Big E enjoys strong attendance, even in a pandemic
The Big E fair in West Springfield, Massachusetts, drew nearly 1.5 million visitors during its 17-day run, despite the pandemic. The event wrapped up Sunday.
The Big E was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19. And right before it opened this year, West Springfield health officials issued an indoor mask mandate, which included the fair.
Mayor Will Reichelt said about 30 cases of the virus were traced back to the fair during its first few days. He said with the event just ended, he's cautiously optimistic more won't pop up.
"There is a 10-day incubation period, really, so over the next two weeks is when we'll see," he said. "But after that first weekend — for the amount of people that were there, there was a low amount of cases, which was very good."
Reichelt praised Big E officials for the fair's health and safety plan, and for enforcing the mask mandate.
The Eastern States Exposition puts on the event, and its president and CEO Gene Cassidy called the positive public response to the fair this year "humbling."
It also gave the nonprofit group a financial shot in the arm. After not having a fair last year, it had to rely on its rainy day fund, and a loan from a local bank to help stay afloat.
"The success of this year's fair has helped us pay an enormous multi-million dollar debt back to the bank, but we're certainly not out of the woods," Cassidy said.
Cassidy said missing the 2020 Big E will be felt for quite some time.
"It's probably going to take us the next five to eight years, really, to recover from the COVID financial virus," he said.
According to attendance figures released by the Big E, the fair set a single-day attendance record of 177,238 on Saturday, October 2. All told, 1,498,774 visitors showed up this year.