Down East 2013 ©
The thousands of visitors who sampled smoked salmon, baked potatoes, wild blueberry pie, and lobsters rolls on September 29, Maine Day, at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts, may have felt momentarily transported to the Pine Tree State. What many of them didn’t realize is that their trip was real.
“When you step into the Maine Building on the Avenue of the States, you are in the state of Maine,” says Amy Lynn Allen, assistant to the commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture and coordinator of the state’s Big E programs. The building and the land it is sitting on comprise the only Maine property outside state boundaries, Allen believes.
All six New England states own buildings that are replicas of their original statehouses at the Big E, or Eastern States Exposition, a classic agricultural fair on steroids that attracts more than one million people in its seventeen-day run. A brick colonial, the Maine Building is the second oldest structure on the Avenue of States, erected in 1925 with $25,000 appropriated by the state legislature and a matching sum raised by private industry.
During the Big E, the Maine Building is filled with vendors selling Maine-made products like fleece clothing, handmade soap, kettle corn, and barbecue, as well as exhibits showcasing the coast, mountains, lakes, and natural resources. The Maine Office of Tourism dispenses information on hunting, fishing, camping, snowmobiling, skiing, and other activities. The governor usually makes an appearance, as do agricultural royalty like the Maine Blueberry Queen, the Maine Sea Goddess, and the Maine Potato Queen.
Also on hand throughout the event are three or four Maine State Troopers who act as goodwill ambassadors and provide security. But don’t try shoplifting whoopie pies in hopes of getting a free trip to Vacationland in a state police cruiser. “We’d call our local counterparts to assist us, and it would become a Massachusetts law enforcement event,” says Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland. “There’d be no Maine law applicable, and no extradition to Maine.” —Virginia M. Wright