The Big E: A New England Experience

Eric Warner   Staff Writer

The New England region is a very special and unique place. It was the home to the pilgrims of the Mayflower. It is the site of our first Thanksgiving. Numerous witch trials occurred here. It was the birthplace of the American Revolution. This land has so much history and culture flowing through its roots, and what better way is there to celebrate a place like this than a great American fair where all of New England’s customs can be shared.

The Eastern States Exposition, the official name for the Big E, is “New England’s Great State Fair” celebrating all aspects of the states that form New England which include: Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It is the largest agricultural event on the east coast and the seventh-largest fair in the U.S.

The Big E has been celebrated annually (save for the interruption of two World Wars) since 1917. It began as 122 of the nation’s foremost manufacturers presenting their products at the Industrial and Export Conference in Exposition Park. The fair was envisioned by Joshua L. Brooks when he noticed that farming in New England was on the decline. Brooks wanted to create a fair where manufacturers could demonstrate new farming methods to the public to continue developing an agricultural New England. While the main focus of agriculture has changed over time, the fair’s core values are still upheld along with its new avenues to this day.

The Big E’s foundation of agriculture is still here with its horse shows, 4-H (an organization administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) competitions, petting zoos, and displays of giant vegetables and livestock. The Big E also has buildings that represent each state in New England. Each building has vendors that convey their states unique history and culture. Usually these vendors are gastronomic or knick-knack based. For instance, The Chili Station in the Massachusetts building and the famous potatoes served in the Maine building. All vendors are centered around the traditions of their states and New England as a whole. Along with the state buildings, there are also carnival rides, car shows, parades, live music, and more that people can interact with at the fair. It has something for everyone.

Francie Berger, a volunteer at the Connecticut Department of Tourism at the Connecticut building, spoke to me at the event this year about what she thinks the Big E represents. “It is the best of all of the New England states,” she said, and I could not have said it better myself.

The Big E will be open everyday from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. until Sept. 30. Every New Englander should check it out. After all, the best way to celebrate a land, a history, or a population is to be a part of the community, and what better way is there to be a part of community than being at a fair. There is nothing more American than that!

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