CNE Toronto 2013
The 2013 CNE descends on Toronto in just a few days, just as the nights are getting cooler, the days shorter and summer vacation is wrapping up. Some people like to see out the summer at a cottage or the beach, but some of us need to usher out the hot weather where nostalgia has an air show, in a place where cats and dogs are separated by a warehouse-sized bargain market, and where the rides never change and the food wants to kill you.
Maybe the Ex persists because for every person who complains that it needs to evolve, thre's someone else who insists that it was perfect when they were fifteen. The truth is that the Ex changes just enough to keep everyone unhappy, and that's why it'll probably outlive us all.
I'll be at the Ex as long as the Polar Express sits at the heart of the midway, but someone still invents new rides that might, one day, hold a similarly avid place in their heart. Last year's new attraction was the Sky Ride, a chair lift that bisected the midway and was mostly known to old-timers as being barely half as long and only a fraction as dangerous as the long-gone Alpine Way.
The Sky Ride is back, along with a new zip line ride that will let the brave ride over a thousand feet from just above BMO Field to a corner of the Direct Energy Centre. The big news, though, is Mach 3, a new tilt-a-whirl that's supposed to whip riders in and out of 360 degrees at a force of three and a half gs. As with any new ride, count on long line-ups full of novelty-crazed ride fiends.
Exhibition Stadium has been gone for years, but its echoes bounce back every few years with acts who might have headlined there in their heyday. This year at the Bandshell, it's Frankie Avalon (Aug. 29) and the Beach Boys (Aug. 18), as well as the 5th Dimension (Aug. 22) and Foreigner singer Lou Gramm (Aug. 23.)
The Bandshell's concert series kicks off with the Proclaimers (Aug. 16) and a show by indie superstars The New Pornographers (Aug. 17), and gives showcases to local acts like Dragonette (Aug. 25) and Walk Off The Earth (Aug. 30,) before closing with a concert by BC's Theory of a Deadman.
The International Stage is intriguing this year, with appearances by Paraguay's Recycled Orchestra, who play instruments hand-made from scrap salvaged from landfill in their hometown of Cauteura. The Creole Choir of Cuba have two records out on Peter Gabriel's Realworld label, and sing songs unique to Cuba's Haitian émigrés.
The rides might be safer and the carnies less unsavoury than in the Conklin days, but the Ex will still bring a bit of danger into your life with the latest advances in "fair food" - those caloric concoctions that try to appeal to your recklessness as well as your appetite. This year's menu has been leaked in advance, with items like Bacon Nation's Peanut Butter and Bacon Milkshake and a range of Nutella stuffed into and poured over everything from ravioli to fries.
Nutella will also feature in Ed's Real Scoop's Spice Cream Cone - soft serve ice cream with every kid's favorite hazelnut spread topped with chili flakes and crispy bacon bits. The big secret was whatever Epic Burger had cooked up, which has just been revealed as a Cronut Burger - a meat patty sandwiched into the latest butter-rich pastry sensation, served with melted cheese and maple bacon jam. The Food Building can look forward to lineups of bros daring each other to tuck into one with the same culinary machismo that they used to reserved for hot sauce and mescal worms.
The Bridesmaids Uncovered show will be someone's refuge from all the macho gourmandizing. The Garden Show will also do in a pinch, and the CNE Heritage Gallery will feature displays looking back at when the Ex was a consumer fair, showcasing new technology and hopeful glimpses of the world to come.
For the kids, there's the Super Dogs and the Horse Capades, magic shows, Reptilia and a War of 1812 dress-up area. Cascade, a dance group from France, is helpfully described as "Gangnam Style meets Chippendales," and its target audience is up for speculation. Finally, there's the Air Show on the Labour Day closing weekend, shorn of U.S. military aircraft thanks to the budget sequestration, but still loud and proud with its Snowbird finale.
Share your photos of this year's Ex with us via the hashtag #CNEblogTO on Instagram or add them directly to our CNE Toronto stream. We'll post the best ones on the homepage when the Ex is a wrap.