The past eighteen or so months has really put things into perspective for me. With everything shutting down last year, it almost feels as though fall and winter never happened. I never got to see most of my family or do any of the usual traditions that each season brings. Because of that, I decided to make the most of this coming fall.
In an attempt to fully embrace the fall, I decided to attend as many fairs and festivals as possible this year. My #1 on the list was to be the Durham fair but unfortunately I got sick that weekend and was unable to attend. I was so devastated because it has been my favorite fair in Connecticut so far. I can’t tell if it’s because it’s actually that great or because I enjoy the ride on the school bus. (If you know, you know). It was also a slight burn because I put it off in 2019 thinking I’ll just go the following year and we all know what happened in 2020, so that was now 2 years and with the events of this year we are now approaching year three.
I decided not to let that stop me. I moved on to #2 on the list which was The Big E. Fun fact: Every year since I’ve moved to Connecticut, I have made an attempt to attend the Big E. And each year I have failed miserably. There was always a last minute change or a series of unfortunate events that would end up causing the plan to fall through.This year however, I was finally able to make it! Yay! Just two days shy of its closure. LOL.
The Big E, formally known as The Eastern States Exposition, is an annual event that takes place in Springfield, Massachusetts. It begins on the second Friday after Labor Day and continues for 17 days. This year it ran from September 17 to October 3rd. For more information, you can check out the official website.
The journey to get there wasn’t too bad. I carpooled with a good friend of mine and it only took a little over an hour to get there. The leaves had just begun to change and it made the scenic drive all the more beautiful.
Parking wasn’t bad as we lucked out and were able to pull into a lot right across the street from one of the entrances to The Big E. The price was also reasonable. After parking, we began to gear up before heading over to the entrance. Yes that’s right, gear up. The weather had been a little iffy and it was unclear whether or not it would remain cold or get too hot so I decided on wearing basically a summer outfit with a long cozy cardigan, which I could always remove if it got too warm in the day. I also came prepared with my “walking” sneakers and 2 reusable shopping bags folded up and packed into my crossbody bag which was also filled with empty ziplock bags. My friend brought her giant backpack which contained foil and takeaway containers. Funny enough, her choice of shoes was the same as mine, just a different color.
The picture above is one of the first that was taken that day. We arrived a little after noon and it was way less crowded than I thought it would have been. Since it was my first time, I didn’t know what would have been the normal amount of traffic, but from what I read online prior to coming, it was a lot less than previous years. My friend also told me that this was the first time she had been there and wasn’t bumping shoulders with other fair goers or in a fight for her life. Later in the evening, I found out exactly what she meant.
I mentioned before that I did some reading prior to visiting The Big E. I did this because I like to get an idea of what to expect whenever I am visiting a new place or event. This has also been part of the motivation for me to start my own Youtube channel because I’ve always relied on the footage/experience of someone else to determine if I’d want to visit a certain place or attend an event.
During my research on The Big E, I came across a few posts and pictures from others who had recently visited. One of the things that stood out to me the most was reading about this new pickled pizza. I’m usually not a huge fan of pickles but there was something about the combination white garlic sauce, mozzarella and pickles that tickled my fancy. So that was definitely number #1 on the list of things for me to try. My friend had already made it clear that no matter what, she was getting her baked potato.
After about a minute of walking around and smelling the deliciousness of food in the air, we made our first stop. I don’t remember the name of the actual vendor but I saw they had fried cheese balls and went right for it. It came with a dipping sauce, which I also don’t remember the flavor, but it was soo good. I couldn’t finish it all because I wanted to save some room to sample more things so into the ziplock bag it went.
After walking around for about an hour or so and sampling what we could, we were both able to get our number #1 meals. The pickle pizza did NOT disappoint. It was so tasty and also different from any pizza slice I had before. The baked potatoes were also good. I didn’t plan on having one but we waited so long in line that I thought, I might as well. Unfortunately they ran out of bacon before we made it to the front of the line. There was another vendor who was more than happy to let us know that we could purchase bacon from him after we bought our potatoes.
One of the coolest experiences had to be visiting the houses of New England. New England is a northeastern region in the US that is comprised of six states. These states include Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Within each of the houses, you can learn a bit about that state. For example, when I visited ‘Maine’ , I learned about the history, tourist attractions, state parks and much more. I even received a flyer for next year’s Maine Lobster Festival which will be in August 2022.
Each house also contained local vendors who sold just about anything from crafts to baked goods. Whichever house had the beer was definitely my favorite. I went with the apple cinnamon, while my friend had the pumpkin spice. So good.
In the ‘Main’ house, which was separate from the state houses, there was a great amount of history on The Big E.
It was interesting to learn how it started off as only ten days and gradually made its way to seventeen days and has been that way since 1994. You can also see that no fair was held in 1918 due to World War I, and also from 1942-1946 due to World War II. There were also decorations of old flyers and well preserved memorabilia from past fairs.
After walking through all of the houses, we took a break and sat on massage chairs before continuing our exploration.
We saved the best for last, and visited the FARM-A-RAMA once it was getting crowded and we were about ready to go. While inside, we got to witness chicks hatching and goats playing. There was a mother pig and her little piglets. I also got to see one of my favorite animals/breeds, a Clydesdale horse. It always fascinates me how large and beautiful they are compared to a draft horse for example, which I am more accustomed to seeing.
Overall, I had a wonderful first time experience at The Big E, and will definitely be going again next year. It was nice learning about the different states of New England, sampling tasty treats and watching live performances. I think that anyone who enjoys attending fairs and festivals should give this one a visit.