Guest Author - Debbie Lester
At the request of some of my readers, I have decided to re-visit the subject of “The Dale Trail”. When I wrote the article featuring “The Dale Trail”, I was looking at it from a tourism perspective. But, there is a lot more to this story.
Kannapolis, North Carolina was a town focused on manufacturing. Textile mills were the heart of the town and provided the majority of the jobs. Cannon Manufacturing or Cannon Mills as it was later called began manufacturing cotton towels. People who worked in the mills were sometimes called “Lint Heads”. One famous “Lint Head” was racing legend, Dale Earnhardt Sr.
It is believed by many, especially NASCAR fans that Dale Earnhardt Sr., put Kannapolis on the map. He was the epitome of a hometown hero. He was a local boy who had gone on to make it big and Kannapolis was proud of Dale Sr. and his legendary racing career. Because of their pride a statue was erected in his honor at Cannon Village and banners were put through out the city focusing on “The Dale Trail” and leading tourists to sites relating to Dale Sr.
Recently, however, these banners have been removed and it has stirred up quite a frenzy among Dale Sr. fans. There are some controversial reasons behind the sudden removal of the banners. The banners had been up for over three years and were becoming dirty, tattered and torn. Some say that the banners should just have been replaced if that was really what was behind it.
But, apparently that wasn’t the whole story. Billionaire, David Murdock has a well known name in Kannapolis. Murdock has been credited with several things in Kannapolis’ history. Selling Cannon Mills set in motion a chain of events that Kannapolis residents say ended the textile industry in their town. His most recent accomplishment in Kannapolis is the North Carolina Research Campus. The 350 acre science research facility is supposed to help change the Kannapolis image. Kannapolis is to be known as a “Home To Science”.
Murdock and the visitors bureau asked that the Dale Trail banners be removed. They were presenting an image of Kannapolis that people did not want to be identified with. NASCAR and racing may have been what put Kannapolis on the map but now it wasn’t good enough for high profile visitors. Several rumors abounded as to who the high profile visitor was that warranted the removal of the banners. Some said it was Oprah, but it was later revealed to be Martha Stewart.
Dale Sr. fans were furious. They believed that taking the banners down was disrespectful to the Earnhardt family. Dale Sr’s mother Martha still lives in Kannapolis. There are no plans to put the banners back up. However, new plans to change “The Dale Trail” are in the works.
In October of 2008 a new plan is scheduled to be revealed. Permanent markers are being put in place at all of the attractions on “The Dale Trail” which will not be able to be removed. Also, a new system for finding each attraction has been devised. Tourists will pick up a GPS type of device that will lead them from attraction to attraction around “The Dale Trail”. So despite people who want to see the image of Kannapolis have nothing to do with NASCAR or Dale Earnhardt Sr. , “The Dale Trail” will live on.