Recently, I had the honor and fortune to take a little jaunt to northeastern Tennessee to judge the Pinnacle Tourism Awards for NETTA, the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Alliance. The region, located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, is an enchanting area, rich in culture, history and outdoor adventure.

My judging experiences usually focus on advertising, design and digital arts, so the Pinnacle Awards challenged me in new ways. Rather than critiquing designed artifacts or systems, the Pinnacle Awards focuses on DMO (destination marketing orgs) marketing and PR activities, their concepts, efficiency in execution, economic impact and quality of execution. The submissions ranged from public works projects to large public events, television programming, community awareness initiatives and more.

But, on this fine spring morning, the first beautiful day of weather in a long while, I was more than up to the challenge of reviewing the hard work of tourism professionals in the area. It was my first time to Jonesborough, TN, and the last few miles revealed a charming, idyllic setting amidst the verdant, rolling hills. Within this pleasant setting and with a little jolt of caffeine, I was ready to go. I joined forces with Doug Renfro, an award-winning television producer, and we got to work.

Before long, it was time to enjoy some lunch—and enjoy we did, at the Main Street Market & Cafe. I fancy myself a bit of a cheeseburger connoisseur, and their version of a Bacon Cheddar Burger held its own. My only regret? I didn’t try any of their desserts. I did, however, cave in at Earth & Sky Confections, opting for a box of craft, artisanal chocolates instead. This proved to be a sweeter decision. The chocolates, like the historic town, are sublime and brought a smile to my face long after the experience receded into memory.

Thankfully, the spirited work of these tourism professionals will not go unnoticed, and many fortunate folks will embrace the urge to visit. When they do, they will mint memories in northeast Tennessee and discover the virtues of that magical area.