‘We are all a bit melancholy’: Officials react as Big E wraps up for 2023 season

This year’s Big E is officially over, the final weekend drawing in huge crowds. That meant huge traffic backups as well.
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 3:46 PM EDT
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WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - This year’s Big E is officially over, the final weekend drawing in huge crowds. That meant huge traffic backups as well. We’re learning about some takeaways from this year’s fair.

This is what it looks like at the fairgrounds on Monday. Vendors are packing, crews are cleaning out the areas, and teams are already thinking of what to do for next year.

“We are all a bit melancholy today, seeing everything being broken down,” explained Gene Cassidy.

On Monday, the day after the big e officially wrapped for 2023, vendors and crews could be found packing up at the fairgrounds.

Western Mass News caught up with President and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition, Gene Cassidy.

He said attendance for 2023 was the biggest difference compared to last year.

The highest crowd numbers this year were this past Saturday when close to 177,000 people showed up. But total attendance compared to last year was lower. In 2022, there were just over 1.6 million fairgoers in all, while it was just over 1.4 million this year, a difference of 176,120.

Cassidy attributed that to the change in ticket prices and the rain impacting 6 of the 17 days of the fair.

“Last year was our biggest fair ever,” added Cassidy. “And we are down about 11 percent off of last year.”

“Our admission ticket was increased this year for the first time in 13 years,” noted Cassidy. “We held off as long as we possibly could. I’m sure that has an impact on people’s ability to enjoy the fair. We do our best to try and present as much within the package as possible to make it worth their while, but here, in this case, we had 6 days of rain, 5 days on intense rain. In my 30 years on the fairgrounds, it was the first time in history that the carnival rides were shut down for an entire day.”

The last weekend of the fair was the busiest this year, but not just for fairgoers.

It was also the busiest for Sgt. Joe Lafrance and officers at the West Springfield Police Department.

“It’s exhausting, to be honest with you,” expressed Sgt. Lafrance. “At the end of 17 days, the officers and the staff, for that matter, all the staff, we have dispatchers and records clerks, and police officers, they are all working 12 to 16-hour shifts. They are tired. And so, now that is over, they are looking forward to hopefully a quiet week here in West Springfield.”

For Sgt. Lafrance, the biggest challenge this year was traffic.

“Traffic, when you get those high-volume days like that, it’s a long day,” said Lafrance. “We do our best to try and get the traffic flowing, but when you have that many cars, it just takes time.”

Gene Cassidy also told us it takes somewhere between 12 to 18 months to put the fair together, which means he is already planning for next year.