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2017 Host of the Day

Host of the Day

The Host of the Day award recognizes employees, volunteers and other members of The Big E family who exemplify the Fair's philosophy of positive customer relations. It has been part of the Exposition's customer service program since 1989, established for individuals who go “above and beyond the call” in their interactions with fairgoers. Each host, selected from more than 1,500 personnel working this year, receives the Host of the Day award, the “BiggiE.” This trophy is our version of the Oscar, sculpted in the likeness of The Big E mascot, BiggiE. In addition, they receive Big E commemorative gifts at the surprise presentation.

Sunday, Sept. 24 - Judy Santos

Judy Santos, of Agawam, Mass., was presented with The Big E Host of the Day award on Sunday, Sept. 24 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

The presentation took place at the central information booth where Santos works, answering questions, giving directions, and sometimes even walking Fairgoers to the exact location they are looking for.

“The Central Information booth is an extremely busy place, and Judy does a great job getting everyone the answers they need,” President Cassidy said.

In addition to The Big E, Santos works as an office administrator, and in her spare time, she designs and makes eye-catching jewelry for herself, friends and family. Although this is only her second year, Santos plans on becoming a “lifer” at The Big E, enjoying the work she does and her co-workers.

“She has such a pleasant personality and it really shines through. She is patient and strives to help people as much as she can, and she takes a lot of time to truly learn all the necessary information,” Linda Williams, Santos’ co-worker and nominator, said.

“I’m elated! And what a surprise,” Santos said.


Saturday, Sept. 23 - Art Grunden

Art Grunden, of Las Vegas, Nevada, was presented The Big E Host of the Day award on Saturday, Sept. 23 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

The presentation took place at Gate 8 where Grunden works as Assistant Gate Captain. He flies to Massachusetts in two weeks before the Fair to park all the R.V.s, and during the Fair helps to manage all the parking and gate operations.

This is Grunden’s second year working at the Fair, and having grown up in Springfield, he also uses his time working at The Big E as an opportunity to visit with family. His younger sister Eileen LaMountain supervises the Giant Slide, and his brother-in-law Al LaMountain runs the Admissions department. When he is not visiting with family or working Gate 8, Grunden, a former bike patrol officer in Las Vegas, is an avid cyclist.

“I’m so grateful for all of Art’s hard work. He makes sure everything runs smoothly, and I get numerous reports about his dedication,” Cassidy said.

“It’s easy when you have a good crew, and that’s exactly what I have here,” Grunden said.

Grunden received the Host of the Day award, the “BiggiE,” a trophy sculpted in the likeness of The Big E mascot, BiggiE. In addition, he received 2017 Big E commemorative gifts at the surprise presentation.

“It’s extremely gratifying! There’s only seventeen of them [Hosts of the Day], so I’m in good company,” Grunden said.


Friday, Sept. 22 - John Robison

John Robison, of Amherst, Mass., was presented with The Big E Host of the Day award on Friday, Sept. 22 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

While on the grounds, he photographs any and all things Big E related, sometimes including The Big E’s Host of the Day surprise presentations. While Robison snapped photos of what he assumed to be a meeting with the “Governor.”

“Actually we have a new kind of Governor today,” Cassidy said, before surprising Robison with the award.

Robison is a “fair guy, car guy, austim speaks guy, author,” and more, Cassidy said.

The author of four books, a speaker and an autism consultant, Robison said, “The Fair is bigger than any of us. It’s about bringing people together, face to face.”

As he roams the grounds taking photos of everything from food and people to concerts and the circus, he has a unique opportunity to interact with our guests, answer questions and impart his vast knowledge of The Big E.

“I never, ever would have thought of myself a Host of the Day.” Robinson said.

“His attitude demonstrates all of the qualities that exemplify what we are looking for in a Host,” Gerard Kiernan, who nominated Robison, said.


Thursday, Sept. 21 - Earline Lempke

Earline Lempke, a resident of Chicopee, Mass., and an Admissions employee for over 20 years, was presented The Big E Host of the Day award on Thurs., Sept. 21 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

“Earline represents Eastern States incredibly well...Good customer service runs in the family,” President Cassidy said.

President Cassidy was referring to Lempke’s brother and sister, who also work in Admissions. Earline Lempke’s brother, Ed Lempke is the Gate 4 Captain and was a 1998 Host of the Day, and her sister, Doris Theroux, works as a ticket seller at 9A. Both of her siblings celebrated her amazing customer service with her at the presentation.

Lempke believes that to offer good customer service, you need to be willing and prepared to answer questions at any time, and you must do it all with a friendly attitude. She enjoys working at the Fair and does not plan on leaving anytime soon.

“Earline is a caring and kind person who looks forward to working at the Fair every year. Thanks for making her Fair so special,” Theroux said.

“I can’t even tell you how it feels. I’m speechless...It feels wonderful to receive the award. It makes you feel like you’ve done something right and like you’ve contributed.” Lempke said.


Wednesday, Sept. 20 - Gary Saccocia

Gary Saccocia, of East Bridgewater, Mass., was left speechless when he was presented with The Big E Host of the Day award on Wednesday, Sept. 20 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

The presentation took place in the Horse Show Office where Saccocia, a four-year employee, oversees the Horse Show reserved parking and transports show exhibitors to the barns.

Nothing has been able to keep Saccocia away from the grounds. In the spring of 2011, he suffered two strokes, one on his transport vehicle and the other in the Coliseum. After both strokes, the doctors told Saccocia he would never walk or speak again.

“I’m so lucky to be alive,” Saccocia said.

Still, not even these serious health issues would keep him away from the ESE Horse Show. Gary is one of the first equine dentists in the country and still practices intermittently at 77 years of age, now that his son, Gary Saccocia Jr., has taken over the business. A family of horse lovers, Saccocia’s granddaughter, Kasey Saccocia, is a World Champion Morgan equestrian.

“What he does out there nobody else can do. He’s my right arm!” Horse Show Coordinator, Stacey Hathaway, said.

“He’s a great guy and he’ll help anybody out at anytime. Even on the day I nominated him for the award he was giving an elderly couple a ride back to their car across the grounds,” Contractor Coordinator Bob Kelley, said.

“I get so many reports about how amazing and accommodating Gary is. It gives me peace to know that he is here at Eastern States,” CEO and President Eugene Cassidy said.


Anabel Robinson - Tuesday, Sept. 19

Anabel (Ann) Robinson, of Chicopee, Mass., was in shock when she was presented The Big E Host of the Day award on Tues., Sept. 19 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

The presentation took place in the New England Center where Robinson has volunteered for four years during and before the Fair. During her first year at The Big E, she received the Florence Sattler Memorial Award, which is given to an individual who has made outstanding contributions as a Creative Arts volunteer. It reflects unusual effort, unselfish interest and a willing spirit to share time with this organization.

“Anabel is a fantastic volunteer. She works tirelessly at whatever task we give her, with a smile…She loves to visit and talk with our guests about what is in the building, and gets most of the people to sign up for the next year to be an exhibitor. Her smile is infectious, her attitude is always positive and she is the epitome of what an ‘Ambassador’ is,” Creative Arts Coordinator, Jane Chapman, said.

In her spare time, Robinson crochets blankets with her daughter Sherry, and the two have contributed their work as crafters in the New England center. Robinson said she plans on continuing to volunteer in the New England Center for as long as she can.

“This is awesome! I didn’t have a clue what was going on!...I’m so honored. The people are so nice to work with, and there are so many talented people here in this building,” Robinson said.


Hugh McBride - Monday, Sept. 18

Hugh McBride, of Feeding Hills, Mass., was caught off-guard when he was presented The Big E Host of the Day award on Mon., Sept. 18 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

The presentation took place at the Gate 1 parking lot where McBride acts as Gate Captain for the Admissions Department. He has been with The Big E for around 12 years, and before retiring, spent about 30 years at AT&T. In his spare time, McBride takes care of his wife and mother-in-law.

“Hugh’s been with me for a long time. He started as a ticket seller, and moved all the way up to a Captain position…I never have any complaints from his Gate. He’s a quiet guy, but he does a really amazing job,” said Al LaMountain who has operated the Admissions Department at The Big E for 50 years.

“Hugh does a great job as Captain of Gate 1, and always has a fantastic attitude. This award is extremely well-deserved,” President Cassidy said.

“I’m in shock. I had no idea. When I saw Gene and everyone gathered I knew something was going on, but I never imagined it was this!” McBride said.

McBride plans on continuing to work at The Big E for as long as he can. “Of course I’ll stay. It’s the easiest gig I’ve ever had,” McBride said laughing.


Mark Piche - Sunday, Sept. 17

Mark Piche, of Ware, Mass., was taken by surprise when he was presented The Big E Host of the Day award on Sun., Sept. 17 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

The presentation took place outside of the Tootsie's Fried Dough concession stand which is one of Piche’s three concession stands on the grounds. With his father starting to bring him to the Fair at just three years of age in 1962, Piche has been a lifetime member of The Big E family.

“I love it. I grew up here. It was one of my playgrounds. While other kids grew up going to the park, I came here,” Piche said.

Piche says he will continue coming to work at the Fair for as long as he can. His hope is that, just as his father passed Piche’s Concessions along to Piche, he will pass the business along to his son, Hunter, who runs the Jack’s Fries concession stand inside Gate 5.

“It’s such a wonderful surprise and a great honor. I truly did not expect it…I feel like a celebrity!” Piche said. “This honor is well deserved! Mark has been a fantastic partner of The Big E for many years and his enthusiasm for the fair is incredible! I have really enjoyed working with Mark over my last five fairs and look forward to many more,” Gillian Palmer, Business Development and Group Tour & Event Coordinator, said.


Warren McKinstry - Saturday, Sept. 16

Warren McKinstry of Chicopee, Mass., was happily and humbly surprised when presented The Big E Host of the Day award on Saturday, Sept. 16 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy.

The presentation took place in the Blacksmith Shop in Storrowton Village where McKinstry spends his days demonstrating Early American forging to Fairgoers. At just 17 years of age, McKinstry has worked in the Blacksmith Shop for three years.

“Warren is not only our youngest blacksmith, but also our most skilled,” Jessica Fontaine, Director of Storrowton Village said.

“I really enjoy working with my hands and I’m currently in a welding program at my school, so I just love working in the Blacksmith Shop,” McKinstry said.

McKinstry attends Chicopee Comprehensive High School, but when he is not in school or volunteering at Storrowton, he spends his time working on his family’s vegetable farm, McKinstry Farm. He plans on attending college to study Business with the long-term goal of expanding the farm.

Rhonda Olisky & Rosemary Bove - Friday, Sept. 15

Rosemary Bove of Pomfret, Conn. and Rhonda Olisky of Berlin, Conn. were all smiles when each was presented The Big E Host of the Day award on Friday, Sept. 15 by Eastern States Exposition President Eugene J. Cassidy

The presentation took place in front of the Connecticut State Building where Bove and Olisky both act as co-managers. Bove has worked for a total of 30 years in the building performing duties at the tourism booth, and she has spent her last six years as co-manager in addition to her work at the booth. Olisky has been at the Connecticut Building for six years co-managing with Bove, but even before that was a loyal Fairgoer, only missing one Fair in her lifetime.

Their positions are a special part of Bove and Olisky’s responsibilities working for the State of Connecticut — Bove as the Hospitality & Information Services Coordinator in the Tourism office, and Olisky as the Program Associate & Special Projects Coordinator in the Office of the Arts.

“It’s like our Grammy!” said Olisky. “I love our state of Connecticut. I’m proud and honored to represent the state and work in the Connecticut Building here.”

“It’s such a pleasant surprise! This award comes from the people we’re serving, and it’s just so nice to be acknowledged,” said Bove.

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