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Let’s go to the EX

I love the jingle the Canadian National Exhibition uses and has for as many years as I can remember. It is, of course, a cover of ‘At the Hop,’ but it still gets my feet tapping and my lips moving.

I recall, when I first came to Canada, how going to the EX was the thing to do before that dreaded return to school day. Tommy and I were each given $5 by our parents and told to have a great day at the CNE. Of course, that included the TTC to get us there.

Rides were about a dime apiece, and all the food you would ever want to eat was free in the Food building. We bought return tickets on the subway, so there was no need to worry about running out of cash. We could always get home.

I did not have time this year to travel down, and honestly, the EX no longer has the attraction it did when I was a kid. I do wonder how far my $5 would go today.

Admission has gone up a little since those days, and a family pass is just under $60. The midway, the reason many of us go to the EX now, has over 35 rides, including classics like the Ferris wheel and new additions such as the double-decker merry-go-round. There is also a Kiddie Midway, which features 31 fun-sized rides, arts and crafts, and family-friendly shows to entertain the little ones.

Of course, there is lots of free entertainment, but eating is not so cheap. A Philly Steakclair is $13, and a bag of tiny Toms is $6. A bottle of pop is $3, and a collectible soft drink cup is only $6 (refills are $3).

Ride costs have always been an issue. Tickets are fairly inexpensive to buy (20 tickets for $22), but you need lots of them to go on rides. The Ferris wheel, for example, requires six tickets. The CNE, however, has realized this and offered an adult pass, which includes all the rides you want, for $60.

The EX is still a great place to go and have a unique experience, but the $5 days of long ago are exactly that, long ago.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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