I miss the old PNE. The PNE, Vancouver’s annual end-of-summer fair, used to be for adults as well as kids. Now it’s, basically speaking, just for kids. Dal Richards, our King of Swing, is still there with his band, as are the PNE Prize Home, and the MIni-Donuts, and the farm animals that one is otherwise unlikely to see up-close if one is a city-dweller like me. Also, there are now some interesting evening grandstand concerts included with the price of admission to the fair–if you are available to attend the PNE at night, and don’t mind possibly getting wet. (These concerts are all outdoors and, in Vancouver, rain is a very strong possibility during the run of the fair.) What isn’t there now, that I miss, are the Home Show, the Horticulture Show (fruits, vegetables and flowers), the Craft Show, the logging-skills competition (log-rolling, axe wielding, and scurrying up tall poles as fast as possible), and the Food Building, where you could enjoy a good meal indoors and often run into someone you knew from the past who was doing the same thing. There used to be a circus, too, way, way, back. (That may even have been before my time. I recall seeing the Shriner’s Circus when I was kid, which may, or may not, have been at the PNE.) The PNE is now mostly artery-clogging novelty “fair food”–deep-fried Mars Bars, and so on–and daredevil, vomit inducing, carnival rides, both of which appeal mostly to kids.
If the sacrifices that have been made at the PNE were made for financial reasons and if the PNE were now doing well financially, I could accept the changes. At least we still have the PNE, in some form. But, this year, as was brought to my attention by someone I know who knows someone whose daughter works in an administrative role for the PNE, the PNE is struggling financially. Granted, it wasn’t the most reliable source of information about the PNE’s finances; but just the lowering of admission prices this year and the Monday closures would suggest there are presently some financial issues.
If money is a problem now at the PNE, I would suggest that doing more to make the PNE experience interesting and entertaining for adults–including bringing back some of the things I miss, that I mentioned above–could be a good way of increasing revenue. Maybe most of the people who now work for the PNE are too young to remember. (That guy with the daughter who works there couldn’t have been older than fifty himself.)
Last week, I was talking with a male co-worker, roughly my age and also born and bred in Vancouver, about the PNE. He said he always used to go, but he doesn’t go anymore. As he put it, “What the hell am I supposed to do there? Ride the roller-coaster all day?” He went on to say that, in the past, he had particularly enjoyed the PNE Home Show, and mentioned various items he’d purchased there that he still has in his home that remind him of the old PNE.
As for me, I did attend the PNE this year; but I spent only about an hour there, and not much money–other than buying tickets for the PNE Prize Home draw. I didn’t ride the roller-coaster even once, or eat any expensive junk food. (I did buy a bag of Mini-Donuts to take home.) Most of my time was spent in the barn, reconnecting with farm animals and the smells of hay and manure.