Big Tex Destroyed by Flames

Voice of Big Tex says fair will rebuild the icon

Stunned attendees at the State Fair of Texas witnessed the iconic Big Tex go up in flames Friday morning.

Some fabric that made up the towering structure's hand and sleeves could still be seen as firefighters gathered around the scorched area.

Big Tex's 75-gallon hat, 50-pound belt buckle and slow drawl -- "Howdy, folks!" -- have been greeting fair visitors since 1952. This year's fair, which closes Sunday, had been celebrating Big Tex's 60th birthday.

"It's a great loss for us because of its icon stature," fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding said.

Gooding said she didn't know the direct cause of the fire but did note electrical controls move Big Tex's mouth and head.

Gooding noted that no one was injured in the fire and added that she expects him to be back for next year's state fair.

"He'll be back, bigger and better than ever," she said.

"Dallas is about Big Things and #BigTex was symbolic of that. We will rebuild Big Tex bigger and better for the 21st Century," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said on Twitter.

Bill Bragg, the voice of Big Tex, said all the fair's safety measures were in place and no one was in any danger. Bragg says the fair will rebuild the iconic statue for next year's fair.

Dickies, the clothing company that creates Big Tex's wardrobe, sent this statement:

“Dickies® has proudly been the official clothier of Big Tex for 15 years. Although we’re saddened by today’s news, we’re confident that together with the State Fair of Texas, Big Tex will return better than ever in new Dickies apparel,” said Matthew McCartin, VP of Marketing, Williamson-Dickie Mfg. Co.

Fair organizers have dismantled the framework that was not damaged with a crane.

Eyewitnesses like Jana Wood and Bet Kirkland started taking cell phone pictures and video of the event. Click here to see viewer photos.

"We didn't know what was happening and then, within seconds, it started going down his back then down his leg and there a little bit of fire on the ground,"  Wood said.

Nell Mason was getting ready for work on the fairgrounds when she initially saw the black smoke.

The 54-year old Mason has been coming to the fair since she was six years old, her family working here for 25 years.

“Actually I thought the guy was joking when he said it's Big Tex--I was like no way!--out of all things that could be on fire," Mason said.

"It's kind of losing a soft spot in my hear that has been there for years--for a long, long time,” Mason said. “They can't replace him--I know they'll put a new one up, but it won’t be the same.”

Ironically, Big Tex had only one more weekend to greet visitors at the fair -- it closes for this year on Oct. 21.

NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff and Andres Gutierrez contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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