Vermont vendors ready at Big E fair, but some couldn’t make the trip
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WCAX) - The Big E is underway in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Vermont house is full, with 23 vendors bringing products from the Green Mountain State to all of New England.
The Skinny Pancake, Vermont Clothing Company and the Long Trail Brewing Company are three of the Vermont vendors ready to serve fairgoers.
The 17-day event is profitable, and brought nearly $2 million in sales to Vermont businesses in 2019, according to Trevor Lowell with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture
“It gives them access to a really big market and really allows them to get their brand and their business out there in front of a lot of people,” said Lowell.
Like every year, there is some vendor turnover. Places like Cold Hollow Cider Mill won’t be there this year.
“Like a lot of businesses, we’re short-staffed. It was a physical impossibility for us to do it. And it really hurt because it’s a very profitable venture for us,” said Paul Brown of Cold Hollow Cider Mill.
Brown said their mail-order business grew by 60% in 2020, making it challenging to cook the thousands of servings of food for the fair on top of their other business ventures. The event also falls at their peak business time, so the booth would be staffed by people in the Springfield area.
But Brown said due to COVID concerns, he wasn’t convinced they’d be able to secure the necessary 14 staff members a day from Springfield and couldn’t send their Vermont staff down.
Vermont Cookie Love, which opted out last year, said they’re not returning for similar reasons.
“Having to staff an entire second location that is far enough away to make it not even a day trip for somebody, is really difficult for us,” said Vermont Cookie Love owner Matt Bonoma.
Bonoma added that he took over the business 18 months ago, and said a lot of their Springfield crew had begun to opt out too.
“It’s not only bringing the old gang back together, but it’s also getting new people completely onboard and trained. Which is hard to do for something that lasts two or three weeks a year,” said Bonoma.
Lowell says this year’s turnover is consistent with previous years. He added that this year kicked off smoother than last year.
“The level of uncertainty was so high, I know last year there were some vendors who pulled out close to the event. And then we ended up having to shuffle some things,” said Lowell.
Despite the choice to not return, Cold Hollow said they’re happy to pass the torch and helped get new vendors ready for the 17 days ahead.
“We all support each other so we tried to help them out as much as possible with getting them tighter and coaching them on how to make doughnuts, hoping they’ll be successful,” said Brown.
The Agency of Agriculture said there are four new businesses this year that they’re excited for folks to check out. The Vermont Building went through recent renovations and it’s ready for Vermont Day on Saturday which is typically the largest day of the fair.
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