Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Big E's Burgers

The Big E's Craz-E Burger
It’s National Hamburger Day! To celebrate, let’s talk about a few of the unique burgers you can find at The Big E.

In case you haven’t noticed, we aren’t your typical hamburger kinda place. A short walk around the grounds will give you a good idea why. Like with all great Fair food, we tend to push the envelope a little on what is considered “normal.” Of course we have your classic burger with ground beef, pickles, lettuce and tomato, but this is The Big E - there is also the opportunity for some bold food choices!  

Of course, The Big E Craz-E Burger wins the title of “Most Popular Burger.” It is a bacon cheeseburger brought to a whole new level – served between two halves of a grilled glazed donut. Would you expect anything less from The Big E’s signature sandwich?

The concoction with a sweet and salty flavor blast was first added to the menu in 2009 and has been a hit ever since. At the 2013 Fair, The Big EZ CafĂ© sold a whopping 16,000 burgers – almost 1,000 every day!

White Hut's Waffle Burger
Runner-up in the popularity contest goes to White Hut for their Waffle Burger. The sandwich consists of two waffles, two burger patties and bacon and cheese in the middle. I have yet to try it, but being a big fan of White Hut – this burger is at the top of my “To Eat List” for this year’s Fair.

Now, we also can’t forget about the Wild Game Burgers sold at Yankee Boy and The International Lobster House. Some of their current menu items and burger meat of years past include bison, elk, Cajun alligator, Alaskan salmon, wild boar, Aussie kangaroo and ostrich.

Alligator Burger & Kangaroo Burger from Yankee Boy
 Photo credit:
I haven’t been adventurous enough to try to Wild Game Burgers, but if you're curious to see what people think, check out this article from ABC40.

And during your Big E trip this fall, make sure to get yourself one of these burgers – or aspire to try them all!

The dates for the 2014 Big E are September 12-28! Be sure to follow us on social media to be the first to receive special fairtime announcements!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What is Cow Power?

New Eastern States Exposition logo
Last week, Eastern States Exposition held its Annual Meeting in Storrowton’s Carriage House. It was a day packed with special announcements, a look at what’s in store for 2014 and a celebration of the Exposition’s accomplishments this past year.

The day’s events included an early morning press conference, trustee meeting, luncheon (provided by the wonderful staff at Storrowton Tavern) and the presentation of the Agricultural Adventurers Award. During the press conference, we announced the Exposition’s regional economic impact of an astonishing $479 million and officially unveiled the new Eastern States Exposition logo!

During the luncheon, the prestigious Agricultural Adventurers Award was presented to the Audet Family’s Blue Spruce Farm, located in Bridport, Vermont.

Dick Nickless, Chairman of the Agricultural Adventurers Committee, introduced the recipients. “You’ve heard me say many times that the Agricultural Adventurers Award is for innovation and pioneering, with the recipients having made significant contributions to the agricultural revolution,” Dick said. “The award winners this year have even surpassed these goals. The farm, has been, and is now, extremely entrepreneurial and has never seen nor heard of an idea they haven’t explored,” he said.

Blue Spruce Farm is committed to experimenting with renewable energy and best known for pioneering “Cow Power.” The farm also supplies Cabot Creamery with milk to make Cabot cheddar cheese – about 100,000 pounds of milk every day. The Audets even brought us some samples of Cabot cheese. It was delicious.

Now, what is Cow Power? Basically the entire farm and about 400 homes in the community are run by electricity generated from cow manure. It’s pretty cool process. All manure from the farm is collected and pumped into two 14-foot deep, 600,000 gallon “bio-digesters.” The naturally occurring methane gases collect at the top. That methane gas is then used to power generators that push enough electricity into the grid for hundreds of homes in the community.

In addition to cow power, the farm has a wind turbine that generates 165,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year – about enough to power 25 homes – and will host a 2 megawatt solar farm on their land this fall.

Impressive, huh? And this explanation is only scratching the surface of the Audet’s eco-friendly operation. I also haven’t mentioned that this is a multi-generational family business. Out of the 25 employees on the farm, 12 of them are Audets.

From left: ESE President & CEO Eugene J. Cassidy,
Eugene, Marie and Norman Audet, and
ESE Chairman of the Board, Donald R. Chase.

“This is really a story about family,” Marie Audet said upon accepting the award. “It’s about the strength of family and character that was instilled from early on and its fearlessness and making good choices and seeing them through.”

The more we can share, the more people understand that farming is still hard work. Maybe we don’t do it perfectly, but we are doing it better, and the more we know, the more we do. We’re evolving like the rest of society and we are doing a much better job of feeding people a sustainable food,” she said.

When asked what made Blue Spruce Farm stand out, Dick said, “Everything, everything! They have been so entrepreneurial and so innovative and they haven’t seen any research that they haven’t played with. They even work with algae for making diesel fuel. They’re taking some left-overs from today to put through the digester and make electricity. It’s just a terrific farm.”

The Audets are clearly leaders in the agricultural revolution with renewable energy and have since inspired other Vermont dairy businesses to do the same. Vermont now has 17 dairy farms utilizing bio-digesters, giving the state more digesters per capita than any other in the US.

“We’re really proud to be dairy producers,” Marie said. “Dairy is one of those foods that’s going to be there in the future to feed a growing population. It can be produced in a way that is good for the planet, for the community – we provide jobs – and it’s a good family thing to do.”

On behalf of the Exposition, congratulations to the Audet family! There could not be a more deserving recipient of this award. We look forward to seeing your future research in renewable energy!

Want to learn more about Cow Power? Check out our press release and their website!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Weekend at the Circus

Melha Shrine Circus Parade
There is something charming and nostalgic about the circus. It is ageless entertainment for the whole family. Apart from The Big E’s Circus Spectacular, I have never been to a classic three-ring circus that I can remember, so I had a great time checking out the Melha Shrine Circus last weekend.

It was Melha’s 60th year, so we wanted to help them do it up big. In anticipation for the event, I went over to the Coliseum to take some pictures of the set-up. The cheerful environment was contagious – everyone was extremely friendly and excited to be there. I got to meet some Shriners clowns (behind the makeup) and also a few of the performers, including the tigers and their trainer who came all the way from Texas.

And let me tell you, those tigers are treated like kings. A lot of people seem to have a misconception of animals in the show business, but the animals I have encountered while working at The Big E are completely pampered. They have first-class living quarters, even nicer than my own animals I have on the farm. After all, they are pets and their owners love them.

Anyways, later that evening a parade was held to kick off the first showing of the circus. The route went along Memorial Avenue from ESE Gate 9 to Gate 5 and then into the Coliseum. There was a great turnout and luckily it was the first beautiful day West Springfield has seen in a while.

Piccadilly Circus kids in front of
Storrowton Village Museum's Meetinghouse
The circus life is fascinating. It is made up of generations upon generations of families. Mom, dad and the kids all travel and perform together. So, while they were here last Friday, some of the Piccadilly Circus kids took a tour in Storrowton. I was able to shoot some pictures of them in the historic village and then went over to the Coliseum afterwards to check out a special presentation of the show.

While I was sitting up in the audience taking photos, one of the performers, Johnny Rockett, came into the crowd. He was running up and down the grandstands high-fiving circus goers as he went. I thought, “What a great photo opportunity,” and started snapping pictures when he was several feet away. Before I knew it, I was being plucked from my seat and dragged into the spotlight.

If you haven’t seen him before, Johnny does a clown-like comedic routine with a hairdo that sticks up about a foot high. I saw him perform last year at The Big E, so although his act had changed, I had a pretty good idea what my fate would be from the beginning.

Johnny Rockett with his two lovely assistants
Another male victim and I had to mimic what Johnny did and then assist with his plate spinning act – both of us in maid outfits with feather dusters. Johnny stuffed balloons in the guys shirt and gave him a blonde wig so we would match.

His act was quite challenging to do in my work attire, especially since I was wearing high heels that kept piercing into the plastic matting on the ground. Lucky for me, the Marketing department came down to document the moment. Admittedly though, it was really fun. I left after my 15 minutes of fame and ended up going back to see the full show Saturday evening.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Johnny Rockett and the beautiful Tina Winn, Galaxy Girl. Both have been Big E entertainment icons in years past and will be coming back to The Big E Circus Spectacular again this year for an exciting performance together – Cybertrons.

Normally the duo performs the stunt outside, but they expect it to be way more incredible under the Big Top. “It’s a spectacular thing – visually it’s a cool act, but I think it’s going to be at a whole different level in that tent,” Johnny said. “It’s completely different once it’s indoors, with the lighting and the smoke and the fireworks – it really is. I've personally never done it in a tent like that, so it will be new for me too.”

In a nutshell, the act consists of a motorcycle rotating a trapeze as it rides around on a circular platform rigging at high speed. “They've never had anything like that – they've never had an apparatus of that magnitude in that tent as part of a free show at The Big E. It is definitely going to leave a mark for sure,” Johnny said.

Galaxy Girl has worked here many times and I was lucky enough to get to work in the circus last year. So up until now, there’s been Galaxy Girl and there’s been Johnny Rockett but this will be the first time we’ll actually be teaming up together and doing something at The Big E,” he said.

Also joining Johnny and Tina in The Big E Circus Spectacular will be comedian Rob Torres, contortionist Kevin Sadrak, some acrobatic house cats and many more exciting acts to be announced!