By Katie Grovatt, Reporter
Tourist are expected to flood into Waco on Halloween Weekend as Magnolia Market is having it’s grand opening at the downtown silos. The city has estimated that this event will attract almost as many out of town people as Baylor Game Days.
“Magnolia is estimating in the neighborhood of 5,000 people per Saturday, I’m sure there will be Saturdays that are fewer than that, but we’re talking about maybe 10,000 people a week,” said Megan Henderson, Executive Director at the Downtown Development Corporation.
Dori Helm, Communications manager for the city of Waco, said that due to the enormous amount of out-of-towners flooding into city limits, leaders are working diligently to find ways to show off Waco’s best attractions to the newcomers.
“Nobody knows how many people are coming, I don’t think it will be bigger than Baylor game days, but definitely a constant stream of people,” Helm said.
City officials are hoping that the new extended Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) system will catch on and successfully guide tourists through Waco’s finest parts.
Henderson has worked hard this past summer to establish a new route that will provide the rider a highlight of downtown Waco. The shuttle is currently running in a pilot project where it runs on Saturdays and even on days where Baylor University is out of session. The city has raised enough money for this route to run on these days up until the end of January. The route is 20 minutes and completely free to ride.
“As a marketing tool, it takes people passed the Hippodrome, it takes people passed the interesting things going on at River Square; [on] Saturday mornings the busy farmers market and food trucks on University Parks,” Henderson said.
The new route connects many of the going areas of the downtown, she said.
“If we are going to have a lot of extra people in town, we certainly want to expose those people to lots of businesses and not just a few,” Henderson said.
City council board member, Dillon Meek, is in full support of the shuttle and believes in the importance of showcasing Waco to visitors.
“A large number of people are estimated to come to Magnolia on Saturdays. Patrons of that facility will likely utilize a facility like this, which will likely funnel some people to the rest of our local businesses,” Meek said.
Waco city mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. hopes that the DASH services will encourage out-of-towners to utilize public transportation.
“There’s going to be a lot of people here that don’t have any bias against public transit, this will be a great way to orient people to use it,” Duncan said.
The grand opening begins on Thursday, Oct. 29 with a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. Friday and Saturday include a concert by Johnnyswim. The concert has already been sold out with Magnolia selling two thousand tickets for each night.
Other big events in Waco are also happening the same weekend. There will be an event at McLane Stadium called Spooktacular, the Saturday downtown Farmer’s market, and the Wine & Food Festival that supports the local animal shelter. With all the excitement, Waco officials will be preparing for a busy Halloween weekend.
Helm said that the city has been working on many procedural things to prepare for the grand opening such as sidewalks, curbs, trashcan issues and blockage of streets. They also have been in touch with the general manager at Magnolia and their PR people. Helm said they have connected Magnolia with their convention center, and talked with them about showcasing Waco attractions in their stores.
“We are looking for ways to put our best foot forward,” Helm said.