• Canadian National Exhibition

Tag: Canadian National Exhibition

Canadian National Exhibition
Canadian National Exhibition 2012.jpg
The CNE on August 31, 2012
GenreProvincial fair/Agricultural and entertainment
Dates18 days from mid-August to Labour Day (September)
Location(s)Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario
Years active135
Attendance1.36 million (2013)[1]
3.57 million (record – 1973)[2]

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), also known as The Ex, is an annual event that takes place at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, during the 18 days leading up to and including Canadian Labour Day Monday. With approximately 1.3 million visitors each year, the CNE is Canada’s largest annual fair and the seventh largest in North America. The first Canadian National Exhibition took place in 1879, largely to promote agriculture and technology in Canada. Agriculturists, engineers, and scientists exhibited their discoveries and inventions at the CNE to showcase the work and talent of the nation. As Canada has grown as a nation, the CNE has also changed over time, reflecting the growth in diversity and innovation, though agriculture and technology remain a large part of the CNE today. To many people in the Greater Toronto Area and the surrounding communities, the CNE is an annual family tradition.


Site of Canadian National Exhibition 

The CNE is held at Exhibition Place, which is a 192-acre site located along Toronto’s waterfront on the shores of Lake Ontario and just west of downtown Toronto. Both the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and GO Transit provide service to Exhibition Place. The site features several buildings and structures—many of which have been named significant under the Ontario Heritage Act—roads named after the Canadian provinces and territories, parks, fountains, plazas, a rose garden, statues and parking lots.

Shows and attractions of Canadian National Exhibition 

The 18-day fair itself consists of a mix of pavilions, exhibits, shows, concerts, a working farm, horse show, casino, and a large carnival midway with rides, games and food.

The 2013 CNE operated from Friday, August 16 until Labour Day on Monday, September 2. 2013 features included:

  • CNE Sky Ride
  • Acrobatic Show
  • Bandshell Stage concerts
  • The Flying Wallendas
  • Food Building
  • Food Network Celebrity Stage
  • Garden Show
  • International Pavilion and International Stage
  • Mardi Gras Parade
  • Midway rides and games
  • President's Choice SuperDogs Show
  • A variety of daily live performances such as musical acts, dancers, comedy shows, and even magic shows
  • The Canadian International Air Show on Labour Day weekend

A zip line ride was introduced during the 2013 CNE. Operated by Ziptrek Eco Tours, the CNE zip line was the highest and longest temporary zip line in the world. The launch tower, positioned southeast of the Food Building, measured 180 feet high (approx. 55 metres). The landing tower, southwest of the Direct Energy Centre, was 60 feet high (approx. 18 metres). The zip line ride consisted of four lines, each measuring just shy of 1,100 feet (approx. 335 metres). Zip line riders travelled at approximately 65 km/hour.

    Economic impact of Canadian National Exhibition 


    A 2009 Economic Impact Assessment, conducted by Enigma Research Corporation, reports that the CNE generates an estimated C$58.6 million for the city of Toronto and C$80 million for the province of Ontario each year.

    The study also reveals that the 2009 CNE attracted more than 275,000 out-of-town visitors to the city, and that fair-related hiring creates an equivalent of 633 full-year jobs in the region. Spending also supports $12.9 million of tax revenue at three levels of government.

    This national research initiative, commissioned by the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (CAFE), was conducted at 20 fairs of varying sizes throughout Canada in 2008. A total of 1,200 people were interviewed during the 2008 Canadian National Exhibition alone.

    Other highlights of the research, included a sample size of 1,200 people in on-site, face-to-face interviews, include:

    • Local residents spend US$52 million related to the CNE
    • The average non-local spent 2.5 nights in Toronto

    Environmental initiatives of Canadian National Exhibition 

    EcoLogo certification

    In 2010, the Canadian National Exhibition became the first fair in North America and the first large-scale event on the continent to receive EcoLogo certification, one of North America’s largest and most respected environmental standard and certification marks. EcoLogo certification is based on stringent criteria that examine the entire life-cycle of a product and the CNE’s success in achieving this honour formally recognizes the fair as an environmental leader. (Canadian National Exhibition is EcoLogo - Certified to Events CCD-095.)

    Environmental strategy

    In addition to fulfilling EcoLogo certification requirements, the CNE's environmental strategy consists of three components:

    Energy conservation

    • Decorative lighting on the Midway is turned off during daylight hours
    • Solar panels are utilized throughout the grounds in locations such as the Horse Palace roof, on staff golf carts, on the Midway games, and on garbage compactors
    • In 2008 the CNE introduced solar-powered concession games on the Midway
    • All of the CNE’s decorative tree lighting has been replaced with LED lights to reduce electricity consumption

    Emissions reduction

    • The CNE encourages visitors to take public transit, ride their bicycles, and/or walk to get to the site
    • Bicycle racks and bike parking areas are strategically placed around the grounds to accommodate cyclists
    • The vast majority of golf carts used by CNE staff are powered using electricity (vs. gas-powered)
    • On the CNE grounds there are bio-diesel generators that power rides at the fair

    Waste diversion

    • A wide range of materials are recycled and diverted from landfills each season including, but not limited to, cardboard, paper, organic waste, paper hand towels, wood, metals, street sweepings, concrete/asphalt, hay, and cooking oil
    • The CNE provides water refill stations where guests may refill reusable water bottles to reduce the number of disposable plastic bottles that are used
    • During the fair a vast number of recycling, compost, and garbage receptacles are placed around the grounds
    • The use of polystyrene foam is no longer allowed on the CNE grounds, thus reducing the amount of waste that cannot be recycled
    • In the Food Building, tableware is predominantly compostable, which increases the amount of waste that the CNE is able to send to composting facilities, rather than to a landfill
    • Waste diversion rates:
      • 2009 - 77.30%
      • 2010 - 83.76%
      • 2011 - 81.93%
      • 2012 - 82.82%
      • 2013 - 86.36%

    Governance and organizational structure of Canadian National Exhibition 

    Canadian National Exhibition Association

    The CNE is operated by the Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA) and its volunteer Board of Directors. The CNEA is governed under the jurisdiction of the Canadian National Exhibition Association Act of 1983 as amended by the Statutes of Ontario in 1999 (as Canadian National Exhibition Association 2000) and the Province of Ontario Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act of 1988. The CNEA resides on a municipal site known as Exhibition Place, which is governed by the Board of Governors (BOG) of Exhibition Place, a local board of management of the City of Toronto.

    Relationship with City of Toronto prior to independence

    Through various agreements with the City of Toronto, the CNEA operated as a program of the BOG until March 31, 2013. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlined the various administrative, financial and operational services to be provided to the CNEA by Exhibition Place. The MOU also provided for the use of the buildings and grounds for the annual CNE. During the last decade, the CNEA contributed more than $20 million in site fees to the annual operating budget of the BOG, in addition to $7.3 million in operating surpluses. These contributions were included in consolidated annual financial results from the CNEA and BOG for the benefit of the City of Toronto.[3]

    CNEA independence

    On January 27, 2012, the BOG and CNEA announced that the CNEA will officially become financially independent from both the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place and the City of Toronto in 2013. "Chair of the Board [BOG], City Councillor Mark Grimes stated, 'The independence of the CNEA is good for both the CNEA and Exhibition Place. The agreement will protect the Board of Governors and the City against any negative financial consequences and at the same time allow the CNEA to reach financial and organizational stability for the new independent organization.'"[4] "It will be beneficial for the CNEA to be independent from the City of Toronto to be able to determine and implement consumer strategies and fiscal decisions that are made in the interest of the CNEA and its visitors, as experts within the fair business."[5] As an independent organization, the CNEA will be able to retain its profits and re-invest in the fair.[6] "'This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Canadian National Exhibition,' stated Brian Ashton, President of the Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA). 'We believe that as an independent business we can flourish and present an annual fair that will make Toronto and Canada proud!'" [7] "Toronto City Council will be asked for approval of this new agreement at their March 5–6, 2012 meeting."[8]

    The new agreement was approved by Toronto City Council and the CNEA officially became independent on April 1, 2013. The CNEA is a non-share capital corporation and a tenant of the BOG to which it pays rent for the use of the grounds and buildings for the annual fair, as well as fees for operational services.[9] The CNEA is not involved with year-round operations, events or development at Exhibition Place.

    Organizational structure

    The CNEA has over 125 member individuals and associations representing each of the following sectors: Municipal, Manufacturers and Industry, Agriculture, and General and Liberal Arts. Member associations appoint a representative to the CNEA and approximately 15 members are appointed directly by the CNEA from the community-at-large. Each year a Board of Directors is elected from this membership, giving equal representation to each section. Six representatives of the Municipal section are appointed by Toronto City Council.

    Board of Directors 2015-2016

    Executive Committee:

    PresidentBrian Ashton
    Honorary PresidentJim Melvin
    1st Vice PresidentJohn Kiru
    2nd Vice PresidentTBD
    Vice PresidentDomenic Lunardo
    Vice PresidentJennifer Ward


    General Managers of Canadian National Exhibition 

    • Virginia Luby 2015-present (designate)

    Past Presidents

    • David Bednar 1998-2015 (outgoing)
    • Bryan Tisdall 1989-1998 - now President and CEO of Science World
    • Dr J.O. Orr 1903-1917

    History of Canadian National Exhibition 

    In September 1846, a fair sponsored by the Provincial Agricultural Association and the Board of Agriculture for Canada West, was held in Toronto in the area near present-day King and Simcoe Streets. While primarily an agricultural event, it also displayed manufactured goods and decorative arts and crafts. The fair was a success and it was proposed that future fairs be held in different locations each year. In 1847, the fair was held in Hamilton and thereafter travelled to such cities as Cobourg, Kingston, Niagara and Brockville.[10]

    In 1852, the fair returned to the west side of University Avenue (see Grange Park (neighbourhood)), stretching from a bit north of Dundas Street to a bit south of College Street. It lasted four days. The Horse Park, on the west side of the grounds, was loaned to the fair by Mrs. Boulton, who lived in the Grange and it was bounded on the north by the Caer Howell Pleasure Grounds (in a way a forerunner of the midway). The Fair was a success, attracting more than 30,000 visitors.

    In 1853, the fair moved on to another city and didn’t return to Toronto until 1858 and then again in 1878. After the 1878 fair, Toronto City Council and the local Exhibition Committee approached the Provincial Agriculture Association with a proposition: that the fair remain permanently in Toronto. The Association thanked City Council and the Exhibition Committee for their work in delivering a successful fair in 1878, but informed them that a decision had already been made to move the fair to another city in 1879.[11]

    CNE poster for Canada's Victory Celebration, 1919

    Undeterred, Toronto City Council, along with local businessmen, moved ahead with plans to establish a permanent fair in Toronto. That fair would be called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition. It opened on September 3, 1879 and lasted for three weeks. An attendance in excess of 100,000 paid admissions and 8,234 exhibits, spelled success for the new exhibition. The fair continued to grow and prosper and soon came to be known as the “Show Window of the Nation.” Starting with just over 50 acres in 1879, the fair, situated on a parcel of land known as Exhibition Place, now stretches from the Gardiner Expressway (north end), to Lake Shore Boulevard (south end), and from Strachan Avenue (east end), to the Dominion Gates (west end), covering 196.6 acres (0.796 km2) of land.

    In 1912, the Toronto Industrial Exhibition changed its name to the Canadian National Exhibition to better reflect the scope and reach of the fair. In fulfilling its mandate, the CNE has featured exhibits on the latest technological advances in industry and agriculture. CNE patrons were introduced to electric railway transportation in 1883, to Edison's phonograph in 1888, to the wireless telephone in the 1890s, to radio in 1922, to television in 1939, to plastics and synthetics in the 1940s.

    In 1937, Conklin Shows was awarded the contract to provide amusement rides and games for the CNE midway. The company built the "Flyer" wooden roller-coaster on site as well as delivering rides and games each year during the CNE duration. The company continued to provide this service until 2004, at which point it merged with other leading midway operators to form North American Midway Entertainment, which continues to supply the Ex.

    During the Second World War, as during the First World War, the CNE grounds became home to detachments of the Canadian military. In 1939, the Royal Canadian Air Force moved into the CNE Coliseum. The Canadian Army took over the Horse Palace and the Royal Canadian Navy converted the Automotive Building into HMCS York. During the summers of 1940 and 1941, most of the troops stationed at the CNE were re-located. Those troops remaining either continued their regular administrative duties or participated in CNE displays and events aimed at promoting the Canadian war effort. CNE officials had hoped to continue the annual fair throughout the years of the war. In the spring of 1942, however, the CNE agreed to turn the grounds over to the Canadian military for use year-round. During the military occupation of the grounds, virtually every CNE building, large or small, was put to use by the Canadian armed forces. The CNE grounds remained closed and under the control of the Canadian military until 1946. Between 1945 and 1946, Exhibition Park acted as a demobilization centre for returning soldiers.

    Post-war years and modernization

    The CNE resumed in 1947. Canadians returned to the CNE to see the latest in consumer goods and agricultural advancements. The fair also remained a major hub for sporting events and entertainment. Over time, the CNE moved away from its country-fair heritage toward an increasingly modern, cosmopolitan look and feel. In recent years, the CNE has changed extensively to meet the needs of the growing and changing demographics of Toronto and Southern Ontario.

    See also of Canadian National Exhibition 

    • Calgary Stampede
    • Edmonton K-Days
    • Central Canada Exhibition
    • Pacific National Exhibition
    • Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
    • Royal Manitoba Winter Fair
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