This past weekend, I traveled with my mother and sister to Waco, Texas for Silobration 2017, a festival marking the third anniversary of Magnolia Market at the Silos, the anchor location of the home decor and lifestyle empire of HGTV it couple Chip and Joanna Gaines. Waco is a small city that seems to be in the middle of economic revitalization, surely due in large part to the jobs created and tourism attracted by the Silos and other businesses that would not exist if not for Fixer Upper–such as Harp Design Co., a boutique in a residential part of town that probably has never been fashionable. Waco is in what used to be (and maybe still is, though I didn’t see much evidence of it other than a ton of hamburger joints) cattle country, in the middle of the rural space between Dallas and Austin. The city is home to Baylor University, museums about Texas Rangers, prehistoric mammoths, and Dr. Pepper (which was invented in Waco), and what used to be, a long time ago, the tallest building west of the Mississippi (the Alico building familiar to those who watch Fixer Upper). Yet none of those attractions–even at the now-past height of the Baylor football program–could bring in a crowd the size of what we saw this past weekend.
Why did all these people stand in the blazing heat to wait in line for cupcakes at the bakery, push through crowds in the Magnolia Market itself to buy #shiplap t-shirts, and stand on tiptoe during Friday and Saturday nights’ concerts to see Chip and Joanna on stage? Something about this couple–their laid-back yet charming aesthetic, their work ethic, their countercultural emphasis on family and hospitality–has struck a chord with Americans of a surprisingly wide range of ages, ethnicities, and styles. (And there were a lot of men there too.) I’m not going to wear a t-shirt that says, “Love me like Chip loves Jo” (I saw several of those on people, though it wasn’t sold in the store), but I am on the Magnolia bandwagon. And if nothing else, I’d like to go back to get another grilled cheese sandwich from the Cheddarbox food truck permanently stationed behind the Market. I think grilled cheese is a bandwagon we can all get on.