They say Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, and thus the unofficial start of fall, a bit ahead of its proper late-September starting date. In Southern New England, we know fall doesn't unofficially start until it's time for the Big E, the annual celebration of all things New England and autumn in West Springfield.
This year's festival, now in its 98th year, runs from Sept. 12 to Sept. 28. The festival features a celebration of each New England state, parades (including one daily at 5 p.m.), a petting zoo, rides for kids and adults, live music, circus acts and so much more.
Among the live performers are Darius Rucker on Sept. 14 ($39), Eddie Money on Sept. 20 (free) and Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot on Sept. 21 (free).
In the Young Building, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, is an exhibit on the 1964-65 New York World's Fair , and the Hampton Building features a Circus Museum.
Speaking of the circus, every day at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. you can see the Big E Circus Spectacular show for free. You can visit livestock exhibits, view crafts and go shopping, too. But one of the most anticipated parts of any fall festival is the food, and this year the Big E has a number of new, albeit gluttonous options for you to try, like deep-fried Red Velvet Oreos, s'mores on a stick, a deep-fried Nutella and banana sandwich, maple syrup and bacon fried dough, and a pulled pork sundae.
The Big E is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Buildings and craft common are open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Avenue of the States and Storrowton Village are open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and the midway is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $15, reduced to $6 after 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; kids ages 6 to 12 are $10; kids 5 and under are free; seniors age 60 and up get in for $12 Monday through Thursday. Website here.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect ZZ Top's cancelled Sept. 26 performance