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State Fair of Texas' iconic cowboy loses voice, upsets fans

Texans are proud of their heritage and unique traditions. For many of us, these traditions include beloved icons, particularly Big Tex, the 52-foot tall animatronic cowboy that has stood outside the State Fair of Texas since the 1950s and greeted visitors to the event. Unfortunately, not even the much-loved Big Tex is immune to contract disputes, and recent problems have his fans upset.

Big Tex’s troubles began last September with a few mechanical problems with his hand. In October, an electrical short caused a fire to engulf the entire structure, dismaying thousands of devoted fans. Renovation efforts are underway to restore Big Tex before the next fair. But another icon, the 66-year-old man who has provided the figure’s voice for over a decade, has now been lost.

A contract dispute with Big Tex’s human voiceover means that State Fair officials haven’t renewed his contract. A publicity official with the fair said creative differences were the cause of the dispute. Big Tex’s voice is reported to be heartbroken, and his fans are equally upset. Some are saying they’ll boycott the fair if the man isn’t rehired.

In some cases, disputes like these result in litigation. It isn’t clear whether this will happen in the case of Big Tex, but many Texans are mourning the end of an era as the familiar, friendly man who provided the figure’s voice is gone. They also fear there will be too many modernized changes during the restoration.

Business contracts change all the time, and so do many traditional local icons. In some ways, change is good. Sadly for many Texans, some changes mean the end of a beloved tradition.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “In Dallas, Makeover for ‘Big Tex’ Raises a Giant Ruckus,” Ann Zimmerman and Ana Campoy, May 24, 2013

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