GONZALES — One of the biggest generators of tourism revenue in Gonzales County is J.B. Wells Park and Expo Center.
The park, which is located at the junction of 183 and 97 just southwest of the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers, has been entertaining tourists and locals alike for over 15 years.
Anne Dollery, who is the Gonzales Parks Director and oversees JB Wells Park and Expo Center, says business has never been better.
“2018 has been our best year ever as far as usage and attendance,” Dollery said. “In fact, we are almost completely booked at the park for every weekend in 2019 already. We’ve had to turn some people away. Once they come to JB Wells Park, they come back because our facilities are first class, there are plenty of hookups out here on the property for motor homes and trailers, and we have the finest volunteers and hospitality in the state of Texas.”
Dollery said being in the central part of Texas and having a great location in Gonzales is a big benefit to the park and Expo Center.
“A lot of the rodeos and cuttings need to have a centralized location as their participants are coming from all over Texas,” she explained. “Gonzales is ideally situated to make that more convenient for everyone. Plus, when you add in the great location of the park and Expo Center out here on the banks of the Guadalupe, that makes it even more desirable. We are in a safe and nice part of the community, and parents don’t have to worry about their kids out here like they would in other cities where the grounds are located in bad parts of the community.
‘’Here, the parents can go into town for dinner and entertainment while the kids play out here. For many of the people who rodeo, do cuttings and livestock training, that’s what they do for a living and this becomes their little vacation place for three or four days.’’
Dollery said she does not have the final numbers for 2018, but it is the best year she has had since accepting the position four years ago.
“I’d like to see the Expo Center do better, but it is improving,” Dollery said. “We’ve got a couple of things potentially lined up which could have a huge impact on our tourism and local economy for a few weekends next year. I’m just waiting for all the contracts to be cleaned up before we announce it.
“I don’t want to jinx it,” she laughed.
Dollery has been in the position overseeing the park for four years now. In January, she was named the Operations Director for the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Gonzales. In that position, she oversees J.B. Wells Park and Expo Center, the golf course, the library, the museum and the cemeteries.
“It’s a lot for sure, but I love this place and what I do,” Dollery said. “I was involved in the junior high and high school rodeos before I came to Gonzales, and it’s in my blood. I can’t do one without the other. I have a passion for this place and for rodeo. In fact, my son rodeos professionally.”
Dollery said that 2019 will set at least 12 cuttings, which means people will come on Wednesday and leave Sunday, which is great for the tourism economy. She said besides cutting events, rodeos, monster trucks, circuses, tractor pulls, concerts, bull riding and fighting and other events fill the marquis. At the Expo Center, there are weddings, gun shows, trade shows, teacher in-service meetings, the Go Texan banquet and chamber banquet help pay the freight.
Dollery says a company called CYGNET is going to do an independent economic impact study on the facility, but she expects good results.
“Why not?” she asked rhetorically. “We did our own survey and we did not have one complaint come back to us.
“Plus, we have a safe environment out here, we are centrally located and our friendliness and hospitality is second to none. Gonzales has it all; we just need to get our message out there.”