Thinking big in a small town, hope is alive in Fairmont

FAIRMONT, NC (WMBF) Once a pretty hopping tobacco town, Fairmont, North Carolina, has sold the golden tobacco leaf from its fields just like many of the tobacco towns of yesteryear.

The agricultural flame has since dimmed, but thanks to Mayor Charles Kemp, this city is still alive with growth and hope.

"If you are willing to accept second place, then you will never be a winner," said Fairmont mayor Charles Kemp. "And I'm not willing to accept that for myself as a person or my town. If we can't be number one and be first, then there's no sense in being in the game."

For the residents of Fairmont, it's all about thinking big in a small town. Their positive thinking has been the driving force for expansion in a time when few had much to hope for.

"I think we have a remarkable spirit in this town, because we are known as the little town with a big heart," Kemp said.

Mayor Kemp doesn't take all the credit for the accomplishments of Fairmont during his tenure, but his heart and dedication to his hometown is obvious along its streets.

Beautiful murals paint a picture of the glory days of this town when tobacco was king.

While those days are gone, along with some of the buildings that once lined the streets, new opportunities are always opening in their wake.

"I raised $30,000 of private money to tear down an old decaying theater and turned it into Heritage Park which is across the street from our community building," Kemp said. "We put a 75 foot train on there. A local artist painted a train. We put picnic tables and some shrubbery and a winding walkway and it gets used a lot."

The Heritage Center in Fairmont was an old, vacant department store that has been rejuvenated into an assembly hall. Of that, Mayor Kemp is especially proud.

Kemp said, "One of the things that has kept us afloat is the incredible energy and the cooperativeness of the citizens of this town. We not willing to just roll over and let our town fold up and pull the blanket over our heads. We keep struggling, we keep fighting and keep pushing forward.

"Fairmont is going to make it and we're going to come out of this recession even stronger than when we went in it before," Kemp said.

And the proof is in the painting. To see what a positive attitude, dedication and hard work can do to revitalize a community, you'll have to visit Fairmont yourself.

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