by Sanne Kure-Jensen
For almost 100 years, The Big E has highlighted New England agriculture, livestock and produce. Since 1917, this fair has hosted agricultural competitions and displays, following the vision of Joshua L. Brooks, founder of Eastern States Exposition. Well over one million people visit New England’s Grandest Fair, enjoying its 4-H and FFA demonstrations, exotic animal rides and petting zoo. Teens and families return year after year for the midway rides, live entertainment, and naughty foods.
Agricultural Shows and Competitions
The Mallary Agricultural Complex hosts most livestock shows and competitions. Visitors can walk among hundreds of dairy, beef and sheep. Families can see farmers shearing sheep and grooming their cows and watch sheepdog herding demonstrations. Most of the livestock shows and competitions are during the first week or 10 days of the fair.
Next door, the Farm-A-Rama building features special exhibits on Agriculture in Our Daily Lives. Visitors can search for the queen bee in a demo hive and learn the critical roles of bees in our food supply. Chickens hatch in a giant incubator room and quickly become fluffy mobile chicks. Visitors of any age can milk Lucy, the model Holstein. A Healthy Cow Exhibit sponsored by the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board explains the care and well-being of dairy cows.
The Hallamore Clydesdales join daily parades around the fairgrounds. Families visit these majestic animals in their Farm-A-Rama stalls.
Agricultural exhibits in the Mallary Complex include a Singing Refrigerator, sponsored by the New England Dairy Promotion Board. Every year artists create a giant butter sculpture with 600 pounds of butter donated by the Agrimark/Cabot Creamery and sponsored by the Massachusetts Dairy Farmers.
The Milking Parlor allows visitor to watch milking or a video on New England dairy farm life. Visitors can taste fresh, delicious milk at the Dairy Bar in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or as a thick “jetshake!”
At The Big E, 4-H Beef Auction students reap the rewards of their time and investments. Last year over 30 4-H Beef Steers were exhibited and sold at The Big E. The 2013 Beef Auction is Sept. 23. All proceeds go to the exhibitors. Income often purchases their next 4-H Beef Project animal. Many 4-H exhibitors use proceeds for college expenses.
4-H and FFA
Over 900 FFA competitors from 20 states submitted contest entries in landscape vignettes, flower arrangements or produce. Creative arts competitions included baking, quilting, knitting and cake decorating.
Over 2,500 4-H’ers aged 12 to 18 from six New England states participated in Dairy, Beef Cattle, Dairy Goat, Sheep, Dog and Horse competitions. 4-H groups also presented their projects in the New England Center and on the Farm-A-Rama Stage. 4-H activity participants stay at The Big E dormitory.
The nearby Coliseum hosts the A-rated Championship Horse show, Hunters and Jumpers, Hunt Seat Equitation, USHJA Zone 1 HOTY Finals, Saddlebreds, Hackneys, Morgans, Friesians, Draft Horse Show and Horse Pull competitions.
Wine and Cheese
For the sixth year, visitors sampled Northeast Gold Wine Competition winning wines. Nearly 50 wineries competed. Attendees also enjoyed free samples of New England cheeses from the Gold Medal Cheese Competition. The cheese competition, open to all New England commercial and artisanal cheese makers, had over 140 entries. Samples were available in the expanded Wine and Cheese Shoppe near the Mallary Agricultural complex by the main entrance gate.
Avenue of States
Each New England state built a life-size replica of their original statehouse. Inside are displays with visitor information staffed by Tourism offices, Chambers of Commerce and volunteers. Representative vendors offer state specialties like Maine’s Wild Blueberry pie and baked potatoes, Rhode Island’s clam chowder and quahogs, Massachusetts’ lobster and cranberries, New Hampshire’s maple syrup and Vermont’s Cabot Cheese. Connecticut features a LEGO display and shop. The houses also feature agricultural and state park displays.
The Big E runs the second and third weeks of September (include three weekends) on the 175-acre fairgrounds at West Springfield, MA. Learn more at www.TheBigE.com.
by Sanne Kure-Jensen