Publisher Perspective

Return to Oz, or Winterfest 2018


My, how time flies!

I can’t believe a whole year has passed since last year’s Winterfest in Gonzales. It was the day I was truly indoctrinated into the Gonzales lifestyle, replete with chili, beans, beer and Santa Claus. I will never forget.

Let me take y’all back to the fateful day of Dec. 2, 2017. Yours truly had been in town just under a month, and I was renting a room at the Dilworth Inn. Early on in my tenure as publisher I came to the realization that the Gonzales Inquirer needed more local news in it, and Winterfest seemed like a perfect story for us to cover. When I found out there was going to be a chili cookoff on the square, I jumped at the chance and announced to the newsroom that I was going to cover that part of the event.

The staff just shrugged as if to say, “Yeah, so what?” I thought it would be good for me to show them that a: I could write; b. I could cover a story; and c. I could smooze and do some badly-needed community public relations. I knew I was going to be watched with a jaundiced eye by the staff.

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 dawned bright and sunny with a forecasted high in the low 80s. I gasped when I heard that. 80 degrees in December? Back in the Great White North 80 degrees in December is unheard of. I checked the temperature in Michigan that day, and the high was for the low 40s. I smiled. The day was off to a good start.

In the afternoon, I sauntered over to the square to check out the day’s activities. After scoping out the chili tents, I resolved to visit each and every one of them, take a picture of the contestants, and put every one of the contestants in the paper. That’s how you sell papers. That’s how you build readership. I didn’t know what I was in for.

In the contest that day were eight entries, mostly from the greater Gonzales area. I went up to each tent and introduced myself and noticed the snicker on their faces when I approached. I was wearing my University of Michigan tee shirt. They found that, well let’s say, amusing?!

I had a nice conversation with all of the contestants, ate their chili and their beans, and took everyone’s pictures. Some of the teams were having a grand time of it and invited me back to come see them after I had visited all the tents. So I did. And that’s where I fell into the Lions Den.

I stopped by the tent where Sonny and all his lady cookers were hanging out. The chili and Texas beans were great, but the ladies were having a ball. I was invited to have a cold one with them, and then comment on the quality of their chili and beans. After eating over 12 samples of chili and 10 samples of beans, a cold beer sounded pretty good. Little did I know that everywhere I went back to was offering the same thing: have a beer and tell us what you thought. So I did.

Then came Armageddon. I walked over to the tent where the Zella Brothers were cooking. Mike and Ronnie just smiled and offered some great downhome hospitality. “Grab a chair,” Mike said. “Have a beer!” Ronnie said. It didn’t take long for this situation to deteriorate into an all-night bull session. I loved every minute of it.

Well, before long, some of the members of the Gonzales Main Street Association found me on the square hanging out with the Zellas.

“How was the Chili Cook Off?” they asked. “What do you think of our town?”

The answer was simple.

“Ladies, I just moved here from Michigan, and it’s 40 degrees there today,” I smiled. “Here it is sunny and 80 degrees. I have just completed a tour of all your chili and Texas beans contestants and every one of them gave me a free sample of chili and their beans.

“Afterwards they all offered a cold beer! Everyone was friendly, courteous and having a blast.

“Now I don’t know about you, but I love Texas!” I exclaimed.

They all nodded, smiled and walked away happy.

So did I.

I look forward to seeing everyone at Winterfest this Saturday.