Medium shot of people walking through the fair with a ferris wheel behind.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Vancouver’s PNE is changing the fair experience

From drive-thru mini donuts to reverse parades, the PNE got creative in the midst of Covid-19.

When it became clear that Covid-19 was here and staying for the long-run, many people’s summer plans became compromised. Summertime events, like music festivals, block parties, and carnivals, were forced to cancel or postpone until safety could be ensured. However, one Vancouver fair has taken this pandemic as an opportunity to look beyond the usual when it comes to running a family-favourite summer staple. The Pacific National Exhibition, also known as the PNE, is an annual summer fair in Vancouver, British Columbia that runs for approximately two weeks between the end of August and start of September.

According to the PNE website, it is the “longest running and best-attended ticketed event in BC.” The Vancouver fair, which opened in 1910, is home to a variety of attractions including live shows, agricultural exhibits, and amusement park rides.

Wide shot of people walking through the PNE in 1957.
Photo by Rob on Flickr

In April, the PNE team released an official announcement stating that it would be unable to run the fair or their Playland amusement park as usual this summer. However, the statement told fair-goers to “stay tuned” for the “few bright ideas up [the team’s] sleeve.”

On April 30, the first in a long line of said “bright ideas” was announced.

Party-in-a-Box

In order to bring the Vancouver fair fun into the safety of one’s home, the PNE announced the PNE Party-in-a-Box.

For those celebrating a special occasion in quarantine, the PNE Party-in-a-Box provides fair-inspired gifts to share within one’s social bubble. Packages include fair-favourite items including cotton candy, caramel apples, and reusable souvenir cups. Additionally, the party host will receive extra items such as two passes to Playland’s 2021 season.

Additional information, including package options, can be found on the PNE website. Orders can be placed through TicketLeader.

A Taste of the PNE

The PNE did not stop with an at-home fair experience. As British Columbia entered the second phase of its reopening plan, the PNE gave fans a taste of what to expect this summer.

A Taste of the PNE: Mini Donut Edition was the first in a series of drive-thru experiences hosted by the PNE.

Close up shot looking into a bag of mini donuts.
Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd on Flickr

Mini donuts, a fair favourite food, were offered by four of the PNE’s regular vendors. For $20, fans were able to get a bag of six donuts from each vendor. For $35, purchasers received two bags from each vendor.

People from across British Columbia attended the event, some waiting around two hours to receive their donuts. The response to the experience was overwhelming, prompting the PNE to add an additional day of the drive-thru. Multiple days of the event between May 22 and 25 were sold out.

Following the success of their mini donut event, the PNE hosted its second drive-thru experience over the Fathers’ Day weekend, from June 18 to 21.

A Taste of the PNE: Car-B-Q Edition featured barbecue ribs, poutine, and macaroni and cheese from local businesses. Attendees also had the chance to view a custom car exhibit.

Unlike the first event, attendees could pre-order the exact food items they wanted and were required to pick the date and time they would like to attend.

Due to popular demand, the event was extended to add a second weekend on June 27 and 28.

According to fair organizers, a third A Taste of the PNE experience will occur over the BC Day long weekend in August.

Summertime Return

On June 25, PNE organizers held a press conference, announcing its safe summertime return, which will include a Canada Day celebration, the re-opening of Playland, and an unconventional fair experience.

According to Shelley Frost, PNE president and CEO, summer events will bring back some of the fair’s employees, aid exhibitors and concessionaires with income, and help connect the BC community.

“I’ll be honest, these events [will] not dramatically improve the challenging economic position that [the PNE is] in,” said Frost at the press conference. “We still have a long road to go, but it’s a start.”

“[The summer return] will allow us to stay connected with [people] in BC, so that we can help play a small role in creating memories and bringing back some smiles during a really challenging time,” said Frost.

Canada Day

Two suited dancers stand in front of three large geese mascots at a parade.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

On July 1, the PNE will host a drive-thru Canada Day experience. Designed as a reverse parade, attendees will drive through the fair grounds viewing Canadian-themed displays and entertainment. Families are encouraged to decorate their cars and dress up to show their Canadian pride.

According to Frost, this will be the first drive-thru Canada Day celebration and the only live Canada Day parade this year.

In addition to the reverse parade, attendees can purchase classic fair foods such as corndogs and cotton candy, as well as a Canadian-favourite, poutine. Tickets to the celebration and food pre-orders must be booked in advance on TicketLeader.

Re-opening Playland

After British Columbia’s health officials announced that the province is ready to move into its third phase of reopening, the PNE will be re-opening its Playland amusement park.

Playland will be opened carefully, with only around a dozen family-favourite rides available and safety protocols in place. Attendees will also be provided a “fun” face mask with admission.

“Your support of Playland is going to help bring hundreds of summer jobs back to BC,” said Frost during the press conference. “It might not be our usual thousands of jobs, but we will do everything we can to support our team and bring smiles back to the faces of our guests.”

An Unconventional Fair

The final announcement by the PNE was the decision to hold a 2020 fair experience. While full details of the unconventional event are still to come, this year’s fair will be a drive-thru experience that will include various fair-favourite attractions.

“The 2020 PNE Fair will bring British Columbians together (but apart) to create what may be the most unique…shared memory in our history,” said Frost, in a statement on the PNE website.

Despite the staging of fairs seeming impossible earlier this year, Vancouver’s PNE has found ways to thrive. The PNE is proof that local events can overcome challenges with creative thinking, community support, and mini donuts.

Are you a Vancouverite who has or is planning to attend the PNE this year? Are you from a different city and want to share the unconventional ways your community has coped with Covid-19? Tweet us @Fuzzable to let us know.

Written by Kendra Seguin

Aspiring journalist and Price is Right contestant.

Instagram: @kendraseguin
Nail Art Instagram: @kendranailingit

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