The Big E (also known as the Eastern State Exposition) is like a giant state fair for all of New England. It’s held annually over three weekends in September in Springfield, Massachusetts. And while my mom tells me I went as a baby, I have no memory of ever visiting — so when I went this past weekend with my sister and our cousin’s family, it was fun to discover it for myself for the first time.
Our cousin Lauren showed us the ropes — the Big E is all about food, animals, rides, and state exhibit halls (one each for MA, CT, NH, VT, RI, and ME featuring products from those states). Our priority was definitely the food. We kicked things off with loaded baked potatoes.
Yum… the others got cheese and broccoli while I got the original (bacon, chives, sour cream) minus the cheese.
Lauren and her husband Beau:
Next up we tried the grilled corn, dipped in garlic butter (there were other butter options too). We were impressed at how this corn just melted in our mouths.
(Shout out to little Oakley in the stroller above, my cousin’s new baby boy! He was born right before the start of The Big E, which is why we pushed our visit to closing weekend. Such a pleasure to meet this chill little guy!)
And get this — right at the entrance, I ran into my friend Dan from summer camp! There are tens of thousands of people at The Big E so the odds felt both big and small that I’d run into someone I knew. What a treat to see him!
We caught a few minutes of the dog show:
Next we moved on to the animals exhibits. You can watch baby chickens hatch out of their eggs — this felt miraculous even though it must be an every day occurrence for farmers. Made me think for a moment about giving up eating chicken.
Lauren & Beau pose with their older son Landen:
It’s a llama!
Landen was super excited to see the goats:
First place for the giant pumpkin weighs in at 1,591 pounds:
Okay, we’ve had some time to digest… time for round 2 of food!
Next up: a blooming onion.
This was just as delicious as it looks. I haven’t had one of these in forever (probably a good thing) and it hit the spot.
Landen poses in front of a rescued bear exhibit:
And suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a parade! Cars, marching bands, and floats passed by us for the next 15 minutes.
I totally fell for this car — the sign reads “Don Rickles & Danny DeVito” and then underneath in small letters it says “Doppelgangers.” Before I realized they were just look-a-likes I turned to my sister freaking out (we’re big fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). As they got closer we could tell the Danny DeVito guy was definitely a look-a-like, but the Don Rickles impersonator looks like the real deal! Except… the real Don Rickles died five months ago. But this guy in the car is still getting work:
Miniature horses precede the big horses:
The Budweiser Clydesdales horses:
Each of the floats tossed Mardi Gras beads as they passed by, which felt… not very family-friendly?
But Landen was really into collecting beads. Don’t worry, he kept his shirt on.
Time for food Round #3! We headed to the state buildings and started in Rhode Island. We split an order of seafood fritters and dipped them in clam chowder soup… so good.
Next up we visited the Vermont building. While Landen got a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s, the adults shared warm apple pie topped with ice cream or a slice of Cabot cheese. Not a combination I was expecting. I abstained since I’m not a cheese-eater but my sister swears it was delicious. I enjoyed hot apple cider and a donut (not pictured).
Group shot in the Vermont building:
We walked through the other states — Connecticut (lots of pizza), Massachusetts (lobster rolls), Maine (blueberries and whoopee pies), and New Hampshire (custom mac ‘n cheese bowls). Plus lots of other food options.
Final food of the night: I ordered a deep fried cheesecake. I tried one years ago at the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada and it was delicious. It’s not something I’d eat every year but was glad to try it again.
And that wraps up our 2017 Big E experience! I look forward to returning in future years… possibly on a weeknight when there are way less people!