It’s here. Hard to believe, but the Canadian National Exhibition is about to start, marking the beginning of the end of summer.
So what’s new and what’s returning for this year’s fair? CNE General Manager Virginia Ludy gives all the details of what to check out (and how to save) this time around.
What is some of the new programming this year?
We have the new, first-ever, CNE Innovation Garage happening here at the CNE. This is a pitch competition, where emerging young inventors will compete for up to $25,000 in Grand Prize money and it takes place over the first three days of the fair. So August 19-21, it’s in the Enercare Centre. There’s the competition as well as an opportunity for our visitors to come feel, touch, and play with the inventions. There’s also an Innovation Playground where the latest in consumer products and more are available for our guests to explore.
In addition to that, we’re returning to the waterfront this year! We haven’t had a waterfront show at the CNE in over 20 years. Because of the investment made by the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto into the Pan Am and Parapan Games, that whole waterfront has been brought up to a level where we can now utilize it for wakeboarding and water skiing. So we’re going to have a wakeboarding and water skiing show twice daily throughout the entire 18 days of the fair. On the first weekend, the Canadian Wake Surf Nationals are happening, from the 19th to the 21st. And on the middle weekend, from the 25th to the 28th, we have the Nautique Wakeboard World Championships, brought to us by Rockstar Energy.
And then for those Trekkies out there, we have Star Trek: “50 Artists. 50 Years.” This is a global art exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of this iconic franchise and features works by 50 artists from 10 countries. This is the only stop in Canada for this particular tour, so we’re very excited about that.
Tell me about the entertainment lineup.
We have all sorts of entertainment. Let’s start with the Bandshell, as that seems to be the fan favourite. For opening night, Randy Bachman is here. On Saturday (August 20), we have Jefferson Starship at 5:00 and at 8:30 we’re going to live stream The Tragically Hip concert from Kingston. So that will be a great evening – people can come out, sit under the stars, enjoy some ribs from our RibFest, have a cool one and watch The Tragically Hip.
Next up, Headstones is on August 21. On our middle weekend we have a country theme, so we’ve got George Canyon, Dean Brody, High Valley & Jess Moskaluke and on Monday, The Legendary Downchild Blues Band. Alan Frew is here, Scott Helman & Tyler Shaw…there’s something on every night and I would encourage your listeners to go to theex.com for all of those details.
We’ve also got six other stages across the grounds featuring a variety of entertainment, all free with your admission.
Let’s talk everyone’s favourite – food!
Of course we’ve got some wacky new treats. We’ve got sumo burgers, churros, ice cream cones, bug hot dogs…bug meal is the new protein of the future. This is apparently the food that’s going to help us sustain ourselves and feed the billions of people on the planet as we move forward into the future! So these are new concoctions using bug meal and are apparently very tasty.
In terms of returning fan favourites, we’ve got our RibFest which runs for the full 18 days in Bandshell Park. On the middle weekend we’ve got our Food Truck Frenzy and our Craft Beer Fest. And what would the fair be without an ice cream waffle?
Any new rides to speak of?
We have a new Himalaya ride coming this year and there are a couple of new kiddie rides. And then we’ve got the traditional favourites that everybody loves – we brought back the Sky Ride a couple of years ago. And for those folks that are a little bit more adventurous, there are all those crazy rides down in the Midway. We have 65 rides at The Ex this year.
What are the top ways for visitors to save money while attending the CNE?
Nobody has to pay full admission to come to The Ex. Our regular admission prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors over 65 and children between the ages of 5 and 13, and children under the age of 4 are free.
But Mondays to Thursdays – with the exception of Labour Day – you can come in after 5:00 for $6. Opening day is half price, at $9. Or you can go online up until August 18 and buy your tickets in advance for a discount – General Admission is $14 or an all-day Ride Pass, which includes your admission and your rides, is $40.
It’s been a brutal summer, heat-wise. Do you have any advice for how to stay cool?
We have over a million square feet of indoor space at the CNE, all of which is air conditioned.
We also have water stations throughout the grounds, so if people need to rehydrate themselves, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Bring your water bottle with you and fill it up!
And we have tons of places for people just to sit down under the shade of a tree, in a Muskoka chair or on a bench and relax. I quite often go by those Muskoka chairs and see people having a little cat nap before they continue on in their visit to the fair.
Do you have any last tips?
Come down and come often! There are so many things to do here and I’m not sure you can do it all in one day. But if you take advantage of some of our great promotions, you can certainly come multiple times to The Ex. There’s something for everybody here.
The CNE runs from August 19 to September 5, 2016.