The Big E 2017 readies for start of 101st season on Friday

Sep 12 2017

The Big E runs Sept. 15 through Oct. 1.

Ask Gene Cassidy, president of the Eastern States Exposition, what makes him smile about the 101st edition of The Big E opening on Sept. 15, and he’ll tell you “plenty.”

“We have a tremendous lineup of musical acts this year, more diverse and eclectic than ever before, including the addition of a third musical stage. We also have great new foods and two marvelous new exhibits, all of which we are very, very excited about,” Cassidy said.

At the outdoor xfinity Arena, visitors can see for free Grand Funk Railroad, who open the 17-day fair on Friday, Christian rockers for King & Country, country singer Cam, and rockers Smash Mouth and Night Ranger. Country singer Cole Swindell is the stage’s only pay-for concert.

The xfinity Arena will also host the inaugural TwinE Country Fest on Sept. 30, featuring Granger Smith and Earl Dibbles Jr., Parmalee, The Cadillac Three, Lindsay Ell, as well as up and coming country artists. Tickets for the fest range from $29-$49.

This year’s Court of Honor stage will play host to 22 acts from yesterday to today including the iconic British blues rock band Ten Years After and ’60s pop star Gary Puckett, as well as “American Idol” winner Nick Fradiani, Forever Motown, EDM outfit Cheat Codes, and even a Cheeseburg Eating Championship.

The third new stage – the E Stage – located at Flag Plaza, will host performances by local and emerging talent. The Masters of Music Series will take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the fair. It will feature performances by the nine finalists in the Masters of Music Competition, and fans will have the power to vote for their favorite artist.

Cassidy noted it’s no secret that one of the main reasons people come to the fair is for all the food.

“In addition to The Big E’s several signature treats like the Big E Cream Puff and Eclair, there is no shortage of new treats from one end of the fairgrounds to the other,” Cassidy said.

“Fairgoers are always looking for something crazy and new when it comes to food, and we deliver. Food has become its own entertainment device. This year the West Springfield Lion’s Club is serving up a Flatline Burger. It’s a huge double cheeesburger topped with everything from chili and cheese sauce to French fries and, of course, bacon, you’ve got  to have bacon. The name says it all if you try to eat more than one. There’s also a new Belgian Waffle Sandwich with hard Neapolitan Ice Cream in between. And, I think people are really going to get a kick out of eating a deep fried Holy Cannoli,  which is a takeoff on the Sistine Chapel exhibit being here,” he said.

And, speaking of The Big E’s premier exhibit, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition recreates one of the world’s greatest artistic achievements, Michelangelo’s renowned ceiling frescoes reproduced photographically. An innovative interpretation of the timeless masterpieces, it includes The Creation of Adam. The exhibit has previously made stops in Montreal, Vienna, Shanghai, Dallas, Munich and New York.

Don’t look for the circus museum at the fair any longer. It has been replaced in the Hampden County Building with the Eastern States Exposition: A Walk through History. The new permanent exhibit tells their story through photography, memorabilia, artifacts and historic items from the Exposition’s archives.

“The exhibit will feature photographs of the destruction left behind in the wake of flooding in 1936 and the hurricane and resulting flooding in 1938. There are markers on the front of the Coliseum building and Meetinghouse in Storrowton Village, which show just how high the water rose on our fairgrounds,” Cassidy said.

As for the recent midway accident at the Ohio State Fair, Cassidy noted they have “a lot of confidence” in North American Midway Entertainment, who operates The Big E midway.

“They are the premier operators in the country, the largest in North America, with a very impressive record of safety,” he said.

Fairgoers can also visit the fair’s many staples such as the 19th century Storrowton Village Museum with its historic houses and gardens lined with crafters, the Eastern States Exposition Horse Show, the Avenue of States featuring replicas of six New England statehouse buildings filled with local products, crafts and good things to eat, The Big E Circus Spectacular, Mardi Gras Parade, and The Big E’s own consumer paradise known as the Better Living Center.

There are also animals, plenty of them, part of The Big E’s agricultural heritage with all kinds of livestock shows, agricultural demonstrations, pulling contests, 4-H activities, and their latest foray in modern agriculture, The Big E Wine Barn. And, new this year, visitors can visit the Camel Kingdom at the Avenue ShowPlace for an educational and fun exhibit featuring dromedary camels.

What does Cassidy recommend that fairgoers see first when they arrive on the fairgrounds?

“Well, first I would recommend that they download The Big E app. It’s a great feature to navigate the fair so that you don’t miss anything. So, if it’s me coming to the fair as a patron, the first thing I would see is our Sistine Chapel exhibit, and for eats, I love cheese curds and visiting Rondeau’s Dairy Bar. And, I love to challenge people to take a trip down our 46-foot high giant slide before leaving,” he said.

For up-to-date information on the many activities and events happening throughout the fair, visit TheBigE.com or call their information line at 413-205-5115.

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