Sunday, September 21, 2008

More Than a "Fair" Time at The Big E in West Springfield, MA

Article and photos by Eric H., at

Upon entering the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E) in West Springfield, MA, from "Gate Five," the following thoughts occurred to us amidst the hundreds of colorful fair activities and its overwhelming Saturday crowd of 150,889 people: what do we do and where do we go?

Looking straight ahead, the Ferris wheel and all the other amusement rides looked liked the best deal, but the aromas from a virtual city of food vendors kept us intact. So, we just stood there for a minute, with our right side of the brain offering Homer Simpson-like, cartoon captions of sugar-powdered mini-donuts above our heads, and the left side trying to figure the whole darn thing out.

To the right, we knew the Avenue of States with all its replicas of state buildings with regional gifts, food and fun educational displays and exhibits would provide us with hours of local entertainment -- and the rare opportunity visit state houses run a lot better than the authentic ones. We recalled, however, from many years ago, the appeal of other events and activites at other locations, including the horse riding competition, the parades, the free concerts and the animal displays.

In the long run, however, we reached our activities potential, accomplishing about a quarter of what we wanted to do in six hours. We reveled in the moments of enjoying the carousel, the skilled jockeys and their elegant horses, a Mardi Grad parade with larger-than-life-floats, Maine blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream from the Maine state building, incredible Gyros pita rolls from the Demetrio's Greek food vendor station, chickens being born out of eggs, and the sea lions acting almost human (more so than some of the audience) with their picture posing, look-at-me affection, and water tricks. We also enjoyed the free concert featuring JYPSI, a country and bluegrass group with three women and one man showcasing great harmonies and expert, traditional instrumental musicianship.

We did miss out on watching up-and-coming country star Jordin Sparks, the craft area, the much-heralded Big E Cream Puffs, the Big E Super Circus, The Harvest New England Kitchen Theater (featuring local chefs showcasing their expertise), a New England meal of clam chowder and old-fashioned chicken pot pie at the quaint Storrowtown Tavern, and the Storrowtown Village demonstrators (including chair making and paper marbling demonstrations).

The bottom line is that unless you spend several days at The Big E, you won't get to accomplish everything. The key is to enjoy each moment as a larger-than-life slice of Americana, complete with heartwarming cheesiness, more staid New England character, and overall fair charisma and calories. Speaking of calories, don't forget to employ every bit of the right side of the brain and sample the true highlight of eating those sugar-powdered mini-donuts!

Editor's note: The Big E Runs until the close of business at 10 p.m. on Sept. 28

For more information on events,and admission prices, visit the Big E Web Site

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