As the final hours of 2016 ebbed away last weekend, social media was firing on all channels. Many people seemed to be gnashing their teeth at 2016, glad such a bad year was finally ending and hopeful that 2017 will be better. Others remarked on wonderful things they experienced last year, like my daughter who married her soul mate. Isn’t that the way of passing time? Every year is comprised of both good and bad, happy and sad, and some years seem to have more of one than the other that occur within their 365 allotted days.

DDWC Welcome SignAt this time last year, our Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) family was restless. We had worked all of 2015 preparing the Discover Denton Welcome Center to be open by Thanksgiving, in time for Holiday Lighting and the Christmas season. It was to be our gift to Denton’s citizens and visitors. Only, it wasn’t ready. In fact, we worked and waited another six months before we finally opened the doors on June 21, 2016. While frustration reigned as 2015 drew to a close without a finish to this labor of love, 2016 became a year of celebration when Discover Denton welcomed more than 50,000 visitors between opening day and last weekend.

Everyone on our team has had to stretch, work harder and longer than usual, often picking up tasks and chores that are “not in our job descriptions.” That’s why we call the welcome center a labor of love. Every staff member’s investment as well as the faith of our leadership, sponsors, partners and advertisers brought this giant project to fruition. And it was born – not in 2015 as we had envisioned – but exactly when it was supposed to be.

Chalk up something awesome for 2016 that will sustain long into our future!

A long-standing CVB initiative has been to develop an expo specific to the wedding business that has boomed in Denton over the past several years. Our vision has been to capture the whole of that business unfolding with Denton-based merchants, lodging and servicing partners to compliment the thousands of wedding events happening in Denton-area venues.

1-14-walters-wedding-estates-mike-mezeul Potential brides converse with Walters Wedding Estates at the 2016 Denton Bridal Show. The upcoming bridal show will be held January 14 at TWU's Hubbard Hall. Photo by Mike Mezeul II Photography

Awesome thing number two in 2016? The birth of the Denton Bridal Show last January. Denton-based Widmoore Events took the lead with support from our CVB team and our partners at Texas Woman’s University.

More than 500 brides-to-be and wedding planners from all over north Texas made their way to Denton for the expo, where they discovered venues for every wedding theme imaginable and everything else they would need to flesh out their wedding days. A fashion show of bridal party attire was surrounded by a showcase of valet services, photographers, musicians, florists, decorators, bakeries, hotels, caterers, designer gifts and much more.

As with the welcome center, this 2015 investment of time and effort, over and above the usual work that still had to be done, added another “Wahoo!” to our 2016. Feedback from brides and vendors alike was that the Denton Bridal Show filled a huge gap by sparking ideas, fueling discovery and unveiling money-saving strategies.

So, the Denton Bridal Show is back for 2017, this coming Saturday, January 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hubbard Hall on the TWU campus.

denton-convention-center-12-2016 Progress on the Denton Convention Center, December 2016.

Finally, awesome thing number three for 2016 broke ground last March, and the Denton Convention Center is underway, on schedule to open in fall of 2017.

Make a point to visit Rayzor Ranch and look to the south side of University Drive. The convention center and its companion Embassy Suites Hotel are rising fast. It already has shape and height enough to see how the finished project will look as it anchors the coming-soon Razor Ranch Town Center.

The CVB team is already promoting the convention center, bidding and winning new business to Denton, visitors who will discover our original, independent sense of place and leave dollars in our economy while they do so. As I’ve stated many times, this convention center is an asset launching Denton into arenas in which we have never before competed for business. It is a game-changer. This time next year, as 2017 gives way to 2018, we will see it happening and already be realizing the positive impact on our economy.

We agree that 2016 had its ups and downs. There was sweat and tears and worry and stress mixed with celebrations along the roads to each of these projects that finally saw the light of day in 2016. But 2016’s good wins, because the stage is set for an amazing 2017.