The Heart of Fall: The State Fair of Texas

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The new Big Tex

There have been few October’s in my life when I have not visited the State Fair of Texas. Growing up, my Dad would take my siblings and I, along with one friend each, every year. He would give each pair of us a crisp twenty-dollar bill and send us on our way for a couple of hours. We browsed building after building, display after display. The best part was the freebies which ranged from food samples to bumper stickers and recipes! Of course we had the $20 to spend in the Midway and on a few choice items like a Fletcher’s State Fair corn dog! It was always worth the year-long wait to get one. We also made our way to Big Tex; the iconic Texan as tall as a building that stood near the center of the fair grounds. If we were there at the right time of day we might even get to hear him say, “Howdy folks! Welcome to the State Fair of Texas.” This was such a thrill when I was in middle school, and probably even when I was in high school. When our time was up we would meet my Dad back at the Automobile building for the ride home. The entire way, we talked in the back seat about the cool things we saw and did. We compared stories with my siblings and their friends, who may have seen and done things that we missed. It was an important part of my childhood, and one of my most cherished memories.

When we had children of our own, and no longer went to the fair at my Dad’s expense, my younger sister and I would plan a date to take our children on a Wednesday so we could get in for free with the donation of a few canned goods. We would also pack a lunch to keep from spending money to feed ourselves and our, at the time, 5 children . It was just too expensive for our small budgets, but we were not about to miss out on all the free fun the fair had to offer! From the Food and Fiber Building with its coupons and free samples, to the Automobile Building where we would dream of the nice family car we would one day drive, the site of Big Tex, standing in the middle of the fair grounds, became the best part! Not because of Big Tex himself, but more because our kids all called him “Big Pap”. That’s what they called my Dad, and to them, Big Tex was a hat-and-boot-wearing replica of their favorite person, Pap!

To this day, it warms my heart to see Big Tex and remember the looks on the faces of my three daughters who are now 20, 21, and 23, as well as their cousins Amber and Chaz, who are now 22 and 25. Such sweet faces they were as each starred up in awe of the sheer size of him. To them, Pap was larger than life and Big Tex was a scale model of how big of a role Pap played in their little lives.

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