Summer is not complete without a trip – or multiple trips – to The EX (AKA The Canadian National Exhibition or The CNE). The exhibition opens 18 days prior to Labour Day, and in my opinion, is the unofficial countdown to the end of summer. Just under 1.5 million visitors flock to the CNE grounds each year, making it the largest fair in Canada and the 7th largest in North America. As much as the CNE evolves year-over-year, I still find it does a great job of going back to it’s roots of promoting agriculture, manufacturing and the arts. Walking through the grounds is a spectacle in itself, but as you make your way through the various buildings – you do feel a sense of history of what was there before. Aw. Look at me getting all nostalgic!
There is no doubt in my mind that the food at the CNE garners a lot of attention from visitors wanting to taste the latest and most bizarre fair food. Every year there seems to be some new marvel of culinary genius (although, some may want to argue with the use of that word) that makes its appearance at the fair. Whether it’s the deep fried butter, the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger or the Nutella fries, the CNE offers quite a selection of random food concoctions. However, patrons do need to be wary about the food they put in their mouths at the fair. As we’ve seen with the infamous scandal of the ridiculously high-calorie-count Cronut Burger, the quality standards at some vendors are seriously lacking. But honestly, a Cronut Burger? Do you think you could walk away from eating something like that unscathed?!
This year the EX introduced Food Truck Frenzy – one of Canada’s largest food truck rallies. As soon as you walked through the Princes’ Gates, you were hit with a strip of Food Trucks selling anything and everything from frozen yogurt, to tacos, to churros. This year, I felt it would be more ‘safe’ to eat at one of the food trucks vs. eating in the food building (that Cronut Burger scandal really petrified me!). Based on a friend’s highly enthusiastic review, I decided to try the Pad Thai fries from Fidel Gastro’s. Looking at the picture above right now, my mouth is starting to drool and my belly is starting to rumble. These fries were quite tasty and gone within minutes. Not the healthiest dinner choice, but definitely one of the tastiest.
The CNE has tons of things going on that some people may not even realize. You can spend an entire day there and not run out of things to do. Just walking through on a Sunday night I was able to catch the amazing Flying Wallendas, contestants battling it out in the Rising Star Talent Competition, and a performance at Bandshell Stage by Dragonette.
Now, what is an exhibition without a butter sculpting contest? Not a very good one in my humble opinion. And this year’s creations did not disappoint! The butter sculpting display found in the farm building featured an array of fantastic sculptures by students from the college of art and design.
Another one of my favourite things to check out at the EX is the sand sculpting contest. I am always amazed at the level of detail that goes into these sand sculptures. The artists only have 6 days to create these sculptures which is a feat in itself when you are working with 10 tons of sand. Truly incredible.
I think people who ride carnival rides are the bravest of the brave (and maybe the most crazy?) people in the world. The fact that these rides are put up in a matter of days just baffles me. While I haven’t heard about a major ride catastrophe in a really long time at the EX, you will never see me up on the Zipper. But what a sight these rides are – especially at night. Merry-go-rounds, ferris wheels, swings – they light up the sky and it really is something spectacular to see. I didn’t go on any rides this year (possibly due to the fact that I was chicken, they were expensive and the ticket lines were too long), but I did manage to snap some great pics. Take a look below!
I find the CNE to be a very magical place to visit. The sights of the crowds, the games, the food, the rides – it’s just fantastic how they all come together to make this place such an experience. There is still this weekend to take everything in, so if you haven’t ventured out there already – be brave, face the crowds, check out the air show and say your farewells to summer!