For the truest of Texans, March 2 is better than Christmas — it’s Texas Independence Day, a holiday commemorating the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence and formation of the Republic of Texas in 1836.
“For the proudest of Texans, it’s the most important day of the year,” says Jim Nicar, who studies the university’s history. “It’s a holiday that no other state can claim.”
Proud Texans often remind people outside the Lone Star State that “everything is bigger in Texas,” and on the Forty Acres we have one of the best, and largest, signs of Texan pride — the biggest Texas flag in the world.
At 100 feet by 150 feet, the giant Texas flag is a now staple at UT Austin football games, in various parades and at important campus events like Gone To Texas and the Texas Exes Ring Ceremony.
Students in the national co-ed service group Alpha Phi Omega, or Texas APO, are responsible for the flag. Donning the Texas APO uniform of white, button-down shirts and blue jeans, these students bring the flag to every home football game, where they perform alongside the Longhorn Band.
With complex and coordinated maneuvers, Texas APO incorporates different “tricks” with the flag into the performances, like the 360-degree rotation and the unfolding “cyclone.”
Since the tradition began, Texas APO has used six different Texas flags at football games, with the current one being purchased in 2007 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the group’s first flag run.
The first of UT Austin’s giant Texas flags found its way to the Forty Acres after the 1961 Cotton Bowl. During halftime of the game, Ross Barnett, who was governor of Mississippi at the time, presented a Texas flag to then Texas Governor Price Daniel, who gave the flag to the Longhorn Band.
Legendary Longhorn Band Director Vincent DiNino recorded the first flag’s dimensions at 17 yards by 30 yards, making it smaller than the flag in use today. DiNino passed the flag to the Athletics Department, which, in turn, asked Texas APO to “run the flag” during the 1962 Thanksgiving game against Texas A&M.
“After that game, we were given the responsibility of maintaining and displaying the flag at university events,” explains Lauren Loper, a Texas APO coordinator who oversees the giant Texas flag.
While Texas APO uses the massive 100 feet by 150 feet flag during football games, they have two other flags that are more manageable for certain events: a “drop flag” that hangs from the Tower on special occasions and a parade flag that’s only 30 feet by 50 feet.
“We take great pride in the history and tradition of the Texas flag,” Loper says. “We not only think of the Texas flag as one of our traditions but also as a tradition of the university and the great state of Texas.”