Sunday, August 31, 2014

Canadian National Exhibition

I was telling an American colleague, "I went to the Ex on the weekend, and had a really fun time." There was a minute's pause, and then he said, "And your wife ... er ... let you?!!"

I have to remember it's us Canadians who know what the Ex is! The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), also known as The Ex, is an annual event that takes place at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada during the 18 days leading up to and including Canadian Labour Day Monday. With approximately 1.3 million visitors each year, the CNE is Canada’s largest annual fair and the seventh largest in North America.

And it's an oddity that despite living for almost two decades in Toronto, I have never been to the Ex. It's almost an annual tradition for Torontonians to visit the CNE, marking the end of summer and getting ready for the upcoming back-to-school and Fall season. So this summer, I decided to try out the Ex.

There's a huge fair like component (we desis call it mela) at the Ex. You have the regular games, guess your age, and other impress-your-date-and-win-a-stuffed-toy variety. And not to mention, FOOD.

In addition to the regular fare variety such as corn dogs, frieds, waffles and other calorie-unconscious dietary assaults, there's a whole separate building devoted to food. And of the many exotic foods present, some are totally outrageous. Behold!

Because, you know, a regular Mars bar was too healthy. *smile* No, I didn't try it - and this time there was also the chocolate covered fried chicken if you wanted some meat.

For the religious Muslim, CNE also had halal options. I had the Original 8 inch Philly Steak sandwich and it was delicious! It was great not to be limited to just fish or veggies at yet another North American festival.

In fact, there was yet another bonus for the Muslim visitor - prayer rooms!

While there was plenty of grass and other semi-private areas you *could* say your prayers in if you really wanted to, the fact that there were two (yes, two!) official prayer areas meant we didn't have to. I even prayed Jummah prayers at the CNE!

The CNE has free shows throughout the day on a variety of stuff (sometimes at the same time so you have to choose). We chose to see the Mirage Acrobats show, and boy was it mesmerizing!

I really liked the hologram / laser part - it was absolutely amazing how the performer seemed to control the light beams as if they were sticks in his hand. I am still trying to figure out how technically this was made possible. There was also a dog show where ordinary pooches entertained the audience with fun and innovative tricks.

A big component of the CNE is the Farm. They had a multitude of animals in that building, and even a whole barn of cows and sheep. There was a milking demonstration, as well as a sheep rearing demonstration.
There was also a bee hive on display, with the sides transparent so we could peer in and see the worker bees and the queen bee. It was something I never had seen before in my life, and was something really educational. Not to mention, they were selling fresh honey right there!

The Farm also had something that is a staple of big fairs across North America - butter sculptures. These were huge structures built entirely out of butter.

The crowds are legendary, but only on the weekends and evenings.

We had gone early on Friday, so it wasn't too crowded to begin with, but it got busier after 5 pm. Even then, the CNE is so huge that it's manageable, and you don't feel claustrophobic.

Another notable part of the CNE is the Garden Show and the sand sculptures. Plus, the epic Rock Balancer was on show again this year.

We actually got to see the last sand sculpture being built in front of us (the iconic scene from Star Wars) and it was something novel (and looked like fun!).

Of course, if you ask anyone to describe what's the most fun thing to do at the CNE, you would get one word - rides. And thus the rides.

Some of the rides were really crazy - like the Mach 3. If you do it, props to you.

Over all, it was a really fun experience at the CNE, and I look forward to making the Ex an annual tradition. If you want some tips: arrive as early in the day as you can, and be prepared for a lot of walking. Dress for the weather and drink plenty of fluids. Plan the shows you want to see, and over all, have fun!


Anonymous said...

Good write-up and glad you enjoyed. Its been a family tradition of ours since the 1960's. The (free) shows were quite good this year.I'm also tryg to figure out the laser beam guy.

nadia said...

That surely looks like a very organized event and there seems to be so much to do for all age groups. Did you visit with your family?

mezba said...

Anon, it looks like it will become a family tradition of ours too, iA. I have been surprised at the scale of the exhibition and the number of shows. Went back on the last day and enjoyed the birds of prey and reptile shows as well.

Nadia, yes I visited with my family. I think my son enjoyed the most - there's a lot to do for kids ( a whole kids ride area in fact). Plus adults can have fun in the Midway games and food and the shows. Very family friendly and accessible as well.