Welcome to “My Perfect Birmingham Saturday,” a column where About Town asks Birmingham residents from different walks of life how they would spend a Saturday in the Magic City if they had it their way (and COVID notwithstanding).
Today’s Saturday was planned by husband-and-wife supercouple Russell and Amber Hooks, the brains behind HappeninsInTheHam, an account that boasts nearly 33 thousand Instagram followers and counting, all waiting to see Russell and Ambers adventures as they attend and proudly show off different free events throughout the Magic City. Few know Birmingham and its Saturday offerings as well as these two, who founded HappeninsInTheHam in 2015. Russell grew up in Homewood but went to Huntsville for high school, ultimately graduating from Montevallo and ending up back in Birmingham. Amber hails from Mobile but went to UAB and ended up staying because she loved it so much here. “I love the hustle and bustle, being able to find so many events without having to spend money,” she said. “I’ve also made lifelong friends here, as well.” The couple met in Homewood at a birthday dinner years after they graduated from college, and six years ago launched their social media account to show Over the Mountain folks how much was going on in downtown Birmingham. “We wanted to be a part of the renaissance and revitalization,” Amber said. Here is how they’d spend a Saturday with no limits.
Russell: On Saturday mornings we actually have an appearance on CBS 42 where we highlight three events [happening in Birmingham]. Then we typically go to Ignite Cycle for a workout and Pepper Place if the weather is great.
Amber: One of our schticks is low-cost and/or free events going around town. Saturdays are our favorite day in Birmingham – we just soak it up, beginning to end, from 5 a.m. until we’ve exhausted ourselves at night. So we get up early, work out, go to Pepper Place, and then go to two to three events that are going on, outdoor-type fundraising events at Avondale or Cahaba or something like that, big festivals. We always want to go to something that supports local nonprofits. We like to head out early and go ahead and show Birmingham what it’s like in case they’re nervous. “Is it packed? Is parking crazy? Oh, okay, this is what I can expect.” I personally like to see what I’m getting into before I go, so we like to get to places early to show what it’s like.
Russell: We like to be able to show in real time so people can see “Oh, this is what it actually looks like.” Then they’ll want to hopefully get in their car and head over there if they’re on the fence or not sure. Hopefully they’ll see our Instagram post, hop in the car, and head that way. And then we’d eat at somewhere like Saw’s.
Amber: If money is no object, our favorite is Saw’s – specifically the pork and greens. We can’t get it every day, but we’ll splurge on something like that, or one of their amazing burgers. Then we go out again.
Russell: Especially if the weather is nice, we like to go to Railroad Park, Ruffner Mountain, or Red Mountain Park, hiking and getting our exercise in, especially if we didn’t get the chance to workout that morning. Red Mountain Park is a favorite place to hike; we typically do that in the afternoon, then take a breather, and dive into nighttime. If we’re in town, we typically hit up three events each Saturday. At first, people thought our Instagram account was run by a corporation. We flooded the feed with proof of life selfies: “We’re over here – and here – and here!”
Amber: Sometimes we’ll get lucky enough that there’s that many events. We map out our events a few days ahead of time so we can get the most bang for our buck in the hours of the day.
Russell: If we know there’s a cookoff or a barbeque, we know not to eat before we go. We plan around our mealtime, whether we’ll be eating samples of barbeque or gumbo or whatever food event is that weekend. We’re fortunate enough to have passes to Legion games, and we’ll also be going to UAB games at Protective Stadium. We go to Birmingham Legion FC a lot of Saturdays and watch Legion play soccer and end the night on that note, unless there’s a concert or something going on. We’ll start super early and end our day around 10 p.m.
Amber: At events throughout the day, we’ll meet up with friends. By nighttime, we’re exhausted. Legion games are so chill and laid-back; we love ending our night on that. We’ll get up every now and then and get a hot dog or popcorn – it’s a lot more sitting [than throughout the day]. We also might catch a show at the Alabama Theatre. It’s a good way to relax at the end of the day.
Russell: Birmingham is the biggest small town in America. You have that sense of community, when you show up at these events and see the same people showing up who have the same vested interest. At Sidewalk Film Festival or Legion games, you see all of these people you know. It’s great to go to these places and know these people – to feel welcome and a sense of community. If we were in Atlanta, we couldn’t do this the same way; we’d be stuck in traffic all the time. Even though Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama, you can still get around very quickly.
Amber: One thing I love about Birmingham is how everyone has such a huge heart for philanthropy. Every business has a vested nonprofit that they’re really trying to help. When I joined the Junior League is to help decide where I’d put my time and effort. The Junior League touches so many different nonprofits. I love seeing everyone so willing to help, by giving their time or money or just putting the word out there on social media.
- As told to Rachel Burchfield