DALLAS — Almost a year after Big Tex went up in flames, the iconic cowboy is set to return to the State Fair of Texas.
The newest version of Big Tex will be unveiled Friday, the fair’s opening day.
The 52-foot-tall cowboy burned down in October when an electrical short started a fire that consumed all but the hands and a few metal pieces.
Fair officials said the new version will be a lot like the old — plus fireproofing.
Fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding told The Dallas Morning News, “We heard loud and clear that people wanted the same Big Tex that they’d known and loved.”
Big Tex was built in 1949 as a giant Santa Claus for a Christmas celebration in Kerens, 60 miles south of Dallas.
Intrigued by the idea of a towering cowboy, the State Fair paid $750 for the structure, which debuted as Big Tex in 1952.
Nancy Wiley, former communications chief for the fair and author of “The Great State Fair of Texas: An Illustrated History,” said Big Tex quickly became popular after his debut.
“In 1953, the Dallas Times Herald described him as the ‘symbol of the spirit and scope of the country’s largest annual exposition,’” she said.
By 1958, Big Tex was so iconic that the Big “D’’ Discount Store had a slightly smaller version built in neon as a sign pointing to its location on Central Expressway.
While the ashes were still smoldering last year, fifth-generation Dallasite Raine Devries created the Big Tex Grief Support Group on Facebook.
“When you are a kid, the day comes that the rug is yanked out from underneath you regarding Santa Claus,” Devries said. “But Big Tex was real, he was tangible, and you could see him and hear him standing right there in front of you.”
Over the years, he did go through a series of updates, including his wire frame being replaced by steel.
Also, his face got friendlier and more handsome, while the hair got a bit grey. The basic structure though never changed.
Big Tex is central to his fair’s identity — even the fair’s website address is bigtex.com.