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Denton Blues Fest fills Quakertown Park with culture and soul

Denton Blues Fest fills Quakertown Park with culture and soul

September 19
14:58 2017

Rather than their usual bounty of dog walkers, Quakertown Park was host to several hundred spectators last weekend at the 19th annual Denton Blues Fest.

Organized by the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce, the free event garnered a crowd of all ages to enjoy blues music from a variety of talented bands, chow on some great food and appreciate just one of the genres that makes up Denton’s substantial music scene.

With children playing in the park and parents dancing by the stage, the festival demonstrated its appeal to different groups.

Perhaps the most eye-catching festival attendee was a pet parrot named Tico.

Tico is owned by Sanger resident Sam Alexander. The two like to come to Denton to enjoy the music and events established in the area.

Singer Redd Velvet sings “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” at the Denton Blues Festival. Redd Velvet is a classically trained singer that relocated to Memphis, Tennessee to pursue a blues career. Rachel Walters

“Tico and I have been friends for 13 years,” Alexander said.

The pair have been coming to Denton for a large chunk of their friendship and are recognized by many locals.

“I like to bring him out to festivals,” Alexander said. “It’s cool to see others enjoy him. When we come out for Jazz Fest, his picture gets taken thousands of times.”

The Denton Black Chamber of Commerce likes to keep the festival free as a way to give back to the community and welcome an inclusive crowd.

The Blues Festival, which was funded entirely by sponsors, made sure to put a heavy emphasis on the community and showcase just a fraction of Denton’s artistic and creative greatness.

One such talent is Ilyce Murray, who operates a kiosk out of Golden Triangle Mall. Murray sells homemade bath products like bath bombs and fragrances.

“We try to avoid using harmful chemicals in our products,” Murray said. “We use oils, butters and other additives that are great for the inside and the outside of the body.”

Murray has been in business for two years and has been at Golden Triangle since August.

Murray displayed her specialty “Bubble Cakes,” a product that features a bath bomb as the base and a soap scrub swirled on top to look like a cupcake, at the festival.

“I was really shocked, we sold out of our Bubble Cakes really fast,” Murray said.

The Denton Blues Festival emphasizes African-American talent and is a chance for that demographic to represent their culture in the community.

It also works in partnership with the Denton Black Film Festival, who had their tent pitched front and center last weekend to spread the word about their own festivities coming in January.

“The festival happens on the Square at the Campus Theatre and is a three-day extravaganza for film, music, art, comedy and spoken word,” DBFF operations director Natalie Nichelson said.

Numerous vendors, like LoJoJo Concession Stand, are able to thrive at festivals like these thanks to the support of the Denton community.

A portion 0f LoJoJo Concessions’ sales goes towards charities benefitting kids in poverty.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” owner Joe Sherrill said. “I enjoy it a lot.”

Mixed-media artist Heather Deaton was another residential talent who pitched her tent at the festival. Her work focuses on topics of nature, fantasy and spirituality.

Deaton was satisfied with her first year at the festival and is glad to have accumulated some support for her art.

“A lot of new customers have come by and seen my work,” Deaton said. “I think being here helped me reach a lot of people.”

Although the array of vendors was enough of a reason to attend the Denton Blues Festival, the musical acts were another highlight of the weekend.

“We want to bring in local musicians,” said Kerry Goree, chairman of the board for the Black Chamber of Commerce. “Denton is a music city. Why go elsewhere?”

Local musicians, and the influence of past musicians, had an impact throughout the festival.

One reoccurring topic through the weekend was the defacing of Quakertown Park’s beloved memorial statue commemorating the late blues legend Tom “Pops” Carter. The seven-foot glass structure was shattered a day before the Blues Festival, but that didn’t stop the icon’s spirit from resonating all weekend.

Musician Walter “Wolfman” Washington sings at the 19th annual Denton Blues Festival. Washington headlined the event with artists Dana Fuchs, Redd Velvet and Finger Prints. Rachel Walters

“Evidently, some don’t realize and understand heritage,” Goree said. “Some people don’t understand tradition. We should be proud of that statue in every sense.”

Denton-based blues band Funk Monsters made Pops proud as they got the crowd on their feet with some traditional classics.

“We’ve played every Denton Blues Fest,” bassist Clarence Pitts said. “The Black Chamber of Commerce keeps us going. We’re all friends.”

Members of the Funk Monsters had played with Pops Carter since they were kids.

“If you played with Pops, you were a big deal with the Blues Fest,” Pitts said.

Regional bands were not the only entertainment last weekend. Artists came from as far as Tennessee and Georgia to play the Denton Blues Festival and take in all the Texan spirit.

Coming from New Orleans — arguably one of the largest hubs of blues music in the country — Walter “Wolfman” Washington put on a performance that was a treat for all ears.

Washington has been playing blues for 45 years, so witnessing anyone sitting down during his set was a rare sight as dancers frolicked through the park.

“This is my first time here, and I loved it,” Washington said. “Everybody was very accomodating.”

The Blues Festival’s ability to celebrate blues in Denton for 19 years serves as a testament to the timelessness of the genre.

“The festival does blues justice,” Pitts said. “They do a great job. I just want to play blues. It’s part of me, I love it.”

Featured Image: Dana Fuchs performs her first show in Texas at the Denton Blues Festival. Madison Gore

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Austin Wagner

Austin Wagner

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