DALLAS Big Tex is home.

State Fair of Texas officials installed the region's biggest cowboy at Big Tex Circle in the wee hours of Thursday morning to avoid the inevitable media throng. Tex's silhouette is visible through the white sheet guarding him for the first time sincehewas felled by an electrical short in his boot last year.

And because of wind, fair officials pulled the curtain down a day ahead of schedule.

The State Fair kicks off Friday at 2 p.m. and continues until Oct. 20. There's plenty to do this year on Friday, Texas country band Asleep at the Wheel will take the main stage. On Saturday, punk fans will do something they probably never thought possible: clutch a corn dog while watching John Doe and Exene fire through X's back catalogue. Aging New York glam punkers Blondie will close the evening.

Before the concerts, dip into the auditorium for a 25 minute video on the rebuilding of Big Tex, which, if past footage of thisprocess is any indication, will offer up enough nightmare fuel to jolt fairgoers out of their fried food comas. That runs on a loop from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

And speaking of the food, there's plenty of it. The Deep Fried Cuban Roll took top honors at this year's taste competition, out-frying such culinary guilt trips as the Awesome Deep Fried Nutella, Fernie's Deep Fried King Ranch Casserole, Golden Fried Millionaire Pie, Spinach Dip Bites, Southern Style Chicken-Fried Meatloaf and the Texas Fried Fireball. News 8 got a sneak taste of some of those earlier this month.

The Fried Thanksgiving Dinner seriously won the competition's most creative category. Stuffing and diced turkey is rolled into a ball, dipped into cream corn and corn meal and fried. November came early.

In the Hall of State, fair attendees can walk through the Life & Times of Big Tex, a museum exhibition memorializing Tex's 61-year history as the fair's official mascot. News 8's Marcus Moore got a preview tour of the exhibit, which features the hands and belt that survived last year's fire. Also on display is Big Tex's original head from 1952.

The display, says spokeswoman Sally Samre, was meant to be a tribute to the monument that cropped up in his wake at Big Tex Circle.

'It just became something that was a part of their DNA sort of, because it was local, it belonged to Dallas, it belonged to Texas,' she said. 'It belonged to everybody.'

To go with the upgraded Tex, fair officials also upgraded Big Tex Circle, the plans of which Gloria Campos detailed here.

The immensely popular Chinese Lantern Festival returns to Fair Park as well, this time with 17 new lantern sets.

Then there's the pig races and the petting zoo, Fletcher's Corny Dogs and the Texas Star Ferris Wheel. The Red River Shootout descends upon the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 12 and there are plenty of other concerts scattered throughout the weekends to keep fairgoers interested.

Get those details, and tickets, at this link.