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Canadian National Exhibition

Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), also known as The Ex, is an annual event beginning in August that takes place at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada during the 18 days leading up to and including Labour Day Monday. Approximately 5.3 million people visit Exhibition Place each year with 1.3 million visitors attending the CNE alone, making it Canada s largest fair and the seventh largest fair in North America, "generating more than $50 million in revenue for the City of Toronto and over $70 million for the Province of Ontario annually." [1] 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 Canadian National Exhibition has also changed over time, reflecting the growth in diversity and innovation. Agriculture and technology remain a large part of the CNE today.


About the CNE

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. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and GO Transit provides easy transportation to the CNE with stops at Exhibition Place. The site features several buildings 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. When the exhibition was created in 1879, it was originally called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition. It was renamed in 1912 to the Canadian National Exhibition. The fair itself consists of a variety of pavilions, exhibits, shows, concerts, a working farm, horse show, petting zoo, casino, and a large carnival midway with rides, games and food. What used to be an exhibition just for agriculture and technology has now turned into an event for families and people of all ages to enjoy. Entertainment, thrills, and the wide variety of international foods are just some of the attractions that the CNE has to offer. To many people in the Greater Toronto Area and the surroundings communities, the CNE is an annual family tradition. The CNE attracts thousands of tourists each year, contributing to the Toronto's economy and culture. On January 27th, 2012, it was announced that the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place and the City of Toronto have agreed to allow the Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA) to become financially independent in 2013. This will allow the CNEA to make their own decisions regarding business and consumer opportunities.

2011 CNE programs: Aerial Acrobatics & Ice Skating Show, Bandshell Stage concerts, At Home Pavilion Celebrity Stage, Rising Star Youth Talent Competition, Horse Show, International Stage, Ken Jen Petting Zoo, costumed characters, rock sculptures, butter sculptures, sand sculptures, RibFest, and the Canadian International Air Show. The 2011 CNE programs also included:

  • President's Choice SuperDogs Show, which features over 50 dogs from many different breeds
  • The Farm, where children and adults alike can learn about rural communities, see what equipment it takes to run a farm, and even get up close and personal with farm animals.
  • Midway and Kiddie Midway, featuring many rides. One of the most famous rides at the CNE is the grand ferris wheel.
  • The Garden Show, which has beautiful and colourful floral displays.
  • International Marketplace and Food Building, which presents food and material goods from all over the globe.
  • A variety of daily live performances like musical acts, dancers, comedy shows, and even magic shows.
  • FLOWRIDER Splash Zone (from Wave Loch Inc.) where people can partake in many activities such as surfing and beach volleyball.
  • Mardi Gras Parade, occurring daily and exhibiting large, colourful floats and entertaining performers.

In 2012, The CNE will celebrate its 133rd Anniversary, opening on Friday, August 17th and continuing until Labour Day on Monday, September 3rd. It has been announced that the FLOWRIDER Splash Zone will return as an attraction this year along with the regular exhibitions, horse and dog shows, parades, international cuisine, the International Marketplace, live farm, musical performances, midway and the Canadian International Air Show, which has become a tradition at the CNE during Labour Day weekend. This will be the 63rd year in which the 3-day air show will be a part of the CNE.

Economic Impact

An Economic, Education and Social Benefits study conducted by Enigma Research Corporation in 2008, reports that the CNE generates an estimated $52.5 million for the city of Toronto and $71.4 million for the province of Ontario each year. The study also reveals that the 2008 CNE attracted more than 160,000 out-of-town visitors to the city and that fair-related hiring creates an equivalent of 579 full-year jobs in the region.

This national research initiative, commissioned by the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (C.A.F.E.), 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 include:

  • Local residents spend $45.7 million related to the CNE
  • The CNE is an important cultural and community tradition to attendees
  • Visitors recall and appreciate the support of the CNE s corporate sponsors
  • Agriculture and farming heritage are important to attendees
  • The CNE provides attractive offerings for all ages

The CNE works with several organizations to promote tourism to the Greater Toronto Area and the province of Ontario, including: Festivals and Events Ontario, Tourism Toronto, Attractions Ontario, the American Bus Association and the Ontario Motor Coach Association.

On Jan 27th, 2012, the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place and the Board of Directors of the Canadian National Exhibition Association announced that CNE will officially become financially independent from both the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place and the City of Toronto in 2013. "Toronto City Council will be asked for approval of this new agreement at their March 5-6, 2012 meeting." [2] The new agreement was approved by the Toronto City Council and the CNEA will be financially independent by April 2013.

Environmental Initiatives

Environmental friendly and the energy recyclable are becoming the main topic at today. As the one of the most famous fair in North America, CNE often find solutions to make this fair become the greenest fair in North America. A fair is not just for fun, it is also a opportunity for people to do something help our environment, make our air more clean and give us a better earth.

There must be some people concern about how CNE will affect the environment. The 2008 CNE diverted an estimated 70% of all solid waste from landfills and reduced its energy use by 1.06 megawatts since 2005. These numbers translate into a significant reduction in greenhouse gases including reducing the CNE s carbon footprint by 267.32 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is a great improvement for CNE. As the greenhouse gases has become a global issue for the environment, find a solution to deal with this problem is very important for this fair. Moreover, CNE also set a good example for other fairs.

According to CNE General Manager David Bednar, Canadians are very much aware of the responsibility to protect the environment and the CNE reflects that awareness, making green initiatives an integral part of our planning. The following are some numbers which could show how CNE try to do a better job to protect environment than before.

Compared with 2007, in the 2008 CNE posted close to 10% improvement than 2007 CNE s waste diversion statistics. This improvement was a result of several changes in the recycling program including an increase in three and four stream waste collection receptacles allowing easier sorting of recyclable refuse; a new partnership with a third-party contractor which carefully sifts all collected waste for recyclable materials; and buy-in by all CNE exhibitors, food vendors and visitors. CNE is trying to enhance their ability of contribute to the environment. CNE pay attention to control the waste and make the waste become recyclable.[3]

Overall, the Canadian National Exhibition can likely be cited as the greenest fair in North America, having re-cycled 77.3% of solid waste (1,228,120 kg or 558, 236 lbs was diverted) during the 18 days of the 2009 fair. [4]

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 lifecycle 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.)

Here is the timeline of CNE's initiatives


  • This year CNE will be expanding its organic waste re-cycling program throughout the grounds. Last year, organic waste was recycled in the Food Building, Direct Energy Centre and RibFest areas only.
  • All Styrofoam will be eliminated on the grounds at the 2010 fair.
  • All Food Vendors will be required to use compostable plates, cups etc.
  • The Environmental Initiatives deposit program, which was introduced in 2009 with the fair s outdoor concessionaires and Food Building vendors, will be expanded to include all exhibitors by 2011.
  • There will be no beer bottles used on site during the CNE. All beer will be served in cans thereby minimizing the need for plastic cups. All cups used in beer service will be made of compostable materials. The overall number of cups used is expected to decrease by more than 50% by moving to cans.
  • The CNE will be expanding its Energy Conservation Program and will be working with Exhibitors and Concessionaires to expand its electrical 2conservation program. Kilowatt Cops will patrol the grounds to ensure that energy is not being wasted.
  • In 2010, the CNE will begin to explore a water conservation program.
  • At this summer s fair, the CNE will be expanding its self-serve water stations program by adding 5 more water stations (with four spigots each) for a total of 10 water stations located throughout the CNE grounds. Here, visitors can refill their own water bottles with City of Toronto tap water[5]


  • Recycled 77.3% of total waste. The solid waste re-cycled included:
  • 189,880 kg of cardboard; 267,611 kg clean fill/soil/sand;147,249 kg organic waste; 229,068 kg manure; 89,891 kg glass/cans/plastic; 21,418 kg grease; 27,0005 kg plastic wrap; 25,500 kg hand towels.
  • Introduced the CNE Smart Award, which was presented to Premier Amusements for its solar powered Duck Pond game
  • Temperature levels for all air conditioned buildings were set at 25 degrees and all doors were closed when air conditioning system was being utilized. Air conditioning was also turned off during move-in and move-out and non-show hours.
  • All service orders for outdoor concessionaires and food-building exhibitors were included in their contracts thus reducing the need to distribute paper order forms.
  • All concessionaires and food building exhibitors were required to make an Environmental Deposit which was refunded to those exhibitors and concessionaires who implemented energy conservation and waste reduction programs.
  • The number of solar powered garbage compactors was increased to three on the site.


  • CNE was the first event at Exhibition Place to introduce organic recycling for food waste and organic materials. *CNE accelerated its recycling of paper hand towels, manure, wood concrete, clean fill, cardboard, plastics and cans, fluorescent bulbs, batteries and wood.
  • CNE added another solar powered compactor in one of the sorting stations.
  • More electronic distribution of information to exhibitors and concessionaires.
  • More LED lights incorporated into decorative features of the fair thus replacing the use of incandescent bulbs.
  • CNE solar powered golf carts introduced into the fleet of golf carts. In addition, staff encouraged to limit the use of gas powered golf carts.
  • First-time inclusion of two new solar powered concessions games on the midway.
  • New requirements for midway contractor and all concessionaires to provide plans for how they will reduce their impact on environment and reduce energy consumption.
  • All kitchen cooking grease was sold to a local poultry farmer who cleansed the grease and uses it as a natural growth supplement for his poultry.


  • CNE featured a solar powered compactor in one of the sorting stations.
  • CNE Concessions Department had a new web link developed for Food Building Concessionaires and Exhibitors through which information that was previously distributed to them in hard copy form was now made available to them electronically.
  • In 2007, staff introduced new regulations for outdoor concessionaires whereby decorative lights were to be turned off during day light hours.


  • CNE converted all decorative lighting in trees to LED lights; this program was expanded in 2007 and 2008 and continued in 2009.
  • In 2006, the CNE Operations Department followed the lead of Exhibition Place Parking and successfully converted three large parking lots to solar powered pay and display lots. This eliminated the need for installing parking kiosks that consumed electricity from the electrical grid.


  • New bicycle racks and bike parking areas were provided at each of the CNE pedestrian gates. These areas have had to be expanded each year due to demand by our visitors.
  • The CNE expanded the bicycle permit program on the grounds whereby staff and exhibitors will now be permitted to use bicycles with restrictions similar to those in place for golf carts.
  • All advance pass sales for exhibitors and concessionaires were done electronically reducing the amount of paper required for these transactions.[6]

These timeline clearly shows that CNE find many ways to protect the environment. Each year CNE has a plan to improve their initiatives. Also. there is the Green day at CNE. At that day. the whole section is about the environment and the new technology to help with environmental issues.

Governance and Organizational Structure

The Canadian National Exhibition is governed by the Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA) and its volunteer Board of Directors. The CNEA is a separate organization from the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place which is governed and operated under the jurisdiction of the Canadian National Exhibition Association Act of 1983 as amended by the Statutes of Ontario in 1999 and the Province of Ontario Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act of 1988. The Board of Governors of Exhibition Place is a City agency accountable to the City of Toronto.

The CNEA is a provincially chartered association that resides on a municipal site. It is an independent organization which operates an annual fair through an agreement with Exhibition Place. Through various agreements with the City of Toronto, including the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the CNE receives administrative, financial and operational services from Exhibition Place. Even though the CNEA operates independently, the city s budget still includes the revenue and expenses of the CNE. The MOU provides for the use of the buildings and grounds for the annual CNE.

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 2011-2012

Executive Committee

President - Brian Ashton

Honourary President - Jim Melvin

1st Vice-President - Jennifer Ward

2nd Vice-President - John Kiru

Vice-President - Larry O'Connor

Vice-President - Councillor Gary Crawford


Past Presidents

  • Knox Henry
  • Jim McMillen

Honourary President

  • Jim Melvin

Section 1 - Municipal

  • Mayor Rob Ford
  • Councillor Raymond Cho
  • Deputy Mayor Douglas Holyday
  • Councillor Mike Layton
  • Linda Franklin
  • Councillor Gary Crawford
  • Councillor Doug Ford

Section 2 - Manufacturers & Industry

  • Brian Ashton
  • Susan Coates
  • John Kiru
  • Ted Papadatos
  • Sarabjit Rana

Section 3 - Agriculture

  • Bob Adams
  • John Gallinger
  • Jasmine Jackman
  • Valerie Love
  • Larry O'Connor

Section 4 - General & Liberal Arts

  • Chris Bateman
  • Ross Devlin
  • Suzan Hall
  • Robin Manley
  • Jennifer Ward


CNE poster for Canada's Victory Celebration, 1919
CNE poster for Canada's Victory Celebration, 1919
In September 1852, the Fair was in Toronto on the west side of University Avenue (Toronto), 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. Woodcuts of the period show several tents and three fairly substantial, but temporary, wooden exhibit buildings. The Press found shortcomings in the Fair, particularly in accommodation for the exhibits and the large crowd, saying that "the halls were altogether too small and were not of the best construction to accommodate a crowd. The crowds of people which passed into them on the great public days of the show were always disappointed as they got little more than a glimpse of the various articles exhibited as they were borne along half stifled through the narrow passages. The fair was originally called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, and all but one of the 23 wooden buildings - the Crystal Palace - were devoted to agriculture. In 1882 the fairgrounds became the first to be lit by electricity, and Torontonian J.J. Wright introduced the electric railway there in 1883. The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1906 and replaced by the Horticultural Building, an additional imposing structure of brick and stone. The fair was officially renamed the Canadian National Exhibition in 1912. Prior to the CNE, a major agricultural fair was held in a different city every year in the province of Ontario. In 1878, Toronto hosted the fair, and it was a major success with over 100,000 visitors. Based on the success, local politicians and business groups lobbied for a permanent summer fair to be held yearly in Toronto. This was fought by other Ontario communities that feared the loss of business from having to compete with a major fair. The travelling fair allowed rural communities to get exposure that they would not normally have had.

The Toronto operators won and the first "permanent" fair was held in 1879 as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition at what is now Exhibition Place. The current grounds from the Gardiner Expressway (north end), to Lakeshore Boulevard (south end), and from Strachan Avenue (east end), to the Dominion Gates (west end), Exhibition Place covers of land. During the CNE, when all parking areas are included, such as the Gore Lot, Marilyn Bell Park, Coronation Park and Battery Park, the size of Exhibition Place swells to .

Early CNE midway sign
Early CNE midway sign
In 1937 Patty Conklin of Conklin Shows was awarded the contract for the CNE midway and his company continued to provide this service to the CNE until 2004, at which point it merged with other leading midway operators to form North American Midway Entertainment (NAME). Thomas and Doris Green were responsible for introduing cotton candy and ice cream on stick rolled in nuts to the CNE. The Green Family operated several refreshment stands throughout the CNE until 1987. Doris Green provided the funding to put the electricity under ground to the middle of the midway for refreshment stands outside the horse palace.

The CNE was not held between 1942 and 1946, when the land and its facilities were turned over to the Department of National Defence as a training ground. After World War II, it was used as a demobilization centre.

On August 22, 1952 at 2:30 PM local time, the CBC tested television broadcasting by airing the opening of the 73rd Canadian National Exhibition. This was the first ever (unofficial) broadcast in Canadian television history.

Over the years the CNE has changed extensively to meet the needs of the growing and changing demographics of Toronto and Southern Ontario.

The Post-War Years and Modernization of the Fair

The CNE resumed in 1947, as the Canadian military returned the grounds back to its civilian administrators. Soon, the CNE turned away from a provincial, agricultural focus, and moved towards an increasingly modern, cosmopolitan look and feel.


Image:HMCSYork-plaque-Toronto-CNEGrounds Sept1-05.jpg|HMCS York plaque at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Ontario Canada Image:Cne 07.jpg|Canadian National Exhibition midway in 2007, Toronto, Ontario Canada Image:Canadian National Exhibition Big Slide.JPG|Canadian National Exhibition midway`s big slide on Labour Day in Canada File:Sculpture-BetterLivingCentre-CNEGrounds-Sept1-05.jpg|Sculpture Man above matter (1965) by Arthur Price on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Ontario Canada

Recent history

Having celebrated its 125th anniversary in the summer of 2003 (even though hampered by the 2003 blackout), "The Ex" - as it is also popularly known  offers a wide variety of entertainment and events, midway rides, a working farm, parades, sports, international food and shopping, Kids' World and a three-day air show, Canadian International Air Show. The CNE is a provincially incorporated Agricultural Society and also fulfills a key program of Exhibition Place, a local board of management of the City of Toronto. The fair traditionally operates during the 18 days leading up to and including Labour Day Monday (the first Monday in September).

In the 1990s the annual fair suffered from deficits, but since 1999 it appears to have rebounded in popularity and has returned to financial stability. A 2003 Economic Impact Study conducted by Festivals and Events Ontario and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership (OTMP) revealed that the CNE attracted more than $48 million to the City of Toronto and more than $66 million to the province of Ontario.

"A mobile site is available for the convenience of CNE visitors with mobile devices running on platforms other than iPhone and BlackBerry. Please click here to access the mobile site.The decision concerning which platforms would be included in our 2011 app project was based on visitor data and Canadian mobile market statistics. While it would have been ideal to design native apps for each platform, we were limited by budget and timing. For year one, we opted to go with the two platforms that together represent the majority of the CNE audience with smartphones. For next season, we plan to build on the CNE App, and this will include additional features and platforms." [7] this is the information we could find on CNE's website. For now, technology of communication is developing rapidly. People could find much more information about CNE online. Meanwhile, CNE also use social networking to make this fair more interesting. People could join CNE's website to find out what is new in this year. Moreover, social networking makes people from other countries know this happy festival. These change help people to enroll in this fair much more convenience than before. More and more software come to work with CNE.

List of buildings at the CNE

See also

  • BMO Field
  • Conklin Shows
  • Exhibition Place
  • Exhibition Stadium - demolished
  • Expo 67 in Montreal
  • Expo '86 in Vancouver
  • Funfair
  • List of Canadian organizations with royal patronage
  • Medieval Times
  • Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
  • Ontario Place
  • Ricoh Coliseum
Other annual fairs
  • Brampton Fall Fair - Brampton
  • Calgary Stampede - Calgary
  • Edmonton's Capital Ex - Edmonton
  • Central Canada Exhibition - Ottawa
  • Canadian Lakehead Exhibition - Thunder Bay
  • Markham Fair - Markham, Ontario
  • Pacific National Exhibition - Vancouver
  • Red River Exhibition - Winnipeg
  • Royal Agricultural Winter Fair - Toronto
  • Royal Manitoba Winter Fair - Brandon, Manitoba
  • Schomberg Fair - Schomberg, Ontario
  • Sooke Fall Fair - Sooke, British Columbia
  • Western Fair - London, Ontario



  • Avigdor, Jeanine. 1994. The Scadding Cabin, 1794: Toronto's Oldest House. The York Pioneer and Historical Society. ISBN 0-9698404-0-3.
  • Once Upon a Century: 100 Year History of The "Ex". 1978. Ed: John Withrow. J.H. Robinson Publishing Ltd.

External links

  • CBC Archives Patty Conklin gives a tour of the CNE with CBC Radio (1958)
  • CBC Archives CBC Television story about Patty Conklin in 1971 as he helps setup the CNE.

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