WEST SPRINGFIELD — The 2021 numbers are in, and the Big E is officially the third-largest fair in North America, based on attendance measured during the 17-day fair and compared with that of hundreds of fairs in the U.S. and Canada.
“Astoundingly, we beat Minnesota this year,” Eastern States Exposition President and CEO Gene Cassidy said. “The Minnesota State Fair is a benchmark in our industry and attracts visitors from all over the state and beyond. We have waited 105 years for this.”
The Big E’s ranking among the largest fairs in the nation is surpassed only by the State Fair of Texas, located in Dallas; and the Arizona State Fair, located in Phoenix.
Cassidy explained that the first Eastern States Exposition “general-purpose fair” took place in 1917, following a successful run of the National Dairy Show the previous year. To ensure the success of the new endeavor, the Exposition board, led by founder Joshua Brooks, recruited and hired the manager of the highly successful Minnesota State Fair. John Simpson was at the helm of the fledgling Exposition for five years, from 1917 to 1922, and through his efforts, the event was established as a dynamic showcase for New England agriculture and industry, innovation, and entertainment, but heretofore had never surpassed the attendance numbers recorded by Minnesota.
A total of 1,498,774 people visited the 2021 Big E, held Sept. 17 to Oct. 3 in West Springfield, establishing the ranking, according to Carnival Warehouse’s annual Top 50 Fairs list. The 2019 Big E ranked fifth.
The Big E set four daily attendance records over the course of 2021’s 17-day event, including an all-time single-day attendance of 177,238 on the final Saturday.
“This milestone is the result of the hard work and the efforts of our employees, volunteers, contractors, and partners, who went more than the extra mile to produce a memorable event under challenging circumstances,” Cassidy said. “We are thrilled to have presented a safe and successful fair and are grateful to our many guests who supported us and spent one or more September days at the Big E.”
The 2022 Big E takes place Sept. 16 to Oct. 2.