Big E means big money for the gallery’s neighbors with space for cars
WEST SPRINGFIELD — Tens of thousands of cars full of attendees head toward the Big E grounds each day during the show’s 17-day run.
This raises the question: Where do all these cars go?
Well, many cars end up parked on the lawns and in the driveways of the Eastern States Fair’s neighbors on or near Memorial Avenue.
“If you live within a mile of the Big E, you’re parking,” said Ben Camp, who owns a home at 84 York St.
According to Big E management, the project includes approximately 6,000 parking spaces on the land, as well as 1,200 restricted handicapped spaces. This means that the tens of thousands of parking spaces are too few to handle the nearly 100,000 people who come to the Big E every day.
There are, of course, satellite parking areas with shuttle bus services set up in other parts of the city. But much of the requested parking space comes from dedicated operators who live near the Big E’s grounds.
Even Big E’s director of operations, Steve Fararo, appreciates the parking operations in the neighborhood. “We love these people,” he said Saturday. “They make the Big E more convenient for a lot of people, but at a price.”
In fact, many neighborhood parking lots are much closer to the Big E event than the show’s parking facilities at Gate 9.
But depending on supply and demand, parking prices can reach $40 for a space near one of the main gates. On a popular day, such as a weekend afternoon or evening, prices will be at their peak. They tend to go down far from Memorial Avenue and the entrance gates.
On York Street in West Springfield, across Memorial Avenue from the Gate 3 entrance to the grounds, Natalia Babinoff and her sister Rumika Pascaro waved small, bright flags to draw attention to their father’s side yard.
For the 17 days of their Big E trip, the two women and most of their neighbors rented out their lots, space after space, to accommodate cars that had nowhere to park.
Like their neighbors, the sisters were charging $10 for the space, the same price as the Big E restaurant itself. But Babinoff said the price changes as conditions change.
She added: “The price will rise as other quantities are filled.” “Yesterday, everyone was full.”
By Saturday afternoon, most of their spots were filled.
Cars flying the flag
A short distance down the street, Camp stood in front of his home on York Street, armed with an orange flag to attract the attention of drivers as they passed.
For the past 10 years, Camp has taken time off during Big E events so he can run his temporary parking lot full-time.
“This way I get paid while doing it,” he said.
But what it also means is that he has to be on site from early morning until late evening to make sure everyone is able to leave.
The cash homeowners near Big E bring in from parking lots helps the local economy, Camp said.
“With this extra money coming in, people are fixing up their homes, which helps local small businesses,” he said.
A short distance down the road, John Fiorini leaned against a mailbox at 87 York Street, holding a small flag in his hand. This is old hat to him.
“I’ve been doing this since I was four years old,” he said with a laugh.
He is now retired and the house he grew up in remains in the family. So, in Big E’s time, he’s back here waving cars around on his half-acre lot. He said the package can carry up to 40 cars at one time. On Saturday, he charged $10 for a parking space.
“It helps with the taxes on the house,” he said. “That should be nice.”
Cash to cook
On Norman Street, Dylan Kimball was helping out with Titan USA and its three groups. The money generated from the process goes into a fund shared by all employees of the company, which makes the cutting tools. Anything left over goes into the cooking fund, he said.
With room for up to 70 vehicles, including large pickup trucks, he was looking forward to a country music concert later Sunday night. That could mean a lot of culinary travel for Titan’s staff.
On the next street, Julio Velasquez was waiting for cars near his employer’s parking lot. Latitude Restaurant, located on the corner of Memorial Avenue and Exposition Terrace, is closed for the duration of the fair. Excessive traffic makes it very difficult for many businesses to operate. Latitude is one of them.
“They can’t do any banquet functions because of the traffic and everything else,” he said. “We’re only parking cars because this (Big E) is causing havoc for a lot of small businesses up and down the strip.”
Management parks up to 42 cars in the restaurant parking lot. Velasquez said their location means they can charge higher prices. Latitude Restaurant and Banquet House is located directly across the street from one of the show’s main entrances.
“I have a unique environment here that helps me make better money,” he said. “That’s the thing about supply and demand.”
However, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Velasquez could only charge $25 for the place, despite easy access to the Big E.
“It’s very slow,” Velasquez said. “It was slow yesterday and it’s slow today.”
On Saturday, Big E attracted 95,441 people to the show.
By Sunday, things didn’t get much better. Natalia DeMarco, at Memo’s on Memorial Avenue, reduced her price from $40 to $30 before noon. Located directly across the street from the main entrance to Big E, Memo’s is the crown jewel of locations.
“It seems slower today,” she said.
When DeMarco changed its price, many others followed suit. Shortly after noon, several parking operations on Memorial Avenue were charging a low fee of $10 per space.
Sidney Jimmo also noticed the slower pace. He has been parking cars at his home on Norman Street for 37 years.
“It’s usually full by now,” he said as he watched the cars on the street.
“Last year was very busy, but this was the first year after coronavirus,” he said. “This year is not busy.”