The Big E Fair, or more formally The Eastern States Exposition, is a huge fair in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Beginning every fall on the Friday after Labor Day, people come from throughout the region to enjoy fried food, carnival rides, agricultural exhibits, shopping, and celebrate the Northeast.
This was my first time going to The Big E and I was lucky to join Renee from Eat.Live.Blog, who’s a veteran fair attendee. We went on opening day, so you still have until September 29 to experience it yourself. Here’s what we did:
First we went on the Giant Slide. Renee said it was fun and I figured why not. We received burlap sacks to sit on, walked up what must have been five flights of stairs, sat down on the burlap and very slowly made our way down the slide. I had seen other riders go faster as we were walking up, but it was still fun. Then one of the operators asked if we wanted to go again to have a better ride. We said sure, made our way back up, and then literally went the fastest I have ever gone on a slide. On the last two bumps I was completely in the air. It woke us up and then we were on to wine tasting!
Near the slide there was a little barn-looking building with a sign for wine tasting. We were both very impressed with the variety – four wineries were represented – Amherst Farm Winery, Mineral Hills Winery, Les Trois Emme Winery, and Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod. My favorite new finds were the Chardonnay, Cayuga White, and Apple Wine from Mineral Hills Winery in Florence, MA; and I’m always happy to enjoy some delicious wine from Truro Vineyards (the Diamond White especially stood out).
Our first food stop was Hofbrauhaus from West Springfield. I ordered the Stiegl grapefruit beer, Sauerkraut an Backtieg (deep fried sauerkraut, corned beef, and cheese) and a huge dill pickle. The fried sauerkraut was super moist inside and the mustard added a nice kick. I’d love to check out Hofbrauhaus next time I’m in Western Mass.
I had no idea how many vendors would be at the fair. And, judging from some overheard conversations, there seems to be a tradition of coming back each year to buy favorite products. My picks were wool from Uruguay (found in the bargain bin for $2, originally $16!), raw shea butter from New England Shea Butter, beef jerky from Heidi Jo’s Jerky, and a Swiss Super Peeler.
There were great agricultural displays in multiple pavilions, including an adorable alpaca baby and mother (above), sheered sheep (left), and Belted Galloway cows (right). I love hanging out with animals! Unfortunately we only saw two goats, but at least I know next time I go apple picking at Parlee Farms I can see the goats.
After lots of wandering and shopping, we made our way over to the Avenue of States. This is one of the signature features of The Big E – there are six permanent buildings, one for each state in New England. There was some overlap between the states, but here are some highlights- New Hampshire maple cotton candy, chocolate-dipped fruit; Vermont maple syrup, maple candy, Ben & Jerry’s; Maine blueberries, smoked salmon, potatoes; Connecticut roasted pumpkin seeds; Rhode Island coffee milk, seafood; and Massachusetts clam chowder, fudge, chili. There is clearly not enough food at this fair.
After all of the food in the state houses, I had to get some fried pickles from Dr. Vegetable (‘Fresh Fried Vegetables’) with a Guinness. I’m so used to outdoor events in Boston that have tiny sectioned-off areas for people drinking beer – at the fair you can grab a beer from one vendor, and then find food somewhere else, and enjoy it all outside at one of the many seating areas. It was very relaxed and refreshing!
A little before 5pm people started settling into spots along the pathway by the state houses for the parade. We found a nice spot on the grass – it was good to sit after a day full of walking around – and enjoyed listening to the bands and watching the floats. I even saw an elephant float. A good day!
On our way out we stopped by the Big E Eclairs and Big E Cream Puffs. These are treats I would obviously try any other day, but after eating for seven hours, I couldn’t handle more. There’s always next year. They look delicious, though, and it was fun to watch them being made.
The Big E is located in West Springfield and will run until September 29 this year. Wear comfortable shoes, bring cash, and be ready to eat!