Category Archives: Festivals

Dentoning….We-Do Walnut….Dry run

The vision to close permanently Walnut St (1/2 block south of the Square) is growing legs. A dedicated group of local business people and interested citizens is working diligently to create a block-long oasis in downtown Denton. As covered in previous Dentoning blogs, the plan is to close Walnut Street to vehicular traffic, clean the “alley” and then create an urban park……with trees, grass, shrubberies, benches, other seating areas. This would be done with the City of Denton doing only what it has to, with the remaining labor, materials and talent provided by volunteers.

Much work has already been done, including discussions with the City of Denton. One thing the City requested was having an event or three to provide an example of how the idea would work. So……..on Friday, February 28, Walnut Street will be closed and the first Mardi Gras on Walnut will happen starting at 5:00 pm.

We-Do Walnut

On the 28th, Walnut Street will be closed at 8 am and clean up of the unsightly alley will begin. The street will then be transformed into a mini- New Orleans, pedestrian-only area for that day. The festival will start at 5 pm. There will be a stage featuring Dixieland/Zydeco music. Community Market vendors, jugglers, surprises, Cajun food, and libations which can be freely carried within the festival area will be available. There will also be mask, costume and float contests (floats can be kid’s wagons or anything 6 feet long or less).

Mardi Gras on Walnut

Mardi Gras on Walnut

Mardi Gras on Walnut will be the first of what is hoped to be an annual event ……..and is FREE!! The event will be family-friendly and the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for awesome weather………..!!! Tell your ma, tell your pa and tell all your friends. Put this on your calendar now!!

What better way to spend a pre-Spring evening in Denton!!

Dentoning….DAYS

Thanksgiving…… It’s a DAY. A DAY which happens once every year. It’s a DAY on which most of us don’t work. It’s a DAY we eat ourselves silly. It’s a DAY we spend with family and friends. It’s a DAY we hopefully reflect on our lives and are thankful for them. A DAY. It’s so easy to celebrate the DAY and then move on.

For me, every DAY for the past almost seven weeks has been a thanksgiving DAY. On October 11 my younger brother Kevin, had a stroke. A brainstem stroke……. the worse kind you can have. It happened as he woke up and thankfully, my dear sister in law Kim was there and he was immediately taken to Regional Hospital and then airlifted to Plano. Initially that DAY, we were not given much hope. The doctors worked miracles though, and my dear brother is alive and in great shape. I am truly thankful for every DAY, but I am especially thankful this year that my brother is here to celebrate Thanksgiving DAY.

That is a personal, dramatic story of reason for me to give thanks, but we all have so much to be thankful for……family, friends, jobs, homes, a free country…..and we live in Denton!

But more importantly……..we LIVE….

Life is good…….no matter what.

I hope each and every one of you has a truly Happy Thanksgiving DAY, and that every DAY gives you reason to be thankful……

Enjoy Denton and enjoy every DAY of life!!

Dentoning….Invisible Denton

There is the Denton we all see and love……..vibrant, fun, comfortable, familiar, busy and diverse. There is another Denton that few see and many don’t know exists. Homeless Denton co-habitates with our daily lives and is anchored in places that would amaze many.

We all see people we suspect are without daily shelter…..we may even be approached on occasion by someone asking for a handout, but we don’t have the obvious clues of people at busy intersections, signs in hand, asking for money for one need or another as we do in larger cities. The absence of this does not mean there are not people struggling to live beside the roads, under the bridges and in camps in the woods of Denton.

A Denton home...

A Denton home…

Denton has programs to feed and provide essential needs to the less fortunate. Our Daily Bread is probably the most noticeable of these essential centers. Our Daily Bread has food, personal hygiene items, some transportation and even medical care for the homeless. When it comes to shelter though, the pickings are slim. The Salvation Army has very limited space, with separate areas for men and women. But they cannot begin to handle the numbers that live within the City of Denton.

The homeless are homeless due to many different reasons. Some have mental issues, others substance abuse problems, some are homeless due to the economy……….some just chose that life. I think the average Dentonite would be dumbfounded at, for the most part, the invisible population of homeless people in our city.

Some live in alleys, under bridges, in abandoned buildings, but a large number of the homeless live in camps within a mile or two of our Square. These camps consist of visqueen (yes, that is the correct spelling) covered mattresses and sleeping bags, in tents, boxes, or out in the open. Often tucked in thickets which provide additional protection, these “homes” are the only shelter from the elements these people know. Some are bunched together, but most house just one person.

Homeless camp

Homeless camp

The people who live in these “towns” within our town are fiercely protective of their locations. The less people know, the better. A couple of the camps are amazingly large with populations of elderly, runaways, baby-boomers and even children. The police are aware of these camps, but for the most part allow the residents to live as they must. During the daytime, they are mostly abandoned as people go about their lives. As dark settles, small fires are lit, cooking stoves started and bags are occupied.

These areas, of course, do not have the simple things like water, sewers, trash collection etc.. that we take for granted and thus have the looks of a refuge camp which, in fact, they are. Piles of trash, large collections of empty bottles, clothing, bikes and “natural” bathrooms litter the camps. The people get by, but it is a very hard life. The “real” world to these people has very little resemblance to the world we know.

Homelessness

A home

A home

The homeless “problem” is around us and is part of Denton. We may not see it, but it is here and it is close. Society struggles on how to help these people in towns and cities around the world. Here in Denton, we can give to our Daily Bread, the Salvation Army, and support Dr. Filipo Masciarelli, who along with his wife, provides medical care to Denton’s homeless population……..there are other ways to help if they are sought out. The Holiday Season is usually a time we think of giving to and helping others, but there so many who need assistance year-round.

Transportation

Transportation

We are so fortunate to live in Denton, let’s think of ways to help those who live in Invisible Denton……….

Dentoning….We Do of Walnut Street

The idea isn’t new. Improving Walnut Street (the street behind Ever’s Hardware on the Square) has been discussed, planned and mapped for years. What IS new is a potential way to get it done. There’s a reason it’s lain fallow for years, I’m not sure exactly what that reason is, but I’m thinking it probably has something to do with money. But, there are ways to minimize that…….

Half block south of square

Walnut St. looking East

Walnut St. stretches between Locust St. and Elm St. just behind the south side of the Square. It’s really more of an alley than a street, and with the hodge podge of dumpsters, transformer boxes, trash and filth, looks more like parts of New York City than Denton, Texas. I wouldn’t call it blighted, but I almost would. There is definitely room for improvement.

South of Denton Square

Walnut St/Alley looking West

I discussed this idea in an earlier blog, but recently many of the business owners on that side of the Square and from other areas nearby, met to talk about and judge interest in, the concept of closing Walnut St. to create a pedestrian-only park-like plaza. There are different ideas as to what the final plan would look like, but this was simply a meeting to get the pulse of those whose businesses would be impacted. At the end of the meeting, with a show of hands, there was a unanimous vote of YES.

Closing off a street that has been around for 100+ years doesn’t happen over night and without obstacles to overcome. But everyone at that meeting decided is was a plan worth pursuing. A suggestion was made to have 2-3 special events, closing off the street for “trial runs”. Other cities around the world have made such changes, so there ARE ways to get around the obstacles. This concept would require disruptive thinking and planning on the part of the business owners, property owners, the community and the City. There are ways around almost anything and if we as the Denton Community say we want it, it can happen.

For the most part, I think the RE DO of Walnut St. can become a WE DO of Walnut Street. In the earlier blog about this subject, I mentioned crowd sourcing, where materials, ideas and labor would be volunteered and a couple of days of community work, frivolity, and TRUE dentoning could change the…….OK, blighted alley …….of Walnut St. into a shady, grassy, tree-lined pedestrian area with benches, restaurant patios, play areas for the kids, flower boxes, street artists and buskers.

Would you rather have this?:

Walnut St.

Walnut St.

Or this?:

Plans

Example of ped area

Just think, in addition to the grassy lawn of our courthouse Square, we would then have a pleasant, shady oasis to stroll, sit, shop and loiter and just a half block off our town center. There are, of course, questions about the loss of parking, relocation of dumpsters, how grease traps would be serviced and how deliveries would be made. This is where the disruptive thinking comes in. Just because it hasn’t been done in Denton does not mean it CAN’T be done in Denton. Denton has all the talent and expertise needed to visualize, plan, and implement the project, and to overcome any NOs that are encountered.

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Examples of what could be……

There are already plans in the works for a more centralized way for deliveries to be made around the Square. Several ideas were also batted around at the meeting which could potentially address trash collection, service of grease traps and other potential stumbling blocks that came to mind. This is merely the idea phase of the WE DO of Walnut St. All of this would take input from the businesses, the City and us……..the citizens of Denton. SO…….what do you think? Would you be willing to offer ideas, volunteer to work, volunteer materials,……make this happen? The business owners would foot the bill for the expenses directly related to their operations, but the fun part would be up to us!

For now, please let me know what you think of this “urban renewal” project., and send any ideas, pros/cons, whatever to:

dentoning@gmail.com

If we want it, it will happen………or something like that.

Enjoy Denton!

Dentoning….Home made.

We all know well the Denton we love. Our downtown is amazing, our universities.. world-class, our neighborhoods are diverse/unique and historic, our citizens incredible. What we see on the surface sets us apart from both typical and atypical Texas towns. But…….there is a part of Denton……..just under the surface, which adds a completely different aspect to modern Denton, yet is born of our past.

Before TV, video games, movies, smartphones and radio, there was entertainment. Before electricity there was entertainment, trust me…Before the advent of the above items, the entertainment industry was pretty much home-grown. People gathered regularly around the Square to picnic, play music, dominos and around. The neighborhoods of Denton held block parties to while away the time and farms surrounding Denton bustled on weekends and holidays with huge gatherings. The square continues to host a Saturday morning picker’s circle, much as it did 100 years ago, but the “pick up” events of years gone by were edged out, in large part, by the gadgets and detachment of today.

This homegrown fun did not disappear, in fact it is coming back…..back from the past. “House concerts” such as the Denton Domino Hall and impromptu concerts at The Compound are fast becoming an important part of Denton music. What were once small cook-outs in backyards are becoming larger, richer events. Case in point: The “Quest for the Golden Jesus” chili cook-off. The 10th annual QFGJ was held over Memorial Day weekend at an undisclosed location in east Denton.

The QFGJ Trophy

The pepper, meat and water contest was founded by Wally Campbell and has steadily grown into an event not to be missed. Wally started the QFGJ competition in his backyard 10 years ago and magically won the soon to be coveted trophy that first year. I’m not sure how many entrants there were that first year, or who judged the contest, but Wally won…….fair and square….as far as we know.

Since the birth of the event, it has had several homes. This year’s slightly sub-surface fete took place for the second year in a row in a HUGE backyard, dotted with cooking camps under monster shade trees. The day was perfect ……..the Dentoning sublime. 16 self-proclaimed chili-masters cooked their best and submitted the thick, fire-meat stews to be judged by a panel of illustrious Dentonites.

As the cooking, and eventually, the judging went on, the people attending the semi-secret QFGJ sauntered around, quaffing sparkling adult beverages, listening to Denton home-band, Hares on the Mountain, tasting the 16 distinctly different chilis, and basking in a truly perfect pre-summer day. Hares were the perfect soundtrack to QFGJ. The extremely talented band with it’s beautiful at times, quirky at times, hilarious at times music helped make the day beautiful, quirky and hilarious.

Hares on the Mountain

judges workingOnce the chili camps were ready to submit their pots, it was time to determine who deserved the ultimate Denton chili prize, the Quest for the Golden Jesus trophy. The lucky judges, including City Councilman, Kevin Roden, sweated through the judging for close to an hour. With much fanfare, razing and beer, the QFGJ was awarded to Harlan “Meatguns” Anderson and Isaac Hoskins, making Meatguns the historic, overall QFGJ chili-King with his 5th win. There were many incredible batches of chili, but Team Meatguns definitely deserved to win in my own personal, correct opinion.

Team Meatguns

The day long chilipalooza was a shining example of Dentoning at its best and of what makes Denton, Denton. When all was said and done, Denton proved that home-grown fun is the best kind of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy Denton!