At The Big E

There’s no better way to spend a fall day in New England than to go to an agricultural fair. Steve and I spent our 21st wedding anniversary at the biggest fair in this region, appropriately named the The Big E (E is for Exposition.) This extravaganza is crowded with things I’m not interested in: the midway, the booths selling sham-wow towels, and the B-list entertainers. But, under the commercialism and the glitz, at its heart, the Big E remains true to its farming roots. In fact, we were there as guests, because Steve entered a photography contest for the Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar. His shot of a neighbor’s beef cattle is the October page! (Stay tuned to this website. They still have last year’s calendar up, but 2014 will be for sale soon.) We attended a ceremony at the Massachusetts State Building, listened to a few bureaucrats (ones that actually do good work!) and a politician, were handed a gift bag and a calendar, and then we had the day to roam the grounds.

Although thousands of people go to the Big E for the fried snacks and ferris wheel, scores end up entranced at the chick hatchery. For many people, this is their only chance to see live chickens. 2880 eggs are hatched during the two weeks of the fair, so there is always a chick or two to watch tumbling out of an egg. Kudos to the FFA for sponsoring this small corner of magic at the fair.

chick hatchery


We stopped at a demonstration of sheepdog work – it’s easier to show this in a small space using ducks!  I could spend all day watching Indian Runner ducks running back and forth like fussy waiters in tuxedos.

duck herding


Animals were getting cleaned up for showing. This cow wasn’t going to stay white for long. The handler had a good sense of humor about it.

show cow


This ram was not yet groomed. He was nonchalant about all of the hubbub around him.



Commadore, a Clydesdale who is part of the 8-horse Hallamore team, was also quite relaxed.

relaxed horse lip


He was a gentleman while getting harnessed in front of the public.



Just look at the size of those hooves!

draft horse hooves


It takes a long time to hitch up eight horses that are six feet tall at the withers and weigh 2200 pounds each. We watched for a long time, but then moved on, because there were pigs to see (also, you’ll note, relaxed.)



There were displays of crochet, photography and decorated pumpkins. I was quite taken with this gourd, painted like birch bark and carved into a birdhouse.

gourd bird house


I  skipped the booths peddling jewelry made in China, but I did go shopping. I came home with a pair of cowboy boots, and goat milk soap, bought directly from the farmer.

goat soap

Of course, everywhere we went there there were opportunities to eat fried food. Honestly, it didn’t look very good. What was delicious was the big, perfectly baked potato filled with New England butter and sour cream that I bought in the Maine State Building. That was delicious.

I hope that you get out to a fair soon. Tell me about it!


  1. Those were great pictures! I feel like cuddling up with that ram and taking a nap. Do you know if sheepdogs can be trained as guard dogs for chickens? I would love to have my chickens free range more. Right now, it’s just when I go out with them in the evening. We have too many hawks and fox here, and an occasional dog off leash.

    • Sheepdogs are more geared for herding than guarding. some people get livestock guard dogs, like Maremmas, to watch their animals. The off leash dog is the most dangerous predator out there!

  2. We’ll be going to the Harrisburg, Pa. Farm show the first week in January. I’ve been learning “sheep to shawl” for a number of years and really enjoy that event but they also have chicks hatching and lots of chickens along with all the other farm animals. The food is usually good…just love funnel cakes!

  3. It seems the ladies are dust bathing right in front of the camera this morning! I love watching them. I am visually impaired and the close up is a treat!

  4. Great news from the fair. Cowboy boots are a much better purchase than a corn dog!!

  5. lol. Always love the posts here as well as the pictures. We don’t have things like this where I live and am so pleased when you show pictures of these events. My favorite is the Clydesdale. He is a handsome fellow. Personally I think God made the horse as the most beautiful animal. Always glad to come here. Hope all have a good day at Little Pond.

  6. Wonderful pictures. There is a bit of a farmer in me, I think. I am not so familiar with horses, but Clydesdales are breathtaking. And I could watch sheepdog trials all day long. But with ducks it must be hysterical. Too bad they don’t have the space for the real thing. Of course, they will herd anything including people. Thanks for a vicarious visit.

  7. Great pictures and commentary. We have something very similar here. It is called “The Royal Melbourne Show” . Show day is this Thursday, it used to be a public holiday but no longer. It is wonderful for all the agricultural aspects, prized farm animals and the sheep-dog trials. Of course when i was a child the main attractions were the show rides and the “show bags” – filled with lollies, chocolates and little games. Nowadays, like you Terry i would choose the baked potatoes over almost anything – in a heart beat.

  8. I have not been to our state fair in years. The last time I was there I had Maple Sugar cotton candy. That was wonderful. I wish I knew where to get more. I tried to order some from a company up north but it had no maple taste nor did the expensive maple syrup I ordered from them. If any of you ever come across it at your fairs be sure and try it. To quote a famous tiger we all know, “It’s Great!”

    • There was maple sugar cotton candy, which I didn’t eat, but I bought maple sugar. I’ll be using it in my baking. The lucky few who get to come to my pie class will taste it in apple pie crumble topping.

  9. Thanks for sharing the pics. I will be down there in November for Everything Equine….will be looking at horses, not the food! Ok, and some shopping as well.

  10. We can’t wait for the Sandwich NH…we will be celebrating our 13th anniversary there…we are all entering produce and baked goods this year

  11. Terry – how’s your “new man”? Your horse? Haven’t heard you write about him since you “got” him.

    • Mica has stone bruises and is recuperating, slowly. He’ll have padded shoes put on soon. Meanwhile, I’ve been offered a nice buckskin, named Dune, to ride. He has a very comfortable trot.

  12. It just so happens that our Kern County Fair, in Bakersfield, Ca. opened last Wednesday and we are going this Saturday. We always wait around the hatchery to watch the chicks. My grandsons love it. This is only one of two times they get to be close to live chickens, the other being at Avila Barn, over on the beach, a couple of hours away. We love all the animals the best.

  13. Love the Clydesdales. I make a trip every spring to Grant’s Farm here in St. Louis to see the new colts. I can watch them romp and play all day. Absolutely adorable.
    Of course the farm is owned by Anheuser-Busch and as you leave you get a free sample. ;-)