As the Texas State Fair came to a close Sunday, one big mascot’s absence continues to loom large over the fairgrounds.
Big Tex, the towering, cowboy-hat-wearing icon of the State Fair for 60 years, went up in flames Friday. The only remnants were hands, parts of his shirt and the charred metal skeleton of the statue.
A makeshift memorial sprung up in his place, featuring candles, flowers, corny dogs from the fair and a banner that proclaimed Big Tex to be “lost, but not forgotten.” Billboards across Dallas also wished Big Tex well.
One fairgoer, Jill Beam, told Dallas television station KDFW that the Big Tex was the first thing she thought about when she walked down the fair boulevard.
“It’s like losing a family member,” Beam said.
The missing 52-foot-tall statue was also a reliable landmark for friends and family meeting each other at the sprawling fair.
“If a child got lost, way before cellphones, when we could come out here this is where you met,” said another fairgoer, Gayle Vaughn. “If you were in front or near Big Tex, you would be safe.”
Vendor Debra Williams told The Dallas Morning News that Big Tex bobbleheads and lapel pins were going fast.
“Anything with Big Tex is selling,” Williams said.
Glenda Parks of Austin got the last shirt Saturday from Williams’ stand commemorating Big Tex’s 60th birthday this year.
“Since he died yesterday, this is the shirt you have to have,” Parks said.
Fair organizers have vowed to rebuild Big Tex for next year.
The statue’s remains are in a warehouse on the fairgrounds, the Morning News reported. Though the fire was originally suspected to have started in Big Tex’s right boot, officials now think it was sparked by an electrical outlet near his feet.