The iconic "Big Tex" statue which greeted fair-goers at the Texas State Fair for 60 years burned to the ground Friday. leaving Texans in a state of shock and mourning.
"It was surreal," witness Allison Griffin told CBS station KTVT-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth.
"In fact, a lot of people didn't realize it. People were still standing and taking pictures in front of Big Tex, like you always do. Fair personnel were driving past and, once the fire started, it just grew very quickly and began to engulf his whole body," Griffin added.
The 52-foot-tall cowboy caught fire around 10:30 a.m. Friday, Texas State Fair spokeswoman Debbie Flatt told CNN News.
A Dallas Fire-Rescue dispatcher reportedly made an unusual report on the radio Friday morning when she told nearby fire stations: "Got a rather tall cowboy with all his clothes burned off."
The giant icon, which includes size 70 boots and a 75 gallon hat, was completely absorbed in flames within ten minutes, according to fair officials.
Although the cause of the fire is still undetermined, Fair officials suggest that an electrical problem occurred in Big Tex's neck, which rotates his head up and down and moves his arm side to side as he greets fair-goers with a hearty "Howdy Folks!"
"Big things happen in Dallas, and Big Tex was a symbol of that. I'm sure we'll rebuild him and make him better than ever for the 21st century," Dallas Mayor Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement.
Those who have visited the Texas State Fair since Big Tex was first installed in 1952 say the burning of the fair's mascot marks "a very sad day for all fair-goers."
"It's a sad way to end the fair." fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding added to Guide Live.
Big Tex was constructed in Kerens, Texas, originally as a 49-foot-tal Santa Clause. He was then converted to a cowboy and made his debut at the Texas State Fair in 1952.