PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Country icon and East Tennessee’s favorite daughter Dolly Parton sang the praises of singer Kelly Clarkson’s spotlight-stealing performance of Parton’s timeless hit, “I Will Always Love You” at the recent Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony.

Parton was in Pigeon Forge Friday for the grand opening of Dollywood’s 2022 season and was asked about the ACM Awards during a Q&A session with attendees.

“I think my favorite part of the show was Kelly Clarkson singing ‘I Will Always Love You!'” Parton exclaimed as the audience of Dollywood season pass holders and media personnel cheered. “Was that not absolutely beautiful?”

Texas native and “American Idol” star Kelly Clarkson performed Parton’s hit at the 57th ACM Awards Monday night in Las Vegas. The event was streamed on Amazon Prime Video for the first time in its history and Parton was co-host to the event.

“She smashed it, I’m telling you – I was so proud of her,” Parton continued. “I was standing backstage and my heart was just breaking, because I was watching her on the monitor and I thought – because it’s my song and I was remembering all my memories and everything… and I thought, ‘Lord, please, don’t let me start crying. I’ve got some more show to do.'”

Parton said Clarkson’s performance of her song was her personal favorite from her time as co-host at the awards show.

Dollywood season pass holders and media personnel attended the grand opening event Friday at Dollywood for its 37th season. Parton took questions from guests, including the one about her favorite part of hosting the ACM Awards, talked about upcoming projects and programs at the theme park, and performed a single from her new album, “Run, Rose, Run.”

The park is open Friday for season pass holders only 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The first day for all ticketholders is Saturday, when the park is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find the full schedule here.