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:
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.