Marvelous mutts and dynamite dunks are on tap for the 86th annual North Texas Fair and Rodeo.
The event, a grand mix of music, games, rides, livestock, rodeo fun and a parade, kicks off at 6 p.m. today from the North Texas Fairgrounds, 2217 N. Carroll Blvd.
Fair officials try to bring in fresh and exciting shows each year, and executive director Glenn Carlton said that this year it is the Marvelous Mutts and the TNT Dunk Squad.
Marvelous Mutts is a dog show that showcases canine athletes’ agility and speed with flying discs and obstacle courses.
The TNT Dunk Squad comprises Keith Cousino and Brian Smith, both former members of the Bud Light Daredevils. The duo formed the dunk squad and has entertained audiences across the country by utilizing trampolines in acrobatic slam dunks.
“The [shows] are something new, something for all ages,” Carlton said. “I think the dunk squad will really appeal to young teens. We have all types of stuff for little kids, but we needed something for the older kids.”
Carlton works every year on efforts to keep people coming back to the fair and not just relying on its name or annual occurrence to draw people through the gates.
“That’s why we do these changes to these attractions — we want it different,” he said. “We’re doing something right, because we’re growing. We set attendance records again last year and we hope to again this year.”
Carlton said the fair saw 150,000 people over nine days in 2013.
“We try to expand our advertising each year,” he said. “I think we’re reaching a lot of new customers.”
The annual parade for the North Texas Fair and Rodeo returns and is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday. Parade participants will start lining up at Denton High School at 8:30 a.m.
Denton’s own Olympian Jordan Malone will be the parade’s grand marshal this year.
Anyone is invited to participate, said parade chairwoman Susan Schoenthal, adding that she expects all sorts of vehicles including cars, bicycles, floats and trailers.
“It’s usually about 100 different riding clubs, church groups ... usually Wells Fargo has the wagon in [the parade], antique cars, sometimes car clubs participate, cheerleading groups, just all different kinds,” Schoenthal said.
It’s free to participate and there will be prizes for different categories — $100 for first place, $50 for second and a prize for best overall participant.
The parade route will run from Denton High on Crescent Street to Carroll Boulevard, where it will turn south to West Parkway Street. The parade will head east to Elm Street before heading south toward the Square. It then will head east on Hickory Street before heading north on Locust Street to Congress Street and west to Carroll. From there, it turns north to Crescent and returns to the high school.
Carlton said he expects the sounds of the fair will help blow the gates open this year.
“I think opening day is going to be big this year because the Randy Rogers Band is playing that day, and he always draws big crowds for us,” he said. “Cody Johnson will be a big night on Wednesday; Josh Abbott [Band] on Thursday is going to be big. The last Saturday is going to be Tracy Lawrence.”
He said the acts on the second stage are gaining popularity through radio play, which will bring in people as well.
“It’s the biggest music lineup we have ever had — over 31 different artists,” he said.
The music adds another demographic, along with what the dunk team and acrobatic dogs bring in, Carlton said.
“We’re reaching out to different demographics with how we hire and who we hire,” he said.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.