WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Developing news out of West Springfield that Western Mass News has been following all day, a mask mandate is now being considered for this year’s Big E.
In just around two weeks, the board of health will vote on the potential mandate. Fair vendors we spoke with say they think a mask requirement will hurt business.
“They brought up their concerns about a potential super spreader event at the Big E and whether or not they want to have a mask mandate there,” West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt said.
COVID-19 concerns are surrounding the Big E just a few weeks before the gates are set to open.
In a meeting on Wednesday, the West Springfield Board of Health discussed a potential mask mandate for the fair. A public hearing is expected in around two weeks where the board will officially vote.
“It’s hard; the vaccine is readily available. It’s safe. If folks got the vaccine, we would be where we need to be, and we wouldn’t have to worry about masks anymore,” Reichelt explained.
Reichelt said if the board does approve a mask requirement, it would likely be indoors only, but it is still possible the mandate would impact the entire fairgrounds.
He says with COVID cases on the rise attendance may also take a hit.
“If you asked me back in May, I would say this would be a record year for the Big E. Everyone wants to get back out, but now with coverage of the Delta variant, I don’t think people are as likely to go out,” Reichelt said.
Attendance is something the owner of 141 Main Street Restaurant in Agawam Rick Locke says will also be impacted by a mask mandate.
“Over the past few months, the mask mandates were lifted so they have to go back to that again; I think it will hurt attendance big-time,” Locke said.
Locke’s business has a booth inside the Massachusetts building. He said he was told vendors will have to wear masks inside, but he says guests should be able to enjoy the fair mask-free if they choose to.
“I think it’s a personal decision. I don’t believe the state or the city where the board of health should mandate masks for everybody. If they start requiring everyone that goes to the fair people that come from all over different states and everything else like that I just think it’s too much,” Locke said.
On Wednesday, the band Modern English canceled their tour, which included a show at the Big E for COVID concerns. We reached out to the Big E regarding the potential mask mandate, and they said they had no comment at this time.