Eastern States Exposition: "The Big E"
Scheduled for September 14th through September 30th, 2018
The Big E is an annual favorite experience for many families throughout New England. Each year it is New England's largest fair, and is held at the Eastern Exposition Fairgrounds in Agawam, Massachusetts.For a geographical reference, Agawam is right next to the much larger city of Springfield, Mass. Officially named the Eastern States Exposition, it was originally started by a man named Joseph L. Brooks who had a dream to hold an event each year to showcase all the wonders of the six New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In 1916, he convinced the National Dairy Show to hold its annual convention on the fairgrounds, and the following year kicked off the very first Eastern States Exposition. The fair has grown by leaps and bounds since that time, and today boasts an attendance of more than 1 million visitors annually.
The fair continues to highlight the 6 eastern states. Each of the previously listed states has its own building. In each building, visitors are exposed to all the wonders, types of commerce and food specialties. The following article highlights all the major attractions at the fair:
The Avenue of the States
Along this street are 6 buildings, one for each of the New England States. The buildings are exact replicas of the original state capitol buildings of each state. Visitors walk in either the front door and around the display area and out the same door, or can go directly from building to building through side doors and never even use the front doors.
Rhode Island: The Ocean State
In the Rhode Island building, visitors can purchase clam cakes, New England or Rhode Island Clam chowder, Del's Lemonade, and many other sweet treats and seafood delicacies from the ocean. Displays highlight the shoreline, the city of Newport and many tourist spots as well as jewelry and other crafts made in the state.
Connecticut: The Nutmeg State
In the Connecticut building, visitors can observe giant Lego creations made by employees of the company, and purchase Lego kits as well. They can buy Timex watches which are also made in Connecticut, talk to the state police, or speak with some of the Connecticut authors who also have a presence in this building.
Massachusetts: The Bay State
The Massachusetts building highlights it's ownership of the most cranberry bogs in all the in New England states, and promotes Cape Cod and the many benefits of vacationing in this beautiful shoreline recreation area. There is a dairy display near the food display areas complete with a talking cow that delights young children.
Vermont: The Green Mountain State
With an emphasis on many hand made crafts, warm clothing, and maple syrup products, this has always been my favorite state building at the Big E. Two of the best foods at the Big E can be obtained here, the warm home made apple pie with creamy vanilla ice cream. You do have a choice of that or a slice of fresh cheddar cheese. My favorite is the maple flavored cotton candy. This stuff is so light and airy and delicious, I wait each year to purchase and give my taste buds this annual sweet treat.
New Hampshire: The Granite State
Again highlighting handmade crafts, this state tends to promote it's natural fibers which create beautiful hand spun and woven clothing and blankets. Basketry is also displayed here by artisans who craft beautiful examples of woven handiwork. There is always a forestry display here and you get the sense that you are in the forest due to the scent of pine in the air.
Maine: The Pine Tree State
The Maine building has the most popular of all the food items available for purchase: The Maine baked potato. People wait in line for up to an hour to pay $5 ( in 2012) for a large Maine baked potato with all or any of the following fixings: shredded cheese, bacon bits, butter, sour cream, chives. One of these potatoes is enough for the average person's lunch. They also promote their lobster rolls and products, blueberry products, and fishing, hunting and camping areas.
The Grange Building
The Grange building is located across the street from the State buildings. It is chock full of prize winning hand made items such as needlework, quilts, knitted products, jams, jellies, fruits, and a variety of agriculture products. In the bottom of this building is "The Scenter of New England" which is a large display of candles for sale by the Yankee Candle Company.
Located behind the Grange Building is a very large midway with games, rides and carnival food stands. The standard fare here is whatever is usually sold at a carnival, such as candy apples, cotton candy ( regular flavor though, no maple here) and fried dough.
Since this originally got its start as an agriculture fair, animal lovers will not be disappointed. From the Farm-a-Rama building with is displays of newborn chicks to mothers with their newborn piglets and sheep, Farm-a-rama is a huge hit with kids from all over. There is a 4-H building with prize winning animals available to view. There is also a horse barn and cow barn. Each year, during the fair, there is a large horse show inside a covered arena. Many people go to see the show, while others use the building and shows to take a break, take a nap, or take a rest and get out of inclement weather. Each year there is also a vendor who arrives with a petting zoo and another one who brings camels and elephants on which visitors can ride for a fee.
The Better Living Building
It used to be that The Better Living Building was full of new products just coming onto the market and many samples were given away. But now it seems to be a building with many vendors just spread out and trying to attract customers. People are selling mops, kitchen gadgets, leather products, beds, dvds, fur coats, and many other products.
In the middle of The Big E Fairgrounds is Storrowtown Village. This is a small, authentically recreated village of buildings from the 18th and 19th century, brought to Storrowtown Village from the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. They are set up around a town green, and although they are available to tour during the year, they get the majority of their visitors during the fair. Many visitors enjoy having a meal at the Storrowtown Tavern, or viewing one of the more than 200 artisans who set up around the Storrowtown Village Green to sell their handcrafts. Handcrafts that are available run anywhere from folk art, to paintings to photography, to sterling silver jewelry to Christmas ornaments.
Not only is food available in the buildings, but scattered throughout the fairgrounds are many food vendors selling anything from hot dogs and hamburgers to fried vegetables and turkey legs. There are also baked potatoes available outside of the Maine building, but they are smaller than the ones in the Maine building.The variety of foods is amazing and many people say they go to The Big E just to eat!!!
Along with food vendors tucked in here there and everywhere, there are also vendors in booths all around the ground which run the gamut from decorated tshirts to western wear. The fair itself is an adventure because no matter where one looks, they are bound to find something interesting around the corner.
Each year various musical artists are brought in to entertain visitors at the Big E. The main bandstand is located just inside the front gate and has hosted such musical entertainment as Reba Mcintyre, Rodney Atkins, Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker, to name just a few.
Each day there is also a Mardi Gras parade complete with floats and marching bands that travels around the whole perimeter of the fairgrounds so that no one need miss the parade no matter what part of the fairgrounds they are at during the time of the parade.
If You Go
The Big E continues to be one of the most entertaining and fascinating fairs in the country. As a repeat fair goer, I look forward to continuing for many years. If you plan to go, check the website ahead of time for any special offers on a reduced admission rate, or to find out the entertainment for the day. Parking on the fairgrounds is limited, so expect to pay between $10 and $20 for a space outside the grounds in private lots on surrounding streets. Also, the Big E covers 175 acres of land so make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes or you will wish you had!
The Big E
Have You Ever Been to the Big E?
Want Another place to visit in Massachusetts, read on...
- Old Sturbridge Village: A Living History Museum in Sturbridge, Massachusetts
Bring alive the time period of the late eighteenth century for your children. Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts is worth a visit, especially with a 2 day admission ticket.
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