WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The Big E makes its big return in just three days and Western Mass News is getting answers ahead of a decision Wednesday about a potential mask mandate and other COVID-19 precautions being taken on the fairgrounds.
The West Springfield Board of Health is holding a public hearing tomorrow afternoon on COVID-19 mitigation measures, including mandatory masks. We took our questions to Eastern States Exposition President Gene Cassidy to get answers on how they are preparing to respond if a mask mandate is implemented.
“It’s too risky these days to be out and around near people not to have a mask on,” said Barbara Gardner of West Springfield.
Some western Massachusetts residents will be masking up at The Big E this year, but others beg to differ.
[Reporter: Will you be attending The Big E this year?]
“Absolutely, with no mask, unless they force me,” said Norman Cortis of West Springfield.
Cassidy told Western Mass News that they’re already forming a plan for the fair, which begins on Friday.
“We’ll have a mask mandate in place likely for inside the buildings and, you know, that’s perfectly fair…People, I think, recognize that it could be important, so I don’t expect any stress or troubles,” Cassidy noted.
He added that the mandates will be enforced through an abundance of signage. Also, a spike in COVID-19 cases locally could mean some people stay home.
“I’m not anticipating any records at The Big E. I think a segment of the population will be reticent still about being in large crowds,” Cassidy said.
Vendors setting up shop are also preparing accordingly.
“We have to wipe everything down every hour. We have to make sure everyone has their hands clean, wash them regularly,” said Tim Kerigan with Millie’s Pierogi.
We asked Cassidy if he’s anticipating record crowds for concerts, starting with megastar Machine Gun Kelly on Friday.
“Fixed seating, 6,300 seats, it will have no material impact on the attendance overall,” Cassidy added.
Cassidy added that he’s keeping a close eye on COVID-19 cases and staying in constant contact with the West Springfield Board of Health and Baystate Medical Center.
“We’re keeping an eye on the cases up there and will continue to do so throughout the fair,” Cassidy explained.
West Springfield is set to vote on the town’s mask mandate Wednesday afternoon after hearing from the public.