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After A Missed Year, The Big E Announces Return

In 2019, the Big E at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, attracted more than a million visitors. It didn't take place in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Courtesy of The Big E
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In 2019, the Big E at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, attracted more than a million visitors. It didn't take place in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Several Massachusetts entertainment venues have announced they will be in full swing this summer. The Big E in West Springfield, one of the largest annual agricultural fairs in the country, is among them.

Last year the fair was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Eastern States Exposition runs the two-week mid-September event. The organization's president and CEO, Gene Cassidy, said people who are not vaccinated will be asked to wear a mask, but mask-wearing will not be mandated.

“Some people are going to be reticent to be sure,” Cassidy told reporters Tuesday, about the crowds expected at the Big E. “Then there are others who are anxious to get back to normal. I think one will compensate for the other, but we do anticipate a decline in attendance because of that.”

In past years, the Big E's food, rides and animals brought more than a million people to the area.

The buildup to the fair is part of its appeal, with a slow rollout of new food items underway. They’ll be announced over the next few weeks. Cassidy said.

One thing he said he’s quite excited about is the Big E’s new 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel.

Tickets are general admission and will not be sold for a set time, as some venues did earlier previously in the pandemic — and some museums continue to do.

Cassidy said Tuesday that “the American citizen is beyond that point.”

One thing that won’t be on the grounds: The COVID-19 vaccination clinic hosted in recent months by the Big E is scheduled to close this week.

Copyright 2021 New England Public Media

Jill has been reporting, producing features and commentaries, and hosting shows at NEPR since 2005. Before that she spent almost 10 years at WBUR in Boston, five of them producing PRI’s “The Connection” with Christopher Lydon. In the months leading up to the 2000 primary in New Hampshire, Jill hosted NHPR’s daily talk show, and subsequently hosted NPR’s All Things Considered during the South Carolina Primary weekend. Right before coming to NEPR, Jill was an editor at PRI's The World, working with station based reporters on the international stories in their own domestic backyards. Getting people to tell her their stories, she says, never gets old.