CTI Celebration brings together old traditions, new amenities


By the time this edition of the Gonzales Inquirer hits the streets, it will be T-minus one week and counting for this community’s favorite time of year — the annual Come and Take It Celebration.

Every year, on the first full weekend of October, Gonzales remembers the Old 18 who defended the city against the Mexican Army on Oct. 2, 1835, and challenged Santa Anna’s men that if they wanted one old cannon so much they could “come and take it.”

This year’s Come and Take It (CTI) Celebration will be held from Oct. 6-8 in Independence and Texas Heroes squares in downtown Gonzales with other events taking place at Pioneer Village, the Crystal Theatre and along Saint Joseph Street.

Again there will be things to see and do for the whole family, including the re-enactment of the Battle of Gonzales; the chicken flying contest; the parade; live music featuring Doug Stone, Little Texas and Confederate Railroad; the mullet contest; a carnival; a car show; the Lions Club cookoff; the CTI Art Show; the CTI Golf Tournament and much, much more.

CTI Committee Chair Daisy Scheske Freeman, Activities Chair Kasey Condel Rhodes and Finance Chair Darla Machacek spoke about what’s new at CTI this year, what it takes to pull it off and their favorite events and memories.

What are some of the newest features of CTI this year?

Scheske Freeman: To accommodate our cherished Gonzales Classic Cruisers and participants, we've extended street closures north on St. Joseph Avenue, enhancing their experience. We've also expanded our commercial food vendor spaces, offering an even wider array of culinary delights for our attendees.

The Committee has also waived the small percentage fee traditionally paid by participating nonprofits food booths since our return from the COVID-19 cancellation in 2020.

Moreover, we introduced mixed beverages and air-conditioned bathroom options on-site last year for a small fee, further elevating the comfort and enjoyment of our visitors.

This year we have extended street closures north on St. Joseph to help assist the Gonzales Classic Cruisers to provide more room for participants. We will also be providing COW’s (cell on wheels) for better phone service.

Machacek: Bringing in more commercial food vendors for a variety. Lighted port o potties. Back for the second year, Hoity Toity, for those that appreciate an air conditioned AND clean restrooms, for both men and women. Mixed Drinks back for the second year for those that like something other than beer. Knowledgeable volunteers that are not only there to assist in the celebration of CATI, but are always researching new ideas to make Come and Take It better than previous years. CONTINUING feature is free admission! Towns surrounding Gonzales charge fees to attend.

How many volunteers work during CTI to make it successful?

Scheske Freeman: The dedicated support of volunteers is truly the backbone of our event. In total, we have a diverse group of volunteers who play pivotal roles at various stages of the event. At the heart of our operation are 12 dedicated committee members who work tirelessly throughout the year. They make critical decisions to enhance the event and start planning for the next year immediately after our 'Come and Take It' celebration. This post-event meeting allows us to assess what worked, identify areas for improvement, and refine our preparations.

Beyond our core committee, we collaborate with numerous volunteer-led groups, especially our nonprofit organizations, who bring in a considerable number of volunteers. These dedicated individuals contribute to various event programs, including the battle reenactment, chicken flying, food booths, memorial services, museum tours, and other engaging activities.

During the event, our volunteers continue to shine, assisting with setup and teardown, parade coordination, merchandise sales, vendor support, ticketing services, and the logistical intricacies that make CTI run smoothly.

We're also fortunate to have an active online volunteer community that helps us spread the word through social media engagement, sharing, and liking event updates.

Furthermore, we have volunteers who handle tasks like answering phones, folding hundreds of t-shirts, and creating tour packets to ensure that our visiting guests have a memorable experience.

CTI owes its success to the unwavering dedication and passion of these incredible volunteers. Their collective efforts create the magic that makes our event a cherished tradition in our community.

Rhodes: Many, including other organizations volunteers who put on contests within the CTI festival.

Machacek: LOTS!

What are your favorite things to do at CTI?

Scheske Freeman: To rack up as many steps as I can over the weekend (just kidding!). My favorite thing is the chicken flying contest! I also love seeing the event as a whole coming together seamlessly and watching everyone enjoy themselves to the fullest extent!

Rhodes: The parade and seeing old friends.

Machacek: People watch and visit with old and new friends.

What is your favorite past CTI memory?

Scheske Freeman: My cherished CTI memories span my entire life, from my childhood when I volunteered alongside my parents, to the carefree days of riding carnival attractions with friends. In high school, I had the privilege of working at the Pilot Club drink booth and proudly participating in the parade. Later, during my college years, I introduced my friends and sorority sisters to the event, establishing a tradition that continues today.

For me, CTI symbolizes the kickoff to the fall season, resonating with the spirit of football, hunting, and the imminent holiday season. What makes it truly special is the sense of community that encompasses the atmosphere, providing a safe and family-friendly environment to commemorate our history. It's immensely gratifying to contribute to the creation of positive memories for my loved ones and witness our community unite in celebration year after year.

Rhodes: It’s not one certain thing for me. For me it’s the nostalgia CTI brings to me that is my favorite memory.

Machacek: I remember always having a tractor pull and rodeo WAY back. That was always something fun to attend.

For more information about CTI, go to https://gonzalestexas.com/come-and-take-it/.