The Huntsville Metropolitan area has a population of about 368,661, with the city proper claiming about 166,313 of those residents. Huntsville's cross-river neighbor, Decatur, is considered its sister city. Together, these "twin cities" form the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical area, with a total population of about 510,088.
Huntsville is home to the Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal. Nicknamed the
Rocket City for its connection with space missions, Huntsville has played a major role in the development of space technology since the 1950s. Huntsville is also the location of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home to the famous U.S. Space Camp and Aviation Challenge programs, and active in the U.S.'s space shuttle and International Space Station programs. It is estimated that 1 in 13 of Huntsville's residents work in some area of engineering. In 2005, Forbes magazine ranked the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical area the 6th best place for doing business in the country.
Aside from being a hub for space-related work and education, Huntsville also hosts a series of non-space related events throughout the year. Each year in September, residents and visitors alike flock to downtown Huntsville for the Big Spring Jam: a 3-day music festival featuring rock, Christian, oldies, country, and kid-friendly music. In June, Alabama A&M University in North Huntsville hosts the Black Arts Festival. This 2-day ethnic festival provides a glimpse into the artistic and entertaining talents of the local, regional, and national black communities. The Panoply Arts Festival, held each April in Big Spring International Park, is ranked in Alabama's Top Ten Tourism Events. This three-day outdoor festival features presentations, demonstrations, workshops, and performances highlighting this area's rich cultural diversity.