Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition is a yearly fair, which highlights food, rides, agriculture and animal husbandry and any other area of public interest. The PNE is over 100 years old and is held in Hastings Park, a piece of land originally given to the people of East Vancouver to serve as a public park much like Stanley Park. Unfortunately the city saw fit to rent out and chop off chunks of this park till almost nothing was left. Hastings Park is supposed to have public access and the fight with removing or shrinking the PNE has been going for a century now. It’s smaller than it was and was supposed to have vacated the land in 1994, then two years later, and then it changed and changed again. The residents of East Vancouver still continue to fight for more parkland.
Meanwhile the PNE charges a hefty price just to enter the doors ($20). This does not include any rides or food, which you must pay for separately. The fair goes from Aug.20-Sept. 5 this year. Last year was the first time I went in a very long time, because friends were visiting from the US.
I haven’t been in years so it was somewhat fresh. I might go for rides one year but you’re looking at a cost of $60. There is Playland, which is separate and open most of the year if you need some rides.
Parking is always a premium and hard to get so many local residents rent space in their driveways or even on their lawns (though other residents hate this). Some of free things to see include the RCMP mounted ride where Mounties in their red serge do various maneuvers on horses.
There are agricultural buildings with bunnies, ducks, chicken, sheep, cows, horses and pig races, which included 20 minutes of hype for 30 seconds of piggy racing. You can see other farm animals as well as the judging of the draft horse teams that pull the old style wagons.
There are dog races and free entertainment at the open air stage, including well-known bands such as Spirit of the West on the night we were there, and a selection of the usual rides and games to play. There are demonstrations and of course the line up for the million dollar home draw. To line up to see a house seems boring to me but I have to remember that such fairs started as showcasing home agriculture, husbandry and industry. Other prize draws abound but I paid little attention to these.
We did stroll through container art, a collection of art projects made within the metal containers that you see semi trucks pulling. Some were great, some left a lot…to the imagination I guess.
After about three hours I was done, and that was not doing any rides. I guess I wasn’t that interested in demonstrations. But for a day of seeing a host of activities, it’s not bad. Checking out the PNE‘s site will tell you when there are free or discount days and ways to cut costs. Take the bus, bring water, snacks and something warm in case the weather changes, and let yourself move at a slow pace. There is probably something for most people to see or participate in. And if you care to, ask them why it’s not free to enter when Hastings Park is supposed to be open to the public. I’d be curious as to what they say.