DALLAS EXPLAINED

For seventeen days this month, Big Tex, a fifty-two-foot cowboy, will stand ready to welcome an estimated three million visitors to the State Fair of Texas. In 1951 Dallas patriarch R.L. Thornton purchased the giant, formerly used as a Santa Claus, from the small Texas town of Kerens for a mere $750. Proceeding from the top down, here’s the scoop on the big guy: a seventy-five-gallon Stetson, which was made for him when LBJ was president, sits on top of Tex’s papier-mache head. His gray sideburns were painted by Dallas artist Jack Bridges in 1982 to give Big Tex a mature look for his thirtieth birthday. The voice of Big Tex has changed three times in the last thirty-four years. Since 1986, Don Schafer, a talent scout for the State Fair, has been the voice behind the “Howdy folks!” Because Big Tex is exposed to the elements twenty-four hours a day, he gets a new lane Star of Texas shirt every three years, made up of 125 yards of ten-ounce twill. A twenty-five-foot-long, ten-inch-wide piece of leather stretches around his twenty-three-foot waist. The Longhorn belt buckle is made of wood, is four feet wide and two feet high, and weighs twenty-five pounds. Nothing comes between Big Tex and his 100 yards of fourteen-ounce H.D. Lee denim. Eight women spent fifty-one hours sewing these pants, using 4,900 yards of black thread, 1,800 yards of red/orange thread, and a sixty-six-inch zipper. Tex wears the biggest boot in the state-seven feet seven inches long-a size 70. The average number of “Howdys” in the fair’s two-week run: 672. When the State Fair closes, the giant cowboy is dismantled and stored in pieces in three different locations on the fairgrounds.

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