While the rest of Denton was decked out in red, white and blue for Independence Day, Anna Haas and Patricia Serrano sported orange.
Haas and Serrano — the Fresh Traveler team — are one of five teams participating in the Best of the Road contest by Rand McNally and USA Today. And their team color is orange.
The team is traveling about 6,000 miles to the six cities in the running for the most fun town in America, and Denton is one of the finalists. The other four categories are most beautiful, most patriotic, friendliest and best for food.
Because the pair’s visit coincided with Denton’s Fourth of July Yankee Doodle Parade, the city incorporated them into the fun by having them ride around the Square on a pedicab.
After the parade, Mayor Mark Burroughs gave Serrano and Haas keys to the city in the form of necklaces.
“We make our own fun here,” Burroughs said.
Serrano said that gives the team and Denton something in common because she and Haas like to make their own fun.
Serrano, 28, who grew up in Bangkok, was planning to participate in the contest with her boyfriend before they broke up. She called Haas, 27, her former roommate from their time at Emerson College in Boston, a few days before the start of the contest and asked her to join in on the cross-country road trip.
“I dropped everything in my life,” Haas said, adding that she quit her job for the “once-in-a-lifetime trip.”
Serrano, who is a travel blogger at freshtraveler.com, said it’s been her dream to do a cross-country road trip.
“She didn’t know what a hay bale was,” Haas said.
“I grew up in Thailand,” Serrano said. “We have rice paddies. We don’t have hay bales.”
Serrano and Haas also visited Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream & Soda Fountain on the Square to try an ice cream created just for them.
The pair was told to use their wildest imagination when deciding what should go in the ice cream, Haas said. They came up with jalapeno, curry and coconut.
“We were kind of joking,” she said, surprised it tasted so good.
Serrano said it tasted amazing.
“It tastes just like my mom’s curry but cold,” she said.
Margaret Rich, the general manager of Beth Marie’s and the one who helped come up with the creation, said she plans to tweak it a bit and continue to sell it.
After having been in Denton only a few hours, Serrano and Haas said the city was welcoming. Everybody is energetic and vibrant, Haas said.
“Every town has its own vibe, its own definition of fun,” she said.
The team left Washington, D.C., on June 23 and headed to its first destination — Corning, N.Y.
Then they went to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio, which Haas described as “quirky, shameless fun,” Santa Claus, Ind., which she described as “Christmas all year,” and Delray Beach, Fla., which she described as “sophisticated, posh fun.”
Serrano agrees that each town has its own definition of fun.
“We are going to these towns and trying to see what each town’s fun is,” she said.
Haas and Serrano are being followed around by a video crew that will be putting together a Best of the Road segment for the Travel Channel to air at 7 p.m. July 25.
Following a party at Dan’s Silverleaf, the pair went horseback riding, attended a pool party and got a massage before Haas, a musician, sang “America the Beautiful” at the Kiwanis Fireworks Show at the University of North Texas’ Fouts Field.
Today, Haas will perform during Twilight Tunes on the Courthouse on the Square lawn from 6 to 8 p.m.
“I love meeting musicians,” Haas said. “I’m excited to meet some Denton musicians.”
After Denton, the team will drive to Buena Park, Calif., before arriving in Seattle on July 15 to decide which town was the most fun.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.