#HomeGrownStories – Brittney Denning

Brittney Denning is the younger sister of our storyteller, Courtney Denning. Growing up, Courtney planned to travel the world and Brittney set her sights closer to home: Piqua. As they grew up, their perspectives changed. Brittney became the traveler. She has lived in big cities on the east and west coasts since graduating from Piqua High School. Brittney works as a designer at an architecture firm in Seattle, Washington. Courtney has stayed closer to their childhood home. She has lived in Ohio her entire life and recently moved back to Miami County. Courtney interviewed her sister to get a big city viewpoint on what it means to be Home Grown Great.

Her connection to Miami County:
I was born in Piqua and lived there until I went to college at the University of Cincinnati. My family and my childhood tie me to Miami County today. I have memories of growing up in Miami County, and lots of nostalgia for my childhood home.

Growing up in Miami County:
The Piqua Library was a big deal when we were growing up. We always went to the library for story hour with Nancy Spillane and did the summer reading program every year.

I loved the Fall Festival at Springcreek School and the Piqua Heritage Festival. I have so many memories from that weekend. They all blur together as far as what age I was at the time, but that was a big part of growing up. I loved learning how to throw a pot at the pottery tent. Ever since then, I’ve always thought “wouldn’t it be so cool to have a pottery wheel?” We also dipped candles and punched tin. We played corncob checkers in the Bob Evans tent. I remember dipping ears of corn into the melted butter bucket. You could ride the canal boat and visit the museum. I remember we spent a lot of time in the museum because it was air conditioned [laughs].

It was better than going to a fair. The Heritage Festival was one of the few times that our parents let us have a little bit of freedom. They were doing their thing, dipping ice cream at the PTA booth, and we got to run around with our friends. We didn’t have that freedom at the Miami County Fair.

During high school, I spent a lot of time running cross country and in marching band. Not to get into the Piqua-Troy rivalry, but something I remember from high school was the locker tags that we made. At the football games against Troy, the cheerleaders would cheer “Go Piqua! Beat Troy!” But we always thought that it sounded like “Go Piqua! Eat Roy!” So that’s what we put on our locker tags, “Go Piqua! Eat Roy!” [laughs]. I could talk for years about Science Olympiad! It was a big part of my time in junior high and high school.

Do you feel it’s possible to call more than one place “home?”
Anywhere that you live for a given amount of time you can consider home. I’ve lived in Piqua, Cincinnati, Columbus, Baltimore, Chicago, and Seattle. They’ve all been “home” whenever I’m there. It’s wherever you set up a place where you’re comfortable and it’s familiar.

I’ve had a lot of places be home, which can make phone conversations confusing. It was the most confusing when I was a student at UC. I would co-op for a period of months in different cities like Baltimore. When I’d talk to my parents on the phone and say that “I was “home” I would mean where I was living for co-op. But since Piqua is where I grew up, it’s home. Cincinnati is home because that’s where I lived while I was at school. They were all home.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
My first aspiration was to be in a rodeo. That was very short-lived and only when I was into horses when I was little [laughs]. The first time I rode a horse that idea died. Then I wanted to be a chef. And then I decided I wanted to be an architect. Once I went down that path it all started to make sense.

When I wanted to be a chef, I had this notebook that I would take to restaurants and make notes in. I would write things like “it’s too noisy” or “the music is too loud to have a conversation” or “it’s too dark.” I never mentioned anything about the actual food, it was always about the atmosphere. I think that’s why architecture is a good fit for me.

How did you end up studying architecture?
Science Olympiad first opened my eyes to architecture. I competed in an event where we built bridges out of balsa wood. They had to hold a certain amount of weight and not break. My dad told me that I could study architecture because I liked building these bridges. Then my seventh-grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Rapp, helped me too. Her husband was an architect so she would bring me his architectural magazines to look at. That’s when I started thinking about becoming an architect. People did say “you’re good at math and you’re good at art you should be an architect.” But those aren’t the only reasons that people become architects. Once I started pursuing that path though it seemed to be a good fit for me during high school and college.

What she loves most about Miami County:
My family! My teachers, classmates, friends, and family. These people connect me to Miami County even though I don’t live there. I miss the things that are no longer in Miami County. The events that aren’t held anymore and some of the schools I went to are no longer standing.

I love seeing that a lot of the towns in Miami County are reinvesting in themselves. I realized that Piqua was working hard to revitalize the downtown area when they renovated Fort Piqua Plaza. That was awesome and it’s wonderful that they put in the effort. The Mainstreet organizations in the towns are doing a lot and there are a lot of new businesses opening up. I’m amazed that all these stores are opening in these small towns. They seem like big city stores to me and they’re thriving. Antique stores, Can’t Stop Running, Pachamama Market — I’m glad to see that they’re doing so well.

Her favorite Miami County places, events and stores:
The R.I.P. Run was always a fun run around Halloween. Some of my favorite restaurants are El Sombrero, Basil’s on Market, Beppo Uno Pizzeria, Ulbrich’s Donuts and George’s Dairy Bar. The day that George’s opened in the spring was an event in its own right! I used to get a coney dog, tater tots, and a peanut butter milkshake.

I love Porter’s Salve from Covington! It smells like home — it’s so relaxing! If they made a Porter’s Salve candle I would buy it [laughs]! My favorite coffee from Winans Chocolates + Coffees is Highlander Grogg. I also enjoy a little Winans chocolate to go with my Winans coffee [laughs].

My favorite parks in Miami County are Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary and Stillwater Prairie Reserve. I have a lot of memories from Fountain Park in Piqua. We had cross country practice there and the RIP Run was there. One of my best friends lived a few blocks from the park so we spent a lot of time there.

Brittney Denning
Instagram: @brittneydenning

Follow our storyteller and interviewer, Courtney Denning, at ThisOhioLife.com.