An evening at the Ex

One of the joys of getting older is realizing that there is a beauty in traditions. I love my family’s tradition of making pastelles for Christmas or of not eating turkey for Thanksgiving.

What I’m also loving (and rediscovering, to be honest) is the tradition of going to the Canadian National Exhibition (The CNE) or as it’s commonly known, the Ex.

I went with Gail, Christian, Andrea and Natalie and it was my first time in two years. We checked out the Food Hall where I did not eat a cronut hamburger but had my traditional roti and currants roll. We watch Mark McEwen make delicate, elite pulled pork tacos. The pulled pork cooked for six to ten hours, depending on the heat of the oven. Lovely idea but I’d rather just go to his restaurant than spend ten hours waiting on an oven.

There was live music from the Mudmen and the Proclaimers, making it a rather Scottish-themed afternoon. Beer was had, dancing was done and on our way to the midway we fawned over the animals in the farm building.

Being city folk, we cooed over day-old chicks, four-day-old piglets and said things like, “Cows are really big when you’re really close to them.”

Ok, that was me but really, cows are big. Alpacas have the best hair and ostriches, while immense with their size just look mean. And attack the air from the fan.

Then it was time to really hit the midway.

The charm of the Ex is the midway with its rickety, old-fashioned rides that have been there for years, possibly decades. The Polar Express whizzed Gail and I backwards at speed, causing me to lean or rather be pushed into her. Then we hit the roller coaster, laughed our way through the haunted house, which was terrible, and spun high above the grounds in one of the swing rides. The best time to go, if you can, is at night. Not only is it not hot, the lights of the midway, the chilled atmosphere of the crowd and the call of the barkers pulls you away from the fact that you are in Toronto and in a space that is sadly underused and often forgotten the rest of  the year.

Photos courtesy of Andrea Bolley

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