22News InFocus: The Big E opening plans for 2020


WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation of many annual events that we all look forward to, including agricultural fairs.

Dozens of states across the country have already cancelled their events for 2020, calling them postponements because they plan to return in 2021.

The Big E Fair September 18 – October 4, 2020

The Eastern States Exposition, also known as, The Big E is billed as New England’s Great State Fair and has run every fall since it’s inception in 1917.

On 22News InFocus we talked with Gene Cassidy, President and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition and find out what their plans are for this year’s fair.

Last year The Big E broke attendance records with over one-million guests. State fairs and large concert events nationwide are postponing for 2020. Many events this year that are held on the fairgrounds have been cancelled.

22News asked the following questions about The Big E:

  1. What are you and your team’s concerns about COVID-19?
  2. A lot of residents have expressed their concern about the big taking place this year, especially having out-of-state visitors travel to western Massachusetts.
    1. What would it take for you to postpone The Big E this year?
    2. What would be the latest date to make that decision?
  3. Recently West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt and other town and legislative officials sent a letter to you with their concerns about The Big E.
    1. Have you had any meetings with town officials?
    2. Have you consulted any local or state medical or health professionals?
  4. Let’s talk about some of the issues the town government in West Springfield has raised.
    1. Has any consideration been given to an “agriculture only” fair for 2020, leaving out food and merchandising vendors and carnival games and rides?
    2. Have any plans or guidelines been developed for a COVID-19 strategy for the 2020 Big E and what do they entail?
    3. What about protocols for cleaning and sanitization and how would they be implemented?
    4. What about quarantine plans for out-of-state workers or vendors should they become ill with COVID-19 during the fair?

Before the break we were talking about the consideration of The Big E eliminating food and vendors, and be “agriculture only”, lets talk about that.

  1. Have you considered a limit of daily guests possibly with advance ticket sales?
  2. If so, what would be the number of people on the grounds at one time including workers and exhibitors?
  3. Will all the buildings be open and will there be occupancy limits on each building and how can this be enforced?
  4. How can social distancing be maintained and enforced?
  5. Will people be required to wear masks?
    1. Will you be providing them at the entry gates?
  6. What about taking people’s temperatures?
  7. How much additional staff do you think you will need for the enhanced cleaning and safety measures?
  8. Some exhibitors and workers are housed on the grounds and some bring their own trailers.
    1. What will be the housing protocols?
  9. Will you still be providing shuttle services to the fair and what are the plans for health and safety protocols?

A lot of planning goes into an event as large as The Big E, the website has continually updated information about this year’s fair.

  1. How much of an economic impact does the big e have on West Springfield and the region?
  2. What can people expect when they visit the fair…how will it be different because of COVID-19?
  3. Have you had any cancellations of performers, vendors or exhibitors?
  4. Will the state buildings and Storrowton Village museum be open?

The Big E is offering an event to taste fair food from eleven vendors at the Eastern States Exposition.

Visitors will be able to drive-thru the Big E fairgrounds to order food while remaining in their vehicles. The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 27 from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, June 28 from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

A Taste of The Big E Drive-Thru Food Preview” starts at Gate 9 on Memorial Ave in West Springfield at no entry fee for drivers. Staff will be available to direct traffic through New England Avenue on the grounds of the Big E. Vendors will be set up on both sides of the avenue.

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