For 18 days leading up to Labour Day, the Exhibition Place plays host to the Canadian National Exhibition, CNE, an annual event first founded in 1879. Since then, it’s been held in Toronto every year, only closing during World War II. The first CNE served to exhibit agriculture and technology in Canada, however, it now serves as a celebration of the diversity and innovation that characterizes the country.
On Friday, we attended CNE to see if it lives up to our expectations. Here are five things we loved about it and five things we weren’t so keen on.
Our Five Favourite Things
Candy Castle Maze – Olde Fashion Bulk Candies & Assorted Saltwater Taffy
Rather than being an actual maze, the Candy Castle is more of a winding path lined with old school sweets and confectionary on either side. Priced by the weight, around $9 per pound unless marked otherwise, it allows you to sample many types to candy without having to commit to a whole bag. Even for the adults who have since outgrown their sweet tooth, the candy maze is surely a walk down nostalgia lane with tastes of their childhood.
Enercare Centre Hall C
The Hockey Circus Show
Hosted by an American named PAZ, who was so inspired by the Canadian sport that he moved up the boarder, the Hockey Circus Show combines comedy with spectacular showmanship into something that can be enjoyed by parents and children alike. With his dry, humorous quips, PAZ was able to keep us, non-hockey fans, amused throughout the 30-minute show.
The FireGuy show is basically what you would expect from the name, a guy doing stuff with fire. However, this goes beyond simple tricks as he wiz around the stage on his one-wheel electric skateboard, the only performer to do so in North America. He is also the current holder of the Guinness World Record for most fire torch ate in a minute, 101 torches. While this impressive feat wasn’t demonstrated in his thrice daily show, his finale of eating a single torch is still a sight to behold.
Food Truck Frenzy
A collection of 25 different food trucks, parked just within the main entrance of CNE, will lure you in with the enticing smell of food from all around the world. With cuisines ranging from Asian to Mexican to Canadian, there will be something for everyone. Furthermore, these vendors used the CNE as an opportunity to showcase unique dishes that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Arts, Crafts & Hobbies Pavilion
A staple of CNE, the Arts, Crafts & Hobbies Pavilion provides visitors a chance to explore the local art scene of Toronto and interact with vendors from all over the country. Here, you can expect to find items from fudge to clothing to accessories, most of which are produced by the vendors themselves. While this might mean that they are priced higher than mass produced items, you can go home knowing that you’ve supported an independent artist and whatever you’ve bought was made with love.
Arts, Craft & Hobbies Pavilion
Five Things We Didn’t Love
CNE Heritage Walking Tour
The walking tour is a one-hour affair where we followed a guide around the grounds of the CNE as he recounts stories and historic facts. For history buffs, this would be a perfect opportunity to learn about the events that have unfolded here. However, for younger audiences or those less into history, the tour resembles a walking history lesson where your teacher rambles on about dates, wars, and historical events.
Under $6 in the 6
Featuring food items $6 and under, the event theoretically sounds like a perfect way to indulge in delicious food without breaking the bank. When actually enacted, however, the lack of choices, with only 4 vendors, and the small portions left much to be desired. Despite this, the food being served is delicious and made to order.
This is only the first year of this festival and hopefully, in subsequent years, CNE will be able to procure more vendors and manage the price.
Craft Beer Fest
Nestled within the Food Truck Frenzy is the Craft Beer Fest, allowing visitors to sample locally crafted beers as they eat. The fest mainly operates on the token system where you buy tokens at the front which is then used to purchase the beer. However, at $20 for 8 token and 4 token a full-sized beer, it adds up to $10 a beer, a high cry from what you’d find at your local LCBO. This deal works out better if you prefer sampling multiple beer as you can purchase a small sample for just one token, allowing you to try 8 different beers.
The Ex Race: Extreme Sport Competition
Replacing the parkour exhibition this year is an American Ninja Warrior style obstacle course that visitors at the CNE can actually participate in. This all accumulate to a final competition on the last day of CNE where the 60 fastest participants compete to win a total of $10,000. While this sounds interesting, the first few weeks serves as the qualifying rounds so it is not guaranteed that anyone will actually finish the course. This makes for an anti-climactic viewing experience after the first 5 minutes or so. If you want to give a try at the course yourself, you can sign up either online or at the event itself.
If you usually use cash on a daily basis, this shouldn’t be an issue for you. However, for those reliant on their debit or credit card, buying things at the CNE can be a bit of an issue as many of the vendors operates on a cash only basis. If you were like me and forgot to bring cash, there are still ATMs all over the ground, though this comes with a caveat of the ATM charging $4 in addition to whatever your bank charges for withdrawal. Save yourself from this hassle by bringing cash!
After all, CNE is a memorable experience you can share with your friends and family. The exhibition will end on September 2nd.
By Vy Tran and Phuong Nguyen
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