Saturday, August 19, 2006

What signifies the end of summer for you?

All Torontonians will agree that when the C.N.E. (Canadian National Exhibition) opens, it's the beginning of the end.

The fair is a summer staple.
I grew up walking distance from the "Ex" and spent many end of summers either with rolled newspaper at the end of a driveway waving potential parkers onto our lawn, or working at the fair.

My first job was at the "Ex", and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who grew up in Parkdale, the west end... who didn't work there at least one summer.

The "Ex" was my window to the world.
When I was in my teens, my world was very small, as most kids worlds are. Confined to your neighbourhood, and to your school.
At the "Ex" kids came from all over the city to work, and I made friends from areas of the city I had never even seen.

If you talk to a Torontonian, there are certain things that they remember about the "Ex" could be something as obscure as the guy on the Midway who used to shout "DOGGIE, DOGGIEEEEEEE!!!" over and over.
Or it could be (for those who liked to dance), standing in front of the Hymalaya because it was the ride that played the best music.

It could be the ice cream waffle sandwiches, or the tiny doughnuts at the food building. Or it could be the concerts at the Grandstand that brought some of the most famous bands to Toronto.

Is it The Alpine Way? which was a way to get back to the main gates from the Princess Gates.
Once you had walked the whole fair, you could take the Alpine Way, and ride above the crowd all the way back to the Dufferin Gates.

The real glam days of the Exhibition are gone, and the last time that The Mister and me went down to The "Ex", it seemed so much smaller and less exciting than it used to be.
Part of that is because we're adults, but part of it is also what urban planners have done to the fair grounds.

dismantled important elements of what made the C.N.E. special and great to make room for conference buildings, and additions to current buildings for the trade show industry.
I understand that the C.N.E. cannot stand empty, and unusable for the sake of a mere three weeks at the end of the summer, but what the planners have done is taken a part of the feeling of this city, and made it just another roadside attraction.

"Bring back The Alpine Way!", I say.