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 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.
Once 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.
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.