My parents put together a special treat for Vivian today. Early this morning, they picked Vivian and me up at our home for a trip to the Canadian National Exhibition.
This trip recalled a number of summers when my parents took me to the CNE. Every aspect of it was special. Even taking the special streetcars the TTC ran to the Ex was a part of the experience. I rode on some rides. I played some of the games. We checked out some of the displays. I ate a lot of food, not to mention cotton candy. And we came home after dark, exhausted but happy.
But in our last few summers in Toronto, we started to sour on the CNE. The Food Building became less of a place where new and interesting foods were sampled, and more of an overstuffed food court. The displays by various Ontario ministries (the Ministry of Transportation was my favourite, for obvious reasons) gave way to flea market bazaars. And, of course, the rides and games held less thrill for me. The Ex, we sniffed, wasn’t as good as it used to be. A sign of the past’s inevitable decline into the future.
Today, however, the enthusiasm of the old days was recaptured. We drove from Kitchener to Aldershot and took GO Transit to the Exhibition. The train practically emptied out when we got to the station. The Food Building was loud and crowded, and still an overstuffed food court, but we were able to get some excellent ribs. Montreal smoked meat was available, along with plenty of intriguing ethnic foods. And then we visited the Kids Midway.
The Ex’s decision to split the midway between kids and… I guess, older kids… was a stroke of genius. A number of rides were available for Vivian to enjoy (although she was still too small for some of them, unfortunately), and she enjoyed them, despite clearly being tired from being up during a part of the afternoon when she usually naps. She and I rode on the ferris wheel. We stepped into a kids science zone and built an archway. She rode on a cops car, a merry-go-round, a helicopter and a boat cleverly designed to get adults sea sick (and she demanded that I be the one who accompanied her for the ride).
The rides were still a little cheesy. The games encourage you to spend five dollars on a sparkly plastic wand that broke apart when smacked on the ground. But Vivian enjoyed herself. I could see it in her eyes. She’d remember this day for the rest of her life. And I’ll remember it too, for many the same reasons.
It makes me wonder what I remembered back then. And who the Ex was really designed for.
Here are some photographs of the day.