For many of us, losing Big Tex this year was like losing a member of the family; after all, is it even possible to have a state fair without the giant cowboy who stands ever ready to visit with the thousands who flock to see him each year? I don’t think so.
When I first heard the news that the man was burning, I actually had to pause for a minute as I remembered all of those trips to the fair and the voice that boomed across the miles and miles of excited visitors. It also dawned on me that day that I had never once thought that like the rest of us, Big Tex 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 celebrated his sixtieth anniversary with the Texas State Fair before he was consumed by fire on the last weekend of the fair; however, it is our understanding that he will be back every bit as good as new in time for the 1913 State Fair of Texas. I’m thinking that Rickey Jones and I just might have to pay him a visit…it’s been way too long…as we say here in Texas!