Sally Wamre

Photo Credit: Laura Devila | Daily Texan Staff

The committee in charge of rebuilding Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas has not selected a builder, approved a final blueprint or even generated a cost estimate. What it has done, officials said, is set a deadline.

“Big Tex will definitely be back in time for the 2013 State Fair of Texas,” state fair spokesperson Sally Wamre said. “Big Tex is always there. He’s a tradition.”

For 60 years, 52-foot-tall Big Tex greeted visitors at the entrance of the annual Texas State Fair. But on Oct. 19, the cowboy caught fire as a result of an electrical malfunction investigators believe started in the icon’s right boot.

Fair officials removed the remnants of Big Tex from his location shortly after the fire, but plans for a new Big Tex began immediately. State Fair officials promised to restore Big Tex “so that he can once again fill his boots in time for the 2013 State Fair of Texas,” according to a press release issued the day of the fire.

Big Tex has undergone several changes since he was originally installed as the fair greeter in 1952. In 1997, his frame was strengthened with 4,200 feet of steel rods, which together weigh roughly three tons.

“Even though his clothes change every three years, for the most part, he’s the same old Big Tex,” Wamre said.

Jonette Daggs, director of sales for a planned theme park at the state fair site, said that no concrete plans have been established to rebuild the towering cowboy.

“We have not totally decided on anything for next year and that’s all under review now,” Daggs said. “We’re receiving input at this point.”

Daggs said Big Tex is more than just a greeter to those entering the fair.

“He’s an icon of the State Fair,” Daggs said. “He’s what people think of when they think of [the fair].”

Business honors sophomore Annie Zhu, who is from Plano, said she does not visit the State Fair every year but remembers Big Tex as a staple of her childhood.

“I did always go to the fair when I was a kid, and I would always look forward to seeing Big Tex there,” Zhu said. “He was a trademark that I just sort of took for granted.”

Zhu, who visited the fair this year with a native Texan friend who goes to college out of state, said she thinks Big Tex also serves as a “welcome home” message to people who have moved away.

“She felt welcomed home and said she missed Texas — fried food and Texas culture in general,” Zhu said. “Obviously people say that ‘everything is bigger in Texas,’ and I think Big Tex really symbolizes all of that.”

Impromptu memorial set up for state fair icon Big Tex

The state fair faced a rough news cycle Friday, as Big Tex caught fire in the morning and 23 riders were suspended in the air later that night.

Onlookers quickly posted photos as the 52-foot icon’s clothes erupted into flames. Though fire crews arrived on the scene, Tex’s clothes had already been incinerated, and only his metal framework, sleeves, and belt buckle remained.

Sally Wamre, an official at the state fair, said that the electrical components that make Tex move and say “Howdy” most likely failed, causing an electrical short in his right boot. Her statement has not yet been confirmed by the fire marshal. The fire caused by the short quickly spread over his 65 pound jeans as well as his shirt, eventually reaching his head and 75 gallon hat.

No one was injured in the fire.

Big Tex has been removed from the circle he is normally erected in by the large crane that sets him up each year and placed in an area at the rear of the fair. Tex’s face, clothes, pants, boots and hat will need replacing, but Wamre says he will be restored for next year’s fair.

Officials say that Tex was very old, and they may take the chance to construct a bigger, more modern version.

Later that day the Stratosphere, a new ride at the state fair, lost power. The Stratosphere, which can be quickly disassembled and set up in different places like many rides at the state fair, had previously been at the Minnesota state fair and had issues. Wamre said that a licensed safety inspector had been sent to check out that the issues from Minnesota were fixed before the Fair took it, but the issue experienced Friday was a new problem. The power cable on the ride had failed.

Wamre said that State Fair safety inspectors, who run through a manufacturer-produced checklist, check rides daily. After the ride’s failure, riders were left suspended in the air for about 2 hours before being manually cranked to the ground. Wamre said that the chief issue riders experienced during the incident was the chilly air 200 feet above the state fair. After they all safely reached the ground they were taken to a room on site and provided with blankets and hot chocolate.

The fair ends today, without Big Tex or the Stratosphere. However, it will end with an impromptu memorial site outside the circle where Big Tex stood. Fairgoers have laid fried food and flowers there in homage to Big Tex.

Big Tex, State Fair icon, bursts into flame

Big Tex caught fire this morning at the State Fair, which had marked his 60-year anniversary as part of the Texas fair.

Onlookers quickly posted photos as the 52-foot icon’s clothes erupted into flames. Though fire crews arrived on the scene, Tex’s clothes had already been incinerated, and only his metal framework, sleeves, and belt buckle remained.

Sally Wamre, an official at the state fair, said that the electrical components that make Tex move and say “Howdy” most likely failed, causing an electrical short in his right boot. Her statement has not yet been confirmed by the fire marshal. The fire caused by the short quickly spread over his 65 pound jeans as well as his shirt, eventually reaching his head and 75 gallon hat.

No one was injured in the fire and the fair will remain open till Sunday, when it was already set to end.

Big Tex has been removed from the circle he is normally erected in by the large crane that sets him up each year and placed in an area at the rear of the fair. Tex’s face, clothes, pants, boots and hat will need replacing, but Wamre says he will be restored for next year’s fair.

Officials say that Tex was very old, and they may take the chance to construct a bigger, more modern version.