Much like any city, Waco has a long, rich history. It has been shaped by the actions of people in and around the city, and is continually growing and changing. History may impact a city greatly, but that alone does not define it.
However, when outsiders look in on Waco, only a few things come to mind-typically, David Koresh or Chip and Joanna Gaines. Although these are part of our city’s history, Waco should not be anchored by a few headlines. For example, the downtown area is going through a major update and efforts are being made to clean up the greater Waco area. This highlights the upward and onward movement the city is taking.
In 1934, the Branch Davidians were founded, a sect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. After a power struggle in the late 1980s, Koresh became the leader of the Branch Davidians. In 1993, the Branch Davidian compound was under siege. A two-hour shootout took place once the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) showed up at the compound trying to serve a search warrant for illegal weapons, followed by a 51-day standoff. The siege ended with a fire that burned down the entire complex, resulting in an unconfirmed number of deaths.
As the saying goes, “bad new spreads fast and far,” as was the case with the Branch Davidians. Even though the compound was 11 miles outside Waco in Mt. Carmel, the video of their complex burning was shown nationwide, causing many to associate it with Waco. This event will be thrown into the spotlight again with the release of the six-part documentary titled “Waco” in January 2018. Naming the documentary “Waco” further stresses the label of our city as being known as “where the Branch Davidian standoff took place.” The re-hashing of a painful part of Waco’s history may be difficult, but should not rattle the Waco we are now.
A more recent headline in the news has been the announcement that the popular HGTV series “Fixer Upper” is ending. Magnolia Market brings a new audience to the city and increases tourism. Waco has been in the spotlight for Magnolia’s presence, even in the few years since its establishment in October 2015. Magnolia is a happy location for people to visit, allowing for a change in the negative narrative of Waco. However, Waco is not defined by this popular tourist destination either.
Waco is a growing city and is expected to see a 22.4 percent population increase by 2040, according to a recent economic report from The Perryman Group. This shows that people are choosing to live and raise families in Waco, and the city has more to offer than a mass death site or well-kept lawn to visit.
Waco has been working to better the community and city in many ways. The Riverfront Project, headed by the Greater Waco Chamber, is working to upgrade the Riverwalk with retail, hotels and entertainment to impact the downtown area. This should encourage more visitors in Waco and increase citizen pride. Other organizations like Prosper Waco and Mission Waco are hard at work to better the lives of those in lesser financial situations.
These improvements will take time to make their way into Waco’s history, but should be recognized for what they are in the present. Waco is defined by the change we make every day. The steps toward a bigger, better and stronger city have begun, showing that Waco is not chained down by the past, whether positive or negative. Waco is a unique city, moving forward without boundaries.