The Swing of Things

As a prospective student at the University of North Texas, I thought of Denton as a college kid's paradise, a Lord of the Flies-like place where tattooed and spiky-haired musicians and their art school girlfriends ran free--no parents, no curfew, no one to set rules or enforce them. Boy, was I disappointed.

Sure, Denton has a bit of that (just check out last weekend's Fry Street Fair), but it also has adults. Lots of them, in fact, with day jobs, mortgages, grocery lists, dogs that need walking and, worst of all, children. There are parks, festivals, historic downtown decorating contests and lots of schools and rec centers. Denton's a little bit rock and roll, but a little bit Mayberry, too.

Check out the softer side of Denton during the annual, free, three-day Denton Arts & Jazz Festival, when every kid in a dance or music class and every aspiring Stan Kenton studying jazz at UNT come out to play on one of the six stages, joined by professional musicians--some UNT music school alumni, some not. There's something to appeal to almost anyone.

The Festival Stage features community groups such as Denton Celtic Dancers and the Ryan Raider Jazz Band, as does the Center Stage with acts that include the Denton Childbloom Guitar Program and the Argyle Elementary Choir. The Celebration Stage is UNT-centered with performances by the Jazz Singers, Zebras and several of the school's lab bands. The Roving River Stage has multicultural wandering music by Doc's Dixieland Band, Amador Mariachis, Rhythm Tribe and Texas Gypsies. Then there are the main events: The Jazz Stage will feature Arturo Sandoval, Trout Fishing in America, Tower of Power and Brave Combo, and the Courtyard Stage's highlights include Brian House, Little Jack Melody & The Young Turks, Pops Carter & the Funkmonsters, Brothers 3 and the Light Crust Doughboys.

Families will make picnics of food from the court of vendors, next to punk rock kids--awake before noon for the first time since they accidentally registered for that 8 a.m. class. It's like a microcosm of Denton itself.