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Moving forward, in touch with past

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/12/51/12eFrG.Em.138.jpeg|202
    CHRISTOPHER RECORD -
    7/17/03: Downtown Concord has tried to hold on to its identity as the Charlotte region continues to grow. A reflection in the window of the Cabarrus Creamery, a Concord tradition that was recently restored, shows that Union Street still has small town charm. CHRISTOPHER A. RECORD - STAFF PHOTO
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/12/51/eqSA1.Em.138.jpeg|210
    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
    08-19-11 Stanfield, NC. Sparks fly as blacksmith Alan Gilbert uses a oxygen/acetylene torch for heat and a monkey wrench as a bending fork to bend the final vine into place. This picture was taken as he forged the final iron vine on the railing for the Cabarrus Arts Council at his business, Iron Work Inc., in Stanfield, NC. MARTY PRICE
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/12/51/1sdjSu.Em.138.jpeg|211
    JUSTIN MOWER - jmower@charlotteo - JUSTIN MOWER - jmower@charlotteo
    (12-11-09) The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame sits in downtwon Kinnapolis right off Main Street. JUSTIN MOWER - jmower@charlotteobserver.com
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    FRANCISCO KJOLSETH -
    5/14/99 Country Music Star Randy Travis entertains a small crowd at Spirit Square following his official induction into the North Carolina Hall of Fame on Friday. Travis accepted various awards and performed an unplugged set.

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    North Carolina Music Hall of Fame (109 West A St., Kannapolis) : This gem of a museum represents all genres of music and musicians, producers, music executives and writers with memorabilia, ephemera, artifacts and art. Inductees – all with connections to North Carolina – include James Taylor, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Andy Griffith, Kate Smith and more. You can use your smart phone to listen to music, watch video and learn more about the inductees. Free. www.northcarolinamusichalloffame.org.

    The Cabarrus Creamery (21 Union St. S., Concord) : The son of the founder of this ice cream shop on Union Street South in downtown Concord used to say he was in “the happiness business.” It sells large portions of traditional and creative flavors in an ice-cream-parlor atmosphere. Manufacturing no longer occurs in-house, but the ice cream is still made using the same family recipes handed down in Concord’s Burrage family for generations. Don’t miss the Sundae Art Gallery upstairs. www.cabarruscreamery.com.

    Cabarrus Arts Council (65 Union St. S., Concord) : The art galleries, part of a first-class restoration of the county’s historic courthouse, are easily the best suburban public art galleries in the region. Art exhibitions draw works from accomplished N.C. and Southeastern regional artists. The Davis Theatre upstairs hosts a series of high-quality performing artists who tour nationally and regionally. During art walks downtown, a local film festival shows one of its art films in the theater. The galleries, art walks and movies are free. www.cabarrusartscouncil.org.



When people visit Cabarrus County – and they do, by the tens of thousands – most never get past Concord Mills mall, Charlotte Motor Speedway and the sprawling commercial/hospitality area that has sprung up between the two, just across the county line to the northeast from Mecklenburg.

True: Concord Mills draws the most visitors annually of any attraction in North Carolina. Also true: For two weeks each May, the more than 160,000 visitors who come to the speedway for the Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 – the one NASCAR’s showiest race, and the other its longest – take over a large part of western Cabarrus and turn Concord into one of the state’s largest cities.

But if you stop there, you’ll miss most of the rich, varied character of Cabarrus and its people.

In Kannapolis – on the site where one of the world’s largest textile manufacturers stood until 2003 – the North Carolina Research Campus hosts scientists from UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, N.C. State University and more, all engaged in biotechnology research. Founder David Murdock’s goal is to improve the world’s health through nutrition and food production. Dozens of projects are under way to tease secrets from plants that will feed more people, feed them better, lead to new ways to fight stubborn diseases and much more.

The county early on saw the value of the local food movement, forming its own Local Food Policy Council. The Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm is launching new growers, and the Piedmont Farmer’s Market has several locations around the county where you can find the freshest in local produce. Most recently, three farming families have collaborated to open the Peachtree Market on Church Street in Concord, the county’s first brick-and-mortar store for local foods.

The Cabarrus Arts Council is one of the state’s most active. Its galleries, housed in the county’s beautifully renovated historic former courthouse, offer five curated exhibitions each year, featuring works by accomplished regional artists. Its state-of-the-art Davis Theatre hosts numerous professional performances each year, including its headline series of nationally touring artists.

The Carolina Thread Trail, a conservation and recreation project that ultimately will connect 15 N.C. counties via a walking and biking trail, has opened several segments in Cabarrus County. In 2013 the area’s first canoe/kayak launch point opened on the Rocky River in Midland as part of the trail. It’s the first entry point for a planned 59.3-mile recreational waterway, known as a blueway.

Concord’s quaintly intimate Union Street in 2013 earned the People’s Choice Award for “Great Main Street” from the N.C. chapter of the American Planning Association, part of the NCAPA’s “Great Places in North Carolina” program, which celebrates noteworthy communities throughout the state.

In 1799 young Conrad Reed found a rock in a creek near his home. His family used it as a doorstop for years, until an assay proved it to contain gold. The first authenticated discovery of gold in the United States, it set off the young nation’s first gold rush. Nowadays, you can pan for gold nuggets at Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site, in the southeastern part of the county. The site also offers mine tours, a gold museum, a restored stamp mill and more on the area’s first economic boom.

And since I’m a huge baseball fan, I must mention the Kannapolis Intimidators (named after the late Dale Earnhardt, a Kannapolis native who bought into ownership of the team before his death). They’re the Class A professional minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Take in a game at CMC-NorthEast Stadium, just off I-85 at Exit 63; you’ll find yourself seated close enough to the field that, should you care to dispute a call, the umpires can hear your every word.

It’s just another example of the intimate, friendly and forward-thinking character of this community.

Scott is a regional editor for the Observer.
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