WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The president of the big e is speaking out on the cancellation of this year's fair.
Gene Cassidy spoke Tuesday with Western Mass News.
Cassidy said his team used all the resources they could to develop a COVID-19 safety plan for this year’s fair.
He said it was ultimately the turnout from this weekend’s drive-thru food event that tipped the scales in the direction of canceling the fair.
“You’ve got Disney and you’ve got the big gaming companies Six Flags other large fairs, and we had access to all of their COVID plans,” he said.
Cassidy said even pulling from the most creative names in entertainment couldn’t cobble together a safe coronavirus plan to keep people healthy at the Eastern States Exposition.
“Traffic flow in the fairgrounds, traffic flow through buildings, the wearing of masks with the assumption that it was likely that far less people would want to be in crowds,” he said.
But Cassidy said he tested that assumption at this past weekend’s drive-thru food event at the fairgrounds -- test of crowd wariness versus nostalgia for the Big E.
“The market responded so overwhelmingly to the test that it told us here, the management staff of the eastern states, that perhaps the Big E would be responded to in the same way,” he said.
With no way to control the crowds, West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt said the possibility of turning a sick person away from the fair could have made the town a COVID-19 hotspot.
“Do we really want people coming from all over and then if they get turned away being stuck in West Side and kind of wandering around potentially spreading the virus,” Reichelt said.
He said he is working with the Big E to possibly bring back the event that played a pivotal role in canceling the whole fair -- the drive-thru food experience.
“We can do better with the traffic and make it flow better,” he said.
They also plan to showcase the vendors who are still trying to earn a living without the 17-day fair and 1.6 million pairs of eyes on their products.
“They’ve mentioned maybe virtual tours of the state buildings and highlight vendors that would’ve been there,” he said.
Though many knew the cancellation was a possibility, Cassidy wants fairgoers to know he tried to stay positive as long as he could.
“I kept cheering until the very last minute,” he said.
Cassidy and Reichelt both said there are plans to offer the Big E cream puffs throughout the summer.