Big Tex Hits The Big Five-Oh

Big Tex is over the hill!

That's right, the 52-foot-tall host to millions of thrill seekers every fall hit the big five-oh with the opening of the 2002 State Fair of Texas.

Big Tex is the World's Largest Cowboy and the official emcee for the annual fair. He joined the yearly exhibition in 1952 after losing his job as the World's Largest Santa Claus and hasn't missed a fair since.

He was given the gift of speech his second year and his slow, booming voice is now almost as recognizable as his signature stance and enormous western wardrobe.

So far, seven men have provided the voice for the big man. Taking on the role in 2002, Dallas native Bill Bragg was lucky enough to jump on board in time to commemorate Tex's 50th birthday, and his first day on the job included the honor of participating in a special celebration.

On opening day, September 27, officials paid tribute to Big Tex with an appropriately mammoth birthday party. Hundreds of fairgoers gathered at the birthday boy's size-70 feet as State Fair President Errol McCoy kicked off the ceremony. Clearing his throat, he got the attention of the guest of honor, to which the big man replied, "Ol' Big Tex is ready!"

Since Tex was turning 50, the first order of the day was to confirm his newfound eligibility into the AARP. McCoy introduced AARP Texas representatives Luis Wilmot and Gus Cardenas, who wished Big Tex a happy birthday and presented him with his membership card. Said Cardenas upon unveiling the billboard-sized card, "Big Tex, may you continue to inspire all of us to enjoy life and to remind us that life is still great and will continue to be great after 50."

Big Tex responded, "Thank you ... Ol' Big Tex thinks it's gonna be a lot of fun to be 50 years old!"

McCoy then presented Tex with an enormous faux cake from sponsor Tom Thumb and a red 50th-anniversary, special-edition Corvette convertible. "This beauty is all yours, Big Tex," he said. "That is, for the next 24 days."

With that, the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps struck up their rendition of "Happy Birthday" as the crowd joined in.

"Thank you, Tom Thumb," Big Tex bellowed. "Thank you, Marines. And thank ..." Just then, his voice cut out unexpectedly. Apparently, the emotions were running just a bit too high. Tex was too choked up to continue.

McCoy was quick to respond, however. "...thank you for being here today," he said in his best Big Tex imitation.

With that, McCoy wished everyone a great day at the fair and invited us all to a nearby booth for complementary birthday cake. I had two pieces.

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