DALLAS -- When Big Tex burned last October, Texas State Fair goers felt as if they’d lost an old friend; after all, Big Tex had been a fixture at the fair since 1952.
But most fairgoers probably don’t know that Tex hasn’t always been at the fair. He has traveled out of state.
In 1953, Roger Reynolds, a Dallas salesman and local president of the Jaycees, got a bright idea: why not take Big Tex to show off at the National Jaycees Convention in Minneapolis?
His children know the story well.
“I don’t think it came as a surprise to us that he would pull off something like this," said Reynolds’ daughter, Nancy. "That’s the kind of person he was."
Son, Rusty Reynolds, heard the story all the time when he was growing up.
“Every time the fair would come around, Dad would bring up Big Tex," Rusty said. "He would say, ‘You know we took that thing up to Minneapolis.’”
It took some fast talking, but Reynolds managed to raise the $4,000 needed to transport Tex by rail the 852 miles to Minneapolis. He did it by hitting up many of Dallas’ movers and shakers for donations. The first donation came from then-mayor and Fair Park President R.L. Thornton.
But news of Big Tex’s travels came as a surprise to present-day State Fair officials, like Sue Gooding.
“We don’t think of Big Tex leaving Fair Park," she said. "The interesting thing is, that it was a competition back then -- that everything in Texas is bigger and better.”
Tex and the Dallas Jaycees made the trip bigger and better by taking a marching band and high-stepping dancers all dressed up in cowboy hats and boots. The big party was captured by TV station KSTP-TV in Minneapolis. In that old film, the locals clearly seem impressed with the tall Texan, if not a bit amused with the convention’s main attraction.
Although, the 1953 trip up north was the first time Big Tex stepped off fair grounds, it was not the last time.
Later, in 1955, Big Tex went out west for the 50th homecoming at then-Abilene Christian College. Big Tex was also a man about town, making a couple of appearances in downtown Dallas and at the Trade Mart.
But when Big Tex returns to the fair next fall, State Fair officials say his boots will stay firmly planted at Big Tex Circle. Tex is such a big deal now that he’s a registered trademark and State Fair officials say when he comes back, he’ll be home to stay at Fair Park.
As of Friday, Jan. 18 state fairgoers have raised more than $37,000 to help restore Tex to his former glory and get him back home to Fair Park.