WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGBWHSM) -- Gene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition, announced the Big E is canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

This is the first time it’s been canceled since World War II.

People are not happy the Big E is canceled, but they understand this is best to prevent a spike of coronavirus cases in western Mass.

“Oh, it’s sad,” said Tony Calabrese, owner of Calabrese Market & Deli. “I am going to put the old girl away. Financially, you have to take that hit.”

Like many people, Calabrese heard the news Monday that the Big E has been canceled this year. Other vendors reached out to him about the news.

“All the neighbors around me, they’re like family basically,” Calabrese said. “We’ve been doing it for 14 years. I’ve had probably 15 calls today.”

The West Springfield Town Council has waited for weeks for a COVID-19 Big E plan. The fair handed the plan to the mayor and the council last Thursday. Councilor Brian Griffin said it did not reach their expectations.

“The plan did not call for enforcement of masks,” he said. “It didn’t call for enforcement of social distancing. Those are the types of things we were looking for in the plan.”

One of the biggest fears the city has is the coronavirus spreading after more than one million people come in and out of West Springfield for the fair. They want small businesses to be able to stay open.

“We can’t invite a super spreader event in and then have them close again,” Griffin said. “Could you imagine that?”

Some people look forward to the Big E every year.

“It does it because it’s one of the few things in western Mass we’re able to enjoy and all come together,” said McKenzie Jerome of Springfield.

But there is optimism from a western Mass resident in the Big E returning next year.

“Let’s just hope next year we can have it back and the corona does not influence our lives as much as it has,” said Yasmin Duran Ibes of Springfield.

Cassidy said he is planning on the Big E to return in September of 2021.

“My message to you today is a difficult one to share. We’ve made the decision to cancel the 2020 big e please know that this decision was not made lightly in fact it was one of the most difficult decisions that we as an organization have had to make in a long time.

Copyright 2020.  Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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