As you arrive through the main gates of the Big E, you're greeted with boardwalk-style signs for just about everything that can be fried, and many things that can but probably shouldn't be, like Kool Aid. We decided we'd walk around and take in the lay of the land before we did anything else.
Our first stop was a small petting zoo just a few minutes after you enter the gate. Kids leaned over, feeding goats, llamas, alpacas, and a huge camel. We strolled around the crowds and checked out the animals, then moved on.
Next up was the Avenue of the States, the road where a recreation of each state's capitol building sells wares from the state in question and hands out travel brochures. The capitol buildings are always busy, and today was no exception. We had the hardest time getting through Connecticut, which was wall-to-wall people looking at state-grown flowers and videos on Mohegan Sun Casino. Vermont touted Cabot cheese and Ben & Jerry's. New Hampshire boasted of its herbs and metal and stone jewelry. There was a line going out the door for Maine baked potatoes. Massachusetts showed off its honey and wild blueberry pies. We passed by a display of beautifully carved pumpkins from Roger Williams Park Zoo and Del's Lemonade in Rhode Island.
We thought of eating there, but the Avenue of the States is always too crowded to do much of anything but look. Ended up at the food booths between the Young and Better Living Buildings. Lauren pointed out a booth that sold gyros, the Greek pita sandwich with lamb, vegetables, and tzatziki sauce. We each had a huge one loaded with the sour cream-based sauce and a big cup of Diet Coke. She spotted purple-covered picnic tables near the midway. Had our lunch while watching the Ferris wheel go around.
Strolled through the Young and Better Living Buildings next. They're basically the same deal, huge warehouse-type buildings filled with craft booths and local businesses touting furniture, gadgets, and spas. Lauren and I each picked up a fluffy stuffed toy at the Alpaca booth in the Young Building. She got a purple bear; I found an adorable cream and tan sheep I named Sean. She also picked up a pretty striped sweater in lavender and magenta trimmed with fringe and a little purple Squishmallows bunny.
Doubled back to the Avenue of the States, but not to hit the capitol buildings. There's a small train ride that leaves from in front of the Massachusetts Building. It's a cute little blue, red, and yellow tram with a big smiling face. This year, they expanded the ride. It doesn't only go around the back of the capitol buildings. It also rides down the row of shops and food booths beyond it. It was so much fun! Everyone waved at us. It was like a parade.
Took the train's route after that, checking out smaller stores and booths along the back edge of the fairgrounds. We bought iced coffee and tea to cool us off, then ended up back at the Midway. By this point, kids were getting out of school, and the Big E was much busier. Dodged parents and children waiting in line for the Super Cyclone Coaster, the Wave Swinger, and the many fun house variations.
We're going to hit Six Flags Great Escape on Sunday, so we didn't do the rides. We did play games. Lauren couldn't get a sleek purple bear out of a crane no matter how hard she tried, but I did get a smaller pink bear with glittery sequined paws I named Eva (as in Gabor). Neither of us won the "horse racing" game (though the barker said I got close). She won the water gun game, finally getting a cute rolly-poly husky.
I spent nearly a half-hour watching Lauren throwing balls into baskets, trying to win a giant stuffed bear. The gentleman with the odd accent from Calgary kept giving her more balls and more free games. He even let me play at one point. I only got one ball in, but it was enough for him to give me a smaller prize. He originally threw an elephant at me, but I knew what I really wanted. I'd had my eye on a sweet scarlet bull with short white horns, black hooves, and a darling smile since we walked up there. When Lauren was ready to give up, he finally gave her a giant pop-eyed blue and yellow fish for playing so much.
(Incidentally, the bull turned out to be part of a line with similar wide-eyed stuffed toys. His name is Romeo. The bull on the tag and the giant version of Romeo hanging over the baskets had a fabric rose in his mouth, but my Romeo and the other smaller Romeos I saw don't.)
After all that, we figured we'd won and played all we could handle. We went back the way we came, through the front gates and across the street to the supermarket. Lauren had no trouble getting out. The traffic was still going to the fair, not away from it.
Chipolte is just a block from the supermarket, a separate building in the parking lot of a small shopping center. It's a blocky Mexican restaurant chain that allows you to choose the ingredients for whatever burrito, taco, or bowl you want. We were so hungry after walking for six hours, we both went with bowls. I had lettuce, spicy chicken, cheese, and the last of the brown rice. Lauren had tomatoes, cheese, white rice with herbs, and salsa. Yes, the chicken was a little spicy, but it otherwise tasted pretty good. Lauren seemed to enjoy hers, too. Both bowls vanished fairly quickly.
Lauren wasn't ready to pack it in yet. Since we weren't far from the Holyoke Mall, we headed back there. The only store we missed yesterday was Burlington Coat Factory in the basement, next to the food court. It's pretty much the same deal as Marshalls and TJ Maxx...and it was a mess. Signs that claimed to sell sportswear sold everything but. Shelves were loaded with anything and everything. Neither of us found anything in that jumble.
Did one last half-hour at Round 1 before we left. I amassed a few more points playing skee ball, Nerf Arcade, and Mario Kart (finally got Princess Peach on the latter), but it wasn't that much more. Lauren and I decided we had enough stuffed animals and once again saved our points for another time.
Took the back way to the Mass Pike, around the mall and through several neighborhoods. Once again, we had no trouble on the road. All the traffic was going towards Springfield. Passed a lovely pink sunset as we made our way down to Lee and back past the Pittsfield Airport.
Lauren bought a Nintendo 64 system from a co-worker last week. She never had one as a child and was dying to try it. She did well with the Mushroom Cup rounds of Mario Kart 64, though I barely made fifth. Neither of us could figure out the Special Cup rounds Yoshi Valley and Donkey Kong Jungle Parkway; Lauren did the best at sixth. I beat her solidly with little Pipi the Mouse on Diddy Kong Racing. We had no idea what was going on with the NASCAR racing game.
Finished the night online with The New Scooby Doo Movies at Tubi. The kids are on a ski trip to Vermont, where they encounter comedians Laurel & Hardy looking for work at the lodge. (Despite the fact that both gentlemen had passed away by the time this show came out in 1972.) "The Ghost of Bigfoot" has scared everyone away from the ski lodge where they're staying but Mr. Crabtree, who hides in his room. While the kids try to figure out what's going on with the lodge, Shaggy and Scooby wonder about the strange ski instructor with the odd accent.