The end of the summer is near when ads for the Ex start popping everywhere – on TV commercials, in newspapers, on billboards all over our metropolitan city.

This marks the end of yet another vacation and the beginning of another school year for many of us. But even though summer break is coming to an end, doesn’t mean you can’t have one last bout of fun, one final round of making memories that will last a lifetime.

Ever since I was a little girl, my dad used to take us to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition). There are no words to describe what went through my head or what I was feeling when we arrived at the Princess Gates – it was like walking into a magical wonderland. Sure, it’s no Disney World, but the memories I’ve made at the Ex are ones I wouldn’t trade in for anything.

Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition.

From riding the ferris wheel and the spinning tea cups (which made me and my mom so sick we couldn’t bare to go on another ride) to eating corn dogs, cotton candy and funnel cake lathered with vanilla ice cream – going down to the Exhibition was something we all looked forward too. My little brother one year won my mom two gigantic stuffies, a huge red bulldog and a giraffe, by tossing rings over the tops of empty Coca Cola bottles.

When my husband and I started dating, we started our own tradition of going down summer to the Ex. Now, nearly 10 years later, we take our two young boys and haven’t missed a year yet. Even the year my older son was born, which was on August 1st, we still managed to go down for a visit.

For decades the Ex has been a place for families, and according to David Bednar, general manager of the CNE, it continues to be a tradition for them year after year.

“It’s an exciting event that happens once a year for 18 days that unites Toronto communities and people from across the province,” says Bednar.

“People love the energy and all the happenings the fair offers and because it takes them back to their childhoods,” he says. “Having said that, we are somewhat of an ‘unknown quantity’ for people who are new to Toronto and the region, so we want to encourage them to experience the CNE and make it an ongoing tradition to come with family and friends.”

So what’s new this year? This year the CNE has added a variety of new attractions, including the Sky Ride which travels across the grounds from east to west at 40 feet in the air, giving visitors a bird’s eye view of the Toronto skyline. When I was there during opening weekend, the lineups were ridiculous and full of people wanting to see what Sky Ride was all about.

Also new this year were Olympic Medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, followed by Elvis Stojko in La Vie, a new Skating Show, plus a variety of new concerts and shows including a new hypnotist and illusionist.

“People get excited to relive some of their fondest childhood memories year after year, even the adolescents,” says Bednar. “On top of that, there’s something for everyone down here from rides and games to concerts and shopping – people discover new parts of the fair each year.”

Now as much fun as the rides and games are, food is one of the biggest attractions at the Ex, especially with all the variety and new stuff they introduce each year. I don’t think anyone will ever forgot things like the deep fried butter. It may sound gross, but who wouldn’t want to try it at least once?

Bacon Nation’s bacon sundae. Would you sample this dessert? Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition.

This year, they’ve brought in 11 new food vendors to the food building including the much talked about Bacon Nation, the raw vegan fare at VIE, deep-fried fudge and some delicious apple fritters at Big Apple Fritter.

The CNE is all about traditions, old and new. It’s about having a good time with family and friends. It’s about reliving childhood memories and creating new ones with your children. So whether you’re a daredevil wanting to test your limits on a ride or are just looking forward to having an ice-cold beer and listening to some good tunes – make your visit worthwhile.

Don’t forget the air show is happening this weekend, and if you get a chance, go check out the buttery sculpture of Mayor Rob Ford.

The CNE is open until Monday September 3rd. For more visit www.theex.com.

What do you love most about going to the Ex?

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