Big Tex, Everyone Got Burned


By Amy Price


On Oct. 19 by early afternoon, the word of Big Tex’s unfortunate demise had spread across Texas faster than the flames that destroyed his dark-washed 5-pocket Dickies and 10-gallon, or make that 75-gallon, cowboy hat and Western garb.
Immediately, the news of the fire sparked questions from citizens as well as media outlets such as www.central and garnered the attention of local and national news. It seems odd to me that the iconic statue would suddenly spontaneously combust.
According to an article published in the Dallas Morning News, the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction and ignited inside Big Tex’s right boot, quickly spreading out of control. Big Tex burned for a solid 10 minutes, leaving only a charred metal frame and, awkwardly enough, both of the cowboy’s arms.
Hundreds of fairgoers stood in awe, cameraphones in hand, while Big Tex burned.
It was not until the fire ceased that a temporary barricade was put up. The remains were immediately bagged up, loaded onto a flatbed truck and carted away funeral procession style. According to the same Dallas Morning News article, the entire ordeal from spark to dismantling took three hours, with Fair Park never being evacuated.
This all seems a bit planned out. Out of everything in the State Fair of Texas to catch on fire, it just so happens to be Big Tex? There are some things that do not add up.
The 52-foot cowboy was in the middle of celebrating his 60th birthday at the Fair. Let’s face it, the now-senior-citizen cowboy was losing his luster and greatly showing signs of his age. According to, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings had been in the middle of talks on renovating the icon. In my opinion, giving the buckaroo a more modern look could make a lot of the older generation of fair patrons upset, not to mention being extremely costly. What easier excuse for a new Big Tex than “Well, it burned down. We must rebuild.”
Rawlings made a swift appearance to pay homage to the deceased cowpoke. The mayor was not shy about publicly stating the behemoth would be rebuilt. Rawlings said on his Twitter feed Oct. 19, the same day as the disaster: “Dallas is about Big Things and #BigTex was symbolic of that. We will rebuild Big Tex bigger and better for the 21st Century. MR.” The same day, a few hours later, another Tweet went out from Rawlings: “If you love #BigTex come out and honor him by enjoying the State Fair this weekend.” It is overwhelmingly obvious to me that this was a desperate push toward boosting the turnout for the last weekend of the State Fair.
The opening weekend turned out to be very low in attendance due to bad weather, according to a news clip from television station The CW. The opening weekend and Texas State University vs. Oklahoma University weekend are typically the busiest for the State Fair, but that was not the case this year due to rain. The Big Tex fire could have been a genius publicity stunt to help give a last-minute attendance boost. According to another Dallas Morning News article, this year’s sales are expected to surpass the 2010 record of $34.3 million, all due to the huge turnout the last weekend as Big Tex memorabilia flew off shelves and fairgoers came to pay their respects.
Some other aspects of the incident do not make sense either, like why the Dallas Fire Department took more than 10 minutes to extinguish the blaze, not to mention the laid-back approach they took as heard on the audio dispatch, which can be found at “We got a rather tall cowboy — all his clothes burnt off,” as stated in the recording, alongside, “Howdy, folks, it’s hot.” The fire department’s lighthearted, comical demeanor does not suggest this was an out of control fire in a densely populous area.
It is silly to me that many people are treating the incident as if a real person had died. Many fair patrons brought yellow roses and signs for Tex, and left them where he once stood. There was also an actual memorial service held at Victory Plaza for the mascot. A Facebook page also now exists in honor of Big Tex.
The incandescent inferno was no accident. In my opinion, it was a well-planned, strategic inside job. Think about how huge the turnout will be next year when the new Big Tex is unveiled. It will be massive news and could prove to be a potentially record-breaking year.