Denton County magazine January-February 2020

Page 1


HEALTH HEROES Helicopter medics, nursing legends, fitness experts & more


Spotlight on Flower Mound UNT Athletic Director Wren Baker The Story of Bunch Bikes







LEVEL Coming Spring 2020 •

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UNT KUEHNE SPEAKER SERIES Join us as a sponsor the for 2020 Spring Event. Reserve your table for UNT’s signature event in Dallas and enjoy networking opportunities with Fortune 500 companies. Some sponsorship packages include additional exclusive events and further engagement with our featured speaker and other guests. Contact David Broughton at or 940-565-3641 Visit for the latest information.


LOU HOLTZ Thursday, April 9, 2020 Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel

College Football Hall of Fame Coach Lou Holtz is best known for his tenure at Notre Dame. He was the first coach in NCAA history to lead six different programs to bowl games, with 12 career postseason bowl victories spanning more than three decades.

For more information on sponsorship packages for this single event, contact: David Broughton 940-565-3641

How to Recognize a Good Texas Electricity Offer

Is The Power Company in Your Home’s 2020 Budget?


he Texas power market is landscape of both old and panies offering a plethora ing to get the attention of

an ever-changing new power comof products tryutility customers.

“...if your home’s rate is 13¢-16¢, you’re probably paying too much for your power...”

It’s encouraged Texas residents look at their bill at least once annually and compare what paying to what is currently offered on one many price-comparison sites that are found

power they’re of the online.

“Utility customers who have vider’s default plan, could ly more for their power than new fixed-term every one to

rolled onto their probe paying significantthose who enroll in a two years,” he added.

Southern Federal advises residents seek out energy plans that are 12-24 month terms and have low early-termination penalties. Also, be sure to read the fine print and understand what suppliers may charge in addition to your monthly power usage; for example, additional fees for using a credit card. Want more details? Southern Federal™ is a licensed Texas power supply company that can assist Denton residents with a new 2020 power plan.

“Going into January 2020, if your home’s [electric] rate is more than 13¢-16¢ [per kilo-watt hour], you’re probably paying too much for your power,” explained Randal Miller, CEO of Southern Federal. Welcome Center: 1 (844) 644-0474 | Hours: M-F 8am-6pm

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JANUARY/ FEBRUARY Volume 3, Issue 1

Stay healthy at any age



Health + Wellness


Health heroes, innovators and experts

52 56

Joy Ride

How Bunch Bikes added family fun to cycling

Lessons in Leadership

Photo courtesy of Win Kids

Get to know UNT Athletic Director Wren Baker

J A N UA R Y/ F E B R UA R Y 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y




24 DE PA RTME NT S 24 Community Spotlight: Flower Mound

A 13-year resident explains what makes her hometown so special.

28 Dining: Komodo Loco

The Asian-Latin fusion menu spans continents but is right at home in Denton.

32 Shopping: Foster's Western Shop

This family business has brought personal attention and style to Denton for 50 years.


What defines our county today

11 Building the Future

Lewisville's new 5G Ericsson facility

12 Nonprofit Spotlight: Friends of the Family

Comprehensive services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse

14 On Top of the World

A TWU graduate's historic Everest climb


17 One Less Hurdle

Helping Chin refugees succeed

18 “Meet Me by the Frogs”

Artist Karmien “Sweety” Bowman's contributions to local spaces and parks

20 Original Denton District

Denton's newly recognized cultural district

23 Making the Grade

Local schools get high marks

IN E V E RY ISSUE 8 About This Issue 22 Time Machine 61 See & Do On the cover: Left to right: Pilot Bryan Bristow, flight paramedic DJ Hudson and flight nurse Bonnie Guerra fly with PHI Air Medical at Medical City Denton. Photo by Jeff Woo/Denton Record-Chronicle.


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Top left photo by Meredith Butterfield; top right courtesy of TWU; middle photo by Ellen Ritscher Sackett; bottom photo by Abigail Boatwright



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A Healthy Start to 2020


hether you made a new year’s resolution to live healthier in the new decade or you are just interested in getting to know some of your most intriguing neighbors, you’ll love our Health + Wellness Issue. Starting on page 37, we’ll introduce you to chopper pilots who get patients to trauma centers when every second counts, two sisters who are making it easier for busy professionals to eat healthy meals, physicians who are changing their approach to patient interaction, the leaders who founded the Disability Inclusion Society, a woman who provides free wigs to children after chemotherapy, the owners of a wildly successful CBD business, bootcamp trainers who change lives and other inspiring local health heroes. You’ll also get to take a peek at Flower Mound’s new $500,000 Ninja Warrior obstacle course and Medical City Denton’s brand-new state-of-the-art equipment for treating strokes and other neurological conditions. Sports fans may want to turn to page 56 right away. Our profile of UNT Athletic Director Wren Baker reveals how this outstanding leader has achieved such remarkable success at the school in such a short time. As always, we’ll make sure you’re up to date on all of the most interesting things happening in your community, from the new Lewisville facility that’s bringing 5G technology to the world (and 400 jobs to our county) to Denton’s newly recognized cultural district. In our Departments, a 13-year Flower Mound resident explains what makes her community so special, we look at why Foster’s Western Shop has been thriving for 50 years and our resident foodie stops into Komodo Loco for an Asian-Latin fusion experience. Thanks for picking up this issue. If you haven’t already, please visit to get this magazine delivered to your home six times a year for just $25. As always, we welcome story ideas, photo submissions and feedback of all kinds. Email editor@dentoncountymagazine. com to talk to us.


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PUBLISHER Bill Patterson

EDITOR Kimberly Turner

M AG A Z I N E CO N S U LTA N T Rich Alfano


S A L E S M A N AG E R Shawn Reneau ACCO U N T EXECUTIVES Becci Hendrix Joanne Horst Danielle Thompson Shelly Vannatta MAILING ADDRESS 3555 Duchess Drive Denton, Texas 76205 EDITORIAL 940-566-6879 A DV E R T I S I N G INQUIRIES 940-566-6843

DESIGN DI RECTOR Ben Carpenter DESIGNER Phil Lor CO N T R I B U T I N G W R I T E R S Abigail Boatwright, Samantha Colaianni, Jessica DeLeón, Mary Dunklin, Lisa Ferguson, Nicole Foster, Melanie Medina, Annette Nevins, Paula Felps, Nicole Foster, Rachel Hedstrom, Ellen Ritscher Sackett, Leslie Thompson, Kimberly Turner CO N T R I B U T I N G PHOTOGRAPH ERS Abigail Boatwright C R E AT I V E PA R T N E R madison/miles media

SUBSCRIPTIONS Subscribe to Denton County magazine for $25/year. Subscribe online at or mail a check or visit us at 3555 Duchess Drive, Denton, Texas 76205. For subscription questions, call 940-387-3811. S T O RY I D E A S LETTERS TO TH E EDITOR Write to Please include your full name, city and phone number. Denton County magazine reserves the right to edit for length and clarity. L I K E U S FAC E B O O K FIND US ONLINE

© Copyright 2020: Denton County magazine is published by Denton Media Company, publishers of the Denton Record-Chronicle. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part of any text, photograph or illustration without written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. Editorial content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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VISIT TEXAS WOMAN’S UNIVERSITY Beyond the classrooms and degree programs, you can explore historical collections, experience art and community events, and stroll through the gardens at the nation’s largest public university primarily for women.



Texas Women’s Hall of Fame

East and West Galleries

Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) Collection

Margo Jones Performance Hall

Redbud Theater Complex

Texas First Ladies Historic Costume Collection

Dance Studio Theater

Historical Little Chapel-in-the-Woods

Blagg-Huey Library – Women’s, Children’s and Cookbook collections

For more information, visit GARDENS •

Botanical Gardens

Dr. Bettye Myers Butterfly Garden

Redbud Lane

What defines our county today

INSIDE: u A new Denton cultural district u A historic bomb shelter u A shocking feat on Mount Everest

COUNTY LINE MADE IN DENTON COUNTY A rendering of Ericsson’s new campus

A new Lewisville facility is helping to bring 5G technology to the world. BY RACHEL HEDSTROM

Photos courtesy of Ericsson


he world-changing advances made possible by 5G technology are enough to make anyone exclaim, “gee whiz!” And ground zero for creating this new level of innovation is right here in Denton County!

A Winning Location Technology giant Ericsson is opening its new 300,000-squarefoot 5G manufacturing facility in Lewisville early this year. The “smart factory” — which will manufacture 5G and Advanced Antenna System radios — will create 400 new jobs and $134 million in capital investment in the area. Ericsson is one of the world’s largest providers of information and communication technology. Spokesperson Jimmy Duval says that choosing Denton County as the facility’s home made sense from the standpoint of both innovation and sustainability. “It benefits Ericsson and our operator customers to move production as close as possible to where it will be deployed,” he says. “Lewisville is close to Ericsson’s North American headquarters in Plano and easily accessible for our customers.” Duvall expects the facility — which is 28 percent more energy efficient than comparable buildings — to be a working model to demonstrate how 5G technology can positively impact any industry. “The Lewisville location is also located near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, allowing for easy access for visitors from all industries,” he explains. Perhaps we’ll send a self-driving car to go pick them up.

The 300,000-square-foot facility

Why Gs Matter Why all the fuss about those Gs? 5G technology has the potential to change the world, further powering the hottest trends in technology today: IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AR (Augmented Reality), among others. It helps to understand a brief history of communication technology: 1G allowed for mobile voice calls, 2G served the addition of SMS (texting), 3G created room for web browsing on mobile devices, and 4G allowed for video consumption and higher data speed on mobile devices. With 5G, technology becomes an even more integral part of our lives. Deploying it nationwide will help create connectivity, convenience and sustainability through remote healthcare, self-driving cars, automated factories, smart traffic lights and thousands of other capabilities that the added bandwidth will make possible. Lewisville’s state-of-the-art facility will create the parts to help make all of these advances a reality. J A N UA R Y/ F E B R UA R Y 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y




Friends of the

Family For 40 years, Denton County Friends of the Family has been providing compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence. BY SAMANTHA COLAIANNI


hen Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) was founded in 1980, the organization had just two employees, 30 volunteers and a 900-square-foot shelter that could only accommodate eight women and one child. Four decades later, the nonprofit has more than 70 employees, 600 volunteers, a 4,400-square-foot shelter and multiple locations, all dedicated to serving people who have been impacted by domestic violence and sexual abuse. “There’s been incredible growth,” says Katie Jahangiri, director of marketing and development. “In 1983, we served 271 people. In 2018, we were able to help 4,000 adults and children.” Wide-Ranging Services Denton County Friends of the Family provides many services. In addition to a 24-hour crisis line, DCFOF runs an emergency shelter for those who need assistance in removing themselves and their children from abusive situations. They also provide counseling for domestic


abuse and sexual assault survivors, legal services and a play therapy program for children. Its Battering Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP) helps educate abusers and provides them with tools and skills to prevent them from repeating their abuse and continuing the cycle of violence. Unfortunately, the need for DCFOF’s services continues to grow. One in four women will experience intimate partner violence. The emergency shelter is almost always at capacity, and the organization has had difficulty finding affordable housing for those in their transitional housing program, which helps relocate adults and their children after removal from an abusive household. “We don’t have Section 8 housing in Denton County, so finding homes that the people we work with can afford is a huge issue,” Jahangiri says. Another challenge, according to Jahangiri, are policies that can make it difficult for victims of domestic violence to find the resources and help they need. “We are advocating for victims and

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If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation and needs help, call DCFOF’s 24-hour crisis line at 940-382-7273 or 800-572-4031 for immediate intervention and advocacy services including hospital accompaniment.

trying to change the system for victims we serve,” she says. In this respect, DCFOF is on the front lines of advocacy. The organization works closely with the local government and police force, providing education and resources so that all involved are able to handle these situations in the healthiest and most supportive way. Get Involved Those interested in assisting DCFOF with their important work can visit to learn more. Volunteers are always needed to help staff events, run drives and play with the children who are staying at the shelter. “Donations are important, but volunteering is really crucial,” Jahangiri says. What is needed the most, however, is people who will discuss the issue of domestic violence with their families and friends. “[Domestic abuse] is a community issue,” Jahangiri says. “It touches everyone.” Denton County Friends of the Family, 940-382-7273



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OF THE WORLD The knowledge she gained at TWU helped graduate Roxanne Vogel achieve her extremely ambitious Mount Everest goal. BY RACHEL HEDSTROM How Did She Do It? Vogel says the secret to her success is putting the scientific expertise she developed in Denton to work for her. “I used my research background to develop products for the climb and protocol for preacclimatization to allow for the successful summit.” She credits the research and critical thinking skills she developed during her thesis work on performance and sports nutrition interventions at TWU. Tightly controlling her diet for three months before the expedition and during the trip allowed Vogel to optimize both her athletic performance and recovery. She also included elements in her diet that would improve cognitive function, which is impaired at high altitudes where there are lower oxygen levels.

Vogel spent three years training for her climb. She scaled other tall peaks, completed high-altitude, long-distance runs and worked and slept in oxygen-limited quarters to simulate conditions on the mountain, sometimes spending up to 12 hours a day at simulated altitude. Air is so thin and oxygen so scarce near the top of the mountain that climbers and scientists refer to it as “the death zone.” There, the limited oxygen actually causes human cells to die. Even with all of her preparation, Vogel was surprised by the toll the climb took on her body. “It was more difficult than anticipated,” she says. “The lack of oxygen really takes a toll, no matter how acclimated you are, or if you are using supplemental oxygen. It’s slow going.” Build a Plan Vogel has now reached the summits of the tallest mountains on six continents. The highest peak on the remaining continent, Antarctica, is her next conquest. For anyone with a big goal of any type, Vogel says planning is key. “Set your intention, build a plan and timeline with smaller steps to achieve the big goal, and find a way to focus.” She adds that minimizing distractions, scheduling milestones (“mini-goals”) and using positive self-talk are also helpful strategies. “Visualize yourself achieving your goal and imagine the feelings associated with that success repeatedly will help,” Vogel says. “Build confidence in your capabilities.”


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Photos courtesy of TWU


or Roxanne Vogel, 33, no goal is unsurmountable. No mountain is, either. It takes the average climber two months to climb Mount Everest, the Earth’s highest mountain above sea level. On May 22, 2019, Vogel reached the summit — which is 29,029 feet, or 5.5 miles, above sea level — with a lightning-fast ascent, going from California to Everest’s summit and back in just 14 days. After reaching the summit, the Texas Woman’s University alumna, who earned a master’s degree in exercise and sports nutrition in 2017, took to social media, saying, “I gave every ounce of my being to this goal. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”



Family Eye Care of Denton F

amily Eye Care of Denton (formerly known as Steven W. Coburn, O.D., P.A.) was established by Dr. Steven W. Coburn in 1980. Dr. Tigi Manaloor joined the practice in 2008 as an associate and developed a following to help further grow the practice. In 2017, when Dr. Coburn was ready to step away from business ownership, Dr. Manaloor took over the practice. Dr. Coburn continues to see patients on a part-time basis and together they continue to serve the growing population in Denton. “Our patients are like our family. We are genuinely interested in not only their visual health, but their overall well-being and enjoy catching up at their yearly visit. We are also fortunate to have 3 staff members who have been with us for nearly 25 years. Our office has had the privilege of serving Denton for almost 40 years. We truly believe in creating lasting relationships,” Dr. Manaloor explains. Dr. Manaloor continues, “There’s a popular saying ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’. A person’s visual health can tell us so much about their overall well-being. Our eyesight is our most precious sense and I love the instant satisfaction that takes place when we improve their vision. Sometimes they think they are doing fine and are pleasantly surprised when we show them it can be even better. I truly enjoy engaging with my patients and educating them on everything from the latest medical research to the best type of contact lenses or glasses for their lifestyle.” Family Eye Care satisfies their patients’ needs by listening carefully and then determining what their best treatment options would be. We provide primary eye care services from routine eye exams for glasses and contact lenses, examining and treating eye injuries and disease, and co-management of pre and post-operative LASIK/ cataract care. Our state-of-the-art technology ensures that you get the most accurate prescription possible, and we use only the finest lens technology to guarantee you receive the best possible vision in your glasses and contacts. We also offer patients the option of

Dr. Tigi Manaloor utilizing our non-mydriatic retinal camera which allows us to take photos of the back of the eye. This can help diagnose, treat, and manage diseases like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and other disorders of the eyes. Both doctors value taking the time to perform thorough eye care. Many vision problems can develop over time or even have no obvious symptoms. A yearly comprehensive eye examination is just as important as your annual physical and allows us to identify sight threatening issues to prevent future vision loss. Family Eye Care builds trust with their knowledge and expertise to put their patients at ease. They pride themselves on providing comprehensive eye exams and quality products. In this day and age of growing online consumerism, we want our patients to know there is a value and benefit to face-to-face care and that customer service is one of our top priorities.

Near-sightedness in Young People

We have seen a rapid growth in the rate of nearsightedness in young people due to the increased use of digital devices and other environmental factors. Myopia (nearsightedness) now affects over 40% of our population and this trend continues to rise. If not managed properly, this can lead to learning problems in school and health issues into adulthood. Early intervention is key. We now offer orthokeratology as a safe and effective nonsurgical method of controlling myopia progression and correcting vision. Dr. Manaloor designs a series of rigid lenses that are customized to create a change in the shape of the cornea. They are worn while you sleep and removed when you wake. The result is clear vision, with no glasses or contacts during the day.

Patient Testimonial

“Dr Manaloor and her staff are very friendly and professional. She takes as much time as necessary to make sure you get the correct prescription.”

Dr. Steven Coburn and Dr. Tigi Manaloor 3327 Colorado Blvd. Suite 300, Denton, TX 76210 • 940-566-3413 |



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KD College Prep Karen and David Dillard, owners


ONE LESS HURDLE A new program in Lewisville is helping Chin refugees graduate on time. BY MARSHALL REID

Photo courtesy of Lewisville ISD


rom the hillsides of the Chin State to the urban sprawl of the DFW metroplex, the approximately 1,000 young Chin refugees at Lewisville ISD have plenty of challenges. They have escaped religious and political persecution in Myanmar, but once granted asylum in the U.S., they must tackle the challenges of American high school. “They are learning English. They are learning a new [school] system … sometimes they may need more credits than the average students,” says Annie Rivera, World Language Administrator for the district. Now, thanks to Lewisville’s new Avant WorldSpeak program, these students, who make up nearly 2% of the district’s population, have the option to lighten their load by earning credit for their native language proficiency. Texas public school students are required to obtain at least two credits of a foreign language to graduate. Lewisville ISD offers tests in more than 30 languages that allow students to bypass that requirement. Chin Hakha — the dialect used in all local Chin churches and the most common dialect in the capital — is the newest test available. “So what it does is it opens up their schedule for them so they are not learning a third or sometimes fourth language,” says Rivera. This new assessment not only helps these students catch up on credits to graduate on time, it also affirms to them that their language and culture matter. The first round of test takers sat for the exam at the end of the 2018–19 school year, and more than 100 were able to earn credits.

Over 27 years ago, Karen Dillard took a passion for making a difference in students’ lives and coupled it with a clear methodology on how to get there. More than 65,000 students later, she and her husband, David, along with the 250+ directors, teachers, student workers and support staff, remain relentlessly committed to each student at KD College Prep. The mission is simple: help students expand college opportunities through improved national test scores and college counseling while developing skills that will help them be successful in the future. KD’s competitive difference in test prep is all about students achieving their own unique goals through these critical elements: small classes offering focused help in a structured setting; experienced and degreed teachers; curriculum and content that is updated regularly to better challenge students; and a simple guarantee that KD will continue helping their students until they achieve the scores they need or until high school graduation—all for one fee. For students beginning the college admissions process, KD also offers a range of services from one-on-one hourly help to a more “concierge-style” of one-on-one help with the entire admissions process from start to finish. Call an area campus for a complimentary consultation. “Our greatest motivation is being a positive part of our students’ success; we regularly hear about their many accomplishments. What more can you ask for than to make a difference in someone’s life?” − Karen and David Dillard

Flower Mound (214) 285-3500 Frisco (469) 242-0860 Additional Locations in Colleyville, Coppell, and Plano J A N UA R Y/ F E B R UA R Y 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y






Karmien “Sweety” Bowman is building community, one piece of art at a time. BY MARY DUNKLIN

Top: Bowman is in the Cross Timbers Artists’ Guild. Bottom: This coyote was created for Heritage Park.


Denton County Parks In fact, she remembers people saying they were going to meet “by the frogs” before she’d even finished installing her bronze sculpture “Leap Frogs on a Wavy Beach” in Denton’s North Lakes Park. In addition to being a community landmark, the installation was also a source of pride to the Texas Woman’s University graduate, who credits Denton with always supporting local artists. You may have also seen her work on the nature trail in Flower Mound’s heritage

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park, which includes three commissioned animals — a coyote, an armadillo and a bobcat. The life-size and life-like creatures were cast in bronze because of the material’s durability. Bowman also helped the community create mosaic murals at the playground in the park. “Letting everyone participate in the art is a way to build community,” she says. “They have respect for the park and care for it because they helped create it.” Surprise and Intrigue The artist, who started as a painter and jewelry maker before moving into sculpture, is drawn to natural materials and always tries to make her public art kid-friendly so little ones can explore. She also wants others to appreciate the details in her artwork. “I like surprise and intrigue,” she says. “I like people to be interested when they see it.” Bowman and her sculptor daughter, Ariel, and furniture-craftsman husband, Alton (see our November/December issue for more on his work), live in Flower Mound. Find out more about Bowman’s art at

Photos courtesy of Karmien Bowman


enton County artist Karmien “Sweety” Bowman knows the importance of public art displays. She has fond memories of enjoying picnics under outdoor sculptures when she was younger. Today, she hopes others create their own great memories when they visit her sculptures in Denton and Flower Mound parks. “Cities are starting to recognize what art contributes to a space,” says Bowman, an associate professor of art ceramics at Tarrant County College. “It gives a sense of place, and it’s where people gather.”

WE TREAT THE HEARTS OF TEXAS The specialists and clinical care team at Medical City Denton provide personalized, compassionate care for your heart, close to home. Working with the latest technology and treatments, we keep the hearts of Texas beating strong. Comprehensive cardiovascular care: ♥ Accredited Chest Pain Center ♥ Advanced Primary Stroke Center ♥ Dedicated, high-tech heart and vascular unit ♥ Comprehensive diagnostic, imaging and lab services ♥ Non-surgical, minimally invasive and traditional treatment options

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Good ODDs

The Original Denton District has been officially recognized for its cultural assets, art, architecture and historical offerings. BY SAMANTHA COLAIANNI

Walkable, Welcoming and Wonderful “Becoming a cultural district would be a recognition of what already exists,” she says.


“It’s a powerful tool to bring awareness to our live music and world-class artists. The district is a way to celebrate those things, and to bring attention to what we know: Denton is unique and thriving.” It took 18 months of hard work, but in September, the Texas Commission on the Arts awarded cultural recognition to the Original Denton District (ODD). The district is centered in downtown Denton, which has a large concentration of architecture, festivals and music venues as well as the historic Courthouse-on-theSquare, which is on the national registry. The Original Denton District’s website (

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includes an overview of the area’s artistic assets, including the Patterson Appleton Arts Center, Denton Community Theater and Denton Music and Arts Collaborative. The ODD is also home to historical landmarks like Oakwood Cemetery and Denton County Historical Park. An Important District “[The ODD] is a really cool, fun area that’s important historically, architecturally and artistically,” Rogers says. “The businesses and people there are very important in our community, and it’s important to us to support them.” “[The cultural district designation] shows the power of the creative economy,” Rogers says. “Art is something very important, not just culturally, but economically. People come because they want to experience the art in Denton.” The website also has a calendar of upcoming events and festivals highlighting the musical and artistic work for which Denton is known, such as the Denton Blues Festival and the Arts & Autos Extravaganza. “What’s cool is that there are so many events happening in the district, and we just want to promote them,” Rogers says.

Photos courtesy of City of Denton


hen a city applies to have an area designated as a cultural district, strict requirements have to be met — namely, is the area a focal point for the community, and does it already contain important cultural assets? Jessica Rogers, the director of economic development for Denton, says the answer to both was an enthusiastic yes.

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n this photo taken in February 1964, President Lyndon Johnson attends the opening of the nation’s first federal underground center in Denton. The nuclear bomb–proof facility was the first of five built across the nation in response to the threats of the Cold War. It provided living and working space for as many as 500 federal employees, who could come to the shelter to maintain communications and operations in the event of an attack. Through the 13-ton blast doors (now welded in the open position) were two 25,000-square-foot underground levels that could withstand the effects of a one-megaton nuclear explosion at a distance of one mile. The 4,000-square-foot above-ground area was not designed to survive the blast.


Inside the shelter, a system filtered out nuclear and biological contaminants and changed the air completely every 86 minutes. A large kitchen could accommodate the preparation of as many as 900 meals a day. A walk-in storage freezer was stocked with food for 30 days and could double as a morgue in the event of casualties. All wiring and plumbing were designed to resist the massive shock wave that would result from a nuclear blast. A decontamination room — now replaced with offices — helped ensure that no contaminants made it into the center. The radio room was shielded from electro-magnetic pulses, and expandable outdoor antennae were hidden beneath three white cone-shaped shields, still visible today.

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The center was built on 20 acres of land that was purchased by community leaders and donated to the federal government. Denton was selected because of its distance from Dallas-Fort Worth. The cost of the project was $2.7 million in 1964, which equates to roughly $22 million in 2020. The facility is still in use today, but not for its original purpose. It has become the FEMA Region VI Federal Regional Center, serving Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The underground levels have mostly been converted to offices. From the space, FEMA employees monitor hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and other disasters, both natural and manmade, and help orchestrate the response to these emergencies.

Photos courtesy of Denton Public Library via The Portal to Texas History

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Making the



h e Te x a s E duc a t ion Agency’s (TEA) controversial ratings of Texas schools have been published for the 2018–19 school year, despite 566 districts across the state — including Denton, Argyle and Aubrey — passing resolutions indicating their disapproval of the system. Critics of the system say that a letter rating cannot possibly accurately define the learning and growth happening

within a school district. TEA says it bases the Accountability Ratings on student achievement (test results, graduation rate and readiness for college, career or military), school progress (academic growth and relative performance) and the “Closing the Gaps” program adopted in 2015. These are the grades for Denton County ISDs. Full information on each district and individual school is available on















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Flower I Mound A 13-year Flower Mound resident examines what makes the city so special. BY MELANIE MEDINA

f you’re not familiar with the Town of Flower Mound, there are a few things you must know about it. For starters, yes. There is an actual mound of flowers for which the town is named. More on that later. Next, we’re cool with you calling it “FloMo.” Those of us who live here affectionately abbreviate it as such in conversation and social media posts. Also, we’re serious about our peacocks. Again, more on that later. Perhaps the most important thing to know about FloMo is that despite some squabbles among residents about whether we should grow or stay small, we’re all about making Flower Mound the best place to live, work, play and raise our kids. “The best” is subjective, but by many measures, FloMo pretty darn awesome.

Native Americans who once lived here considered The Mound to be sacred, and it remains hallowed ground today. For Memorial Day, local civic groups hang American flags on every fence post along The Mound.


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Opposite page photo by Meredith Butterfield; this page photos by Krissi Oden

The town ranked 16th on CNN Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live in the U.S. list, and the National Council for Home Safety and Security ranked us the fifth best city to raise kids. Apparently, we’re a pretty happy bunch, too. Last May, we ranked second on a list of happiest small towns in America according to Top Counseling Schools. Where It All Started Flower Mound started with (you guessed it) a mound of wildflowers. The Wichita Indians — the most populous among several tribes in the area before it was settled by a group of Europeans in the 19th century — considered the mound to be sacred. Rumors abound that remains of Native Americans are buried in the mound, but excavation by a team of SMU archaeologists didn’t find any evidence of this. Another legend that sounds entirely plausible, but for which there’s no evidence, is that practically anything built on top of the mound will blow away. Some say that the early Presbyterian settlers who came to the area in the 1840s tried to build a church there, but winds destroyed it. “Historic records don’t substantiate these claims, but it stands to reason that it is possible. The Mound is about the windiest place in Flower Mound,” says the Flower Mound Foundation’s website. The Texas State Historical Commission approved The Flower Mound — which sits at the northeast corner of FM 3040 and FM 2499 — as a historic site in 1984. Today, The Mound is surrounded by all the trappings of a town with a median age of 39.6 and average household income of $160,600: an H&R Block, ChickFil-A, 24-hour Walgreens and a shuttered Tom Thumb. The Mound rises about 50 feet above the blackland prairie that surrounds it, but honestly, it’s easy to miss when driving through town. It’s definitely not as obvious as other landmarks along I-35 E, like the Murchison Performing Arts Center at the University of North Texas or Reunion Tower in Dallas. (But fair warning: If you’re jogging along this

More than 100 artists of all ages and skill levels participated in Flower Mound’s 2019 Chalk the Walk contest at Heritage Park.

particular stretch of 2499, your quadriceps will definitely notice it.) Even so, The Mound remains hallowed ground. In the springtime, look just past the bluebonnets and you’ll see three crosses at the hill’s summit, thanks to volunteers from several local civic organizations who hoist them up before Easter. And in May, you’ll find an American flag attached to every post along the fence that protects The Mound’s 175 species of wildflowers from the traffic on 2499.

Peafowl and Mob Ties In the 1940s and ’50s, Flower Mound became an escape of sorts for a small-time Dallas gambler named Herbert “The Cat” Noble. He was in a long-running feud with gambling icon and career criminal Lester “Benny” Binion. Noble lived in Oak Cliff and owned a ranch that would later become the part of Flower Mound that borders Lake Grapevine. According to local lore, Noble bought several peacocks to live on his ranch. His

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Legend has it that a local gangster brought peacocks to the area in the 1940s or ’50s. Generations of the colorful birds have since lived among residences on Sagebrush Drive.

thinking was that when anyone came too close to his property, the birds would stir up a ruckus, alerting him to danger. The peacocks did not live up to Noble’s hopes. In 1951, Noble was killed when a bomb went off as he checked his mail. In homage to Noble, developers eventually named the area Point Noble. If you’re in the market for a home ranging from half-a-million dollars to $3.5 million, in an area that’s vibrant and growing yet as secluded as some far-off forest, Point Noble is a good place to look. As for the peafowl, take a tour along Sagebrush Drive. If you don’t happen to see a kaleidoscope of blue-green-gold feathers on full display while you’re there, you’ll at least pass by the one-of-a-kind Peacock Crossing sign. Top-Notch Public Services Ask just about anyone why they chose to move to Flower Mound, and virtually all of them will mention our public services and the town’s proximity to DFW Airport. “We have a wonderful generation of young people in Flower Mound who are well educated by our public school system and who enjoy the arts, music and sports,” says Mike Wallace, who served on the Flower Mound Town Council from 2009 to 2011 and on the Planning and Zoning Commission from 2005 to 2009.


“We also have top-quality public safety professionals in our Flower Mound Police and Fire Departments.” Mike and his wife, Amy, moved to Flower Mound in 2004 and have no plans to leave. “I am so thankful Amy and I are able to raise our daughter, Bailey, in Flower Mound, and we plan to live here for the rest of our lives,” he says. As part of Lewisville Independent School District (LISD), Flower Mound’s 19 schools serve more than 14,000 students. To date, 41 students have become National Merit Finalists, and we have a graduation rate of 99%. In 1877, the area’s first school was founded: The Donald Academy (now the LISD STEM Academy at Donald Elementary). Since then, Flower Mound has taken the education of its youth seriously. LISD is home to the first STEM Schools of Excellence in Texas (recognized by the National Institute for STEM Education) and has more nationally certified STEM teachers than any other district in the nation. For Michelle Wooten, Ph.D., the principal of the STEM Academy at Donald, this distinction is personal. When she was going through school, she says “no teacher or counselor ever talked to me about going into the STEM fields. After I became a mom with a daughter, I became passionate about ensuring she had no limitations.”

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Community Character What makes Flower Mound Flower Mound? Everyone has a slightly different answer, but the underlying theme is that it’s the people, of course. Noti Krasniqi, co-owner of Mio Nonno Trattoria, says the people of Flower Mound can be hard to impress, which puts the onus on local business owners to give residents a good reason to stay in town — because we don’t mind a 30-minute drive to Dallas to get what want. “If you do not impress them,” Krasniqi says, “they couldn’t care less, and I’m happy they are like that because whoever wants to come do business in this area, they have to think two times. “That is what makes Flower Mound so special,” says Krasniqi, whose restaurant often has a line out the door. “When you make somebody think two times before

Photos by Meredith Butterfield

Beyond academics, Flower Mound schools have earned accolades in music education and athletics. Of 40 groups across the state that were invited to perform at Texas Music Educators Association’s annual convention, two are from Flower Mound: The Marcus High School Percussion Ensemble and the Forest Vista Elementary Choir. Our athletes have won 6A state titles in volleyball, boys soccer, girls soccer and marching band in recent years.

they make their decision to go in, that guy really wants to be in, and you end up with quality over quantity.” Krasniqi is not alone in wanting to bring quality food and a fun atmosphere to Flower Mound. The Lakeside DFW area, where Mio Nonno is located, offers plenty of reasons for residents to stay in Flower Mound. The mixed-use development expanded its restaurant and retail offerings in 2019 with the opening of The Tavern at Lakeside, Craft Pies, Rush Bowls, Burgerim and The Med Spa of Flower Mound. Also, Flower Mound’s River Walk at Central Park area, anchored by Texas Health Presbyterian Flower Mound, recently welcomed new tenants, including a Merrill Lynch and Orange Theory. An amphitheater is set to open there in early 2020. Environment, Art and Entertainment Flower Mound locals also love our outdoor spaces. With roughly 60 parks encompassing more than 1,000 acres, and 60+ miles of trails, there’s a lot to love. “I think we have one of the most incredible parks programs, not just programming, but facilities,” says Town Manager Stathatos. In 2019, the town’s Parks and Recreation division created a new position:

“We have a wonderful generation of young people who are well educated and who enjoy the arts, music and sports.” Art and Cultural Programs Coordinator. Town leaders brought on Krissi Oden to fill the role. “One of the things that I think sets Flower Mound apart is their really strong pride in the environment and taking care of the parks and trees,” says Oden, who leads several efforts aimed at getting residents outside and in touch with their inner artist. In July, for example, to recognize national Park and Recreation Month, Oden and town leaders organized Chalk the Walk, where residents used chalk to decorate sections of the cement pathway in Heritage Park. Other initiatives she’s leading include the decoration of otherwise drab-looking traffic signal boxes throughout town.

Residents are invited to submit design ideas, and winning designs are printed on vinyl and adhered to traffic signal boxes throughout town. So far, three have been adorned with artwork, with three more to come in 2020. This past November, Keep Flower Mound Beautiful and the town’s Parks and Recreation division teamed up to create a challenge for residents, based on recycling and repurposing materials. Keep Flower Mound Beautiful’s new mascot, the Flower Moundster (a peaceful guy), hides treasure boxes containing small objects inside. Residents who find the boxes have to repurpose what they find, take a picture of their creation and submit the photo to Parks and Recreation. Submissions will be on display at the library, and prizes will be awarded. The treasure hunt is ongoing, and themes for the boxes change each month. (Sign up at for Art and Cultural Events updates.) “At the end of the day, we are all working toward the same goal of making Flower Mound the best it can be,” says Flower Mound Mayor Steve Dixon. “We consistently make the ‘best places to live’ and ‘safest city’ lists for a reason. Our town staff work hard to keep Flower Mound running and serve our residents.”

The Lakeside DFW area is a mixed-use development packed with upscale restaurants, retail shops and a Moviehouse & Eatery. It sits along Lake Grapevine’s shores and has walking trails for hiking and fishing.

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l a c o F L o c Lo ay span m e in is nThe cu ut Asia b , s t n contine ant Komodo staur n. Latin re ome in Dento TT at h HER SACKE C Loco is S IT R N E BY ELL

oodies looking for their next culinary adventure may find their happy place at Komodo Loco in Denton. The hip, eclectic restaurant, a joint venture by three Denton boys, is easy to find if you know where to look — tucked away just east of the downtown Square. Komodo Loco cuisine combines spicy Asian and Latin flavors in unique, creative and often surprising ways. “Our menu is definitely more Asian, but with a little Latin flair,” explains Kyle Krueger, who owns the restaurant along with his partners Micah Fleck and Corey Bobbitt. “There’s a decent amount of crossover as far as ingredients between Asian and Latin cuisine, like cilantro and citrus. Plus, we’re in Texas, and there’s Tex-Mex everywhere, so why not Asian-Mex?”

Photo courtesy of Timothy Gwartney

Owners (left to right) Micah Fleck, Corey Bobbitt and Kyle Krueger


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Photos courtesy of Komodo Loco, except Beef Tataki photo courtesy of Kyle Krueger

Consider the beef fajita roll, for instance. “It’s truly a fusion-style roll that’s Texas/Hispanic culture fused with Japanese techniques,” says Micah. “I’ve never seen it anywhere else.” Komodo Loco’s Asian fare, however, isn’t limited to sushi or Japan, and its Latin influence extends beyond Mexico. The Loco eggrolls are a perfect example, stuffed with a combination of chorizo, kimchi and crushed pineapple with two dipping sides: a cilantro lime crème and sweet garlic Thai sauce. That uncommon fusion of flavors caught the attention of the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise only six months after Komodo Loco opened. The kimchi totches (see Spotlight) were featured in the episode “Howdy Texas,” which highlighted restaurants with unique twists on Texas fare. The episode premiered on December 29, 2018, nearly a year after it was filmed. Good Times, Good Service, Good Meals The eatery’s Asian influence initially came from Kyle, who worked six years at a Highland Village sushi restaurant before joining forces with Micah and Corey. The three friends, now in their 30s, knew

Artist Caleb Kirkland designed the restaurant’s logo and the illuminated dragon in its dining room.

each other from high school. Later, each acquired food industry experience: Micah was a corporate trainer for Boston’s Pizza. Corey owned Everyday Nectar juice bar and bartended with Kyle at Riprock’s. In the back of their minds, each envisioned opening a restaurant. In his 20s, Micah even purchased restaurant equipment he hoped to need someday. But it wasn’t until all three

amigos were in Mexico for a friend’s wedding that they decided to go for it. “It wasn’t ‘Asian or bust,’” Kyle says. “We just wanted to create a fun, cool place where—” “I would want to go!” Micah interjects. “Exactly!” Kyle agrees. “—where we adults could hang out and have a good time, good service, a good meal and be around nice people.”

s e h s i D t u Stan do Poke Bowl

Tuna & Krab Cones These four sushi-stuffed mini-waffle cones from the small plate menu are too good to share! Filled with spicy tuna, krab, tobiko (fish roe), eel sauce and wasabi crème, they’re just big enough to whet your appetite for more. $10.

Beef Tataki A prime example of Komodo Loco’s Asian-fusion style is this tender, seared beef tenderloin topped with guacamole and pico with a drizzle of savory garlic ponzu. The dish, which was featured on Fox4’s Good Day, can be found on the Raw portion of the menu. $16.

Killa Kimchi Tots The popular sweet ‘n’ savory dish with a kick was worthy of a spot on the “Howdy Texas!” episode of the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise. It combines Korean-style kimchi with Texas tater tots slathered with creamy queso and chipotle mayo, sprinkled with sesame seeds and cilantro. $6/$11.

If you’re in the mood for poke (poh-keh), Komodo Loco offers two bowls — traditional Hawaiian style or vegetarian — but its sister restaurant, Po-K Loco, is all about them. Customers can customize their poke-bowl order while standing in line, cafeteria-style, at this fast-casual venture near UNT that’s a direct offshoot of Komodo Loco.

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In the Trenches Shortly after the Mexico trip, a restaurant space became available, and the guys jumped at the opportunity. “Obviously, we had a passion, but it’s also being from Denton and seeing some of our other friends open businesses here with success. We wanted to be a part of it,” Kyle says. In a few short months, they renovated, doing most of the work themselves. They bounced ideas off of each other, solicited advice from friends and family and honed their concept. They experimented in the kitchen and crafted recipes — researching and exploring ingredient combinations that would set their dishes apart. “We were all in the trenches every day, wherever we needed to be,” Micah says. “We jumped in and learned.” After considering hundreds of names, they settled on Komodo Loco, combining the Japanese and Spanish words for “Crazy Dragon.” Graphic artist Caleb Kirkland designed the square, block-letter logo, which helped establish their brand and exude a hip vibe. Caleb also designed the hanging metallic dragon whose revolving-color


backlight glows against the main dining room’s north brick wall. Artist Katie Montgomery created the now-iconic dragon painting on the back of the previous restaurant’s menu board. It has served as a backdrop for many an Instagram photo. While the dishes have evolved, the basic offerings are much the same as they were when Komodo Loco opened in November 2016. Repeat customers can eat their way through the two-page menu, which includes starters, salads, ramen, rice bowls, baos (steamed bun sandwiches), raw dishes and rolls — and many can be shared tapas-style. Belly Up Komodo Loco’s counter bar seats only seven; likewise, its cocktail list is small but intentionally selective. Sake sippers have options, from sake straight up to sake bombs, and those who can’t decide can indulge in a sampler or flight. Unfiltered sake is available too. The descriptive cocktail menu proves that clever minds are at work. Who can resist ordering the “I Strawbarely Know

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Her,” a Texas whiskey shot with lemon, strawberry and simple syrup? Or the “5-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique” for tequila lovers, with tamarind, ginger, garlic and jalapeño? Western Son flavored vodkas from Pilot Point feature prominently on the bar’s well-stocked shelves, but if all you want is an Old Fashioned, California wine or a bottle of Shiner, you can get that too. With Komodo Loco firmly established, the owners have gained confidence in their ability to achieve success, ever mindful of their Denton roots. “We like all the people that we know that have businesses here. We went to high school with a majority of them; we’ve ran around with them; we’ve worked side-byside with them,” Micah says. “We are part of the community. We want to grow our families here and have something we could be involved in. Add to that, grow with it and just have fun.” Komodo Loco 109 Oakland St., Denton 940-808-0400

Photo courtesy of Komodo Loco

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West of Ordinary


f you’ve driven on I-35 in Denton at any point over the last 50 years, you’ve probably noticed a big yellow sign adorned with a cowboy boot posted just west of the highway. That sign stands outside Foster’s Western Shop, a regular stop for local cowboys and cowgirls with fashion, hats and horse tack you won’t find anywhere else. A Family Operation In March of 1966, husband Billie A. and wife Billie L. Foster took a chance on opening a fledgling Western wear store in the middle of nowhere. Billie L.’s father was Frank Leddy — of the iconic Leddy’s Boots in the Fort Worth Stockyards. And Billie A. was a saddlemaker at Leddy’s. But the interstate wasn’t built until 1967, so the location seemed out of the way.


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“I-35 wasn’t even finished and people thought he was crazy, because in that period of time, everybody wanted to be close to the town centers, not just out on the highway somewhere,” explains Mark Foster, Billie and Billie’s son. “But the land was cheaper.” Luckily, commerce and the highway caught up with the Fosters’ vision, and their frugal purchase began to make more sense. Since opening the original 2,000-square-foot space, the store has expanded three times. Today, it is 15,000 square feet chock full of Western wear, saddles and tack, boots, hats and gifts. “When we first started out, we had white buttoned shirts, white snapped shirts, short and long sleeves,” Mark says. “Everything’s changed, really. There’s a whole lot of different styles now.”

Photos by Abigail Boatwright

Foster’s Western Shop has been bringing personal attention and curated style to the Denton area for decades. BY ABIGAIL BOATWRIGHT

Western Trends

Western wear has come a long way from the Urban Cowboy days. After years of sticking to conservative style a la [King] George Strait, you can make your own path with today’s Western styles. Lisa Foster and Chance Foster of Foster’s Western Wear shared some trends they’re seeing lately. Boots: For women, you’ll find that pointed-toe boots, ankle booties and tall-top boots are all on-trend. Look for brightly colored leather, embellishments and fringe. Men’s boots are consistently square-toed styles with a walking heel. Modern-style boots come with a wide variety of patterns and materials on the foot. Turquoise Jewelry: A classic Western staple, turquoise jewelry remains hugely popular for women. Look for chunky styles, squash blossoms and multiple strands of stones. Jeans: Women have many options when it comes to jeans. Lisa says Miss Me embellished jeans are preferred for going out, while horsewomen swear by Cowgirl Tuff and Kimes Jeans for riding. Bohemian Western: Lisa categorizes the latest looks for women as “bohemian Western,” relying on flowy tops, kimonos and flared jeans for an ethereal look. Classic Menswear: For men, Lisa says most styles stick to classic Western silhouettes and snap or button-up shirts that are pressed and tucked in. Younger men sometimes choose to leave fashion-forward shirts untucked.

The store has always been a family operation. In 2000, Mark purchased the store from his parents, who passed away in 2010. Today, Mark’s sister Lisa Foster is the clothing buyer, his brother Brad Foster works in the store and does saddle repair, his nephew Chance Foster is the assistant manager (and creases hats) and his nephew Austin Higgins is an employee. “It’s a family-oriented store,” Mark says. “And we carry a lot of products you don’t find in other stores.” From Hat to Boot Foster’s offers a great selection of horse and riding supplies — from saddles and tack to blacksmith equipment, horse care products and, of course, the expert advice of horsemen on staff. Browse the store, and you’ll find stylish Western booties, women’s fashion in the

Hats: Chance creases hats all day every day. Lately, he says, hats have a slightly shorter crown and a variety of brim lengths. Women sometimes choose a shorter brim as a fashion statement, while men can opt for the widest of the wide if they’re extra “ranchy.” The crease of your hat is completely personal. Your best bet on looking authentic is to have a professional shape your hat to suit your face, personality and hat type. “We’ll make sure you don’t look like a drugstore cowboy when you leave here,” Chance says. “We’ll help you out.”

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latest trends, stack after stack of jeans, rows of boots and a huge selection of children’s cowboy boots. Lisa has worked at Foster’s for over 40 years. She’s curated the store’s offerings to bring customers new, interesting and classic styles. “We have different kinds of clothes for different kinds of people,” she

says. “There are so many styles right now, especially for ladies.” Foster’s outfits Western enthusiasts from head to toe — or in this case, hat to boot. Hats range in price from entry-level quality to 100% beaver. And each hat sold by the store starts with a flat brim

Foster’s Western Shop 6409 N. Interstate 35, Denton 940-383-1549

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Photo by Abigail Boatwright

Saddle brands in the store include Double J Saddlery, Bob’s Custom, Foster Saddles and Circle Y.

and an open crown to be shaped to the customer’s specifications. “We’re known for our [hat creasing] all over,” Mark says. When it comes to footwear, the store collaborates with Anderson Bean Boots, Rod Patrick Boots and Justin Boots to create exclusive options for its clients. You’ll find boots at every price point. Customers include dyed-in-the-wool horsemen and rodeo competitors from nearby Pilot Point, Aubrey and the myriad ranches nearby. But college students and Dentonites who prefer to dress to represent the Western lifestyle are also loyal clients. “People say we’re not a cookie-cutter store,” Lisa says. “Our customers come here because we have options that are different — more unique.”



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940-310-2586 •


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SAVE TODAY FOR A HEALTHY TOMORROW. The health of our great community is very important to us, which is why we conveniently offer a flexible and accessible Health Savings Account. With an HSA from First State Bank, you: • Can pay for qualified medical expenses and medication • Begin earning interest once account balance reaches $1,000 • Are able to supplement an existing high-deductible health plan • Gain peace of mind Talk to a banker today at (940) 349-5444 to see if an HSA from First State Bank is right for you!

health wellness Meet the bootcamp trainers, mental health experts, helicopter medics, wellness entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses and nutrition pros who are keeping Denton County healthy in 2020. BY ABIGAIL BOATWRIGHT, SAMANTHA COLAIANNI, JESSICA DELEÓN, PAULA FELPS, NICOLE FOSTER, RACHEL HEDSTROM, ELLEN RITSCHER SACKETT & KIMBERLY TURNER

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air rescue

When seconds matter, air medical teams can mean the difference between life and death.


arry Preuninger never knows when he’s going to be called into action — and that’s part of what he likes about his job. “In just a couple of minutes, you can go from sitting around, being bored, to landing at a scene call. When a call comes in, we’re usually off the ground in five minutes.” SECONDS MATTER As a helicopter pilot for PHI Air Medical, Preuninger is part of a three-person team that responds to the most critical accidents in the area. As he flies the patients to Medical City Denton, which

became a Level II trauma center in 2017, a flight medic and nurse stabilize and treat the patient in the helicopter — just as they would in a traditional ambulance. The trauma center handles the most drastic and urgent cases, and it’s Preuninger’s job to get the patient and care team to the hospital quickly and safely. The cases the air team handles may be the result of injuries from car crashes, ATV roll-overs or hunting accidents, or they could be medical emergencies such as strokes or heart attacks. Whatever the situation, seconds matter. The ability to

get to rural areas quickly or bypass traffic jams after an accident can mean the difference between life and death. The helicopters’ service area includes all of Denton County and also extends into Wise County, Cook County and, occasionally, southern Oklahoma. In special cases, Preuninger has flown patients from as far away as Shreveport, Louisiana, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. GETTING THE JOB DONE Preuninger spent 13 years in active duty in the Army, where he flew Blackhawk helicopters. Although he Flight nurse Bonnie Guerra in a PHI Air Medical helicopter


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didn’t do medevac duty in the military, he says that when he returned home in 2013, “this was the job that made sense.” “Just as with the military, there’s a structure to your days and, of course, the opportunity to be able to fly a helicopter every day was huge,” he says. “The biggest challenge in my job is that most pilots are used to landing on a designated landing area,” he says. “It’s hard to explain to a corporate pilot what we have to do. When we go to scene calls, we’re landing in fields or on a highway. A lot of pilots who do this kind of flying are adrenaline junkies, because you never know when a call comes in what you’re in for. Each flight has its own individual factors.” His military training also comes into play when the team is on the scene of an accident. While Preuninger isn’t part of the medical crew and doesn’t deal directly with patients, the scenes they witness are typically devastating. “You learn to compartmentalize, because we are there to get the job done,” he says. “You have to focus on the job and make sure that you’re doing what needs to be done right now.”

Photo by Jeff Woo/Denton Record-Chronicle


fit kids

ninja factory A new obstacle training course in Flower Mound helps kids build the skills and confidence to become American Ninja Warriors. BY PAULA FELPS


Photo courtesy of Win Kids Sports

ans of NBC’s popular American Ninja Warrior will immediately recognize some of the show’s iconic obstacles when they walk into Win Kids Sports and Learning Center in Flower Mound — even if they are a bit smaller than the real thing. A $500,000 COURSE The facility has always offered gymnastics laced with martial arts moves, but about five years ago, owner Mike Winburn decided to start integrating some of the most popular obstacles from American Ninja Warrior. As the television show’s popularity surged, so did interest in the classes, and before long, a full Ninja Warrior renovation was planned. “We decided it was time to invest in legit Ninja Warrior-style equipment,” says Winburn, who put his money where his mouth is by investing $500,000 in the new course. The investment has paid off: “It’s been amazing. In numbers, the Ninja classes make up about one half of all the Win Kid operations,” he says. Kids participating in training will see familiar obstacles such as the Warped

Wall, Salmon Ladder, Floating Bridges and more. Unlike the televised version, however, the course is customized to the size and skill level of each class, allowing young ninjas to master each obstacle before the level of difficulty is increased. CONFIDENCE BUILDER “Our goal is that they accomplish something every day,” Winburn says. “We have kids who are 3, 4 years old completing the course. We want every kid to leave feeling thrilled by what they accomplished every time.” The approach makes sure that as they run, tumble, sing and climb, kids not only build speed, agility, coordination and strength but also confidence.

“There are a lot of high fives and a lot of positive feedback,” Winburn explains. “We catch kids doing things right and say ‘great job.’ We’re giving them the message that they can be strong and feel successful. It lets them know what it feels like to be an athlete.” No specific skills or experience are required train at the Ninja Training Center, and students range in age from toddlers to teens. 3000 Waketon Road, Flower Mound 972-355-9988

Kids build their confidence as well as athletic skills.

The new $500,000 ninja course

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grab & go Two Denton County sisters create healthy meals for busy people. BY ELLEN RITSCHER SACKETT whole food. Everything’s fresh — no preservatives — and it’s customized to your needs.” The siblings make their own marinades, rubs and dressings; grow their own herbs and fabricate the meats. “Since we’re the ones making it, we know exactly what goes into it,” Carla says. “People want that quality. They are investing in their health.” The meals are timesavers for busy people who juggle work

The sisters create fresh meals with no preservatives.


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and/or family commitments that leave little energy for cooking and cleaning up. “We leave you extra time for what you enjoy doing,” says Alejandra, who also works as a metallurgical engineering consultant. HOW IT WORKS Twice a week, customers choose their meals from an online menu posted on the TruFit Foods website. They can then pick up their orders at the facility on Long Prairie Road. Opened in September 2018, the space gives customers a full view of the kitchen where their meals are prepared. Meals are packaged in three sizes: micro (16 oz.), regular (24 oz.) and family (64 oz.). Plant-based options are available too, and meals can be modified for those with specific preferences or restrictions, such as keto or gluten-free diets. Healthy soups and snacks are available for purchase too. Everything can be quickly and easily warmed up with no additional preparation time. Main dishes usually feature poultry, beef, salmon or seafood with paired sides. Recent selections include grass-fed beef with roasted Brussels sprouts, Asian glaze and roasted sweet potatoes; lamb patties with tzatziki

sauce, roasted root vegetables and grilled zucchini; and (for those who prefer a plant-based meal) zucchini noodles with lentil meatballs, parmesan, grilled onions, asparagus, spinach and house marinara. CROWD PLEASERS The sisters are best friends, and the synergy between them extends to other family members who share responsibilities for various aspects of the business. Their team effort resulted in a 2019 Best of Denton County award for “Best Healthy Menu.” TruFit Foods was also recognized as a top-three finalist in the “Best Gluten-Free Menu” category. But even more important than the awards and accolades are the glowing reviews from customers who say the meals are healthier, tastier and more convenient than what they typically make themselves. They rave about both the food and the service with phrases like: “A dream come true,” “a blessing,” “hands down the best cooked meals EVER!” and “cannot say enough good things.” “We will take care of you,” Alejandra says. “We want your lives to be easier.” 5801 Long Prairie, Suite 850, Flower Mound 469-469-9398

Photos courtesy of Ana Urdaneta


ating well has never been easier, thanks to Carla and Alejandra Trujillo, the two sisters behind TruFit Foods, a meal preparation company based in Flower Mound. “It’s a healthy option,” says Carla, a trained chef with degrees in hospitality from the University of North Texas and the Culinary Arts Institute of Dallas. “This is

top of her field

nursing legend A spontaneous decision at Texas Woman’s University led Polly Bednash to a career that helped transform the nursing industry. BY JESSICA DELEÓN


Photo by Ellen Jaskol Photography

hen Polly Bednash went to register for classes at Texas Woman’s University, she entered a large room where different majors were listed on the wall. Bednash didn’t know which major to select. “Come with me,” a friend says, leading her to the nursing section. A WISE DECISION That choice launched a distinguished career. Bednash served as a practicing nurse before promoting education and policy reform as the executive director and chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). She has made such a lasting and significant impact on the nursing industry that the AACN has endowed a scholarship in her name and, this past year, the American Academy of Nursing named her a Living Legend. “Without TWU, I wouldn’t have gotten where I got,” she says. “I found a profession that changed my life.” LIFETIME OF SERVICE Bednash, originally from San Antonio and the first in her family to go to college, chose

TWU for its affordability. Students were bussed to clinics and hospitals to work with patients in the first year, then underwent clinical training at Texas Medical Center in Houston for a few years before returning to Denton. After graduation, she practiced nursing for 25 years in an intensive care unit, adult-care settings and a family practice setting at a U.S. Army clinic. While pursuing her doctoral degree at the University of Maryland, she interned at the AACN, an organization that establishes and applies standards for nursing education. That internship led to a full-time job as director of governmental affairs, and Bednash served as its executive director and CEO from 1989 to 2015. YOUR LIFELINE In those roles, Bednash was able to shape policy and increase education opportunities so nurses could perform duties to the fullest extent. “To me, it was always a passion to move in ways that would improve the way we can affect people’s lives,” she says. Her work has taken her around the world to study other global initiatives, and she is currently an adjunct professor at the University

of Vermont and a visiting professor at the Australian Catholic University. That work is crucial since patients will interact mostly with nurses. “It’s the nursing staff who are monitoring care, who are in fact making decisions,” she says. “It’s the nurses who are your lifeline. Nurses are a fundamental element of good health care.”

Texas Woman’s University graduate Polly Bednash helped transform her industry.

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Denton County residents live an average of 1.8 years longer than the average American and 2.3 years longer than the average Texan, according to data from U.S. News & World Report. The overall number of adults with poor or fair health in Denton County is just 11.7%. Compare that to 16.3% nationwide and 18.9% statewide.

Virtual support groups can help Flower Mound residents establish and maintain healthy habits. BY ABIGAIL BOATWRIGHT


any of us want to be healthier. That’s why we set New Year’s resolutions to eat better, get more sleep and exercise more frequently. But it can be hard to stick to your plan without a level of accountability. That’s why family physician Dr. Doug Cluff brought together a team of medical, fitness and nutrition professionals to create a new,

Keep Flower Mound Healthy’s leadership team includes Jesse James Leyva, Dr. Doug Cluff, Nancy Moses and Kay Simms.


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free, evidence-based virtual program called TLC Groups within the organization Keep Flower Mound Healthy. LONG-TERM IMPACT TLC Groups connect Flower Mound residents with virtual support groups, offering livable “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes.” Each group consists of four to six people and is led by a local health professional. This format encourages accountability, support,

education and brainstorming. Participants track their exercise minutes, the percentage of their diet that includes whole plants and their weight, and then regularly report these stats to the group. “I’m interested in making a long-term impact on people,” says Dr. Cluff, who developed the group program with registered dietitian Nancy Moses and fitness experts Jesse James Leyva and Kay Simms. The principles set for the groups follow national health guidelines. GET INVOLVED “We believe the value of the group is in accountability, and motivation to make changes, and then support for those changes,” Dr. Cluff says. “It’s also a bit of troubleshooting. But you can do it from the comfort of your own home, anytime you want to.” If you are a Flower Mound resident who is interested in joining this program, visit tlc-groups to get started. Keep Flower Mound Healthy has more exciting initiatives on the horizon. Check back to for info on future programs.

Photo by Nick Allen

Live Long and Prosper

keep flower mound healthy

survivor mental health

Drawing from personal experience, Denton’s Joshua Okpara hopes his new book can help people overcome depression.



Photo by Oscar Belmont

very day, the bullies’ voices would taunt him. Students would call Joshua Okpara names and make fun of the Nigerian immigrant’s heavy accent. Sometimes, the 12-year-old would walk outside in the rain to avoid the hallways. During lunch, he’d hide in a teacher’s classroom or skip eating so he wouldn’t have to sit in the cafeteria. Then, at age 14, he tried to stab himself in the stomach. DEALING WITH REAL PAIN Now, nearly 10 years later, Okpara hopes to help some of the more than 16 million Americans who suffer from depression with his book, How to Deal With Real Pain in Real Time. “From that failed suicide attempt and seeing the many people who struggled with depression, I figured there needs to be a voice of reason,” he says. “I’m more than an expert. I’m a survivor.” The book shares Okpara’s personal experiences with the disease and features questions to help readers

understand where they are in life. For example, people can ask themselves, “Why am I feeling this way right now?” and determine a way to be less problem-driven and more more solution-driven. “For some it could be taking a walk, calling a mentor, working out, speaking to a friend or taking a nap,” he says. “When you understand the why of your sudden depression by knowing your roots, you can focus less on tearing down branches and dealing with the real root of your problem.” The book — which is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle and other book sellers — also offers tips, advice and short assignments for readers. FULFILLING HIS PURPOSE The book is just one way that Okpara motivates individuals. While studying at the University of North Texas, where he majored in integrative studies, Okpara started a religious men’s organization called the Dedicated Men, which now boasts chapters at two other Texas colleges and a school in Nigeria.

He’s also written two other books, She’s the One But You’re Not the One Yet and Create Your Own Story, started the nondenominational Faith Filled Church and runs the Ideal Man, a consulting company that helps clients monetize their passions. So how does he juggle all of his projects? “I don’t want to die full of ideas, full of things I could have done,” he says. “I want to die living a fulfilled life, and that keeps me going.” And he wants to reach a big audience. “If the whole world can get the message, maybe I feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose,” he says. “Of course, I will start with Denton.”

Denton resident and author Joshua Okpara uses his first-hand experience with clinical depression to help others.

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commit to sit The Denton County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) aims to train more than 2,000 medical and non-medical volunteers to help in the event of an emergency. Undergoing training can ensure that you are ready to help in the event of a public health emergency or natural disaster in Denton County or elsewhere in the nation. To get involved, simply attend a free Volunteer Orientation. There’s no time requirement or obligation to volunteer. Your services will be used only in the event of a large-scale disaster, and only if you are available and willing. Volunteers can also choose to take part in free optional training throughout the year. Call 940-349-2910 or visit for more information.



exas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton has launched Physicians Commit to Sit, a pilot program that encourages physicians to sit down and engage with each of their patients. “Patients don’t feel like we are rushed,” says Preetinder Dhatt, M.D., a hospitalist at Texas Health Denton and member of the Texas Health Physicians Group. “They’re more engaged and ask more questions. It helps them better understand their treatment plan.” The program started in Denton on the medical-surgical

Kenneth Huddleston, patient at Texas Health Denton, and Preetinder Dhatt, M.D., a hospitalist with Texas Health Physicians Group


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unit last fall after similar programs in Fort Worth and Plano received good reviews from patients. Stools are kept in each patient room for the doctor to sit on when discussing a treatment plan with the patient and their family. SEEING EYE TO EYE Sitting is only part of the equation though. The program also encourages physicians to connect with patients by asking open-ended questions and having meaningful dialog while they are sitting. Making eye contact, taking the time to listen and involving the patient’s family are also key program elements.

Patients appreciate the approach. “I like when the doctor looks at me at eye level,” says Kenneth Huddleston, a patient at Texas Health Denton. “I’ve had outstanding care and this just adds to it.” “When you’re standing up, it can appear that you’re in a more commanding position, which can be off-putting to a patient,” Dhatt says. “It’s a way for us to be at a patient’s level… When patients develop trust in their provider or physician, they’re more likely to stick to their treatment plan, which will keep them from returning to the hospital. They will take better care of themselves, which will lead to better outcomes.”

Photo courtesy of Texas Health

Join the MRC!

Physicians in Denton are sitting down on the job — to build better relationships with patients.

lifesaving technology

Medical City Denton’s new state-of-the-art equipment will help Denton County residents get the care they need right here at home. BY KIMBERLY TURNER


Photos by Abigail Boatwright

ntil recently, many Denton County residents who suffered from a stroke or other neurological conditions were flown to Plano, Dallas or other hospitals outside of the county for the best possible care. But when you are having a stroke, time is not on your side. “Every minute that blood flow is blocked off to the brain, 2 million brain cells die,” explains Ashley Thompson-Smith, vice president of cardiovascular services at Medical City Denton. “If you think about no longer having to transfer that patient to another hospital for service, that’s really impactful. Patients in Denton and surrounding communities aren’t going to have to go through that anymore. The fact that we are able to help them right here at home is really special.” NEW CAPABILITIES That ability is thanks to a new interventional biplane technology that the hospital introduced in December. Neurosurgeons will now be

able to fix vessels in the brain in much the same way that heart surgeons have been able to go in and fix the vessel when someone has a heart attack. It is the only technology of its kind in Denton County. “The capability to actually stick a catheter into someone’s brain and suck out the clot that is causing their stroke is really great for us,” says Thompson-Smith. “We’ve had neurosurgery for quite some time, but having the level of sophistication so that we don’t actually have to make an incision but can,

Ashley ThompsonSmith, vice president of cardiovascular services

instead, do things with small catheters that we snake up through your arteries, that’s really exciting.” The less invasive procedure can benefit patients with faster recovery time, less pain and a shorter hospital stay. NOT JUST FOR STROKES Apart from stroke patients, the Level 2 trauma facility will also now be able to use the technology to help treat brain aneurysms and stop the bleeding for people who are, for example, in a car accident.

The neuro-interventional biplane table — which is so large that a new addition had to be built to accommodate it — features rotating cameras that give neurologists real-time, two- and three-dimensional images of the brain, blood vessels and spine to allow them to diagnose and treat neurological abnormalities faster and more effectively than ever. The program is headed up by Dr. James Tatum. 3535 S. Interstate 35, Denton 940-384-3535

A new addition was built onto the hospital to accommodate the sizable new equipment.

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A newly formed Denton County organization aims to establish a louder voice for the disability community through visibility, education and advocacy. BY ELLEN RITSCHER SACKETT

RECOGNIZING ALL VOICES “We recognized that disability is a nonpartisan issue,” says DIS Executive Director Val

Vera, who, alongside other founding members, served on the Disability Committee of the Denton County Democratic Party. They found that government-funded groups are limited by what they can do based on the funding they receive. “If we were going to have an impact, we’d have to do it as an independent organization,” he says. According to the ADA National Network, a person with a disability is defined as one with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, which can The founding members of the Disability Inclusion Society


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include (but is not limited to): caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, hearing, eating, sleeping, communicating or breathing. (For a complete legal definition, refer to “Disability comes in all forms,” Vera says. “If someone identifies as disabled, they are disabled.” He stresses the importance of hearing the different voices of disability. “I can only speak as a person who is a wheelchair user. Because of my disability, I have certain skills, experiences and perspectives other people don’t have.” He acknowledges that the same is true for those with other disabilities and backgrounds. CHOOSING YOUR WORDS The DIS acronym is the first syllable of two words that often get a bad rap: disability and disabled. According to DIS, euphemisms such as “differently abled,” “special needs” or “mentally or physically challenged” infantilize, minimalize or erase the disabled person’s identity and experiences. “Those are made up by able-bodied people to make themselves feel comfortable,” Vera says. Words like “handicapped” are antiquated, he

explains. “I cringe when I hear them.” “I am a disabled person,” he states, simply. DIS wants to encourage a narrative that embraces and empowers the identity and diversity of the disability community and the experiences of disability culture. Inclusion is the operative word. EVENTS AND INFO The group has successfully organized several local events, including a community forum and two fundraisers, most recently #CripplePunk ’19 last November. The CripplePunk (or CPunk) movement has particular significance in the disabled community at large. It rejects pity, inspirational messaging and all forms of ableism that don’t see past the disability to the person. DIS’s next event, Love and Relationships Within the Disability Community, is scheduled for mid-February. “Its purpose will be to dispel the image that disabled people are not sexual or are not in relationships, which is a big stereotype,” Vera says.;

Photo by Frederick Kamman


hen local citizens formed Disability Inclusion Society (DIS) last August, they did so because they saw a need — right here in Denton County. The realization came after they organized Denton’s first disability rights rally, which coincided with the 29th anniversary of the American Disability Act (ADA) signing.


tresses of care

This Flower Mound organization donates wigs to help children restore their self esteem and improve their quality of life. BY SAMANTHA COLAIANNI


Photo courtesy of Tresses of Care

y Sanford, owner of Legacy Lace Wigs, specialized in custom wigs for women who were undergoing chemotherapy or dealing with other medical reasons for hair loss. Then she began to notice an increase in requests for children’s wigs. Parents were looking for a solution to help their children feel like themselves again after chemotherapy, alopecia, burns or other issues, but many families were struggling to afford wigs. FILLING A NEED “Insurance won’t treat children the same way they do adults,” Sanford says. “So we decided that, when insurance won’t cover the wigs, we’ll step in.” The Flower Mound resident founded Tresses of Care two years ago to provide wigs to children at no cost. “Children can be bullied [for how they look,]” she says. “We want to help with their self esteem. We wanted to offer these beautiful illusions so that children could get some quality of life back.” So far, the organization has helped between 20 and 30 families, and Sanford looks forward to helping even more. “We’re here for the community,” she says. “We always

Tresses of Care provides wigs at no cost to qualifying families.

have to give back, especially when you see there’s a need. Something as simple as a wig can help children with their self esteem and help them to focus on getting better.” YOU CAN HELP Because Tresses of Care is a nonprofit, it depends on fundraising and events to help spread awareness and raise money for the children it helps. Sanford plans to do a fundraising walk in

Cycling for Fun If you’d like to cycle but are nervous about joining a speedy cycling group on the roadway, Pathfinders Fun Cycling is for you. For 10 years, this informal group has focused on putting the fun back in cycling using paved multi-use paths that help riders avoid traffic whenever possible. There are no costs or fees, and founders Mark and Ruth Solow can even give advice on equipment and requirements. To receive weekly ride notices, email marksolow@gmail. com and ask to be added to the list. A Facebook group is also available and boasts that the social riding is so much fun “you’ll forget you are exercising!”

February and a fashion show in October. You can also sponsor a child by donating either money or hair via “The beautiful thing about it is we’ve had children helping other children by donating their hair,” Sanford says. 2605 Sagebrush Dr., Suite 105, Flower Mound 972-330-3338 J A N UA R Y/ F E B R UA R Y 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y


natural remedies

CBD craze

First, cancer survivor Linda Thaten became a believer in the benefits of CBD. Then, she started working to share those benefits with others. BY NICOLE FOSTER She began researching CBD and learned that while the ingredient is made from a cannabis compound, it is derived from the hemp plant and does not cause a “high.” More importantly, she discovered that CBD products are legal. She agreed to start treatments. NATURE’S MERCANTILE Her cancer went into remission, and today, Thaten is an outspoken CBD advocate. The efficacy of the treatment motivated her to open a string of shops called Nature’s Mercantile +CBD Store with her daughter, Mindy Coin.

Before opening Texas’s first CBD store, Thaten and Coin met with Denton County police to explain their plan and ensure they wouldn’t cause any waves. During the meeting, the duo learned that 90 percent of deaths in the county are caused by drug overdoses. Since CBD has been known to enhance the ability to maintain emotional balance, manage stress and sustain focus as well as offer therapeutic properties and pain management, it’s often seen as a healthy, safe substitute for opioids and other drugs. Thaten says the police were very open to introducing the community to products

that are legal, natural and non-addictive. BUSINESS IS BOOMING The women now own three Nature’s Mercantile locations in Denton, Hurst and Richardson. Walk into any one of them, and you’ll find a wide range of CBD-infused merchandise, including topical creams, oral capsules and tinctures, snacks and bath bombs. Thaten even provides a line of creams and edibles for anxious or ailing pets. Nothing hits the shelves without meeting the highest levels of criteria and certification. “I’m 67. I wasn’t looking for another job,” Thaten says of her new career. “The lord is the one that pressed me to get in this. We’ve been able to help so many people get off opiates; CBD took the place of them. Some people come in and they’re so stressed. A few minutes after taking CBD, you see that stress leave. A glow comes on their face. I don’t think a lot of people know how badly they’re hurting until they stop hurting.” 262 S. I-35 E, Denton; 2038 W. University Dr., Denton; 100B Grapevine Hwy, Hurst


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Photo courtesy of Nature’s Mercantile


he first time Linda Thaten had cancer, the chemotherapy nearly killed her. The second time she was diagnosed, she found a doctor who believed cancer cells can be killed with plant-based materials, specifically cannabidiol, or CBD. Thaten initially balked at the recommendation because of CBD’s association with marijuana. “No, I don’t think so. I’m a grandmother!” she replied. But her determination to avoid the severity of conventional treatments made her rethink the natural remedy.

stress buster

Unleash some tension on unsuspecting glassware at The Breakroom. You’ll feel better for it. BY NICOLE FOSTER

Photo courtesy of The Breakroom


eed a better stress reliever than screaming into your pillow? Head to The Breakroom in Denton where you’ll be handed a hardhat and pry bar then set loose in a warehouse full of smashable objects. Owner Westly White was introduced to the idea of “recreational stress management” by his wife. She knew he needed to blow off some steam and brought White to a business built to let people crush things. “We went into the room and just smashed stuff for 10 minutes,” he says. “After, we were out of breath and looked at each other with huge smiles. It felt amazing. We decided this is the kind of thing that needs to be everywhere.” The Breakroom opened in September 2018, and everyone and their grandmother (literally) has been showing up. Patrons have two options: venture into The Main Breakroom and smash everything in sight — electronics, furniture, glass and more — for a set time of five to 20 minutes. Or opt for The Throwing Room where you’ll get a pile of 15 to 45 glass items to hurl at a wall so that you can let the

Zen wash over you with each “Wear closed-toe shoes,” satisfying shatter. warns White. “Don’t come in Safety is imperative, so the here wearing flip flops.” 1,800-square-foot Breakroom White is never running maxes out at six low on fragile people per objects. He regsession while ularly receives the Throwdonations ing Room from accommopeople dates four. emptying White is their first-aid garages, certified, attics and Ashton and Westly White and he and storage his team make units. He and sure clients are his team hit the outfitted in hard streets every Tuesday hats, work gloves, protective and do free pickups within eyewear, disposable masks Denton. Residents reach and a thick apron. out via a phone call, email

or Facebook, letting White know they’ve got the goods. Feel free to bring mementos from a failed relationship or that set of never-used dishes from your wedding registry. You can smash it all. And don’t forget to make a playlist. “We have a speaker in each room,” White says. “Pick a playlist that just absolutely burns you up. Music makes the experience so much better. We recently had a group of moms in here smashing to the ‘Baby Shark’ song.” 719 Wainwright St., Denton 940-241-7097

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better together

Camp Gladiator has been life-changing for Denton native Krissi Oden.



RECIPE FOR SUCCESS Camp Gladiator was started by Ally and Jeff Davidson in Dallas in 2008. Today, more than 4,000 locations run camps each week. You’ll find more than 30 locations around Denton County, in parking lots of schools, churches and grocery stores. One of Camp Gladiator’s mantras is “Take It Outside” because, barring extreme weather, that’s where most workouts occur. Participants arrive ready to push themselves for 60 minutes with functional exercises designed to strengthen the whole body. Part of what makes the program unique and keeps people coming back for more are the methods of motivation, such as earning points and rewards for checking in,


and being able to participate in as many workouts as you want each month. Personal attention from camp trainers helps you achieve your goals — plus you’re surrounded by a supportive community of fellow participants who range from beginners to lifelong athletes. Hence, the camp slogan “Better Together.” It’s a recipe for success. Paul Taylor, Denton’s area director, has been a CG trainer for four years and a fitness professional since 2004. “We’re aiming to improve your quality of life,” he says. “This is taking away insecurities about going to the gym and not knowing what you’re doing, with a high risk of injury because of that; versus coming out here and being led by personal trainers who are here to help you every step of the way, and push you even further.” AN ORGAN FOR TRINITY Taylor’s camper Krissi Oden started Camp Gladiator in March 2016. She was out-ofshape, postpartum after the birth of her second child and ready for a change. “I had gotten blood work done, and my cholesterol was in the red. I was pre-diabetic and just in horrible health,” Oden says. “I found Camp Gladiator through a Facebook ad. I barely made it through the warm-up lap and cried

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afterward in my car. But I kept going, and now I’m in the best shape of my life.” She attended camp five to six days a week, and somewhere along the way, she found friendships and a community she never expected from a workout program. “The workouts are never the same, three years later, and I’m challenged every time,” Oden says. “I’m in amazing health, but I also have a second family.” In summer 2018, Oden’s stepdaughter Trinity, who had kidney disease, needed a donor kidney. Oden was a match, and thanks to CG, she was the picture of health and able to donate. But in a last pre-op meeting with her doctor, Oden realized her life would change significantly. She was advised her to scale back her heavy weight workouts because her creatinine levels were a little high. Basically, that meant less Camp Gladiator… forever. “I could do as much endurance work as I wanted,” she says. “I just couldn’t lift heavy weights anymore because that raises my protein levels, and protein has to go through the kidneys, which is difficult if you only have one.” COMMUNITY CONNECTION Oden’s CG family sprang into action to support her, raising funds within days to purchase

Krissi Oden (left) and Hollie Klein

her a $3,000 Peloton bike, which would allow her to keep exercising on days when she used to go to camp. Trinity’s body accepted her new kidney, and she’s returned to full health. Oden still faithfully attends Camp Gladiator three to four times a week and is forever grateful for the program’s influence. “My Denton CG is my family,” Oden says. “They’re there for you mentally, but we’ve helped a lot of different families within our CG family, and it’s really amazing. I will be CG for life. It’s the most amazing thing that I’ve ever chosen to be a part of for my physical wellbeing. It’s changed my life, and I’ve watched it change so many people’s lives around me.” Visit to find a location near you or call 512-494-6966

Photo courtesy of Krissi Oden

egardless of which method of fitness you choose, there’s something that makes you stick to it. Maybe it’s the type of exercise. Perhaps it’s the convenience for your lifestyle or the community. The participants of bootcamp-style fitness program Camp Gladiator have found multiple reasons to join — and even more reasons to stay. For Krissi Oden, the program has improved her life in incredible ways… and not just because she can do an impressive number of burpees.


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Bunch Bikes founder Aaron Powell began designing family cargo bikes to ride with his family. Three years later, the entrepreneur’s bikes are sold in 45 states and three countries. BY ANNETTE NEVINS

The Original family cargo bike can hold up to four kids or up to 220 pounds.


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Putting the kids up front means more laughing, chatting and family time!

Photos courtesy of Bunch Bikes

hen A aron Powell cycles around Denton, he takes his whole family along for the ride. On one bike. He steers from atop a single back wheel while his two children — sometimes groceries and toys too — sit in a red box fixed above the two front wheels. The three-wheeled contraption attracts attention. “Neighbors we’ve never met stop to talk to us,” he says. “Cars honk. People wave. They take our pictures. They want to know where we found such a unique bicycle.”

the trouble with tradition Powell is happy to tell them. The family cargo bike is available for purchase through his Denton-based company, Bunch Bikes. His goal is to make the bikes a common sight on streets — not only in Denton but throughout the country. “It’s a great way to spend time outdoors with the family and get exercise at the same time,” he says. “It’s much more fun than strapping kids in a hot car. It’s all about the journey.” Cycling was not new to Powell when he started Bunch Bikes two and a half years ago. After graduating from the University

of North Texas music program, he began biking to his job as a middle school band director in Denton. He and his wife, Rachel, even sold one of their cars to save money and help pay off student debt. When Kathryn, their first child, was born, Powell couldn’t wait to put a helmet on her and strap her into a bike trailer and a bike seat to come along for the ride. But he was finding himself less than thrilled by the experience. The traditional trailer made the ride bumpy, and he couldn’t see his daughter seated behind him. When he wanted to stop for groceries, he’d have to hang bags off the side of the child seat because of the lack of room.

inspiration strikes In the summer of 2016, his imagination was sparked during a family vacation to Sweden and Denmark. That’s where Powell saw a cargo bike with wooden boxes attached to the front of the vehicle for the first time. Some even had shades to protect from the sun or rain. Coming along for the ride were not just one but several children at a time, laughing and talking with their moms and dads as they pedaled through their day with bags of produce and even their pet dogs.

Powell was intrigued by his European experience. He saw cargo bikes on every street corner, filled with parents and children going to work and school, shopping or just enjoying their day. Preschool students were being pedaled around by their teachers. Whole families were riding together. “I had to have one too,” he says. When Powell returned to Denton, he began looking to buy a cargo bike in the States. But other than one guy in Oregon, he couldn’t find anyone who sold them locally. Exporting one from Europe would be too expensive. So he decided to get someone to make one for him.

the first orders By that time, Powell had quit his band director job. Long days of rehearsal and nights and weekends filled with football games and competitions were robbing him of cherished family time. He was passionate about biking and wanted to share that with his wife, who by then was expecting their second child. Powell, 32, doesn’t have an engineering degree. But he does have some background in marketing and running a business. He had a design drawn up and connected with a factory overseas to make his first cargo bike.

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Founder Aaron Powell with his kids Nathan and Kathryn

orders each month, with most sales in the spring and summer. His goal is to double that number by next year and expand into other regions.

denton is home But no matter how large the company grows, the Houston native plans to keep his base in Denton. He doesn’t expect the cargo bikes to have much trouble catching on in Denton, a family-friendly and bike-friendly town that has been busy adding more bike lanes to keep up with the growth. Kevin Roden, 45, one of Bunch Bikes’ first customers, says he and his wife take all three of their children to school in a cargo bike before pedaling to their jobs in downtown Denton. In the summer, they cycle with their children — ages 11, 8 and 6 — to the library and pool. “It’s an innovative show-stopper,” Roden says. “It brings us closer as a family and gets us talking about the future, too, moving to more eco-friendly modes of transportation. The kids even plan how they can turn their bikes into a mobile library one day.”

He couldn’t wait to show it off in Denton. He quickly made friends and met potential customers as he pedaled around with his daughter in his new unique-looking three-wheeled bike and shared photos on social media. By the summer of 2017 — just one year after spotting the family cargo bikes in Europe — he had enough interest to make his first pre-order of about 30 cargo bikes. His son, Nathan, was just two weeks old when Powell started his company, originally called Urban Tribe Cargo Bikes. He later changed the name to Bunch Bikes (website, no “s”) to reflect the “bunches” of children and things one could carry with them while pedaling the vehicle.

an option for everyone Though Powell himself is a serious bike enthusiast, Bunch Bikes is not just for avid cyclists. “You don’t have to be an athlete or train or wear spandex to ride a bike,” he


says. “I wanted to make the bikes attractive to other moms like my wife who just want to get out and enjoy the ride with their kids.” Most online sales by Bunch Bikes are for bikes that have electric-assist motors driven by rechargeable batteries. Since launching his business, he has added a two-wheeled bike with a smaller cargo box and lockable under-bench storage units along with charging stations for iPads and phones. Bunch Bikes even offers a six-seater cargo box that is game-changer for preschools and large families. Powell is working on another design he plans to release in the next year. Now his wife, a preschool teacher, bikes to work with their two children, ages 5 and 2. Powell admits he usually takes the car to work at the Bunch Bikes warehouse at Loop 288 and University Drive. Today, the company has more than a half dozen full-time employees and ships to 45 states and three countries, averaging about 50

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a bunch of benefits Powell says biking promotes local businesses. “Riding a bike, you tend to make more stops and stay longer to browse and buy at the local shops,” he explains. “You don’t just zip past them like you would in a car.” It also presents great learning opportunities, keeps costs low and makes errands fun, he says. On a recent shopping trip, his family biked to a local transit station, boarded a bus then took a train for a day in the park. The slower, more adventurous route encourages riders to notice the birds and squirrels, and maybe even stop for a turtle along the way. Powell says his children ride in a cargo bike more often than they do a car. He hopes their experience will encourage a heightened awareness about interacting with their communities and the environment. “We’ve made so many friends just by getting out of the house and on our bikes,” he says. “Imagine how our kids’ experiences are going to impact their views on planning for the future.”


Glenn Monroe

to Local Leadership



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207 N Elm Street Suite 101

Monday - Saturday 10am - 6pm Sunday by appt

Denton TX 76201

AccessBank Texas welcomes Glenn Monroe as Vice Chairman of the Board. Mr. Monroe has spent over 35 years in the banking industry and has both a BBA and MBA from TCU. Glenn is excited to rejoin the Denton community and get back to the relationship-style banking he loves. Glenn gained his initial exposure to community banking when he joined First State Bank of Texas in Denton. Over the years, he became President of Wells Fargo in Denton. He eventually moved back to Fort Worth to start a de novo bank, Meridian Bank Texas. He served as Chairman and CEO of this bank until it sold to UMB. We look forward to his guidance and wisdom as Vice Chairman of our Board. Innovative. Capable. Service-Driven. AccessBank Texas Your Community Bank of Choice


320 W. Eagle Dr. Suite 100 • Denton, TX 76201

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In three short years, UNT Athletic Director Wren Baker has taken the Mean Green to astounding new heights. BY LESLIE J. THOMPSON


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Photos courtesy of UNT

he North Texas Athletic Center is strangely quiet in late November. A stone’s throw from Apogee Stadium, home of Mean Green football, the sprawling sports facility is a hub of activity for University of North Texas student-athletes during the school year. But two days before Thanksgiving, the hallways are empty, and the building is all but deserted. Wren Baker, however, is still on the job. As vice president and director of athletics at UNT, Baker oversees every facet of the university’s sports programs, from recruiting and managing top coaches to fundraising, ticket sales and the academic performance of student-athletes. The multifaceted nature of the role can be daunting, but in an industry known for high expectations and high burnout rates, Baker’s track record is extraordinary. For the first time in UNT’s history, every one of the Mean Green’s 16 sports teams celebrated a winning season last year, including the third straight Conference USA women’s soccer tournament championship. Fundraising has reached record highs, with UNT athletics receiving the two largest gifts in the school’s history in 2017–18, and ticket revenue has seen a net increase of 125 percent since Baker took the helm in 2016. Equally important, student-athletes are succeeding in the classroom, with the department celebrating a record Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for two years running.

Baker with his wife, Heather, and daughters Addisyn and Reagan

“His fresh new ideas really injected some life into athletics as a whole,” says Mean Green women’s basketball head coach Jalie Mitchell, whose team celebrated 18 wins last season, the highest total in 13 years. Baker holds regular group meetings with the head coaches of every program and checks in with coaches one-on-one to discuss how to best support student-athletes and develop winning teams. “Whatever we need, he’ll figure out how we can make it happen,” Mitchell says.

DEFINING SUCCESS Baker greets his visitor with a warm handshake and big smile before politely leading the way into his corner office. At 6’3”, he cuts an imposing figure, but his stature is tempered by his boyish features

and friendly demeanor. He nestles into a leather side chair, surrounded by photos and keepsakes from a thriving career in college sports. Three years into his tenure at UNT, the Athletic Center has become his home away from home, and the coaches, students and staff have become family. “I think my parents, especially my mom, helped me understand how much you need to value people in your life,” says Baker, who grew up in the small town of Valliant, Oklahoma. “You can have all the world-class processes and resources that you want, but in the end, it always comes down to people.” His personal philosophy is reflected in the North Texas Athletic Department’s new mission statement, which is emblazoned in large letters across the windows

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of his second-story office: “Building champions and preparing leaders through the pursuit of perfection in academics, athletics and life.” “To do this job right, you’ve got to be committed to the development of the total person and helping people grow in all areas of their life,” he says. “Success isn’t just defined as wins and losses — although that’s the metric that the public focuses on. Success is seeing young people have that growth and maturation academically and socially, as well.”

DISCOVERING PASSION From his humble roots in rural Oklahoma, Baker knows from experience the challenges of finding one’s way in the world, and the importance of helping people pursue their dreams. The first in his family to attend college, he enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State as a computer science major and spent the summers working in the local paper mill to help cover tuition. Although many of his peers aspired to a full-time job at the mill, Baker was

disheartened by the restrictive nature of the work. “You don’t see where the process starts or where it ends; you just have this one part that you do over and over,” he says. “I wanted to have something where you were able to see from start to finish, something that you were pouring yourself into.” When he was offered the opportunity to be student assistant coach of the school’s basketball team his junior year, Baker discovered his true passion. “It was hard work, but you got to see the way a team forms and gels — the way that they go through adversity and overcome adversity,” he says, his face brightening. At the same time, he enjoyed seeing students grow and mature as individuals and helping them work through personal issues, academic challenges and athletic struggles. “I just fell in love with the profession,” he says. Envisioning a future career as a school principal, Baker earned a master’s degree in education leadership from Oklahoma State University, where he was the basketball operations assistant under legendary

President Smatresk, “Mean” Joe Greene and Baker

FOSTERING TEAMWORK Today, the outgoing administrator is applying the skills and insights gained during his early career on multiple fronts at UNT. In 2017, Baker announced The Mean Green Strategic Plan, a collaborative five-year strategy that covers everything from budgeting to resources for student-athletes, competitive excellence and the fan experience. Two years into the plan, five of the eight focus areas are more than 80 percent complete, and morale is high.


Baker with women’s basketball head coach Jalie Mitchell

head coach Eddie Sutton. The three-time National Coach of the Year honoree not only taught him about coaching basketball but also “about organizational structure and defining roles for people and helping them understand how those roles are contributing to the organization,” Baker says. Joe Castiglione, athletic director at the University of Oklahoma, likewise took the promising young administrator under his wing, teaching him the importance of communicating a vision and the steps to reach the goal.


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N’T S I S S E C “SUC INED AS JUST DEFD LOSSES WINS AN GH THAT’S U — ALTHOTRIC THAT THE ME C FOCUSES LI B U P E E E H S T S I S ES C C U S . N O PLE O E P G N ING YOU T GROWTH A HAVE TH TURATION AND MA ALLY AND IC ACADEM , AS WELL.” SOCIALLY “He hires the right people and puts them in places to be successful,” says Mack Rhoades, vice president and director of athletics at Baylor University. Rhoades enlisted Baker as the deputy director of athletics at the University of Missouri in 2015. The two still talk almost weekly, and the former supervisor counts himself among Baker’s biggest fans. Says Rhoades, “He’s got a great personality and is able to build trusting relationships with people — and he’s not afraid to ask people for money.” Baker was instrumental in driving revenue at Mizzou, which announced a record fundraising year on the heels of his departure. Since his arrival in Denton, he has secured almost $50 million in facilities investment for the Mean Green, and in 2018, announced Light the Tower, an ambitious 20-year master facilities plan designed to take the athletic department to new heights. “Athletics is not unlike politics, in that a lot of times the schools with the most resources win,” says Baker, who sees revenue

All 16 of UNT’s teams had winning seasons last year.

Baker and head football coach Seth Littrell

generation as part of the greater mission to build champions and prepare leaders. He serves more as a matchmaker than a fundraiser, taking the time to learn about peoples’ personal interests and engaging them in the decision-making process. “I want the donor to feel really great about what it is that they’re supporting,” he says. “The best way to do that is to take time to get to know who they are, put a list of needs out there in front of them, and let them decide where they want to plug in and partner.”

BUILDING A LEGACY The bold red cover of Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great stands out among the titles on leadership neatly arrayed on the coffee table in Baker’s office. Even in his current role, he remains a student of the craft. “I’ve always been a bold thinker, in terms of where I think we can be,” says Baker, who believes that success in any venture requires a willingness to recklessly

pursue big goa ls a nd drea ms. But, although he receives the bulk of the accolades for the athletic department’s recent achievements, he stresses the importance of having a great team. “You can’t possibly be an expert in everything” or have the bandwidth to manage it all, he says. “You’ve got to have good people around and be willing to let them go and do their jobs, and have the freedom to make decisions and get things done.” Whether coaching a sports team or leading an organization, the key to success is the same, he says: Listen attentively, set a shared goal, communicate the vision and empower people in their roles. On the back end of the process, it’s equally important to celebrate the outcomes with those who played a part, he says. “When we built our strategic plan, we involved a lot of stakeholders in that,” notes Baker, gathering his belongings before leaving the office for the holiday. “When we have success, everybody has contributed to that in some way.”

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Bill Utter Ford CARES!


Keyhole Gardening and More

When: February 22 Where: Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center, 3310 Collins Road, Denton Clear Creek welcomes you to a free introductory workshop on how to start a keyhole garden (a circular raised garden with a keyhole-shaped indention on one side). Learn best practices from Master Gardener Brigid Corbett. Register in advance via Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center on Facebook or call 940-349-8152 with any questions. Clear Creek regularly offers a variety of classes. Other options in January and February include workshops on seed starting, tree trimming, creating living soils, organic spring gardening, introduction to beekeeping, birding and more.

Denton Black Film Festival

When: January 22–26 Where: 215 W. Hickory St., Denton Don’t let the name fool you; this festival is about much more than film. The annual event celebrates diversity in art, technology, spoken word, music and more. This year’s lineup includes Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Jazzmeia Horn with special guests Shelley Carrol and the Roger Boykin Quartet; a half-day interactive technology expo; an open-mic poetry slam featuring host Verb Kulture; and much, much more. Tickets are on sale now at

Top photo courtesy of Denton Black Film Festival; bottom photo courtesy of Texas Cheerleader magazine

Some goodbyes are more

Difficult than others.

Texas Cheerleader Open State Championship

When: January 12 Where: UNT Super Pit, 600 Ave. D, Denton Texas Cheerleader magazine says, “Never underestimate the spirit of the Texas cheerleader,” and this event is your chance to see some of the state’s best athletes in action. Spectator passes are $15. Participants are $85. J A N UA R Y/ F E B R UA R Y 2 02 0 D E N T O N CO U N T Y




2020 Denton Bridal Show

Photo courtesy of Denton Bridal Show

When: January 18 Where: Monroe Pearson, 421 E. Oak St., Denton If you’re tying the knot in 2020, you cannot afford to miss this fabulous bridal show. For just $10 entry, you’ll get to know the best wedding vendors in the county. And if you’re on a budget, the bridal show team can offer budget-friendly advice that will help you create the wedding of your dreams without overspending.


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by Stephen Karam. The story of a family gathering for Thanksgiving in a run-down NYC apartment “explores the issues that families face in modern-day America.” This production is directed by Caleb Norris and Andrea Avery Ray.

Photo courtesy of City of Roanoke

Silver Hearts Gala

The Humans

When: January 10–12 and 16–19 Where: The Campus Theatre, 214 W. Hickory St., Denton Denton Community Theatre presents The Humans, a Tony Award–winning drama

When: February 23 Where: Courtyard Marriott, 4330 Courtyard Way, Flower Mound Enjoy a wonderful evening complete with dinner, drinks, entertainment, auction items and raffles to benefit Meals on Wheels of Denton. This is the first annual event of its kind and proceeds will support seniors, veterans and people with disabilities in Denton County. Meals on Wheels serves more than 109,000 meals annually in our community and relies on community support to meet the needs of our elderly neighbors. Tickets are $50.

Roanoke Valentine’s Dance

When: February 7 Where: 501 Roanoke Road, Roanoke This annual family-friendly event sells out in advance, so call the recreation center at 817-837-9930 for more information. Bring your sweethearts of all ages to enjoy finger food, dancing and fun! Pre-registration is $20 for families of up to five or $10 for single tickets during January. The price increases to $30 for families and $15 for singles in February.

New Location Opening in January 4701 I-35 Frontage Road, Denton, TX


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For Eternity…

Roselawn Memorial Park is staffed with a caring team who is available to assist you in selecting from many burial options, for both full body and cremated remains. To learn more, call and make an appointment. Call to meet with a Pre-Planning Advisor, 940-382-5532

, INC.

“A Perpetual Care Cemetery” DE-20697

An Evening With Shaun White

When: February 18 Where: UNT Coliseum, 600 Ave. D, Denton Olympic gold medalist, entrepreneur, musician and designer Shaun White is a legend in professional skateboarding and snowboarding. The 32-year-old will share his personal story and insights into building a lasting global brand during this event, which is part of the UNT Distinguished Lecture Series.

When: February 14 Where: Patterson-Appleton Arts Center and Explorium Denton Enjoy a romantic evening out while the kids frolic! Children ages 4 and up can be dropped off at Explorium Denton for a fun Valentine’s Camp experience with pizza, snacks, crafts, fun and games. Meanwhile, you and your sweetheart can have the ultimate date night: appetizers, buffet and dessserts by Jasper’s, dancing to live music by the band Fingerprints, two drink tickets, admission to exclusive art and photography exhibits at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center, photos and even a take-home gift to remember the evening by. Individual tickets start at $75, couples are $150 and a ticket for a couple with up to three children for the Valentine’s Camp is $200.


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Photo by US Mission Korea/Creative Commons

A Celebration of Love & Art

RISE UP Don’t miss a tip-off as the Mean Green leap into action in pursuit of another winning season. Come experience next level game as this year’s team lights up the court and McConnell Tower.