Once a year, right around the corner from Springfield College, lies one of the largest fairs in New England. The Big E is filled with the sights, smells, and sounds of excitement and curiosity. If it’s the first time attending, the sensation of walking through the gates is overwhelming but welcoming. It is clear that the fair is flowing with great vibes and an entertaining experience.
The best way to attack the hours of exploring, and eating, ahead of you is to pick a side to start. The best entrance into the 99-year-old clearing is Gate 5.
In and to the right leads to the New England state buildings. Each state added their own building where they offer their own novelties; Rhode Island with their coffee milk and Del’s, Connecticut with their cigars, and New Hampshire with their White Mountain souvenirs.
Each one is a different venture into the core uniqueness of New England. In front of the buildings might be a parade for one of the states or even a western Massachusetts region, showcasing school marching bands, mini horses, antique cars, and dolled up actors.
In honor of the upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness Month, short and sweet reminders are given to carnival goers to support the cause, as well.
Continuing down the path of buildings and turning a sharp left meets the center of the fair.
To the left is the Eastern Exposition building and to the right is the stomach-flipping array of carnival rides. Ferris wheels, zero gravity rooms, swinging pyramids and mini roller coasters sit amidst the aroma of fried dough and popcorn.
Trimming the outer edges of the area sit various temptation stations with over enthusiastic employees coaxing the vulnerable into an overpriced challenge to win a small-sized toucan.
Classic carnival shenanigans.
Positioned in the middle of the games is the watering hole for people of all ages- the fried food stand. Offering everything from fried Oreos, to pickles, and even beef jerky, it is a delicious death wish on a cardboard plate. For newcomers this particular stand is the most appealing part of the fair, until they glance up and notice a slide hovering 46 ft. above them.
The path towards the giant slope passes by tent after tent of items for sale. On the right stands a tent the size of Cheney Dining Hall vending hot tubs and on the left is a booth comparable to an upgraded lemonade stand advertising the world best auto waxing and buffing supplies.
There really is something for everyone.
A few more steps ahead and there lies McDonald’s Giant Slide.
“The slide is the McDonald’s French Fry slide. So it’s a big yellow slide with a bunch of bumps on it and you go flying down real fast,” explains Michael Minucci, a Springfield College freshman and Big E newbie. He declared the slide to be his favorite part of the exposition as he cycled through it twice.
The walk through the enormous exposition finally takes its toll on the stomach when the finish line is through a two-row trek of food. Everything from Italian, to Greek, to Asian, to Southern, to the New England classics are available on every side.
Another freshman Joseph Mastrostefano comments, “[I] had an Italian sausage sandwich and it was really good. I haven’t had one of those in a while.”
Other delicious menu items include loaded baked potatoes, over sized pastries, and handmade steak sandwiches that are worth the ten dollars. A bit of advice: all the food is delicious, so set a budget before going because dropping fifty dollars or more happens absurdly quick.
The array of food stands marks the exit to the festival and the close to a truly entertaining time. Trenton Bellows, a freshman at Springfield, explains that he has grown up with the Big E.
His grandparents owned one of the infamous food stops, and from age six, he would be working at the cash register getting tips by his childish charm. His advice on the Big E to every Springfield resident ever is, “Go there to take it all in because its been around for a while. There’s just so much history. It’s real diverse.”