cne 2021

Here's why the CNE still isn't happening despite being allowed to under Step 2 rules

Toronto has really felt the loss of its usual events over the course of the pandemic, especially the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), which for millions of people has long served as an end of summer tradition.

After the unsurprising news that the massive 142-year-old annual fair was not taking place in 2020 and was instead going virtual, residents held out hope that by August of 2021, things would be normal enough for them to return to Exhibition Place and hit up their favourite rides, games, and food and retail stalls.

Though organizers stated earlier this year that they were fully intending on putting on the usual in-person festival from Aug. 20 to Sept. 6, 2021 (with health and safety protocols in place, of course), dreams were shattered in Mid-may when it was revealed that all major events in the city were being cancelled through to early September.

It seems that move was perhaps prematurely made, though, coming just before the province's 3-Step Roadmap to Reopen was announced and put into motion.

As part of Step 2 of that roadmap, which all of Ontario (save for Waterloo) entered on June 30, outdoor fairs, rural exhibitions, festivals and similar events can open with a 25 per cent capacity limit and physical distancing, among other measures, in effect.

Despite this revelation and the fact that we will be opened even further by the time the Ex would take place — and have already well surpassed the vaccination rates to proceed to that next step of reopening — the beloved seasonal staple still won't be happening this year, organizers confirmed to blogTO.

"The decision was based on the recommendations of public health officials due to the new variants of the COVID-19 virus," a representative from the Ex told blogTO of the festival's cancellation.

"Cancelling the 2021 CNE was not our decision to make. We are shuttered this year because the mayor and the City of Toronto will not allow large scale events that are city-permitted or take place on city property to happen from July 1 to September 7, 2021."

Frustratingly enough, theme parks like Canada's Wonderland in Vaughan is opening for business this week, and the Centreville Amusement Park on Centre Island will likewise be hosting guests this summer.

The spokesperson also noted the return of other large-scale events such as The Calgary Stampede, which opens on July 9th, calling it "sad" that the CNE won't be happening after all in light of all else that is getting to resume.

Mayor John Tory said in an interview with CP24 at the end of last month that the decision was made largely due to the uncertainty regarding what the public health situation would be by time the CNE was set to take place.

"If they went out and signed all the contracts for the rides, for hiring all the people, for all the different things and then the situation in August had turned out to be bad — which is still a possibility — the CNE wouldn't necessarily have survived the financial blow," he told the news outlet.

"The decision was taken early on with a lot of these events... but we had to look ahead and decide 'well, were they prepared to go out on a limb and sign all these contracts,' and most of these organizations came to us proactively and said they were not."

Even prior to having to call off the 2021 event, the CNE indicated that it had been devastated financially from loss of 95 per cent of projected revenue last summer, and warned that it may not survive.

"What happens in the next few months will be a watershed moment for the organization and the legacy of Canada's largest fair," CNE's executive director said in a statement following the postponement of this year's fair.

"The announcement by the City means that the CNE will have to reassess the financial viability of surviving a second consecutive year of lost revenues totalling up to $70 million."

Last year marked only the second time in history that the CNE did not take place since it was founded in 1879. The Canadian National Exhibition Association is already at work planning the 2022 event.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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