The iconic animated figure known as "Big Tex," which has greeted visitors of the State Fair of Texas for 60 years, was destroyed by fire on Friday.
Fair representative Sue Gooding said the blaze started inside Big Tex Friday morning on the fairgrounds in South Dallas, ahead of the event's closing weekend.
She said white smoke began billowing from the neck and head area of Big Tex before the flames erupted.
"There is definitely electrical in the working of Big Tex … to provide movement of the mouth and head," Gooding said. "It would not surprise me if it did happen – if it did start with electrical."
According to Bill Bragg, who voices Big Tex from a PA system in a nearby trailer, it was "business as usual" before the blaze broke out.
"Tex was talking perfectly. A beautiful day at Fair Park. And they knocked on the door and they said, 'There's smoke coming out of Big Tex.' I went out. I investigated. I unplugged all of my equipment in the travel trailer, so I could isolate myself from the statue for safety reasons," Bragg said.
One fairgoer said smoke gave way to fire that quickly engulfed Big Tex.
"The flames dropped down and hit his pants, and once they hit his pants, he just went up in flames," the man said.
"Tex went down talking," Bragg said.
Video showed the towering Big Tex figure, standing more than 50 feet tall, had been reduced to a charred, headless wire frame. Only the figure's clothed arms and bare hands were spared.
Firefighters were able to keep the fire contained to Big Tex. No other damage or injuries were reported.
The fair remained open and no evacuations were ordered as workers dismantled and shrouded the remains of Big Tex before wheeling the figure from the fairgrounds in a sort-of impromptu parade procession.
Despite what she called a "sad" setback, Gooding said work would begin to replace Big Tex for next year's fair.
"We'll see Big Tex again," Gooding said.
Bragg echoed that declaration.
"They've given me the day off but they said, "Get ready next year, because he's coming back bigger and better than ever. And you better be ready to go," he said. "And I'm going to be the voice from now on."
Milestones in the life of Big Tex
By The Associated Press