The town of Waxahachie, Texas, presents the Annual Gingerbread Tour of Homes one weekend each June. The homes on the tour, which lasts only two days, include styles in Victorian, Gingerbread, Gothic Revival and Queen Anne.
According to the promotional material, Waxahachie was once one of the richest and most influential areas of Texas. Cotton was the driving force behind this affluence.
"With this newfound wealth, many of the businessmen, farmers, bankers and industrialists during this time built large beautiful homes for their families. Many beautiful public buildings were constructed in the city as well.
"The Great Depression dealt Ellis County and the cotton industry a devastating blow. Many farmers and businesses went bankrupt. Most people could not accept the fact that the unbelievable prosperity of the past 50 years had come to an end."
(If that last sentence wasn’t some kinda coincidental warp in the space-time continuum linking Waxahachie with west St. Mary, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.)
"From around 1929 to the 1970s, nothing much changed in Waxahachie and Ellis county. Very little new industry sprang up. Many believed that progress had completely passed them by. The bank robbers, Bonnie and Clyde, had even visited the local bank in the ’30s but left with very little."
That part about Bonnie and Clyde cracks me up.
But more importantly, even though Waxahachie’s economic bust was in the late ’20s, doesn’t the refrain of this song sound suspiciously like St. Mary during the oil bust of the mid-80s?
But wow, look what happened: "Primarily because of this absence of progress, Waxahachie is now world-renowned for possessing an enormous area of surviving examples of early architectural styles, including the gingerbread style from which the Gingerbread Home Tour takes its name. Today, one has the opportunity to visit many of these fine elegant homes and buildings and, for a moment, step back sixty to a hundred years to a time and place long since past."
Hmm. Anybody find anything vaguely familiar there? Like maybe something that used to be called…what was it now? Uhm, let’s see. Jog the ol’ memory banks, pard. Was it…Christmas Tour of Homes or some-other like that?
Maddeningly, the Gingerbread Trail promos get even more haunting for us down here when they note, "You can also stroll the beautiful downtown square and see the jewel of Ellis County and Waxahachie, the Courthouse. Completely restored to its original condition, it is really something to see inside and out."
It breaks the heart.
Now, get this: The website has menu items you can click on to easily locate:
Best Places to Eat
Best Places to Sleep
Best Places to Shop
Wait, wait, hold your horses now, folks, I’m not finished bragging on Waxahachie yet. The website www.waxahachiedowntown.com (notice, downtown Waxahachie has its own website, can you imagine it, friends and neighbors?) notes, "If it’s shopping or antiques you are looking for, the Downtown Square is home to many unique gifts and antique shops and fine restaurants just waiting to be discovered and explored! We love Waxahachie and know you will too!"
Well, bless their souls, if that ain’t just pure brilliance.
But did Waxahachie rest there? Did the good folks and officials of Waxahachie just fold their arms across their chests and pat themselves on their collective backs for a job well done?
I think not.
"In 2007, from May 1 to June 30, the website received over 31,000 visitors searching for information on the best places to eat, where to sleep, and the best places to shop," they say. I added the italics, hoping maybe somebody out there would actually notice that part.
"Most of the downtown and surrounding stores and shops will be featuring Gingerbread Trail Sales Specials," they continue. "Some stores will have 50% or better off selected items."
Did I mention the arts and crafts show?
"Under cool, towering oaks, enjoy colorful crafts and artwork from across the state. Artists present creative gift ideas. There are fun children’s activities and plenty of refreshments to satisfy your gastronomic adventures."
Gastronomic adventures. I love it.
But speaking of art: "The Ellis County Art Association presents a ‘Paint Out’ competition from May 30 through June 8. Landscape artists set up their easels and paint on location throughout the historic downtown and along Waxahachie’s Gingerbread Trail. Special artist activities include a 90-minute ‘quick draw’, live auction, and ‘wet paint sale’ of more than 100 paintings completed during the 10 day event."
Uhm…is your gastronomic system starting to churn with envy yet? Or if nothing else, a little bitterness?
Tickets, by the way, for the trail are only fifteen bucks. And buses are provided if you don’t want to drive it yourself. Oh, yeah, that’s another thing: It’s not a centralized area where you can walk to visit the homes. Not like, oh, I dunno, what? Maybe our own downtown and east Main Street?
What a deal.
Waxahachie, Texas, boasts a population of about 21,000. That’s about 10,000 less than New Iberia, and 12,000 more than Franklin.
The key, ladies and germs, is vision, and promotion. And by promotion, I mean wide-spread promotion. Statewide to start. Then branch out from there. Notice I did not say parishwide promotion to start. Think big, for once, just once. It pays off. That takes money, no doubt about it. It can be done.
But Kevin Costner’s baseball prophecy "If you build it, they will come," is a bit narrow. It should be, "If you build it and advertise the bejeezus out of it far and wide, they will come."
Remember things like this will surely be nice for the locals to enjoy, too, but we’re really reaching out for the visitors. It’s a win-win scenario. Over and over, I’ve seen us try to get the locals to attend without branching out, and then we’re disappointed when it fails.
What are we waiting for?
In addition to the "best places to eat lunch, dinner, breakfast, stay…" list that Waxahachie does, just imagine what we could add: Bear refuge and swamp motorboat tours; organized paddling tours; golf at Idlewild (yeah, I said it, so sue me); big entertainment gaming (go ahead, Sioux me); and a heckuva lot more. Put it all on leaflets or brochures, pass them out at the door of the homes as visitors enter. That trolley that runs riders around town during our festivals every year? Get that puppy down here to run home-viewers from downtown to see Grevemberg so they don’t have to drive (and, thusly, can’t up and leave too soon!) Remember, this is only two weekend days in June, in Waxahachie. Two days. That leaves 102 more weekend days to envision and create something else, don’t it?
So. What are we waiting for? It ain’t gonna build itself.