WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The Big E has been cancelled for this year due to COVID-19 concerns.
The absence of the 17-day fair will deal a financial blow to the vendors and businesses who set up shop in West Springfield each year.
West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt said what made the decision to cancel The Big E so difficult was the notion that hundreds of small businesses - including farms, vendors, and restaurants - would take a huge financial hit.
Rectifying that problem is now Reichelt’s new focus.
“It really wouldn’t be in the best interest of public safety and public health to have the fair. There’s still a lot more work to do,” Reichelt explained.
Reichelt knew that cancelling The Big E would disappoint businesses across New England. Now, he told Western Mass News he’s working with the Eastern States Exposition to find creative ways to showcase vendors and embody the spirit of the fair virtually without creating a COVID-19 hotspot risk.
One entity that won’t benefit, however, is the town of West Springfield itself, which receives a yearly payment from The Big E to fund initiatives like the Boys and Girls Club.
“It’s usually about a quarter million dollars and it’s been growing every year because the attendance of the fair has been growing and making more money, so this year that won’t be happening,” Reichelt noted.
The news of the cancellation also sent waves of disappointment to businesses in other New England states that make a point to come every year.
“It’s really devastating to us because over 40 years, we’ve been supporting the fair and, you know, going to the fair as a family,” said Olivia Oatley, who participated in Big E livestock shows.
Oatley won a 4-H beef competition last year. She said her family farm benefits from the livestock auction at the fair and likely won’t be able to pull in as much money for a steer without a prize ribbon
“We’re going to have to privately sell my steers. It’s not what we wanted to do…It’s really nice to show them because you get to show off to people how hard you worked,” Oatley noted.
While many fairs have already been canceled for this season, the decision out of West Springfield casts a ‘Big E’-shaped shadow of doubt over any other event still holding out hope.
Those who run the Belchertown Fair said they have a lot to consider at their July meeting.
“The Big E has now canceled. Officially, the governor, I believe has put fairs and festivals in Stage 4, which coincides with either a treatment or a vaccine and, I think, we’re a little ways away from that and yet, we will make the decision that we need to make to be safe,” said Cindy Brown, member of the Belchertown fair committee.