For 68 years, Big Tex has greeted tens of millions of people who visit the annual State Fair of Texas.
And even if what is happening this fall is not quite the fair experience people have come to expect over the decades, the 55-foot tall cowboy will still bellow out his hearty “Howdy folks!” to all those who take part in the Big Tex Fair Food Drive-Thru.
The drive-thru event starts this weekend, what would have been the opening weekend of the 2020 State Fair of Texas, and it will go on every weekend during what would have been the regular run of the fair.
Fair officials told NBC 5 opening day went smoothly.
People were excited to come out, and for some of them, continue an annual tradition.
The route is a little over a mile long, and takes about an hour and a half to get through.
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“This is a great Texas tradition that’s been going on for so many years. And my dad used to come every year with the family. So I’m excited they decided to keep it going,” says fair goer Brandon Jordan.
The Jordans have been coming to the State Fair together since they got married.
They were thrilled when the non-profit came up with an alternative drive-thru experience!
“I brought my brother and my sister-in-law and my niece, just to have a family moment, that in all this chaos, there is still family and love, and some fun in Texas,” said fair goer Christine Jordan.
Because of the pandemic, Fair officials weren’t able to bring back all of their seasonal staff, or full vendor line-up.
Juan Reaves is glad his turkey legs are flying off the grill.
“My brother and I weren’t sure how this was going to go, because our product is not in the main food package. We are an ad-on. Lots of people are adding on turkey legs and sausage on a stick, so we’re really happy about it,” says Juan Reaves, co-owner of Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que and Homecooking.
For a flat fee of either $65 or $99, participants will drive through the grounds of Fair Park in Dallas, which are decked out in State Fair style, and picking up Fair food favorites along the way.
At Big Tex Circle, visitors will park and exit their cars to have their pictures taken by a professional photographer.
“We have seen from Instagram heat maps that one of the most photographed spots in the entire country during the month of October, and the late part of September, is right here at Big Tex circle,” said Mitchell Glieber, President of the State Fair of Texas. “So we know that it is a huge deal. Everyone that comes out to the Fair with their family wants to get a picture with Big Tex.”
The 2020 picture will certainly stand out in the photo albums, because like most Texans Big Tex is donning a face mask this year.
“We feel like we want to stand in solidarity with Texans. If we are all wearing masks he should be wearing a mask, too,” said Karissa Condoianis, Senior Vice President of Public Relations for the State Fair of Texas.
The mask that Big Tex is wearing measures seven feet wide by four feet tall.
“It is going to be a great photo opportunity for people who come out to look at 10 or 20 years later down the line and say, ‘Remember that crazy year of 2020?’ Glieber said.
Fair officials say opening day is bittersweet.
“We are used to having 2.5 million people come to the they are grounds in our 24 day run. So we’re anxious to see what the turnout is going to be. We’re almost sold out this weekend,” says Karissa Condoianis.
Saturday is sold out, Sunday’s tickets are selling fast.