Crafters and their customers keep coming back to the Big E

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Big E is in its centennial year. Thousands of fair-goers here make it a priority to head over to the Crafts Common at the Big E, which is home to a variety of businesses.

The businesses craft a variety of products. You can find pottery, jewelry, stained, glass, collectibles, and ornaments and much more. Some of these vendors are just starting out, but many others have been here for years and keep coming back.

One of those vendors, Mark Billman, makes “Ear Cuffs” and “Ear Ups,” both of which are unique to the store. He’s been at the Big E for 34 years and sees plenty of familiar customers.
“Everyone from little kids to people in their 80s like the styles,” Billman said. “There are now multiple generations of people who were brought as little kids with their parents who are buying things for their kids and still buying stuff for themselves as adults too.”

He uses niobium, sterling silver, and 40 karat gold to put together his hand-made jewelry and “if somebody wants a certain design, I’ll design something new.”

There are also businesses who are fairly new to the Big E. Unique Candle Bottles have been in the business now for five years and it’s their third at the Big E. They craft exactly what the name of their store says. “They tell us where there bottles are hanging how much they love them,” owner Brenda Falduto explained, “and now they’re back, buying them for the holidays or more for themselves.”

The Last Cow Owner Thomas O’Hara has been making leather belts for over 30 years. He lays out the hide, punches holes, bevels the edges, and attaches the buckles. His wife later dyes the belts. These belts have been a popular item at the fair for years.

“We’ve been here a lot of years and people come in and say ‘I’m still wearing this belt but i have to have a different color.'” O’Hara explained. “That’s what we try to do try to come up with something different that they can replace and still wearing good. and give them a different color or different size.” O’Hara said their handbags are new editions for 2016.

At the crafts common there are dozens of businesses who feature different products each year at the fair. They come from all over the country, but many agree it’s the people walking by that inspires them and their work.

When asked why he keeps coming back to the Big E, O’Hara told 22News that it was because of “the people. The people are so great here, regardless of what the weather is they come out to the Big E. They come, I say ‘Hello, how are you doing? See you next year.’ The people are great here.”