DALLAS -- Four-year-old Grant Kennington sat atop his father's shoulders Monday morning waiting to see Big Tex hoisted into place.To Grant, Big Tex -- not Texas-OU, the Midway rides or the auto show -- is the State Fair of Texas."My son has a particular fascination with Big Tex," said his father, Clark Kennington. "I brought him out to the fair last year and he was a little scared at first. Fear turned into fascination and he talks about it nonstop."Since last year, Clark has made Lego models and drawings of Big Tex and has eagerly awaited returning for this year's State Fair, which begins Friday and runs through Oct. 21 at Fair Park in Dallas.That fascination was evident Monday as other visitors slowly drifted away or sought shade from the hot morning sun. While workers bolted Big Tex's legs into place and attached his size 70 cowboy boots, Grant kept squinting upward."He has big cowboy boots and I want those cowboy boots," Grant said.Grant won't be alone in paying attention to Big Tex this year as officials and fairgoers celebrate to the giant cowboy's 60th birthday.Big Texas, originally a giant Santa Claus for the town of Kerens from 1949 to 1951, was bought by Dallas businessman R.L. Thornton for $750 and made his debut at the 1952 fair. The State Fair is planning a birthday party and several other events in his honor.Besides celebrating Big Tex's birthday, the State Fair is touting several other attractions this year.The interactive Girl Scouts exhibit, honoring the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts at the fair, will be in the Hall of State and will include a giant Girl Scout cookie box along with a virtual troop and campfire.A new Chinese Lantern Festival will have two components. In daytime it will be an art collection of pandas, flamingos and a 110-yard dragon made of 15,000 porcelain dishes strung together by hand. At night, it will transform into a show that fair officials say will bathe Fair Park in lights.And of course there will be fried foods galore, from the traditional Fletcher's Corny Dogs to deep-fried jambalaya, which was this year's best-tasting food at the Big Tex Choice Awards.Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698Twitter: @fwhanna
If you go
The State Fair of Texas begins Friday and continues through Oct. 21 at Fair Park in Dallas.
Hours: Gates open daily at 10 a.m.
Tickets: Season pass $39.95; Adults $13.95 in advance, $16 at gate; Seniors, and children under 48 inches tall $10.95 in advance, $12 at gate.
Getting there: From westbound Interstate 30, take exit 49B. From eastbound I-30, take exit 48B. Visitors can also take DART's green line to the Fair Park Station or MLK Jr. Station.
Parking: $15 at official State Fair lots.
Information: 214-565-9931 or www.bigtex.com