Kannapolis bluegrass concert coming Wednesday
By Hugh Fisher
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS - Wednesday, for the first time in a decade, live music will return to the stage of Kannapolis' Gem Theatre.
Bluegrass in Kannapolis, presented by Downtown Kannapolis, Inc. and sponsored in part by the City of Kannapolis, will feature award-winning singer and musician Rhonda Vincent.
Jeff Whittington and Brand New Opry, local musicians with an extensive following, will also perform.
As of Sunday afternoon, organizers said over 800 tickets for the 900-seat auditorium have already been sold.
It will bring music fans into the city, and also help change locals' perceptions of downtown.
"We're providing a concert of this caliber for the benefit of the community, said Dr. Eric Atkinson, owner of Atkinson Family Eye Care and president of Downtown Kannapolis, Inc. - DKI for short.
Founded two years ago, DKI is a group of business owners, local officials and concerned citizens who want to encourage efforts to bring people and merchants back to the center of Kannapolis.
Among other efforts, the group has sold hamburgers and other refreshments at the monthly Kannapolis Cruise-In car show, and holds monthly meetings downtown.
Darrell Jackson, owner of Lee and Dan'elle Clothing warehouse on West Avenue, helped organize the show. He's been a member of DKI since its founding.
"We were looking to do something right away, something where immediately we could see the results that would affect our businesses and the city of Kannapolis," Jackson said.
Among other ideas, Jackson said one member suggested a bluegrass concert.
Vincent's tour schedule happened to bring her through North Carolina this week, just as the Gem Theatre had an opening following Modern Film Fest.
Jackson said Vincent is excited about playing here. "She loves this type of venue, she loves the area," he said.
Larry Newton, a Kannapolis native who moved back to the area eight years ago, has been helping DKI with online ticket sales.
Vincent's fans started buying tickets quickly after they went on sale last month.
"We're hoping for a sellout," Newton said. "I'll keep hammering 'til Rhonda starts playing.
Newton said he hopes the concert will get Kannapolis back into the public eye.
"It's a beautiful town," he said. "The people here are hungry for something, and this proves it."
Atkinson said that DKI is interested in using the profits from the concert for economic development activities.
Also, Atkinson said a portion of the proceeds will support the N.C. Music Hall of Fame, located downtown.
"The N.C. Music Hall of Fame is a tourist destination, and we want it to become more visible," he said. "We as a community and an organization want to support them."
One possible use would be to buy billboard space along interstate 85 to promote downtown Kannapolis events, "so that everybody feels invited," he said.
"We can support the Cabarrus Events Association, we can support the Intimidators and the stadium, (and) the Modern Film Festival that just occurred," Atkinson said.
Also, he said, events such as Kannapolis' annual Christmas tree lighting and the Cabarrus Events Association's downtown Christmas parade could be promoted.
But there's more to Bluegrass in Kannapolis than the concert at the Gem, he said.
Before the show, a free bluegrass mini-concert will be held outside the theater.
West 1st Street will be blocked in front of the Gem Theatre from Main Street to West Avenue, where bands Rusty Mandolin and Willow Creek will perform.
Atkinson said that events like this will create "a rising tide of activity and involvement," and when that happens, "all our ships will rise together."
In other words, as downtown and the N.C. Research Campus provide more jobs and more business opportunities, the surrounding community will grow and prosper.
"DKI is bringing a renewed interest in downtown revitalization," Jackson said.
Tom Kincaid, owner of Caremoor Retirement Center and member of the Kannapolis City Council, chairs DKI's Bluegrass in Kannapolis committee."I see this as a big opportunity," Kincaid said. "Bluegrass has always played a large part in southern people's lives, and it's been around forever."
Steve Morris, owner of the Gem Theatre, said a live music performance will hearken back to the stage shows that used to be held there in decades past.
The last live concert Morris could recall was a performance by David Hamilton, a local vocalist, "about 10 years ago."
Morris said it would be great to have live music back downtown. "And of course the primary objective is to spur downtown Kannapolis, increasing awareness of what we have here."
"There are so many people in our community, especially in the developed outlying areas, who've never been to downtown," Morris said. "They're always pleasantly surprised to come see what we have here."
For more information on the show, or to purchase tickets, visit downtownkannapolis.com or call 704-933-6401.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor's desk at 704-797-4244.