McGregor celebrated Founders’ Day on Saturday with a parade, beautiful baby contests, barbecue and a mechanical bull.
Merchants, especially along Main Street, joined the fun, reporting brisk business generated by crowds strolling the thoroughfare. Visitors from around Central Texas were buying and browsing at downtown’s many gift and antique shops or shelling out money to festival vendors for bamboo walking sticks, $1 hair bows and McGregor Bulldogs-themed gear.
“Our sales easily topped $3,000 earlier in the day, and they’re probably pushing $4,000 now,” said Scott Toby, owner of The Vibe, during a late-afternoon interview.
His 9,000-square-foot retail center opened nine months ago to offer jewelry, clothing and home accessories.
“We’ve had heavy traffic today, significantly more than we see on a typical Saturday, and we’re enjoying it,” Toby said.
Toby said besides generating sales, the McGregor-centric occasion should give his establishment more exposure.
McGregor Founders’ Day returned to full force in last year after the event suffered from a lack of volunteers in 2015. The volunteer-based McGregor Movement helped galvanize support for returning the historic event to something comparable to its heyday, said Robbie Anderson, president of the nonprofit.
“I’m extremely pleased with our 24th Founders’ Day today,” Anderson said late Saturday. “I don’t have an exact count of those attending, but people were walking on both sides of a nine-block section of Main Street for most of the day. That’s quite a few folks.”
He said last year’s crowd was estimated at 7,000 to 9,000, and the turnout Saturday likely would match or exceed that range.
Money raised from Founders’ Day goes back into a fund to support future events and to provide scholarships.
At Hidden Talents Gifts & Antiques owned by Jo Lynn Brown, the pace was so hectic that staffer and granddaughter Lynette Harrison had no time to break for lunch until about 5 p.m.
“I would say we’re doing triple the business today,” Harrison said.
The shop provides space for about 30 vendors who sell antiques and glassware. Harrison described Founders’ Day as “a family tradition” that creates a stir of community pride in McGregor each September.
David Livingston, owner of a cigar bar called Tobacco Junction, said he does not allow children inside, so the many stroller-pushing families cruising the sidewalk outside chose not to enter.
“Still, our business is up a good 20 percent,” said Livingston, who tossed out the welcome mat eight years ago. “Founders’ Day is good for the city.”
Visitors of all ages made the trip to McGregor for a day of live music, vintage car rallies, washer tossing and people watching.
“I live in Waco and never came to McGregor for anything but football games, so I showed up today just to check things out,” said Victor Venegas, 44, who works in the city of Waco’s purchasing department.
Venegas said he found ample offerings of good barbecue.
As a country band belted out “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again,” dozens of people escaped the heat by relaxing beneath shade trees.
Debbie Sparks, 56, a native of Syracuse, New York, formerly in the U.S. Army and stationed at Fort Hood, found herself quick-stepping toward her car around noon, planning to temporarily leave Founders’ Day behind.
“I’m going to go get my husband, and we’re going to hit all the antique stores,” said Sparks, now a Belton resident, with a laugh.
She is employed at the C3 customer contact center in McGregor, which had a booth she helped staff for most of the morning.
“It’s a great day,” Sparks said. “I was hoping it might be a little cooler since it is September, but I remembered this is Texas.”
Bonnie Lindley, 40, a resident of the Hidden Valley subdivision between McGregor and Waco, said she moved to the area about four years ago from Dallas and was enjoying her first exposure to Founders’ Day.
Daughter Lorna Lindley, 9, hugged her mom, smiled and said she was happy with her decision to buy a snow cone and necklace.
“This is our history, getting together and seeing everybody,” said Kristie Casarez, 40, attending the event with her husband and four children. “The kids love it, the food is awesome, and this is one time you can cheat” on choosing low-calorie goodies over taste.
Founders’ Day kicked off with a parade at 9 a.m., and highlights included a cute-baby contest, a 5K run, a washer-tossing tournament, a barbecue cook-off and live music scheduled until 10:30 p.m.