Cable viewers Tuesday can see the Season 3 debut of “Fixer Upper,” the HGTV home improvement reality show that continues to make its own reality in Waco.
About 25 million viewers tuned in last season to see Chip and Joanna Gaines work their magic on ugly-duckling houses in Waco and nearby towns.
The new season that debuts at 8 p.m. Tuesday follows them over 13 more home renovations in Waco, Marlin, McGregor and Hillsboro, as well as the Magnolia Market silo renovation project.
The success of the show has drawn people to Waco to gawk at houses, to shop and, in the case of some Season 3 families, to live.
“The first couple of seasons, we did mostly people we knew, because it was a Waco thing,” Joanna Gaines said during a break Monday from filming Season 4 at a North Waco house. “Now we have people moving from Florida or California.”
Chip Gaines said the show itself has drawn clients to Waco.
“Three of the 13 (Season 3 homeowners) have moved to Waco and were interested in being part of the show,” he said. “Two of those three literally had jobs where they could work anywhere. They chose to live (in Waco) and gave credit to the show. The third of the three had to move to Waco because of a job, but the others were like: ‘We could live anywhere. Why not live in Waco? . . . The house we can get there compared to where we’re from is just unbelievable.’ ”
The houses getting the Gaines treatment this season range from an 1850s historic home in McGregor to ranch houses in need of updating. The McGregor house, which will be featured on a Christmas special Dec. 22, will become a bed-and-breakfast inn.
The Gaineses renovated the 105-year-old Brazos Valley Cotton Oil mill into a festival marketplace for home décor, food trucks and entertainment.
Among the more unusual projects this season is the conversion of an old horse barn in Lacy Lakeview into a house for Todd and Lexia Meek, longtime friends of the Gaineses.
The Meeks, who are on the pastoral staff at Antioch Community Church, were not looking to live in a barn, much less to be on “Fixer Upper.”
“Jo had tried to talk us into doing it a couple other times, but I didn’t want to be on TV,” Lexia Meek said. “But then, finally, we decided it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
She said another friend tried to discourage them from investing any money in the metal-sided barn, but Joanna Gaines was persuasive.
“We knew anything they touch turns to gold, and it would look beautiful,” Meek said.
Meek said “Fixer Upper” has “re-branded” Waco in the eyes of the world.
“I moved to Waco right after the Branch Davidian (siege), and anytime I told people I was from Waco, they’d say, ‘We know what Waco is famous for,’ ” she said. “Now, if I tell anyone I’m from Waco, Texas, whether I’m at an airport or another country, people say, ‘You don’t happen to know Chip and Joanna from that show “Fixer Upper,” do you?’ ” she said.
Chip and Joanna Gaines said juggling 13 home renovations, the launch of Magnolia Market and the creation of Joanna’s new home furnishing line during the last year has been hectic but fun.
“We’re burning the candle at both ends, but we have kind of built some capacity for this,” Chip Gaines said. “We enjoy the element of having to run a marathon to some extent, but there are some days and nights when we feel like we’re just out of gas. . . . They keep promising us a break — ‘Just do four more episodes, then we’ll give you a break.’ ”
“I think the idea of a break is not realistic right now,” Joanna said. “It’s a fun season, with lots of things happening at once, so we’re not complaining.”