One of Denton’s most captivating characteristics to me is what happens when we come together. I find it almost magical. It is original and independent, unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else. We are a diverse and largely passionate people, and there are times when that can be uncomfortable, like when issues polarize our passions. What is cool, though, is how fixedly united we are as Dentonites. October has afforded great #dentoning opportunities to see this attribute in action.
We gathered by the hundreds in our living room, the Courthouse lawn, to enjoy Twilight Tunes on Sunday afternoons. We danced like carefree teenagers at a street dance at the Industrial Street Pop Festival. We played like kids at Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival yesterday. So much fun! Politics and polarization set aside, we laughed and celebrated together.
We do this a lot in Denton. It is tradition more than 150 years old woven into the fabric of our community and sense of place. It is who we are, the glue that holds us together, and it is special.
Tradition. I love this word. Even the sound of it is solid. One of Broadway’s most famous musicals is also one of my favorites, “Fiddler on the Roof.” It is the story of a people in a time of great upheaval. Tevye is the main character and change is rocking his world. He would be completely undone were it not for tradition. “Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years,” he says.
Tradition is a binding force that holds together even when we who keep it have forgotten why. Cumulatively, we have thousands of them, some shared, others personal. Some are weighty with meaning, and many we keep for the sheer joy of doing so.
This Saturday, November 5, is North Texas’ Homecoming game at Apogee Stadium against Louisiana Tech. How ‘bout our Mean Green! We’re having a great season, and gathering behind our home team is yet another of our #dentoning, magical, get-together events.
Over the years, I’ve heard it said that UNT lacks tradition. Not so! Many traditions combine under the Homecoming banner: Homecoming court, bonfire, parade, Yell Like Hell pep rally, Spirit March, tailgating, all crowned by the game itself. But are these traditions really ours or are we simply mimicking others’ traditions?
UNT began as North Texas Normal College in 1890. Its first site was at the corner of Elm and Oak Streets on the square where J.T. Clothiers sits today. Our beloved Courthouse was not here yet. TWU had not arrived on the scene. Our population was just more than 2,500 souls. The Texas State Historical Commission states that UNT and then TWU “ultimately did more to establish the character of Denton than any other single influence.” From influence such as this, tradition of our own was born.
The first Homecoming as we know it today was on November 11, 1929. “Home comers” (as they were called then) enjoyed a parade, cookout, and celebration dance. The Eagles (now Mean Green) won the first-ever homecoming football game 34-0 over East Texas State Teachers College.
November 1946 saw election of the first Homecoming Queen by the members of the football team. The team tradition for choosing the queen lasted until 1952, when students morphed the tradition into the Homecoming court of today, the queen decided by the many rather than the few.
On November 12, 1976, the bonfire tradition took root. It was the coldest Homecoming of the entire 20th century in Denton. Undeterred Homecomers gathered for the parade. The Homecoming bonfire blazed with purpose, to keep people warm. The Eagles faced Florida State on Fouts Field blanketed under a bizarre six inches of snow.
These are just a few of many stories behind UNT’s Homecoming traditions. The point is, they are our traditions established from our unique experiences.
Mean Green Game Day has expanded the college football tradition in Denton in recent years. The free Jagoe-Public-sponsored shuttles running between downtown and Apogee Stadium continuously before, during and after the game have enhanced the game day experience. Getting to and from the game is simple, no traffic and parking hassles, and it’s easy to take in the fun downtown and at the tailgate village, too. The Homecoming game is 4:30 p.m. kick-off, and shuttles will begin running at 1:30 until an hour after the game ends.
Get #dentoning. It’s Go Mean Green! this week, steeped in Dentonesque tradition and style.
Tevye said it best. “Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!”