Come and Take It weekend means different things to different people.
For me, it is the anniversary of when I first came to Gonzales.
It was 2017 when yours truly first set foot in Gonzales. Prior to coming here, I had gone through a couple of interviews with the company that owns the Gonzales Inquirer via telephone. I got a call in mid-September of that year asking me to fly out to Gonzales from my home in Michigan for a final onsite interview.
After checking out dates, we decided I should visit the first weekend in October. I didn’t know a lot about Gonzales before getting here, but was I surprised when I finally arrived the night before Come and Take It started.
The interview was set for Friday morning, and I spent all day with the owner of the company and met the staff and answered their questions. After a long day of interviewing, asking lots of questions, and doing a driving tour with the owner, I went back to my hotel room late that afternoon.
I knew I was intrigued by what I saw. I thought it was mighty nice of the community of Gonzales to bring a carnival to town and hold a big beer and crafts festival to celebrate my visit. I jokingly said to myself, “they must mean Come and Take the publisher’s job.”
After processing my thoughts about what I had seen and what I had been told, I decided to do a boots-on-the ground recon of downtown and ascertain what the Come and Take It festival was all about. It was after 6 p.m. and I walked around the square and checked out some of the local retail shops, restaurants and what not. I asked people about the community, what it was like to live here, and what they did for fun and entertainment.
The answers were surprising. One business owner gushed about Main Street’s summer concert series. Another person bragged about the upcoming Winterfest and the Christmas parade. A number of people bragged about the history, the historic homes, the museum and Pioneer Village.
“There seems to be a lot of cool things to do here,” I thought to myself. “Now let’s find out about the nightlife.”
I happened to be walking past the Long Branch Saloon on my way to City Market for dinner, when I noticed the swinging doors at the entrance. Being a longtime fan of Gunsmoke on TV, I decided to pop in and check out the bar. I was hoping to saddle up to the bar and quaff a few with Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc and Festus. They weren’t there, but the choice to go inside was a decision that would ultimately change my life and bring me to Gonzales.
I was wearing a University of Michigan t-shirt that evening, as it was the weekend of the big Michigan-Michigan State rivalry game. As soon as I walked into the Long Branch, I was immediately called out for wearing a Michigan shirt in Texas. I laughed.
Reid Means was working behind the bar and was the person who called me out. I noticed he was smiling as he extended his arm to shake hands. Reid informed me I had come to the right place because the owners of the bar, Keith and Karen Jacobs, were from Michigan.
I was excited there were fellow Michiganders in Gonzales. I was curious as to why they ended up here. A few minutes later Keith and Karen walked in and Reid immediately introduced us. As soon as they saw my Michigan t-shirt, they both grimaced in mock anguish. It turns out they were Michigan State fans. One strike against them and Go Blue!
As we made small talk, Bimbo Dreyer—who was sitting at the bar at that time—overheard the conversation. He inquired why I was in town all the way from Michigan. “Did you come for the festival?”
I tried to deflect the question, but finally relented and told them I had come to interview for the position of publisher. When I told them that I was the regional sales director for all seven Gannett daily papers in Michigan including USA Today, they said we needed to have a long talk.
Keith produced a couple of fine cigars, and we headed to the back deck to talk. Over the course of the next few hours, everyone gave the skinny on Gonzales—the good, the bad and the ugly. It turns out that Keith and Karen were good friends with the former publisher, and they offered real insight into the community and the paper.
After talking a little newspaper philosophy, Keith and Bimbo looked at each other and chimed in together: “You need to move to Gonzales. The community needs a strong newspaper with local direction and you definitely fit the bill. You may not realize it but the community needs someone with your experience here to fix the newspaper.”
I was astounded to hear this, but the words stuck with me. I was astounded to hear their criticism of the paper but I knew it was true. I went back to the hotel and thought about what they had told me. It was obvious from my interview with the employees during the day and the input I got while walking around square that the paper needed fixing. I had the confidence I could fix it.
On Saturday, I did more boots-on-the-ground research. Based on the conversation the evening before at the Long Branch, I asked better questions on Saturday during my reconnoitering.
I was offered the job as soon as I got back to Michigan. After deliberating about a life-changing move from one of the big cities of the north to a small town deep in the heart of Texas, I opted to come.
It was the right decision.
Fast forward to this past weekend. I was working for the Chamber on Saturday morning and was asking everyone where they were from and welcoming them to Gonzales and the birthplace of Texas freedom.
Then the thought hit me: “My goodness, this is my third Come and Take It and the anniversary of interviewing here. Who would’ve thought that in two-short years I would be helping the local Chamber during its biggest event of the year and volunteering for the Lions Club Cook Off and Bingo on Sunday?”
I just smiled and said to myself, Come and Take It. I am glad I did.