Published on: Sun, Jul 01, 2018
Happy 4th of July!
This is one of my favorite holidays. When I was a kid, this day was about our core family of six piling into the station wagon to join the big family at Papa’s lakehouse, where we played with cousins, ate watermelon, made homemade ice cream and shot fireworks off over the water. Wonderful memories, those are.
As innocent childhood slipped by, the 4th became more about the birth of our nation and this patriotism that swells in my heart among flags, fireworks and the National Anthem. Then two years ago, another mile marker was added. It’s now as definitive a part of our 4th of July tradition as the rest of our celebrations that day.
On July 4, 2016, the Discover Denton Welcome Center (DDWC) opened on the square and became the other important birthday we recognize.
Just a dream for many years, this project finally got legs when the Leadership Denton class of 2012 took it on for their required project. Their idea? A uniquely Dentonesque, experiential welcome center. In a nutshell, these leaders benchmarked Denton against cities of similar size and proximity to major metropolitan areas specifically relative to their visitor interaction points. Their research resulted in the development of an impressive business plan for a welcome/visitor center and Denton store in the downtown district. City leadership embraced the plan, tasked the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) to begin the work of implementing it, and we did it with gusto.
An effect of being an original independent destination often is that visitors seeking the Denton experience are not always astute at discovering it on their own. Our brand promises this cool, customizable vibe. So, how do people find it? We knew that the welcome center envisioned in Leadership Denton’s plan was the perfect solution.
A total 148,952 people have visited the DDWC since that 4th of July two years ago. Of the roughly 6,000 visitors who come in each month, an average 63 percent of them are visiting from outside of Denton County, and many of those are travelers from points all around the globe. Stat-trackers that we are, we also know that the greatest attraction for visitors continues to be our downtown square, followed closely by attending music or university events. We’re beginning to see the “attending a convention” category of visitors make an impact, as well.
Having a Denton souvenir store has boosted foot traffic for all shops downtown. People love browsing, and the DDWC added another layer of options that, when purchased, become Denton messages all over the world on a T-shirt, handbag, keychain, or original piece of art, among many other available mementos. The revenue the DDWC creates is invested, along with community sponsor dollars, 100 percent right back into keeping the DDWC the place that it is.
The DDWC allows our team of Dentoning Experts to interact with visitors and ensure they find the experience they seek. This is important when considering the economic shot in the arm they give. In 2017, nearly a half-million hotel rooms were occupied in our city limits. Coupled with day-trippers, these visitors generated $179 million for our economy here in Denton. And when these people leave our city with positive perceptions, they are ambassadors sharing our Denton story.
We on the Discover Denton team consider it serendipitous that the grand opening celebration for our new Discover Denton Welcome Center ended up on July 4th. We didn’t plan for this date. In fact, we had hoped to be open by Christmas of 2015. But construction obstacles and Dentonesque tweaks along the way thwarted those plans. Denton’s driving independent nature would have it no other way. Destiny determined that the place showcasing our original, independent city should open officially on Independence Day.
Since our grand opening birthday is on the 4th, we’ll celebrate big in tandem with the nation. We’ll open early Wednesday morning, at 8:30 a.m. for Denton’s Yankee-Doodle Parade-goers gathering for the 9 a.m. downtown start. While supplies last, the DDWC will give out free American flags to wave at the parade – favors to kick off our star-spangled birthday.
Visitors can enjoy 4th-themed cookies and lemonade throughout the day, until 4 p.m. when we’ll close up shop to join most everybody else in town at Apogee Stadium for the giant Kiwanis fireworks show.
Let’s celebrate Independence Day as proud and grateful Americans. And here’s wishing a happy birthday to the DDWC, the place people come to discover Denton, original and independent every day of the year.
Visit the Discover Denton Welcome Center at 111 W. Hickory on the Square, open seven days a week. See discoverdenton.com for a complete list of 4th of July activities.