “cool art” at Consign & Design, Cullman-grown sunflowers at Cullman Florist, the Cullman Public Library Bookmobile with a selection of “cool and cooling books,” and farmers at the “pop-up” Cullman-grown market.  Visitors will have the opportunity to shop for original art and watch Cullman artist Jack Tupper at work, pick up some free gifts, and register for a drawing to win a picnic basket full of Cullman-grown goodies.

About COOLFEST’s music, Johnson said, “All the great American music has roots in the South: country, blues, jazz, gospel, rock-and-roll; so it's a natural that the North Alabama Agriplex COOLFEST this week is celebrating the tradition of “cooling off” in the summertime with music and storytelling deeply rooted in north Alabama culture. The music starts happening at 4:12 p.m. with sidewalk fiddlers, Anne Lawrence Burks and Rebecca Harris, playing bluegrass classics and lively tunes you'll remember from ice cream trucks. Also, the “pop-up” Cullman-grown farmers market will have a variety of instrumental performers from Micah and Brittany Simpson's popular, Cullman-grown Seed-Harvest Music Academy, including their adorable, pre-school, beatin-on-a-bucket ‘jugband.’

“COOLFEST's main music and storytelling events (all free admission) are in the air-conditioned comfort of Christ Lutheran Church fellowship hall. Craig Mann, who plays roots music at festivals throughout Alabama, will entertain with Appalachian dulcimer and Southern folk banjo beginning at 4:30 p.m. Next, talented, Cullman-grown storyteller, Sharon Drake, will bring to life the Cullman-grown, original story, ‘The Reluctant Topiary’ by Ben Johnson South, illustrated with original paintings by Cullman artist/muralist, Jack Tupper. The storytelling begins at 5 p.m. The main musical entertainment concludes 5:30-6:30 p.m. with Sacred Harp Singers carrying on a 120-year Cullman tradition of shaped-note, sacred choral music.”

Proceeds from food and drink sales at 412 Public House and art sales at Consign & Design benefit the farm heritage programs of the North Alabama Agriplex and ALAbundant hunger relief support including The Little Pantry next to the Mary Carter Store.

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