Residents joined in celebrating a milestone last week: The 25th anniversary of the city's incorporation.
And they honored the man most instrumental in leading the way: Bachman Brown, the city's first mayor from 1985 to 1993.
About 100 residents gathered at the former Cabarrus Bank building downtown for the unveiling of a fired-clay sculpture of Brown by Kannapolis sculptor Chase Andrew Winfield.
"I thank every one of you for contributing to the great city this is," Brown told the gathering.
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Incorporating Kannapolis took four years, starting with a Chamber of Commerce task force chaired by Brown.
Since the early 1900s, Kannapolis had been run by the textile mill that J.W. Cannon founded on land straddling the Cabarrus-Rowan county line. But the community's fate grew uncertain when Cannon Mills was sold to David Murdock in 1982.
"Some of us felt we needed to take it into our own hands," said Ken Argo, who was corporate treasurer for the mill in the last five years of his 25-year career there.
Community leaders at the time believed Kannapolis was suited for incorporation because, in many ways, it already was a town, and times had grown uncertain for its main industry, said Argo, 75, who served on the incorporation feasibility committee.
"And the feeling we got from people in the community was they wanted to do it," said Argo, who attended last week's ceremony with his wife, Patty. "The mood was people just wanted to keep what we had, and I can't say enough for what has happened."
In November 1983, voters in the Royal Oaks and Kannapolis sanitary districts approved incorporation by more than 2-1. The first city council met for the first time in December 1984 in the library of Kimball Lutheran Church.
In 1985, the first police officers were sworn in, and future Kannapolis Police Chief Woody Chavis, then a patrol officer, issued the first ticket on the Rowan County side of the city.
Garbage service started in 1986, and a year later, voters approved a $2.5million bond issue for water and sewer lines, the only bond issue the city's voters have approved to date.
In 1988, the city's first zoning ordinance took effect.
Annexations followed over the years, and in 1994 construction began on the baseball stadium at Moose Road and Interstate 85 that now houses the Kannapolis Intimidators minor league team.
The city's train station opened in 2005, the same year Murdock announced plans for the North Carolina Research Campus, which a 2006 study anticipates will create more than 37,000 jobs.
But Kannapolis isn't resting. On the horizon are new services such as curbside recycling and fulfilling such capital needs as a new police department and a freestanding citizens' center or city hall.
"Kannapolis is well positioned for future success," former Kannapolis City Schools superintendent Ed Tyson told the gathering. "Does the next 25 years look good? It looks great."