TORONTO – Originally set up in 1897 as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) has evolved tremendously over the years, but can always be counted on to be one of the GTA’s biggest family-friendly attractions each and every summer.
Easily accessible via TTC streetcar, the CNE’s exhibition grounds are well-known among most Torontonians. After all, they enjoy a great location, stretching across a sunny waterfront expanse, west of Strachan Avenue between Lake Shore Boulevard West and the Gardiner Expressway. The exhibition grounds are also the starting point of each year’s Caribana parade and, of course, the site of home games played by Toronto FC at BMO Field.
Every year during the latter half of August, the grounds transform into a colossal offering of midway rides, carnival games, live music performances, and – often the most hotly-anticipated attraction – plenty of indulgent food creations devised by favourite local vendors such as Far East Taco and Fran’s Restaurant.
World War 1 centennial: honouring the CNE’s military past
While the CNE has long played a major role in technological history – the exhibition’s organizers were among the first to showcase the electric railway as early as 1883, and television technology in 1939 – its grounds also took on added significance during both World Wars.
During the first winter of World War 1, Exhibition Park transformed into “Exhibition Camp,” and was used as a local training ground for the 15th Battery of Canadian Field Artillery. Notably, the annual exhibition continued unfazed throughout the war – allowing fairgoers a rare chance to watch daily drills, explore military trenches, and even throw at a Kaiser Wilhelm target. (The fair did not take place during World War 2, as the grounds were used as an active military recruitment centre.)
Amid myriad nationwide events to commemorate 100 years since the start of the “Great War” in 1914, the CNE paid their own special tribute by adding World War 1-era military vehicles, and even an authentic re-enactment, to their annual CNE Warrior’s Day Parade. If you missed the parade, there’s no need to worry, as this year’s air show – another annual tradition – will feature six authentic World War 1 fighter planes. The show runs August 30 through September 1.
What else to look for at 2014’s CNE
In addition to annual staples like the zip line and acrobatics displays at the Ricoh Coliseum, 2014’s CNE is complete with an array of unique attractions that the whole family can enjoy. Here are a few of our favourite suggestions:
- This year, the CNE Bandshell has secured a star-studded performer lineup that includes rock radio legends like April Wine and Tom Cochrane.
- The “CanStruction of Mayoral Candidates” exhibit – literally, representations of each mayoral candidate created entirely out of food cans – will appeal to political junkies and art aficionados alike. You can support your candidate of choice, and help a good cause, by bringing a can of food to add to the display.
- Famed for his prowess as a hypnotist, “The Amazing Kreskin” will also be doing CNE live performances August 30 through September 1.
This year’s CNE festivities conclude on September 1, and family passes (two adults and two kids, OR one adult and three kids) are available at the gates or online for just $50. For info on getting there by bike, car, or public transit, check out the official website’s guide.