NEK Chamber sees record crowds at “Big E,” says NEK brand gaining ground

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ST. JOHNSBURY — For the second year in a row, the Northeast Kingdom Chamber experienced record crowds working at the Eastern States Exposition on Sept. 28 and 29, as attendance at New England’s largest fair soared to 297,706 for the last weekend of the 17-day Big E. 

This is the largest last-weekend attendance at the fair ever.

According to Chamber Executive Director Darcie McCann, who worked at the tourism kiosk in the Vermont building on the Avenue of the States, Saturday’s attendance beat last year’s all-time record by 453 visitors, greeting 173,112 for the day. 

She noted for the last two years, the weekend traffic at the fair has been astounding and the numbers just continue to grow.

“The one comment I hear the most from visitors is that they feel like they are actually visiting Vermont when they are in our building, and that is very intentional and, no doubt, a major reason for its popularity,” said McCann.  

She noted that while each New England state has a building at the annual exposition, the Vermont building, is, hands down, the fan-favorite due to the variety of the food, artisan and specialty product booths in the structure but also the smell inside the building, noting it rivals your grandmother’s kitchen.

“The amount of potential visitors you can see by working the Big E fair is impressive and is why we are here every single year,” she said, noting her voice is hoarse from talking to so many people this past weekend. 

McCann added that the Northeast Kingdom brand is gaining ground, with many more this year than in previous years knowing about the region’s skiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking, and incredible beauty.

The Northeast Kingdom Chamber has distributed packets of its members’ promotional materials for decades at the Big E, held in September and early October in West Springfield, Mass. 

A record 1.6 million people attended the fair this year, with the vast majority of the people walking into the Vermont building. 

The Vermont tourism kiosk, where the NEK Chamber staff worked, is at the front of the building, in the structure’s premier location, right as you enter the front doors.

One of the unexpected surprises at the fair this year was the Northeast Kingdom presence at the Vermont kiosk. 

Brochures included within the NEK visitor packet included information on the NEK Chamber, Burke Mountain Resort, Great Vermont Corn Maze, Old Stone House Museum, Kingdom Trails, Sugar Ridge RV Village & Campground, Century 21 Farm & Forest, Maple Grove Farms of Vermont, Hearth & Home Country Store, Farm-Way and the Island Pond Chamber.

“There are few venues that you can promote your region to such a large audience in such a short time and the Big E is one of the best places to do that on the East Coast,” said McCann. “Our chamber members and region benefit greatly from our organization’s presence at the fair each year.”