WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Eastern States Exposition, known in New England as “The Big E,” each year hosts the largest Veteran outreach event in the Northeast.
In what has become an annual tradition, the fair’s opening day is Military Appreciation Day, presented by the VA New England Healthcare System. It’s The Big E’s way of showing appreciation to all of those who have served or currently serve in the United States Armed Forces.
On Friday, Sept. 13, the Fair’s opening day, free admission is provided, with Veteran or military ID, to:
- Active duty and retired military personnel
- Dependents of active-duty military personnel
- Veterans (no dependents)
Acceptable forms of ID include a copy of DD214, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID, or proof of membership to any Veterans’ organization.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been represented at Military Appreciation Day for the past seven years at the Exposition.
VA representatives from across New England will be stationed along the Avenue of States from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to answer questions and provide information on both national and state Veteran resources. They will also help Veterans enroll in VA health care or assist Veterans with filing a claim for a service-connected disability. Veterans are encouraged to stop by and bring a copy of their DD214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” to help VA representatives determine eligibility for VA benefits.
VA officials have indicated that this is the largest VA outreach event for Veterans in the nation. At the 2018 Military Appreciation Day, the VA estimates more than 3,500 Veterans visited the VA outreach area, and more than 500 Veterans received assistance with Veteran benefits or services.
“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs greatly appreciates the partnership we have with The Big E,” said John Paradis, an outreach specialist with the VA New England Healthcare System and project officer for Military Appreciation Day. “Eastern States Exposition has done a superb job each year to ensure we meet with as many Veterans as possible in one day. The number of programs and services we offer has grown over the years to become the largest event of its kind in the nation. We bring the entire VA system to the Avenue of States at The Big E, and it’s a fantastic way for the community to extend its appreciation to our region’s Veterans.”
Military Appreciation Day highlights planned for this year’s Fair include:
- 70-plus VA personnel from throughout New England conducting outreach, connecting Veterans with their benefits, and representing every major program, including the regional Mobile Vet Center from West Springfield;
- Pharmacists from a local Walgreens will be on-site with VA medical staff to administer vaccines and answer questions about immunizations;
- Award-winning military photographer and disabled combat Veteran, Stacy Pearsall, will take free portraits of Veterans as part of her national touring Veterans Portrait Project;
- More than a dozen state and community partners, including the state Department of Veterans’ Services and the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, will be available to speak with Veterans at the Massachusetts State Building in a “Veterans Commons” area;
- Free Veteran commemorative T-shirts and a chance for military members and Veterans to win in several military appreciation day contests. Prizes include tickets to a regular-season New England Patriots home game and admission passes for upcoming events at the Storrowtown Village at Eastern States Exposition;
- Local radio personalities will be located near the VA throughout the day broadcasting live and offering opportunities to win additional prizes;
The VA New England Healthcare System is one of 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) and is comprised of eight medical centers accredited by Joint Commission located throughout the six New England states. For more information on VA healthcare in New England, call 1-844-VA-CARES or go to www.newengland.va.gov/outreach.
Opening day is also “Be a Kid for a Day.” All guests pay $10 for admission tickets at the gate. Tickets can also be purchased online or at all Big Y® World Class Markets® Aug. 24-Sept. 13.
The Big E takes place Sept. 14 – 30 in West Springfield, Mass., and will be jam-packed with food, entertainment, and more. Visit TheBigE.com to sign up for emails and connect on social media to be the first to get exclusive information. Join us with #BigEMoments.