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Denton's first Harvest Moon Tattoo Expo

Dozens of men and women covered head to toe in ink walked through the doors of the Embassy Suits by Hilton Denton Convention Center. The sound of buzzing tattoo guns filled the room and a sea of colored hair and piercings crowded around dark colored booths. Many were watching popular artists give people their fifth, 10th or even 50th tattoo.

The city of Denton hosted its first Harvest Moon Tattoo Expo over the weekend, and saw more than 100 artists both local and national.

Harvest Moon Tattoo Expo

“At least 30 are from out of town, which is about 25% of our tattoo artists,” said Bethany Brockett, tattoo artist at Driftwood Studio in Denton, on Friday. “We have about 120 artists throughout the weekend.”

Many artists came from all over the country to show their skill, as well as attract business.

“We wanted to come and show off some of our work,” said Dalton Derks, tattoo apprentice at Dark Mark in Mansfield. “We’re more of a generalist shop and we can take care of almost anything anybody wants.”

Several of the artists would offer free merchandise, candy and games to people attending or sell other products from their stores.

Along with vendors, the convention also included events such as tattoo contests. Contestants strutted on stage, displaying their arms, legs and other various tattooed body parts to be judged by local tattoo shop owners and employees.

“People enter in some sort of complete tattoo that they have on their body,” said Brockett. “The judges will score them on the basis of anything and everything, such as the line work and creativity.”

Contest categories included Strangest, Job Stopper, Japanese, Texas Themed and many more. Hand-sculpted trophies by Adrian Novo were awarded to first-, second- and third-place contestants.

Some of the placing tattoos included an alien slurping up pizza, a temple surrounded by flowers and another described as “Sailor Moon meets He-Man.”

“I was really impressed with that last girl,” said Brandon Smith, contest judge and artist at Classic Tattoo in San Marcos. “I liked that Texas pin-up meets alien design, it was really well done and the colors were super sharp. It was very well executed.”

Winner of the Japanese-themed tattoo contest, Ray Corson, explains the inspiration for her dragon tattoo.

“I went to Scott Ellis in Austin, he works at Triple Crown Tattoo,” said Corson. “I just knew that I wanted something that looked tough and he was really good at Japanese styles. In the West, dragons are seen as a destructive force, but in Asian culture they’re wise, peaceful beings.”

Themes of the tattoo contests changed each day with new judges, including special contests such as “Tattoo of the Day” where judges decided the best tattoo that was started and finished that same day, and a final “Best of Show” at the end of the weekend.

“We’re so excited to be part of it,” said Donna Joseph, expo host. “We’re just making sure the staff, the tattoo artists are taken care of and everyone’s having a good time watching people get tattooed.”

Tailgater of the Week: Fraternity B.Y.X. supports the Mean Green

The University of North Texas football team soared to a 45-3 victory over the University of Texas at San Antonio during their rivalry matchup Saturday evening at Apogee Stadium. While the heat and humidity staved off most of the general public tailgaters prior to Saturday’s game, fraternities, sororities and student supporters alike arrived in droves to support the Mean Green.

Perched along the student tailgate section at Apogee Stadium, Greek letters denoting which social groups were in attendance on Saturday could be seen standing beside each other along student row. Toward the end of the section, Beta Upsilon Chi, a UNT Christian-based fraternity, is recognized by their letters which readout “B.Y.X.,” as members mingled about behind.

B.Y.X. member Caleb Reagor, a senior chemistry and pre-med student at UNT, has tailgated home games at UNT since the second semester of his freshman year. Today, Reagor is tasked with preparing a traditional grilled tailgate medley of hamburgers and hot dogs. Sometimes there will be fajitas, Reagor said between burger flips, but that it usually requires “a little more work.”

Since Reagor started tailgating, the experience has been better when the team is doing well, he said. In addition, that the team’s success translates into added benefits like an enhanced campus culture and greater school spirit.

“It’s definitely more popular [to tailgate] when the team is doing well, because more people want to go to the games,” Reagor said. “It definitely contributes to the atmosphere and culture of the school, promoting camaraderie and people actually wanting to be a part of having more spirit.”

B.Y.X., whose UNT membership has grown in recent years, were previously not a part of the Interfraternity Council at first, Reagor said, which resulted in smaller tailgate outings ahead of UNT home games. But after his first semester with the fraternity B.Y.X. joined the IFC, which Reagor says allowed them greater opportunity to interact with social groups on campus.

“We’ve had a lot more interactions with sororities, other fraternities and groups like that,” Reagor said. “Which is great, because it’s allowed us to improve our presence on campus and to try to spread the gospel.”

21-year-old senior Alexis Brown, an applied behavior analysis major and member of the Sigma Phi Lambda Christian Sorority, transferred to UNT from Louisiana State University nearly two years ago. Brown says she has attended and tailgated almost every home game at UNT since.

For Brown, the starkest contrast between her experiences at LSU and UNT as a student-tailgater is the essence of community, which Brown said she discovered when arriving at Apogee.

“LSU? Yeah, they’re a big family… but it’s more like party city and you see a lot of drunk people around,” Brown said. “Here? Your family is O.K. to come out to tailgate and it not be a toxic place where you wouldn’t want your child to be. Everyone is really nice and welcoming.”

UNT sophomore Brylan Beard, who studies kinesiology, has been attending tailgating events as a member of the B.Y.X. fraternity since joining last year. Beard, 19, acknowledged that, in light of a growing student population and the football team’s success in recent years, there is a greater expectation for the Eagles to perform. Since UNT’s 1-11 record season in 2015, their program has amassed a record of 25 wins and 19 loses under head football coach Seth Littrell.

Beard said that what keeps him coming out and attending tailgating events is the opportunity to interact and socialize with his friends and fraternity brothers. “That’s why I come,” Beard said.

The UNT football team will play their next home game against University of Houston at Apogee Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m.

Kara Dry/DRC 

Fingerprints performs at the Denton Blues Festival on Sunday at Quakertown Park in Denton.

Gas wells: Science and setbacks

Even for the less involved among us, gas well regulations are beginning to float back toward the surface of discussion around Denton.

In order to address specific questions about personal and environmental safety, the Denton Drilling Awareness Group organized an info session at Denton’s North Branch Library Sunday afternoon.

Zacariah Hildenbrand, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington, was the afternoon’s primary speaker. Through his research with the Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation, Hildebrand has taken extensive samples and analyzed information about natural gas production across the state.

The presentation came just over one week after the Denton ISD school board decided unanimously to close three of the six gas wells on the Guyer High School campus, and in the midst of City Council reevaluation of gas well ordinances.

As of Sunday afternoon, it seemed that council members, three of whom were present, leaned toward a doubling of the current reverse setback requirement.

If that were to pass, no new homes could be built within 500 feet of a gas well’s base. The change would significantly impact planned development near Hunter and Cole ranches, where developers are proposing 15,000 new homes near many old gas wells and miles of high-pressure, underground pipelines.

When asked by a member of the audience whether he would consider 500 feet a safe distance, given all the data he’s gathered and studied, Hildenbrand replied simply, “No, no I would not.

“I mean, I think that, at a bare minimum, it’s 1,500 feet, 2,000.”

Sunday afternoon, he cited 11 scientific studies that recommended setbacks of 1,500-8,202 feet.

Paul Meltzer, a city council member, made clear during a question-and-answer portion of the session that he was skeptical about the need for such a large setback.

His questions, which boarded on argumentative, relied upon what is an ideal solution as opposed to what is politically feasible, referencing a study he’d seen that focused specifically on Fort Worth and called for a setback of only 600 feet.

While none of the studies listed by Hildenbrand were that geographically close to Denton, he said the setback limit deals primarily with air quality, so geology plays a relatively small role.

Hildenbrand was often less direct when faced by questions probing the political and legislative implications of certain proposals. When challenged on his stance that oil and gas industries can be made cleaner and more efficient instead of kept increasingly obsolete in favor of renewable energy, he painted himself as the pragmatist, opting for the lesser of the evils.