Story by Matthew Brown Photos courtesy of Denton Main Street Association Denton Live Fall-Winter 2015
A Chevrolet Bel Air glows like a radioactive cherry in the sunlight. High above, a few clouds drift lazily across a blue canvas providing shade as they pass over.
A quick glance about the square is rewarded by a palette of brightly colored steel glittering in the sunshine. Children hover nearby to examine the work of an artist sitting cross-legged on the pavement. Dusty chalk coats the artist’s jeans in a colorful hue.
An All-American V8 growls at a small crowd of onlookers who lean in for a glimpse under the hood.
A family carrying several heirlooms pauses on their way to have their keepsakes appraised, smiling at the low rumble of historic Americana.
This is Arts, Antiques and Autos Extravaganza-- a unique tradition in Denton that is entering its 16th year. On September 12th the Denton Main Street Association (DMSA) will once again host the event exhibiting more than two hundred cars and showcasing local artists’ one-of-a-kind talents.
The DMSA is responsible for a number of festivals that attract thousands of visitors every year. In the winter, Wassail Fest shares warm tidings. In the spring, Twilight Tunes offers a delightful way to wind down after a long day.
Beginning at nine in the morning, cars ranging from as far back as the ’20s all the way to modern autos surround the courthouse and compete for trophies and prizes.
Cash prizes are awarded for best in show for cars, trucks and motorcycles. Custom made trophies pieced together from car parts by local artists are awarded for other special categories.
This year, DMSA is adding a new category: rat rods—1920 to 1950 era cars chopped up and made into aggressive custom rods that would make Henry Ford run for the hills.
Nearby on West Oak Street, Chalkfest colors the sidewalks where artists create on concrete canvases. Last year 25 artists participated, including children seven years and older. The kaleidoscopes of color and three dimensional depictions of the courthouse and other locales remain for long after the festival.
Meanwhile, nearby studios, galleries and vendors exhibit and sell local art. Some even teach arts and crafts to patrons.
Elsewhere, antique appraisers offer their services to festival attendees who bring along their “attic treasures.” While appraisals are not “official,” folks get a good idea of antiques’ values. Every person is welcome to bring up to three heirlooms and find out just how much that old thingamajig may be worth.
Bands and acoustic artists play on the courthouse lawn all day. Arts, Antiques and Autos Extravaganza likes sticking with classic Texas rock and Americana music. “It sets the scene to keep in spirit with the car show,” said Christine Gossett, one of the event’s coordinators.
There is plenty to do outside, but festival-goers find more treasures inside the local businesses around the square as well as food and drinks. Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, is a fixture in Denton’s culture and an excellent way to top off the day.
It’s three in the afternoon, and Arts, Antiques and Autos is winding down. Vendors are closing their booths. Nearly 300 cars are roaring to life to head home. But people hesitate, not yet ready to call it a day. Some meander among the shops around the square. Restaurants, pubs and patios teem with visitors. While Arts, Antiques and Autos brought them downtown today, this vibrant scene is here year-round. It’s a lively district that will draw them back again and again until the Arts and Autos return for the Extravaganza next year.