Remember the mullet?  The “business in the front and party in the back” hairstyle sported a short, professional cut in front trailed by long locks over the collar in back. This week, dentoning looks something like a mullet head.

Photo by Mike Mezeul II Photography Photo by Mike Mezeul II Photography

It starts with business on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at UNT’s Gateway Center when we, the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), will host our 10th-annual Planner’s Zone Expo.  Dana Lodge, CVB Director of Sales, has been at the helm of Planner’s Zone since it was just an idea.

“My mission on the CVB team is convincing groups to meet and stay in Denton,” Dana said. “Too many people either don’t believe Denton has what they need or they think planning something in Denton will bust their budgets.  Neither is true.”

Dana shaped Planner’s Zone to prove it, and the expo is changing Denton’s consciousness. With the new Denton Convention Center on schedule to open late next year, awareness about Denton’s meeting, convention and event infrastructure is more important than ever. Exhibitors showcase their products and services, from venues to entertainment and from promotional products to decorating and catering. “Attendees can easily make lunch out of the catering and restaurant samples.  It’s one of the reasons we have Planner’s Zone at lunch,” Dana laughs. “It’s delicious, and there are give-aways and door prizes, too.”

Planner’s Zone has a new feature this year that will make a lunch hour swing through the expo easier than ever. Complimentary valet parking is eradicating the usual parking hassles. Drive right up to the Gateway’s front entrance and North Texas Valet will take it from there.

Group business already thriving in the realm of small meetings, weddings and reunions is lining up for the famed dentoning experience.  It will boom beyond belief when 70,000 square feet of convention space opens in 2017 at Rayzor Ranch.  Admission to Planner’s Zone is free and it’s for everyone.  This is the place that equips planners of every level for any event from expos to the company holiday party to business functions.

The Planner’s Zone is the business in the front.  The party in the back?  Well, that would be Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival all day Saturday downtown.

Photo courtesy of Susan Carol Davis Photo courtesy of Susan Carol Davis

A family event, Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival harkens to days gone by when communities created reasons to come together and party. Cooler weather, harvest, the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, and Halloween - a hodge-podge of customs, are all mixed together in Denton-centric style. Costumes are prevalent, like a preview to Halloween night.  Music, dancing, games, food, drink and Cirque du Horror are the mainstay conduits to a downtown Denton good time.

A definitive original highlight of Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival is the coffin races. Think parade but with dramatic, outlandish versions of coffins instead of floats. Only they’re not rolling slowly along with friendly waving faces. Instead, drivers wear fiercely competitive grimaces beneath costumes as they race coffins to the finish line.

The races begin at noon on East Hickory Street between Locust and Industrial Streets. Coffins race in heats, two at a time, until the fastest coffin wins the coveted sugar skull. Some 70 businesses and individuals have invested months of time, resources and creativity into their entries.  It’s serious, and seriously fun to watch.

For the first time, the CVB is joining the coffin race fun. That’s right. We are racing this year, so watch out! I’m sworn to secrecy regarding our coffin design and theme, but here’s a hint: even the man for whom Denton is named, John B. Denton, isn’t missing out on #dentoning this Day of the Dead.

A favorite aspect to Day of the Dead costuming is the sugar skull, visible everywhere this time of year. These happy skeletons are brought forward from ancient Mexican Día de los Muertos tradition of adorning skeletons to represent loved ones as they were most content in life.

Here’s an example of business in the front meeting party in the back. Even face-paint artists are found through the Planner’s Zone. So when we decided to offer sugar skull face-painting in the Discover Denton Welcome Center to help alleviate the long waits inside Day of the Dead, our artist was easy to find. See? Regardless of the event, Planner’s Zone connects the dots.

It’s all fun: business dentoning at Thursday’s Planner’s Zone and party dentoning at Day of the Dead Saturday. Come see us in the Welcome Center for Thriller dance-offs, sugar skull costume enhancements and #dentoning gifts and gear.

Mullets may not be “in” anymore, but #dentoning never goes out of style.