Texas Twisted
How the West Was Weird Submit a Sight Tip!
Get Your Copy of Weird Texas Available Now at BN.com and Barnes and Noble & Noble Stores!
With Your Host Wesley Treat
Quickie Search Advanced Search
Home
Attractions
Roadside Headlines
Newsletter
About Host Wesley Treat
Contact Me
The Beer Can House
Big Tex: The World's Largest Cowboy Information for This Attraction
Visit More Attractions
Howdy, folks!
Taking into account the long history of the State Fair of Texas, this Lone Star icon could be considered a relative newcomer. The fair that we know today can be dated as far back as 1859, but it wasn't until 1952 that Big Tex made his debut. Nevertheless, his unique stance and signature "Howdy, folks!" have since become as much a part of the fair as the ever-present corny dog (which also happens to have made its debut here).

He stands at an imposing 52 feet, making him the tallest cowboy in the world, and consequently, a difficult one to dress. His size 100 180/181 shirt, as well as his 284W/185L XXXXXL jeans, must be tailored specifically for his frame. The pants alone require 72 yards of denim and weigh in at 65 pounds.

Then, of course, there are the accessories. Tex's boots size 70 tower 7 feet, 7 inches, and a five-foot-tall cowboy hat tops the ensemble.


Howdy, folks!
It was this grand scale alone which made Big Tex a huge hit his first year in Dallas. The following season, however, a feature was added that was to change his influence on the fair forever. Like a gigantic Pinocchio, Big Tex was granted the ability to speak. Since then, he's been providing greetings and schedule information year after year.

Al Jones, a former disc jockey, was the first man to be chosen as the voice of Big Tex, but would fill the role for only one season. A second deejay, Jim Lowe, took over in 1954 and went on to fill the position for a total of 39 years (1954-1981, 1988-1998). Others have stepped in to provide the tall Texan's booming voice, but it is with Jim Lowe, who for so long served as Big Tex's proud alter ego, that they have all been compared. Thousands were saddened to hear of his passing in May 2000, less than two years after his final season.


Although his voice has remained the same for most of his reign, Big Tex has changed quite a bit physically since his early days. The first model had even been considered a bit unattractive. Jack Bridges, the man who created Big Tex's original papier-mache head (and later, the fiberglass replacement), said in a 1997 interview that he had taken the faces of himself, Will Rogers and a rancher named Doc Simmons, and selected the worst features from all three to form Tex's initial visage.

After just one year, though, changes were already being made. When Big Tex was given the ability to speak, he had his nose straightened and his eyes refashioned to remove a "lascivious wink." In 1958, Tex underwent further cosmetic surgery, bringing him closer to the handsome host we know today. The next year, a mechanism was incorporated that allowed his mouth to move automatically to sound.

By this point, Big Tex had become attractive enough even to star alongside Pat Boone and Ann-Margret in a 1962 remake of the musical State Fair. And that same year, fair president R.L. Thornton suggested that Tex should become a permanent statue. Fortunately, perhaps, board members didn't consider his look really appropriate to solidify him as a monument.


Ho ho ho, folks!
Big Tex's clothing has changed many times in the last five decades, as well, from a candy-striped shirt for the "Yankeedoodle Dandy" State Fair in 1975, to a U.T.-orange shirt in 1982, to a 15'-by-60', 300-pound Mexican serape in 1965. His 75-gallon hat was replaced, also, in 1966 with a more contemporary model.

Two of his biggest changes, however, occurred more recently. In 1997, Big Tex was given a complete structural makeover, as well as a new hand that waved to passersby. Three years later, he was bestowed further animatronics that turned his head.

But no change was as big as when Tex first made his way to the fair. You see, before he was Big Tex, he stood in Kerens, TX, as the World's Tallest Santa Claus. Sporting red oil cloth and a 7-foot rope beard, he did his part to draw shoppers to the small town for a lucrative 1949 Christmas season.

For some reason, he stood 3 feet shorter back then, but he was still quite a sight. Big enough, I'm sure, that he could have given that catchphrase-thieving Jolly Green Giant a run for his money. Unfortunately, his second year as Santa wasn't very successful, so he was soon sold to the fair for the sum of $750, and the Claus-Giant bout would never be scheduled.

Update: The first picture above was taken on September 27, 2002, the day Big Tex turned 50 years old! Read more.
Historical photographs courtesy of Nancy Wiley, author of The Great State Fair of Texas.
Information for This Attraction
Visit More Attractions