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Big E Packs Fairgrounds on Final Weekend, Including New Single-day Attendance Record

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The Big E closed out its 17-day fair with a bang this past weekend, drawing 177,238 patrons on Saturday, Oct. 2 — the largest single-day attendance in the event’s history — followed by 118,582 on Sunday, Oct. 3, bringing the total 17-day attendance to 1,498,774.

That fell short of the all-time mark of 1,629,527 set in 2019, but was certainly robust enough to calm the fears of event organizers who worried about COVID-19 infection numbers, driven by the surge of the Delta variant, as mid-September approached.

“I have a fear … that the long arm of the government can suddenly change our lives — we lived through that in 2020, to be sure,” Big E President Gene Cassidy told BusinessWest in August, referring to last year’s first cancellation of the fair since World War II. “And the Eastern States Exposition is surviving on a very thin thread; we cannot withstand being shuttered for another fair because the vacuum that would occur in our economy is nearly three quarters of a billion dollars, and there’s no way that anyone is going to able to replace that.”

Signs were good, however, that attendance would be strong; Cassidy noted at the time that 2021’s advance ticket sales were running 80% higher than in 2019.

This year’s fair set attendance records on three other days as well; Sept. 21 drew the best first-Tuesday crowd ever (56,769), Sept. 26 was the best-ever second Sunday (136,512), and Oct. 1 was the best-ever third Friday (113,827).

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