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Concord captures inaugural Hometown Showdown championship with community spirit 

The League’s inaugural Hometown Showdown contest was anybody’s game down to the last minute.

The contest started with more than 60 entries from North Carolina municipalities of all sizes. The bracket-style contest ran for 7 weeks during March Madness with Concord facing Bessemer City in the finals.

The winner was decided by 69 votes, and, according to Concord Mayor Scott Padgett, those votes didn’t come easy. He and city council among others made last-minute phone calls to churches, book clubs and any club they could find to get the word out.

“Bessemer City was a very worthy competitor. The mayor called me that afternoon, and I told her I thought I was going to be calling her,” Padgett said. “They kept the heat on.”

Since Padgett relocated to Concord nearly 40 years ago, he’s noticed a lot of change.

“Even in the early 70s, you could tell this area was going to go through a lot of change and growth,” he said.

During that decade, the textile industry was the biggest economic driver. Now, industry is more diversified in tourism and manufacturing. For example, Concord is home to S&D Coffee, the largest custom coffee roaster and blender of foodservice iced tea in America, in addition to Concord Mills, the Concord Speedway and Great Wolf Lodge.

According to Padgett, Concord’s success wouldn’t have been possible without forward thinking leadership that built infrastructure, including water and sewer service and the Concord Regional Airport, which allowed the area to grow once the textile industry was phased out.

“Concord has always had a reputation of being a well-run city providing good services for citizens at the lowest possible cost, and the leaders going back many many years were always very deliberate about their decisions,” Padgett said. “Concord has always had leaders that were willing to make tough decisions and keep one foot in the present and another in the future.”

Padgett ran for city council in 1995 and became mayor in 2001. He said he knew he had big shoes to fill and enjoyed working with such a team-oriented council for nearly 20 years.

The area’s population doubled from 1980 to 1990, doubled again from 1990 to 2000 and now sits around 83,000. Despite rapid growth, Concord managed to keep its small-town charm. According to Padgett, Concord’s strong sense of community is a result of annual traditions and events that bring all of its residents together.

Concord’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting was the subject of the city’s Hometown Showdown winning picture, taken by local photographer Michael Anderson, and brings nearly 4,000 people to downtown Concord. In the past 10 years, the event grew from a tree lighting ceremony and fireworks show to include an art walk, horse and buggy rides, and Concord history trolley tours.

“I would not want to be the mayor who announced we were going to discontinue the fireworks show,” Padgett said. “The gathering of people, the warmth of the lights, the excitement of the fireworks – this image truly captures what High Performance Living is all about.”

This year, Concord had the special honor of hosting the Mustang 50th Birthday East Coast Celebration. Although Las Vegas held the west coast event, Concord attracted visitors from every state and several foreign countries. One group flew in from Italy and rented Mustangs to drive, while a group from California took a cross-country road trip to celebrate and participate in a Guinness Book of World Records attempt for largest parade of Mustangs. More than 1,000 Mustangs old and new drove in the parade.

“When those cars started driving, it was just unbelievable the variety and enthusiasm,” Padgett said. “I would say besides the races, the Mustang convention was second only to the Democratic National Convention in 2011 in bringing tourism dollars. It was a great event.”

Concord keeps its residents busy with celebrations year round because hanging on to its small-town feel and making people feel part of the community no matter where they live is a priority.

“This was a friendly competition for bragging rights,” Padgett said. “But winning is an example of what makes Concord so great: several organizations and thousands of people coming together to support something positive. It happens every day whether it’s pancakes in March or rubber ducks in June.”