Intimidators to host Fieldcrest Cannon reunion night

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Emily Ford
Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó This family reunion could fill a baseball stadium.
And it just might.
The Kannapolis Intimidators and the city of Kannapolis will sponsor the first Fieldcrest Cannon Reunion Night at the baseball stadium for former employees of the textile giant.
“We honor and respect the past,” said Eddie Smith, assistant city manager. “It’s important to us to remember those who are still here and who worked hard in the mills and how they contributed to the community.”
The May 24 event could sell out the stadium, which seats 4,900.
The first 1,000 fans will receive a 4-inch ceramic replica of Plant 1. The stadium’s concourse will become a textile museum, featuring photos, newspaper clippings and artifacts.
And during pre-game ceremonies, the team will honor several individuals with strong ties to the mill, including one unnamed person who should warm up his or her pitching arm.
“It’s going to be great,” said Norris Dearmon, longtime Kannapolis historian who is organizing memorabilia for display. “It will keep our heritage going. Stuff is changing so fast around here, it’s not even funny.”
The old mill, a global textile leader that employed more than 20,000 people in its heyday, no longer exists. It closed in 2003, throwing 4,300 people out of work in the state’s largest layoff.
The N.C. Research Campus rises in its place in downtown Kannapolis. David H. Murdock, who once owned the mill, bought the expansive abandoned facility in 2004 and demolished it, replacing it with the biotechnology center.
The change has caused mixed emotions among former millworkers.
Celebrating history
Starting today, Intimidators crews will begin plastering Cannon Village and other areas with flyers announcing the reunion.
And beginning Thursday, former Fieldcrest Cannon employees can get four free tickets to the game at four locations: the utility billing office, public works office, city hall and the parks and recreation office at Village Park.
“Come out and celebrate the history and more importantly the people who made Fieldcrest Cannon and the city of Kannapolis so special,” said Tim Mueller, vice president of the Intimidators.
While small groups of millworkers occasionally get together, Mueller said he believes this is the first time anyone has hosted a large reunion for all former mill workers.
The miniature replicas are a loose representation of Plant 1. It would have been impossible to create an exact replica, Mueller said.
“But we did make sure to pay special attention to the facade of the headquarters, the smokestacks, the water tower and the old sign,” he said.
New Kannapolis residents may not even know what the mill looked like or what it meant to the city, Smith said.
The city and the Intimidators plan to give away mini replicas every year of other important buildings, like the Core Lab at the N.C. Research Campus and even Fieldcrest Cannon stadium itself.
Memories on display
Dearmon and the Kannapolis History Associates are working hard to choose artifacts and photos from their vast collection to display at the ballpark.
They will set up four areas, each with a different theme: textile tools of the trade, schools and class pictures, World War II and photos of employees working in the mill from the 1930s through the 1990s.
They hope to get some help identifying people in the oldest pictures.
This will mark the first time that nearly 100 photographs of millworkers killed in World War II will be on display, said Dearmon, a World War II veteran himself.
He scanned the little-known photos from a scrapbook kept at the Kannapolis Public Library, compiled during World War II by a group called the War Mothers.
The 8-by-10 black-and-white images will include information about when and where each soldier was killed.
The Kannapolis History Associates continues its effort to find or build a permanent museum for textile artifacts and memorabilia, Dearmon said.
He declined to give details but said by the end of the year, the group will announce its plans.
While no one knows exactly how many former Fieldcrest Cannon employees still live in the area, Dearmon predicted that more than 1,000 will turn out for the reunion.
“There are still a bunch of old-timers around,” he said.
The Intimidators will play the Hagerstown Suns during the reunion. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the game starts at 7:05.
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