Things get crafty at the Big E

By Lori O' Brien


WEST SPRINGFIELD A celebration of the performing arts is this year's theme for the annual showcase of arts and handcrafts at The Big E.

Formerly known as CraftAdventure, the creative arts competition is now "Creative Arts at The Big E," according to new coordinator Sarah M. Wanczyk. She is also responsible for all other events in the New England Center on the fairgrounds.

This is the first year "Creative Arts" is not a separate event since it is now incorporated into The Big E, according to Wanczyk. Judging will take place prior to the fair opening and all entries will be displayed. A public presentation of awards during the fair will be a new addition to the show.

The 2007 theme is "Celebration of the Performing Arts" and the entry form deadline is Aug. 15.

"Our themes are determined by the Creative Arts volunteers three years out as it can take that long for some projects to be completed," said Wanczyk during an interview with Reminder Publications.

Wanczyk, of Hadley, was named the Creative Arts and New England Center Coordinator in mid-March and relishes her role within the Department of Agriculture and Education.

"The Department of Agriculture and Education has traditionally and historically been the venue for creative arts," she added. "At the Big E, all competitive events are coordinated through this department."

Wanczyk attributes her own artistic background to 4-H.

"As a member, I learned to sew and knit," she said, adding, "as a 4-H Extension educator, I worked with the clothing and textiles programs. Through adult education classes, I learned to braid rugs and several years ago, earned honorable mention with one of my rugs at CraftAdventure."

Wanczyk noted there were approximately 225 entries in 2006 and she hopes to top that figure this fall. Submissions can range from knitting, crocheting, rug hooking and braiding to punch needle, needlework, quilting, decorative painting, hand spinning and hand weaving, basketry, cloth dolls and characters and fashion sewing.

"The show is a chance for the public to be educated and to experience local and regional demonstrations and competitions," she said. "The various mediums of artwork are endless and we hope to incorporate more in the future."

Wanczyk also singled out her volunteers during the interview as being a "great group to work with" and welcomes anyone interested in helping out during the fair to visit to obtain a volunteer form and more information. Individuals who volunteer for a minimum of four hours are provided with an entry pass to The Big E.

For more information on Creative Arts at the Big E, visit or contact Wanczyk at (413) 205-5015. Mail-in exhibits may arrive Aug. 31 - Sept. 9 at noon.

Wanczyk said she and her Creative Arts volunteers have also announced "Landmarks of the World" as the theme for 2008, and "The Colors of Autumn" for the 2009 show.