Tag Archives: CNE

Thoughts about Toronto’s 2014 CNE


The Zip Line at the 2014 CNE, in the background the Food Building and the BMO Stadium.

Attending the CNE is an end-of-summer ritual for many Torontonians. Some consider summer incomplete without at least one trip to the Ex. Although the CNE may have diminished in size and lost some of its lustre through the passing years, it will still attract over a million visitors in its 19-day run in 2014. It remains the largest annual fair in Canada. When it closes after Labour Day, similar to New Year’s Eve, we become aware that another milestone in time has passed.

Those of us who are older remember when the Ex introduced Canadians the latest technological advancements, featured the most up-to-date household appliances, and showcased the next year’s automobile models. Its grandstand shows attracted the biggest names in show business and the bandshell offered performances by brass bands from Britain and military bands from the United States. The horse show was also a highlight, as were the cattle and hog judging. In the Warriors’ Day Parades, thousands of veterans marched, their medals reflecting the late-summer sun.

The free samples in the Pure Food Building were welcomed treats. I particularly recall the small cups of various flavours of Campbell’s Soup, V-8 juice and different brands of breakfast cereals. However, they were never sufficient to make a meal, as many have claimed. I also remember buying a bag of chocolate bars, all for the price of one dollar. As great as the Ex was in those year, like last year New Year’s Eves, it has disappeared into time. However, I now realize that the greatest thing about the Ex in decades past was the fact that I was young. In our youth, everything was better and bigger, even if in reality it was not.

I sometimes feel that the Ex began its decline after the Manufacturers Building was gutted by fire and never replaced. During the next few years, the Flyer (rollercoaster) and the CNE Grandstand also vanished. Today, the Horticultural, Arts and Crafts, and Ontario Government Buildings are no longer part of the annual Exhibition. However, I was pleased to discover that this year (2014) people were again able to access the grounds via the Dufferin Gates. When returning on the streetcar from my trip to the Ex this year, I heard a woman declare on her cellphone to someone, “The Ex is mainly one big effort to sell you something.” There is much truth to this statement, but there is another side to the Ex that remains as glorious as former decades.

It remains a place where children and young people create memories that in the the years ahead they will refer to as “the good old days.” They have no recollections of the way the Ex used to be, so accept it for what it is and revel in the experience. In future years, they too will exaggerate the virtues of the Ex of 2014. In some respects, they will be correct. The assortment of rides is even better than in former years, even though there is no rollercoaster. This year there is the “Zip Line,” where a person signs a liability waver, pays $20, and zips from one end of the Ex to the other on a high-wire like a circus performer. As well, the gut-wrenching foods are as gut-wrenching as ever and the Tiny Tim Donuts as plentiful as they were in years past. I also noticed at the 2014 Ex the large number of immigrants experiencing the fair for the first time, seeing it through new eyes. I envied their sense of amazement and delight.

The CNE grounds are immaculately maintained and the landscaping is excellent. The flower beds and planters are a sight to behold, and the plantings around the Princess Margaret Fountain are wonderful, even though I admit that I miss the old Gooderham Fountain that was demolished in 1958. Walking the grounds is relaxing and pleasurable. The butter sculptures in the Better Living Centre are as fascinating as ever, even though they no longer portray Borden’s Elsie the cow. The sand sculptures are also skilfully executed, though I must confess that I have no interest in the stalls in the Direct Energy Centre Centre that sell crafts and products from all over the world, most of which are available in the shops in the Kensington Market or on Spadina Avenue.   

The Ex has changed. It is no longer the exhibition that I knew in my youth. I accept this, but still derive great pleasure visiting it each year, when I relive past memories and create new ones. In the latter respect, I am no different to the young who flock to the CNE each year. When I stroll the midway, I am again a teenager, even though I am an observer rather than a participant. Sadly, this now applies to more things in life than I care to mention.


The planter boxes at the Ex, to the west of the Food Building, the view gazing west towards the old Music Building.


       The Food Building built in 1954 to replace of former building of 1921.


The former Music Building, originally the Railway Building, designed by George W. Gouinlock in 1907. 

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The Zip Line, a new addition to the 2014 CNE. For $20 a person can ride on a high wire from the west end of the Ex to the east end, almost to the Princes’ Gates 

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The Princess Margaret Fountain, opened in 1958, replacing the old Gooderham Fountain of 1911. 


The Press Building, originally the Administrative Building, constructed in 1905.


A gigantic elm tree, a survivor from the old days of the Ex, and two Muskoka chairs where a person can relax in the shade.


                  The children’s merry-go-round in the Kiddie Rides

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                 The butter sculptures in the Better Living Centre


The CNE Midway in 2014. This scene might be from the 1950s or 1960s, as little has changed. 


                     The sand sculptures in the Direct Energy Centre


             View of the Midway looking west, the Sky Ride in the background.

To view Home Page:

For links to previous posts about the CNE throughout the years

The Princes’ Gates at the CNE

The CNE when “The Flyer” (rollercoaster) was king of the midway.

Going wild at the 2013 CNE.

Memories of the CNE of yesteryears.


The old Gooderham fountain at the CNE, which preceded the Princess Margaret Fountain, was a copy of those in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square

Ten suggestions to improve the CNE

Attending the 2011 Ex.

Memories and photos of the Grandstand shows of the 1950s

Postcard views of the CNE from the 1940s

More postcard views of the CNE from the 1940s

The historic fountain at the CNE that has now disappeared

A post about the sculpture in butter of Rob Ford

Visiting the 2012 CNE

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings 

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


                 To place an order for this book: .


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Toronto’s architectural gems—the Princes’ Gates at the CNE


The Princes’ Gates at the eastern end of the CNE grounds are truly one of the most attractive and impressive architectural gems of the city. Each year, when the annual late-summer fair opens, thousands pass under the great neo-classical arch to enter the grounds. The concept of building enormous arches to commemorate important events or personages, originated in ancient Rome. One of the most famous of these is the Arch of Septimuis Severus, constructed in 206 CE to honour the Emperor Severus. Rome’s arches provided the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in 1806, and the Washington Square Arch erected in New York City in 1902.

Toronto’s Princes’ Gates was opened in 1927 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation and the visit of the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII, and his brother Prince George, who later was granted the title Duke of Kent. 


                      The Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.

The Princes’ Gates were designed by the architectural firm of Chapman and Oxley and were officially opened by H.R.H. Edward, Prince of Wales on 30 August 1927, on the occasion of his visit to Canada to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee (60th) anniversary of Confederation. The gates were constructed of sculpted stone (cement), and the statues atop it were modelled by Charles D. McKenzie. The gates were originally named “The Diamond Jubilee of Confederation Gates,” but the name was later changed to “The Princes’ Gates” to honour the two young royals who officiated at their opening.

Above the central arch of the gate is the goddess of “Winged Victory,” the figure’s right hand holding high a hero’s crown. Originally, it held a lamp. The left hand grasps a single maple leaf, symbolic of the Canadian nation. At the feet of figure, on the far sides, are sea horses amid ocean waves. A row of nine pillars, one on either side of the great archway, represent the nine provinces that were members of the confederation the year that the gate was built. Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949.


The goddess of winged victory, holding high a hero’s crown. This is not the same statue that was above the arch in 1927. It was damaged by pollution and erosion during the years, and was replaced by a replica.


          The goddess of Winged Victory and the sea horses at her feet


The nine pillars on the north side of the arch, representing the provinces. A similar set of pillars adorns the south side of the arch. 

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The archway and the Greek/Roman decorative designs under the arch.


                            The Princes’ Gates, spring, 2013.


View of the Prince’s Gates on 2 May 1928, the year following their inauguration.


           Bleachers erected at the CNE on for the 1927 visit of the Prince of Wales.

f1548_s0393_it15888[1]  INspecting honour guard, CNE 1927

         The Prince of Wales inspecting the guard at the CNE in 1927


                                    The Princes’ Gates, May 2013.

To view the Home Page for this blog:

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)


Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by Toronto Life Magazine:…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book:

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. 

Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21



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Ten suggestions to create a great CNE

I am well aware that at the CNE, many attractions have departed the scene. The midway and the endless variety of food now seem to be the main attractions. However, I am also aware that young people today enjoy it as much as ever. The “stripped-down” version attracts over a million visitors in two weeks, which means it  remains highly popular. However, it has the potential to be great.

I would like to offer a few suggestions that might possibly restore the CNE to the days when it was the city’s greatest event of late summer, when it was billed as the “Largest Annual Exhibition in the World,” and in our minds, the greatest.

The pictures below were taken in 1956, when the Ex was at the heights of its popularity.

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The old Dufferin Gates (demolished)    The Gooderham Fountain and Manufacturers’ Building (both now demolished)

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The display portraying Paul Bunyon and his ox “Babe” in the Ontario Government Building

             The two pictures below are from the 1970s

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The Gondola ride and Food Building   –   The Shell Tower, rollercoaster in the background

Apart from the ten suggestions, there are four things that might be considered for restoration at the Ex

I. The Gondola ride that allowed visitors to cross over the grounds was a great experience and offered an impressive view.  Because it passed overhead, it dominated the air space above the Ex, creating the atmosphere of a fairground. Bring it back! The Sky Ride is a poor substitute.

2. Build some sort of tower to give people a bird’s-eye view of the grounds. Any type of modern tower would suffice, although reconstructing a tower to resemble the now demolished Shell Tower would link the Ex with its past.

3. People love the midway, but a rollercoaster is needed. Trying to compete with Canada’s Wonderland for the biggest and fastest, is not possible. The Ex should aim for a different ride, making it unusual. Perhaps part of the rollercoaster might be covered – a tunnel effect – or have it swoop out over the lake. Imagination is required to create a unique experience. “Unique” is the key word, not “biggest” or “fastest.”

4. Restore the fireworks display. It should be shortly after sunset, not at ten thirty as was traditional. The days are gone when the fireworks could be seen from afar, as many high-rise towers have been built surrounding the Ex. The fireworks should be designed for maximum effect when viewed from within the grounds.

Premise for the 10 Suggestions Listed Below

Toronto is the cultural centre of Canada, and the third largest theatre city in the English-speaking world. It is also one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities. However, little of this is reflected in the CNE of today. It began as an industrial and agricultural fair, but these roots have long since disappeared. It seems to be in no man’s land. It might be better received it if were a “cultural exposition,” showcasing Toronto’s ethnicity and cultural attractions. It would then become similar to Luminato or Nuit Blanche, and attract visitors worldwide.

The ideas below require funding, and in today’s tough economic times, this is difficult. However, when money is “spent” on culture, it is an “investment.”  Money properly spent on culture, returns three-times the revenue to the tax-payers.

Ten Suggestions to Improve the CNE

1. The BMO Stadium was built in the wrong place. It should have been located on the site where the grandstand once stood. However, as it is where it is, it should be put to use when the Ex is open. It now sits in the centre of the grounds and is empty. Some sort of show should be presented in this space, perhaps closing off one end and constructing a temporary stage. Enlist the expertise of Aubrey Dan, Darth Drabinsky or David Mirvish. One of them might be interested in produving a show or a revue incorporating scenes from the shows that were in their theatres in the past or those that are presently playing. Great publicity for them. These men are highly creative. Give then room to produce something exciting. Involve the Toronto Symphony and have them perform a couple of concerts. The Canadian Opera Company and National Ballet should also be involved. As well, a big-name performer and various bands that appeals to the younger demographics should be included. The important thing is to reincorporate the BMO Stadium back into the Ex.

2. The Horticultural Building is no longer open to the public during the run of the CNE. Whoever is renting it, negotiate with them to allow it to be returned to the CNE for two weeks in August. Give the space over to the Toronto Botanical Gardens or Canada Blooms to produce floral displays. It would be great advertising for these institutions and restore a beautiful building to its proper use. Many Torontonians do not even know where the Botanical Gardens are located.

3. The Arts and Crafts Building is no longer a part of the CNE as it is rented to the company operating Mediaeval Times. Incorporate the building back into the Ex. Mediaeval Times could offer their show at a special Exhibition price. The building is so large that the Royal Ontario Museum could place a display with real armour and real mediaeval weapons in the building. Get the ROM involved, it might make the Mediaeval Times less commercial and more authentic. The ROM has a vast collection that the public never sees.

4. The old Transportation Building is now employed for various purposes, including fashion shows. Wrong place. Give the building over to the Art Gallery of Ontario or the McMichael Art Collection. Both institutions have art in storage that has not been exhibited in years.  Allow them to choose paintings by famous artists, and publicize then in advance so that they are familiar to the public. It would be great publicity for these galleries. Or, invite other galleries to participate – the Art Gallery of Hamilton, The National Gallery, the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. The possibilities are endless. But first, showcase the galleries of Toronto. Involve the galleries of Queen Street West that display contemporary art. Have a temporary graffiti wall. Allow local artists to display their art on the walls surrounding the building.

5. Food is a big attraction at the Ex, so increase its importance. The old Ontario Government Building is also no longer a part of the Ex as it is rented to Liberty Grand. For two weeks of the year, open it to some of Toronto’s finest restaurant and allow them to create unique spaces. Include singers and shows. Get Toronto’s comedy clubs involved.  If a person dines at the restaurants in the evening, refund their admission price to the grounds. Encourage people to dine at one restaurant for an appetizer, another for the main course, and a third for dessert. Involve the Ontario wineries. It would be great publicity for the restaurants and wineries alike. It would allow the Liberty Grand to advertise their services and facilities. It must be classy, not a glorified food court.

6. The Food Building is great and very popular. However, much of the space is empty. To supplement the fast-food stands, entice food companies to return to the Ex. Companies advertising juices, soda pop, soups, biscuits, pizza, ice cream, power drinks, frozen foods, etc. create a different experience to fast-food stands. As in previous decades, the companies could offer deals, discount prices, or free samples. It’s great publicity for them. Grocery chains might also be interested. The space around the outside of the Food Building should be open-air cafes or dining patios where people can enjoy their food. And for heavens sake, get a alcohol licence for some the outdoor cafes.

7. Built a circular streetcar line through the Ex and have several open-sided streetcars (c. 1900) operating on them. An authentic one can be seen at the Halton Railway Museum. Allow these old fashioned Toronto streetcars to amble through the grounds similar to the motorized trains in the grounds today. The old streetcars would add atmosphere and allow people to get around the grounds. If the streetcars move slowly, they need not be on their own right-of-way.

8. Bring back the auto show. Perhaps car dealerships should be invited. People still enjoy looking at new cars. An alternative would be an antique auto show. These are held each year in various cities across North America. Invite one to coincide with the dates of the Ex.

9. New technological advancements were once high-lighted at the Ex. We live in an age of ever-changing technology, yet it is missing from the Ex. Get these companies back into the fair grounds. Young people love the latest communication gadgets, and older people need to see them, understand them, and perhaps give them a try. The latest entertainment centres, TVs, and computers need to be on display.

10. Reopen the Coliseum and the Horse Palace. Could the RCMP Musical Ride or some other riding group be invited? For the display spaces in the Coliseum, involve our many multi-ethnic communities? The ideas of the “Caravan” of 1970s Toronto might be a possibility, although today they might be considered passé. Consult the ethnic groups and see what they would suggest to showcase their cultures. There are many foreign consulates in Toronto. Involve them. Foreign films should be included. And by the way, TIFF should be invited to show films in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to advertise their film festival. Summer Works Theatre Festival or the Fringe might perform one of their most popular plays from the summer season.  


Explore more ideas about the Ex on these links:

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


                 To place an order for this book: .

         Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in entertainment Toronto, Toronto


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