Thursday, September 23, 2010

Swinging By The Big E

Avenue of the States
Most of the Avenue of the States
Since way back in 1917 during the weeks following the second Friday after Labor Day through the third following Sunday, the small town of Agawam, Massachusetts has been the destination of young and old alike who want to attend The Big E which is more formally known as The Eastern States Exposition - "New England's Great State Fair".

The sixth largest agricultural fair in the country and the largest in New England, the Big E is the only cross-state agricultural fair in the United States and serves as the "de facto State Fair" for all six New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Since the first Exposition in 1917 the only thing that has interrupted the annual tradition was the advent of World Wars I and II, during which time the military requisitioned the grounds for use as storage depots.

One of the most popular attractions at the Big E is the Avenue of States. The avenue contains smaller-scale replicas of the original statehouses of each of the New England states with the land on which they sit being actually owned by the respective states. The State Buildings feature exhibits and vendors which best exemplify the heritage, food, and traditions of each state.  In the Rhode Island building that means fritters and chowder, in Vermont it's Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Cabot cheddar cheese, Maine offers up fresh-baked potatoes and blueberries, New Hampshire has everything maple syrup you can think of, Massachusetts has apples of all kinds, and Connecticut ... uhm, what did Connecticut have?? Darned if I can remember and it was even "Connecticut Day" when Jamie and I went to the fair yesterday with my mom and youngest brother, John.

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The Connecticut State Building 
Potato
The line for baked Maine potatoes starts here ... 
Potatoes
And ends in here! 
It's been quite a few years since I've been to The Big E - so many years, in fact, that I honestly can't remember when I was last there.  What I do remember, though, is that the fair didn't seem to be quite as commercialized as it is now.  I remember there being more displays in the State Buildings and less vendors; I remember there being more exhibits in other places and less vendors; I remember there being other free shows and attractions and less vendors ... I honestly remember A LOT less vendors is what I remember!  Now I know my mind is not what it used to be but seriously since when did going to a fair mean going to do nothing but buy gadgets and eat? What happened to the tractor pulls? The baking contests? The crafts exhibits? The Joey Chitwood Stunt Show? Oh well ... maybe I'm just getting old or something ...

Anyhow, the primary reason for going to The Big E this year was because I had entered a couple of pictures in the Photography Competition just to see if I could win me a big ole' ribbon.  When I was a kid I always thought the ribbons were the coolest part of the fair and thought it must be real nice to win one to hang on your wall and show off.  So, I picked out two pictures and entered them and kept my fingers crossed while dreaming of finally winning a nice satin ribbon to show off.

As it turned out, I did win a ribbon - two in fact; one for Honorable Mention for my entry into the Black & White landscape category and one for First Prize for my entry into the Color Landscape category.  However, my dream of having a big ole' ribbon to show off were kind of dashed when I got a look at my pictures on display at the fair ...

My Blue Ribbon
First place
My Honorable Mention
Honorable Mention
Please understand, I'm not complaining at all about either recognition by the judges - I'm quite happy and honored in all honesty but I'm just a teensy-tinsy bit disappointed with the size of the ribbons.  I'm thinking maybe I put too much stock in the whole ribbon thing ... either that or I've watched "State Fair" way too many times!

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This picture does not do the Cream Puffs justice! 
Ah well, what better way to get over the size of one's ribbon then to eat a big ole' honkin' Big E Cream Puff? The Big E Cream Puff is actually one of the "signature" desserts of The Big E and has even been featured on local and national TV shows, including Live with Regis and Kelly. Maybe they didn't get a big ole' ribbon either??

If you don't like Cream Puffs there were also The Big Eclairs and if you didn't like either of those there were more deep-fried foods then you could shake a stick at available all over the fair.  I'm happy to report that I had nothing deep-fried with the exception of some fritters from the Rhode Island Building though had I actually come across the booth for the Deep-Fried Butter I might have succumbed to curiosity!  I guess my arteries were keeping me safely away!

Of course Jamie wanted to go check out the rides on the Midway - what kid doesn't? - so while my Mom and John sat inside one of the other buildings out of the sun and watched a short dog show, I took Jamie over to where the-rides-that-I- used-to-love-go-on-as-a-kid-but-can't-really-go-on-anymore-because-I'm-old-and-no-fun were located. I did, however, agree to go on the Big Wheel which is a bit surprising as I really don't like heights.

Ferris Wheel

And as it turns out, neither does Jamie!

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But I figured it gave me the chance to take some "aerial" pictures of the fairgrounds ...

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And after a little bit Jamie got used to the ride and brightened up!

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Back on the ground ...

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it was then decided that Jamie was going to take a ride on the swings while I took some pictures.

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See?  She loosened up a little bit and had a good time flying around.  I used to love those sorts of rides but alas, my equilibrium is just not what it used to be so I'm stuck being an old fuddy-duddy and watching other people go on the rides or taking pictures of sun flare!

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Shortly after that we met back up with John and Mom and made our way back through the State Buildings to grab goodies to take back to John's wife, Ann, who wasn't able to make the trip with us but, truth be told, I think she made out quite well as John brought her home maple-flavored cotton candy, a one red velvet and one peanut butter Whoopie pie, aged Vermont cheddar cheese, chocolate-dipped fruit, scented soaps from Vermont, and enough candied apples to keep a girl happy for a very long time!

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And she didn't even have to walk around in the crowds and the heat which was less than pleasant as it was over 85 degrees yesterday on the first day of fall!   Ya know, she's a smart girl that sister-in-law of mine!

17 comments:

  1. our Texas State Fair opens in another week or two.....

    you know we debuted the deep fried butter last year right?

    and this year's extravaganza??


    .......wait for it......



    deep fried beer!

    Guiness as a matter of fact!

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  2. http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2010/09/texas-chef-successfully-deep-friesbeer

    here's your link in case you thought I was pulling your leg.

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  3. I've been to so many State Fairs and Strawberry Festivals while living in Florida for 30+ years (and going nearly every year) that I'm jaded. Other than the midway, which is now mostly for tweenagers and teenagers, it's all about the vendors. I went to one here when Lynda & Rick were here visiting and it was much the same but on a smaller scale. And I'm convinced they are nearly all the very same vendors who load up and move on to the next fair. I rarely see anything new.

    I love Jaime's new hairdo, and especially her smiling "brightened up" photo. She looks like she's ready to take on a big, fancy career!

    And I really like her glasses! I wish my prescription would fit in that style, but alas, no room for my bifocal!

    What? No Funnel Cake?!

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  4. oh my--looks like fun. Did you keep an eye out foe the deep fried twinkies or deep fried butter? MMM. Nice shots--I especially loved the ferris wheel.

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  5. Ooh, loved all the colorful pics from the Ferris wheel. Congrats on the ribbons, no matter what THEIR size, they still stand for something much bigger. Great talent!! And you've got it.

    Our big fair starts in two days. Hoping I can convince Hubby to take a night off and go with me after work. I love walking around after dark and enjoying the cooler temps, lots of neon and less crowds!!

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  6. Size matters!

    And a fun day it was...for everyone.

    Big hugs, honey...

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  7. Congrats on the ribbons! Very well deserved. :)

    You'll know from my recent post about the London Eye that I was apprehensive about going on it - well you definitely wouldn't have got me on that big wheel what with it being all open to the elements. You and Jamie were very brave!

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  8. Congrats on the ribbons. I completely "get" the ribbon disappointment thing. Your photography is great. Hank says you have a good eye. The shot of the ferris wheel in full round and the midway rocks, btw. I love how the colors pop...

    Have fun opening your package. I think it'll arrive today if it hasn't already!

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  9. Way to go on the ribbons. What Lois said about that.

    I got stuck on all the yummy things being offered. I want the baked potato and well everything.

    Have a terrific day Linda. Big hug. :)

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  10. We're going to the Big E on Sunday. It's Brian's first time and I'm very excited. I usually go every other year b/c every year is a little too much. But I love it.

    It's been commercialized for as long as I can remember though...

    As for the Crafters, last year there were still tons. They aren't all in one place anymore though-they are spread out more. Hopefully that's why it looks like there are less. I'd hate to go there to find that it's really changed since last year.

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  11. Fantastic shots, Linda. Good aerial ones.

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  12. Those are wonderful pictures and the five pounds I gained while mentally dining on the cream puffs and caramel apples will just have to stay a while.

    Congratulations on the ribbons. You deserve them even if they look a little puny.

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  13. That looks and sounds like a wonderful fair, I would love to be able to go!! I think most fairs are not like they used to be, though, and everything is just so expensive to buy, even tickets to get on the rides.

    Speaking of rides, you really got some brilliant shots while up on the Big Wheel. My days of going on any of the rides are over as well! lol

    Congratulations on winning those two ribbons. See, even ribbons have changed, they're so tiny now compared to how they used to be!! I can understand your disappointment.

    Pass me one of them caramel apples please...yummmmmm!!!! xoxo

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  14. it looks like a lot of fun to me, i'd like to ride around it on my scooter! congratulations on the wins too!

    smiles, bee
    xoxoxoxoxoxoox

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  15. Maybe they only use the foot long ribbons with the 6 inch wide faces for the food prizes?

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  16. Yum, CREAM PUFFS!!! My favorite ever dessert. EVER. Although, I nearly choked to death while eating one - inhaled powdered sugar. I'd not advise that.
    ~~~I kinda figured you went on the Ferris Wheel for the photo ops! I'm glad you did, too.
    ~~~Our fair opened Wednesday, and I'd actually planned on going. Haven't been in years, usually cuz it's still 200+ degrees, and the dust from the livestock area just does me in. Since one of our favorite groups, "Collective Soul," is playing Tuesday, and our weather has been so cool - - - of course. It's supposed to be over 100 Tuesday. C-R-A-P. May have to wait another year....

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