Big Tex

Last updated
Big Tex
Big Tex 2013.jpg
The newly reconstructed Big Tex at his unveiling, September 27, 2013.
USA Texas location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Texas
General information
Location Fair Park in Dallas
Coordinates 32°46′47″N96°45′52″W / 32.7797°N 96.7644°W / 32.7797; -96.7644 Coordinates: 32°46′47″N96°45′52″W / 32.7797°N 96.7644°W / 32.7797; -96.7644
Completed2013 (1949-2012, original)
Height55 feet

Big Tex is a 55-foot (17 m) tall statue and marketing icon of the annual State Fair of Texas held at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas. The figure has become a cultural icon of Dallas and Texas. Since 1952 Big Tex has served as a cultural ambassador to visitors, and the statue's prime location in the fairgrounds serves as a traditional meeting point.

State Fair of Texas Annual fair held in Dallas, Texas.

The State Fair of Texas is an annual state fair held in Dallas at historic Fair Park. The fair has taken place every year since 1886 except for varying periods during World War I and World War II. It usually begins the last Friday in September and ends 24 days later. With an annual attendance of over 2 million, it is consistently recognized as one of the most highly attended and best state fairs in America as well as Dallas's signature event.

Fair Park recreational and educational complex in Dallas, Texas

Fair Park is a 277-acre (112 ha) recreational and educational complex located in Dallas, Texas. The area, which is immediately east of downtown Dallas, is registered as a Dallas Landmark and National Historic Landmark. Many of the buildings were constructed for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936.

Dallas City in Texas, United States

Dallas, officially the City of Dallas, is a city in the U.S. state of Texas and the seat of Dallas County, with portions extending into Collin, Denton, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. With an estimated 2017 population of 1,341,075, it is the ninth most-populous city in the U.S. and third in Texas after Houston and San Antonio. It is also the eighteenth most-populous city in North America as of 2015. Located in North Texas, the city of Dallas is the main core of the largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States and the largest inland metropolitan area in the U.S. that lacks any navigable link to the sea. It is the most populous city in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country at 7.5 million people as of 2018. The city's combined statistical area is the seventh-largest in the U.S. as of 2017, with 7,846,293 residents.

Contents

On October 19, 2012, the last weekend of the 2012 State Fair of Texas, Big Tex was destroyed by an electrical fire that started in the right boot and worked its way up the structure, first becoming visible from the neck area. After the fire, a new Big Tex was created by SRO Associates and Texas Scenic Co. This rendition made its first public appearance on September 26, 2013. [1] [2]

History

Big Tex, 1956 Big-tex-1956.jpg
Big Tex, 1956

Origins

Kerens, Texas is known as the "Birthplace of Big Tex", although his original incarnation was as a 49-foot (15 m) tall Santa Claus constructed from iron drill casing, papier mache, and unraveled rope in 1949. [3] The statue was an idea of Howell Brister, manager of the Chamber of Commerce, to encourage holiday sales in the town, and the "World's Largest Santa Claus" (a claim later disputed) stood over Colket Avenue for two holiday seasons — drawing press attention from as far away as Iran and Australia. [4] [5] [6] Modeled after Kerens residents Ottis Franklin Spurlock and Hardy Mayo, the figure was built by members of the community who welded the frame, fabricated the body and sewed the clothing. [7]

Kerens, Texas City in Texas, United States

Kerens is a city in Navarro County, Texas, United States. The population was 1,573 at the 2010 census.

Santa Claus Folkloric figure, said to deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, is a legendary figure originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on Christmas Eve and the early morning hours of Christmas Day. The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, the British figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas. Some maintain Santa Claus also absorbed elements of the Germanic god Wodan, who was associated with the pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.

Iron Chemical element with atomic number 26

Iron is a chemical element with symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal, that belongs to the first transition series and group 8 of the periodic table. It is by mass the most common element on Earth, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust.

After two seasons the excitement over the statue faded, and Kerens offered it up for sale. In 1951, State Fair president R. L. Thornton purchased Santa's components for $750 and had artist Jack Bridges transform them into a cowboy, giving birth to "Big Tex".

Cowboy animal herder

A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend. A subtype, called a wrangler, specifically tends the horses used to work cattle. In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work for or participate in rodeos. Cowgirls, first defined as such in the late 19th century, had a less-well documented historical role, but in the modern world work at identical tasks and have obtained considerable respect for their achievements. Cattle handlers in many other parts of the world, particularly South America and Australia, perform work similar to the cowboy.

1952 to 2012

Big Tex made his debut at the 1952 fair, a 52-foot cowboy dressed in denim jeans and a plaid shirt donated by the H. D. Lee Company of Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Artist Jack Bridges used a photograph of his own face, a photograph of rancher Doc Simmons and a photograph of Will Rogers to create the new look. [8] After the fair, his appearance was slightly altered to straighten his nose and correct an odd wink. It was in 1953 that Big Tex also began speaking. Using a custom-built recipromotor and a 75-watt speaker system housed in the figure's head, Jack Bridges devised a way to create the illusion of natural speech with a swinging jaw. [9] Tex also attended a convention in Minneapolis that year with the Dallas Jaycees. [10]

Minneapolis Largest city in Minnesota

Minneapolis is the county seat of Hennepin County and the larger of the Twin Cities, the 16th-largest metropolitan area in the United States. As of 2017, Minneapolis is the largest city in the state of Minnesota and 45th-largest in the United States, with an estimated population of 422,331. The Twin Cities metropolitan area consists of Minneapolis, its neighbor Saint Paul, and suburbs which altogether contain about 3.6 million people, and is the third-largest economic center in the Midwest.

In 1955 Big Tex received his first new change of clothes, again fabricated by the H. D. Lee Company. [11] After that year's fair, he traveled to West Texas to participate in Abilene Christian College's 50th annual homecoming celebration. [12] A 12-foot-tall, 19-foot long plastic model of a Hereford steer (called "The Champ") accompanied Big Tex for the 1956 fair, but Big Tex was primarily displayed alone. During the 1950s Big Tex underwent further re-design, replacing the papier mache "skin" with fiberglass. The original head was put into storage and later sold at auction in 1993 to a Dallas collector. [13]

Abilene Christian University Private Christian university in Abilene, Texas

Abilene Christian University (ACU) is a private Christian university in Abilene, Texas. It was founded in 1906 as Childers Classical Institute.

Big Tex, 2006 Big Tex for State Fair of Texas 2006.jpg
Big Tex, 2006

The State Fair of Texas announced the construction of a permanent, year-round statue of Big Tex in 1961, but the figure remained a seasonal feature appearing only during the fair. [14] Instead, the Big Tex Circle display area was redesigned in 1966 with a larger mound. [15]

Big Tex traveled to his hometown of Kerens, Texas in 1981 to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city. [3] The figure continued to travel to various promotional events until the mid-1980s.

In 1997, Big Tex was given a skeletal makeover consisting of 4,200 feet of steel rods weighing 6,000 pounds. The new skeleton adjusted the posture and allowed for a new hand that waved to passersby, but kept the original head. [16] Three years later his neck was animated, allowing it to turn; his mechanical mouth was also upgraded with a new system. [17]

Big Tex celebrated his 50th birthday in 2002, receiving a giant birthday cake and an AARP card. Shades of gray were added to the hair and wrinkles were added the figure's hands and face as Big Tex continued to "age". [18] In 2012 the State Fair of Texas celebrated Big Tex's 60th birthday.

Destruction and recreation

Big Tex as seen during the fire on 19 October 2012 Big Tex fire.2 retouched.jpg
Big Tex as seen during the fire on 19 October 2012

On the morning of October 19, 2012, (the final weekend of the 2012 State Fair of Texas, and on Big Tex's 60th birthday) a fire started inside the framework of Big Tex. The figure's clothing, face and hat were completely destroyed in minutes as onlookers watched. An official investigation determined that the fire started in an electrical panel (fixed wiring) under the attraction's right boot. This panel was believed to have powered the air compressor that kept the clothing of the statue 'inflated'. [19]

News of the fire received national attention, and fair officials committed to rebuilding Big Tex "bigger and better" in time for the 2013 fair.

Working under secrecy, a new Big Tex was created during 2013 by SRO Associates and Texas Scenic Co. at a cost of $500,000. [1] The recreated statue weighs 19,000 pounds (8,618.3 kg) more than the previous version, bringing him to 25,000 pounds (11,339.8 kg). This allows Big Tex to withstand 100 miles per hour (160.9 km/h) winds without needing support wires as in previous versions. The height was increased by 1 yard (91.4 cm) to 55 feet (16.8 m) tall. [20] Big Tex Circle, the location during the State Fair of Texas, was also enlarged and reinforced for the larger statue. [21]

Clothing

Big Tex generally receives a new shirt and jeans every three seasons, currently designed and fabricated by the Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Company. His clothing will next be replaced in 2019.

Prior to 2013, Big Tex wore size 70 boots, a 75-gallon hat, a size 100 180/181 shirt made from nylon awning fabric and 284W/185L XXXXXL pair of Dickies jeans. The pants alone required 72 yards (66 m) of denim and weigh in at 65 pounds (29 kg). Over the years the outfit was accessorized with other articles associated with that year's State Fair of Texas theme. Big Tex has suffered a few garment mishaps over the years. In 1961, Hurricane Carla's winds tore his clothes. In 1970, his huge shirt was stolen from a pickup truck and received much publicity. [4]

The recreated structure for Big Tex that appeared in 2013 required new clothing and larger sizes. The new Dickie shirt features a 14-foot collar, 23-foot sleeves and weighs 130 pounds (59 kg). The shirt is made from 150 yards (140 m) of awning material. The new Dickie jeans features a 27-foot waist, 22-foot inseam and weighs 100 pounds (45 kg). The jeans are made from 100 yards (91 m) of denim material. [22]

Voices of Big Tex

Big Tex welcomes fairgoers with his friendly drawl of "Hoooowdeeee, fooolllllks!" and makes regular announcements throughout the duration of the State Fair of Texas. His booming voice has been played by only a few men over six decades, who perform every day of the fair from a booth known as the "doghouse".

Centennial Liquor sign in Dallas, Texas, referencing Big Tex Centennial Liquor Sign.jpeg
Centennial Liquor sign in Dallas, Texas, referencing Big Tex

Al Jones, a disc jockey for WRR FM 101.1, was the first voice of Big Tex. Al spoke for Big Tex for three years. [23] Radio announcer Jim Lowe, the most well-known voice of Big Tex, performed for 39 continuous years until 1998. Dan Alexander stepped up for the next two years. In 2001 a statewide competition and contest, held live at the Cotton Bowl, announced Sonny Ray Stolz as the next voice of Big Tex. But after only one season Sonny decided not to continue due to what he considered unprofessional treatment by Fair officials and the Fair brought in runner-up Bill Bragg in 2002. [24] After the 2012 State Fair, the Fair chose not to renew Bill Bragg's contract. The new voice of Big Tex remains a secret as of Sept. 2013 [25]

The voice of the 1955 Big Tex can be heard on the recording of NBC's live Wide Wide World which includes multiple segments at the State Fair. [26]

Depictions

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References

  1. 1 2 "Resurrection of Big Tex called for engineering skill, secrecy". dallasnews.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  2. "Throughout the summer, Big Tex took shape". dallasnews.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  3. 1 2 "City of Kerens, Texas". kerens.tx.us. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  4. 1 2 "Big Tex ready for 60th." Dallas Morning News, The (TX) 28 Sep. 2012, 1, BRIEFING: 09. NewsBank. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-22. Retrieved 2012-10-19.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. "Big D." Dallas Morning News. 12-17-1952
  7. "Recalling the history of Big Tex". Lubbock Online - Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  8. "BIG TEX FACT PAGE". yesterdayusa.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  9. "The Tallest Talkin' Texan is Texas' Tallest Talker." Dallas Morning News. 10-11-1953.
  10. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-13. Retrieved 2012-10-19.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. "Fair's Big 'Tex' to Get New Duds." Dallas Morning News. 09-26-1955
  12. "Big Tex Goes to College." Dallas Morning News. 11-01-1955
  13. "Archive: Head of Big Tex goes for big bucks at auction". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  14. "Tex to Get Permanent Fair Home." Dallas Morning News. 09-21-1961.
  15. "Big Tex Gets Buildup." Dallas Morning News. 08-29-1966
  16. Floyd, Jacquielynn. "A REFINED COWBOY - Body building has given Big Tex a picturesque physique." Dallas Morning News, The (TX) 23 Sep. 1997, ARLINGTON MORNING NEWS, NEWS ARLINGTON: 10A. NewsBank. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
  17. Horner, Kim. "A turning point - State Fair will be a pivotal moment for Big Tex and new swiveling head." The Dallas Morning News 15 Sep. 2000, THIRD, NEWS: 1A. NewsBank. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
  18. APPLETON, ROY. "Big Tex, 50, and he's still a hunk - No loose-fitting jeans here, but there is that AARP membership." The Dallas Morning News 17 Aug. 2002, SECOND, NEWS: 1A. NewsBank. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
  19. "Blaze began in Tex's Right Boot, State Fair official says". Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  20. "Big Tex Makes His Debut One Day Early". NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  21. "Big Tex Circle Plans Receive Praise". NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  22. Blair Valk (29 October 2013). "Vital Stats of Big Tex". storeassured.com. Assured Self Storage. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  23. "Famous WRR Disc Jockeys". dallascityhall.com. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  24. Flick, David (26 January 2002). "Psst! There's a new voice for Big Tex". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  25. David Flick (23 September 2013). "Big Tex's New Voice Chosen". NBC 5 Dallas Fort Worth. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  26. "Big Tex Live at 1955's State Fair". YouTube.
  27. Todd Kent. "The Comic Book Literacy Documentary Blog: My First Comic Book". comicbookliteracy.blogspot.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015.