I’d be a tad bit remiss if I didn’t write about the Canadian National Exhibition. After all, it is a Toronto institution, right? It doesn’t feature so prominently in my own personal story, but I know many who have some memory of it.
Today, it’s known to us today by a few monikers – the long name and its short forms: CNE & The Ex – but it started under the banner of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition in 1879. I’d go into the history more (because that’s my thing), but the CNE has it covered way better than I ever could. They have a finely organized and extensive site devoted to its heritage! Do check it out!
Actually, I will add one tidbit I recently picked up: the very first edition of the Eaton’s catalogue was distributed at the Exhibition in 1884.
For me, the appeal of The Ex rests on four things: the Midway rides & games, the special attractions, the ambitious food, and the grounds & buildings itself.
First, the Midway. Oodles of people filter between games of roulette (the clean kind – there’s a casino for the other), bingo, basketball, water shooting (my fave from my Chuck E. Cheese’s days), and ball-into-block throwing.
Next, there’s the special stuff. This year there was an amazing sand sculpture competition, butter sculpture contest (featuring #DeadRaccoonTO), a WWI exhibition, farm animals, and more (including the traditional air show on the final weekend).
Of note to me was the Metrolinx LRV stationed near Ricoh Colliseum. I’ve never been on the new streetcars (shocking, I know), but the new Bombardier designs will be like them I’m told. We’ll first see these cars in 2020 at earliest (if all goes to plan).
Next, there’s the food. There was a lot of it. Most of it oily and sugary. Deep fried velvet oreos, garlic snow crab fries, poutine balls, Jamaican patty-bunned hamburgers. And the perennial treat: waffle ice cream sandwich.
My own choices included an artery clogging bacon wrapped grilled cheese sandwich from Bacon Nation washed down by a Fran’s brownie cheesecake milkshake. You can expect I did a lot of walking afterwards.
Finally, the CNE grounds are also known for some great architecture – old & new. You can read about my adventures in exploring some of that here – although it doesn’t include the Press Building, Bandshell, Horticulture Building, and Modernist constructions Food Building & Dufferin Gate. Of course, the famed Scadding Cabin also resides here too.
Toronto Then and Now also boasts a great post on the Exhibition lands’ First Nations and military past.