Concord has earned another distinction.After seven weeks of online voting, Concord on April 4 was declared the winner of the N.C. League of Municipalities’ Hometown Showdown. The March Madness-style online photo contest began in February with 32 entries that had been whittled down from more than 60 submissions.Concord’s winning photo, by Michael Anderson, is of the city’s 2013 Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. Fireworks fill the sky above historic downtown as hundreds look on. Anderson took the photo from the top of the parking deck on Cabarrus Avenue.Concord’s photo was matched up week by week against photos from Chapel Hill, Belmont, Mooresville and Garner.Concord was a leader throughout the contest, gathering 7,185 “likes” online. The final round was decided in Concord’s favor by 69 “likes:” 2,864 to 2,795.Meet the photographerAnderson, a Cabarrus County native, grew up in Harrisburg and moved to Concord at 14. He runs a studio at 38 Union St. S. Primarily a wedding photographer, he also works with families, commercial companies and has worked as the photographer for Cabarrus Magazine the past four years.He’s dubbed himself “Downtown Concord’s very own” photographer.“I love my community and definitely want to associate everything I do with it,” he said. “The image encompasses everything that is Concord: We are a community. We come together through thick and thin, not just to celebrate, but to help each other.“Concord has so many great things to offer, from great schools and civic groups to great local leadership with an eye on the future. In all of that, we keep our small-town values, and I’m very proud to be a part of such a wonderful area.”The contest couldn’t have been won without the community’s support, said Anderson. “It was an army of people from all over Concord that pulled together to help us win the contest,” he said. “The city of Concord, the chamber of commerce and the Cabarrus (Convention and) Visitors Bureau were huge in pulling us through it. It also took civic groups, church groups and all the people in our community to rally and make it happen.“It goes back to the community itself. I’m just a guy with a funny hat that loves to take pictures. It was an honor for an image of mine to represent this city, and I’m so proud of it and us.”Hometown ShowdownConcord has roughly 82,000 residents. Its historic downtown is complemented by its proximity to the state’s top tourist destination – Concord Mills mall – and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Concord also won the N.C. Department of Commerce’s North Carolina Great Main Street Award in 2013.Historic downtown Concord boasts two performance theaters, a museum, art galleries, a library, a gourmet French chocolate shop, an ice cream parlor, a craft-beer bar, ethnic cuisine, a pottery studio, a botanical garden, a pedestrian greenway system, antique outlets and several other specialty shops and restaurants. This was the inaugural Hometown Showdown competition, but the League of Municipalities plans to make it a yearly event, said Najuma Thorpe, who works with 540 cities and towns in North Carolina as the League’s director of communications and member relations. “We will likely have the same March Madness theme because it ties into the pride that North Carolina cities and towns have, and our basketball fascination,” said Thorpe. “We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the competition. “All of the participating towns had great pictures and hometown pride, but the most engaged towns, like Concord, had the most success. It’s the community involvement that really determines the winners in contests like this.”Jessica Wells, communications specialist for the NCLM, visited Concord for the first time to film a video about the city’s involvement in the contest.“It was evident that residents, business owners and elected officials are proud to be a part of such a vibrant community,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised with how active and vibrant the downtown area is, especially on a Friday afternoon. I definitely plan on returning to visit a few more of the restaurants, including the Cabarrus Creamery (the ice cream shop).”Diane Young, executive director of the Concord Downtown Development Corp., credits the community’s ability to connect with large groups of people in a short time. “We get the word out well when it means supporting our local community,” she said. “And 2014 is going to be a banner year for downtown Concord: construction of Rotary Square, start of construction on the new Concord City Hall, the renovation of the (former) Heilig Meyers building, new restaurants opening – and those are the things I can talk about. There is more on the horizon that we are working on. and it is a very exciting time.”Young has lived in Salisbury since 1986 and did not know Concord that well before taking the job in 2010, she said. About the photo, Young said, “When we do something in Concord, we do it big. The tree-lighting ceremony has an appeal across many demographic and social spectrums. It’s the largest community event we hold in downtown Concord.”The city’s energy, diversity of attractions and its leaders’ willingness to work together are what make Concord special, said Young. “The momentum here is mind-boggling, and rather than creating opportunities, we are managing opportunities. …,” she said. “The beauty of downtown is that there is no average day.”
Friday, Apr. 11, 2014
Concord wins statewide Hometown Showdown photo contest
Cities and towns were asked to submit a photo that served as or illustrated a source of pride. League staff narrowed the 62 entries down to 32, then divided the remaining photos by location and then alphabetically.
The online contest gathered nearly 28,000 likes and hundreds of shares through Facebook, including one from “American Idol” contestant Scotty McCreery in favor of Garner.
To see the League’s video about Concord’s victory, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7UbsVKgqks
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