North Texas Daily

Day of the Dead hits Denton

Day of the Dead hits Denton

Day of the Dead hits Denton
October 24
12:29 2013

Christina Ulsh / Senior Staff Writer

Coffin race practice runs, two-day horror flick filming and pumpkin patch planning are three things the people of Denton are doing to prepare for the third annual Day of the Dead Festival.

Day of the Dead, or Dìa de Muertos, is a day Mexican families and friends gather to remember deceased relatives and comrades.

Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival, an event that brings the community together to celebrate the themes of autumn, begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. Saturday. The festival will take place along Industrial Street and the east side of Hickory Street. The event is free and family friendly.

“It incorporates everything from Day of the Dead to straight up Halloween,” said David Pierce, creator and director of the festival. “It’s very eclectic. It’s very much Denton.”

Until last year’s festival, Denton had never seen anything like the coffin races before, Pierce said.

From teams of local businesses to individual racers, registered participants build and decorate coffins to race down the natural slope of Hickory Street. The winner is determined by the fastest time down the hill. The races will start at 1 p.m.

“Some people are in it to win it,” Pierce said. “Some people showed up with a real coffin last year and totally tricked it out and were kind of in it for show.”

Pierce registered to race his hand-built coffin for three. While he steers, two others will sit in the backseat and apply the brakes. The coffin has smoke stacks and is the size of two coffins. Pierce said it is mostly for show.

There will be two showings of “Cirque du Horror,” a musical that Pierce writes every year, at 4:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. inside Dan’s Silverleaf. The musical uses the same name and common thread of spookiness, but is different every year.

The musical predates the festival by two years. When Pierce decided to have the production outside in 2011, he shut down Industrial Street and added vendors.

It was reported passersby went home, changed into costume, grabbed their kids and came to the pop-up festival, he said. Thus, the annual festival was born.

The Denton Community Market will be holding a salsa cook-off at 5 p.m. Tasting tickets are sold for $10 and tasters get unlimited chips and salsa, according to the market’s webpage.

The winners are chosen by the community of tasters and announced at 6:45 p.m. Prizes include hotel stays, massages and organic grocery store gift cards.

This year, “48 Hours of Hell,” a Thin Line Film Festival original event, will also be part of the festivities. Thin Line’s director, Joshua Butler, created the two-day filmmaking dash.

“48 [Hours of Hell] is an amazing opportunity to get some friends together, whip up some fake blood and act the fool shooting a short horror film,” Butler said.

While this is the first year the film race has been introduced into the festival, it has been happening intermittently over the past 9 years. Typically, there are six to 12 entries each year.

“The teams always do an amazing job creating entertaining films in such a short period,” Butler said.

Competitors have two days to produce a short horror film. By 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, they must have either crossed the finish line at the festival with their finished product or have submitted it online.

If competitors cross the finish line in costume, Thin Line will add 25 percent of the cash prize to their winnings.

The 4- to 8-minute films will be screened at 11 p.m. in Dan’s Silverleaf.

Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival is nearly 85 percent sponsored by local business as well as designed and built by locals, Pierce said.

One artist who helps every year is Robert Hamilton. He has made poster art, 3D sculptures and masks in the past. This year, he is specifically a parade walker.

“I have a 14-foot skeleton bride that I will carry and maneuver, and my daughters will carry and operate the bride’s two hands,” he said.

The parade starts at 7 p.m. Pierce said last year it started with 50 people and by the end of the parade nearly 450 more people joined. Hamilton said it is his favorite part of the day.

“The parade is pretty magical,” Hamilton said. “The giant walking puppets, the sun going down, the drummers, the crowds cheering – it’s super fun.”

The festival will also have a pumpkin patch for kids to run around in, various musical performances, sideshow circus acts and a car show with trunk-or-treating – a car-to-car version of trick-or-treating.

Tonight from 7 to 10 p.m., Hamilton is having an art show that will serve as a kickoff party for the festival at Wine2. There will be live music and door prizes.

An event schedule for the festival can be found on the Denton’s Day of the Dead Facebook page,

Creative director of the Day of the Dead Festival, David Pierce sits inside his coffin cart that he plans to race down Hickory St. during the festival. The cart operates like a soapbox car and will be used for the coffin races on Saturday. The race starts at 1 p.m. Feature photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer

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