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October 10, 2013

JOE ELERSON: Big Tex again proves he’s much larger than life

Athens — When I was a little kid, the thought of seeing Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas was something I could not wait to see as I entered the fairgrounds.

You would always hear that iconic voice of the 52-foot statue greeting you as you headed to the ticket booth to pay your admission fee for a day full of fun.

When I got older and was a member of the Van High School marching band, we had the privilege of marching in the State Fair Parade every year.

Once again, I would see the iconic figure as we went along the parade route showcasing our hard work for all of those in attendance at the fair.

Then last year happened when Big Tex was seen on-fire on televisions across the country. Media outlets would spend hours on end broadcasting the latest updates on the devastation.

You would see people in disbelief as they were seeing Big Texas after 60-years burning down to just the metal frame that held him up for all those years.

Then things really got out-of-hand as people on YouTube started posting tribute videos to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” – which now has 126,000 views as of Monday.

When I saw the video at first, I did not know what to think. Sadness, laughter and confusion were just some of the emotions that came to mind at first viewing.

Yes, I was sad to see it on television. The laughter came when I saw how people were making such sad videos about a statue being burned. The confusion then came as to why were people making such a big deal about it all.

Now I am not saying that lifelong fans of the State Fair should not have been sad about it. It just seemed to be blown out of proportion in my opinion.

Then on Sept. 29, Big Tex made his return to greet patrons to the fairgrounds with new improvements.

Big Tex now stands at 55-feet tall (three feet taller than he previously was), he has a fire-suppression suit and is wearing a red-white-and-blue shirt featuring stars and a 95-gallon hat. A giant belt buckle adorns his blue jeans, and his boots feature American and Texas flags and the state Capitol.

I remember watching the coverage on TV of the new Big Tex as fans had mixed reactions.

Some people said his complexion was darker than before, and that his eyes were bothering them because they were so big.

A lot of people did not like the fact that his pants are tucked inside of his boots. I saw one person in an interview on Channel 8 news that said, “He better have a deep voice since he is so big and not a squirrelly voice.”

I laughed when one person said it looked like he had reconstructive surgery and that he looked older. The reason he looks like he had surgery is because he was burnt, and I would not expect him to look younger this time around.

Fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding said in an ABCnews.com article that Big Tex's footwear are replicas of Lucchese boots from the 1940s that were part of a series featuring designs for each state.

“I love it. I think he looks great,” Stephanie Szatan said after pausing to snap a picture of the revamped cowboy. “I'm glad he's back.”

Big Tex has a new voice this year as a lucky person from among 111 applicants was chosen to greet those attending the fair during the previous two weeks, leading up to the final week this week. Big Tex’s voice will be both live and recorded, which will allow him to speak longer.

With a new and improved Big Tex greeting those in attendance, Gooding summed up just how special the new statue is for the State Fair.

“At first we thought about the ultimate makeover. This is not the ultimate makeover – this is the ultimate comeback,” Gooding said. “It was a 9-month birthing process. He just showed up a little early.”

Even as we prepare to say goodbye to the new Big Tex a week from Sunday, we can always know that we do everything bigger in Texas.

Even the creators of Big Tex would agree with that statement.

Joe Elerson is a staff writer for the Athens Review. He can be reached at jelerson@athensreview.com.

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