The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Big Tex returns to State Fair

Big Tex
Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, surround Big Tex as storm clouds move in above, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, in Dallas. The fair runs Sept. 27, through Oct. 20. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)” height=”206

Fried. An adjective that manages to both capture the heart of the culinary scene of the State Fair of Texas, and pay homage to the fiery demise of Big Tex, a tragedy that struck the Lone Star state almost a year ago, on Oct. 19, 2012.

A gem that enables the best of Texas history, culture and tradition to shine brightly for a brief period of time, the State Fair of Texas dates back to 1886. Serving as an early catalyst for growth in Dallas, the annual event has stood the test of time and continues to attract diverse and curious audiences of all ages and backgrounds, today. The 2013 State Fair of Texas opened 10 a.m. Friday, and runs through Oct. 20 at Fair Park in Dallas. “This year is our 127th state fair,” said Sally Wamre, public relations coordinator for the State Fair of Texas. “We have several new things that we know visitors will love,” Wamre continued.

The highly anticipated revival of Big Tex, who has served as the official symbol of the State Fair of Texas since 1952, proves one of the boldest and biggest among these “several new things.”

Originally constructed as an oversized Santa Claus for a 1949 Christmas function located in Kerens, a town 60 miles south of Dallas, Big Tex’s story is anything but ordinary. Fascinated with the notion of a “towering cowboy,” the State Fair of Texas paid a hefty $750 for the figure, which, in 1952, made its – or rather, his – debut as Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas.

For almost 60 years Big Tex presided over Texas fairgrounds, growing into the literal “face” of the Texas State Fair, and greeting millions of fair attendees with an all too familiar “Howdy, folks!” and a wave. Yet, an electrical short located in the towering cowboy’s right boot set Big Tex ablaze last fall, forcing Texans to mourn the loss of a state fair legacy.

“Big Tex will definitely be back in time for the 2013 State Fair of Texas. Big Tex is always there. He’s a tradition,” Wamre said last November, when the deadline for rebuilding Big Tex was established. In a press release issued Oct. 19, the day of the fire itself, State Fair of Texas officials vowed to restore and rebuild Big Tex “so that he c[ould] once again fill his boots in time for the 2013 State Fair of Texas.” Despite obstacles and challenges, State Fair officials met their initial deadline and kept their
initial promise.

Although the unveiling of Big Tex was scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. Friday, opening day of the 2013 State Fair of Texas, the revamped cowboy was positioned in Big Tex Circle Thursday morning and made his debut a day earlier than anticipated. According to State Fair of Texas spokeswoman Sue Gooding, officials chose to reveal Big Tex Thursday afternoon, after strong winds began tearing the curtains hiding the $500,000, 55-foot figure. “We decided that although we wanted to keep it a secret, we needed to go ahead and drop it,” Gooding said in a news release Thursday. “I guess this is best described as a premature birth,” she
added, jokingly.

While only members of the media and fair workers were able to witness Big Tex’s premature resurrection, fairgoers relished the opportunity to hear the new voice of the “tallest talkin’ Texan” for the first time during a “welcome back” ceremony featuring Big Tex at 2 p.m. Friday.

“For 15 years, I have been attending the state fair of Texas. My heart broke last year with the misfortune of Big Tex burning to the ground. Eager and excited, I was able to meet the new Big Tex at 5 a.m. Friday, opening day of the 2013 State Fair [of Texas],” said Victoria Albrecht, Promotions Director for WBAP and KLIF radio, when asked about her initial encounter with the brand new Big Tex.

In a state where fair vendors and buyers alike tout fried Southern delicacies unapologetically, shamelessly and with a smile that seems to declare “everything really is bigger in Texas, and we’re proud of that,” it comes as no surprise that with the completion of a $500,000 makeover that began in April, Big Tex is finally back, and he’s bigger than ever. Measuring 55-feet tall and weighing 25,000 pounds, the revamped Big Tex is not only three feet taller than the original, but also a whopping 19,000 pounds heavier than his predecessor. This additional weight has enabled the new, freestanding Big Tex to stand firmly on his own two feet, without guy-wires, but with various technological and mechanical improvements that usher the 60-year-old Lone Star state icon into the modern age.

According to Gooding, in an attempt to “make [Big Tex] more proportional to a human,” State Fair officials and designers “tried to stay within the exact same dimensions of the head and, as a result, [the revamped cowboy] ended up being three feet taller.” Equipped with a fire-suppression system, and able to withstand 100 mph winds, Big Tex showcases improved style and safety, and stands tall and strong in a 95-gallon hat — as compared to the 75-gallon hat of his former — and a fire-retardant outfit, which the Fort Worth-based brand Dickies both designed and produced.

“I think people will be very pleased,” Gooding said regarding public reaction to the new Big Tex. “I visited him several times when he was being built. My response has been that they have successfully brought back the Big Tex that we lost last year on the last Friday of the fair.” Yet, despite Gooding’s optimism, the unveiling of Big Tex on Thursday opened floodgates to a sea of entirely mixed reviews.

While the new Big Tex serves as a “rebirth” of the classic Texas State Fair icon, aesthetic changes from the original model have been made and complaints, backlash and criticisms centered on those changes have not gone unheard. Some critics dub the new figure “Big Tex-Mex” due to his darker complexion; others praise Big Tex’s darker skin tone as a visible testament to Texas’s changing demographics. Some critics poke fun at the fact that Big Tex’s jeans are tucked into his new Lucchese boots; others believe the boots deserve and demand attention, for the colorful details and artwork they display tell a story of rich Texas history, culture and heritage.

“I’m excited to see the new Big Tex and I hope the rumors are true – that he is darker to represent our changing demographic in Texas,” Taylor Henry, a senior majoring in civil engineering at Southern Methodist University, said. “That would be great for Dallas. Being from Texas, I’m not surprised they made [Big Tex] bigger, but I am disappointed that it was only by a few feet,” Henry continued.

While Albrecht agrees that for a cowboy, tucked-in jeans are certainly “uncommon,” and “pray[s that] it doesn’t become the newest trend for men,” she “do[es] understand why it was done that way.” According to Albrecht, because “the artwork on Big Tex’s boots is beautiful and represents many different elements of Texas,” the iconic cowboy’s giant footwear “should be shown off, and shown off proudly.” When asked about the general impact of Big Tex’s revival, Albrecht noted that “With Big Tex [representing] such a delicate topic since last year’s misfortune, [she] think[s] the overall perspective of the new Big Tex will be rewarding for any patron attending the one and only State Fair of Texas.”

Big Tex aside, the State Fair of Texas proves a beacon of Texas hope, Texas pride and Texas culture, and continues to thrive today. Reflecting on her own personal experiences at the State Fair of Texas, Ashlyn Allison, a senior majoring in history at the University of Texas, cut to the core of the 127-year-old Lone Star state tradition when she said, “I’m sure people think we’re crazy for our ridiculous food selections, and may even laugh at all the controversy and uproar that this giant, mechanical, talking cowboy’s resurrection has caused. But the State Fair of Texas is something that you have to try at least once. It’s what being Texan is all about. It’s all about that ‘Texas State of Mind,’ and as proud Texans, we can’t help but love and cherish it.”

Although some may never forget the tragic finale of last year’s State Fair of Texas, the revival of Big Tex continues to ignite excitement, spur fires of mixed review and fascinate audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Wamre urges Dallasites to take full advantage of Big Tex’s return, and investigate the Hall of State at Fair Park’s exhibit entitled “The Life and Times of Big Tex,” which she says, “highlight[s] the first 60 years he was here.” For ticket sales and more information on the State Fair of Texas and the return of Big Tex, visit today.


Good Picture of Big Tex.jpg
Big Tex returned for Friday’s opening of the Texas State Fair after a year of renovations following last year’s fire. (MACKENZIE FERCH/The Daily Campus)” height=”1024
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