Vincent Black

Should we put the Grand old Lady/CNE to sleep


The Canadian National Exhibition or better known as the CNE has been a staple in my family for over four decades. The opening of the CNE on August 18 has been circled on our calendar for over a year and its something that my wife and kids still to this day make it a family tradition on opening day.

The CNE is one of the longest running major events in Toronto, and with a deep history comes with many different acts and shows. Whether you were born here or not, for many folks that came from other countries the CNE provides many families a comfort level and affordability of spending some time with family. Many memories have started in this iconic spot in Toronto with many families still to this day attending the events.

Over the years the CNE has had its ups and downs as a result of changes in the economy and the cultural shift, but the grand old lady keeps hanging in and although over the years it needed to supplement these grounds with other attractions, its still. Many generations have enjoyed the CNE as a place to go, the place to celebrate the end of summer. The CNE is known as the largest community event and one of the top agricultural fairs in North America. Many families would also attend to see what is new in the world. Inventors of such things as the cell phone, or some of the latest cars and so many of the latest technologies such as televisions with the large screens have debuted at the CNE. The introduction of radio in 1922, Edison’s phonograph in 1888 have provided each generation lasting memories.

The Canadian National Exhibition introduced many to the arts with the renaming of some of the buildings to the Music building, the food building, the automotive building and cultural plus many more. The CNE would continue to grow and to reflect the changes in Canadian society as the emphasis would slowly shift from agriculture to industry. By 1912, the fairgrounds would cover close to 350 acres and included one of the finest amusement parks and permanent exhibition facilities in the world.

The one thing that l would like to point out is that the CNE has assembled a very prestigious art collection over the years and eventually donated works like the Group of Seven and more to the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Growing up not to far from the CNE enabled me to attend the grounds on many occasions, walking there enjoying friendships. l got one of my first jobs at the CNE running a pizza stand. I still have fond memories of those days and can still taste the first bite l had on the pizza…. crazy but true. Family entertainment was at the heart of this fair and for many it was a first. The annual trip to the CNE with my friends, family, or neighbors was the highlight of the year.

Due to COVID-19 and the two-year closure, there was a movement afoot to close the CNE permanently, but friends and supporters of the fair rallied and were able to keep it going with some provincial and federal funding. This fair is still very important to the economic viability of the city of Toronto and it also employs a great many students during this 18-day event. The fair usually employs about 5,000 people and supports 750 independent vendors.

The CNE traditions and its iconic location needs to be cherished because it has brought a great deal of joy to so many.

The Grand old Lady is a keeper, and we should continue to support her and give her the energy to keep young and around for many more decades to come.

Exhibition returns this year from August 18 to September 4. Enjoy!

Vince Nigro/MS

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