2018 - Waco Chamber

WACO, TX – The 21st Annual Starburst Junior Golf Classic, one of the largest StarburstLogo-Webjunior golf tournaments in the state, returns to the Greater Waco area June 17-18, 2019. A Greater Waco Chamber event, the Starburst Junior Golf Classic will host hundreds of players from ages of 7 to 19 across two days of tournament play at two Waco-based golf courses, Cottonwood Creek Golf Club and Ridgewood Country Club. Registration opens today, Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. at StarburstGolf.com and will close on Wednesday, June 12 at 2 p.m. or when all spots are full. The Starburst Junior Golf Classic is presented by Mars-Wrigley Confectionery.


This year, Starburst Junior Golf Classic is proud to partner with the Northern Texas PGA (NTPGA), and the event will be a part of the NTPGA’s All American Tour. The All American Tour features nationally ranked tournaments for junior golfers who have achieved a high level of golf and tournament experience and offers national and regional tournament exemptions as well as AJGA Performance Based Entry to top finishers.


“We are proud to host participants from across the U.S. and are excited to have this opportunity to showcase our community once again,” said Amanda Haygood, director of sports and special events for the Greater Waco Chamber. “We believe our new partnership with NTPGA will offer junior players a big opportunity that will challenge and build their golf tournament experiences.”


The following changes have been made for the 2019 Starburst Junior Golf Classic:

  • SBJC will be a two-day, 36-hole tournament played at Cottonwood Creek Golf Course and Ridgewood Country Club. All players will play one tournament round at each golf course.
  • Update to age division structure: Boys 7-8, 9, 10 and 11 divisions have been eliminated and replaced with a Boys 12 & Under division; Girls 7-8, 9-10 and 11 divisions have been eliminated and replaced with a Girls 12 & Under division.
  • Partnership with AJGA will continue and division champions will continue to receive PBE stars.
  • Caddies will not be permitted in the Boys and Girls 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and Championship divisions. Caddies will be permitted in the Boys and Girls 12 & Under divisions. Per AJGA policy, caddies in the Boys & Girls 12 & Under divisions may not be a parent/guardian of the player.
  • NTPGA will conduct registration and scoring.
  • Live scoring during Round 1 and Round 2 and scores will be posted electronically on the golf course and inside the clubhouse.
  • NEW to the Welcome Dinner: awarding of $5,000 college scholarship.



The Starburst Junior Golf Classic will kick off with activities and vendors at the Cottonwood Creek Golf Course on Sunday, June 16. Players can pick up their player swag bags and tournament pairings, participate in a College Coach Chat, enjoy dinner, practice their swings and watch 1,300 golf balls fall from the sky for the Greater Waco Chamber’s Helicopter Golf Ball Drop.

“The popular Helicopter Ball Drop is a unique aspect of our tournament that really engages all of our players and their families,” added Haygood. “Players – and anyone in the community – can purchase a $5 raffle ticket to match a golf ball. It’s an impressive sight, watching up to 1,300 golf balls be dropped from a helicopter. And the owner of the ball that lands in, or nearest, to the golf hole will win $1,000!”


Players who have completed their junior or senior year of high school will be eligible to win a $5,000 college scholarship from the NTPGA during a drawing at the Welcome Dinner.


Complete tournament information can be found at StarburstGolf.com. With questions concerning registration, new rules and regulations, contact Blake Trahan, Senior Coordinator of All American Tour Operations at the NTPGA, via email at btrahan@ntpga.com or (214) 420-7421. For general questions about the tournament, contact Amanda Haygood at (254) 757-5611 or by email at ahaygood@wacochamber.com.





Categories: News

Article written by Amanda Haygood, Greater Waco Chamber staff, published in the third quarter edition of the Greater Waco Business Magazine.


Waco is changing. Waco is developing. Waco is growing. Being in the spotlight with the increase of new businesses, housing and jobs and with the continual growth of tourism, it should come as no surprise that sporting events are on the rise deep in the heart of Texas. There is all a lot going for us, Waco! Being centrally located along I-35 and located within a three-hour drive of 80 percent of the population of Texas, Waco is very attractive to many outside communities. In addition, the downtown river set up, lake, parks and beautiful terrain certainly woo both visitors and locals alike.



Jason Elliott with the Waco Convention Center says, “Waco is now considered an in-demand destination, that we expect more sports events will be held here each year. With Waco’s central location, great hotels and restaurants, and the fun things to do before and after competitions make us very attractive as a host city.” Elliott is one of the city liaisons responsible for hosting local and out-of-town organizations with special events. He and other Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) staff strategically showcase all Waco has to offer to out-of-town groups and invite them here to view our parks, facilities and the hotel/restaurant scene. CVB staff attends education conferences and event trade shows to attract targeted groups. However, Elliott says, “Our clients – they’re our best salespeople. Waco wins business because we pride ourselves on providing great customer service by being consistent, reliable, and dependable. Meeting planners talk when they are at various events. Many groups hear about us through word-of-mouth and contact us for space and date availability.”



The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) hosted 28 events in Waco just this past academic year, including 19 state championships, eight regional and all-state selection meetings and one convention between August 2017 and May 2018. These 28 events alone brought over 45,000 people to Waco, accumulating 9,000 hotel room nights and $183,000+ in facility rentals – and that’s not even considering the number of restaurants and shopping centers that gained revenue!


NCEA - horse

TAPPS is not the only organization that brings events to Waco – University Interscholastic League (UIL), the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, National Collegiate Equestrian Association, Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association, and the Professional Disc Golf Association collectively bring over 12,000 guests staying more than 4,800 hotel room nights in Waco. The Southwest Little League Regional Championships are headquartered in Waco, with championship tournaments spanning a total of 12 days attracting 4,000 guests to Waco.


Additionally, the City of Waco Parks and Recreation department hosts numerous concerts, like the popular Brazos Nights concert series, baseball and softball tournaments, 5K fun runs and the Southern Dragboat Association Drag Boat Races for both locals and visitors to enjoy. The Texas Food Truck Showdown, TriWaco and the Starburst Junior Golf Classic, hosted by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, are also big-ticket events held in Waco. These events are attended by both locals and out-of-towners, bringing a surge of commerce to the area.


The Greater Waco Sports Commission has done an outstanding job attracting sporting events to the greater Waco area. The Sports Commission is an independent non-profit organization that was created to identify and attract new sports events while enhancing and retaining existing events to generate positive economic impact and enhance quality of life in McLennan County. The vision is that the greater Waco area will realize its incredible potential – due to its community spirit, location, climate, rivers and lake, beautiful parks and premiere facilities – as the preferred venue for sports in Texas. Will Phipps, executive director, has the led the impressive charge in securing the IRONMAN 70.3 Waco coming up in October 2018. This event is HUGE, slated to bring 2,800 athletes plus their families to the area for an entire weekend with representation from 47 states and 20 different countries. The event will have an estimated $4 million economic impact on the area.



Bryan Bunselmeyer, executive director of TAPPS, says his experience in Waco has been a great one. When asked why he brings his tournaments and events to Waco, Mr. Bunselmeyer stated, “The accessibility from across the state is easy, hotels and lodging meet our needs and the food is plentiful and spread across all levels of price and service.” Bunselmeyer mentioned he would like to host their sand volleyball, preseason volleyball and basketball tournaments, as well as wrestling events to Waco.


Currently, the community has limited facility space to host large capacity events like these. However, the new developments lined up for the Extraco Events Center grounds will bring a new state-of-the-art facility that would allow multiple volleyball or basketball games to be played simultaneously. The Waco community cannot wait to be able to offer new, bigger opportunities to attract more new groups to town.


People are coming here, staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, shopping and visiting local attractions, and falling in love with Waco every day. Whether put on by local organizations or out-of-town groups, sport and special events have an incredible impact on the community and the economy, and Waco is truly reaping the benefits of such a robust events schedule.


For more information about events happening in Waco, visit WacoHeartofTexas.com/Events.




Front cover web

Check out this edition of the Greater Waco Business magazine,

featuring articles all about the booming tourist business in Waco,

new Chamber members, member news and more!










Categories: News

State of the State Luncheon



Categories: Galleries

Article written by Mary Drennon, published in the third quarter edition of the Greater Waco Business Magazine.


After the popular show Fixer Upper ended in April, people were holding their collective breath. Would Waco continue its remarkable growth? Talk to nearly any anyone who lives and works in the area and the answer you’ll hear is a resounding “Yes!”


“Go and talk to some of the visitors,” said Carla Pendergraft, director of marketing for the city of Waco’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re now on their bucket list. All indications are that [the growth] is going to continue.”



Pendergraft says Waco was named the “#2 U.S. Destination on the Rise for 2018” by TripAdvisor, the top travel site in the world — and the numbers from the area back it up. Statistics show that 2.6 million visitors came to Waco in 2017, quadrupled from only three years earlier. Direct travel spending in 2017 was up 8 percent, direct earnings of those employed in the travel industry up 3.8 percent, and local tax receipts were up 15.9 percent. There have been some 5,700 jobs added to the economy, and approximately 800 hotel rooms are now under construction in Waco, Pendergraft said.


What may have seen like an overnight sensation, however, was years in the making, according to Melett Harrison, director of housing and economic development. “We’ve worked for several years for this moment to arise,” Harrison said. “The momentum is still very strong.”


While the city may have had to scramble to keep up with growth after Magnolia Market at the Silos opened in 2015, the planning for such a moment started some 40 years ago with the development of a special incentive fund that has helped to pay for future development.


The city was able to bury electric lines and repair roads in the Silo district. Austin Avenue was renovated with street modifications over a weekend to accommodate the new Waco trolley system that transports people in and around downtown Waco at no charge. “I think we were able to adapt really quickly with minor accommodations until we could work up something better,” Harrison said.


It’s that attitude of helpfulness, combined with working in partnership with local businesses, that has laid the groundwork for sustained growth.



Take The Findery, for example. A relatively new business that opened downtown two weeks after Magnolia Market opened, The Findery (thefindery.com) is family-owned and operated by three couples: Tiffany and Matt D. Fatheree, Matt P. and Melissa Fatheree and Marci and Kyle Davis.


Offering one-of-a-kind gift items, furniture and home decor, including custom paint services, custom furniture, clothing, accessories and much more, The Findery has experienced incredible growth since its opening.


“When we started, we had only one main floor open,” said General Manager Alison Sorley. Within six months, they opened another and then purchased the building behind its store, which was followed by the launch of an online shopping site. Since then, they’ve nearly doubled in staff size.


“The city of Waco has been wonderful with the addition of the trolleys, the constant promotion of downtown Waco merchants and the additional sidewalks, making it easier for tourists to shop and get around,” Sorley said.


Part of the formula for success is filling the needs created by rapid growth. The Findery, for example, certainly complements Magnolia Market well, as does another business new to the scene — Waco Tours, (https://www.waco-tours.com).



Opened in June 2016, Waco Tours started with a single van to fill a need: Show people the hidden gems of Waco. It was so successful that owners David and Rachel Ridley and Luke and Rachel Whyte now have over 60 guides and drivers and 10 full-time staff. The company added a second van in 2017, and a third and fourth van shortly thereafter to accommodate the demand. In early 2017, they were giving five to eight tours a week. By the end of 2017, they were giving seven to eight tours a day. They now have a total of seven vans.


“There haven’t been a lot of challenges working with the city. They’ve been very supportive,” said Luke Whyte. “We felt very supported by the Greater Waco Chamber, as well as all the different entities involved, like the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Waco. We are excited to continue to collaborate and help expand people’s footprint of Waco.”


In addition to city support, Whyte said they work with local business entities to help showcase all that Waco has to offer. During a tour, each guest receives a touring book complete with dozens of coupons to local restaurants, shopping, events and more. With a food tour, an express tour and customized tours, visitors to the area can take insights they might miss otherwise. It’s been influential in bringing people back again and again.


“There are well over 15 or 20 families that have moved to Waco because they did the tour and saw an opportunity to either do business here or move their family here – a place to start their own business,” Whyte said. And it’s not just for tourists. Locals, too, are encouraged to take the tour; locals who have taken it say it’s changed their perspective of Waco.


One of the biggest companies changing perspectives is, of course, Magnolia.



Magnolia (magnolia.com), was founded by Chip and Joanna Gaines in 2003. What began as the “Little Shop on Bosque” has evolved into a national home and lifestyle brand that included Magnolia Market, Silos Baking Co., Magnolia Table, Magnolia Realty, Magnolia Design + Construction and a lifestyle magazine, The Magnolia Journal, to name a few. Magnolia now employs more than 750 team members in total.


They, like other business entities, believe that the combination of city support and working with local businesses is part of the formula for success.


“Jo and I are really proud of the work our friends and fellow business owners are doing to make Waco such a special place,” said Chip Gaines. “This has been our home for almost 25 years, and over the past 10 years or so, we’ve seen the downtown area really explode with boutiques, restaurants, and other shops. We’re just honored to be a part of what’s happening here in Waco.”


Magnolia also took note of the city relationship, as well. “The fact that so many stakeholders from across the city – whether it’s members of the police department, the Chamber, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Parks and Recreation or City Center Waco, to name a few – are always willing to work with our team to lend their thoughts and expertise is truly remarkable,” said John Marsicano, who works in public relations for Magnolia. “That level of tactical involvement from the city is invaluable, and it’s because of that support that we’re able to continually identify any and all opportunities to grow and improve various events and initiatives moving forward. We’re so grateful for that.”



Unquestionably, there is plenty of room for more growth, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, according to Pendergraft.


“We’ve seen people return again and again. We have no reason to suspect that that won’t continue. We watch the numbers, and the numbers are saying that it’s continuing to thrive.”


“Chip and Joanna’s brand has gone international,” added Pendergraft. “Tourists come to see the town that was so lovingly and consistently featured on Fixer Upper. Their brand has evolved far beyond the show. There is so much to recommend in Waco. We’re in that little sweet spot, not too small and not too large, with great quality of life and a brand image that is warm, hospitable, and centered on family values; and those businesses that believe in us should come here and give it a try.”





Front cover web

Check out this edition of the Greater Waco Business magazine,

featuring articles all about the booming tourist business in Waco,

new Chamber members, member news and more!







Categories: News

Article written by Samantha Baker, Greater Waco Chamber staff, published in the third quarter edition of the Greater Waco Business Magazine.


We sat down with Brian Brown, co-owner of The Backyard Bar, Stage and Grill and The Backyard Saloon to talk about how he and his business partners found success filling a unique niche in Waco.


What comes to mind when you hear the word “backyard?” Family fun? Casual? Familiar?


That’s the kind of atmosphere that Brian Brown, Chris Cox, Russel Clay and Chris Braziel decided to create when they decided to open The Backyard Bar, Stage and Grill in 2015.


Born in California, but raised in McGregor, owner Brian Brown has always loved music. He’s been active in the music scene for most of his life — locals may know him as the lead singer of The Sloppy Joe Band. He and co-owner Chris Braziel have been friends for years, and through playing music, he met Russ Clay and Chris Cox, owners of Red C Television. According to Brown, the four of them hit it off quickly, and soon decided to go into business together.


“Russ said ‘Hey man, let’s do something!’” said Brown. “I said, ‘Like what?’ and Chris said, ‘I don’t know!’ And that’s how we went into business.”



Their first business venture was Cinema Lounge, a bar that was meant to become a music venue. According to Brown, the timing and the location were both factors in the eventual closing of Cinema.


“We gave Waco what they said they wanted, as opposed to what they REALLY wanted,” said Brown. Cinema Lounge was open for three years before they decided it was time to shut it down. But, as it goes, when one door shuts, another one opens — they heard about an available property on South Eighth Street that just happened to be available for lease.


There was a lot of conversation about opening another bar after their first attempt hadn’t gone quite the way they’d hoped it would. “We were all thinking, ‘We’ve got a bar right now that we don’t want; why would we want to open another?’” said Brown. “I’ve always loved that property [now Backyard], it’s a neat little oasis in the middle of that area. Chip and Joanna were still running their store on Bosque; we had no idea about the Silos when we decided to pursue leasing the property.”


The same week that Brown and his crew began leasing the space, Chip and Joanna Gaines announced on their show “Fixer Upper” that they had purchased the Silos and had plans to move and expand their business there.


“My wife and I were at home that weekend watching ‘Fixer Upper,’ and Chip told Joanna that they’d gotten the silos,” said Brown. “‘Well, that could be good for us,’ we said. We opened a month before they had their big blowout opening.”



The Backyard officially opened in 2015 the same week as the HOT Fair and Rodeo, hoping to avoid large crowds and give their staff a more “soft” opening – instead, the new bar and grill was slammed.


When Magnolia opened just a few weeks later, the owners of The Backyard assumed that the tourists flocking to Magnolia would quickly flock to their bar. Looking back, Brown understands that when Magnolia first opened, Waco was still a “stop-off” destination, not the true tourist destination that it has since become. After Magnolia had been open for several months and quickly became a true “destination,” more and more tourists began noticing and visiting The Backyard.


Due to their proximity to Magnolia, The Backyard soon began catching the eye of travel writers for magazines and websites, picking up recognition as a great place to stop by when you go to visit Magnolia. Since then, the popularity of The Backyard has only increased, not just with tourists, but with locals as well.


The Backyard isn’t a totally unique idea — the Moontower Saloon in Austin is an outdoor live music venue with a full service bar and restaurant; the Texas Truck Yard in Dallas is a “come-as-you-are beer garden and adult playground.” However, the concept behind The Backyard is incredibly unique to Waco. Where else in town can you have food and drinks, enjoy live music, AND bring your kids and dogs?


“[The property] was in pretty rough shape when we got it,” said Brown. “It was just a little Mexican restaurant, completely closed in, no windows. We cut out the arches, put the roll up doors in, put the glass in, and built the stage. The firepits and the fountain were already there, and we saw those as the “bones” of the place. Next, we poured the dance floor and put in artificial turf, which totally changed the vibe of the place, it brought life and color to it. Then when we opened, kids started showing up, dogs started showing up, and it was totally by accident.”


The Backyard encourages patrons to feel comfortable bringing their whole families with them to enjoy the atmosphere. “That first Sunday that I sat there as a dad and a grandpa, and watched kids playing with their dogs and run around, it was just a great feeling,” said Brown.


The Backyard hosts many Texas country artists like Kevin Fowler, Randy Rogers, Aaron Watson and Wade Bowen. Why so much Texas country? “Texas artists are more local – they’re more affordable to bring in, and they have strong, dedicated fans,” said Brown. “We can sell out a Wade Bowen show (about 1,000 people) on a Wednesday night; there’s not the same kind of demand for rock artists.”



While the Texas country artists continue to sell out shows at The Backyard, Brown intends to continue finding ways to incorporate new and different kinds of shows, including his favorite genre, rock ‘n roll. “The Fleetwood Mac Tribute Band was a big hit for us,” he said. “Our Eagles tribute show was a big hit too, we sold nearly 850 tickets and it was just local musicians covering Eagles songs.”


Brown, Cox, Clay and Braziel have recently ventured out in hopes of filling another unique niche in Waco and opened The Backyard Saloon at the corner of Fifth Street and Austin Avenue, in the years-vacant Fifth Street Ice House. The saloon is an authentic old-time beer joint, from the Texas memorabilia to the sawdust-covered floors.


“Chris [Cox] had been watching the property for a while, and he came to us and said he had an idea,” Brown said. “He said that a lot of people that come in are from Michigan, from New York, from all over the place, and they ask where they can find a good watering hole, beer joint, saloon-type place? You’ve got coffee spots, you’ve got wine bars, you’ve got all kinds of places, but there was nothing really in that vein. And so, this property came available, and we talked the landlord into letting us open another bar here.” The Backyard Saloon is open seven days a week, Sunday through Wednesday from 3 p.m. to midnight, and Thursday through Saturday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/BackyardSaloon.


Cold drinks, great food, live music, family-friendly atmosphere – The Backyard has it all. They’re open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days week, featuring daily food and drink specials. Follow them on Facebook (Facebook.com/BackyardWaco) to stay up to date with upcoming concerts and entertainment, and check out their full calendar and menu online at BackyardWaco.com.




Front cover web

Check out this edition of the Greater Waco Business magazine,

featuring articles all about the booming tourist business in Waco,

new Chamber members, member news and more!



Categories: News

Small Business Spotlight with Summer Shine, Owner of Luna Juice Bar, published in the third quarter edition of the Greater Waco Business Magazine.


Small businesses are the engine of our economy in the Greater Waco community — more than 70 percent of our membership is considered “small business.” We love introducing small businesses and their owners in our “Small Business Spotlight.” This allows us to showcase some of our local small business owners and hear from them what it’s like owning a small business in Waco and how the Chamber has helped their business.



In this quarter’s Small Business Spotlight, we’re highlighting Summer Shine, owner of Luna Juice Bar on Austin Avenue and the Luna Juice Bar truck located at Magnolia Market at the Silos.


Luna Juice Bar, opened in 2014, was founded on the belief that all people were made to live fully in the dream of who they were made to be. Summer Shine and her staff have set their eyes on reaching out to the community in such a way that it is reflected in who they hire, how they give and the organizations they partner with, including local ministry Jesus Said Love and Perpetual Help Home in Victoria, Texas. When you purchase from Luna Juice Bar, you are doing more than just drinking healthy juice – you’re supporting local farmers and giving people a second chance.


Why did you start your business, and why it is close to your heart?

I started Luna Juice Bar because I love living life to the fullest. I can’t change the amount of time I have on this planet, but I can change the quality of the time I do have left. The better I eat, the better I feel. Luna is so dear to me because it has given me an outlet to inspire change in women in this community who are in recovery from addiction. We hire people with pasts and that keeps me swimming every day!


What led you to start your own business here in Waco? 

I love Waco! I moved here 10 years ago from Austin and wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it, but over time I have absolutely fallen in love with this place!



You recently joined the Greater Waco Chamber — why did you decide to join?

Actually, I talked to a former employee of the Chamber about things I could do to increase the visibility of Luna Juice in the community, and he suggested I join.


How has your Chamber membership benefited your business so far?

I have met tons of new business contacts through the Chamber. I’ve utilized some great services and seen lots of familiar faces from the Chamber in the new storefront.



What do you love about owning a business in Waco?

Waco has such a sweet community. This is a small town with big city amenities.


Do you have any great advice for new small business owners?

Yes! Invest in a good accountant! No, really, invest in your employees. Being a great business owner starts inside the business, rather than outside of it. A loyal employee is better than a billboard.


On the weekends or in your free time, what are some of your favorite things to do in Waco?

Cameron Park is one of my very favorite places to hang out. I feel God there. I also love supporting other local businesses, especially woman-owned and -ran businesses. The Farmer’s Market is a Saturday morning must and Dayspring Baptist Church on Sunday!




Front cover web

Check out this edition of the Greater Waco Business magazine,

featuring articles all about the booming tourist business in Waco,

new Chamber members, member news and more!

Comments a



Categories: News

State of Public Education Luncheon



Categories: Galleries

Article contributed by Carla Pendergraft, Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau, published in the third quarter edition of the Greater Waco Business Magazine.


Momentum in the Tourist Sector
With Chip and Joanna’s hit HGTV show “Fixer Upper” ending this spring, national headlines have predicted the Waco tourism boom is at an end. “What goes up, must come down,” they say.


Tourism-for-TOCWEBBut the numbers tell a different story. For the first five months of 2018, Waco saw an incredible five percent growth rate of visitors, from 1,098,075 to 1,153,403. Remember, this increase is on top of several additional years of growth. In 2016, Waco saw about 700,000 visitors; now, Waco is consistently welcoming over two million visitors per year.

Hotel revenues have also continued to show healthy increases. Hotel tax receipts through May are sitting at $2,669,182, as compared to $2,405,893 for the same period last year, an increase of 11 percent. New hotels coming online include the La Quinta del Sol, Hilton Garden Inn and the Springhill Suites, with others in the pipeline. Over 50 permitted vacation rentals are currently listed on our tourism website at WacoHeartofTexas.com, with more going through the permitting process.

We see momentum in the tourism sector in other ways too, as Waco’s entrepreneurial culture continues to blossom. At least six food trucks have either opened or are building brick-and-mortar locations. Local tour companies are spreading the word to visitors every day about how fun Waco is to visit, and their companies are adding jobs regularly as their popularity grows. New businesses, like e-sports/gaming establishments, restaurants, brewpubs, and cycle bars are opening. Shops catering to the farmhouse/shabby chic style have sprung up, and live music, once rare in Waco, can be heard in many establishments.

Nearly all of these ventures are small businesses owned by local entrepreneurs who believe in the future of Waco. Most are thriving, especially those who have learned to encourage their customers to leave reviews on TripAdvisor, Google or Facebook, who listen to what their customers say about how to improve visitor experiences. Some business owners also teach their employees to be positive and helpful about Waco, to cross-refer business so that others can benefit, and to have a ready answer to the popular question, “What is there to see and do in Waco?”


Speaking to the Visitor
When a visitor says, “Chip and Joanna sure put Waco on the map,” the visitor is actually saying, “Chip and Joanna put Waco on my map.” Their awareness of Waco as a destination for a visit was elevated by the show. Waco has been around since 1849, but many people outside of Texas were not aware of its charms until recently. As Wacoans, we have to translate to understand what the visitor actually means.

The successful tourism business will encourage employees to speak to visitors, ask where he or she is from and how the visitor heard about Waco. Many visitors are “Fixer Upper” fans and will enjoy expressing that. Even if we’ve heard it many times, we should act as if we haven’t heard it before and channel employees at Disneyland, who must remember that the visitor they encounter today is on a trip of a lifetime, even though Disneyland is old news to them. We have to make the “Waco experience” new each day for each visitor, as we are all ambassadors for Waco.

Speaking of ambassadors, the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau is partnering with the City of Waco on a “Welcome to Waco” tourism ambassadors program designed to encourage people to reach out to welcome visitors. Waco tourism ambassador t-shirts and other swag will soon be available at the Tourist Information Center, located next to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum. To learn more about getting involved as an ambassador or to nominate an individual as an ambassador, visit WhatsWithThePineapple.com.


How else can we reach out to visitors? Most Wacoans know when they see a visitor on the street – they’re wandering around downtown, looking a little lost, or peering at one of the map kiosks, trying to decide where to grab a bite to eat. When you see a visitor, just offering your assistance can make a big difference. Ask them if you can help them find something, strike up a conversation and ask them where they’re from. They will be grateful you asked. You may be one of the great memories of their trip to Waco.


Our goal is for every visitor with whom we have contact to have a unique and wonderful experience they remember for the rest of their lifetime, an experience they rave about to their friends, an experience that makes them long to return for another visit, inspire their friends to visit, or maybe even to move here! We are Waco’s ambassadors, and Waco’s future after “Fixer Upper” is in our hands.




Front cover web

Check out this edition of the Greater Waco Business magazine,

featuring articles all about the booming tourist business in Waco,

new Chamber members, member news and more!




Categories: News

Leading Waco Women and ATHENA Award



Categories: Galleries

State of the City & County



Categories: Galleries

Latest News

21st Annual Starburst Junior Golf Classic Returns June 17-18, 2019

WACO, TX – The 21st Annual Starburst Jun

December 18, 2018 read more

Waco’s Game Changers

Article written by Amanda Haygood, Great

November 29, 2018 read more

Member Event Calendar

Contact Us

101 S. Third St. Waco TX 76701 | P.O. Box 1220 Waco TX 76703-1220 | (254) 757-5600

Waco Chamber