From the early 1980s to 2007, the Delta Lodge, who call themselves “the party professionals,” organized the Fry Street fair. This event was an annual gathering for students and the community to share laughs, enjoy food and drinks, and dance to the melodies of local and regional bands. The fair was not only a happening which promoted good times for the attendees, it also showcased the sociocultural significance of the Fry Street area to the University of North Texas. This area has always been a home away from home for students.
Prior to the Fry Street Fair, this area, comprised of Fry, Hickory, and Mulberry Streets, was a hub for students. In the late forties and fifties, students could walk across campus to purchase clothing, school supplies, and other personal necessities from Fry Street businesses. If shopping was not on the agenda, North Texas students could gather with their dates to shares sodas at Hamilton Drug Store.
In the sixties and seventies, Fry Street transformed into a center for a new and growing sub-culture. Hippies, free spirits, and “long hairs” enjoyed visiting specialized shops such as the area independent book store, Clearlight Books, and the Head Shop. Then, students could grab some grub at Jim’s diner, the Flying Tomato, or Star’s restaurant. It was at this time that Fry Street garnered itself a new identity within the community. The area was a haven for sociocultural differences. It’s a place where one embraced their own identity while discovering the nuances of local counter-culture.
With the counter-cultural foundation of the seventies set firmly in the Fry Street area, the eighties brought with it the Delta Lodge and their frat house, the “Sammie house.” The first fair was the idea of Sigma Alpha Mu brothers (now alumni) David Biles, David Vied, and Micheal Sitrin. In their “Sammie house” on the corner of Oak and Fry Streets, the brothers decided to highlight the cultural focal point the area had become to the students as well as to the city of Denton. The first fair was straightforward. It was held on the fraternity property, featured six bands, and was attended by 1500 students and community members. This event, which served as a vehicle for the fraternity to give back to the community, was held until 2007. From booking local and regional bands to giving the local Fry Street businesses a fiscal boost, the Delta Lodge also donated money to the United Way of Denton, the Willis Library, and other local charities.
Fry Street has truly become home for UNT students. The area reflects the sociocultural ebb and flow of society, both local and national. Now, it’s a place for gathering over a strong cup of joe at 3am to cram before an 8am final, a place to grab a quick bite to eat during the noon hour, a place to buy books or art supplies, a place to view local art and murals, and a place just to people watch. But it is also a place of collective memory where ghosts of long-gone businesses and people linger in the air.
For additional information about the history of Fry Street:
- Visit the Special Collections Reading Room, Willis 437, to view The Fry Street neighborhood, 1977-1986: a photographic memoir
- Check out the February 16, 2007 issue of Scene in the Portal to Texas History, which features a cover story about Fry Street’s history
– by Emily Aparicio