Monday, September 22, 2008

The Big E: Comic-Con for Farmers with Bad Taste

So the wife, kids, and I went to The Big E, "The Eastern States Exposition" held in West Springfield, Massachusetts. It's essentially a county fair, but what struck me about the whole thing was how similar it was to a comic book convention. It had mobs of sweaty people waiting in lines, dealers charging ridiculous prices for the most obscure items, and a general sense that you were always missing something going on just around the corner.

The thing about The Big E is that, other than the impressive selection of beef jerky (hell, all kinds of venison jerky too), it was booth after booth of the most horrible trash you ever laid eyes on. And unlike a comic book convention, this thing lasts for 17 consecutive days.

Who buys the baseball bats with their names airbrushed on the side? Who picks up the novelty mirrors shaped like Betty Boop or butterflies? Who rushes to this place to get the black t-shirts with the gigantic wolf/snowflake motif across the front? By my count, it seemed like a million people, because The Big E was absolutely packed all day.

The Big E does have some virtues that comic-cons might learn from. The sea lion show was popular, for example, and there's no reason that a panel on "Aquatic Heroes from the Golden Age" couldn't have animal trainers and a giant tank on hand. And one of the longest lines was for the cream puff/eclair pastry booth, and damn if comic book fans don't love their pastries. The beef jerky goes without saying.

If this post has any point, I guess it's this: why does anyone in the media (or elsewhere) jovially mock the nerds descending on San Diego (or wherever) each year when these absolutely terrible county fairs perpetrate the most garish artistic offenses on the world year in and year out and are somehow considered "quaint" and/or a "tradition"? Or maybe my point is that I should open a pastry stand in San Diego next year and make more off my eclairs than you'd ever make off your crappy small-press comic.

You'll recognize me by my stylish wolf/snowflake shirt and Betty Boop-mirror medallion.


Marc Caputo said...

I went to the Minnesota State Fair back in the summer of 1990 with the first love of my adult life.

That girl is long gone (but not forgotten) - I still long to go back to a state fair.

BTW, she's the one that sent me screaming back to comics - thanks, ----!

marcwrz said...

Tim, I'm so down with the pastry idea.

San Diego, here we come.

Anonymous said...

It seems recently that the media has shied away from openly mocking people that go to Comic-Con. Sure, there's usually a bit about some nerd on a late night show, but the guys dressing up as (insert obscure 70s sci-fi villain here) are asking for it.

Comic-Con is at the very least newsworthy. Studios go there to launch franchises, showcase new movies, etc.

People go to county fairs (or whatever you fancy New Englanders call them) to get fried food and tacky crap. They're essentially the same, except one is more culturally significant than the other these days.

Timothy Callahan said...

The Big E has one more week left to run, and the attendance total so far, according to their website? 678,911!

So, as much as I'd like to think a county fair isn't as culturally relevant anymore, look at those numbers!

And on last Saturday alone, they had over 150,000 visitors.

So, yeah. Tacky crap beats Watchmen t-shirts still.

Mathew New said...

Ha, this cracked me up.

Living in Southern Indiana, I've been to my share of fairs such as this. I've always wondered about the wolf apparel. There has to be a market though, right? Otherwise they wouldn't keep making them.