Michelle Johnson

Publisher, Editor-In-Chief

When putting the final touches on our December issue, I had that same feeling I get when wrapping the last present on Christmas Eve.

You know that magical, gut excitement of “It’s finally here!” That feeling of savoring those last few hours before the big day, making sure every present is out of its hiding spot, wrapped and placed under the tree, putting out the final decorations and then, finally, your loved ones get to gather and enjoy! That is how I have felt about this magazine as we’ve put it together, waiting for the moment when we get to share it with you, our readers, to enjoy. And now, it’s the big day!

Have you walked into the most adorable bookshop downtown lately? Well, international shoppers are facetiming with our contributor Elizabeth Barnhill weekly at Fabled Bookshop & Cafe as she walks the shelves with them to select books to order. Waco’s own independent bookshop has hosted many national and international authors and book seekers since it opened in 2019, and how wonderful it’s been to see the dream that a local bookstore can do big things — all thanks to the spirit of collaboration and entrepreneurship. When selecting our Wacoan of the Year, we always look for someone bringing national attention to our city while also keeping the heart of community in their work. Kimberly and Blake Batson, our WACOANS of the Year for 2023 are changing the landscape of Waco by dreaming big and bringing new ventures to our city. Their entrepreneurial spirit has lead them to open up a total of seven businesses — with an eighth coming soon— that our community gathers at. Whether for coffee, food, books, play areas, ice cream or just a space to be with friends and family, each business was designed with thought and care to be the everyday place for Wacoans and visitors alike. The Batsons are a unique couple that keeps Waco growing and that is why we’ve chosen them as our Wacoans of the Year. Cheers and congratulations!

Speaking of new spaces, one historic building in Waco recently received a remodel and is open to welcoming guests. One Saturday morning, my phone started blowing up from our contributor and personal friend, Gretchen Eichenberg. She had been to Bertie’s on the Rooftop at Hotel 1928 the night prior and talked with Jenna and Laura Bush and Chip and Joanna Gaines. She asked me if I wanted to grab coffee or maybe lunch that day so she could take me around — which I took her up on, having wanted to see the renovations myself. Waco, take your friends! Just for the experience of being in a beautifully restored building, look at the details that they did in every square inch of the hotel, keeping much of the original charm of the old Grand Karem Shrine Building. Have lunch or dinner where you gaze out the floor to ceiling windows that face the ALICO building. Take the elevator up to the rooftop bar and take in the view. Yes, take it in. It is special. Gretchen and I just stood there in awe and thought, “This is Waco.”

We also have other Wacoans making big strides in the national and international sphere. Dr. Tyrha Lindsey-Warren, founder of the fifth annual Waco Family & Faith Film Festival, is this month’s Woman of Interest. Read on page 55 about her journey of leadership and determination of always stepping it up to a higher level has made the film festival such a success — and this year will not disappoint. And we all know Pete Sousa from News Ten This Morning on KWTX, but did you know that Pete will also be the voice on ESPN this spring! Read about his double role bringing Wacoans the morning news report and play-by-play reporting at national basketball games. Oh, and don’t forget about his two podcasts. Check him out on page 65.

Last but not least are the 27 nonprofits that are asking for help this holiday season. And here’s how you can: 1. Pick a nonprofit starting on page 96. 2. Choose an item from their wishlist. 3. Donate.

It’s that simple. Love Waco by Loving Waco.

We made our lists, we checked them twice and here it is our issue is packed full of Waco gems — both big and small — and ready for you and your loved ones to enjoy and make more memories this holiday season.