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Record-breaking Attendance at the 2018 Big E Fair
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History was made at the 2018 Big E fair when a record number of visitors came out to the 17-day event, located in Springfield, Mass. There were a total of 1,543,470 visitors, with the highest number of attendees – more than 172,000 people – coming out on Saturday, Sept. 22. 

The previous record for Big E attendance was set at 1,525,553 in 2017. The fair took place from Sept. 14 through Sept. 30.

The Eastern States Exposition, otherwise known as The Big E, is said to be the largest fair on the East Coast. President and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition, Gene Cassidy, told that he believes there is one big reason in particular for the fair's continued success.“The Eastern States provides a respite from some of the stresses of the rest of the world and I think it's a large reason why we've been so successful,” he said in the interview. “Because we're doing things the way they were done traditionally and tradition matters.”

Aside from the more typical traditional aspects of the fair, such as the Storrowton Village Museum tours and the New England Center's Big E Creative Arts department showcases – which also set a record for 2018 with the number of entries submitted in quilting, lace making, rug hooking, doll making and knitting competitions – there is always something new and exciting happening on the grounds in relation to entertainment and food.

“The Big E has added more entertainment and features in recent years, and annually challenges its vendors to develop new and innovative foods that fairgoers will enjoy and talk about,” says Catherine Pappas, public relations and communication manager for the Eastern States Exposition. 
This year, there were 89 food vendors situated at 145 locations throughout the grounds. Favorite treats were the Big E cream puffs and eclairs and the Big E Craz-E Burger. Some new items on the menu included a Polish sampler platter, shrimp mac & cheese, gourmet sliders with toppings, deep fried corn on the cob, deep fried pop tarts and quesadilla burgers. There were also several new vendors, which included Stella's Milk and Cookies, Fluffy's Hand-Cut Donuts, Barbie's Ice Cream: Sweet and Salty and Cranston Enterprises.

Pappas says that another big attraction at the fair this year was the new Eastern States Farmers Market and Wine Barn. The barn provided fairgoers with a number of agricultural demonstrations in different sections, such as the Fiber Nook, Demonstration Kitchen and Wine Cafe. Visitors could check out cooking shows, learn about spinning and weaving, enjoy cheese samples and cheese plates or kick back and relax with a fun drink such as a wine slushie.

Music and Grounds Entertainment

Musical entertainment also did not disappoint the crowds. Ticketed and free concerts at the main arena included The Marshall Tucker Band, The Beach Boys, Chase Bryant and Tom Dobson, Old Dominion's Happy Endings World Tour, Casting Crowns, B.B. King's Blues Band featuring Tito Jackson, Ice T, Jacob Sartorious, The Sisterhood Band, Trent Harmon, and Raelynn. HANSON, Jefferson Starship, Noah Cyrus and Tony Orlando in Concert also performed in the covered seating area at the Court of Honor Stage.

Grounds entertainment was plentiful. Visitors could entertain themselves with the ESE Horse Show, Sheepdog Trials, horse pulling, Mardi Gras & Daily Parades, 4-H demonstrations, The Big E Circus Spectacular, Swifty Swine Racing Pigs, Camel Kingdom and street performances by impersonators “Danny DeVito,” “Jack Nicholson,” and Robert De Niro.”

A big ag attraction for 2018 was the Farm-A-Rama learning experience. Farm-A-Rama featured displays of live animals, giant crops and landscape ideas. Visitors also had the opportunity to watch cows being milked in the Milking Parlor. Agriculture plays in big role in the fair as it is, of course, one of the Eastern States Exposition’s oldest and most beloved traditions. 

Midway Magic

Midway entertainment was provided by North American Midway Entertainment. There were 51 rides and Pappas says that some of the annual favorites continue to be Speed and the Giant Wheel. Other popular rides were the Merry Go Round, Vertigo, Orient Express, State Fair Slide, Pharaoh's Fury, Madagascar, Zipper, Wild One, Starship 4000 and Swings. A brand new ride for 2018 was the Hyper Loop, which spun and swung riders 360 degrees, reaching a height of more than 70 feet.

Visitors could purchase a Midway Magic Pass with unlimited rides for $30 on Monday through Friday of the fair. 

Technology Driving the Future of The Big E

Though The Big E certainly relies on traditional means of getting the word out when it comes to advertising, technology has played a huge role in successful marketing campaigns in recent years.

"We have a streamlined website that offers info from planning your day to finding your favorite foods," Pappas shares. "Electronic digital signs inform our guests about happenings at the fair. We use Waze to help with guidance, traffic and navigation. We communicate with fairgoers via Constant Contact, and have optimized our mobile site in lieu of a map," she continues. "We used 'COWS' to boost fairgoers' cellular service while on the fairgrounds. Big E TV spreads info throughout the grounds, and Taggbox allowed us to share our social media to a larger audience on our grounds.”

The final results proved that tech outreach may be the way to go when it comes to marketing. Aside from the record-breaking crowds, media outreach to fans and followers also grew this year and The Big E ended up with more than 225,000 followers on Facebook. 
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