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Big E 2010 -- Fair Food Highlights

As Labor Day quickly approaches, my thoughts start turning towards the junk-food highlight of my year: the Big E in West Springfield, MA. For those of you not familiar with the event, the Big E is a combined state fair for the five New England states. In addition to the farm and craft displays, the midway, and the Mardi Gras parade, the Big E features dozens and dozens of food vendors selling from carts, trucks, and from inside each state's pavilion. I'll post below my list of foods I'm looking forward to, but I'm interested to hear what other people's fair favorites are, as well as what new finds people are discovering this year.

The list of State House vendors is at http://www.thebige.com/fair/vendors/A... and the list of outside vendors is at http://www.thebige.com/fair/vendors/F... but it seems incomplete (many vendors say on their own sites that they will be there, but aren't listed yet).

My list:
Chocolate Covered Bacon (CT)
)Stuffed Quahog (RI)
Salmon on a Stick (ME)
Pumpkin Rice Pudding (Down Home Pudding, near gate 9)
Apple Crisp w/ ice cream or cheddar cheese (VT)
Gorgonzola cheese fries (MIA in 2009 but on New England Ave near the Young Bldg in 2008)
Lobster roll (ME)
Pierogies (Millie's Pierogies)
Finnish pancakes (MA - Finn Cakes)
Fried pickles (Dr. Vegetable)
Fried Oreos (Piche's Beignets)
Del’s (frozen) Lemonade (RI - Del's Lemonade)
Big Éclair (New England Center)
Maple milk (VT or Farm Center)
Ravioli (RI - Venda Ravioli)
Cabot's Big E exclusive extra-sharp cheddar (VT)
Kettle corn (MA or NH)

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  1. If you are looking for something to skip, pass on the chocolate covered bacon. The company that sells it is a vendor at my office once or twice a month and I bought some last week.
    Their chocolate is just not good. I was really excited for the flavor combo and the chocolate quality really ruined it for me.

    My must haves are:
    Clam Cakes(RI)
    Buffalo French Fries and Fried Jalapenos (vendor across from Midway)
    Chicken Souvlaki

    1. Any deep fried butter available? Big hit at the Texas State Fair.

      1. The last time I checked there were SIX New England States and all of them are represented at the Big E.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jcanino

          Correct. I don't know how I screwed that one up.

        2. I'm not even going this year again. The food just isn't that good and not worth waiting in line a long time for. I had the eclair a few years back and it wasn't that good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: javaandjazz

            Please tell all you friends and family too! If I wait 5 less minutes in 12 lines I can get an extra hour of eating in!!!! =P

          2. actually the best food I have had in the past was the cuban trailer near the entrance/exit. We did takeout from there and ate it when we got home.

            3 Replies
            1. re: javaandjazz

              I'll have to remember the Cuban trailer, J&J. I'm assuming you mean the entrance by gate 9. What kind of things do they have there? This year the alpaca show is on during the middle of the week, (Tue, Wed, Thu), so that will make it nicer for us to attend -- less crowds. It would be nice to try something different.

              1. re: junescook

                It was basic spanish food, roast pork, rice and beans, yucca, plantains, etc. It was good.

                1. re: javaandjazz

                  I think I'm going to follow your lead and grab some on the way out. Sounds good and different.

            2. I've gotta say, last year I went to the Durham fair for the first time and the food was off the hook. I enjoyed the smaller scale of this fair (which is by no means small) and unlike the Big E, you're not waiting in lines forever for things like a "really good baked potato".

              zhecht-your list on the other hand, is making me drool. If I knew I could hit the Big E on a quieter week day, I think I would.

              by the way, hitting the Brooklyn (CT) Fair this weekend and I've yet to see a post on c-hound about it so, I'll be dishing on whatever I'm eating there.

              9 Replies
              1. re: masha bousha

                In addition to the food there are some really great micro-brew tents. The Opa Opa tent is a can't miss!!

                1. re: masha bousha

                  Maybe because we live within 20 minutes of the Big E and we tend to go on off times, but I have never waited in line forever for anything. In fact, I have never waited more than 2 people for anything.

                  I have NEVER waited for a baked potato and I never will...it is a potato for goodness sake.

                  1. re: Tinkerbelldee

                    Ah, just a Del's lemonade (RI) and a salmon on a stick (ME) makes me happy.

                    1. re: Tinkerbelldee

                      We're thinking of going so....when do you usually go?

                    2. re: masha bousha

                      I've never been to the Brooklyn one and thanks to your post, I'm going tomorrow. I would have driven right by the exit on my way down to Norwich and not realize what I was missing. What types of food shouldn't be missed? Thanks.

                      1. re: masha bousha

                        We have to go to the Durham Fair on the last day to pick up some exhibit items, and so far we haven't been quite so lucky about finding good food there, though we have admittedly been rushed. What do you recommend there?

                        1. re: masha bousha

                          Well, I think after reading this thread, I will be attending the Durham Fair, which is much closer and probably cheaper. I've never been to the Big E and year after year I say I'm gonna get there. Fair food is fair food, no point in overpaying/driving an extra hour for it!

                          1. re: eds929

                            that wouldnt be my advice, but then again less people=smaller lines.....good idea to stay away

                            1. re: eds929

                              There are fairs (at least 6 in my local driving area) and then there's The Big E. But as joe777 says, less overcrowding for the rest of us.

                          2. We usually go on a Saturday but get there when it opens and leave by 2ish. The lines have never been an issue. The only time it can get crowded is in the state houses.

                            We eat all willynilly-whatever grabs our attention. We do not have a plan-not always a good thing.

                            1. Poppies fried onion rings!
                              There's a long discussion on the archived list for New England (sorry, don't know how to update it to here.)

                              1. I live in West Springfield, so I buy the 17 day pass and we usually go 10 or 11 times each year. Connecticut, take rt 187 north to rt 20 east in Westfield. Stay on rt 20 into West Springfield ( about 5 miles). Take a right onto South Blvd and a right onto River St. Tale any left after that and park on someones lawn ( usually $5). This will save you hours of sitting in traffic if you go on a weekend. As for the fair, here are some of my favorites,

                                NH - Corn on the cob is usually good even though it's microwaved.
                                CT - Nothing. Hands down the worst State building year after year.
                                VT - Cabot cheese, American Flatbread pizza, Otter Creek beer.
                                ME - Yes, the potato, but only if there's no line!! Billies is just as good.
                                MA - Rasberries, and the lobster roll (if it's not claw meat, it's a rip-off)
                                RI - Lobster chowder, clam chowder, stuffed Quahog, lobster ravioli with vodka sauce.

                                Fried cheese curds.
                                Millies pierogies and golumpkies.
                                White Hut Cheeseburg fried (with fried onions)
                                Dimitris Gyro.
                                Billies baked potato.
                                Mini doughnuts.
                                Fried pork skin at the cuban empanadas place.
                                Millennium chips well done.

                                White Hut
                                280 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA 01089

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: foodwallguy

                                  I went last year and I was not impressed with the food! and make sure you bring your wallet as everthing was $8.

                                  1. re: foodwallguy

                                    I wasn't impressed with the pork skins at all. They tasted simultaneously soggy and burnt.

                                    1. re: zhecht

                                      I agree! I think it's wrong in every way. A good friend of mine can't get enough of those things. He eats 2 at a time! He claims to have some sort of method for picking out the right ones. I think the fried pork fat has impaired his thought process.

                                  2. The Big E put out a press release on the new food options this year at http://www.thebige.com/fair/media/Fun...

                                    Some highlights from the article:

                                    New Foods to Love
                                    Try new Fried Jelly Beans this year on New England Avenue, near Gate 9A – sweet jelly beans rolled in funnel cake batter, fried until perfectly browned, and dusted with powdered sugar for the perfect soft, gooey treat. And while you’re there, try the Fried Butter, in plain or garlic – a scoop of butter centered in dough and deep fried – it’s the best buttered morsel you’ll ever eat!

                                    The Coffee Break in the Food Court is offering a whole new line of gastronomic delights: Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich, Fried Snickers, Fried Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bits and Frozen Hot Chocolate!

                                    NEW! Purchase $10 worth of food coupons for only $8. The Advance Discount Food Voucher is available at TheBigE.com and The Big E Box Office through Sept. 15. Coupons are good at all Big E food concessions including Storrowton Tavern and the Midway. They are not valid for the purchase of alcoholic beverages or for use in Avenue of States buildings.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: zhecht

                                      am I sensing there is a "fried" theme. Does not sound appealing at all to me.

                                      1. re: jesoda

                                        Its a fair, and people love to indulge at these occasions - what would you expect? Im sure if healthy foods sold well, more vendors would carry them. Mclean deluxe anyone??

                                      2. re: zhecht

                                        Screw this Frozen Hot Chocolate nonsense. Where's the Fried Hot Chocolate?!

                                        1. re: Chris VR

                                          MMMM, fried hot chocolate.
                                          None of the new additions sound appealing to me at all, but that is what a fair is all about. Having all those foods you don't get at home!

                                      3. Every year there is a long post about the food at the Big E, and every year I shake my head with a lack of understanding. I have been each of the past 5 years for various reasons, (take kids on rides, watch equestrian competitions, etc), but I have never gone because of the food. In fact, I go in spite of it. It is a very expensive way of ensuring gastrointestinal distress for the most part. Not picking on any particular post or poster, but here is what I am talking about. If this is the "best" of the fair, then Houston, we have a problem:

                                        NH - Corn on the cob is usually good even though it's microwaved.
                                        Really? People should wait in line and pay money for an ear of corn that is microwaved? How about buying a fresh ear from a roadside stand for a dime and cooking it at home. I have to go to a fair for this?

                                        CT - Nothing. Hands down the worst State building year after year.

                                        VT - Cabot cheese, American Flatbread pizza, Otter Creek beer.
                                        Uh...OK. I'll admit to liking both Cabot cheese and Otter Creek Beer. (Flatbread pizza, not so much). All of these are available at every grocery chain in New England. Why would one get giddy over the notion of overpaying for them at the Big E?

                                        ME - Yes, the potato, but only if there's no line!! Billies is just as good.
                                        See my thoughts above re: corn. It's a potato, people. You buy them at the grocery store for about $0.30 each.

                                        MA - Rasberries, and the lobster roll (if it's not claw meat, it's a rip-off)
                                        I'll admit that the hot lobster roll is probably the best "value" at the Big E. The ones that I have had were as meaty as most shacks, and no more expensive.

                                        RI - Lobster chowder, clam chowder, stuffed Quahog, lobster ravioli with vodka sauce.
                                        While I applaud the effort of the folks from the Ocean State, as they are offering local, non-commercial items, I can't say that the quality has been up to par. Seems to vary from year to year. When forced to pony up money for food, this and the lobster roll seem to win my money.

                                        As for the rest of the Big E, it is largely a fried food fest with a fair smattering of sausage and pepper carts that can be found anywhere. I think that nostalgia and childhood memories cloud the culinary judgment of many fair goers. In all honesty, if a Chowhound from another part of the country who has never been heads to the Big E with visions of culinary splendor, I dare say that he will be disappointed. If one wants to go to the fair for reasons other than food, (and there are many), choose wisely and prepare to to be bombarded by every food that has ever been fried, and some that never should be.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: FoodieJim

                                          Just an FYI. I live right in the middle of sweet corn country and would only buy my corn from a neighboring farmer, right before eating......but, unless I purchased an entire commercial bag, cannot imagine getting it for 10 cents an ear. Seems like 20th century prices.
                                          And fairs are about pigging out on junk food, so why have contempt for those who do that? If you don't like the food at Big E, don't eat there.

                                          1. re: FoodieJim

                                            No one has said anything about culinary splendor and if any Chowhound went to a fair looking for that, they deserve to be disappointed.

                                            It is a FAIR, not a restaurant. No need to condemn it for being something it isn't.

                                            Once a year I like to eat food that is bad for me and overpriced and probably not all that good.
                                            Is that grounds for revoking my Foodie badge?

                                            1. re: FoodieJim

                                              "it is largely a fried food fest with a fair smattering of sausage and pepper carts"


                                              that was all i needed to read

                                              1. re: FoodieJim

                                                I have my Big E 2010 pass and I sure am ready. The great thing about the Big E is, not only the food, but the people watching. I always enjoy seeing the types who go to the fair with visions of "over 25" Zagat ratings and Michelin Stars in their eyes. The look on their face is priceless when there are no wine pairings next to the large basket of fried cheese curds. They ask " Is that the curd of a Roquefort or a Brocciu ?...Oh, its the milk of a cow.....how unfortunate." I mean, thats entertainment! As I watch these high brows with a beer in one hand and smoked turkey leg in the other, I wonder how they can have clear aspirations to be taken seriously as a "foodie", and not like food at all?

                                                1. re: foodwallguy

                                                  One can enjoy food from a fair and still not enjoy food from THIS fair. You seem to imply that if one does not enjoy the food at the Big E, one does not enjoy food at all. Faulty logic. My point is simply that every year a call goes out for the "must have" items at the Big E. The truth is, the food doesn't change all that much from year to year and is not all that different from any local church carnival where they bring in commercial carts. If that stuff turns your crank, you certainly don't need to go to the Big E to get it. Any local fair will do. If foil wrapped baked potatoes and microwaved corn on the cob are a "must have", then by all means, get your season pass. Personally, I prefer the Feast of San Gennaro. Certainly not Roquefort or Brocciu. But pretty good food none the less.

                                                  1. re: FoodieJim

                                                    comparing the big E to a local church carnival is like comparing a cruise ship to a dingy, One of the great things about the big E is you can get a smoked turkey leg, a lobster roll, apple cider donuts, clam cakes, etc etc etc all in one place all in one day. There is no comparison in this part of the country

                                                    If you cant find something you like from the hundreds of vendors you are intentionally trying to not find something you like. Further - if you dont like the Big E, and this type of food isnt your thing, why bother commenting?

                                              2. Can anyone tell me where to get the best fried dough? Not sure if anyone has been to the NY state fair, but if you have then perhaps you've tasted the Villa's pizze fritte....to die for (it's even great for breakfast the next day)! I'm looking for something along those lines. Thanks!

                                                1. Just back from 2 days of BIG E fun and food- whew! may take my digestive system awhile to get back on track but it was worth it! we tend to graze so we ate ALOT in different places- here were some of them. we have gone for the past 12 years- some places we visit every year and some are new ones

                                                  NH- BEST kettle corn at fair- even my DH who doesn't like kettle corn will eat it there. I think that is where he had a rootbeer float as well and really liked it.

                                                  VT- hot apple cider, dozen doughnuts- what more can you ask for? we loved the cider so much- we went back the 2nd day as well. Cabot cheese with horseradish was yummy and DH enjoyed beer as usual (both types he had $5.75 each) Sister always gets the flatbread pizza and loves it every year ($4/slice, $17 whole pie)

                                                  CT- building was better than usual (and I live in CT and usually think this is the worst one!) Pumpkin seeds were terrific and something healthy to snack on for a change!, ($5 a bag) choc covered bacon was okay- I agree with it not being the best chocolate, but it was worth it to try it ($2 a piece)

                                                  ME- yes, baked potato ($5)- if you time it right- lines are not an issue and the do move quickly! frist time through got lots of butter, second time (next day) less butter but they crammed 2 potatos in there and LOTS of cheese. Always wanted lobster roll from ME as well ($8) -looks like good hunks of meat, but always too full from potato!

                                                  Mass- Father loves the finnish pancakes, I like the raspberries ($1 small cup $3 lg), they also had lobster rolls, but more mayo than ME which I don't like)

                                                  RI- boringest building this year- food was good though- had clam chowder in bread bowl ($7.50) which was filling, hot and not too bad (have had better, but have had worse as well!) bread bowl was YUMMY!!! tried a clam fritter- couldn't find any clam in it!

                                                  also eaten- fried oreos ($6 for 7)- GOOD! even my DH liked them and he didn;t think he would... corn dogs- eh- just about what you expect, bought cheese from Smith farms outside Mallory Complex- GOOD! This year they do NOT have cooking demonstrations (they have a music thing instead) and I MISS the cooking/food tasting demos! we always would get good recipes and the kids (ages 12,10,6) liked it as well! Milk shakes from Dairy Barn- never the best, but money ($1.50) goes to good place (4-H) and it is the best deal at the fair- so we go there and we do enjoy them (I like them a little thicker than they make it). Chiccarrones (fried pork skins) were AWESEOME ($6) but as usual- got a little yucky tummy after it- when one eats a large piece of deep fried FAT, that is what happens!) Pickle guy by Storrotown had 2 choices this year and both were good ($1.50 each). Butcher boys had gyros and grilled chicken- kids liked that (but they did not have Tzaski suace- sour cream instead). For drinks we tend to bring water bottles and fill them up at fountains (or bubblers) around fair grounds. Nephews had kids meals at firehouse- hot dog, chips, milk and lollypop in firemans hat- $6- great place, and food again goes to good cause.

                                                  and yes- last but not least- we tried the Fried Butter- how could you not! It was over by Mallory building at Marion's fried food- gave you 3 peices for $5- I liked it, son liked it, other reviews were mixed. It is like a wad of fried dough with melted butter in the middle- I say give it a try- next year I am trying the fried jelly beans there!

                                                  all in all- good times, fair fair food and well worth the trip!

                                                  6 Replies
                                                    1. re: Mik1093

                                                      Thanks for the great review -- I'll have to try the fried butter and the pickels.

                                                      Where exactly is the Dairy Barn? I've heard of the milk shakes, but never been able to find them.

                                                      1. re: zhecht

                                                        Not being fresh, isn't the Dairy Barn where the cows are? And the giant butter sculpture? :)

                                                        I personally still miss the apple flappen. Those are gone forever, right? Used to be in the little village, but as long as I can take a ride down the big slide, all is not lost. Oh, and glad we "beat" RI this year (I'm from CT, too)!

                                                        I'm also a fried Oreo fan. They end up tasting like a hot brownie inside, wouldn't you agree? I haven't had them in probably 10 years, but I still remember them fondly from a brewpub in Amherst. NOM!

                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                          I knew something was missing- the apple flappen! Haven;t seen that in a few years! and yes- dairy barn is in Mallory building rotunda (outside the building)

                                                          1. re: Mik1093

                                                            I used to proudly sport the "I only came for the apple flappen" sticker. ;) HA HA!

                                                            1. re: Mik1093

                                                              I know what confused me now. The place that sells milk shakes is the Dairy Bar, not the Dairy Barn.

                                                      2. omfg - im going next weekend and my mouth is already drooling

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: joe777cool

                                                          Hey, I just want to thank alot of posters who gave great food advice for the Big E... I jumped on that lobster roll at the Maine house. You're right. More meat and less mayo.

                                                          However, no one mentioned, or I missed it if they did, that Wooster Street Pizza was in the Connecticut building. I actually grabbed a good slice of pizza at the Big E! Slightly annoyed it was 4 dollars. I could have gotten myself and my kids a whole pizza with a topping at any Wooster Street shop for what I paid for 4 slices.

                                                          Good food. Very thankful for the lobster roll insite on this board. I also tried a fried oreo which I probably would not have looked twice at had it not been mentioned on the board a few times. Again very good.

                                                          Wooster Street Pizza Shop
                                                          77 Berlin Rd Ste 7, Cromwell, CT 06416

                                                          1. re: Nickmerill

                                                            one question - was it worth the $4? is this an "add to the list" item? I think we all expect things to be slightly overpriced at the big e, but its still worth it

                                                            1. re: joe777cool

                                                              Weeellll, I think so. I like Wooster Street Pizza. The slices were large for the money in all fairness. I was just slightly surprised. Not major surprised, slightly:) Everything at the Big E is expensive and I actually only had the slice, the lobster roll and fried oreos because my cash flew out the window fast with my family. Also shop for bottled water. You could find it for a buck, but you could also find it for 3 dollars at alot of places so pay attention.

                                                              But to answer the question, a slice of Wooster Street Pizza is likely to be the best slice of pizza you get in the whole place until Frank Pepe's gets a booth. So if you want pizza...

                                                              Wooster Street Pizza Shop
                                                              77 Berlin Rd Ste 7, Cromwell, CT 06416

                                                              1. re: Nickmerill

                                                                The bottled water is always cheaper in the state houses than at the outside vendors since the fairgrounds don't take a cut of the sales from the state houses.

                                                            2. re: Nickmerill

                                                              The CT building seems to have totally redeemed itself. I had a slice of the 5 cheese pizza from Wooster St and it was very good. It's good to see Frankies! I ordered a chili dog and it too was very good. The pumpkin seeds were tasty too. Who cares if I exchange a larger belly for a smaller wallet? It's the BIG E! It only comes once a year. I think I need to hear out the guy who's selling the magic fat burning bracelet!!

                                                              1. re: foodwallguy

                                                                HA HA HA, indeed. It's all about product placement, isn't it? ;)

                                                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                  Just got home from the Big E and I must say, I am disappointed...in myself.

                                                                  We only had 3 things. Tempura veggies from Veggie Boys, Chicken Pita from Dimetrios, and homemade potato chips from a vendor I can not remember.
                                                                  We headed up after a big breakfast, bad idea.
                                                                  We did sample a few interesting beers; Opa-opa Watermelon and Shock Top pumpkin.

                                                                  I am so upset with myself for not eating more so I am off the kitchen to make some apple cider cupcakes :)

                                                                  1. re: Tinkerbelldee

                                                                    Nice call on the new (to me) brews--will have to keep an eye out for them. Since you mentioned watermelon, gotta tell ya, I've been drinking Hooker's Watermelon Ale all summer and totally love it. This must be the year for watermelon beer! :) Cheers to that! Oh, and enjoy your cupcakes!

                                                                    1. re: Tinkerbelldee

                                                                      can you post the recipe for the apple cider cupcakes?

                                                            3. Went yesterday and a few comments:

                                                              *Sat in traffic for 2 1/2 hours, will never again go on a Saturday afternoon
                                                              *The place was packed to the gills
                                                              *The grounds were disgusting - trash was everywhere, sticky dirty tables
                                                              *they need more bathrooms
                                                              *Prices were about what I expected
                                                              *Why havent they banned smoking at this event? Its 2010! Or for those inconsiderate db smokers, can you wait until you arent in line next to people?????
                                                              *It was too hot to overeat =(
                                                              *they need more detailed maps
                                                              *the walk back to the car always seems further than the walk to the park

                                                              Wooster St. Pizza - delicious, apple cider donuts - why didnt I buy 2 dozen?, fried oreos were a nice treat, pumpkin rice pudding was like pumpkin pie without the crust, mini donuts with cinnamon and sugar - its a good thing they dont sell those things near my house, crazy burger - grossed me out as I watched my so eat it (but she loved it), potato/cheese/kielbasa pierogis - delicious, french fries from millenium chips were great, sausage sandwich was good

                                                              ~340 days til next years big E!

                                                              1. I managed to get everything on my list with the exception of the Quahogs and bacon, which were sold out by the time we got there, and the Gorgonzola fries, which weren't offered this year. I also skipped the lobster ravioli when I saw that they wanted $9 for a couple of ravioli, and used that money on a Maine lobster roll instead (really good, but I got a few unwelcome pieces of shell).

                                                                As in the past, my favorite things were the Salmon on a Stick, the Apple Crisp, and the Finnish pancakes. The fried oreos and pumpkin rice pudding were close runners up. The oreos I got from a place on the other side of the Court of Honor stage from Piche's, and I thought they were much better (and unlike Piche's they weren't drowning in powdered sugar).

                                                                Other things I got that weren't on my list were:
                                                                White Hut burger in the food court (wonderful bun and toppings, bland meat)
                                                                Tikki Burger at the Indian place in the food court (a potato patty topped with a couple of sweet and spicy sauces and chutneys -- absolutely wonderful)
                                                                Frankie's hot dogs (so-so hot dog, but its huge size allowed me to smear lots of their amazing spicy relish on it)
                                                                Pickled egg from the MA building (disgusting - must be an acquired taste)
                                                                Skippy's Dare peanut-butter-bacon pizza from the CT building (very good)
                                                                Maple-bacon ice cream sample from behind the CT building (tasted a bit off, and the flavors didn't meld well)
                                                                Fried Cheese Curds (better than any mozzarella sticks i've ever had, but still greasy)

                                                                On a non-food related note, make sure to catch Hilby, the "Skinny German Juggling Boy," who performs in the Storrowton area. He was absolutely hilarious.

                                                                White Hut
                                                                280 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA 01089