Or better yet—it’s finally here.
It’s the 62nd annual Come and Take It Celebration, and organizers, volunteers and sponsors are in top form in completing all the arrangements and logistics for this weekend’s big shindig.
“It’s a massive undertaking—that’s for sure,” said Daisy Scheske Freeman, Executive Director of the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. “There are probably 15 people or so who work on the Celebration Committee or who are on the Chamber Board that organize the event, but it is all the volunteers, non-profits, sponsors and business people who help fill out all the events and booths. We’re pretty much the umbrella organization, and there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that most people never see.”
According to Freeman, the Come and Take It Celebration first started as a day-long event back in 1956. The festival evolved in different ways over the years, but in 1975 organizers turned it into a 10-day celebration in commemoration of the area’s 150-year Sesquicentennial.
“In 1975 they brought in Charlie Pride and Gary Stewart for the entertainment — which was huge back then. I can’t even imagine putting on a 10-day event,” Freeman laughed. “We have our hands full with just three days.”
In 1976, the celebration turned to its current format of lasting three days, but Freeman said she has heard stories about how controversial it was when the event expanded from one day to many days.
“The city decided they wanted to have dancing and beer in the street as part of the celebration and as a way to draw people into town,” she said. “There was a lot of opposition from some of the churches, but the city decided that’s the way they wanted it and it has been that way ever since.”
Freeman said there have been a number of people who have overseen the celebration in its 62-year run, including Keith Schauer who is in charge this year. Past event presidents have included Robert Bland, Mike Davis, Carlos Camarillo, Bob Scheske, Bob Hedrick, Elgin Heinemeyer, Jim Logan and many others who have carried the torch to make sure Come and Take It continues.
“I think the celebration has had a significant resurgence in the last five years,” Freeman said. “Once we started getting some name bands like Johnny Lee and Bob Connolly, the people came out and we had more visitors in town. Last year we sold out all the hotel and motel rooms, and we had people from states like Louisiana, Oklahoma, California and others. This year we even have people coming from Canada.”
Freeman said she can quantify how much the festival is helping beyond hotel/motel occupancy and increased tax revenue.
‘’We have over 20 non-profit groups selling food and their wares during the festival,” she said. “Some of the money goes to help them, some goes for scholarships. But five years ago we were maybe putting $75,000 back into the city and the non-profits, now I’m sure it’s over $100,000.”
Freeman said there are plenty of things to do here, like the chicken flying contest, the parade, the T-bone cookoff, bingo, the games, the food, and of course, the music.
“We have Shenandoah here on Friday night, then Eddy Raven and Gene Watson here on Saturday as headliners,” she said. “We always wrap it up with the Shiner Hobo Band on Sunday. For a free concert and free event, it is pretty amazing what we do here.
“We are glad we have the opportunity to showcase our community and our history,” she added. “It also helps our non-profits and local merchants. But we don’t sit on our laurels. We will be planning next year’s event the week after this one is over.”
Editor’s note: For a complete listing of Come and Take It Celebration events and times, please see the special program included in this week’s Gonzales Inquirer.