Booking entertainment for the 100th Anniversary of the Big E seemed like such a balancing act, talent buyer John Juliano might as well have been working under the Big Top as part of the fair's Circus Spectacular.
However, he will still most likely be found at the Xfinity Arena or under the newly-tented Court of Honor stage during the fair's upcoming 17-day run. Juliano, the long-time Special Events Director for the fair set out to bring a diverse lineup to the fairgrounds, covering country, rock, electronic dance music (EDM), pop, and R&B.
"We wanted to be diverse but we also know what our audience wants," said Juliano. "So trying to match that while providing some acts that you won't typically get to see and bringing in an act that is part of the fair's history...all of that comes into play."
Juliano went to The Cowsills for a sense of history, a group that first played the fair in 1969.
"They played inside The Coliseum," said Juliano.
The Cowsills will perform Sept 21 through Sept 23, handling 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows at the Court of Honor stage.
Other acts on that stage include DJ Diesel, a.k.a Shaquille O'Neal who is newly enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame (Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.) and the EDM festival "Electric Equinox" featuring Morgan Page on Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m.
"When you see the production for these shows it is going to feel like a club in Las Vegas," said Juliano. "It will have that real EDM festival vibe and I don't know if there are any other fairs where you will find something like that."
The big stage at the Big E, the Xfinity Arena, has a lineup dotted with big names from pop-rockers X Ambassadors (Sept 23, 7:30 p.m.) to radio star Elle King with her hit "Ex's & Oh's," on Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m., and rocker George Thorogood on Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
The aforementioned shows are free with admission to the fair. VIP tickets are available for each show through thebige.com. Juliano said the Thorogood VIP seats are almost sold-out.
"It was the fastest selling show we've had this year," he said.
Juliano scored a major coup with his country acts in Lee Brice on Sept. 30 (the only ticketed event) and Maren Morris on Sept. 25. Morris recently earned five Country Music Association award nominations and is riding high as the genre's new breakout star.
"I read a Billboard article about her and we looked at her early," said Juliano. "I paid attention to the people she was aligned with and it all spelled success."
Juliano has been booking the fair right down to the wire, adding acts like Blood, Sweat, and Tears with Bo Bice (Sept. 17 at the Xfinity Arena) and social media star Dylan Holland (Court of Honor stage, Sept. 25 3 p.m.) in the last few weeks.
"We held some dates to see who might be trending," said Juliano. "We are always looking. We already have made an offer for an act for next year."