This is what the CNE used to look like in Toronto
With origins that date back to the late 19th century, the CNE has long been a Toronto fixture. Prior to 1879, the fair had traveled throughout the province, but eventually settled where the crowds were after local stakeholders campaigned to make it a permanent city attraction.
It's almost startling to see just how well attended the Ex was back in the early 20th century. One imagines that half the city congregated at the fairgrounds, which remain located north of Lake Shore Blvd. and west of Strachan Ave.
Back then, the grandstand (later Exhibition Stadium) was a huge draw, featuring horse and motorcycle races, elephant shows, and a dangerous-looking sport called auto polo (which is just what it sounds like).
There were also magnificent and scary high diving displays. After the stadium was expanded to accommodate pro sports teams — both the Blue Jays and the Argos called it home prior to the building of the SkyDome — this element of the CNE faded away.
Exhibition Stadium was finally demolished in 1999, and as of 2006 BMO field occupies its former site.
Although its basic configuration has remained the same for many years, the midway was also a very different place. Operated by Conklin between 1937 and 2004, freak shows were a major attraction until the late 1970s, and for decades there was an obvious seediness at the Ex.
There's a rich history here, but the future of the Ex is always an interesting question. It's already been considerably sanitized — in some cases is for the better, but now it lacks a certain excitement level beyond the unveiling of its calorie-laden foods.
Let's look back at the glory years at the CNE.
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