Fair icon Big Tex destroyed by fire

52-foot cowboy burns as event marks his birthday

DALLAS – Big Tex, the metal cowboy whose slow drawl of “Howdy, folks!” made him an icon of the State Fair of Texas for 60 years, was destroyed Friday when flames engulfed his 52-foot-tall frame.

Some material that made up Big Tex’s hands and sleeves could still be seen as firefighters gathered around the scorched area. This year’s fair, which closes Sunday and had been celebrating the towering structure’s birthday, went on despite the fire – just as Big Tex would want it.

“Big Tex is a symbol of everything the state fair stands for,” fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding said. “Big Tex is where my parents told me, ‘If you get lost, meet at Big Tex.’ ”

The cowboy always was easy to spot, with his 75-gallon hat and 50-pound belt buckle.

Bill Bragg, the voice of Big Tex who read scripts from a nearby trailer while the giant cowboy’s mouth moved, said someone came in and told him the structure was on fire. He stepped outside the trailer and watched Big Tex burn.

“It was a quick end,” said Bragg, who is a radio engineer outside the three weeks a year that he works at the fair.

Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Joel Lavender said Friday afternoon that the cause of the blaze had not been determined.

Several Big Tex backers say he will return next year, including Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who tweeted that the icon would be rebuilt “bigger and better for the 21st Century.”

Big Tex’s hands, boots and face were made of Fiberglas, Gooding said. Most of his clothing was provided by a Fort Worth retailer. Gooding said the steel structure that held all the material will be evaluated, and a new one will be built if necessary.


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