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Big Tex honor a boon for state

Wednesday’s announcement that Big Tex now reigns as the country’s “Best Quirky Landmark” probably didn’t surprise many Texans.

After all, Big Tex has provided nearly as many photo ops for residents of the Lone Star State and their offspring as patches of spring bluebonnets.

When you grow up here, this giant cowboy is almost like one of the family.

He quickly became a fixture at the State Fair of Texas after arriving in 1952 and his hearty “Howdy, folks” has greeted untold numbers of visitors through the years.

Texans of all ages grieved back in October 2012 when fire consumed him. And they celebrated last year when the new Big Tex came back bigger and better than ever.

The 55-foot-tall cowboy (the former version measured 52 feet in height) won the Quirky Landmark title over 19 other curiosities in a contest sponsored by USA Today’s 10Best travel website.

The Longaberger Home Office in Newark, Ohio — that’s a building in the shape of a giant basket in case you didn’t know — took second place.

Carhenge — 38 vintage cars painted gray to resemble Stonehenge — located in Alliance, Nebraska, came in third.

Other Texas landmarks also were in the running. The Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo and Houston’s Beer Can House made the top 10 by taking sixth and seventh places, respectively, and Prada Marfa near Valentine in far West Texas also was mentioned.

We’re excited that Big Tex is now a national leader and we also think it’s pretty cool that our state wound up with so many nominees for the title.

Texans are obviously proud of him and our other landmarks. Contest officials did not release vote totals, but they did state that Big Tex garnered more than 20 percent of the votes cast.

In addition to stoking Lone Star pride, the news made us a little nostalgic. Like we said, Big Tex is a fixture in these parts, but he’s also symbolic of a more innocent time.

The State Fair has long been a given on many Texans’ travel itineraries, but there were plenty of other landmarks back in the day that could be visited on summer vacations or weekend road trips.

Roadside oddities were once common, especially in the days before the interstate highway system bypassed much of the heartland.

States and towns proudly proclaimed that they were home to these attractions, and bumper stickers and souvenir postcards helped spread the word.

The world is much more sophisticated now, but in our view, it’s not nearly so much fun, and we think it’s great that USA Today helped bring attention to many “quirky” landmarks that can be visited today.

The unique appeal of such attractions provides a great way for communities to promote tourism and build hometown pride.

Some old-fashioned ideas still work.