State Fair of Texas Announces Judges for 2016 Big Tex Choice Awards

DALLAS, TEXAS – August 24, 2016 – The concessionaires are ready, the food is hot and taste buds are tingling. The wait is almost over – the 12th Annual Big Tex® Choice Awards presented by the Dallas Convention & Visitor's Bureau is just days away and its time to meet the lucky few who will crown the ultimate winners of this year's Fair food competition.

With 55 entries in the first round, the list of contenders was then narrowed down to 34 semi-finalists. From those 34 standout foods, eight finalists have been chosen to compete in the big event. The members of the Big Tex Choice Awards judging panel are faced with the trying task of evaluating this year's food finalists and awarding the coveted titles of Best Taste and Most Creative. The 2016 Big Tex Choice Awards will host a master of ceremonies along with a panel of seven prestigious judges featuring a variety of personalities, from renowned chefs, a community advocate, a true Texas cowboy and other local celebrities, plus one lucky guest who will be drawn at random from the audience on the day of the event.

Now, with great pleasure, the State Fair of Texas is thrilled to introduce the emcee and judges who will serve as taste-testers for the big event:

Michelle Rodriguez – New Country 96.3 KSCS, Midday On-Air Personality

Serving as the emcee for the 2016 Big Tex Choice Awards is local radio host Michelle Rodriguez. Born and raised right here in Dallas, Michelle has been a State Fair of Texas fan from the womb – there isn't a year she hasn't attended the Fair. She was lucky enough to start her career in Country radio here in Dallas 12 years ago and was recognized for having one of the Best Radio Shows in Dallas in 2015. You can hear Michelle on Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on New Country 96.3 KSCS. She's a lover of all things music and all things (fried) food. Michelle is excited to be part of this iconic event we all look forward to as North Texans year after year.

Don Gay - 8-Time PRCA World Champion Bull Rider and Commentator

Serving as a judge in this year's competition, Don Gay is a world champion bull rider and commentator. Don earned membership in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) while he was a sophomore at Mesquite High School. He graduated in 1972 and qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Oklahoma City, OK in bull riding, and went on to qualify at NFR for 13 years (11 consecutive). Don won a record eight PRCA World Bull Riding Titles and broke the PRCA's Bull Riding single season earnings record for eight consecutive years. An original inductee into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1979, Don was joined by his father Neal in 1993, making them the only father-son team in the rodeo shrine. His father ran the famed Mesquite Rodeo, which still operates today. Don retired from bull riding in 1989 and has served as a TV color analyst for GAC, ESPN, TNN, FSN, OTDCH and RFD.

Eddie JacksonThe Next Food Network Star, Season 11 Winner

In addition to serving as one of this year's judges, Eddie Jackson has mastered the perfect combination of two of his greatest passions: food and fitness! After retiring from the NFL due to numerous injuries, he took time off to spend with his friends and family, spending much of that time on what he believes to be the easiest way to bring everyone together – food. Eddie always felt at home on the field and even more so in the kitchen. Whether he was being taught family recipes by his father or grandmother, or coming up with his own culinary creations influenced by his travels with the NFL, he knew cooking was his way of sharing his love for food. It took just one taste from a close friend to sign Eddie up for Season 4 of Fox's MasterChef competition, which began his culinary journey on the big screen. Eddie finished in the top six before he returned home, even more amped up to share his love of food with the masses. It was then that he started his own food truck, the Caribbean Grill. Since being crowned champion of The Next Food Network Star in 2015, Eddie went on to host a handful of shows on the Food Network including BBQ Blitz, Kids BBQ Championship and Eddie's Gameday Playbook, with many more in the works.