Toodleloo to downtown tortilla tossing

By Rachel Leland
Staff Writer

Next to the Waco Suspension Bridge, a tall concrete structure stands isolated in the Brazos River. Every year, students venture to the bridge to take their chances tossing tortillas at a concrete installment, the last remnant of another bridge.

A campus legend says those lucky enough to land a tortilla on the installment will graduate from Baylor in four years.

Community leaders, student organizations and even sections of the marching band often take their members to the suspension bridge to participate in the activity.

Despite the widespread practice, not all members of the community support tortilla tossing. Burk Tollett, superintendent of Waco parks, agrees with Waco Parks and Recreation Department that the tortillas and the wrappers people tie to the bridge’s cables are detrimental to the aesthetic and historical value of the bridge, which once held a toll booth for the Chisholm Trail.

“It makes the bridge look terrible,” Tollett said. “For one thing, those tortillas aren’t necessarily healthy for the ducks.”

Another aspect of the tradition that concerns the city is the potential for someone to get hurt climbing the cables. So far, no one has been hurt, but the Waco Parks and Recreation Department still takes precautions by using an aerial truck to remove bags from the cables. He estimates the department spends six hours a week removing bags and locks from the side of the bridge.

Alumna Kimmi Johnston recalls her experience tortilla tossing when she was the chair of the Baylor Riding Association. “I needed to plan a mixer type of event early in the semester. The Association divided the members into teams and competed with each other,” Johnston said. Even while the teams competed, they began to share strategies. “I don’t remember who won, but it was a good time.”

Though there is nothing illegal about tying a wrapper to the bridge, Waco park rangers often patrol the area and will make litterers take the bags off. Kim Jennings, a Waco park ranger, calls the bags an eye-sore.

“It’s not a good habit to get into and it kind of ruins the whole ambiance of the suspension bridge,” Jennings said, due to the amount of tourism events and wedding parties that often take place at the bridge.

Though many students remain unaware of city’s wishes, others wittingly defy the unofficial ban and continue to toss tortillas. “I’ve known for a while that it is kind of disapproved of, and every time we went we talked about how it was disapproved of, and it made it even better,” Houston junior Rebecca Pettit said.

Both Pettit and Sugarland junior Niloy Shah sympathize with the environmental concerns the city has. “I believe that a middle ground can be found where both parties are satisfied,” Shah said. “

Jennings, however,  does not seem to think that such a ground can be found. “The bag tying is not a compromise; it’s litter,” she said.