This year brought much excitement and growth to our beloved city. From SlossFest to the long-awaited approval of Uber, the Grand View Medical move and the #FreeUAB movement, 2015 has certainly been one for the books. As Birmingham continues to evolve, life in the Magic City just gets better and better. In no particular order, here’s a look back at 14 of the key people, moments and events that made 2015 a most memorable year in Birmingham.
14 Most Memorable Birmingham People & Events in 2015
1. SlossFest heats up Birmingham
The inaugural Sloss Music & Arts Festival brought scores of great talent to Birmingham in the heat of July. St. Paul & the Broken Bones returned home to play at the festival, along with performances by headlining acts including The Avett Brothers, Modest Mouse, Band of Horses, First Aid Kit, Cage The Elephant, Robert DeLong, Sturgill Simpson and so many more. It was the perfect celebration of many of Birmingham’s passions: great food, local craft beer and truly incredible music, all in one of the city’s most historic and iconic venues. This is one weekend that we can’t wait to see return in 2016!
The #FreeUAB movement reached a fever pitch this year following the abrupt dismantling of the school’s football program at the end of 2014. UAB students, athletes, employees and fans took to social media to spread the word of the controversial decision and raise support for their cause. In June, the board of trustees took notice, and UAB President Ray Watts announced that the football, bowling and rifle programs would be reinstated in 2016.
3. Pelham’s Elliott Spillers elected UA SGA President
The buzz and drama around The University of Alabama during Student Government Association election season tends to spill over into statewide news. Candidate Elliott Spillers was not affiliated with “the Machine,” a more than 100-year-old secret society that has been the subject of national exposés on its election interference and alleged hostile acts of racial discrimination. This year’s election made headlines, as Pelham’s Elliott Spillers was elected in March as the first non-Machine SGA president since 1986.
4. The continued rise of Alabama music
This year, Alabama music continued to gain national and international attention as Athens natives Alabama Shakes and Birmingham’s own St. Paul & The Broken Bones advanced their respective climbs to the top of the charts. Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and St. Paul’s Paul Janeway performed together this year on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show,” both hand selected by the show’s bandleader for a performance of “Everyday People.” In 2015, the Shakes also took the stage on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show,” in addition to their busy, worldwide tour schedule. You also might recognize their signature sound on the commercial for the Apple iPad Pro. In addition to their performance at SlossFest, St. Paul & The Broken Bones played at Coachella and Bonnaroo, and are selling out shows nationwide. Aside from these two hot tickets, Alabama has a host of other musicians whose stars are on the rise: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Moon Taxi, Chad Fisher, Raquel Lily, Waxahatchee, Anderson East, Dylan LeBlanc, War Jacket, Jon Black, firekid and Banditos.
5. Woodlawn debuts
Birmingham hit the big screen this October as Birmingham filmmakers Jon and Andrew Erwin debuted their film Woodlawn. The movie, which was filmed in Birmingham, features the true story of racial tensions on and off the field and of a spiritual awakening at Woodlawn High School during the 1970s, framed through the experiences of gifted running back Tony Nathan.
6. Grandview Medical Center opens its doors
The newly completed Grandview Medical Center on Highway 280 opened its doors to patients in October, bringing to a close the 15-year battle to bring another hospital to serve the Birmingham area. The move from Trinity Medical Center downtown to Grandview required careful coordination involving 18 agencies and more than a year of planning. Grandview provides a new hospital where local residents can receive care from Birmingham’s top-notch medical professionals.
7. Same-sex marriage licenses issued in Birmingham
In June, Jefferson County began issuing same-sex marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide. Jefferson County had been among the first in Alabama to issue same-sex licenses earlier in the year, but licensing was then halted after three weeks when the Alabama Supreme Court required probate judges to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses. In January, a federal judge in Mobile struck down Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, a landmark decision that still leaves many questions, but brings Alabama into the company of many other states where marriage equality is a reality.
8. Sid Ortis leaves a legacy
Purple and gold adorned so many homes and businesses in the Birmingham area this year, all in support of Sid Ortis and his battle against cancer. The Mountain Brook teen passed away in October after more than a year of fighting pediatric bone cancer, but he left behind an indelible impact on the lives of so many through his strong faith, incredible grace and endless love for the LSU Tigers.
9. Uber comes to the Magic City
The long road to legalizing ride sharing in Birmingham reached a major turning point in December, as the Birmingham City Council passed a ride-sharing ordinance allowing for a six-month trial period for ride-share companies, like Uber. Many of the city of Birmingham’s surrounding communities, including Mountain Brook, Homewood and others, passed legislation to allow ride sharing, putting pressure on the city to follow suit.
10. Heavyweight championship fights broadcast live from Birmingham
Tuscaloosa native Deontay Wilder, a professional boxer and the WBC world heavyweight champion, brought the first-ever heavyweight championship fight in the state to UAB’s Bartow Arena in June. Deontay defeated his opponent in front of a sold-out crowd, while the fight was also broadcast live on Showtime. The event was such a success that Deontay returned to Birmingham in September for another matchup, this time in Legacy Arena, which was broadcast as part of NBC’s Premier Boxing Championship series.
11. Trader Joe’s calls The Summit home
Trader Joe’s faithful have been dreaming for years of the day when the trendy grocery chain would call Birmingham home, and 2015 made that dream a reality. The store opened its doors at The Summit in October, giving Birmingham residents access to Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, and the city is all the happier as a result.
12. Zyp BikeShare
North America’s first electric pedal assist bike share launched in downtown Birmingham in October. The initiative, led by REV Birmingham, placed 400 of these high-tech bicycles at strategic locations across the city, allowing residents and visitors to simultaneously get some exercise and best enjoy our beautiful city. Annual Zyp passes are available for purchase, as well as daily bike rentals.
13. U.S. Women’s Soccer Team faces off at Legion Field
The U.S. Women’s soccer team visited the Magic City in September to face off against Haiti as part of their national Victory Tour. The U.S. team defeated Haiti 8-0 at Legion Field in front of an impressive crowd of more than 35,000 people. The game provided the first chance for soccer fans to watch a U.S. national team in Birmingham since 2008.
14. Birmingham Restaurants Gain National Attention
We all know that Birmingham has some of the best food around, but it’s always a thrill when our local favorites get some attention. Zagat tipped its hat to the epicurean epicenter as No. 1 on its list of America’s Next Hot Food Cities. Saw’s BBQ was included in Men’s Journal’s list of the Best Barbecue in America, Chez Fonfon was among Southern Living’s The South’s Best Restaurants for 2015, and Post Office Pies was featured in a beautiful piece penned by John T. Edge in Garden & Gun, just to name a few. As we start to ponder the healthy eating and home cooking resolutions of the new year, one thing is for certain, in 2015 Birmingham got to eat very, very well.
Here’s to a terrific 2015 that was and an even better 2016 to come, Birmingham!