Happy 4th of July! This is one of my favorite holidays. I’m not sure how it became a favorite as a kid – perhaps gathering with family at the lake, eating watermelon, homemade ice cream and shooting fireworks. Wonderful memories, those are. As an adult, I think it’s more the patriotism that swells in my heart among flags, fireworks and the National Anthem. While I am always proud to be an American, that pride ramps up as we join together from coast to coast to celebrate our nation’s beginnings.

History.com takes us back 240 years, to the day we were born. “In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence.”

Fireworks Photo by Tim Phillips

America is the greatest democratic republic experiment in the history of the world, founded on one overlying dream: independence. I won’t sugar coat our birth. It was painful. The trek across the great pond itself was life-threatening. Then arriving on America’s shore, while an accomplishment, was merely the first round in what would prove to be a long, arduous commitment. Oppression followed the brave pioneers, but the fledgling colonies bound together, holding collectively to the independence dream. They fought. Hard. Lots of blood, death and loss were invested to arrive at that first 4th of July.

How grateful I am that they never gave up, for compromise and concession would certainly have been easier. Instead, our forefathers united and did not stop until oppression sailed back across the sea, and America was born. Independence is valuable, and it has a price. It was not easily won then, and it is not easily won today.

In celebration of their 125th anniversary, UNT published a book with news stories, clippings and photographs from the University Archive. The book chronicles UNT’s history from its beginning above a hardware store on the Denton square to its present day sprawl as Texas’ 4th largest university. The name of the book? Independent, Original and Progressive.

 As noted in the book, in his speech at the opening of UNT (then Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute), founder and president Joshua C. Chilton was the first to describe UNT and Denton as "independent, original and progressive." That was in 1890. Have you taken note of our city’s brand today in 2016? Original Independent Denton. That is not coincidence! During the research process of developing our brand, we were not aware of Chilton’s long ago observation. Yet, focus group after focus group arrived at those words on their own. Original and independent are inherent to our character as a place. And like America’s story, Denton’s is laced with the spirit of independence.

Isn’t it serendipitous that the grand opening celebration for our new Discover Denton Welcome Center on the square kicks off on July 4th? We didn’t plan for this date. We intended opening much earlier, but construction obstacles and Denton-esque tweaks along the way thwarted those plans. Now that we are here, I consider it akin to fate.  The driving independent spirit of our nature would have it no other way. It’s only fitting that a place designed to showcase our original, independent city will officially open on Independence Day.

DDWC Welcome SignThe Welcome Center’s grand opening starts tomorrow and runs all month. Guests can register to win the most massive dentoning gift basket ever assembled. DentonRadio.com shows, entertainment in the welcome center and celebration events promise a Denton experience far beyond being a place to collect a few brochures, though that resource is proving to be a popular take-away. While supplies last, guests will also receive a gift with any purchase from among the welcome center’s unique inventory of Denton souvenirs, gear and gifts.

During our soft-opening, we’ve already had visitors from East Texas, the DFW area, Chicago, California, Great Britain, Turkey and of course many curious Dentonites. Like our name implies, this is where the people come to discover Denton. And it’s important that we are here. Remember how independence comes with a price? A consequence of being an original, independent locale is that it’s not always a cinch to figure out. Even locals are discovering aspects of Denton they didn’t know about.

This week, we celebrate independence, as Americans and as Dentonites. We know the American story. How about Denton’s? Visit the new Discover Denton Welcome Center at 111 W. Hickory on the Square. I promise, there’s plenty to celebrate!