DAM Awards 2018: Dentonite of the Year

In the last breath of the 2017 DAM Awards, Mindy Ardent won the award for Dentonite of the Year. When she went up for her award she brought up the other nominees for the award along with others in the audience to show the faces of all the people who make up the fabric of Denton. The 2017 Dentonite of the Year showed that everyone there was a winner to someone and in the true spirit of a Dentonite, showed how our town constantly comes together. Whether it be artists, musicians, bartenders, restaurant owners, politicians, activists and more, there are so many individuals working from different corners of Denton trying to progress or preserve our town in some capacity. From the homegrown Dentonites to “I was just passing through and now I’m going to die here,” here are your 2018 Dentonite of the Year nominees.

Aaron "Catfish" Anttila (Elk River Sessions):

This past summer, 20 Denton musicians packed up and went to a cabin in the Ozarks near Elk River. In three days, the super-group contributed all their talents into one force of an album. Although many musicians were involved, it was Aaron Antilla who had the initial idea and made it come into fruition. He had the cabin in Southwest Missouri for some time and wanted to do this project for years. Teaming up with Chuck Crosswhite (Rock Lottery), John Williams, Michael Briggs (Civil Recording) and Denton Film Company, they brought it to life.

Anttila’s friend Tracie Batson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years ago and this was a way to support her journey.

 “The plan was always to bring Denton musicians together to create and record music at the cabin while benefitting our good friend Tracie Batson,” Antilla said. “What I wasn’t planning on was a feature length documentary.”

Besides the 20 musicians working on the album, they also filmed a documentary which had the cabin at full capacity. Around 50 people were there from film crew, to sponsors and cooks.

“It definitely felt like we were all leaving church camp on the last day. It’s been a very fun adventure,” Antilla said.

The documentary will be released soon and Antilla said they hope to record Volume 2 this summer with a whole new set of Denton musicians. Antilla banded together a community of people to not only help someone, but also created a special piece of work bursting with Denton talent.

Keely Briggs (District 2 Councilwoman):

Keely Briggs came to Denton to attend UNT and has since made it her mission to create change from the inside of government. She began her time as District 2 Councilwoman in May 2015 and is currently on her second term. She has served the city from her council seat and now takes a leap into the race for Texas Senate District 30 with an impressive track record.

“In her time as a public servant, Keely has established a reputation for a hands on approach to citizen representation, fighting cronyism and corruption, increasing government transparency and accountability, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public services, streamlining budgets and reducing tax burdens, protecting neighborhoods, protecting the rights of individuals and small businesses, advocating for common-sense environmental and public health protections, and improving public safety,” said Briggs’ team in an email statement.

She talks a good amount about the flaws she has seen in government and the steps she has taken to fix them. She has seen what works, and hopes to bring to the Texas Senate transparency, accountability, and her fight against corruption and waste. There is a reason the people of Denton have included Briggs on this list and it has to be in some part to the way she has represented her people.

Marcus "Milla Da Mayor" Washington  (Cash & Respect):

Marcus Washington has lived in Denton his whole life and has dedicate much of his time to elevating the talented artists in town, specifically a scene in Denton that gets little recognition. Everything from features, videos, photoshoots, collaborations, show bookings – Milla’s record company Cash & Respect is committed to amplifying the hip-hop scene.

“In 2017 we accomplished a lot and raised the bar on hip hop events in Denton. I love the growing music scene in Denton and all the different genres that help the scene as a whole,” Washington said. “It’s an honor to be the person I am for the people of this city. I look forward to many growing years and making thousands of dollars from what I love to do and to help many artists grow to bigger platforms.”

Washington’s mixtape along with a couple of other collaborators and contributors of Cash & Respect have been nominated for music categories. It’s safe to say Washington is expanding the way Denton sees music in Denton.

Rachel Weaver (Denton Community Market):

Rachel Weaver's face is one you can expect to see at multitude of places around town. She is everywhere. Mostly, becuase she is one of the amazing people in town who is always looking to improve and help the people of Denton. Having a major focus in environmental sustainability and health, Weaver's passion for the bettering of Denton radiates.

 She does work with Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center, KUZU, STEAMgrown Gardens, local art and music shows on top of contributing a bulk of her energy to the Denton Community Market.

 “Working with the diversity of local farmers, artists, bakers, food vendors, makers, musicians, small business owners, and Denton creatives at the Denton Community Market continues to be a fulfilling experience,” Weaver said.

In her time in Denton, she has been working day in and day out to connect people not only to their environment but to each other.

“I work with an amazing team of mentors, colleagues, and friends that foster a community of support,” Weaver said. “I hope to help make Denton a more sustainable and fulfilling place.”

The issues she dedicates herself to aren’t usually on the forefront of everyone’s mind, but Weaver has been putting in the time that has, along with her several other endeavors, made a noticed impact.

John Williams (Oak St. Drafthouse & East Side Denton):

John Williams is an integral part of the downtown community. Williams works at East Side Bar and is also the owner of Oak St. Drafthouse, two beloved spots behind the square. It is those who have planted themselves in these spots and around downtown who have noticed Williams love and passion for this town.

Williams said he was born in Denton but fell in love with Denton during his time at UNT.

He uses his position at these establishments to do tons of commendable work, always willing to help out anyone who needs a hand.

“This town is amazing at coming together and supporting other folks. Through local charities, local folks in need and just anything and everything that is needed businesses and Dentonites come together to help out,” Williams said. “I love helping out others in any way I can and along with many others on this list (Dentonite of the Year list) and many others in the community that do the same. This is what makes me proud to be a part of Denton and especially the Downtown Community.”

The pulse of Denton is in and around the square and its heart pumps through the loving, community-style bar scene that Williams has been a part of creating.

Header image photographed by. Stephanie Holloway
Header image layout designed by Cristopher Rodgers