Security and COVID-19 protocols in place as The Big E gets underway | News
WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — Gates opened Friday morning at 8 a.m. for The Big E after last year’s fair was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s was a day of excitement for many across New England today. When our crews arrived Friday morning, there was almost no traffic getting into the fair.
In 2019, over 7,300 people showed up on the first day. We spoke to Cliff Hedges, director of public safety for the Eastern States Exposition, who said today was a soft open and he expects larger crowds will show up throughout the weekend.
Memorial Avenue in West Springfield is normally filled with cars bumper-to-bumper trying to enter The Big E. However, that was not the case on Friday for the fair’s opening day. Hedges told Western Mass News that he expects more people will come within the next few days.
“It will pick up definitely this weekend,” Hedges said.
However, a slower pace in traffic didn’t stop local homeowners right off Memorial Avenue from charging for parking on their property. Julie Hack of Westfield was excited to be back at the fair this year and said she paid $10 for parking on York Street.
“Typically, it’s five, so we were actually talking about it did go up a little bit, but I think that is understandable because these folks missed out on a year’s worth of revenue,” Hack said.
There are big changes this year at the fair amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks are required within all indoor buildings. Mack said she is in favor of following the rules if it means getting a chance to enjoy all her fair favorites once again.
“If that is what they are telling me to do, I’m willing to do it if it means we can still get to see and do the things we like to do here,” Mack noted.
However, not all fairgoers support the mask mandate enacted by the town of West Springfield this week. Murielle Mazun from Connecticut said she saw many people indoors without face coverings.
“Just so you know, they are not being enforced. There just signs at the doors, but half the people inside the building are not wearing them,” Mazun explained.
We checked for ourselves and we found about a dozen of unmasked people within one building. Hedges said he has had many conversations with building staff members and ultimately doesn’t want to see anyone get into a confrontation over a mask.
“So it’s kind of self-policing by the public. It’s something we have been doing for two years,” Hedges noted.
As for overall security at The Big E, he said if anyone encounters a problem, there are several law enforcement agencies present, including the West Springfield Police Department.
“We have EMS, the fire department, MEMA who is onsite as well, Massachusetts State Police doing behind the scenes things,” Hedges added.
Hedges also said there are 30 metal detectors in total and everyone must pass one before entering.