For just $50, you can claim that level of support for the 60-year-old cowboy who symbolizes the State Fair of Texas. And, if you send a donation of $100, you are at the “Born in ’52” support level. An announcement of the fund-raising campaign was unveiled Thursday, Dec. 27, by fair officials, following Big Tex’s annual Christmas greetings to “Millions of Fans and Friends.” The transcribed message was delivered from an “undisclosed location” where Big Tex is “recovering.”
In Dallas, one of the hottest news stories of the year, of course, was the Oct. 19 fire which consumed Big Tex, the iconic 52-foot-tall symbol of the fair. The electrical fire started near one of his size 70 boots and quickly devoured the western clothing he wore, including his 75-gallon Stetson, leaving only a charred metal frame. The outpouring of grief and the nationwide attention following the blaze, just three days before the 2012 edition of the fair ended, was a surprise to officials who immediately vowed to bring the “tall Texas cowboy” back “bigger and better” for the 2013 fair.
And so, the speculation began.
Finally, it was announced that Big Tex would return in substantially the same form, but equipped with additional safety features, including a fire suppression system, which would cost “big bucks.” Though insured for a still-undisclosed amount, fair officials have now launched a public fund-raising effort to supplement the restoration costs. Donations will be accepted on line or by mail, and selected amounts will secure catchy designations for donors, from “Tall Texan” for $1,000 to “Friend of Tex” for support in the amount of $25.
Donations may be made online; or checks may be mailed to Big Tex Fund, State Fair of Texas, P.O. Box 150009, Dallas, TX 75315.
The voice of the cowboy will remain the same, with a booming “Howdy, folks” still to be drawled by a live human, Bill Bragg of Richardson. Bragg has been the voice of Big Tex for the past 10 years, and the morning of the fire he was in the adjacent broadcast booth at the fairgrounds. Following the blaze, Bragg was stunned, but vowed to return to the fair with Big Tex in 2013. The mechanized giant will sport new clothing for his September return, but will still only wave one hand, according to current information, and will still only turn his head sporadically from side to side.
Sue Gooding, vice president of public and community relations at the fair, in an update on Big Tex earlier in December, noted that he is “resting” at a Texas Spa, and that it is “not possible for him to have visitors right now.” However, she said, “we encourage all well wishers to continue to send greetings and encouragement to him.”
Fair officials were quick to point out that the overwhelming emotional request following the fire was to bring Big Tex back, but “please don’t change him.” And so it will be done.