The Big E

The Big E

September 26, 2011

30

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Alternatively titled: The day I ate every fried thing you could ever imagine.

Have you heard of The Big E? I had never heard of it in my life. I’m trying to figure out where I’ve been hiding for the last 28 (almost 29 eeeek!) years, considering it’s the largest fair in the Northeast. And I’ve lived in the Northeast all of my life. I guess I’ve just never been a big fair-goer. I visited the Topsfield Fair a couple times as a kid… And the Rye Fair in college. But the Big E? Never crossed my radar. Until this weekend. My sister’s friend, Lesa, grew up somewhat close to the fairgrounds and invited us to attend the fair with her in West Springfield. So, we made the drive on Saturday and had a day packed with fair fun.

What was my main takeaway from The Big E? FRIED FOOD. Everything was fried. And I ate it all. ALL.

The concept of the fair is actually quite interesting. Besides all the normal fair stuff, there’s an “Avenue of States.” On it, there are replicas of each of New England’s original statehouses. And each building is packed full of all the things that represent that state. Interestingly enough, each individual state actually owns the ground the building resides on!

For instance, here’s good old Massachusetts:

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Recognize it?

Anyway, we partook in much of the fair activity throughout the day. And like all good fairs, plenty of animals were hanging out. Including a petting zoo, with this cute little guy:

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And a donkey. Ha! There was even a zebra and a crazy llama who kept following everyone around. I haven’t been to a petting zoo in AGES.

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Check out this Clydesdale horse who just happens to weigh 2,230 pounds. Sheesh.

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There were lots of those booths that say things like “Step inside to see the world’s largest horse!” or the “world’s smallest horse!” I didn’t fall prey to any of them because, hello, we just saw a horse that weighs 2,230 pounds. Do I need anything more than that? Also, I know what a miniature horse looks like, thankyouverymuch.

I kind of loved the chick hatchery with all the adorable little newborn chicks.

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Chris faced his worst nightmare… Bees!

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OK, let’s talk food for a little bit. I’m warning you, it’s not pretty. But, when at the Big E… What I’m trying to say is that I had to. I recognize that the food at this fair represents all that is wrong with our country. It’s actually a bit sickening. But as people who are relatively healthy in every day life, partaking in one day of fair fried goodness is not going to kill us. And seriously, I couldn’t do it for more than one day!

We started “in” Maine with the baked potatoes because not only did Lesa recommend them, but so did everyone on Twitter. I’m actually not a big baked potato person and didn’t want to fill up too early, but I definitely had a few bites of Chris’s.

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It was a HUGE potato and fully loaded. With all the good stuff. You know, fake cheese; fake bacon. Yup.

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From there, we made our way to Rhode Island and began our fried food binge.

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These clam fritters were quite nice.

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Fresh out of the oil!

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But maybe not as nice as what we saw next.

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Ahem. Fried Kool-Aid

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And fried jelly beans.

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No lie. This is totally not what we were expecting fried jelly beans to be like. But they were quite interesting.

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To be honest, everything just tasted mostly like fried dough. But what did we really expect? At least we didn’t eat the fried butter. Yes, butter.

Say “cheese!” Er, I mean “Fried!”

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But we did check out the fabulous butter sculpture!

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Which I’m happy say was sculpted with butter donated from Cabot Creamery!

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FYI: 600 pounds of butter were used in the sculpture, which means 12,600 pounds of milk were used. Also, you could have topped 19,200 pancakes with that butter. Oh, and did you know “butter” is Greek for “chowcheese?” Now you do.

I opted out of trying a giant cream puff or eclair, but am kind of craving one now that it’s been over 24 hours since any fried food intake.

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But don’t worry; the culinary experience wasn’t over just yet. We HAD to try the award-winning Hot Diggid-E Dog! I’m pretty sure it was a hot dog filled with cheese, wrapped in bacon, and topped with BBQ sauce and coleslaw.

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Meh, not as good as it sounded. I’m going to need something to cleanse my palate. Oh, how about a burger on a doughnut topped with cheese and bacon. Nobody told me Paula Deen was in the house (oh, never mind, if she was here, there would have been a fried egg on there, too!).

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STOP judging me. I swear, the 5 of us shared all of this food and mainly just had a “taste” of everything.

Oh hey, it’s a stand called “Dr. Vegetable.” Finally, right? Oh wait, it says “Fresh FRIED vegetables.” Silly me. Guess the Dr. didn’t finish medical school, huh? Also, please note, this stand remained quite empty each time I walked by. You can batter it up and put it in the fryolator, but it’s still a vegetable.

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We also did a bit more state house touring. New Hampshire, home of my alma mater!

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This maple cotton candy was seriously awesome.

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Upon entering the Massachusetts building, we spotted a booth selling raspberries. Raspberries that weren’t fried!! I love raspberries anyway, but don’t think I ever saw such a beautiful sight at these. My body was majorly craving them.

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I’m legitimately leaving tons of Big E attractions out because there are just too many to name. But one thing I found quite interesting was a Christmas tree competition. Here we have the grand prize balsam fir from Massachusetts. Pretty, right? Wouldn’t you like to see that one in your living room on Christmas day?

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Oh, hey there.

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There was also a lot of infomercial-y stuff around the Big E (and a TON of hot tubs for sale). One of which I may have fallen sucker to.

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In all fairness, I needed a new vegetable peeler. Lesa told me these Swiss Super Peeler‘s are the only peelers she ever buys. And another person standing next to me also spoke to their amazingness.

See how totally intrigued I am? Sold!

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My dad should just be happy we didn’t purchase a hot tub for his deck… We’ve been trying to convince him to get one for the longest time, but he won’t cave.

After a full day of walking around and stuffing our faces, it was time for a stop at the martini bar. Oops sorry, I mean martin-E.

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This dirty martini was exactly what I needed. It was made with V-1 Vodka, which I had never heard of, but is a local brand.

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As we were leaving, the music was just starting and more and more people were entering the Big E. But we had an almost 2-hour drive ahead of us, so we hit the road.

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The Big E runs until next weekend and during that time acts like Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire will be performing.

So, I mean, if you’re craving fried food and some fair fun, get yourself over to West Springfield. Trust me, I barely even touched upon the food selection… I missed out on the fried Oreos, fried cheesecake, fried whoopie pies, 2-foot-long hotdogs, and much, much more.

Whew. I think I’m all faired out for quite a while!

Are you a fair-goer? What’s your favorite part about a fair?

[Sues]

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30 Responses to "The Big E"

  1. Fried jelly beans? I am intrigued, but I can’t say I’m dying to try them =)

    (Also, I’m almost 29, too, eeeeeeee!)

  2. Erica says:

    My sister went this weekend too! I totally do not remember this fair. The potato looks yummy! The fried food? Some good some scary! Kool aid?? Really??

  3. Love this post! I love fairs. Whats better then the mingling smell of barnyards and fried foods? And In 27ish years I have never heard of the Big E…. hmmm. Next year I’ll have to check it out! I brought my boys to the Topsfield Fair last year, this year we’ll be doing the Deerfield Fair up here in NH.

    PS I want some NH Maple Cotten Candy!

  4. Michelle says:

    I’ve never been to the Big E either! I’m looking forward to checking out the Topsfield Fair though!

  5. Fun! I grew up in Western MA and have only been to the Big E a couple of times, and not in many years, looks like lots of different fried things have been added in this time! Those baked potatoes were always my fave

  6. Daisy says:

    I have only been to the Big E once when I was in high school but I absolutely loved it! the state houses are awesome. oh and I had fried oreos from one of the north end festivals this summer. they are gluttonous, but good!

  7. valerie says:

    Everyone from CT, NY and western Mass go to the Big E. When I came to college in Boston I was surprised no one knew of it. In 2002/2003 NKOTB was one of the bands! I went last weekend and shared with my bf; steak sub, gyro, maine lobster role, maine whoopie pie, chocolate covered bacon (In “CT” they had chocolate covered pickles but I wasn’t daring enough to try), fried dough, fried oreos (amazing),… and I feel like there was more!

  8. Bethany says:

    We go to the Big E every year, it’s a major event to look forward to every September! You should try the Millenium Fries next time too, and the fried cheese curds (like cheese curds even needed to be fried to be good, but damnit, they are so yummy)

  9. I can’t wait! We’re going this sat! Totally can’t wait to have anything and everything fried.

  10. Christina says:

    I usually go to the SC State Fair because it’s during football season, and I used to live right next to the fairgrounds. I always get a corn dog, but I’d totally give that maple cotton candy a try!

  11. Jess says:

    I’m going to the Big E tomorrow, and cannot wait! I’ve lived in New England all my life and while I’ve heard of the Big E before, I’ve never gone. I am very excited to ingest all that fried deliciousness!

  12. Molly says:

    So glad you went to the Big E. I’m from Agawam, across the river from West Springfield, and when I moved to Boston not a single person had ever heard of the Big E (the most important two weeks of the year in my young life). The Avenue of the States is my favorite part, and Clam Fritters from Rhode Island are my favorite food there. I can only psych myself up to go once every couple of years – too much fried food, too tempting. Glad you had a good time!

  13. Being from right around Topsfield, I am partial to the Topsfield fair, but the Big E looks crazy!

  14. Lexi says:

    Oh this looks so fun!

    Also, I recently tried fried oreos and they were all sorts of amazing!

  15. Shelley says:

    I love going to the Minnesota State Fair. I finally got to go this year but it was a short visit where I made it around to some of my favorite fair food. My mom has bought those vegetable peelers at the state fair and they are great. Sadly, she has managed to accidentally thrown one or two of them out over the years!

  16. Bee says:

    I know I just commented on the fbook but I felt I needed to here too! I can’t believe you’ve never been to the Big E! It’s seriously the best fair out there 🙂 I documented my journey there this weekend over on my blog, check it out! I did try the fried veggies, they’re one of my must-have fair staples! Also took a bag of that cotton candy home too. I missed out on the corn on the cob from the CT building, and the pulled pork sandwiches. Where the heck did you find the crazy burger?? We searched high and low but could not find it! I’m returning Wednesday, so we shall see if I come upon it 🙂

  17. Megan says:

    I have been going to the Big E my whole life, and it was so weird when I moved to Mass. and realized no one here has heard of it. Maybe the trek to Springfield is a CT thing? Anyways, it is always a lot of fun.. and there’s always so much good fried food. I know it sounds gross, but I really want to try the fried butter. 🙂

  18. Cara says:

    I miss the Big E, I went as a kid and its such a good time! Looks like you sampled some crazy food; the fried jelly beans especially. Glad you had fun, our state fair isn’t for another week or two!

  19. Woah – that is quite a fried spread. I’ve never been to the Big E. I can see how those raspberries never tasted better!

  20. I love fair food! (Isn’t that the only reason to go to the fair?)
    My favorites:
    In the northeast: clam cakes.
    In the southeast: fried green tomatoes.
    In the southwest: roasted corn with mexican spices. mmm…
    In the northwest: elk sausage.

    As for the burger-on-a-donut thing… My husband bought one at the fair last year. I tried a bite. The verdict: total waste of calories. It was bland and awful.

  21. My mom is from Springfield and I have this crystal clear memory or a perfect fall afternoon at the Big E with my cousin and her friends when were about 13. No surprise that the food made a big impressionalthough they’ve clearly found more things to fry in the interim. I had a Maine potato, SO MANY HONEYSTICKS, apple cider, a corndog and some kind of funnel cake that seemed like a good idea at the time. I just wanted to try everything. Typical. It is legitimately one of the clearest memories of a full afternoon that I have. So New England. Love that you live within road trip distance!

  22. last year, my mother emailed me 35 photos of a butter cow from the Big E because she thought it was ironic. love.

  23. Susan says:

    You’ve got to love fair food! Everything either fried or on a stick or both 🙂 I had never heard of the Big E before either.

  24. Sharon says:

    I’ve lived in the Boston area for 35+ years and never has anyone I know mentioned this Big E Fair…Sounds like you all had a lot of fun and maybe their PR department is in need of assistance! I might know just the right person for this job!! Great recap/post, Sues!!!

  25. beth says:

    Wow…. reading your post made me feel disgusted with myself all over again 🙂 Quite the experience!

  26. Fried Kool-Aid?! Insanity! I was actually just at the What the Fluff? Festival this weekend – I was hoping to see some fried Fluff there. 😉 I love food fairs and festivals!

  27. Lesa says:

    What a day we had! And, we didn’t even make it through the whole fair!! It’s nice to spread the happiness of a childhood memory. And, thanks to Susie maybe more people outside of the northern CT/Central MA area will know of the Big E!!! It’s craz-E (I couldn’t resist) to think that healthy people like us could indulge in such fried goodness! Thanks for sharing….

  28. Judy says:

    It is just a way to spend a great fall day in New England checking out all the crazy food and crazy people.

  29. I love fairs. My husband hates them. So we usually only end up going to one a year. My stomach was screaming for Tums as I read this post! Looked like a blast. Not sure if I would be brave enough to try the Fried Kool-Aid though!

  30. Lauren says:

    Next time, you HAVE to try the pork sandwich from the Pork Palace. Sounds phallic and gross, but it’s sooo good!

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