DALLAS (October 24, 2012)— An "unspecified electrical short" caused the fiery demise of Big Tex, the towering cowboy that was an icon of the State Fair of Texas for 60 years, Dallas Fire-Rescue officials said.
With his 75-gallon hat, 50-pound belt buckle and folksy, slow drawl greeting, “Howdy, folks!" Big Tex had been the star of the fair since 1952.
The fire broke out at around 10:30 a.m. Friday and witnesses said flames engulfed the 52-foot figure within five minutes.
Fair officials suspected an electrical problem at the time and said the fire evidently broke out in a motor in Big Tex’s neck.
"We don't know anything just yet. All we can imagine is that something with the electrical wiring went wrong," Sally Womre with the State Fair of Texas said Friday.
"Big Tex is wired to move his head and to speak, so that's what we believe right now,” she said.
After the flames were extinguished, the tarp-covered remains were hauled from the fairgrounds on a flatbed truck in a procession resembling a funeral.
Fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding said she expects Big Tex to be back for next year's fair.
The birthplace of the towering cowboy was actually outside Dallas in the town of Kerens, where the giant figure was originally a Santa Claus.
Big Tex was showing his age even before this latest birthday.
When he turned 50 in 2002, crews made his hair grayer and added wrinkles to his face and hands.
Milestones In The Life Of Big Tex
Erected as a 52-foot-tall "Santa Claus" on Nov. 10th, 1949, in Kerens to bolster the town's Christmas shopping.
Transported 60 miles to Dallas and sold to the State Fair of Texas for $750.
Transformed and unveiled as a giant cowboy named "Big Tex" and made its debut in late October as the official symbol of the State Fair of Texas.
Speaks for the first time. Over the years, six men have provided the voice for Big Tex, which says "Howdy, folks!" about 60 times a day during the fair.
Original body was rebuilt on a cage-like frame made of 4,200 feet of steel rods.
Upgraded with body movements, waving to fairgoers as they passed by to the Midway.
Turns 50, gets an all-new wardrobe and a new voice.