Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Big E(xposition)

No, it's not a giant alphabet letter.

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. 
This fair has rides and games of change featuring The Magic Midway labeled the world's largest traveling midway. It features the 115-foot high Giant Wheel, Drop of Fear ride and more, none of which we ventured to try — would you ?

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.


Montanagirl said...

Wow - that looks like a fabulous Fair! Thanks to you for all the clicks you took of it to share with us. Those baby chicks are adorable!

William Kendall said...

In some ways, it reminds me of a fair that's held in Toronto at the end of each summer, particularly the midway and some of the food.

The coliseum is beautiful!

Emma Springfield said...

I love a good fair. Roaming around to view the animals, sampling food, and looking at the things made and judged. They really have become terribly expensive but when you add up all the exhibits the price is pretty good. The eclairs made my mouth water.

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Just feeling all Annie Oakley today, I guess.
I would have gone on the Ferris Wheel and the ride with the swings. That's it.
And, um, was that a pink sheep?
:) m & jb

Anonymous said...

Oh, those cute little chicks! I love looking at that sort of thing. I am not into rides, because they make me sick, but I would have loved that crème puff.

Anonymous said...

I would love to walk around there! and of course tries both the cream puff and the eclair :-)

I love those rides but I would never go up in the Giant Wheel! I just hate them! We call them Paris Wheels over here for some reason I don't know. All the other things I woulöd try though :-)

Too bad all these things always cost so much! We have norther Europes biggest amusement park, Liseberg, in my old home town and it costs a fortune to go there.

Have a great day!

Catherine said...

That's some fair! The pig races and newly born chicks would have been something to see, especially for my boys :) Looks like it was a lot of fun... and oh, I'm solely a ferris wheel rider myself ;)

A Quiet Corner said...

As you know we thoroughly enjoy the Big E each and every year. The sirloin tips with roasted redo tattoos and papers and onions was delicious!!!! Watching Kim KardashingHAM, we loved their races too!!!!...:)JP

diane b said...

You did a great job at documenting the BigE. It sure looks like it covers everything. I liked the animals. Like you I wouldn't be going again. Our big fair is called 'The Ekka" short for exhibition. We stay away now. It runs during winter and flu season. Not the best time to be amongst crowds.

DeniseinVA said...

I've never seen anything that big before, great tour around the fair. Grenville looks like he's enjoying those yummy pastries. Please send some :)

Elaine said...

Looks like a great fair. We have a fair here in Fairbanks every year, and sometimes we go and sometimes not. Seems like you see mostly the same things every year. And I absolutely would not go on any of those big rides. Marty is a roller coaster fan, and he'll go on those with me doing my part photographing the event for posterity.

Daisy said...

Looks like a wonderful event. Lots of things to see and do and eat! :)

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