Denton At Its Best
Noon on Sunday: Tom Carrigan pauses as the chiming of clocks fills his antique shop on the Square in downtown Denton. He furrows his brow and fiddles with his glasses as he examines a "treasure" a customer has brought in. It's busy for a Sunday so he motions to his wife Shirley to keep an eye on the store while he scrutinizes the ornate oak clock before him. "It could be German, but I believe it's French,” he begins, excitement in his voice. "It's around the turn of the century. The way the stack is built, I'm almost certain it's French."
The customer, intrigued, asks if the clock is worth repairing. Tom smiles and delivers the good news: "This piece could be worth several thousand." That's what everyone with an antique in the attic wants to hear—and sometimes does—at the Annual Arts, Antiques & Auto Extravaganza in September. The event, now in its 11th year, draws upward of 7,000 people who treasure craftsmanship and anything old, whether it's a Georgian clock from the 1750s, a 1957 Chevy fastback, or the Square itself with its Courthouse dating to the late 1800s. The daylong event features antique appraisals, arts and crafts from local artists, and guys showing off their classic hot rods, custom cars and motorcycles. "People come out to get in touch with the past again, says organizer Christine Gossett, who works with the event sponsor, the Denton Main Street Association, to ensure there is something for kids as well as the adults. "It's just a fun day for getting out and spending time with friends and family."
Bob Montgomery and wife Kit King have been festival fans since the beginning. They both love the old cars, but Kit admits she is always on the hunt for jewelry, too. "The festival appeals to us on different levels. We have always been excited about the cars. It takes you back to being a kid again," says Bob, who is president of the Denton Main Street Association. "I love the jewelry," says Kit, "and last year they had some really nice silverwork and wire-wrapped pieces." Besides the cars, they agree that the Square is Denton at its best. "It's been around a long time and it's not faux. It's the real thing," says Bob.
Did we mention the cars? They are the big draw of the weekend, with a preview showing Friday night and judging around the Square Saturday. Bob is in his element with all the colorful '57 Chevys and '65 Mustangs, vintage Corvettes and GTOs, as well as restored pickups and motorcycles. "I had a 1948 Club Coupe and the nostalgia really hits you," he says. Collectors and enthusiasts return year after year to admire each other's ride and exchange shoptalk about horsepower, make, model and the million-dollar question: Who has the fastest car?
Participants come from North Texas, East Texas, southern Oklahoma, the Dallas/Fort Worth area and even El Paso. Car and motorcycle clubs make up a big part of the show, but anyone can enter. Nothing keeps them away, not even wet weather. "We had a guy in a convertible antique car that showed his vehicle and drove away wearing a scuba mask and snorkel," says Christine. "It really summed up the spirit of our participants."
Lavonda Lancaster, coordinator of the auto show for the past two years, gets a kick out of talking to the car owners and seeing them win. "The best part for me is presenting trophies and shaking their hand," she says. About 200 car and motorcycle owners register each year. This year, for the first time, judges will choose the "Best of Show" winner in both the car and motorcycle categories. Prizes include trophies for winners in over 25 car and motorcycle classes combined, with a cash prize for "Best of Show." On preview night, Friday, the public can vote for a "People's Choice" award. "Last year we did a preview night and we had a really good turnout," says Lavonda.
While Bob lingers with the cars around the Square, Kit zeros in on her passion—handcrafted jewelry. A metal smith herself, she enjoys looking at the work of other craftsmen. Participants at the fair are usually local artists who bring their artwork, paintings, jewelry and handbags to sell. Christine says organizers carefully vet the vendors. "Last year we had the OXIDE Gallery, located in downtown Denton, participate," says Christine. "The photography was incredible and the handmade jewelry was so different. Everything was high quality and it really elevated the arts and crafts experience." OXIDE Gallery owner Warren Hooper says his artists are looking forward to showing their art in several mediums ranging from photography to oil and watercolor paintings and more this year.
Need money to buy something new? Rummage around for something old to sell. "Attic Treasures" is the Antique Roadshow of Denton, with at least five antique appraisers specializing in sports memorabilia, vintage clothes, silver, china and cut glass. Tom and Shirley, who opened W. Douglas Antiques on the Square in 2006, are doing appraisals for the second year. They head to Europe each year, looking for finds in London and Paris, as well as the small towns. After a 23-year career with American Airlines (and a stint playing drums with The Chessmen in the '60s), Tom discovered the art of repairing antique clocks is more exciting than flying airplanes. It's a skill he's acquired with the help of 40-year master teacher and friend Jack Blanchard.
Shirley has a good eye for spotting what's authentic and what's not. It comes, she says, from reading, studying and hanging around this stuff for years. The store, where Tom & Shirley do appraisals for Arts, Antiques & Autos weekend, boasts a rare find—a 1700s French Bonnetiere, or cupboard made for bonnets. She loves talking about the history of her pieces. In the front window is a 1750s Georgian 30-hour clock that Shirley says was made by King George's official clockmaker James Lister. "It was nice to meet the people (end…)