Fair is Fair

Fry Street Fair has changed over the years. But is it for the better?

Marketing does nevertheless play a role in the new Fry Street Fair. "There was a plan to the mix, and that comes from that focus," Bone says. "We tried to break it down into demographics and to not lose the integrity of the event. The Fry Street Fair is a business, but it's got a stigma about it. And we don't want to turn it into some big festival that basically people see as sellouts and don't have a lot of respect for. Basically we don't want to go down that path. That's not what Fry Street Fair is, but then again we need to justify a $20 ticket price. And, by bringing a different cross section of bands, some of the best local Denton bands, some of the best local Dallas bands, Austin bands, Texas bands and national bands. It doesn't matter as much where the music comes from as long as it's good music. It maintains the integrity of our event."

Still, every March in Denton, as sure as UNT students start cramming for midterms, rumors and complaints about the fair begin to circulate. Many say Fry Street Fair has already sold out, booking fewer and fewer just-getting-started Denton bands every year and turning more toward Dallas, Austin and, for the last two years, national bands. This year's schedule includes national touring bands Frank Black and the Catholics, Mike Watt and Cowboy Mouth, plus established metroplex acts such as Brave Combo, Flickerstick, The Polyphonic Spree and Chomsky. In response, two other fairs have sprung up in recent years: the Mulberry Street Fair (which has been located in a house behind the now-defunct Rick's Place at Mulberry and Avenue A) and Bryan Street Fair, both of which have booked Denton bands not offered the chance to play their hometown's large festival.

Another common complaint about Fry Street Fair is the increased ticket price; this year, admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the gate. Booth, who booked the fair for several years and currently books at Liquid Lounge weekly and Curtain Club monthly, says the Delta Lodge is faced with increasing costs to fence off the festival area, hire Denton police officers and help out companies in the area that must close for the day or lose substantial business. Eventually, the cost, he says, had to be passed along via admission prices.

Crowded house: The Polyphonic Spree, performing at last year's Fry Street Fair
Cabe Booth
Crowded house: The Polyphonic Spree, performing at last year's Fry Street Fair

And like the triangle that symbolizes the Greek letter "delta," the complaint against the lodge is also three-sided. After bands and ticket prices come the questions about why, more than six years later, the lot at Oak and Fry remains empty. Every year, the Delta Lodge says part of the proceeds from the fair will go to rebuilding the house, but so far no construction has started. Not our fault, says the lodge. First, according to Bone, the space was zoned as commercial, so a special-use permit had to be obtained. That took two years, between getting approval from neighbors and the city council. That permit expires in about 45 days, which means that, if construction doesn't begin before that time, then the lodge will have to go back before the city council and apply for an extension, which will only cause further delays. In addition to the expense of building a 10-bedroom, 6,000-square-foot dwelling that will accommodate the lodge for years, there have been added expenses to make the house compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If the lodge can break ground in time, then Bone says construction will only take eight or nine months.

Booth thinks that having the house completed will solve many issues with the Delta Lodge. "It's my hope that, after they build the house and they get this done, then there will be a lowering of the prices and less of a need for national acts and they can concentrate more on giving these local acts a place to shine as they richly deserve. And Dallas is such a wealthy town that I don't see why we'd need to even go to Austin to get bands."

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