Upcoming Waco Festivals!

Our Events Calendar is stacked. I mean, Kate Upton-esque. Obviously there are some bigger-ticket events that can get lost if you’re scrolling through, so here is a handy guide to the upcoming festivals in the Waco area. Know of something we missed? As always, email James@wacowise.com for updates (on festivals, or to add your events for the calendar). We’re doing our best to serve you!

Waco ISD Family Fest: Saturday, August 10. Waco High School / University High School. 9am-12pm. Free.

24th Annual Margarita & Salsa Festival: Saturday, August 24. ExtraCo Events Center. $30-$200. Tickets on sale August 5 and can be purchased here.

WestFest 2019: Friday, August 30-Monday, September 1. West, Texas. $5-$20 each day. Schedule & Info can be found here.

BourbonFest: Saturday, September 14. Balcones Distilling. 4pm-10pm. Further info can be found here.

Waco Oktoberfest: Saturday, September 21. Indian Spring Park. 10am-10pm. $10-$30. Tickets can be purchased here.

20th Annual Wine & Food Festival: Saturday, September 21. McLane Stadium. 6pm-10pm. Ticket info TBA.

OUT on the Brazos: Saturday, October 12. Brazos Park East. 11am-5pm.

Silobration: Thursday, October 17-Saturday, October 19. Magnolia Market. Further info can be found here.

A Lovely Visit with...Zane Williams

Texas Country Singer-Songwriter Zane Williams has been at it for almost 20 years, and you can tell. We had the pleasure of seeing him a few years back when there was this thing called Wild West and, man, Zane can put on a show.

It makes sense, when you’ve been hitting the road for as long as he has, playing 120-150 shows per year. We’ve seen him a few times, dating all the way back to the time we overlapped at Abilene Christian University and saw him playing in the basement of the Student Center. The one thing I’ve always thought as I was going home is, “That show was authentic.”

Ultimately, that’s what Zane is striving for. His slogan is “Bringin’ Country Back,” and thinks of country music as “Poetry for the common man.” With songs like “Little Too Late,” “Ride With Me,” “Jayton and Jill,” “Hands of a Working Man,” and - my favorite Zane Williams song - “99 Bottles,” Zane is an honest musician making honest music.

“My senior year at ACU,” Zane told me on the phone as he was driving back to Texas from a family vacation before this tour starts, “I took a class, really I was just looking for an easy A, called Life Learning Skills. It helped me set goals, find a passion, and that’s where I realized that I could give songwriting a shot.” That class paid off.

Zane’s song “Hope is a Flame” won the Best Song in the Country genre in the 2007 John Lennon Songwriting Contest and his “Hurry Home” won the $20,000 Maxwell Prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, which was later covered and released as a single by John Michael Carroll. He has played the Grand Ole Opry, opened for Aaron Watson, shared a stage with George Jones and Alan Jackson, and Pat Green has recorded one of his songs.

And he’s looking forward to playing The Backyard in Waco on Friday (June 21)! “We’ve played Waco maybe ten times,” he said, “And it’s one of our better markets. So far, so good.” Trust us - as we have never lied to you, dear reader - you won’t want to miss this show. I asked Zane what he wanted people to know when deciding to buy tickets, “This show is for lovers of down-home, authentic country music.”

Zane has a new album out, “The Oak Tree and the Weed,” featuring 15 original songs recorded live as an acoustic trio. If you’re into authenticity, you’ll enjoy your evening with Zane.

Zane Williams plays The Backyard on Friday, June 21. Tickets are $12-$17 and can be purchased here. Doors open at 6pm.

Know Your Bartender: Leighton Bagley

Your bartender knows pretty much everything about you, because you walk in and think that the world is your oyster and you’re the only one with Problems. Well, your bartender has some stories of their own, and that’s what we’re highlighting with this series. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get to know your bartender.

Name: Leighton Bagley

Title: Bar Manager / Bartender

Bar: Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits

Leighton Bagley, originally from San Antonio, is an Old-School Bartender. If you’re reading that line and Moe from The Simpsons comes to mind, slap that thought of your head. He’s a thinking-man’s bartender. Ask Leighton what drink you should order at Dichotomy, and you’re almost guaranteed to have a few questions lobbed at you: “How was your day?” and “What did you do?” Then Leighton feels prepared enough to make the drink you need, not necessarily the one for which you came in. And you’ll love it.

How does he do it? What type of alcohol alchemist is Leighton Bagley? It comes from a deep knowledge of not just cocktails, but of the history of those cocktails. His mom was a classically trained bartender, and Leighton has picked up on a deep appreciation of the right drink at the right time. He knows his stuff, studies it regularly, trying to find the way They used to do it in the old days. How old are those days? Basically from the founding of the Republic up through Prohibition (1780s-1930s, for those of you who “don’t like history.”) Dichotomy respects the speakeasy era of American history.

"I want to know where did the cocktails come from, what time period, and how did they evolve?” Leighton told us over one of his appropriately-named A Little Slice of Heaven (Plantation 3-Star Rum + Giffard Pineapple + Orange Juice + Vanilla Syrup + Orange Bitters + Topo Chico). What’s more, Dichotomy uses fresh, local ingredients for their drinks.

Want to work for Leighton at Dichotomy? Get ready to spend the first 8-12 months serving as a bar back while you learn the Ropes According To Leighton. Sounds strict, huh? The result is that every bartender at Dichotomy has at least a working knowledge of the years of work Leighton has put into his craft. Take the daiquiri, for instance: three ingredients. Can’t be hard to make a proper daiquiri, right? You’ve probably made them for your friends. But Leighton can tell if you didn’t shake it long enough, messed up the acidity, too much syrup, etc.

There’s a commitment to the craft that you don’t see at your standard TGI Friday’s. Dichotomy intentionally does not have a soda gun - they mix in the proper amount of Topo Chico by hand. They hand-make or sous-vide all of their syrups, so you’re getting Legit Craft with your cocktail. And that’s the takeaway from getting to spend an hour or so with Leighton: what he presents to you on a regular basis are consciously-crafted cocktails.

Did you know that the Blue Blazer (one of his favorite drinks to make) is a forerunner of the Hot Toddy? Leighton does. “It’s an extremely technical drink,” Leighton said, “the process of learning how to make it was very satisfying.” That’s the thing with Leighton, and Dichotomy - the attention to details. He has a library dedicated to studying the details of the history of classic American cocktails.

You want details? Leighton, inspired by the Japanese tradition, has an obsession with ice, and makes his own. I didn’t know that was A Thing until I saw a hand-made cube in a Very Good Whiskey (not its official title) and it is straight-up gorgeous. The puns on the menu are incredible, as well. Ask Leighton about the story behind the Wolverine’s Downfall (it involves Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, and is a great story). And that’s the thing: every patron, every bartender, every cocktail has a story.

Dichotomy is the first craft bar in Waco, and the first Mod Bar in the Great State of Texas. Leighton is a worthy leader of such a wonderful local treasure. Ask him some questions sometime.

Favorite Drink To Make: Blue Blazer

Favorite Drink To Drink: “I treat alcohol like I do food. Usually I’m in the mood for something.”

Hot Take on the classic American film Cocktail: “I loved it at a younger age. Flair Bartending has been around since before Prohibition, and bartenders have always tried to be flashy. It is meant to captivate the guests. I do it a little bit but try to make sure the guest doesn’t have to wait.”

Dichotomy

508 Austin Avenue

Follow Leighton on Instagram

A Lovely Visit With...Baked Bliss

“Mindfulness” is all the rage these days, yeah? You can barely go ten minutes before you run into an articles, book, podcast, pr an app promoting Mindfulness. Not that that’s a bad thing - we’re proud Headspace subscribers over here at WW HQ! But still, it’s hard to narrow down exactly what it means to be mindful. Not long ago we sat down with Kim Cutler, owner of Baked Bliss Baking Company (1115 North 15th Street), and it finally made sense.

Kim, a Baylor grad with a business degree in Economics, has worked with inner-city kids for the past 15 years, teaching job skills and began the journey that has become Baked Bliss in 2012. Kim worked at a Starbucks for seven years in order to get customer service and to learn how to run a restaurant. “You can be a foodie,” Kim explained over a cup of her wonderful coffee, “and not have a clue about running a business.”

Upon founding Baked Bliss in 2014, Kim has always been a fan of “from-scratch baking.” She was a wholesale baker, providing up to 4500 scratch pastries per week. I’ll let you do the math on how many scratch pastries that is per day/hour/minute/etc. Eventually Kim preferred to focus on the community.

With a kitchen nestled inside what was, in 1936, a gas station and serving out of a converted FEMA trailer, Kim has created a business that benefits Waco, but also gives back to the immediate area in which she is located. The two main take-aways we got from our visit were “Community” and “Premium.”

“Bliss means heavenly joy,” Kim explained. “How are we actively creating a heavenly environment? How do we love each other well?” she asked. These questions were not asked of us, but rather as the questions Kim asks herself on a regular basis. “We want our customers to feel like they just purchased a celebration of all things baked.” Another focus is on creating a healthy team environment among the employees, as well as training teenagers in how to develop job skills and thrive in a workplace environment.

And it works. The cinnamon rolls are actually (and unironically) heavenly. The coffee is out of this world (see what I did there?). But there are aspects of Baked Bliss that are conscientiously different from, say, a standard pastry shop.

Start with the gluten-free baked goods. As the spouse of one who is extremely gluten-intolerant, ordering gluten-free is a crapshoot, pun slightly intended. You’re not going to get cross-contamination at Baked Bliss. “Especially around holidays or Sunday dinners, no one really thinks of those family members who are dairy-free or gluten-free,” Kim explained, and the commitment shows. Each week, before the ovens are even turned on, Kim and her staff deep-clean the ovens and bake the gluten-free products first. No regular baked goods are made until all the gluten-free goods are finished baking. There are separate containers for the gluten-free ingredients and Kim has painstakingly adjusted the leaveners in order to make sure that the gluten-free customers receive high-quality baked goods.

The rest of the menu is just delightful. Did I mention the coffee? Yes? Okay, good. How about the kolaches? They have a perfect bread-to-meat ratio. You can have one of Baked Bliss’ kolaches and not feel as though you just ate a loaf of bread. My mom is British, and Baked Bliss’ scones take me back to my youth. Each item that Kim delivers is with the goal of “celebrating life with food.” Kim and her team deliver on that goal every time they open the doors.

Baked Bliss has regular clients that drive up from Austin and the Hill Country, and down from Dallas, and the importance is not lost on Kim, “It’s an honor to bake goods that serve as a reward.” And what a reward! So come on down to Baked Bliss, sit on the patio - there’s no indoor seating - and get your reward, knowing that you’re supporting a legit local treasure giving back to our community.

Baked Bliss

1114 North 15th Street, Waco 76707

8am-2pm Tuesday & Wednesday; 7am-5pm Thursday & Friday; 8am-2pm Saturday.

A Lovely Visit With...Melody Ranch

If you have lived in Waco for a decent amount of time, you likely have a story about the Melody Ranch. A Waco staple since the late 1960s, “the largest dancehall in Central Texas” was purchased by Gerald Villarial, a partner at Dunnam & Dunnam, and Kelly Snell, McLennan County Commissioner at the end of November 2018, saving the Waco-nic (get it?) building from becoming another hotel near Magnolia.

Since its incarnations as The Cotton Palace, Melody Ranch, then El Rancho, and now Melody Ranch again, the country/western venue has played host to the likes of Willie Nelson – the riser built especially for his grand piano is still on the stage – Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, and George Strait.

Gerald, born and raised in Waco (and a Baylor alum) even graced the stage, playing guitar, bass, and drums for various bands over the years. He and his wife Jamie, their five kids, and Snell (and his family) help maintain the day-to-day operation of Melody Ranch, helping it return to its glory days. While Melody Ranch is known for country music, there are plans to book a variety of bands in order to appeal to a wider audience.

Over the couple of hours that we chatted towards the back of the dance floor, it’s notable that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Anywhere you stand – or sit, because there actually are tables – offers up a great view of the stage. The acoustics in Melody Ranch are phenomenal, as well. And if plenty of space to sit and dance don’t ring your bell hard enough, a third bar is currently being finished so that waiting for a drink doesn’t mean you miss three songs.

If it’s not yet clear, the Villarials want to make sure that every patron has a good experience at Melody Ranch, and that includes the safety of the patrons. Melody Ranch is proactive in working with local police to make sure that everything from the dance floor to the parking lot is safe and secure. There’s a new security system, cameras inside and outside the venue, and new outdoor lighting to go with a new parking lot.

Hungry? Triple B’s Smokehouse is always on-site, so you can pre-game the concert with Hawaiian Pork, Pulled Pork, Brisket, fries, and more, even during bingo. Oh yeah, Melody Ranch hosts Bingo every day of the week from 10am-2pm.

Melody Ranch opens up the largest dancehall in Texas – featuring the original dance floor with just the right amount of slide – from 7pm until 2am every Thursday-Saturday, with live bands playing every Saturday night.

Melody Ranch is a family business – you will occasionally see Jamie behind the bar helping out, or Gerald and Kelly getting more tables and chairs ready. So text “Meet Me at the Ranch” to your friends and go give a legit piece of Waco history another chance.

Melody Ranch. 2315 North Robinson Drive, Waco 76706

7pm-2am Thu-Fri; 5pm-2am Sat

Advertise with Waco Wise!

Do you want to promote your business on Waco Wise? Got an apartment coming open? Want to highlight a special you’re running? Or promote a show? You can advertise with Waco Wise!

Rates are as follows:

1 month for an ad on the page of your choice: $125

3 months for an ad on the page of your choice: $300

6 months for an ad on the page of your choice: $500

12 months for an ad on the page of your choice: $900

If we need to create the ad, it will come with a one-time $100 fee, and you can approve it before it goes live.

If you want to talk page views, SEO, click rates, etc., schedule a meeting by sending an email to james@wacowise.com. Make it happen, Cap’n!

Waco Wonderland List of Events

There’s a lot going on downtown for the Waco Wonderland celebration, Nov 30-Dec 2. The following is a handy little guide:

November 30

5pm-10pm: Mistletoe Market

5pm-10pm: Santa House & Crafts with HEB

5pm-10pm: Downtown Ferris Wheel

7pm-7:30pm: Tree Lighting & Fireworks Show

December 1

8am: Waco Wonderland Run - 5K/10K/1-mile walk

10am-10pm: Mistletoe Market

10am-10pm: Downtown Ferris Wheel

11am-10pm: Santa House & Crafts with HEB

3pm-10pm: Snow Tube Hill ($5)

December 2

10am-10pm: Mistletoe Market

12pm-6pm: Petting Zoo

12pm-6pm: Santa House & Crafts with HEB

12pm-6pm: Downtown Ferris Wheel

12pm-6pm: Snow Tube Hill ($5)

2018 Halloween Events!

Want some candy? Hey wait nevermind that sounded creepy. Let’s try this again: Below is a listing of all the Festivals and Trunk or Treats that we could possibly hope to find for this evening you can spike your kids’ blood sugar right before bed (and then finish off their pile of candy right before you go to bed). Keep in mind that the following listings could be affected by the weather.

October 31

Harley-Davidson of Waco: 3pm-5pm

Waco Escape Rooms: Waco Escape Games. 5pm-12am.

MCC College Athletics’ Trunk or Treat (Level D of the Highlander Drive Parking Garage): 5pm-7pm

Austin Avenue United Methodist Church: Costumed showing of Wallace & Gromit: 6pm-7:30pm

St. Albans Episcopal Church: 5:30pm-7:30pm

Heartis Senior Living: 6pm-7:30pm.

First Baptist Church of Hewitt: Trunk of Treat: 6pm-8pm (rain or shine)

Columbus Avenue Baptist Church: Trunk or Treat. 6pm-8pm

Warren Park: Creekside Spooktacular. 6pm-8pm

Skate Country (Bellmead): 6pm-8pm

Skate World (Towne Oaks Drive): 6pm-8pm

South Waco Community Center: 6pm-8pm

South Waco Library: Halloween Carnival. 6pm-8pm.

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church: 6pm-8pm (Teal Pumpkin site)

Cameron Park Zoo Boo 2018: 6pm-8pm

Concord Baptist Church: Trunk or Treat. 6pm-9pm

Grace Church Hewitt: S’mores & Candy. 6pm-9pm

New Beginnings Christian Fellowship: Trunk or Treat. 6:30pm

The Pumpkin Patch (201 S. Old Robinson Road): Trunk or Treat. 6pm-8pm

Waco Baptist Church: Trunk or Treat. 6pm-8:30pm

Bare Arms Brewing: Night of the Living Dead (not for kids): 7:30pm

If you know of any others we might have missed, let us know at james@wacowise.com