There was a long stretch, where for years and years, and for reasons I'm not quite sure of, I had completely avoided the Big E. Then I went again a few years ago, skipped a year or two, then went again last year. Now here I am again, and it looks like I'm back on a roll with this fair. If you can call it a fair. It is like it's name says: Not just the Eastern States Expositon, but 'The Big Exposition'...
It's huge. And it seems to have more of a circus atmosphere than a traditional farmer's country fair. Here there are elephants, trained seals, miniature horses. As a matter of fact, it has a circus. And it has a traditional fair, and it has a midway rivaling small theme parks.
And the circus seems to figure heavily in the theme of attractions. There are a few exhibits specifically dedicated to the great circuses of old. There is a museum with a miniaturized version of the old big-top circuses that came and set up over acres of land, turning the local counties upside down during it's stay.
Another exhibit is dedicated to posters and pictures from that heyday.
The Budweiser Horses also do a show and participate in the parades. Here they are in their dressing rooms afterwards.
We decided to go mid-week to avoid the traffic snarls of the weekends, and besides, Thursday was Massachusetts Day at the Big E. After 5 pm the entrance fee is 5 bucks, which didn't hurt either. We made sure to check out all six of the buildings, each representing one of the six New England states. The Vermont building showcases it's great cheeses, the Maine building it's potatoes. People love Maine potatoes. They were lined up all the way out the door and then some, to purchase a steaming hot one.
Connecticut has it's Legos.
There is very little of the quiet country charm of the hill town fairs here. Your definitely in the urban realm, there's no escaping that fact. But what it lacks in intimacy it makes up for in sheer spectacle with amazingly high volumes of people, sights, attractions and vendors.
They had had a Massachusetts Day parade right at 5pm, which we missed, but we did get to see the 7:30 Mardi Gras parade. Replete with spooky floats, and beads tossed (hurtled) into the crowd.
Right outside the buildings a Sea Lion show was going on. Smart critters.
The Big E is definitely the biggest late summer fair in the northeast. Whether that makes it better than the smaller fairs out in the country is up to you.
But one thing is for sure: the Big E is big.