Well, it would seem that once again Santa season has come to Texas, and in my search for information about the men who wear the red suits, I found what just might have been the largest Santa in the world.
Actually, it all started with what I thought was a tragedy because it wasn’t until we lost Big Tex for a while this past year that it actually dawned on me that Big Tex, the voice that has greeted state fair goers millions of times, must have a past, a past that I had never bothered to explore. Sure enough, what I found was worth the hunt.
According to the Corsicana Daily Sun, Big Tex actually began his life as the big man himself. Yep, before our Big Tex was drawling a big ole “Howdy!” to his guests, he was delivering a “Ho! Ho! Ho!” at least in spirit.
“Big Tex, the 52 foot icon of the Texas State fair, was actually created in the town of Kerens. The local merchants, looking for a way to draw shoppers from Corsicana and Dallas, came up with a gimmick that would encourage people to spend money at local stores. The Kerens Chamber of Commerce and city boosters built what they claimed was the world’s largest Santa Claus. Standing 49 feet, this Santa was constructed from iron-pipe drill casing and paper mache with seven foot lengths of unraveled rope for a beard. He was placed at the foot of Colket Street.”
The giant Santa was a huge success in 1949; however, his popularity did not continue to grow and by 1951, the bloom was off of the Santa rose. He was sold for $750.00, purchased by Texan R.L. Thornton, state fair president.
It was in 1952 that the Texas cowboy who now stood at 52′ made his first appearance in what was to be his destiny role…Big Tex. Before the next fair season, Tex had some minor surgeries that allowed him to speak for the first time, and as they say, the rest is history!
Big Tex has now celebrated his 61st anniversary with the Texas State Fair, and my thought is that Kerens loss was not only the state of Texas’ gain but the gain of millions from across the country who come to Texas to visit the State Fair of Texas. After all, could another state have such a fair as ours? I would say that without Big Tex to welcome guests that would be an impossibility!