The carnies are coming! The carnies are coming!

Posted on August 13th, 2009 4 great comments. Room for one more!

Someone had recently asked me what my favourite part of the CNE was.

That’s easy! It’s the danger!

To sum it up, it’s the danger of riding unsafe, potentially deadly rides. Nothing quite as exhilarating. That’s what The Ex has meant to me since I first went there with my folks. I was a little immigrant kid and lots of stuff impressed me back then. These days, that’s a bit more rare, but The Ex has managed to retain that feeling of charm and wonder to it. To me, it’s still still a carnival on a really big scale:

they're finally gonna get used

These grounds and all the buildings on them were built specifically for the Canadian National Exhibition, which only takes place once a year. The rest of the time, the grounds are used for the Indy and the various buildings are used for conventions, shows, and other large events. But The Exhibition, that’s this place’s raison d’être.

Like most big gatherings, The Ex started way back in the day when it was an agricultural fair. You came to exhibit your prized cows, corncob pipes, and pumpkins.  Someone would buy up your handsome heifers and you’d walk off with a wad of cash. The roads were mud at that time.

Eventually, agriculture gave way to modernity, and cool fifties’ style buildings were erected; kind of like the buildings in The Jetsons but more tame, more Canadian. And as seems to be the modern trend in downtown architecture these days, old buildings were extended, built onto, with the new buildings becoming a sort of cover for the old. The older building inside was pristinely restored and, being inside, better preserved. Usually, the outside structure involved a lot of glass.

But let’s say you come for other reasons:

here comes the pain!

The rides! And for me, it’s just more fun on the old ones. I mean, some of them have taken on mythic proportions. Could you imagine The Ex without the Polar Express?

first-class ticket to vomitsville

Yup, this guy’s seen some mileage. And it’s a lot of fun without stopping your heart. There’s also the ride that almost always seems to claim a casualty, my absolute favourite, the Starship 4000:


I think it used to be called the Gyrotron, or something like that, but it’s still exactly the same ride. Inside the (fully constructed) saucer are stretchers on wheels sitting against the reclining walls. You rest up against them and as the ship starts to spin, the stretchers are pulled up to the centre with the you stuck to them. One year, I also remember riding a (more common) variation where people stuck to the inside of a drum while the floor dropped out from under them. Same idea but in the saucer you move away from each other as you accelerate. And the DJ sits in the middle blasting out tunes. Sometimes really good tunes.

Invariably, some kid tries to stand up, loses his balance, and goes flying for the corner of the saucer, bashing himself up in all sorts of funny ways. It’s never as serious as it should be, but they always close the ride for a while as a result. I know it’s meant to punish us. I must say, it works.

I just don’t think that kids these days are getting the thrills they need. Roller-coaster wise, I mean. Look at this thing:

am i supposed to scream now?

Oh, look, a pretty ladybug out for a flight in a field of smiling flowers and swaying grass. Yes, every self-respecting teen is clambering to get onto it. And this is, arguably, the tallest and fastest coaster here. I suppose that tower-drop thing will have to do.

There’s more to The Ex anyway.

To me, the old livestock pavilions are where it’s at. Serene, shaded, and hushed. The animals are chillin’, you’re chillin’. Bit of straw for you, sip of lemonade for me. Ahhh. Pleasant. The weather for The Ex is usually hot and air-con doesn’t agree with me. I’m willing to co-exist with some manure if that’s what it takes.

Wee beasties not to your liking? Well, this year the feds pumped a bunch of cash into The Ex which has been used to get some big names to pay us a visit. Like Bill Clinton. So there’s that. And you know, there’s always a lot of classic Ex food:


Plus, there’s the food building for “real” food. Oh, and the air show at the end; not as boring as it sounds.

You know? There’s a lot to do there. I guess that’s why I like it too; you can be your normal ADD self, or you can be that old fogey watching the ponies, and it all just works as nature intended. The Ex has been around for so long that a good number of the streetcar lines converge there, so it’s easy to get to. And if you take care to note the location of washrooms when you first enter, you’re golden!

4 Comments on “ The carnies are coming! The carnies are coming! ”

  • ABadGalSays
    August 14th, 2009 10:48 am

    That Looks Like Fun.

    where are the pics of the modern bldgs ?

    and the animals ?

    heyyyy no fair – you gotta post at least one cow. ;)

    or a pic of you covered in cotton candy. geez that sounds like even more fun to look at.

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  • Patrick
    August 14th, 2009 12:20 pm

    Gal, I'll be going back when The Ex opens (next week?). Then there will be cows. And horses. And buildings. And me covered in cotton candy and popcorn. Fair?

  • Buggys
    August 17th, 2009 6:57 am

    For me it's the rides on the Boardwalk at Ocean City, Maryland. Fun, hot, sticky memories!

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  • Patrick
    August 17th, 2009 7:32 pm

    That's what we're missing, a proper boardwalk! Bummer; that sounds very appropriate. I would love to visit Ocean City if I ever get the chance.

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