Maine Government News
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry: State of Maine is Ready for the Big E, Sept. 14-30
September 12, 2012
Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
AUGUSTA, Maine – It’s probably one of the least-known parcels of state land, a little island of Maine down in West Springfield, Mass., that for 17 days each year becomes a whirling center of exciting activity.
The State of Maine building at the Big E – the Eastern States Exposition – is one of the most popular exhibit buildings at the mammoth regional fair, last year drawing more than 1 million visitors during the annual fall event. Yet not many folks from Maine actually make the trip to see the best that Maine has to offer in products made back home.
The annual Maine exhibition is under the management of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF), and department staff members want to encourage more Maine people to visit their own exhibition hall from Sept. 14-30 at the Big E. This year, the State of Maine building has some new features among 18 favorite participants, and Maine Day, always recognized on the last Saturday of the fair, will be celebrated in a brand-new way on Sept. 29.
“For generations, families from Maine, like my own, have traveled to the Big E and represented our state at New England’s biggest exhibit of natural-resources products,” said ACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb, who will attend later this month. “Maine will have dozens of youths presenting their agricultural projects and numerous businesses showcasing their Maine-made products to the 1 million-plus visitors at the fairgrounds. Those youngsters would really appreciate the support of the home-town crowd in the competitive events.
“It’s a great show, and the State of Maine’s building is one of the most popular spots on the 125-acre fairgrounds,” Commissioner Whitcomb continued. “A visit to the Big E is an experience you never forget.”
The Eastern States Exposition began in the fall of 1917, and Maine became the second state to have its own building on the Avenue of States when the Maine Legislature approved a sum of $25,000, matched by private businesses in the state, for the construction of an exhibition hall.
The Maine building was dedicated in 1925 and renovated about 10 years ago at a cost of $1 million. Most people, however, don’t know that through the fairground deed, the building site actually is part of the state, according to Amy Allen, Big E coordinator for the ACF department.
“When you are in that building, you are physically in the state of Maine,” said Allen, who has been working intensely on organizing the state’s presence at the fair since April. “You go next door to Vermont, and you’re in Vermont – it’s a great way to tour New England in a day.”
Attendance at the Maine building has remained quite strong through the years, Allen said, but unfortunately only .6-.8 percent or so are Maine people, most likely because of the distance to the regional fair. “We spend a long time every year to put this together, and Maine people don’t know about it,” she said.
To encourage attendance, the State of Maine building will feature a new vendor, The Rib Truck of Westmanland, in Aroostook County, and its delicious “pulled-pork parfait.” The Maine Potato Board, the longest-standing Maine exhibitor, will continue its ever-popular baked-potato booth, Allen said. Last year, the booth sold 81,000 baked potatoes, she said.
“It’s such a popular thing that they actually have a potato line that forms outside and around the building with crowd control,” the Big E coordinator said.
On Maine Day, Saturday, Sept. 29, WHOM radio, the classic-hits station that provides the largest FM coverage in the U.S., will broadcast for the first time from the exhibit hall, featuring giveaways and interviews with Maine’s commodity queens and other Maine personalities. The station live-streams on the Internet, so listeners back in Maine can hear all the fun, Allen said.
Commissioner Whitcomb will be present to meet and greet visitors, following the traditional flag-raising ceremony by the Maine State Police. The famous L.L.Bean Bootmobile will be at the exhibit hall, as will Slugger, the Portland Sea Dogs mascot, and Smokey Bear, who is celebrating his 68th birthday, from the Maine Forest Service. The Wildwoods Band, well known for its 1950s and ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll and traditional country music, will play three sets.
ACF department staff will be present to manage the exhibit hall each day of the fair, answer questions and make sure things run smoothly. Other department staff members will participate at the Maine Office of Tourism booth, Allen said.
“The Big E is a great way to showcase our Maine companies and products,” Allen said. “It helps our economy, it helps create jobs, and it gives Maine people a chance to be proud of what we have.”
For more information about the State of Maine at the Big E, contact Amy Allen, Big E coordinator, at (207) 287-3419 or email: email@example.com
For more information about the Big E, go to: http://www.thebige.com/fair/
For more information about the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, go to: http://www.maine.gov/acf
(Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry photo) A line of eager fair-goers wait to buy baked potatoes at the Maine Potato Board’s baked-potato booth at the State of Maine building at the Big E -- the Eastern States Exposition -- in West Springfield, Mass. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry manages the state’s presence at the regional exposition, which opens on Friday.