We love going to the Big E--(the New England States' Exposition, or the joint New England States' fair, held in Western Massachusetts every September: we love the food, the replicas of the different state houses, the animal shows, the prize-winning veggie displays, the various vendors, the parade. . . We really love everything about it except for the two-hour drive out there, and the return trip at night. This year we drove out bright and early, getting there by 9:30 on Saturday morning, and we planned to stay overnight in Springfield and drive back the next day.
Upon arriving at the fair, we checked out the prize-winning Christmas trees, the pig races, the singing dairy case, the butter sculpture, the hot tubs tent, and the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales. When Sarah and Sean (guardians for the weekend to Garrison and Clarinda) arrived an hour and a half later, we met them near the cheese curd booth and the "nice" bathrooms and piled all the kids into the red rented wagon ($15 for the day--worth every penny).
The wagon could indeed fit all four kids--six, five, and two almost-three-year-olds--but only if everyone was perfectly happy. If even one child was a tad out of sorts, pushing would ensue, so it worked out better to put three kids in the wagon and wear one of the two-year-olds. The wagon was shockingly easy to pull around, with its giant wheels and good turning radius--and we left it outside the different buildings with a quilt and some sweatshirts inside.
Our first stop together was the giant slide, where Marcus and Garrison went down together. Samantha considered going with Robert, but she was not a fan of the side-by-side instructions and let her displeasure sound, so Robert walked down the stairs with her instead.
Next we went to the petting zoo and the pony rides, where Samantha and Clarinda looked thrilled to ride ponies, and Garrison and Marcus watched.
We passed by the camel rides and elephant rides, amused to hear someone yell "Elephants belong in Africa!" at the Asian elephant. We agree they probably don't belong in New England, but still. . . get your elephants straight if you're going to yell something!
Next we walked over to the Avenue of the States, and Robert took the kids into Connecticut to play at the Lego area while Sean stood on line in Maine for their baked potatoes, Sarah ran to the main food area outside for corn dogs and a bucket of french fries with cheese, and I got lobster rolls from Maine, a pulled pork "sundae" (a cup of pulled pork on baked beans, topped decoratively with BBQ sauce) from behind Vermont, and fresh Kettle Corn (a giant bag, so hot from the popper it burnt my arm) from behind New Hampshire. We all regrouped on the lawn of Vermont where a band with bagpipes played. After we ate, the kids played in the dirt and tried to climb a tree, and Sean went into Rhode Island to get two giant Dell's frozen lemonades. Marcus discovered the corn dogs are delicious, Samantha ate most of the bucket of cheesy fries, and Sean and I put pulled pork on our baked potatoes. When we were all finished, I cleaned out the fry bucket and used it for popcorn for the kids in the wagon for the rest of the day,
From lunch we went to Farmarama to see the prize-winning giant pumpkins, the dancing vegetable show (a lovely nap for me), and the Big E Clydesdales.
Then we walked toward the Midway, and Robert and Sean took the boys and Clarinda over to go on some rides. Samantha had fallen asleep on Robert's back, so we transferred her to the wagon and she slept there while Sarah and I staked out a spot to watch the parade.
Robert and Sean made it back in time to see the end of the parade, and we managed to snag a necklace for each kid. Samantha, still asleep at the end of the parade, transferred to my sling and slept there awhile longer. We headed over to the main animal barn and caught the end of a sheep show and then a sheepdog demonstration, where the sheep dogs actually herded ducks.
It was dark when we came out of there, and I'd almost forgotten what the fair was like after dark, since in the past few years we'd left on the early side. We walked back over to the Avenue of the States and Sarah and I both got cups of Ben and Jerry's (don't ask) while Robert let the kids feed a bear (a nine-year-old bear, Marcus kept emphasizing--for some reason that detail made a big impression on him).
After ice cream, we headed back to the exit and to the hotel, where everyone slept well in side-by-side rooms.
On Sunday, the kids read books together before Sarah and Sean took Garrison and Clarinda and we made a stop at the Donut Dip, an excellent old-fashioned donut place right by the hotel. Robert was thrilled because they give you warm donuts, Marcus loved his coconut chocolate donut, and Samantha ate most of a giant cream-filled chocolate stick. "I looooooove cream," she said. "And chocolate too!"
We drove in a drizzle to Old Sturbridge Villege, almost an hour back toward Boston, and Samantha wore her "onnet" as we walked around, stopping first at the grist mill for a corn-grinding demonstration.
The kids played with nineteenth-century toys, ate some beer-garlic bread, and sat in on a "lesson" in the schoolhouse. Samantha volunteered to recite at the lesson, alongside four much bigger girls, and when it was her turn, the teacher asked her to curtsy and count to five. "Onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineteneleventwelve," she said in a rush. "And I don't know how to do that [curtsy]."
We met up with a babywearing friend of mine, Bridget, from Connecticut, and her family, and the kids had fun playing together. Marcus and A. raced each other all over the place (Marcus first figuring out the appropriate amount of headstart to give the two-years-younger A.), and then there was a lot of throwing rocks and leaves and acorns into the stream. We wandered around the grounds, walked over the covered bridge, alternately tried to seek out or avoid mud (depending on which of us you were) and mostly avoided the periodic short showers.
The kids had a great time at the pump in the center of town, where Marcus rigged up a complicated game involving everyone's favorite sticks.
After a stop in the small playground, and a snack of dill pickles and birch beer, we said goodbye and headed over to B.T.'s Smokehouse, basically just across the street from the village, for really excellent BBQ. Marcus ate a quarter-pound smoked chicken sandwich, and I loved the beef ribs. Samantha ate the entire side of mac and cheese and a fair amount of beef jerky and pork rib as well.
Though we ran into a little bit of traffic on the Pike on the way home, it was still better than doing the drive all at once after a full day at the Big E, and we got a day at a restoration and some good babywearing meetup time in too--a successful weekend all around!
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Created: 9/22/14. Last Modified: 9/22/14.