The Big E: New England’s Grand Fair

History of the Big E: Tracing Its Origins and Evolution

The roots of the Eastern States Exposition, or the Big E as it is commonly known, can be traced back to the early 1900s. The idea for such a grand exposition began in the late 19th century, inspired by the success of state fairs in other parts of the United States. The Big E, however, planned to be different – it was to be a multi-state affair, showcasing the best of New England agriculture, industry, and innovation.

In 1905, the Massachusetts State Grange proposed the idea for a state fair representing the six New England states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It took a few years of planning and coordination, but finally, the Eastern States Exposition opened its gates on September 16, 1916. The primary objective of the fair was to promote agriculture and industries in the region, and since then, it has evolved in numerous ways while still upholding its initial vision.

From its inception, the Big E was met with immense enthusiasm, and it quickly grew in popularity. As years passed, it became a prime destination not just for New Englanders, but for people across the Northeast United States and Canada. The attractions expanded from agriculture and industry competitions to culinary offerings, entertainment options, and fun-filled rides. Over time, the Big E has been the stage for the celebration of the rich cultural heritage of New England and has showcased its world-class talent, agriculture, and innovation.

Today, the Big E is the largest fair in the Northeast and the fifth-largest agricultural event in the nation. It is a proud symbol of New England unity, and it continues to draw millions of visitors each year, eager to partake in the festivities, experience its iconic attractions, indulge in its mouthwatering food, and participate in its various contests and events.

Throughout its long history, the Big E has adapted to the changing times, while still holding on to its core principles of community, agriculture, and entertainment. Each year, the organizers strive to bring the fairgoers a new and improved experience, while keeping the essence of the Big E alive. Despite the numerous milestones and achievements, one thing that has not changed is the sense of excitement and wonder the fair generates, both for the regular attendees and for first-timers alike. And as the Big E enters its 106th year, the story of its history continues to unfold, as it keeps bringing joy and delight to millions of visitors.

Venue and Layout

The Eastern States Exposition, commonly known as the “Big E,” is held annually at the expansive 175-acre fairgrounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The venue boasts a rich and beautiful landscape, punctuated

Parking and Entry Points

With thousands of attendees descending on the fairgrounds each year, the Big E provides ample parking areas to accommodate the influx of visitors. Parking at the main lots is conveniently located just a short walk from the main entrance, but travelers can also be dropped off at two other easy access points, Gate 9 and Gate 13, to avoid the traffic and parking hassles. Once parked, guests can purchase tickets at any of the entry points, which are staffed by friendly and helpful volunteers.

Layout of Buildings, Rides, and Exhibits

The layout of the Big E is well-organized and easy to navigate, allowing fair-goers to make the most of their visit. The fairgrounds are divided into several zones, each with distinct attractions and activities. The Avenue of States, which runs through the heart of the fairgrounds, features state-specific buildings showcasing regional products, crafts, and cultures. Storrowton Village, nestled in the southern portion of the venue, offers a glimpse into early New England life with its historic buildings and interactive demonstrations.

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West Springfield’s fairgrounds are home to numerous exhilarating rides and games, especially popular with families and thrill-seekers alike. The Midway features a wide array of roller coasters, ferris wheels, and other amusement park classics, while The Court of Honor is a more serene area that showcases stunning floral arrangements and beautiful fountains.

Accessibility and Accommodations

The Big E is dedicated to providing accessible and enjoyable accommodations for all its visitors. The entire venue is wheelchair accessible, with ramps and wide walkways for comfortable navigation. Service animals are welcome throughout the fairgrounds, and there are designated rest areas where guests can relax and recharge. Additionally, the fair provides complimentary shuttles for individuals with disabilities, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the full experience that the Big E has to offer.

Iconic Features and Attractions

The Big E, or Eastern States Exposition, is filled with an array of attractions that are sure to delight both young and old alike. From historical village recreations to Mardi Gras parades, attendees can expect an unforgettable experience as they explore everything this world-class fair has to offer.

One of the most well-known attractions at the Big E is The Avenue of States, a unique exhibit featuring full-scale replicas of each of the six New England state capitol buildings, packed with information about each state’s history, culture, and specialties. This attraction was established in 1936 and has been a staple at the fair ever since.

Storrowton Village is another must-see destination at the Big E. This 1830s living history museum offers guided tours, costumed interpreters, and demonstrations of a variety of trades, such as blacksmithing, weaving, and woodworking. Visitors can also indulge in delightful offerings from the village’s on-site restaurant, such as homemade chicken pot pie or fresh bread baked in their historic brick oven.

The Big E also hosts a variety of lively parades that showcase colorful floats, dance troupes, and marching bands. One of the most popular parades is the Mardi Gras Parade, which takes place on select days throughout the fair and features participants dressed in elaborate costumes and throwing beads and trinkets to the crowd.

Agricultural displays are an essential part of the Big E experience, as well. You’ll find everything from live farm animals to intricate displays of fruits and vegetables at the numerous livestock and agricultural exhibits.

Some of the most popular agricultural attractions include the Livestock Showcases, where attendees can watch competitions focused on different species such as cattle, swine, and sheep, and the Fruits, Vegetables, and Farming exhibition area, where visitors can marvel at displays of stunning produce and learn about sustainable farming practices.

As the Big E has grown over the years, it has expanded its offerings to include even more exciting attractions. These additions include the Family Fun Avenue, which features carnival games and rides for all ages, along with performances from clowns, acrobats, and other entertainers. The list is endless, providing endless fun for all those who attend the Eastern States Exposition.

Food and Cuisine

The Big E offers a taste of everything, making it a food lover’s paradise. Savor all the classic fair foods your heart desires, indulge in regional culinary specialties, or get a taste of something new with innovative twists on nostalgic dishes.

Classic Fair Fare

  • Cotton candy
  • Fried dough
  • Corn dogs
  • Fried Oreos

Regional Culinary Specialties

State Specialty
Massachusetts Chowder and lobster rolls
Connecticut Apple cider donuts
Maine Wild blueberry products
Vermont Maple everything
New Hampshire Pancakes from locally-sourced grains
Rhode Island Del’s Lemonade

Innovative New Twists

  • Poutine on a stick
  • BBQ baked potato spirals
  • Deep-fried lasagna bites
  • Sushi burritos

To make the most of your culinary experience, consider using the following tips:

  1. Bring a larger group so you can share and sample more dishes together
  2. Plan to attend the fair on weekdays and avoid the main weekend rush for shorter wait times
  3. Start your day with a hearty breakfast to help you last longer during fair hours
  4. Stay hydrated with water or other beverages (in addition to your fair food and treats) to avoid overindulging or exhaustion
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Use these tips to enhance your gastronomic experience at the Big E and take advantage of the many tastes awaiting you. Bon Appetit!

Entertainment and Performances at the Big E

The Big E offers a diverse range of daily entertainment and performances to suit every taste, making sure that there’s never a dull moment during the fair. With options ranging from traditional New England bluegrass bands to modern pop acts, circus acts, comedians, and even celebrity guests, visitors are guaranteed to find something that piques their interest.

Traditional New England Bluegrass Bands

For those looking to enjoy the local flavor of New England, the Big E features several traditional bluegrass bands. These bands’ music is a blend of various genres, including old-time, folk, and country, and showcases the unique culture and heritage of the region. Listeners can expect to hear catchy tunes, vibrant harmonies, and foot-tapping beats.

Modern Pop Acts

The Big E also features performances by contemporary pop artists, catering to those who prefer the latest hits and trends in popular music. These acts provide a high-energy experience and an opportunity to dance to the top tunes of the moment. Keep an eye on the schedule for information about specific performances, as popular artists’ shows often sell out quickly.

Circus Acts

Adding to the excitement of the Big E, there are many circus acts to enjoy. These acts range from daring acrobatic feats to hilarious clown performances. Visitors can expect to be entertained and amazed by the skill and athleticism of the performers, as they showcase their unique talents and bring laughter to the audience.


For those looking for some laughs during their visit to the Big E, there are numerous opportunities to enjoy stand-up comedy performances. These shows feature local comedians as well as rising stars and well-known names from the comedy scene. With a variety of performance styles and types of humor on offer, there’s something to suit all tastes and preferences.

Celebrity Guests

The Big E often attracts celebrity guests, ranging from homegrown New England talents to well-known actors, musicians, and influencers from across the country. Fans can look forward to meeting their favorite stars, getting autographs, and snapping photos. Keep an eye on the Big E’s event schedule and social media updates for information on which celebrities to expect during your visit.

Overall, the Big E’s entertainment line-up offers something for everyone, ensuring that visitors of all ages and interests can have an enjoyable time. Keep an eye on the event schedule for updates and information on specific performances and plan your visit accordingly to make the most of your time at the fair!

Competitions and Contests at the Big E

One of the highlights of the Eastern States Exposition, also known as the Big E, is the various competitions and contests showcased throughout the fairgrounds. These events not only bring excitement and entertainment to attendees but also promote community pride and knowledge about agriculture. Here are some of the most notable competitions and contests featured at the Big E:

Cooking Competitions

The Big E is known for its fantastic culinary offerings, and cooking competitions are a major part of that. Some events include the Taste of the Fair Recipe Contest and the Fresh From the Farm Recipe Contest. Participants submit their original dishes and recipes, and winners are chosen based on taste, creativity, and presentation. These events not only highlight the talents of amateur and professional chefs but also encourage visitors to experiment with farm-fresh ingredients in their own kitchens.

Livestock Judging

Another staple of the Big E are the livestock judging competitions. Many people come to the fair specifically to watch and participate in these events. These competitions cover a wide range of farm animals, including dairy cows, beef cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry. Competitors showcase their animals in hopes of impressing the judges and earning a prize or ribbon. The rigorous judging process not only showcases the hard work and dedication of the farmers but also helps promote the importance of livestock farming and animal husbandry in the region.

Baking Challenges

For those with a passion for baking, the Big E features a variety of baking challenges, including traditional categories like pies, cakes, and bread, as well as more unique ones like decorated cookies and artisanal breads. These events provide an opportunity for amateur and professional bakers to test their skills, share their favorite recipes, and learn new techniques from others. Additionally, the winners not only take home pride and bragging rights, but they also help contribute to raising awareness of local farming and agriculture practices.

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Gardening and Floral Displays

The Big E also hosts several competitions that celebrate the beauty and creativity displayed in gardening and floral arrangements. Categories include everything from container gardens and hanging baskets to intricate flower arrangements and wreaths. Aspiring gardeners, landscape designers, and floral artists can showcase their skills and learn from others, while visitors can be inspired by the astonishing beauty and be motivated to create their own displays at home.

Other Unique Competitive Events

Beyond the main categories, the Big E is known for its unique and entertaining competitions. Some popular events include a watermelon seed spitting contest, a pumpkin carving contest, and a skillet toss. These quirky events bring a touch of fun and laughter to the fair and demonstrate that the Big E is not just focused on agriculture and farming, but also fostering a sense of community among its visitors.

In conclusion, the various competitions and contests at the Big E are an integral part of the fair’s charm and appeal. They provide a platform for talented individuals to showcase their skills, as well as an opportunity for the community to come together and learn about agriculture and farming in a fun and engaging way. With something for everyone, the Big E truly is a celebration of the people and traditions that make New England special.

Planning Your Visit to the Big E – A Guide to a Memorable Experience

Visiting the Eastern States Exposition, also known as the Big E, can be an unforgettable experience for anyone who loves fairs, attractions, and great food. To help you make the most of your visit, here are some insider tips and recommendations.

Choosing the Best Time to Visit

The Big E takes place annually over 17 days during the third week of September to the first Sunday in October. To avoid crowds and long lines, it’s best to visit on a weekday. Weekends generally attract larger crowds due to local events and holidays.

“Weekdays are the best time to visit the Big E, as weekends can get quite crowded,” said a regular fairgoer.

Transportation Options

Make your way to the Big E via car, train, or bus. The fairgrounds are conveniently located in West Springfield, Massachusetts, just off Interstate 91. There are plenty of parking options available for cars, including accessible parking lots and RV parking.

For those looking to use public transportation, the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA, offers a free shuttle service to and from the Big E throughout the event. MBTA Commuter Rail also connects to the fairgrounds, making access from Boston and other parts of the region simple.

Budget-Friendly Strategies

Advance planning can help you save money during your visit to the Big E. Consider purchasing a general admission ticket online in advance, which often costs less than purchasing on-site. Additionally, many local grocery stores and banks sell discounted tickets during a promotional period leading up to the fair.

“Don’t forget to check your local grocery stores for discounted general admission tickets,” advised a seasoned Big E visitor.

When it comes to food, ration those indulgent treats throughout your visit, rather than indulging in them all at once. Share large portions with friends or family members to save money and cut down on food waste.

Insider Secrets for Avoiding Crowds

To avoid long lines and large crowds at popular attractions and food booths, consider visiting earlier in the day or later at night. Additionally, avoid peak mealtime hours (12-2 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.) when lines can get lengthy.

“Choose your favorite attractions and food booths strategically, and try to visit them at off-peak times,” said a local fairgoer.

Finally, spend ample time at the agricultural displays and livestock competitions, where crowds are often less dense than at other attractions.