Only in Denton

There's always that one moment that could only happen in this city. Alumni share their favorite stories.
Written by: 
Jessica DeLeón
Sharon Barnhill and Nina Austin
Sharon Barnhill (’77), right in cavewoman costume, and Nina Austin (’77) at the Denton Community Theatre’s 2015 “Upstage Downstage” fundraiser at the Campus Theatre.

Dentonites don't think twice about other people's quirky appearances.

Sharon Barnhill ('77), who is active in community theater, was driving home from a musical production in her costume -- as a cavewoman, complete with a bone in her hair. She stopped at an intersection to look at a rainbow that had popped up in the sky. She and a guy started a conversation, and after they parted ways, she realized something.

"He never asked me why I had a bone in my hair," Barnhill says. "That's what I like about Denton."

In the early 2000s, Darien Orr ('86) noticed the city of Austin had so many products with imagery of the city, but Denton didn't offer similar items.

"I wanted to do something to show iconic Denton places and events," she says.

She created a series of postcards called "Out and About in Denton" that depicted her vintage Barbie and Ken dolls frolicking around the city. The dolls are seen at Frosty's, the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo, and other Denton hotspots. But no one questioned her while she was shooting the photos.

"Only in Denton can you be on your stomach photographing Barbie and Ken on the courthouse lawn and nobody blinks an eye," she says.

Barbie and Ken dolls
A vintage pair of Barbie and Ken dolls, photographed by Darien Orr (’86), hang out at the Denton downtown square.

When the Day of the Dead Festival began in 2011, an apartment building was under construction across from Dan's Silverleaf. The first floor and frame were complete, but the second floor was still in progress, with a pile of debris.

"I looked right before showtime and there were 50 or 100 people sitting upstairs, their feet dangling off the edges," says festival founder David J. Anzaldúa Pierce ('97). "And nothing happened. Nobody fell off. I thought right then and there, 'Oh my god, I can't believe this thing isn't dead in the water the first year.' It had a real Fry Street Fair kind of vibe. They just climbed up there and enjoyed themselves."

"It sort of speaks to the whole vibe of the day," Pierce says. "It's always been family and community focused. It gets bigger. In those early days, so many things could have gone wrong, and they didn't. You could feel it. It was a fun, magical, only-in-Denton moment. It set it up to be what it is now."