Big Tex, who welcomes visitors to the Texas State Fair, has been destroyed by a fire. Nothing but a wire shell and hands remain. The traditional welcoming figure caught fire at about 10:30am.
State Fair of Texas President Sue Gooding said the entire structure was engulfed in flames very quickly, and destroyed within about 10 minutes.
"I was entering Big Tex Circle when I overheard somone say, 'Hey, Big Tex is smoking!' I immediately glanced up and there was white smoke just starting under his collar," Gooding told Eyewitness News.
Firefighters responded to the scene and extinguished the fire.
An emergency responder to the 911 call said, "We've got a rather tall cowboy and all his clothes are on fire."
Fairgoers were moved back and the area was secured. No visitors were injured, and no other structures were in danger from the flames. There's no official determination yet on what sparked the fire, but there is speculation that it was caused by an electrical issue.
With a 75-gallon hat, 50-pound belt buckle and folksy, slow drawl to greet visitors -- "Howdy, folks!" -- Big Tex has been the star of the fair since 1952.
Gooding said the icon, which has previously withstood hurricane force winds and the theft of his clothes, will be brought down for repairs.
"I can promise you Big Tex will be back up next year," Gooding promised. "He will be bellowing out his 'Howdy' in 2013 when the gates open up."
The fair has been celebrating Big Tex's 60th birthday this year. On Friday, the area around Big Tex was cordoned off, but the fair was going on as normal around it. The fair closes Sunday
Milestones in the life of "Big Tex," State Fair of Texas icon:
- 1949 --Erected as a 52-foot-tall "Santa Claus" on Nov. 10th, 1949, in Kerens to bolster the town's Christmas shopping.
- 1950 -- Transported 60 miles to Dallas and sold to the State Fair of Texas for $750.
- 1952 -- Transformed and unveiled as a giant cowboy named "Big Tex" and made its debut in late October as the official symbol of the State Fair of Texas.
- 1953 -- Speaks for the first time. Over the years, six men have provided the voice for Big Tex, which says "Howdy, folks!" about 60 times a day during the fair.
- 1997 -- Original body was rebuilt on a cage-like frame made of 4,200 feet of steel rods.
- 2000 -- Upgraded with body movements, waving to fairgoers as they passed by to the Midway.
- 2002 -- Turns 50, gets an all-new wardrobe and a new voice.
- 2012 -- Destroyed in fire. Fair officials vow to rebuild icon for 2013.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.