Tag Archives: Dallas

State Fair Blues

30 Mar

Howdy Folks!

They say everything is bigger in Texas and in this case I believe they (whoever “they” may be) just may be right.  This week the local BillBraggBigTexbuzz has been all about the dismissal of Bill Bragg, the man who has voiced the larger than life mascot of the State Fair of Texas for the last 11 years.  Some are upset about the way that his boss, Sue Gooding, did the deed, letting him know that they would not be renewing his contract via email, some are upset that this “unofficial mascot” was fired at all.  Petitions are flying around and I am sure the in boxes at the State Fair offices are being inundated with hate mail.

Big Tex originated in Kearns, Texas as the worlds largest Santa, a way to draw in holiday shoppers to the small North Texas town.  In 1952, Tex made his first appearance at the State Fair, an annual “county fair” that draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Dallas area every October, when he was purchased by the Fair president, R.L. Thornton, who commissioned an artist to turn Santa into the iconic cowboy.

Why would the State Fair make such a potentially disastrous blunder as this?  It seems that Mr. Bragg is in violation of his contract with the Fair.  Apparently he liked to tell people that he was the voice of the 52 foot cowboy and he liked to tell them publicly.  He was known to be approached by children at the fair who would ask to have their picture taken with him, he would make speaking engagements with big named charities like the American Cancer Society, where, presumably, they would introduce him as the voice of Big Tex.  Just generally making a nuisance of himself (I hope everyone can pick on my sarcasm here)

So, the State Fair officials made a decision to not renew his contract because he wouldn’t follow their rules.  If this had been 50 years ago the Fair officials would recognize this for what it is, good publicity.  Mr. Bragg is not misrepresenting the Fair, he is not taking business away from the Fair, he is not making money by presenting himself as the voice of the beloved mascot, if anything he is bringing joy to children and fans of the icon by posing for pictures, he is bringing good press to the Fair by making charity appearances for well-known and reputable charities, in my opinion, he is a marketing dream.

So, why would the State Fair officials make such a bad PR move as this?  No one knows for sure, Fair officials are keeping pretty closed mouth about this one.  This leaves one to speculate that maybe this might have something to do with the fire that destroyed Big Tex at the end of the 2012 season.  Talk was for a while after that Big Tex would come back bigger and better than before but that he wouldn’t be the Tex that everyone remembered.  They have diversified Tex in recent years, growing up, Tex only spoke English but in recent years they have made him bilingual and during the fair you could hear Tex exclaim, “Hola Amigos!”  This led many people to wonder if the new Tex would look just a little darker than he had in years past.  Fair officials have denied this claim.

There have only been five men to speak for the giant over the last 60 years or so, Mr. Bragg took over in 2002, everyday during fair season, he would make his way to the booth to welcome visitors and make important announcements.  I have to wonder if, in this age of computers and technology, they haven’t figured out a way to digitally make Tex speak, surely saving the Fair thousands of dollars into the future since a computer won’t charge any residual money and would never break a contract.  Officials would be making a tremendous mistake by doing this, but I doubt that they care about that.

Whatever the reason and outcome, one thing is for sure, State Fair officials have started a firestorm of controversy.  They got publicity, but I don’t think it was the kind they bargained for.

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