Many of us have known him all of our life. The towering 52-foot cowboy, sporting a 75-gallon cowboy hat and size 70 boots-- Big Tex greeted us every fall with his booming “How-dee Folks,” welcoming us to the great State Fair of Texas.
Conceived in 1952, brainchild of Dallas businessman, philanthropist and mayor, R. L. Thornton, Big Tex is a state fair icon so when he met with disaster on October 19, 2012, all of Texas mourned.
But old cowboys never die, they just ride away. And Big Tex is back!
However, the electrical jolt that struck Tex struck a chord in all of us, causing us to take heart and pay tribute to such a time-honored tradition as Big Tex. This year, the Hall of State in Fair Park is celebrating the State Fair’s mascot with an exclusive exhibit, “The Life and Times of Big Tex.”
History buffs and Hall of State volunteers had the opportunity to preview the exhibit Wednesday evening, Sept. 25 at a reception held by the Dallas Historical Society.
Much of Big Tex’ life is memorialized in this year’s exhibit by monumental heads, hats, boots and period State Fair posters displayed throughout the museum.
Additionally, to the delight of parents, there are photo ops everywhere. Kids can don a western shirt, hat and bandana for a “sit-in-the-saddle” while mom and dad snap away.
Paper and pens are provided so you can write Tex a note telling him what he means to you. You are even encouraged to share memories such as what you wore on your first visit to the State Fair of Texas and whether or not you ever wore a cowboy hat to the fair.
Highlights of the life of the 60-year-old cowboy include “life before Big Tex.” Believe it or not, Tex was a giant Santa Claus before Dallas artist Jack Bridges turned him into a cowboy. Yes, siree, he came to us in 1951 wearing a red suit with white fur trim. The H. D. Lee Company of Shawnee Mission, Kansas outfitted him in denim jeans and a plaid shirt as part of the “new look” for his 1952 debut. Soon after his arrival in Dallas, his nose was straightened, giving him a more handsome appearance-- befitting a cowboy. A year later, he got a voice.
In 1997, Tex once again underwent re-construction. This time a new frame of 4,200 feet of steel rods gave the 6000-pound cowboy a new barrel-chested appearance. Tex had never looked so good.
It’s no wonder fair goers were saddened by the loss of Big Tex when an electrical fire left nothing of him but his steel frame, his hands and a belt buckle. We had lost a friend.
Grieving fans placed gifts in Big Tex Circle and made on-line donations to help fund his re-build.
But for those of us who grew up in the era of Roy Rogers, Hop-a-long Cassidy and other famous cowboys, we learned early on that the good guy comes out on top. And on top is where Big Tex will be on opening day of the 2013 State Fair of Texas.
Friday afternoon, at 2 p.m., the new Big Tex will be unveiled and will welcome everyone to the great State Fair of Texas
While at the fair this year, be sure and visit the Hall of State and pay your respects to The Life and Times of Big Tex.