A kid's eye view of the Big ESept. 29, 2010
By Evan & Debbie Gardner
Son and Mom/Assistant Managing Editor
WEST SPRINGFIELD -- As we walked out the gate of the Big E on Saturday evening, I asked my 10-year-old son, Evan, what he thought was the best part of this year's fair.
"Everything," he replied.
I could understand his enthusiasm. We'd arrived a little after 10:30 a.m. and it was well past 9 p.m. when, cups of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in hand, we started walking to our car. A full day of shows, midway rides, animals and state buildings left even us grownups hard-pressed to pick our favorite parts of the visit.
However, after a good night's sleep, Evan gave me this list of Big E musts for the younger fair set.
No. 1 on his list -- the Maximum Velocity BMX Stunt Show -- daily at noon, 3:30 and 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m., noon, 3:30 and 7 p.m., at the New Hampshire Building end of the Avenue of States. Free.
Hailing from Durham, N.H, this team of four riders -- Brian Hunt, "Wild" Bill Richards, Nick Bonnor and Tom Haugen -- put on a no-holds-barred demo of some of the best in BMX stunts; the kind of stuff you'd see at the X Games or on the D-Tour. Hale is a six-time competitor in the X Games and medaled on the D-tour, but Wild Bill was the go-to guy Saturday morning, making four passes before he finally pulled off his signature stunt -- a 360 pullover suicide.
"It was totally awesome," Evan said.
All the guys hung around after the show, signing anything the kids wanted them to sign, answering questions and, when the signing was over, posing for photos. Evan's best souvenir of the fair this year was the $10 tour T-shirt, which all the guys signed for him.
No. 2 on his list -- the Giant Slide. "Mom, tell them they must.must.must do this!" Evan said. The coolest part "Going airborne on the bumps." $2 per person for a wild slide down a giant yellow hill on a burlap bag. A fair oldie, but apparently still a goodie!
No. 3 -- A ride on the ferris wheel -- along with many of the other rides on the Midway.
"Wow, I can see everything!" Evan commented as our gondola slowed to a stop at the top. I'll admit, I was a bit of a reluctant companion when we got on, but this was a pretty cool thing to do. As the wheel slowly turned, we took in the panorama of the fair plus a bit of Springfield's skyline. If you're like me, just don't look straight down.
The small ferris wheel in the children's midway is three tickets per rider. Kid's midway tickets are $1 each, 11 for $10, 22 for $20. A midway band, available for $25 weekdays only, gives the wearer unlimited rides.
No. 4 -- the midway games at night. Evan tried his hand at Skee Ball -- coming just a few points short of the 200 needed for a prize on his second try -- and a couple of the water gun races.
"Say it's fun, but don't expect to win," Evan instructed me to write.
No. 5 -- Watching the chicks hatch and the piglets nurse at Farm-A-Rama in the Stroh building.
"They're just so cute," he said. Parents take note -- the piglets like to nap in the mid-afternoon, try to visit in the morning or early evening. Chicks hatch whenever ... be prepared to stay for awhile.
No. 6 -- Catching Mardi Gras beads at the parade. One big parade at 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, two parades during the week -- one at 5 p.m. and a second Mardi Gras parade with lighted floats at 8 p.m. "The secret is to get a spot early and stand in the very front of the crowd," Evan said. Our haul this trip -- 10 strands.
No. 7 -- Playing with the Splat Balls in the Young building. Shaped like a strawberry, orange, lime or lightbulb, these very squishy, Latex-like objects spread out to resemble a pool of liquid when thrown against a smooth, flat surface, then quickly regained their shape without being touched. "Cool, but weird," was Evan's comment. Splat balls were priced at two for $5.
No. 8 -- Building stuff with the Lego bricks in the Connecticut building and posing with the giant sculpture -- this year it was a life-size "Woody" from Pixar's "Toy Story" movies. "Always fun -- and they put what you build on display," he said.
No. 9 -- Walking through all the state buildings. "It's just fun to see all the stuff and collect the books from each state," Evan said.
No. 10 -- Working the big red hand water pump outside the entrance to the Mallory Rotunda and gawking at the giant sculpture made of butter. The pump was something new, but a trip to see the butter sculpture and a walk through the rows of animals -- this year we sat and watched a bull judging -- are always part of our family visit to the Big E.
For us, it just isn't a trip to the fair without some straw and manure!
This year's Big E is open through Oct. 3. Grounds open at 8 a.m., buildings at 10 a.m., state buildings close at 9 p.m., grounds at 10 p.m. daily.