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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Let's go to The Ex in its 134th year in Toronto

   One-Tank Trip for Aug. 11/12

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The “Grand Dame” by the lake is getting gussied up ready for her 134th appearance for a Toronto tradition that doesn’t slow down.
   The Canadian National Exhibition, also dubbed “the Ex” and the “CNE,” opens next Friday (Aug. 17) and for us kids growing up in the big city, this was a fun time but also a harbinger of fall and back to school.
“One in, you win” is a contest of skill along the Midway at the CNE. (Photo: Ontario Tourism)
   It’s where you rode your first rollercoaster, were scared out of your wits in the haunted house ride, learned how to drive by smashing up the bumper cars, peered inside at the circus-like sideshows, ate candy floss and snow cones and were taunted by buskers yelling “one in, you win (as if that could happen)!”
   A favourite – or most irritating – hustler outside the “Pure Food” building sold “invisible dogs” in a plastic harness with a leash and yelled non-stop, “Doggie, doggie, who wants a doggie?”
   Like it or love it now or as it was, the Ex since 1879 is Canada’s largest fair, one of the top 10 in North America and attracted 1.3-million visitors last year.

   Its roots are showing
   Even though there are new attractions, exhibits and a wide range of performers, the Ex is “staying true to the fair’s roots,” says Annette Borger, media relations director.
   “The CNE has maintained its long-standing traditions such as the Ambassador of the Fairs competition and PeeWee Baseball Tournament, which are in their 41st and 56th years, respectively,” she said.
   There are also the horse and arm animal shows, the cat and Super Dogs events and a casino for cards and roulette gamers.
   Over the Lake Ontario waterfront, the 63rd annual Canadian International Air Show soars over the Ex on Labour Day weekend.
   Rides with the CN Tower in the background. (Photo: CNE)
   This year, try the CNE Sky Ride, giving nice views of the grounds, lake and Toronto islands, while moving between the Princes’ Gates and BMO Field.
   There’s also a new zip line and NITRO, where riders travel on tracks through twists, turns and steep drops in specially crafted Italian-made cars.

   On the really big show
   Step right up to be entertained by Bandshell performers including Big Sugar; Nick Carter; Boogie Wonder Band; Freddie McGregor; the Spinners; Don McLean; Trooper; Last Night of the “Canadian” Proms; 3OH!3; Arkells; Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone joining Paul Revere and the Raiders; and the Tea Party.
   There’s also comedic hypnotist Terrance B, illusionist Ted Outerbridge, Mexican circus artists CiRcO LoColie and ExBot from the movie Rocky-4.
   The Aerial Acrobatics and Ice Skating Show features Canadian gold medalist dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir until Aug. 31 and Canadian Olympian Elvis Stojko on Labour Day Weekend.

   Yummy, yummy, yummy
   Don’t despair, the Midway’s fan food faves return featuring deep-fried butter, Mars bars and PB&J sandwiches.
The Midway is one of the most popular spots at the CNE in Toronto. (Photo: Ontario Tourism)
   There will be a “Food Truck Frenzy,” on Aug. 24 to 26 with 17 of rolling yummy wagons near the Direct Energy Centre and the Food Building has new sampling menus and 11 “gourmet fare” vendors.
   These include everything from tacos with Far East fillings, pulled meat sandwiches, organic and raw vegan food, loaded baked potatoes, Bacon Nation, big apple fritters and smoothies.
   Returning are Krispy Kreme Burger, Colossal Onion, Deep Fried Cola and Deep Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese as well as a Ribfest daily (except Aug. 20 and 27) at Bandshell Park.

   It’s only rock ‘n’ roll
   Celebrating 50 years of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the Beach Boys, there’s an exhibit with photos, memorabilia and personal items of the three iconic bands.
   An exhibit called Battleground CNE! The Military History of the CNE Grounds documents the Battle of York, one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812.
   “Let’s go to the Ex” through the historic Princes’ Gates at Exhibition Place. (Photo: Ontario Tourism)
   The kids are alright
   There’s a “Fishing Friendzy” daily at the Farm that’s an interactive area to learn about fishing, nature, safety and the environment.
   The young ones can meet favourite friends from Teletoon Live such as Barney, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train and My Little Pony.
   On selected days, there will also be Dora and Diego; Angelina Ballerina; Chuck the Dump Truck; Olivia the Piglet; and Jess from Guess with Jess.

   If you go:
   The Ex is at Exhibition Place along the waterfront.
   Opening-day admission at the gate is $8, otherwise: $16, ages 14 to 59; $12, 60 and older and children, five to 13; no charge for children four and younger. A family pass is $48. See other special offers online. www.theex.com; (416) 393-6300


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com

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