Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Tallest Cowboy in Texas

The State Fair of Texas ends tomorrow, October 21, at Fair Park in Dallas. The last couple weeks have been rainy, no doubt affecting Fair attendance, but not to worry. The country’s largest state fair will be back just as big as ever next year, and visitors will be greeted by Big Tex, the giant cowboy.
Texas State Fair; photo by Mang9; creative commons 3.0

For nearly 65 years, Big Tex has stood over the fair, waving and welcoming guests in a deep Texas drawl.

Tex began life in 1949 as the world’s largest Santa Claus in Kerens, a small town about an hour south of Dallas. The huge figure was intended to attract Christmas shoppers. Almost everyone in town helped build him – welders, garment factory workers, and farmers who served as models.

Big Santa was a hit, drawing shoppers and newspaper coverage from other towns. However, the novelty soon wore off and Santa's owner, Howell Brister, decided to sell his creation. The State Fair bought Santa for $750.

The State Fair initially planned to place Santa in Fair Park for the holidays but then decided to turn him into a cowboy. The fair asked artist Jack Bridges to create Big Tex. Working quickly, Bridges transformed the figure, giving it a bigger head and broader shoulders.
Big Tex; photo by David R. Tribble;creative commons 3.0

Big Tex stood tall for the first time at the 1952 State Fair and the crowds swarmed around him, posing for photos. One boy even dressed up like Tex, waving at folks just like the big cowboy.

The only problem was Big Tex looked kind of scary. His nose was long and hooked. One eye was shut, as if he was winking. So, Big Tex got a nose job and Bridges opened his eye. Other changes were made over the ensuing years.

Big Tex spoke for the first time in 1953, his second year at the fair. Jim Lowe was the voice of Big Tex for almost 40 years and did a lot to develop the cowboy's personality. Bill Bragg was the voice for about a decade, until after Big Tex burned down in 2012. The fair has kept the name of the current voice a secret.

An electrical short in Tex’s wiring sparked the fire. The flames shot up his body, consuming his clothes and his face within minutes. His charred remains stood for a couple of hours at Big Tex Circle. People stared and cried, taking pictures. Eventually his steel skeleton was taken down, covered by canvas and taken away – with a police escort.

The fair wanted Tex rebuilt in time for the 2013 fair and it wanted him built in Texas – and it had to be kept a big secret. SRO Associates in Boerne (pronounced Bernie) Texas, near San Antonio, accomplished the job.

The company modeled the new Big Tex after old pictures and created 3D computer images. Working with Texas Scenic, a San Antonio company, to program the big cowboy’s arm and face movements, they made them more fluid. His face is made of silicone skin.

Big Tex symbolizes Texas. He’s a larger than life cowboy character, a little sunburned and always welcoming. He greets you with a deep, friendly “Howdy Folks,” making you want to grab a corny dog, some funnel cake and take in all the shows and exhibits. For the braver among you, there’s the big ferris wheel and a bunch of other rides. And don’t forget to take a picture with Big Tex!

Quick note: I published A Mighty Chieftain (Romancing the Guardians, Book 8) today on Amazon. This is the final book in the series. It  may not be available for a day or two on all Amazon sites.

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a pair of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon Author Page: (universal link)
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 


  1. I love stories like this, for they are something unique and to be proud of. Long live 'Big Tex'. Doris

  2. Thank you for stopping by, Doris. Glad you like the story of Big Tex.


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