New England’s Big E’ Kicks Off 96th Year

9/15/2012 7:00 AM
By Paul Post New York Correspondent

The Eastern States Exposition, which began Friday and runs through Sept. 30, has more livestock than any other fair in the Northeast.

Located in West Springfield, Mass., “The Big E” has countless attractions from parades to high-profile entertainers, but agriculture is still at its core, with a wide variety of animals and products from all six New England states — Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island.

More than a million people per year visit this event, which showcases all that the region has to offer.

One of the best places to start is the Avenue of States, where replicas of each New England state’s capitol building are located.

On any given day, hundreds of people line up to sample a tasty Maine potato, one of this state’s most famous agricultural products.

The Big E was founded by Joshua L. Brooks in 1916 when he convinced the National Dairy Show to hold its annual event on the Exposition grounds. In 1917, the first Eastern States Exposition took place.

Brooks’ goal was to bring together all six New England states in one location to share ideas and improve regional agriculture. He dreamed of having state buildings at the fair that would showcase the traditional and new products and attractions that make each New England state unique.

Other favorite taste treats are clam chowder in the Massachusetts building and maple syrup from Vermont.

During its more than two-week run, The Big E hosts open competitions for livestock, wine, cheese and produce as well as horse and oxen pulling. There are also many agricultural exhibits and contests, traditional and modern agricultural demonstrations and educational displays.

The Mallary Complex is the hub of the fair’s numerous livestock shows, contests and demonstrations. There is a 400-foot walkway filled with animals, exhibits and agricultural demonstrations. Watch sheep being sheared, working sheepdogs and goat milking.

Visitors can even hear the Singing Refrigerator, sponsored by the New England Dairy Promotion Board, sing about nutrition.

Farm-A-Rama is located in the center of the fairgrounds, featuring special exhibits and attractions, all designed to educate the public about the role agriculture plays in daily life.

Here visitors may see animals of all sizes, from baby chicks hatching to the huge Hallamore Clydesdales. FFA landscape and floriculture exhibits and competitions are on display and people can try their hand at milking Lucy, a model Holstein, and check out the Healthy Cow exhibit, sponsored by the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board.

Each day at the fair, a variety of goats, sheep, cows and pigs are displayed and entered in judging contests. Agriculturalists of tomorrow — members of 4-H and FFA — take part in a variety of competitions and bring their animals to compete for blue ribbons.

Following are other agriculture-related attractions.

The Wine and Cheese Shoppe, sponsored by Keep Local Farms — located at Mallary Gardens inside a rustic mini-barn. The shop features award-winning cheeses from The Big E Gold Medal Cheese Competition, with entries from a variety of milk sources, including dairy cattle, goats and sheep.

Butter sculpture, sponsored by Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board. Watch sculptor Jim Victor create an original piece of art from more than 600 pounds of butter donated by Agrimark/Cabot Creamery.

The Fiber Nook. Find out how wool and fiber from sheep, llamas and alpacas is turned into items like yarn, clothing and other goods. The Fiber Nook showcases spinning and weaving techniques, in addition to products made from a variety of fibers.

Milking parlor. Find out where milk comes from at the milking parlor inside Mallary Complex. See live milking and video demonstrations of New England dairy farm life.

Pulling contests. Horse pulling competitions, Sept. 17 and ox pulling competitions, Sept. 18.

Giant pumpkin and squash contest — 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21. This year’s contestants try to break the giant pumpkin record set in 2008 at 1,284 pounds.

There is also a Christmas tree contest and exhibit, Northeast Gold Wine competition, Gold Medal Cheese competition and Creative Arts Show.

The 4-H Beef Program will culminate Monday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. with the 4-H Beef Sale. After four days of various competitions, the steer, which have been raised for nine months by 4-H members, will be auctioned. Proceeds from this project often are used by the 4-H’er for college or to purchase a steer for next year.

More than 2,500 4-H Club members take part in The Big E by showing sheep, dogs, horses, dairy goats and dairy and beef cattle. These New England youth, ages 8 to 18, demonstrate skills in agriculture, technology, health, food safety and public speaking.

The Eastern States Exposition Horse Show brings together some of the best horses, riders and drivers from throughout the Northeast to compete for top equine honors. It all begins with the Hunters & Jumpers, Hunt Seat Equitation, Sept. 12-16, featuring the USHJA Zone 1 Championships. The Saddlebred, Hackney, Morgan and Friesian Show takes place Sept. 20-23.

Mighty and powerful hitches compete in the Draft Horse Show Sept. 27-30. The event includes the prestigious Big E $30,000 Six-Horse Hitch Showdown.

The 4-H Horse Show takes place Sept. 20-22 and the sheepdog trials take place Sept. 24-25.

For more information, visit or call 413-205-5115.<\c> The Hallamore Clydesdales are a “mane” attraction at the daily parades during The Big E’s 17-day run.

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