198: Big Tex Burns and More About State Fairs

"Big Tex 2013" by Paul Komarek - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Big_Tex_2013.jpg#/media/File:Big_Tex_2013.jpg

“Big Tex” The 55-foot-tall mascot of the State Fair of Texas, seen in 2013. (Photo by Paul Komarek via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 2012 the 52-foot tall statue of Big Tex at Fair Park in Dallas was destroyed by fire during the Texas state fair.

Here are some things you may not have known about Big Tex and state and county fairs.

Big Tex was originally built as the world’s tallest Santa Claus in Kerens, Texas in 1949. It was built of an iron frame, papier mache and unraveled rope. In 1951, the statue was moved to the Texas state fairgrounds in Dallas and redesigned as a cowboy.

In 2012, an electrical fire began inside the statue’s wiring and burned everything but the iron framework. The fair rebuilt the monument to withstand 100 mile-per-hour winds and added three feet to make the statue an even 55 feet tall.

State fairs were originally designed to promote agriculture through exhibitions of livestock, produce and other farm products. Fairs eventually added carnival rides, midway games, auto racing and concerts. County fairs are smaller versions of state fairs.

The first state fair was the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse in 1841. Eight years later the Michigan State Fair began in Detroit. The state fair with the highest attendance is the State Fair of Texas, with an estimated 3 million annual attendees. It is claimed that the corn dog was invented at the Texas state fair, but several other fairs also lay claim to it. However, several deep-fried foods have been popularized at the Texas state fair, including deep-fried Oreos, butter, Twinkies, pork ribs, cheesecake and, of course, chicken fried-bacon.

Our question, a precursor of the American state fair is the agricultural show. When and where was the first known agricultural show held?

Today is Constitution Day in Niue and Mother Teresa Day in Albania. In the United States it’s unofficially National Seafood Bisque Day. It’s the birthday of novelist John Le Carre, actor Robert Reed, who was best known as Mike Brady on “The Brady Bunch,” and fellow actors Michael Gambon and John Lithgow.

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