KANNAPOLIS -- Now we know the identity of the secret guest whose visit to Kannapolis caused local officials to remove the tattered banners honoring the late Dale Earnhardt in the NASCAR driver's hometown.
It was Martha Stewart.
Stewart, the lifestyle guru, was the guest of billionaire developer David Murdock on Thursday and Friday.
She visited the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis and made a quick shopping trip in the Cabarrus County city Thursday afternoon. Stewart said she was in Kannapolis to take ideas from the research campus to her Center for Living at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
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Last week, city workers took down banners honoring Earnhardt after an official at Murdock's real estate company and a local tourism official said some of the banners were dirty and torn and might upset a Murdock guest, who wasn't identified.
Lynne Scott Safrit, president of Castle & Cooke, Murdock's development company, said Stewart's visit had been planned for months.
“It's hard to work around those schedules,” she said.
Stewart had dinner with Murdock late Thursday evening and left Kannapolis on Friday.
During her visit Thursday, she toured a research laboratory with Murdock. It's scheduled to open later this year.
The banners honoring Earnhardt had been placed along Dale Earnhardt Boulevard. Kannapolis city officials helped the Cabarrus Convention and Visitors Bureau in taking down the banners, following a request from Castle & Cooke. But earlier this week, Kannapolis city officials said they would continue to honor Earnhardt's memory and would be spending $25,000 for improvements at Dale Earnhardt Tribute Park.