Vocalize your Waco Pride!

by Ashley Bean Thornton

(In an earlier post we introduced three big goals for Waco (1) Make Waco a city of opportunity. (2) Make sure pathways to opportunity are clear and well marked. (3) Provide effective support to help more of us keep our footing on the path. In this blog Ashley Thornton explores some ideas regarding goal #1.)  

I’m a Baylor grad, and this weekend, in case you didn’t notice, was Baylor Homecoming. One of my college roommates, Linda, was in town from Dallas. I will confess we had chocolate shakes at Wataburger instead of going to the bonfire and slept too late on Saturday to make it to the parade. When we finally did get up and going Saturday morning, we made our way to the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market where Linda picked up an eco-friendly necklace for her daughter and a jar of gourmet peach jam for herself. She was slightly bitter towards me because we had already eaten breakfast, so she couldn’t comfortably avail herself of a pumpkin-pecan crepe.

parade pic

We missed the parade (Shhh!), but here’s a random pic from the internet — probably not even this year! Ha!

From the Farmer’s Market we headed to Austin Avenue where we whiled away the rest of the morning laughing and trying on vintage and not so vintage clothes with Brenda Atchison at B Joy Bijoux. After our fashion fun, we were ready for lunch – back to the house for our traditional homecoming feast of Poppa Rollo’s pizza after the parade. (Don’t tell anyone we didn’t actually GO to the parade!) We spent the rest of the afternoon browsing the “Craftapalooza” at the Waco Convention Center where I picked up a few early Christmas presents. We did eventually watch the Baylor game on TV, so I didn’t score a total zero as a proud alum (Sic’em Bears!), even so, the weekend turned out to be more about Waco than about Baylor. 

My point is this: I don’t know when I have spent a more pleasant day in any city in Texas. To be sure, part of the pleasure was the good company of a good friend. But a big part of the pleasure was Waco itself. I am proud of Waco, proud to show it off to my friends, proud to invite people to visit, proud to brag about how much fun I have living here.

“Well, I’m glad you had a nice homecoming, Ashley,” you may be thinking, “but what does that have to do with the price of tea in … well…anywhere?”

As was discussed in an earlier post, one of the things we must do if we want to reduce our rate of poverty in Waco is to make Waco a city of opportunity – a city with good jobs that pay well. In other words we must energize the whole Waco economy. Understatement alert: There are a lot of pieces to that puzzle.

Some of the pieces have to do with recruiting employers, growing our cluster industries, increasing wages and strengthening our workforce pipeline — things which, frankly, I often feel are outside of my sphere of influence as a plain old Waco citizen.

Some of the pieces, however, have to do with making sure that people recognize Waco as the kind of city where they want to live, the kind of community where they might want to start businesses, the kind of city a young person might want to stay in (or return to) after she finishes her education. That is exactly the kind of city my college roommate and I experienced on this lovely homecoming Saturday, and I don’t mind telling people about it.  Making sure that people (at least the people I know)  recognize that Waco is a great place to live is well within my sphere of influence — yours too. It is a part we can all play in building up Waco.

We can all make sure our friends, visitors, relatives, acquaintances, and students know what a terrific place Waco already is — and we can express our confidence that the future is even brighter. Every now and then I am in the company of someone who has fallen into the unfortunate habit of complaining about Waco or talking wistfully about other cities where they would like to live. I am trying to get in the habit of (mostly) gently challenging those complaints instead of letting them pass. Yes, we still have some work to do – but my gosh! Look around you! If you can’t find enough good things about Waco to make you proud of what is happening here, you are not paying attention!

Just the other day while enjoying my first Hot Chocolate of the season at Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits downtown (another terrific new place to show off), I had a great conversation with a new friend. He mentioned that his brother-in-law was a Baylor student who stayed in Waco and started a business. Now the business is thriving and not only are he and his family still here in town, but his parents have moved to town to help run it — more’s the better for the Waco economy!  That’s just one example, but it is indicative of the kind of upward movement that can take place when people recognize the potential of Waco and decide they want to be a part of that potential.

I wonder how that Baylor student came to know that Waco was a great place to live, a place where he might want to settle and start a business? Maybe someone just told him. Maybe some proud Wacoan introduced him to the best breakfast tacos in town and bragged a little about all the things to love in Waco. Be that person! Vocalize your Waco pride!

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