One Day University Business School is coming to Hartford DEC 7th at Dunkin Donuts Park! Register now

Big E Celebrates 100 Years Big Time

The Big E announced Sept. 13 that the DJ Diesel show on Sept. 16 has been canceled. The Big E Bash will take place as originally planned. Big E Bash ticket holders who wish to receive a refund must contact the Box Office.

 

E = MC, squared.

The Big E (that multi-state state fair officially known as the Eastern States Exposition) is turning C (that's 100 in Roman numerals). The fair has resided for that entire century in West Springfield, Mass. (the M of our equation).

This is one massive village square that welcomes and celebrates folks from all six New England states, plus countless tourists.

This is where farmers and others square off in competitions, earning ribbons for skills such as livestock-tending, pie-baking, quilting, Christmas-wreath-making or tractor-pulling.

Tractors are far from the only rides. The Big E midway features The Giant Wheel (the Ferris kind) and such snappily named excursions as Speed, Power Surge, Zipper, YoYo, Blitzer, Gravitron, Orbitor, Cliffhanger, Fireball, Freak Out and (gasp) Vertigo Swing Tower. Those who prefer to stay on solid ground can toss balls or darts at midway game stalls.

There are some stray events leading up to it, but the main dates are Sept. 16 through Oct. 2 at Exposition Park. That first Friday night at 7 p.m. there's a Big E bash featuring DJ Diesel (the hip-hop alter ego of basketball great Shaquille O'Neal), host Mike Brewer of Wheeler Dealers, magicians, Vegas showgirls and an 11-tier birthday cake. On Saturday morning at 10 a.m., there's a birthday hat decorating contest for kids. A book, "Eastern States Exposition Centennial: A Century of Fun at the Big E," has been published. A 3,500-square-foot "Centennial Exhibit" is on display, ironically enough, in the Young Building. One hundred "Big E Prize Packs" will be given away.

That's how an exposition marks 100.

The Big E began in 1916 as the East Coast outpost of a national dairy show that had roots in the Midwest. Land was bought and buildings were built — stables for cattle and a "coliseum" for humans. By the next year, Exposition Park was already being used for an Industrial and Export Conference separate from the agricultural gathering.

The Avenue of States, where each New England state has its own building in which to display its wares and cultural pride, developed over time. Massachusetts had a facsimile of the Boston State House erected by 1919, and Connecticut and several other states were represented before the end of the 1930s, but Rhode Island took until 1958.

The diverse joys of living in Connecticut are on full view in the Big E's Connecticut building. There are vendors and exhibitors displaying everything from homegrown wines to dog treats to Lego blocks to soy-based candles. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Dairy Industry Council, Poultry Association have booths. Tourist attractions such as the Barnum Museum, the Pez Factory, the Valley Railroad and the Dinosaur Trail will be represented. More than 60 entities are taking part. Many of them serve food, so you might want to stop in the Connecticut Building for a home-cooked meal (generally speaking) before facing the cotton candy and candy apple distractions of the Big E midway.

Besides its own building, each state is granted its own special day at the Big E. Connecticut Day is Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Highlights of Connecticut Day include music from the Coastal Chordsmen (11 a.m.);  Wintergreen Magnet Chorus (noon);  The Savage Brothers Band (at 1 and 2:15 p.m.); The Second Company of the Governor’s Foot Guard Band at 3:45 p.m.; the Mass-Conn Fusion Band (6 and 7 p.m.); and The Shovel Head Band (8:45 p.m.).

There’s also a second "Back Stage on CT" performance area at the Connecticut Building, where the bands will be Sal Basile (10 a.m. and 2 p.m.);  The Stingrays (noon and 4 p.m.); and Gilleese Band (6 p.m.). There are appearances by a Mark Twain impersonator at 1:45 p.m. and an appearance by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman at 4:45 p.m. The Trampoline Place will do flips on the front lawn at 11 a.m., noon and 2:45 p.m. Special attention will be paid to Connecticut during that evening’s Big E Mardi Gras Parade at 8 p.m., and there’s a separate Connecticut Day Parade at 5 p.m.

One hundred years is a major milestone, but the buildings in the Big E's historic Storrowtown Village date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

More contemporary attractions this year include live performances on the Xfinity Arena stage by alt-rockers X Ambassadors (Sept. 23); singer and songwriter Elle King (Sept. 24); country stars Maren Morris (Sept. 25) and Lee Brice (Sept. 30); and blues guitarist George Thorogood (Oct. 1).

The Court of Honor Stage welcomes country duo Rick & Kelly Dale (Sept. 16); disco diva Gloria Gaynor (Sept. 17 and 18); pop-folk paragons Pure Prairie League (Sept. 19 and 20); sonorous siblings The Cowsills (Sept. 21 to 23); '70s popsmith Stephen Bishop (who's responsible for both "On and On" and the "Animal House" theme song; Sept. 26-29); and singer and guitarist Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad fame (Sept. 30 through Oct. 2).

The Big E has daily Grande Mardi Gras parades. The Big E has Clydesdales pulling beer wagons. The Big E has circus acts and puppet shows. The Big E has the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs. The Big E has musket-firing demonstrations and cowboys shooting guns on horseback. The Big E has New England crafts, items imported from other countries, clothing, appliances, furniture and a multitude of other products for sale.

The Big E has butter sculptures. The Big E has its own distinctive cream puffs, and adds new and crazier foods every year. This year's food additions include a blueberry pierogi sundae from Millie's Pierogi; an 18-inch sauerkraut-topped bratwurst, enormous Bavarian pretzels, fried Camembert cheese and a "Munich corn dog" from Wurst Haus; chicken with maple bacon waffles from the Deep South Food Company; and deep-fried bacon macaroni and cheese balls from E.B. restaurant. You can read more about this year's crazy culinary creations at ctnow.com/bigeats2016.

A lot of traditions can build up over a century. More are being added every year.

THE EASTERN STATES EXPOSITION runs Sept. 16 through Oct. 2 at Exposition Park, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Gates open at 8 a.m. Midway attractions operate weekdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Avenue of States (including the Connecticut Building) and historic Storrowton Village are open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Crafts Common and most other special buildings and exhibits are open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. General admission is $15, $10 for children and free for children under 5. Passes and discounts are available. Information: thebige.com

Copyright © 2018, CT Now
44°