Big Tex  in 1975 

Big Tex  in 1975 

File

Think you know everything about Big Tex? Sure, the icon of the State Fair of Texas has been a part of our lives for as long we we can remember, but how much do you really know about him? Here are some fun facts:

The precursor to Big Tex: a giant Santa Claus in Kerens, Texas. 

The precursor to Big Tex: a giant Santa Claus in Kerens, Texas. 

Courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

Santa origins

Before he was Big Tex, he was the world's largest Santa Claus, in Kerens in Navarro County (shown at right in 1949). He was created by Howell Brister, the manager of the Kerens Chamber of Commerce, in hopes that people would visit and shop in Kerens.

$750

That's how much the State Fair paid the town of Kerens for their giant Santa, in 1951. When fair officials bought Santa, they first thought about placing Santa in Fair Park for the holidays. Then they decided on a cowboy. He was unveiled as Big Tex in 1952. 

He started out creepy

At first, Big Tex looked kind of evil, according to Nancy Wiley, the State Fair historian. His nose was long and hooked. So he had a nose job. Through the years, his face became friendlier. His papier-mâché head was replaced with fiberglass. He's shown here in 1979, with the sun at his fingertips. 

Big Tex in 1979

Big Tex in 1979

File/Clint Grant 

More face facts

Jack Bridges, an artist and set designer, is the one who turned Santa into Big Tex. Bridges, who died in 2001, told The News in 1997 that Big Tex's face was modeled after "me, Will Rogers and Doc Simmons, a rancher from Bell County. I took the worst features from all three of us." 

Vegetarian or not, you need to try the new veggie corny dog at the State Fair of Texas

Gettin' older

In 2002, when he turned 50, his hair got a little grayer and wrinkles were added to his face and hands. That same year, at his 50th birthday party, Big Tex got a birthday cake and his own AARP card.

Speaking for Big Tex

Two men were the voice of Big Tex for most of his existence. Radio man Jim Lowe had the longest tenure, from 1959 to 1998. Bill Bragg spoke for Big Tex from from 2002 to 2013. Lowe, who died in 2000, told The Dallas Morning News that R.L. "Bob" Thornton, the State Fair president who later became Dallas mayor, told him to talk slowly and sound like a cross between Gary Cooper and Santa Claus. The identity of the current Big Tex's voice is a secret.

Jim Lowe and Big Tex in 1982

Jim Lowe and Big Tex in 1982

Photo by David Leeson/Courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

Fried Chicken

After Big Tex burned (moment of silence), a San Antonio company called SRO was tasked with rebuilding him. The project was so top-secret, they couldn't even refer to Big Tex by name in company emails, renderings, or even conversation. They code-named him "Fried Chicken."

Bigger and stronger than ever

At 55 feet high, the new Big Tex is 3 feet taller and 19,000 pounds heavier than the previous version. He is engineered to withstand hurricane-force winds. 

Crews from Texas Scenic, SRO and Dickies worked in the middle of the night to put on Big Tex's new shirt before his debut at the State Fair in 2013. 

Crews from Texas Scenic, SRO and Dickies worked in the middle of the night to put on Big Tex's new shirt before his debut at the State Fair in 2013. 

Tom Fox/Staff Photographer

That's a lot of hat

Ten-gallon hat? Psssh. Big Tex's hat is 95 gallons. His boots are a size 96. They're a replica of a 1949 Lucchese boot. (Yes, his boots are bigger now than they used to be. Before his 2013 makeover, he was a size 70.)

Big Tex in pop culture

There's an entire episode of King of the Hill that focuses on the State Fair, in which Luann climbs inside Big Tex and stages a protest over the fair's grilling competition. Big Tex also was on the cover of a comic book: The Uncanny X-Men at the State Fair of Texas. It was a special supplement to a 1983 issue of the Dallas Times Herald.

Information from Dallas Morning News archives and BigTex.com.

Bonus photo gallery: Big Tex through the years, from his start as Santa to his new look

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