The Big E is known as New England's Great State Fair. It's not only the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard, but the 6th largest U.S. fair. The event runs for 17 days in West Springfield, MA, opening on the 2nd Friday after Labor Day. This year, it started on Sept 12 and ends on Sept 28. You still have time to make it this weekend.
This annual event was spearheaded by Joshua Brooks at the start of the 20th century. The first one was held in 1916. Brooks realized that New England farming was on the decline; his goal was to showcase New England farming and agriculture. First called the Eastern States Exposition, it was renamed to The Big E in 1967.
Each of the six NE states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) is represented on the Avenue of States, one of the most popular attractions that features full-size replicas of the six original statehouses. It's a quick way to walk in each state as each individual state owns the building and land.
Other permanent buildings include the 5,900 seat Big E Coliseum, built in 1926, and former home to the Springfield Indians professional hockey team,later the New England Whalers and then Hartford Whalers. The ice rink has been dismantled and the arena is used for equestrian shows, rodeos and Shriner circuses. The Better Living Center is a large indoor vendor area featuring household wares, home services, cookware, health goods, and more. Every "as seen on TV" vendor seemed to be here, and we quickly avoided spending much time inside.
Elsewhere around the grounds, there was no shortage of agricultural exhibits, livestock displays and judging, daily horse shows, and racing pigs. Over 25 breeds of cattle, sheep, goats and hogs are entered in livestock events by breeders from around the country.
A very popular attraction was the chicken hatchery where newborns chicks would stagger around briefly like they had a night on the town.
Walking around the fairgrounds, you might catch The Mechanical Man performing as he has been for over 20 years. Randy Burns moves like a robot with an extension cord from his back plugged into a nearby outlet. (Search online to watch some videos.)
What's a fair without a signature dessert? The Big E Cream Puff introduced in 2002 fills that description. The Big (Chocolate) Eclair followed in 2004. We had to sample both !
But, we passed on other fair foods that included fried Oreos, corn dogs, funnel cake and the newest treat, the Craz-E Burger, a bacon cheeseburger on a glazed donut bun.
The weekday we spent at The Big E was enough, even if we didn't see everything.
Would we go again? Probably not because even without buying anything, it's costly with an admission charge and parking; homeowners around the event charge $5-$10 to park on their lawns. For us, it was a see-once adventure.
Fortunately, it which was not as crowded as it will be this final weekend. The all-time high record set in 2013 was nearly 1,482,000 attendees.