The annual Big E opens its 17-day run Friday at the Eastern States Exposition Grounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
There will be more than 80 musical acts spread across three stages and more than 65 new foods for visitors to try along with the usual favorites. Some of the performers include John Fogerty, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Third Eye Blind and Ginuwine.
Agriculture as always, will also be a big focus, with several farming displays and livestock shows taking place during the fair. There will be four national dairy shows, three national horse shows and two national sheep competitions.
Last year, the event attracted some 1.6 million attendees.
It's not only a popular attraction, but also an important economic driver, said Gene Cassidy, the president of the Eastern States Exposition, adding that one study pegged the Big E's economic impact on the surrounding area at about $1.75 billion.
"We're generating tax revenues to the commonwealth, we're generating business, which has a ripple effect throughout the economy, which creates jobs," he said.
Cassidy said it takes a lot of help to pull off the Big E each year. He said the year-round staff is less than 50, but more than 1,000 volunteers pitch in, and there will be about the same number of employees in place for the fair.
The event also serves as a fundraiser for the Eastern States Exposition, the non-profit parent of the Big E.
“When you buy a ticket to the fair, you’re subsidizing agriculture in New England and beyond at this point,” Cassidy said, referencing the agriculture shows that will take place.
A staple of the Big E is the traditional state buildings, representing each of the New England States and featuring food, vendors and tourism marketing. For instance, the Maine building usually has a long line for baked potatoes, which come from the state.
People driving near the Big E can also expect an impact on traffic, especially on weekends, when attendance usually surpasses 100,000 a day.
This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.