WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A year after New England’s largest fall fair didn’t happen, The Big E closed its 17-day run as a rousing success that presented “the best of the American way of life,” organizers said.
Nearly 1.5 million people – 1,498,774 to be exact – made their way to the fairgrounds in West Springfield over the last two-and-a-half weeks to take in the fair food, the music and being together again. On the third Saturday – Oct. 2 – The Big E hit an all-time single-day attendance record when 177,238 people attended.
“It feels remarkable, really above our expectations,” Gene Cassidy, president and CEO of The Eastern States Exposition, told FOX61 News on Monday. “The people responded to the fair in a very strong way.”
The Big E returned this year after a pandemic-forced hiatus following a record-setting year in 2019, which saw more than 1.6 million people attend. There were last-minute changes that went into effect on opening day when the West Springfield Board of Health required everyone to wear masks indoors.
However, that did not stop people from attending and being respectful of the rules and others throughout the 17 days, Cassidy said.
“The special thing was people were just ready to get back together again,” he said. “When we opened, the delta variant was still very big in our minds.”
Cassidy said it was “an amazing time” to be the face of The Big E because he had countless conversations with people who were so happy to have the fair again this year.
“There is almost an emotional response,” he said. “Normal was the word that a lot of people used.”
The fair also saw daily attendance records set on three days – first Tuesday (Sept. 21), second Sunday (Sept. 26) and third Friday (Oct. 1) – which Cassidy was very humbling. He said had they not experienced six days of rain throughout the last two weeks, they could have easily broken the attendance record from 2019.
“People waiting a long time to get into the fairground,” he said, adding that people were content to wait because they knew what it meant to be without the fair. “It speaks to the resiliency of us New Englanders.”
In addition to the amazing fair food, The Big E saw an epic entertainment lineup that included the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, Billy Idol, Flo Rida with Ying Yang Twins, the Goo Goo Dolls, Jesse McCartney, and many more.
Cassidy said plans are already underway for 2022.
“As the manager, I want to thank everyone who supported the fair,” he added. “Our pride was evident.”
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