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Daily News

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.

Daily News

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).

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The Eastern States Exposition (ESE) announced that, due to unforeseen circumstances, the Brad Paisley concert scheduled for Sept. 24 at the Big E has been cancelled. The ESE is working to bring fans a different concert on that date and will make an announcement as soon as information is available.

The 2021 Big E takes place Sept. 17 to Oct. 3. Information on concert announcements and other events can be found at thebige.com.

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The lineup for the Big E’s Court of Honor Stage has been announced. The tented venue, located in front of the iconic Coliseum at the heart of the fairgrounds, hosts more than 85 shows over the 17-day run of the Big E from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3. All events on the Court of Honor Stage are free with admission to the fair. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Concerts include Modern English (Sept. 17-19, 3 p.m.), Jesse McCartney (Sept. 17, 8 p.m.), Tom Franek (Sept. 17-26, 11 a.m, 1 and 6 p.m.), Foghat (Sept. 19, 8 p.m.), Rainere Martin in the Donna Summer Experience (Sept. 20-21, 3 p.m.), the Yardbirds (Sept. 20-21, 8 p.m.), Exile (Sept. 22-23, 3 p.m.), Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Sept. 22, 8 p.m.), 10,000 Maniacs (Sept. 23, 8 p.m.), the Bar-Kays: Soul 2 Soul Revue (Sept. 24-26, 3 p.m.), Ying Yang Twins (Sept. 25, 8 p.m.), Don McLean (Sept. 26, 8 p.m.), the Outlaws (Sept. 27-28, 8 p.m.), the Everly Set (Sept. 27 to Oct. 3, 11 a.m., 1 and 6 p.m.), Big Brother and the Holding Company (Sept. 29-30, 3 p.m.), Lisa Lisa (Sept. 29, 8 p.m.), Tribute to the King featuring Taylor Rodriguez (Oct. 1-3, 3 p.m.), Hoobastank (Oct. 2, 8 p.m.), and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC (Oct. 3, 8 p.m.).

Look for more concert announcements at thebige.com.

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Eastern States Exposition (ESE) President Gene Cassidy and West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt met with media on Tuesday to officially announce the opening of the 105th edition of the Big E, slated for Sept. 17 to Oct. 3.

“It’s a good day,” Cassidy said. “We have long awaited the opportunity to make this announcement and have been working diligently on our program. Preparations are underway as we look forward to welcoming everyone back to our beloved Big E.”

Added Reichelt “the Big E is a West Springfield institution, and we welcome all of New England to our town in September. We have appreciated ESE’s transparency and communication through this process as well as their assistance in providing a location for the West of the River Regional Vaccine Center. Personally, I can’t wait to get back to the Big E.”

Cassidy thanked Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Reichelt, and West Springfield Director of Public Health Jeanne Galloway, “who has been working closely with us as we all navigated the many phases of the Massachusetts reopening process.”

“Big is Back” is the theme of this year’s fair. Currently the fifth-largest fair in North America, the Big E will debut some features this year, including the Super Wheel, a 150-foot-high ferris wheel with 36 climate-controlled gondolas that seat up to six people. It will be located between the Better Living Center and the Gate 5 entrance.

Music fans will enjoy concerts at the Big E Arena, sponsored by Truly Hard Seltzer, and fairgoers will be able to visit the Avenue of States and Storrowton Village Museum, shop, eat iconic fair foods, watch the new Big Parade, ride the rides, and much more.

Advance discount tickets to the 2021 Big E are on sale now online at thebige.com or at the Big E box office.

The Big E relies on thousands of employees and volunteers in a variety of positions to help present the fair each year. Visit thebige.com for job postings for the 2021 Big E.

Finally, the Big E would not be possible without the support of its sponsors. The fair has myriad sponsorship opportunities at a variety of levels. Businesses and organizations interested in becoming a sponsor at the Big E should contact Jill Larsen at (413) 205-5017 or [email protected].

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