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'We Care For Him:' Big Tex's Designers Talk About Rebuilding State Fair Icon

BJ Austin

When it comes to Big Tex, all secrets can now be revealed.

R. Eddy Snell and Karen L. Miller have had to keep a big secret for the past year – perhaps the biggest secret in the state of Texas. The State Fair of Texas hired them and their group, SRO Associates, to create the new Big Tex. 

SRO is a production company near San Antonio. The company has built sets and created entertainment for several theme parks across the country, including SeaWorld, Six Flags and Hershey Park. But SRO got a lot of help from San Antonio-based Texas Scenic Company to build his interior steel structure, as well as program his movements.

They haven’t been able to talk about it publicly – until now. Snell and Miller sat down with KERA’s Eric Aasen to discuss what it took to build Big Tex.

Eric, who is KERA’s new digital news editor, spent five years covering the State Fair for The Dallas Morning News. He was the only reporter granted exclusive access to Big Tex’s reconstruction. A team of Morning News journalists have chronicled the rebuilding of the big guy. The series appear starting in today’s newspaper and

Here are excerpts from the KERA interview:

What do you remember about the day of the fire?

Karen L. Miller, SRO's vice president of design and construction: "I was in Connecticut at the time and I was a little shocked but I found out within about an hour of him burning because it definitely made international news. The first thing I thought was 'Gee, I’d love to rebuild him and I sent Eddy a text and said 'We need to get in touch with them' and he said: 'I already am.''

Why did you want to rebuild him?

R. Eddy Snell, SRO's president and senior producer: "We had seen Big Tex, like all Texans. He represents in a lot of ways the ethos that we as Texans think of when we think of our state. I think he’s an icon that kind of transcends just the State Fair."

What’s new with Big Tex?

Miller: “He’s larger. He’s 55 feet tall, instead of 52 feet tall. Also, he has a butt, which is unusual. The original Big Tex did not have a butt.”

The State Fair required that no one discuss this publicly. As you were shopping or going out to eat, were you tempted to just shout out loud to everyone: “I’m building Big Tex and I know everything about him?”

Miller: “There was a temptation to talk about him, I have to be honest. In order to be able to discuss him in public, we came up with a code name. We started calling him ‘Fried Chicken.’ Every discussion about him in any kind of public forum referenced him as Fried Chicken. All the folders and files referred to him as Fried Chicken.”

But now that you’ve been with him for a year, don’t you feel a close connection with him?

Miller: “Oh I certainly do. We’ve grown to know him. We care for him. We’ve built him.”

Snell: “You can’t help but get attached to something that has a personality. He has a personality. Of course now we have all these quarter-scale versions of Big Tex around our studios. So he’ll be with us, for probably ever.”

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.