Big Tex stood at 52-feet-tall and has been the image of the state fair since he was originally purchased for just $750 in the early 1950s, according to the Dallas Business Journal. His cowboy costume was supplied by Fort Worth-based Dickies clothing company and cost $300 to clean.
The fair remains open until Sunday, but the area where Big Tex’s metal framework stands has been closed off to the public. The fire was reported around 10 a.m. Friday and was met with sadness because of the figure’s status amongst fair-goers, many of whom grew up seeing Big Tex every autumn.
“It’s very sad for all the fair-goers,” fair spokeswoman, Sue Gooding, told the local Fox affliliate. “It’s a sad way to end the fair.”
Gooding also revealed that it was an electrical fire that caused smoke to emit from Big Tex’s neck before spreading to his other giant body parts. The fire destroyed Tex’s hat and head before reduced the entire structure to just metal framing.
“This is definitely electrical working of Big Tex … to provide movement of the mouth and head,” Gooding said. “It would not surprise me if it did happen – if it did start with electrical.”
Still, she assured fairgoers that Tex is not gone from the Texas State Fair.
“We’ll see Big Tex again.”
The reaction on social media was, perhaps predictably, sadness mixed with a bit of sarcasm.
“Think I just literally shed a tear. Pray for Texas. ‘Big Tex burns at the State Fair,” tweeted Ali A. Akbar.
“Holy Cow! Texas State Fair goes Burning Man! That statue is very creepy but he didn’t deserve a fiery death,” tweeted Philip Berne.
“Prediction: Within 15 minutes, the State Fair of texas will be selling ‘RIP Big Tex’ T-shirts. $35 apiece, two for $80. #BigTex,” tweeted Dave Ivey.
The Dallas News’ account of the mascot’s history seems to recognize that Big Tex’s iconography does have an element of ridiculousness.
“If you take it apart and examine it, it does sound a little silly,” said Nancy Wiley, the State Fair’s historian. “There’s a lot of sophistication about Dallas. But this is totally off the board. It’s just comfortable. Tex is kind of warm and fuzzy.”