A 52-foot metal and fabric cowboy known as Big Tex has been greeting attendees of the State Fair of Texas for the last six decades. With only a few more days until the end of the 2012 fair, the iconic structure went up in flames Friday, and Texans are mourning the loss.
Some fabric that made up the towering structure’s hands and sleeves still could be seen as firefighters gathered around the scorched area in the late morning.
State Fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding told ABC 13 that Big Tex was completely destroyed within 10 minutes:
“I was entering Big Tex Circle when I overheard somone say, ‘Hey, Big Tex is smoking!’ I immediately glanced up and there was white smoke just starting under his collar,” Gooding told Eyewitness News.Big Tex’s 75-gallon hat, 50-pound belt buckle and slow drawl have been welcoming visitors since 1952. This year’s fair, which closes Sunday, had been celebrating Big Tex’s 60th birthday.
Gooding said the icon, which has previously withstood hurricane force winds and the theft of his clothes, will be brought down for repairs.
“I can promise you Big Tex will be back up next year,” Gooding promised. “He will be bellowing out his ‘Howdy’ in 2013 when the gates open up.”
Watch this footage of the fire from ABC 13:
Gooding said she doesn’t know the cause of the fire but did note electrical controls move Big Tex’s mouth and head. Gooding says no one was injured in the fire.
Here are a couple more YouTube videos posted showing Big Tex engulfed in flames:
WFAA reported the fair’s Vice President of Marketing Mitchell Glieber saying that it was most likely an electrical short, which will be investigated. Here’s more from WFAA on Big Tex’s history:
Big Tex has served as the mascot of the fair for dozens of years and was originally created as a 49-foot tall Santa Claus in Kerens, Texas.
He was eventually brought to the Dallas area and sold to the State Fair of Texas for $750. The structure was then transformed to the looming giant that has greeted fairgoers since 1952. In 1953, he talked for the first time, welcoming visitors with a hearty “Howdy.”
In 2000, visitors in the “Million Dollar Midway” saw Big Tex move for the first time with his big wave.
Even with the promise that Big Tex will be back for the next fair season, Texans are lamenting his loss on Twitter. Some are even comparing it to a 9/11-like event for the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.