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Make a Difference in 2015

Make a Difference in 2015

Take a Book and Leave a Book

Little Free Library Comes to Argyle

The North Texas Book Festival, Inc. is promoting the Little Free Library in Argyle. The NTBF, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that encourages literacy and raises funds for school libraries, public libraries, and literacy programs in Denton County.  The Little Free Library, a national organization, also promotes literacy and the love of reading.

When Argyle resident Karen Kiel contacted Lynn Sheffield Simmons, founder of the North Texas Book Festival, with the idea of Argyle residents exchanging books through the Little Free Library, Lynn received the NTBF board members approval to endorse the project and to pay the membership fee for 10 Little Free Libraries.  The Little Free Library membership includes brochures, a wooden plaque/sign made of reclaimed wood from 100-year-old barns in the heart of Wisconsin’s Amish country and the sign reads Little Free Library along with a membership number.  The membership also includes a dot on the United States map on the Little Free Library web site showing where the library is located.

Dave and Kathy Salisbury of The Real Estate Station on U.S. Highway 377 and Dallas Street volunteered to erect the first Little Free Library.  The North Texas Book Festival, Inc. donated the membership and Karen’s husband, John Kiel, designed the Little Free Library donating it to the North Texas Book Festival, Inc.
The Little Free Library will be put up at the side of the Real Estate Station on Dallas Street.  The two-shelf structure will hold adult books-mysteries, romance, history, cookbooks, and different genres on the bottom shelf, and children’s books on the top shelf.  Those wanting to read a particular book or books return one for each one taken.

“We were honored when we were asked to be the first location for the Little Free Library in Argyle.  Without a library in town this is the perfect venue for reading and exchanging books.  Promoting literacy at a time when “hand held technology” vies for our attention reading is so important for children and adults alike.  We welcome people to participate in exchanging books here at The Real Estate Station, and even relax on our outdoor patio if it’s a nice day.  We always have free drinks!  Being Argyle residents ourselves and owning a business in town drives our passion to give back to the community and make Argyle the best place to live!” said Dave and Kathy Salisbury, owners of The Real Estate Station.

The North Texas Book Festival, Inc. is accepting book donations and is asking residents to volunteer to help with the Little Free Library.  Residents who would like to design their own and erect it on their property or business, or hire John Kiel to build one, please contact Lynn Sheffield Simmons at 940-464-3368 for more information. Patty Smith is the Program Coordinator.

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Twisting Balloons Into Joy

Twisting Balloons Into Joy

by Janet Sever Hull

On any given night or weekend, balloon artist Al Curlett can be found working an event almost anywhere in the DFW Metroplex.  The Denton resident and owner of Big Al’s Totally Twisted Balloons, says he does balloon art because he loves “meeting and bringing joy to other people.”

Al brings his talent to private parties as well as to businesses and community events. You might have seen him at: Brookshire’s, the Texas Motor Speedway, Colonial Country Club, Dillard’s, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, the Ranch of Lonesome Dove, corporate parties, nursing homes, churches, schools, birthday parties, class reunions, the North Texas Book Festival, and many other community events in North Texas.

Al says the best part about being a balloon artist is he’s always around people who are having fun and he gets to be a part of it.  “Every party is a special day for someone.  My job is to make the party special for them.”

He learned the art of balloon modelling or twisting, years ago by chance when his wife, who was a post-intensive care nurse, was working weekends.  To be near her, Al hand-carved a dummy named Norton and developed a ventriloquist act to entertain patients in the hospital where she worked. Next, he learned to do magic tricks for the kids and then one of the moms suggested that he learn to twist balloons.

Al bought some books and started with the basics…dogs and swords.  He attended a balloon twisters’ convention in Austin where he learned more complex designs and became aware of some of the great balloon twisters such as Don Caldwell, Ken Stillman, and John Homes who were doing incredible things with balloons.  Al learned the concepts of twisting then took it to the next level and created his own unique designs.
Al’s balloon repertoire currently includes 42 kinds of hats and 80 more figures which he can twist from memory.  He uses 17 different colors for his balloon creations and says that adults most often request hats or roses.  When he is working a children’s event, girls most often want flowers or butterflies and boys ask for swords.  Al has even created balloon art from pictures people have brought to him.

He says adults appreciate the art behind the finished product and have a lot of fun and get a kick out of it.  “Kids are surprised and happy when they ask for something and it really looks like what they wanted.”

Nancy and Eric Fehrenbacher first met Al in 2005 when Nancy was pregnant with their oldest child.  They would go into Luby’s to eat and would see Al twisting balloons for patrons young and old.  After their son was born, they continued to eat at Luby’s whenever Al was working and they were such regulars that he began saving them a table.  A friendship developed between them and at some point, Nancy invited Al to their home for dinner.

Al calls Nancy and Eric his good friends and “original groupies” because they kept coming to see him.  Nancy says they were “drawn to Al because he was so friendly and down to earth.  He does fantastic work and you feel happy to be around him because he’s so interesting and he works hard to brighten a person’s day.”

Luby’s closed their Denton location in 2009, so now the Fehrenbacher family goes to CiCi’s Pizza to see their friend “the balloon guy” in action.  “But we only go if Al is working,” says Nancy.

Al has the soul of an artist, and his creativity isn’t just limited to balloon art.  In his spare time, he creates beautifully hand-carved wood pieces as well as stained glass lamp shades.  His home is filled with his beautiful creations and his fun and lively spirit.

If you would like to hire Al Curlett for your party or event, he can be reached at 940-300-7676.

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Come Together With Nature

Come Together With Nature

Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center

Experience 2,900 acres of landscape as diverse as it is beautiful, where the Elm Fork of the Trinity River and Clear Creek come together. It’s also where colorful wildflower prairies mesh with waterways lined by a canopy of towering cottonwoods. Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center; where the natural community comes together with nature lovers in our community.

The history of the Clear Creek area is a long and colorful one. In 1883, the Denton County Commissioner’s Court purchased 334 acres of the land that now makes up the Clear Creek Natural Heritage Area (CCNHA) to become the Denton County poor farm. The land was sold at auction in 1948 and, in 1959, the Texas Legislature created the Clear Creek Watershed Authority to sponsor the construction of flood control dams on the tributaries of Clear Creek. Today, the City of Denton leases the land from the Army Corps of Engineers.  The City operates and maintains the 2,900 acres with the goal of promoting environmental citizenship through nature experiences, education and research programs, and conservation and restoration projects.

Clear Creek offers the opportunity for multiple age groups to interact with nature and learn about the ecology of our region. It’s a year-round destination for viewing native plants and animals in their natural environment.  Besides the human species, you’ll see other species like the armadillo,great egret, coyote, white-tailed deer, water lilies, snowy primrose wildflower, and cottonwood trees, just to name a few.

Visits to CCNHA have been integrated into the science curriculum for all DISD 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade classes, hosting more than 5,500 students annually. UNT, TWU and NCTC classes regularly meet on site to do projects and conduct research. You’ll also see volunteers from the Elm Fork Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists guiding hikes, building trails, monitoring bluebird boxes and helping to preserve and enhance the habitat for all species to enjoy. With over five miles of trails for hiking, you can experience a variety of ecosystems; from wetlands to bottomland hardwood forests to upland prairies, the diversity of nature is abundant.

Saturday, June 6th is National Trails Day at CCNHA from 8:30 a.m. – 2p.m. Discover, learn about, and celebrate trails while participating in outdoor activities, clinics, and trail stewardship projects.  Archery, geocaching and a trail run are only a few of the free activities the entire family can enjoy! Also that same day is the Crazy Coyote 5.4K & 7-mile Trail Run, Butterfly Activity with Explorium Denton, and hiking all day.

Join us for one of our Junior Master Naturalist Camps in the month of June. Campers will enjoy a unique natural science and outdoor experience at CCNHA with Certified Elm Fork Chapter Texas Master Naturalists. Each day will include nature study, themed crafts and outdoor activities. Each day kids must bring a sack lunch and water, and should wear closed-toe shoes, long pants sunscreen and insect repellant. Register online at or call 940-349-7275. Fee is $65 per class week.  Visit for dates and details.

Photography by Angilee Wilkerson

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Vacations Then and Now

by Carolyn Adams

My grandchildren called me this week to tell me they are going to Disneyland on vacation this summer.  Their vacations consist of places like Disneyland, the beach in California, a cabin in the mountains near Tahoe, and other exciting kid-friendly destinations.

When I was a girl my family lived in Arizona until I was 12, but our extended family and roots were here in Texas.  Every summer we took a family vacation to the Motherland.  The trip usually consisted of my mom and dad and the first five of my eight siblings.  (The other three weren’t born yet.)  Sometimes it would just be my mom & my grandmother with the five of us.

We would pile into a four door car with no air conditioning.  Can you imagine today taking a trip with five kids under the age of 10 in the summertime, on what was then a 24-hour trip?  Hard to believe the actual trip was almost as much fun as what we did after we arrived, but it was.

Those trips were an adventure along the familiar Hwy 80.  I remember we sang a lot of songs and told stories to pass the time.  My grandmother was a great story-teller and she kept us very entertained when she came along.  We made a lot of bathroom and lunch stops at roadside parks.  I remember the best baloney (not bologna, but “baloney”) sandwiches, and Borden’s chocolate milk, and we always had homemade chocolate chip cookies mother had baked for days and packed in Tupperware for our trip.  There was so much excitement in that car as we progressed on our journey.  We knew we were making progress when we began to see the Indian hogans and bead stores along the road in the deserts of New Mexico.  And then when we got to West Texas and began seeing oil wells pumping, we knew we were about half way there.  Driving down Ranger Hill meant we were getting close to the next major landmark, the huge railroad station in Fort Worth.  My daddy worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad as a telegrapher so train stations always intrigued us.  But when we spied the Red Flying Horse on the then tallest building in Dallas, there was a palpable feeling of excitement as we knew we were just two and half hours from our final destination – Grandma & Granddaddy Bailey’s and Mama & Papa Jones’, in our “Zion”, better known as Gilmer, Texas.

I will always remember one trip in particular with my mother and grandmother.  Keep in mind my mother was a very cautious driver and she didn’t like driving in tight places like two-lane bridges and the dreaded streets of downtown Dallas.  All those narrow streets, tall buildings and traffic absolutely terrified her.  But our annual trek to Texas wouldn’t happen if she didn’t drive us there that year since my daddy couldn’t go.

Somewhere between Weatherford and Dallas we crossed a two lane bridge that was fairly long.  There was an eighteen wheeler behind us and because Mother was fearful driving across that bridge, I’m sure she wasn’t going very fast.  Suddenly the truck began to blow his horn at her and she was furious that he was wanting her to go faster.  “What is the matter with that idiot?  Surely he is not going to try to pass me on this dangerous bridge,” she cried.  And then she looked in her rear-view mirror where she had a backseat full of children turned around backwards in the seat pumping their arms up and down with the universal sign to a trucker to honk his horn and giggling away because the truck driver was complying.  She was ready to strangle us but we loved the fact we had made a trucker blow his horn.  That did not set a good tone for our trip as we approached Dallas.  Let me tell you, we kids were told in no uncertain terms we couldn’t do anything but breathe as we went through Dallas.  No talking, no arguing, no poking, no nothing.  And most assuredly no trying to get truck drivers to blow their horns.  There had better just be dead silence through downtown Dallas.  And we knew she meant it – so we ONLY breathed.

What we did on vacation after we got to East Texas, I doubt my grandchildren have ever done, nor ever will.  We roamed through woods with our cousins, built pretend houses with rooms outlined with pine straw, swung on grapevines across creeks like Tarzan, skipped rocks across ponds, and climbed to the top of Enoch Mountain, which was really a small hill but you could see for miles around from the very top.  We played in hay barns and jumped out of lofts, saw snakes slithering through grasses in pastures, and one summer my granddaddy acquired a jenny (which is a female donkey) that we rode for hours on end.  We slept on pallets made on the floors of our grandparent’s houses and cousins’ homes.  We were up at the crack of dawn, actually heard roosters crow, and ate fresh eggs we gathered ourselves from the hen houses.  My grandma & granddaddy had a paper route for the Longview Morning Journal and we each got a turn going on their collection route with them.  They actually went to people’s house to collect the monthly fees for their newspapers in those days.  We looked forward to our turn which always included a stop at Rutledge Store for a Barq’s Root Beer or a Grapette soda pop and a Peanut Pattie.

It’s funny what kids remember about vacations.  I doubt my grandchildren’s vacations costing thousands of dollars will be any more memorable than mine as a child that were made on a shoestring and a prayer having adventures that cost absolutely nothing.  And I doubt my mother thought that one particular trip with the honking trucker and scary drive through downtown Dallas would leave a lasting impression on any of our minds.  But it did.  When it comes right down to it, what makes a family vacation memorable is family.  And I was a lucky girl when it came to family.

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Twilight Tunes Back for 22nd Season

Twilight Tunes Back for 22nd Season

by Janet Sever Hull

The 2015 season of Denton’s Twilight Tunes kicked off on April 23rd and will run through July 2nd.  This free concert series at the Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square lawn is presented every Thursday evening from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  (There will also be a bonus, 4th of July morning concert at 10:00 a.m. after the parade.)  Twilight Tunes ends in early July because it simply gets too hot for the bands to play.

This fun event which is put on by the Denton Main Street Association with support from several sponsors, was started in 1994 by Denton resident and musician, Julie Glover as a way of getting people to visit the downtown area.  Aided by word of mouth and social media, over the years Twilight Tunes has become a popular Thursday night destination for both Denton residents and visitors.

As Denton has grown with more businesses and people moving into the downtown area, attendance at the event has increased.  Most Thursday evenings produce a concert crowd of 400 – 450 people.  The location of the event rotates each week between the east and west sides of the courthouse lawn and bathroom facilities are provided in the basement of the courthouse.

According to Denton Main Street Event Coordinator, Christine Gossett, “Twilight Tunes is a very grassroots event.  It’s relaxed and casual and the bands don’t even have a stage.  They play on the sidewalk.  That atmosphere is why so many people love it.”

In the early days of Twilight Tunes, bands had to be begged to come out and play.  Now, according to Gossett, there are more local Denton bands wanting to play at the courthouse on Thursday nights than they can schedule.  Different bands are invited to perform every week and most genres are represented during the concert series.  The first priority for choosing bands is that they are Denton-area musicians, and popular bands are invited back to play for the next season.

People of all ages and demographics bring their lawn chairs or blankets and come to the Square on Thursday nights to hear the music. Attendees are encouraged to enjoy their dinner and the music of some of the best local bands as the sun sets over Denton’s historic courthouse.  Local restaurants sell carry out dinners to event goers, and for some concerts, restaurant sponsors have sold food on the courthouse lawn.
In addition to having sponsors for the event, there is a bucket brigade where buckets are passed among the concert goers every Thursday to collect donations which help to cover costs.  Concerts are held rain or shine and are moved indoors on nights with inclement weather.

Gossett says there is a lot of support for the concert series from local businesses and from Denton Main Street Association Board Members.  “Twilight Tunes is a community effort and a good way to bring people downtown to celebrate the art element of Denton.”

Because of Denton’s rich musical tradition and the immense popularity of the event, the Denton Main Street Association is adding a similar, one month long concert series in October when the weather is cooler again.  This one will also be held on the Square but on Sunday afternoons from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

For more information about Twilight Tunes please visit, and select the Events tab.

East Side of Lawn:
June 4    The Bird Dogs – Country
Feature Sponsor: Mellow Mushroom
June 11    The Raised Right Men – Classic Country
Feature Sponsor: East Side Social Club
June 18    Maylee Thomas – Blues/Rock
Feature Sponsor: Beth Marie’s Ice Cream
June 25    Bonnie & Nick Norris Band –
Feature Sponsor: Paschall’s Bar
July 2    Boom Bachs – Hip Hop
Feature Sponsor: Abbey Inn

West Side of Lawn:
July 4    10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  JR Byrd  – Pop/Funk
Feature Sponsor: Jupiter House

Event takes place rain or shine. Please check the website or Facebook page, Downtown Denton – Denton Main Street Association, for any schedule and other event details, including changes to location due to rain or inclement weather.

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Unintentional Drowning

Get the Facts

Area lakes are higher than they have been in many years. Water is a great way to beat the summer heat but remembering safety in and around the water is critical. Too many precious lives are lost in area lakes each summer season due to drowning.

Factors that influence drowning risk

•    Lack of Barriers:  Barriers, such as pool fencing, prevent young children from gaining access to the pool area without the caregivers’ awareness. A four-sided isolation fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s risk of drowning 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.

•    Supervise When in or Around Water. Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool children should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present. Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water (such as bathtubs, swimming pools, even buckets), and even in the presence of lifeguards. Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.

•    Location: People of different ages drown in different locations. For example, most children ages 1-4 drown in home swimming pools. The percentage of drownings in natural water settings, including lakes, rivers and oceans, increases with age. More than half of fatal and nonfatal drownings among those 15 years and older occurred in natural water settings.

•    Failure to Wear Life Jackets:  In 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard received reports for 4,604 boating incidents; 3,153 boaters were reported injured, and 672 died. Most (72%) boating deaths that occurred were caused by drowning, with 88% of victims not wearing life jackets. Use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. This is important regardless of the distance to be traveled, the size of the boat, or the swimming ability of boaters; life jackets can reduce risk for weaker swimmers too.

•    Alcohol Use: Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation, and about one in five reported boating deaths. Alcohol influences balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat. Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.

•    Seizure Disorders: For persons with seizure disorders, drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death, with the bathtub as the site of highest drowning risk. If you or a family member has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water, including swimming pools. Consider taking showers rather than using a bath tub for bathing. Wear life jackets when boating.

•    Swimming skills help. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent unsupervised access, are still important.

•    Seconds count – learn CPR. CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to save lives and improve outcomes in drowning victims. The more quickly CPR is started, the better the chance of improved outcomes. In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.

•    Air-Filled or Foam Toys are not safety devices. Don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings”, “noodles”, or inner-tubes, instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

Statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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