Reminder Assistant Editor
WEST SPRINGFIELD September is here once again and The Big E is finally ready to kick off the fair this Friday with Military Appreciation Day.
From live concerts by some of today's biggest country and pop stars, to new attractions like the Wild Kingdom Adventure Tour, the traditional Big E Cream Puff, and even a Marriage on the Midway, this year's fair is sure to have something for everyone.
"The first tent appeared on the grounds about two weeks ago," Noreen Tassinari, director of Marketing at The Big E said. "Things are moving along nicely. We are totally excited."
Military Appreciation Day will open this year's festivities. All active duty military personnel and veterans will receive free admission and fairgoers will have the opportunity to interact with them at the parade at 5 p.m.
According to Jim Berrelli Jr., director of Veterans' Services in West Springfield, various local active duty military and veterans units have been eager to participate in the day's events.
"It's nice for The Big E to recognize us vets on this special day with a parade," Berrelli said.
Sgt. Maj. Wayne Harris, of the Marine Corps Site Support Element at Westover Air Reserve Base said they will providing a four-person color guard for the parade.
"It's an important day for us," he said. "We're very respectful of the veterans who set the example for us. We try to uphold the traditions and sacrifices they've made and try to bring honor to that."
Harris added that the soldiers enjoy being a part of the festivities because it gives them an opportunity to have fun and interact with the community.
The first day of the fair will also feature the first of the free concert series at the Comcast Arena Stage, with a performance by '80s rock star Joan Jett at 8 p.m. American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, Brooke Hogan and Josh Turner will also perform on the Comcast stage later in the month.
The stage will also feature live, ticketed concerts beginning with Daughtry on Sept. 15 at 8 p.m, followed up by country stars Trace Adkins on Sept. 16 and Montgomery Gentry on Sept. 28.
Many new and old daily events will be sure to attract fairgoers once again, Tassinari said. With the return of the "High-Calorie Art" exhibition of butter sculptures and the Marriage on the Midway, where one lucky couple-this year from Waterbury, Conn.-will officially open up the park on Sept. 15 with their Cinderella-inspired wedding ceremony.
New attractions and exhibitions are also open to the public like the Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Adventure Tour. This is a completely interactive exhibit where people of all ages can come and experience fully animatronic animals from three different habitats from the tropical rain forest to the African savannah and the polar regions.
According to Joe Clauson, Mutual of Omaha spokesperson, the 10 to 15 minute tour allows fairgoers to touch and interact with the animals, while educating them about their habitats. This daily event will also feature a theater playing old episodes of the Wild Kingdom television show, which began in 1963.
Another new event that Tassinari said she does not want fairgoers to miss are the Jigu Thunder Drums of China on the Comcast Stage daily at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
"When you get 14 drummers on these drums and cymbals on one stage together it's quite spectacular," she added.
The daily parades at 5 p.m, and the Mardi Gras Madness parades at 7:30 p.m. are sure to get fairgoers in the mood for New Orleans as Big E personnel will be fully costumed and throwing out beads to the crowds from their floats.
According to Tassinari, fairgoers should not overlook the Live Shark Experience either as they will be able to watch a diver interact with a Great White shark every day.
Tassinari added that the food at The Big E is also a big attraction for her every year. The famous Big E Cream Puff and lcair will also make their reappearance. There will also be cooking demonstrations by Daisy Martinez of "Daisy Cooks" on Sept. 16, and an appearance by Lidia Bastianich of "Lidia's Italy" on Sept. 27.
Members of the community and neighboring regions are also encouraged to attend the fair this year, as each will have their own specific day. Not only is there Military Appreciation Day this Friday, but also West Springfield Day on Sept. 17, Connecticut Day on Sept. 19, Vermont Day on Sept. 22, Springfield Day on Sept. 24, Agawam Day on Sept. 26 and Westfield Day on Sept. 27.
Needless to say there will be something for everyone at the fair this year from Sept. 14 Sept. 30.
For more information on this year's fair go to The Big E's Web site at www.thebige.com, or call The Big E's information line at 205-5115.