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Big Tex 101: Relive His Fiery Demise And Watch These Quirky Video Tributes

Christian Bradford/greychr

Big Tex, the beloved State Fair of Texas icon, returns to Fair Park on Friday. (If you’ve been under a rock lately, the big guy burned down last October in spectacular fashion, attracting national headlines.)

Before Big Tex makes his triumphant return, we’re offering a daily online look at All Things Big Tex until Friday.

In today's edition of Big Tex 101, we take a look at his final hours -- and some video tributes.

It was the final Friday of the 2012 State Fair of Texas. Big Tex was just recovering from all of the 60th birthday celebrations thrown in his honor at Big Tex Circle, including the world’s largest Frito Pie made near his boots.

Then, around 10 a.m., smoke started to climb up Big Tex. The smoke quickly turned into flames, which consumed his legs and arms. It ate his cowboy hat and then his face.

Firefighters were called to the scene with this unusual dispatch: “Got a rather tall cowboy with all his clothes burned off.” Listen to dispatchers here:

But by the time firefighters arrived, Big Tex was a goner. Within a few minutes, all that remained was a charred skeleton.

He burned down in front of shocked fairgoers, some of whom were in tears. Many whipped out their smartphones to shoot video that was shared around the country. TV stations broke into regular programming with the surreal news: Big Tex had burned down.

Watch the fire as it moves up his body:

Big Tex trended on Twitter.

The Dallas Morning News opened an online memorial book. Tributes – many sweet, several quite funny – came pouring in.

Dear Tex—For the last 53 years, on the last day of the Fair, I've stopped by you on my way out the gate and said, "Goodbye Big Tex! I'll see you next year, if I'm still alive!" I never thought for a moment that you'd go before me. Goodbye old friend. I will always remember the good times we have shared together. Oh, the stories we could tell! What is it we used to say "Better to out in a blaze of glory than a whimper. You did just that. I'll miss you my friend.

Big Tex Circle quickly turned into a shrine. People left flowers and cards. Someone even left a corny dog bouquet.

Online, thousands of tributes were posted on Twitter. And on Facebook, someone even set up a Big Tex Grief Support Group.

People called into KERA Radio to share their memories:

A few hours after Big Tex burned down, his metal skeleton was taken down and a canvas was placed over his charred remains:

KERA's Bill Zeeble reports from the scene of the fire.

Here's what it looked like at the scene:

The fire was blamed on faulty electrical wiring underneath Big Tex. The flames raced out of one of his boots and up his body. His head was made of fiberglass, making him extremely flammable.

No one was injured.

Just hours after the fire, someone posted a YouTube video that matched the Big Tex fire with audio of the Hindenburg disaster – “Oh the humanity!”

This memorial is to the tune of “I Will Remember You:”

At a Dallas funeral home, dozens said goodbye to an old flame:

State Fair officials promise that the new Big Tex will have a fire-suppression system.

Can’t get enough about Big Tex? Here are links to previous installments of Big Tex 101:

Look Back At State Fair Of Texas Icon's Early Years

Look At His New Digs, Even Though State Fair Security Said: 'No Pics'

Kerens, Birthplace Of Big Tex, Is Mighty Proud Of Local Boy Done Good

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.