Local Artist Wins ‘Big Tex’ Design Contest


The winning design was created by a young woman from Irving, Texas: 23-year-old Jessica Bonilla | Image by WFAA

Big Tex, the iconic symbol of the Texas State Fair, will be sporting a brand-new pair of custom-designed boots at this year’s fair, thanks in part to a fellow native Texan.

Jessica Bonilla, 23, from Irving, was the winner of the 2023 Big Tex Boot Design Contest. Her winning artistic design will be transformed into a pair of size 96 boots by Lucchese Bootmaker, a Texas-based manufacturer and retailer of luxury Western-style footwear and boots.

Bonilla, who is a licensed social worker by day, runs a small side business selling her artwork.

“I heard about the Big Tex Boot Design Contest, and I really wanted to challenge myself to draw in a new style that I’m not as familiar with,” Bonilla said, according to WFAA.

“I am beyond excited that my design was selected to be featured on Big Tex and [that] I will have the opportunity to share my art with millions of people!” she said in a press release from the State Fair. 

Bonilla grew up attending the Texas State Fair every year, so she was quite familiar with the big guy and his sense of style. The inspiration for her design, which features sunsets, cacti, bats, butterflies, and other Texas creatures, sprang from her love of nature. 

“I really love wildlife and animals, so I wanted to base my theme around Texas wildlife,” she said, according to FOX 4 News.

Taylor Austin, the spokesperson for the Texas State Fair, told KRLD Radio Dallas, “It’s beautiful, so many colors within the design. It’s one of those you have to look really closely to see all of the details because there’s just so much going on. But it’s a beautiful depiction.”

Big Tex got his last pair of new boots in 2019. Since he stands on his feet all day long at the fair every year, he was about due for a new pair of boots. Members of the public voted for the winning design in the 2019 Big Tex Boot Design Contest, but this year’s winner was selected by a panel of judges.

Bonilla’s design was chosen from more than 300 entries submitted by artists across the country, who ranged in age from 10 to 79. The judges whittled their choices down to five before finally selecting the winning design, based on “the creativity of the design, representation of Texas pride, and design for Big Tex,” according to the news release

“… Being able to see her knowledge of the state really shine through… is why I think she ultimately won this contest,” Austin told KRLD. 

“Jessica’s design highlights the beautiful and vibrant Texas sunsets we all know and love, and we can’t wait to see her vision brought to life by our bootmakers,” Lucchese President Doug Kindy told WFAA. 

Lucchese boots have been worn by state governors, senators, U.S. presidents, kings, movie stars, prominent businessmen, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and many others, according to the company website. However, Lucchese has never had a bigger client than Big Tex. 

The company previously made a pair of boots for the new and improved Big Tex in 2013, following the devastating fire of 2012 that almost took him out of service for good. According to the Lucchese website, those boots were 12 feet tall and weighed 900 pounds. 

Thus far, Big Tex has not commented on the new boot design, but he is known to be a man of few words. However, he is sure to be wearing a smile along with his new boots when the Texas State Fair opens on September 29. The fair runs through October 22. 

For a sneak peek at Bonilla’s boot design, click here

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