The Biggest Acts of Texas Pride in History

Jeremy Nguyen/Thrillist

Even the farthest flung northerner knows two things about Texas: everything’s bigger there, and this state has more pride than the other 49 put together. Combine those two facts, and you get the most audacious acts of identity expression since... well, since Texas broke away from Mexico. Here are the record-setting patriots of Texas legend.

Jeremy Nguyen/Thrillist

That Texas-sized (and shaped) river on the roof of a hotel

A lazy river rolls 'round the roof of the Marriott Marquis Houston. Measuring 3.6ft deep and a whopping 510’ feet (about the length of 6.2 Olympic pools), the river circulates the roof every 15 minutes. That’s 140,000 gallons of water. Houston, you have no problem that can’t be cured by floating the circumference of Texas.

A giant iguana beckons Texans to their oasis

One of the larger artistic tributes to Texas pride once cast shadows in downtown Manhattan. The roof of New York City’s Lone Star Cafe housed a 40ft-long iguana sculpture by Texas artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade in the late ‘70s, because he had no other place to put it. A long battle with the neighbors led to its removal, but the mighty iguana returned with Mayor Ed Koch’s blessing. Presiding over its reinstatement on the roof was visiting Texas governor Mark White. Both with and without the iguana, Lone Star Cafe hosted a retinue of Texas acts while acting as a home base for local celebrities of Texas origin until it closed in ‘89.

The iguana isn’t even Wade’s most Texan piece. For that, gaze up at the World’s Largest Cowboy Boots, a 40ft-tall pair of kickers situated outside of San Antonio after their original installation in DC. But for sheer cultural intrepidness, the iguana embodies his career as “art ambassador of Texas.” He’s spread the Tex gospel far and wide, while at home gaining fame as one of the founders of Austin’s modern trippiness.

Jeremy Nguyen/Thrillist

The biggest Texas flag ever flown

Measuring 100ft high by 150ft wide, this Texas flag is both literally and figuratively the biggest banner of pride in the Republic possible--so of course it gets displayed on a football field--which in Texas is sacred ground. Since the flag is too big to hoist up a flagpole, it's actually got some smaller (but still Texas-sized) siblings that are hung and/or displayed when mere normal-sized emblems won't do. 

An even more gigantic Sam Houston

There’s no bigger figure in Texas history than Sam Houston. And so he gets a Texas-sized tribute in the form of a 67ft-tall statue -- in fact, A Tribute to Courage is America’s 10th tallest statue (the Statue of Liberty is a distant second behind Puerto Rico’s Birth of the New World, if you were wondering). For comparison, the tallest statue of George Washington is 17.25ft tall.

The world’s largest barbecue smoker

While other states pride themselves on spit-roasting a pig, the Lone Star State is beef-based, stingy with its BBQ sauce (it’s for the chef to dole out, not the customer), and defies you to say you’ve had better meat anywhere, ever. So of course some folks in Brenham decided, “Well, we’re Texas, we’d better do barbecue bigger than anybody else.”

Enter Terry Folsom and Kimberly King, whose 40-ton(!) smoker, titled The Undisputable Cuz, is the biggest on the planet -- and comes complete with a gigantic metal Texas firebox tail. Also hot on its tail? The actual state of Texas, because people turn out for both barbecue and spectacle. Folsom and King take the 75ft trailer (96ft with the truck) to big events like football games, NASCAR races, and private parties such as corporate functions of 3,000 people or so.

Their favorite thing to do with it, however, is bring barbecue to folks who need a smile. At Thanksgiving, they handed it off to the Salvation Army to give the homeless a very smokey meal. It’s also been used to feed some very hungry troops. “I want to help people,” says Folsom. We can all agree that sharing your barbecue nourishes the spirit as well as the body.

Despite its 800 square feet of cooking area, the smoker requires surprisingly little wood -- about a cord. An inner heat exchange along a 1” pipe combines with a damper opening system to tightly control temperatures and keep its 24 sections cooking at their own pace and under their own smokestacks. Oh, and the damper handles are also Texas shaped, naturally.

As if that weren’t crazy enough, this beautiful vision includes a walk-in cooler. Situated at the truck end of the trailer, this is where your kegs live, because what’s barbecue without a frosty beer? The only way this could possibly be more Texas is if all that smoke coalesced into the ghost of Stephen F. Austin, proudly shouting “Texas forever!”

Brendan McGinley is a lot of fun to drink with. He once served Irish/Hawaiian fusion dinner and is the 98th inventor of blueberry-based Maine-style BBQ. Read his webcomics at www.brendanmcginley.com.