CNE Toronto 2011
The 2011 CNE is set to mark an end to another Toronto summer, with the annual fair getting underway Friday, August 19th. As has been the case for the last few years, food is as much an attraction this year as the other entertainment on offer, with loads of artery-clogging fare to go along with celebrity chef cooking demonstrations and almost 100 vendors in the Food Building (one of which will be selling donut cheeseburgers). Over and above the foodstuffs, yearly attractions like the midway, live music, and the annual Air Show will once again draw the crowds out to the longstanding fairgrounds.
Here are some highlights from the 2011 CNE
SPECIAL EVENTS and ATTRACTIONS
If there's a can't miss attraction at the CNE this year for my money, it's the human cannonball, which harkens back to year's past when the Ex was more about, well, exhibition. Yes, the whole thing is kind of ridiculous, but that's what makes it great. David Smith Jr. will get some gun-power-assisted air each day at 1, 4 and 7pm at the west end of Princes' Boulevard, South of BMO Field.
Strong Man Displays
Also redolent of the Ex of yesteryear is this year's Strong Man displays, which will see John Beatty lift things that shouldn't be lifted and bend things that most of us can't bend. Daily performances take place in front of the Direct Energy Centre at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 & 7:30pm.
The Flowrider wave pool returns for 2011, and along with watching top Flow boarders perform, you can pop on your swim suit and give it a try for $20. Watching first-timers get in the pool is arguably as entertaining as seeing the pros pull off their tricks. Open from 10am-10pm in the Splash Zone on Princes' Boulevard.
Dog and Cat shows
Prepare by watching Best in Show, and then check out the SuperDogs Show and the 40th Annual Cat Show. I'm more of a cat guy myself, so I'm really hoping they have a few Sphinx on display (you know, the ones that look like hairless Siamese). Direct Energy Centre, various times (check link).
THE AIR SHOW
Ending the CNE as always will be the Canadian International Air Show. In its 62nd year, pretty much everyone in the city will know when the show arrives in town. Those looking for the best sight lines can by tickets, but there are plenty of waterfront locations where you can watch for free. Show information can be found here.
The Bra Project
Bras + Art = ? The Bra Project features 60 "art-bras" aptly displayed on a clothesline for the perusal of CNE attendees looking for a little undergarment inspiration. Not related (but still sort of related) is Marilyn in Canada, a selection of photographs that feature the cultural icon on Canadian soil. Both exhibits take place in the Arts, Crafts, & Hobbies Pavilion, from 10am-10pm.
Sand Sculpting Competition
And then there's sand. It's not fun to get it in your bra, but place it the right hands in can be sculpted into rather impressive creations. The International Sand Sculpting Competition will feature six artists doing remarkable things as they vie for top honour and fan favourite awards. Takes place at Heritage Court, Direct Energy Centre from August 19th to 24th.
We've already written about the CNE's donut cheeseburger and some of the other outlandish food options on offer this year, but along with the greasy fare, the Ex hosts a slew of celebrity chef cooking demonstrations and Ribfest. This year's chefs will include the cast of Top Chef Canada (including winner Dale McKay), Michael Smith, David Adjey, Bob Blummer, and Duff Goldman amongst others. For all full list and show times, check here.
Barbecue impresarios will face off at Ribfest throughout the CNE with the exception of Monday August 22nd and 29th. The fest takes place in a licensed area, so this might also be a great place to rest your midway feet while sipping on a beer. And if ribs aren't your thing, there's over 100 other restaurants and vendors scattered across the grounds.
CONCERTS and MUSIC
There's live music aplenty at the Ex, and while much of it might skew towards an older, nostalgic demographic, some current stuff on the schedule as well. All performances are free with CNE admission.
TTC Busker Competition — TTC Stage, West side of Food Building, August 19th - August 21st, 10am
Check out the hopeful applicants audition to be TTC buskers. There will be hidden gems here, for sure.
EXFEST Battle of the Bands — CNE Bandshell, August 23rd 4-10pm
Supernova recruits bands from around Southern Ontario to perform at the CNE Bandshell, where the size of the audience is probably as much a reward as the cash ($1000 for the winning band). Talent scouts take note.
The Spinners with The Manhattans — CNE Bandshell, August 24th, 7:30pm
70s soul legends the Spinners may not be a marquee draw these days, but they can still sing — and I'd go just to hear "It's a Shame."
Lights with Michou — CNE Bandshell, August 25th, 7:30pm
The Juno award-winning, Jian Ghomeshi-managed, multi-instrumentalist Lights hits up the CNE in support of her new album, Siberia.
Bandshell BluesFest, August 28th, 11:30am - 9pm
Blues, blues and more blues. Although none of the bands are altogether that acclaimed, this is the perfect drop-in concert. If it sounds good, stay!
k-os with Reema Major — CNE Bandshell, September 2nd, 7:30pm
Local boy k-os does his hip hop, crossover, eclectic thing in his first performance at the Bandshell. It's a safe bet that this'll be well attended, so arrive early if you want to get up close.
Tribute Bands — Midway Stage, various times
Copycat bands are fascinating, and sometimes even impressive in a kind of creepy way. And there are a lot of them at the CNE this year. Covering bands from Elvis to U2, there'll be plenty of opportunities to evaluate how they stack up. For a full list of performances, check here.
TICKETS, PRICING, DIRECTIONS, and MOBILE APP
For information related to the above, please check the CNE's info page.
If you're interested in checking out what the Ex used to look like, here's our post on the visual history of the CNE.
Photo by Felix Mo, David G. Tran and blogTO
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