I don’t have any pictures of The Big E but this one I thought was a good representation of the fair.
The Big E comes at the end of September and runs through October, just when autumn is rolling in and the nights are growing chilly.
My first vivid memory of the Big E was when I went with my sisters and brother. The details are a little fuzzy; I remember they had Hitler’s car set up in one of those carnie displays. You pay 2.00 bucks and get to see a car with thick bullet proof glass. I could be wrong about it being Hitler’s car but that is what my brain is conjuring up right now.
We walked forever, there was something around every corner and the stimuli was feeding my energy. It was getting dark, I was out with my big sisters and brother and as I was entering my own little world of amazement my brother is “lost”. We start looking for what seemed like an eternity. My oldest sister stops at the information window, “How do you find someone who is lost around here?” voice from the window “Follow the blue line” look down on the ground there you find many colored lines leading to many different places. I felt like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, “Follow the blue line to find Michael, Follow the blue line to find Michael, follow follow…” Oh you get the idea… so we did and guess what? We literally found Michael. Walking the blue line to where ever you were going to find lost people at The Big and it actually lead us to my brother.
He was watching the fudge guy make a fresh batch of the yummy treat. The guy is up in this huge tractor trailer with the side cut out and glass put in so you can see what he was making. It seemed to me that it was very high off the ground, or at least to all four feet tall of me it seemed that way. The guy had this mirror hanging behind him that was angled so you can see the sugary concoction he was pushing around on the marble slab. You know the mirror? The one so us wee people could see what he was doing making fudge. Michael was watching this guy make fudge!? Yup, what we found out that day at the Big E was that my brother has a fascination for the carnie barkers. An interesting personality it is for sure; step back and watch the crowds walk by reacting to them it’s kind of like watching people at the airport.
After that I started making my father take me to the Big E.
For years it was just me and dad every Sunday it was running; this year it runs September 17th – October 3rd. Making our way through each of the state buildings finding out what is great in every New England state. After that it was on to find lunch, which is not hard to do at The Big E. Another way to make your way through the fair is to eat your way through it but I digress. We would find a seat in the arena taking cover from the sun or cold or from whatever New England weather was throwing at us that year. We would watch the horse shows, digest whatever fine eats we found then walk over to the building where they would have the Clydesdales stabled. They were so amazing, so big, grand and graceful. I would watch them saddle up for the parade getting as close as a little girl was allowed; dad would watch me watching them in amazement. I would learn later on how much he got a kick out of those moments.
Then it was on to the Midway. After years hitting up carnie games and moving on to shoppping at The Better Living Center my dad came up with a plan to keep me from clearing out his wallet; we play a few games and go shopping or we play a lot of games and no shopping, I had a choice. OK I had to think about this, I would play one game and then make a decision. Dad hands me the dollar bills, I give them to the carnie who then hands back to me three hula hoops; yes I said hula hoops. I stare down my targets, Yosemite Sam standing on a big wooden box or Bugs Bunny. I had to get the hoop around one of them AND the box to win a prize and it was a mighty huge prize at that; Bugs Bunny stood taller than me. I took my first shot nothing, second shot nothing. I looked up at my dad, he looked down at me raised his eyebrow and we looked back at Yosemite, I threw it with all my might… RINGER I GOT IT, I WON. “Whataya want little lady? Yosemite Sam?” asking me as he could see that Bugs was a little too big for me to carry and Yosemite might be easier to navigate the fair grounds. Hell no carnie man, I want the rabbit. I carried that thing around all day long. I won it, everyone is going to see I won it and no one else is going to carry my Bugs Bunny. I even posed with it in one of those picture booths later on and put it on a mug. Dad’s idea backfired, it was the first game the first few bucks and I was on to The Better Living Center to the lure of The Big E Barkers. He laughed and knew we made a deal.
When dad and I would decide it was time go the sun had gone down, the crowds were getting thinner and I never wanted to leave. I wanted life to be like The Big E forever. I think my dad sensed my sadness so he would stop on the way out of the main gates and we would get mini donuts and carton of milk. Eating it on the way back to the car savoring the last bit of The Big E, exhausted and tired but happy and content; I was so happy and felt so loved and had so much fun. I always wanted to scream it out loud but I never did. My dad would say “Did ya have fun Ishkabible?” “Yeah I had a lot of fun. Can we come back next Sunday?” and he would rub my head messing up my hair and say with a laugh “Sure we can”
Years later after my dad was gone I talked my best friend in to going. She grew up down the road from The Big E so she had her memories too; we both shared them and started up the tradition again. Every Sunday it was running, hitting every State House, finding our favorites and sharing them with each other and then on the way out of the main gate stopping to get the last treat of the day, mini donuts. AS we walked to the car I would say “Ok we are coming back next Sunday”