For the first time, Dallas’ iconic Big Tex wears a mask during State Fair season

Mask on, cowboy on.

Despite the cancellation of the State Fair of Texas, the 55-foot tall mascot Big Tex was installed in the middle of the Fair Park on September 16. For the first time in the history of the fair, Big Tex is wearing a mask.

“It’s about solidarity with the community,” said Mitchell Glieber, president of the State Fair of Texas, “and about making a statement about what everyone is going through.”

Up, up, and away: Tim Thibodeaux is working on Big Tex’s collar as it is prepared for installation at Fair Park in Dallas on Wednesday, September 16, 2020.(Vernon Bryant / employee photographer)

The mask is 84 “by 45” – slightly larger than the length and width of a double mattress. It is a light blue mask made of neoprene, a material for wetsuits and other sports equipment.

Tex can speak through the mask and he will greet you guys! from his place in the Big Tex Circle in the middle of Fair Park.

In 2020, in addition to the new blue mask, Tex got a new belt buckle, a new hat and color corrections on the face.

Big Tex’s relationship with the State Fair of Texas dates back to 1952 when a former Santa Claus statue was converted into a smiling cowboy. Big Tex the First was destroyed in a fire in 2012. It was remade and reappeared three feet taller in 2013 with bigger biceps, bigger hands, and bigger head. His former 75-gallon hat is now a 95-gallon hat. He is wearing a size 96 boot.

Big Tex is 55 feet tall.Big Tex is 55 feet tall.(Vernon Bryant / employee photographer)

For 67 years, Big Tex’s installation was the biggest and highest sign that the fair was about to open. Because of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, Tex won’t see the usual 2.5 million people in his 68th year in the job in Dallas, despite the State Fair having a drive-through event on select dates. Ticket holders get out of their cars to take a photo with masked Big Tex, then get back in their cars, put masks back on, and head to stalls to hand out Fletcher’s stupid dogs and other fair food.

“Think of it as a progressive dinner,” said Jennifer Schuder, senior vice president of marketing for the show. After taking photos with Big Tex, ticket holders can stop for fried oreos, then play a midway game, and then get their kettle corn.

Packages for this event are priced at $ 25 to $ 99, with transit commencing September 19.

In 2020, show goers can ride through the Texas State Fair and buy Fletcher's Dumb Dogs, Jack's French Fries, Stiffler's Fried Oreos, and other famous items.  Interested participants must reserve a place and pay in advance.

This year, the Fair Food Parade is the sole source of income for the State Fair of Texas, a nonprofit organization. While the State Fair’s total revenue was $ 66 million in 2019, the 2020 show won’t generate most of that revenue with just one fundraiser, says Glieber.

During the four-week run, around 50,000 cars are allowed to participate in the event if they are sold out.

Jeffry Carter, 4 from Colleyville, is in Dallas' big cowboy: Carter holds a tiny Big Tex doll dressed as Big Tex and watches the Big Tex installation.Jeffry Carter, 4 from Colleyville, is in Dallas’ big cowboy: Carter holds a tiny Big Tex doll dressed as Big Tex and watches the Big Tex installation.(Vernon Bryant / employee photographer)

Karissa Condoianis, senior vice president of public relations at the show, hopes consumers will continue to buy tickets “so that we can fulfill our charitable mission.”

Glieber says staff are still saddened by the main event being canceled, but they believe it was the right thing to do.

“The decision [to cancel the fair] was actually not difficult to do, ”says Glieber, referring to the increase in cases in July when the cancellation was announced. “It was an emotional decision, but it wasn’t a difficult one.”

For more news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.

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