Since 1954, Gonzales, Texas has celebrated its iconic and pride-filled roots with the annual “Come and Take It” Celebration.
This diverse and family friendly multi-day event includes something for everyone. Heritage tours; art shows; petting zoos with carriages, camels & critters; biergarten and food booths; Farm Bureau agriculture educational exhibits; a carnival; a parade and live music in the Square. You can even partake in a chicken flying contest!
View the rich history of this Texas stronghold with a multitude of events to not only celebrate the proud history of Gonzales, but the future of this beautiful Texas city in the diverse square, surrounded by small town charm and opportunities to shop, eat, celebrate and be a vital part of Texas Independence, in modern times.
As a motto, “Come and Take It” can be attributed to King Leonidas I of Sparta, who, in an act of defiance against the Persian army of Xerxes attempting to take his army’s weapons, used the phrase “Molon labe” at the Battle of Thermopylae.
The history of this iconic celebration centers on American colonists in Gonzales, Texas refusing to return a cannon originally placed by the Mexican government to defend the settlement against Comanches in 1831. One hundred Mexican calvary soldiers, under the command of Lt. Francisco Castonando, were sent to retrieve this cannon during Santa Anna’s increasing aggression against Texas colonists.
Although this event was more of a skirmish than a battle, this definitive moment began a rebellion that culminated in The Republic of Texas being born less than a year later. The Gonzales flag itself was created by Sarah Seely DeWitt and her daughter, Evaline, from Noami DeWitt’s wedding dress. The iconic words “Come and Take It” were scrawled on the garment.
In September 1835, General Cos landed in Matagorda Bay and advanced by land to Bexar. This was meant to be the first step in control and disarmament of the Texas people. It did not proceed as planned for the general. On Sept. 28, 1835, 18 men, “The Old Eighteen,” held off the soldiers until reinforcements could arrive. On Oct. 2, 1835, a battle was fought that has been referred to as the “Lexington of the Texas Revolution.”
Every year, over a three-day event, this cry of independence, civic pride and community is renewed at the Come and Take It Celebration. The event has been held the first full weekend in October for the past 67 years. This year, this event will continue from Oct. 1-3 across the two town squares of Gonzales to give plenty of room for adventure, discovery and fun, as well as plenty of opportunities to support vendors with food, drinks, and exhibits.
The ever-popular chicken flying contest finds its roots in Gonzales history. Brad Cox, executive director of the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture, said, “The Come and Take It … happened October 2, 1835 … over 100 years (ago). They talk about it in the local classroom here in Gonzales and people are raised being told the story, going around seeing the cannon and going to the battlefield. Now as a Come and Take It Event, there was something prior called Fryer’s Frolics that happened in like the 1970s, and it sort of happened the same time as the (celebration of the) first shot for Texas Independence, October 2nd.
“It wasn’t called, necessarily, Come and Take It … per my understanding, and they went out and celebrate that, celebrate the whole Come and Take It incident and at some point they changed the name to the Come and Take it Celebration.”
“This is the biggest event the chamber holds, we’re expecting usually ten to twelve thousand people … we’ve already had numerous people call us,” said Cox, referring to people expected to visit during the Come and Take It Celebration from all across the United States of America.
Cox takes special pride in relaying the history and local enjoyment of the event, stating, “Everyone is juiced up for the parade. … everyone is just super excited…”
When discussing the parade Cox acknowledged “everything is a little down this year because of the pandemic” referring to the number of parade entrants, though he stressed a large number of participants to look forward to at this year’s celebration, with the parade being the biggest draw, in years past. Cox continued discussing events like live music, including Reckless Kelly and Los Garcia Brothers at this year’s celebration, with expectation for a large crowd.
Cox also highlighted a fondness for the history of the flying chicken contest in Gonzales, “The chicken flying contest is run by the Rotary Club and held over on St Joseph Street & St. George.” The chickens are placed into a type of double-ended mailbox pole and prodded to exit one end, with the resultant flight measured to see which chicken flies the farthest. Per Cox this is a “very unique, different kind of thing … word gets out among people who are visiting … it sparks imagination in people’s mind … kids cheering … it’s very entertaining.”
The Come and Take It Celebration of pride and history began as a one day event in 1956, Come and Take It eventually grew into a 10-day celebration in 1975, leveling off to its current three-day format the following year.