Miss Tennessee arrives at The Encounter

At center, Miss Tennessee Tally Bevis (tan dress) is welcomed by Ethel Smawley, owner of The Encounter in Kingsport.

She’s got the sash. She’s got the crown. But Miss Tennessee Tally Bevis has yet to taste a Pal’s Cheddar Round.

Bevis has visited Kinsport twice since her year’s reign began. The first time she attended the Miss Kingsport and Miss Sullivan County Scholarship Competition. I was among the judges for that event.

As that day unfolded and we judges interviewed each contestant individually, several common themes emerged. One of the most unexpected (although I don’t know why in retrospect) was Pal’s Sudden Service and more specifically the regional chain’s popular morning treat: Cheddar Rounds.

Pal’s came up when one or the other of us judges would ask a typical question in such situations: “What would you tell someone not from here about Kingsport to make them want to come for a visit?” Sometimes it was phrased along the lines of “If you were to show a newcomer Kingsport, what would be on your must-do list?”

Several of the young ladies, speaking out of earshot of one another for their interview with the judges, worked Pal’s into their answers. And it wasn’t toward the bottom of the list. I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure it was the first thing one said she’d want to share with someone new.

Cheddar Rounds usually came up eventually.

At some point Bevis arrived and began to mingle with the contestants backstage. Based on my brief encounters with her, I’d make a sizable bet she was back there doing all she could to calm and encourage the contestants. She is confident and approachable. Regal, yet down to earth. Her joy in interacting with others is clear.

Bevis later appeared on stage, and while talking about how much she was enjoying her first visit to the city, she said she’d been enjoying hanging out backstage with all the contestants and she hoped after the winner was crowned she’d join them all for some Cheddar Rounds at this local place Pal’s.

I would swear for a moment the whole auditorium went silent as everyone seemed to have the same thought. Wide-eyed, I’m sure, I covered my mouth and whispered to another judge, “Who. Is. Going. To. Tell. Her?”

In case you don’t know, Pal’s stops preparing Cheddar Rounds at 10:30 a.m. Pal’s Cheddar Rounds are Mom’s favorite breakfast. They’d be her favorite lunch or dinner (she’d say dinner or supper) if they were available. I often race between Pal’s at Brooks Circle (ask an old person) and Pal’s on Revere, with moments to spare in order to get Mom’s “fix” when the line of cars is too long at the drive-thru.

So, when Miss Tennessee said she was looking forward to Pal’s Cheddar Rounds, my mind raced crazily, wondering if I could text anyone connected enough to get the nearest Pal’s to drop just ONE bag of Cheddar Rounds in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. it seemed like the American thing, the Kingsport thing, to do. Just a quickly my mind was pulled back to judging.

Event emcee Melissa Woods, an amazing singer, ad-libbed a bit later with a couple of verses sung to the tune of an old Beach Boys song: “Rounds, rounds, Cheddar Rounds, I need some rounds. I need Cheddar Rounds.”

Flash-forward to last week. Bevis again visited Kingsport, dropping by a gathering at The Encounter on Jack White Drive to support efforts to move the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Competition to Kingsport.

After several speakers talked about that possibility, the mingling began. As I waited my turn to talk to Miss Tennessee officials, I briefly caught up with The Encounter owner Ethel Smawley and chatted for a bit with Mary Hamilton, director of the Miss Kingsport and Miss Sullivan County competition.

Bevis was kept busy by folks wanting a picture with her. I did my needed interviews. And then Miss Tennessee and I were side by side looking over a very enticing spread of food in the very elegant clothing boutique.

“I have to ask,” I said, “did you ever get any Cheddar Rounds?”

“No!” Bevis replied. “I was so disappointed when they told me they don’t serve them after breakfast.” And here she was again, in Kingsport, after 10:30.

The following is an unsolicited plea:

Dear Pal’s Sudden Service, could you please find a way to get Miss Tennessee Tally Bevis some hot Cheddar Rounds? Much appreciated, a true American, believer- in-Kingsport, longtime customer and dutiful son to a Cheddar Round- and Big Tea-loving mother, J.H. Osborne.

Miss Tennessee talks about what the scholarship program has done for her and how she hopes to encourage other young women during a visit to The Encounter in Kingsport

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