Waco has found a place on the map of thousands of tourists in recent years and, increasingly, a place on Christmas trees of visitors, relatives and proud homefolk.
Amid Christmas ornaments bearing Santas, snowflakes, angels and baby Jesuses now dangle the Waco Suspension Bridge, the Waco Hippodrome marquee, the ALICO Building and merry “Waco, Texases.”
Christmas ornaments have long been a standby in the gift shops of Waco museums and attractions, including the Cameron Park Zoo, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute, the Mayborn Museum and the Waco Mammoth National Monument. Most feature their names or logos and not solely Waco.
At the Waco Tourist Information Center at Fort Fisher, however, Waco- and Texas-branded ornaments find ready buyers, Waco ones with the city’s “Flying W” logo and Waco Heart of Texas logos, Texas with Lone Stars and flags.
“They sell really quickly year-round,” tourism manager Susan Morton said. “Truthfully, I wish I had more here now.”
White Elephant owner Mike Brock, whose Austin Avenue store emphasizes work by local artists and artisans, said Christmas ornaments, postcards and refrigerator magnets are popular items for tourists due to their portability and inexpensive price. His shop features laser-etched wood ornaments by Jonathan and Jessica Wash, including an image of the Waco Suspension Bridge, and a metal “Waco, Texas” ornament from Ascend Ironworks.
A Waco Christmas ornament made by a Waco artist has been a tradition for the last several years for the nonprofit Creative Waco, which presents the ornament to State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson to hang on the Christmas tree in the Statehouse.
Artist Mark Kieran of Kieran-Sistrunk Fine Art Gallery created this year’s ornament, and the gallery shop that he and his wife Susan Sistrunk run also offers some Waco ornaments, including some from wood burner Martha Wilson. Wilson is this month’s featured artist at the gallery.
Magnolia Market at the Silos’ considerable Christmas ornament offerings — more than three dozen on its website — features several of Magnolia’s Waco properties and sights-around-town: Silos Baking Co., Magnolia Table, Magnolia Trolley. There is even a boxed set of eight that also includes Magnolia Seed & Supply, the Magnolia House and Hillcrest Estate.
Some ornaments are more Waco-made than Waco-named. Customers can blow their own ornaments by appointment at Waco-area Stanton Studios, located roughly between Gholson and Elm Mott, on Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 21, with the help of glass blower Jordan Stanton. They may find fusing “Waco” into hot glass requires more than a little veteran expertise, however.
City Center Waco spokesperson Wendy Gragg works in the softer, cooler medium of felt with her Waco ornaments, which she has crafted for the last seven years. It is more of a handworking challenge than business venture, she admitted, although she has sold her creations at downtown Waco shops and the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. She will be selling some of her felt ornaments from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday during a TuesdaysTogether Christmas Mini Market at the WacoWork coworking space, 600 Columbus Ave.
Her ornaments this year include the Austin Avenue castle, an Elm Street yellow lamp post and Cameron Park. Past years have featured the ALICO Building, Magnolia Market at the Silos, the Waco Suspension Bridge, the Waco Hippodrome, grackles on a telephone wire and, true to Gragg’s dry wit, a car going the wrong way down a Waco street.
She is not alone at the intersection of hometown affection and handmade creation.
“There’s a lot of Waco pride right now, and people are wanting to make something Waco-centric,” Gragg said.