The Big E

A Freshly Bathed Draft horse at Big E in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A freshly bathed draft horse at Big E (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For those who have dreamed of eating their way from one end of New England to the other, but can only spare a day to do it, I’ve got the place for you: The Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts.  The Eastern States Exposition, also called The Big E, is considered New England’s State Fair, and is the largest agricultural event on the east coast.  Held in the same location since 1917, the fair opens annually on the second Friday after Labor Day and runs for seventeen days; this year is September 13th through the 29th.  

Prize winning pumpkin at The Big E in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Prize winning pumpkin at The Big E (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Eastern States Exposition was originally created to help promote agriculture and educate young people about agricultural vocations, and this practice continues today with livestock and produce displays, equestrian events, floral and landscape design, even jam and jelly tasting.  Both youth organizations, the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and the 4-H are proudly represented here with the thousands of members and exhibitors attending each year. It always brings a tear to my eye watching the precious girls and boys in their crisply pressed white shirts and dress pants, proudly leading a calf or sheep into the show ring.

The infamous Maine Baked Potato in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The infamous Maine Baked Potato (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

All six of the New England States are individually portrayed in life sized replicas of original state houses on the popular Avenue of the States: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  And this is where the edible fun begins!  Connecticut offers maple products, jams, herb dips and ice cream, Maine is home of the famous baked potato (a personal favorite), wild blueberry pie, and Wicked Whoopie Pies, Massachusetts offers cranberries, lobster and Pittsfield Rye, New Hampshire tempts you with corn on the cob, maple cotton candy and Kettle Korn, Rhode Island is seafood all the way, with fudge for dessert, and Vermont boasts Cabot Cheese, apple pie, maple syrup and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (I had a Death by Chocolate shake myself).

One of Big E's many plant combinations in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

One of Big E’s many plant combinations (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I also enjoy shopping in the state houses because each one offers products made in their state, in other words, made in the U.S. employing individuals locally.  Connecticut is the home of Timex watch, and I always buy some as Christmas gifts.  Vermont has The Vermont Flannel Company, producing the most cozy flannel pajamas I have ever worn.  And there are a lot of local artisans offering a variety of unique handmade items.  I purchased a lovely necklace from a woman in Rhode Island, and a handmade catnip filled bed my cats haven’t stopped making love to yet.  There were polished stone serving platters and tiles glazed in tropical turquoise with driftwood frames.  Jewelry, clothing, rugs and artwork-all well represented and worth viewing.

Koi in Display Garden At Big E in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Koi in Big E Display Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Of course, there is an emphasis in each building to promote tourism by displaying all sorts of activities and special locations offered in each state.  Consider taking a trip to The Big E before the end of this month, and if that’s not close to you, look for local fairs nearby.  All offer delicious local food and wonderful crafts-who knows what treasures you might find . . .

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