Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Experiencing places beyond our own life’s borders makes us bigger, better people. Travel promotes understanding and appreciation for other peoples, cultures, values, religions and landscapes. And travel is fun.

As Texans, we are fortunate. We don’t have to go far to reap the benefits of travel. For many years now, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism has touted, “Texas. It’s like a whole other country.” What a perfect description of our state’s gigantic expanse. Grassy plains, mountains, desert, forests of towering trees, beaches, ocean, marshes, rocky hill country and great lakes all exist within our perimeters. Cultures, colors, accents, languages and ways of life are as vast and varied as our topography.

In May of 1974, the Texas legislature adopted a resolution that proclaimed Texas Highways magazine the official state travel publication. Published monthly by the Texas Department of Transportation, the magazine’s mission is to “encourage travel to and within the Lone Star State and tell the Texas story to readers around the world.”

Dentonites have always been especially fond of Texas Highways magazine. Over the decades since its beginning, the magazine has featured numerous feature articles and beautiful photography about our city, perused by thousands of people looking for places to go and things to do across our state. And in 2014, Texas Highways readers named Denton among the best in its Top 40 Texas Destinations year-long competition, second only to San Antonio.

Texas Highways has set its sights on Denton once again. Perhaps you’ve noticed Denton’s Thin Line Fest being touted in full-page ads since October, taking the entire back cover in this current January issue. That’s because Texas Highways and Thin Line Fest have partnered up to create a new True Texas Travel Category in Thin Line’s documentary lineup for 2018.

Straight from the front page of TexasHighways.com, “The True Texas Travel Experience category is for the best short documentary featuring an authentic Texas travel experience. Films need to be ten (10) minutes or less. Judges will review traditional documentaries, mockumentaries, docufictions, docudramas, travelogues, events, or any film that celebrates the people, places and wide-open spaces that define the Lone Star State.”

Thin Line Fest 2015 Photo by Kristen Watson

This film competition is open to everyone, amateurs included. That means you and me, folks. Anyone can submit. These days, we all carry the necessary equipment to shoot viable film in our pockets and purses. That’s right, our phones. Content we video on our hand-held devices is perfectly acceptable, desirable even. Texas Highways wants to see what we love about Texas. They’re building a digital, video library of organic Texas experiences. They want our stories about our favorite adventures, our families’ special places to get away, our favorite foods, music, festivals, things to do and even characters that are iconic in our eyes. And all this content will become visual resources to compliment future Texas Highways features.

Everyone knows that video is king. Reading great stories and enjoying beautiful images is inspiring. But add film of real Texans talking about Texas and that is testimonial fodder that moves people to action.

According to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism, 45 percent of the travel industry’s impact on our state’s economy is generated by Texans moving around Texas. Like I said, we don’t have to go far to experience a whole other country. It’s in our backyard.

There are prizes in this category, too. The top 20 videos submitted will screen at Thin Line Fest in Denton this year, April 18-22, and will be part of a way-cool red carpet event sponsored by us, the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau. The final carrot? The grand prize winner is really going to rake it in with $2,000 in cash and a fantastic, all-expense-paid Texas Hill Country vacation.

I have an ulterior motive in writing about this contest. I am imagining Texas Highways’ video library full of Denton. The more of Denton that is stocking those digital shelves, the more our story is likely to be a Texas Highways focus. Simple, right?

So, here’s your challenge. Think about Denton. What do you love? Where do you like to go? What do you think a would-be guest should do and see when they visit our city?

Texas has been telling its story through Texas Highways for 43 years, and Denton is a big part of that story. Now, go shoot your own short film about it. Let’s fill up that library.