CNE – Right of Passage or Just Passé?

Andrea Freedman

With the Canadian National Exhibition just having begun, this year, rather than planning when I will be attending the fair as I have done so many years before, I find myself strangely indifferent to it.

For decades I was a die-hard Exhibition goer. I would not dream of missing a chance to go to the Ex during those precious last two weeks of the summer. In fact, I had a tradition with one of my friends where we went together every year, ate everything in sight and went on all the rides. We even had our own secret – free I might add – parking spot.

It was not a matter of if but when I would be going to the Ex. I would plan when I was going even before the official opening day, eagerly anticipating how much fun I would have each time I entered the gates. I would not have skipped it for anything.

I remember how excited I was the first time I was allowed to go alone with my friends when I was a young teenager, unsupervised by parents. I took some of my spending money and bought one of their big sellers that year, a black felt cowboy hat, which at the time, in my youthful foolishness, I thought looked extremely cool.

Perhaps my lack of zeal has something to do with what a seemingly short summer we have had this year. While the Canadian National Exhibition is fun and something many people who live in our city, as well as visitors from other cities, look forward to, it is also a reminder that the end is near; the end of the summer, that is.

Besides, some things have changed since I began going to the Ex as a kid. I miss some of the rides such as my favourite rollercoaster of all time, the Flyer, and the Monster, particularly when I went on the ride with my sister, where we would laugh hysterically, I think partly out of fear.

When I went to the Ex with my husband for the first time, I was surprised to learn that he does not like going on rides. He does, however, like to play games and as a result I have several dust-collecting stuffed animals that he has won for me over the years. Granted these things have sentimental value but there is a limit to how many of them I can keep around.

The funny thing is I cannot remember any particular time when I did not enjoy myself at the Ex, aside from one rather depressing visit there. Whatever you do, take it from me and do not go to the Ex on Labour Day. If you do not already feel sad enough about the pending back to school feeling in the air, never is it more prevalent than when you see the rides and games being packed up for the season.

I have discovered that when the Ex is open other venues which are usually busy in the city are less crowded as everyone is at the CNE. While I used to always want to be where the action is, these days I am happy to relax in a nice calm atmosphere without having to squeeze my way through a crowd.

I am in no way trying to put a damper on anyone else’s fun. If other people still feel the same enthusiasm about going to the Ex every summer that’s great for them. I personally just do not feel the same sense of urgency I would have in the past had I not had an opportunity to make it to the Ex.

We are lucky to have carnivals, exhibits and the like in our city; that does not mean one is required to continue doing something just out of a sense of imagined obligation.

It is amazing how things I thought I would never change, traditions I assumed I would always want to keep, are no longer as exciting to me as they once were. Then again, I also used to think I would never tire of going to clubs and bars every weekend either.

Don’t get me wrong; I still like the good old staples such as the mini donuts and waffle ice cream and if I get a bad enough craving for either of them I just might end up attending the Ex again this year after all. One thing is for sure though. If I do, it certainly will not be on Labour Day.▼












Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2013


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on August 20, 2013, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I remember those cowboy hats and feather clips we got! We were soooo cool back then!


  2. I think alot of pleasures that we looked forward as a child and young teenager, are now replaced by other adventures as an adult that are more meaningful. These memories of the excursion downtown through the dusty and crowded buildings and lining up for rides, don’t seem as exciting as they used to. It’s good to remember the days when we were only looking forward to excitement, no matter where we found it. Good work.


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