Kay Free, DYW chairman, greeted the 18 young ladies before introducing special guests Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Bernadette Douglas, Cleveland First Lady Sandra Rowland and Tennessee’s 2013 DYW winner Katie Ward.
Each speaker encouraged the contestants and offered their support.
The mayor took advantage of the spotlight to give the visitors an education on Cleveland.
“Thank you for coming here to meet with us. I hope the time you are here, you have a lot of opportunities to spend your money and then shop,” Rowland joked. “We are blessed in this community to have a great manufacturing base. I always like to share with visitors some things you may not realize are made here in Cleveland and Southeast Tennessee.”
Some products he highlighted included, but were not limited to:
n Production of the Catnapper recliner.
n Dr. Scholl’s products and Coppertone are made here by Merck & Co.
n All Kroger products, with the exception of fresh meat and produce, are housed in Cleveland at Peyton Southeastern.
n Every Twix bar in the world is made here and 55 percent of the M&M’s are made here at Mars Chocolate.
He closed out by urging the young ladies to contact his office with any questions or help they may need — unless it involved a traffic violation-related ticket.
Douglas then added Hardwick Clothes also makes all of the major league baseball umpire uniforms to the mayor’s list.
“I want to welcome you on behalf of the business community at Cleveland and Bradley County. We have ordered up Chamber of Commerce weather for you this week, so I hope you have a great time,” Douglas said. “We are honored to have all of these exceptional young women in our community this week.”
DYW-at-large sponsor Brenda Lawson, local businesswoman, could not make it to the event. She was represented by (Sandra) Rowland.
The city’s first lady described Lawson as one of the most generous people one could ever meet.
“She is one of Tennessee’s entrepreneurs that has certainly brought a great deal of recognition to her hometown of Cleveland,” Rowland said. “She is a true believer of empowering young women, so this program is a perfect match for her.”
Ward finished the guest speeches by encouraging the contestants to have fun.
“I remember my first day sitting where you are right now. It is very overwhelming. It is very nerve-wracking,” Ward said. “I was so surprised when my name was called last week. If you ask anyone who knows me, they would say they were equally as surprised.”
She told the girls not to focus so much on the pressure of the moment. Ward explained she made so many wonderful friends at both state and nationals.
“That is what this program is really about,” Ward said. “Winning and the scholarship is, of course, very, very important, but just have a good time, relax and take deep breaths. It is going to be okay.”
The girls received their medallions before saying goodbye to their families and going home with their assigned host families.