The Fair at the PNE: A Vancouver Tradition

This is the Pirate ride at the Playland amusement park. Playland is always part of the fair at the PNE.
This is the Pirate ride at the Playland amusement park. Playland is always part of the fair at the PNE. | Source

The Pacific National Exhibition or PNE

The Pacific National Exhibition or PNE is an organization that holds a popular summer fair in Vancouver, British Columbia. The fair began in 1910 and is still going strong. Many people in Vancouver and the surrounding communities look forward to the annual event and have done so for many years. Visiting the fair is one of their summer traditions.

At heart, the PNE fair has always been an agricultural event, but today it's much more than this. In addition to farm animal displays and 4H competitions, the fair includes events such as the Peking Acrobats show, the SuperDogs show, the RCMP Musical Ride, the Pacific Spirit Horse Show and a variety of musical performances. The fairground contains exhibits, food stands, a marketplace and an amusement park called Playland.

The fair runs for the last two weeks of August. The final day of the event is always Labour Day, which is the first Monday in September. Visiting the fairground is a fun way to celebrate the last part of summer. Except for the photo above, all of the photos in this article were taken by me during my visits to the area.

An animatronic dinosaur protecting her eggs at the 2016 fair
An animatronic dinosaur protecting her eggs at the 2016 fair | Source

The PNE fair is held in Hastings Park in east Vancouver. The fairground is known as the Pacific National Exhibition, just like the organization that runs the fair. Therefore the summer event is officially known as "the fair at the PNE".

The SuperDogs show is about to begin.
The SuperDogs show is about to begin. | Source

The SuperDogs Show

The SuperDogs show is always a crowd favourite. Like the other performances at the fair, the show is free to attend (except for the price of the fair gate pass). The event is an agility competition prevented in a show style and contains comedy as well as athletic dog feats. Coloured lights, music and audience participation are part of the show.

The personalities of the people and dogs involved in the SuperDogs show are a big part of its success. The dogs have a wide range of sizes and appearances, which adds to the fun. About forty percent of the dogs were rescued and adopted. It's nice to see that all the SuperDogs participate in the show with great enthusiasm.

The Obstacle Course at the SuperDogs Show

Other Pacific Coliseum Performances

The SuperDogs performance takes place in the Pacific Coliseum building. It shares the building with another show that performs at a different time. For several years, the second show was the Peking Acrobat performance. I was always impressed by the strength, flexibility and skill of the acrobats.

In 2015, the Peking Acrobats show was replaced by Peter Pan, which starred Cathy Rigby. This was also an enjoyable event. At my ideal fair, I would be able to see both the Peking Actobats and Peter Pan. In 2016, Peter Pan was replaced by a magic show involving multiple magicians.

It's advisable to arrive well in advance of the start of any Coliseum show in order to get a seat. There is often a large crowd of people streaming towards the building as show time approaches, especially on the weekend.

The Peking Acrobats Perform at the PNE

The Pacific Spirit Horse Show

The Pacific Spirit Horse Show takes place in the Agrodome. It generally includes miniature horse, cattle penning, draft horse and show jumping competitions, although the exact events vary from year to year. Dressage, a Battle of the Breeds event and an indoor derby are often part of the show as well.

In the Battle of the Breeds, a team consisting of four horses and riders competes in four events over three days. The events are dressage to music, trail obstacles, barrel racing and stadium jumping. In the indoor derby, individual horses compete in three events - dressage, stadium jumping and a derby, in which a cross country event is simulated within the Agrodome.

The variety of events and different types of horses participating in the Pacific Spirit Horse Show make it an interesting and often exciting event. I find the draft horse competition especially enjoyable. The teams of Clydesdales, Percherons and Belgians are beautiful to watch.

Getting the Carlaw Clydes ready for a draft horse competition
Getting the Carlaw Clydes ready for a draft horse competition | Source

The RCMP Musical Ride

The RCMP Musical Ride was part of the Pacific Spirit Horse Show for several years. The show wasn't present at the 2015 or 2016 fair. I hope it appears again. All members of the musical ride are RCMP officers who have volunteered to participate in the event for three years. The intricate patterns formed by the horses as they move and the precise timing that is shown as the patterns are produced is very impressive.

The RCMP group stayed at the fair for only a few days each year, so there was always a big audience for their performances. It was enjoyable to meet the horses after the show. They are beautiful and friendly animals.

The Musical Ride in the Agrodome

Farm Country

Except for the SuperDogs show, the animal performances take place in the Agrodome. The Agrodome is connected to barns, which are known as Farm Country during the fair.

The barns are open to the public and have a variety of special attractions, such as lots of cute baby animals, a country store and a country restaurant. Cows that are close to giving birth are housed in the barns so that people who are there at the right time can see a calf being born. Horses from the Pacific Spirit Horse Show and the RCMP Musical Ride can also be visited in the barns.

Farm Country contains a honey store which sometimes gives bee beard demonstrations. The business that runs the honey store provides bees for the movie industry. The owner knows how to safely attract bees and cover a person's throat with them to create a "bee beard". The event is very interesting to watch, but I definitely wouldn't want to get a bee beard myself!

It's enjoyable to see the animals in the barns and to photograph them. However, this is the one part of the fair that makes me sad. As I learned from one of the farm hands a few years ago, many of the young animals will "enter the food chain" after the fair is over.

Animals in the Barns

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rabbits and a guinea pigAn interesting sheep Feeding time for piglets Beautiful horsesDonkeysThis young Clydesdale was at the fair for two years in a row and loved interacting with people.A goatZeldo and Zorro, two Chianina Oxen weighing about 3,000 pounds eachA friendly cowAn alpacaA friendly buffaloAn American Quarter HorseA closer view of a Carlaw ClydeSharing food
Rabbits and a guinea pig
Rabbits and a guinea pig | Source
An interesting sheep
An interesting sheep
Feeding time for piglets
Feeding time for piglets
Beautiful horses
Beautiful horses
Donkeys
Donkeys
This young Clydesdale was at the fair for two years in a row and loved interacting with people.
This young Clydesdale was at the fair for two years in a row and loved interacting with people.
A goat
A goat
Zeldo and Zorro, two Chianina Oxen weighing about 3,000 pounds each
Zeldo and Zorro, two Chianina Oxen weighing about 3,000 pounds each
A friendly cow
A friendly cow
An alpaca
An alpaca
A friendly buffalo
A friendly buffalo
An American Quarter Horse
An American Quarter Horse
A closer view of a Carlaw Clyde
A closer view of a Carlaw Clyde
Sharing food
Sharing food

Other Events at the Fair

Some events are held year after year at the fair, such as the SuperDogs performance. Others events occur occasionally or for only a few years. It's understandable that the organizers would want to change the entertainment in successive years to maintain interest and to save money. I miss some of the former events, though.

The sand sculpture competition is one event that took place for several years in a row. The artists were very creative and skilful. Other events held at some fairs have included a motorcross competition and a nightly fireworks display. A new and interesting event in both 2015 and 2016 was a display of large, animatronic dinosaurs.

Until recently, the fair was a traditional place for high-quality entertainment from young people, especially teenagers. The entertainment included energetic dance performances and a parade through the exhibition grounds several times a day. Most of this entertainment has disappeared, which I find sad. There are still street performances, however, which currently include an excellent choreographed performance by a high school drum band. There's also an outdoor stage where community groups of all ages perform and another stage where professionals perform.

More Pictures of the Fair at the PNE

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A dinosaur model on the road behind the AgrodomeA fire truck from the pastA main road at the PNE fairThe RCMP Musical RideOmeisaurusShantungosaurusFood is a major part of the fair.Poutine bought at the PNE
A dinosaur model on the road behind the Agrodome
A dinosaur model on the road behind the Agrodome | Source
A fire truck from the past
A fire truck from the past
A main road at the PNE fair
A main road at the PNE fair
The RCMP Musical Ride
The RCMP Musical Ride
Omeisaurus
Omeisaurus
Shantungosaurus
Shantungosaurus
Food is a major part of the fair.
Food is a major part of the fair.
Poutine bought at the PNE
Poutine bought at the PNE

Food Choices

Most of the foods on sale at the PNE definitely aren't health foods, but they are delicious. Burgers, hot dogs and French fries are plentiful. Pizza is available as well. The fair is associated with some special treats, such as hot and sugary mini donuts, which are very popular. Crepes, fish and chips, scones, elephant ears and candy floss are popular as well. Indian, Chinese, Greek and Mexican food are nice additions to the fair. In the last few years, poutine has been available. Poutine is a Canadian dish which consists of French fries, cheese curds and gravy.

My favourite place to get "food" at the fair is the gelato stand. It offers a large range of flavour choices. It's hard to choose a flavour to buy - they are all so enticing.

"Those Little Donuts" are a PNE tradition.
"Those Little Donuts" are a PNE tradition. | Source

The PNE Prize Home

A major attraction at the PNE is the beautiful prize home that's on display during the fair. There's always a long lineup of people waiting to get into the house to view it. People need to buy a raffle ticket in order to have a chance of owning the home. Money raised from the raffle ticket sales is used to fund 4H programs and not-for-profit community groups.

The house is a modular building, After the fair, it's professionally cleaned, dismantled, moved to a picturesque area of BC and then reassembled. A car, a boat or groceries are usually awarded with the prize home. It's a great package for the winner.

The PNE Prize Home in 2013
The PNE Prize Home in 2013 | Source

Playland

Playland is an amusement park that is located on the same grounds as the PNE and operates from April to September. It's the oldest amusement park in Canada and is best known for its wooden roller coaster, which was built in 1958.

Playland cooperates with the PNE during the fair, so visitors can walk freely between the two attractions. They still have to pay for Playland rides, though. The Hastings Racetrack also cooperates with the PNE and usually offers free horse race events during the fair.

Playland has some gentle rides as well as some scary ones that many people love. One of the scary rides is the Atmosfear, which takes people up to a height of 218 feet and spins them around 360 degrees at a speed of up to 70 km an hour. This is one ride that I definitely avoid.

The Playland photos below were taken at a pre-season Amusement Park Science Day for school students. The area is crowded with people and extra attractions during the fair at the PNE.

Photos of Playland

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Ferris wheel at PlaylandThe haunted houseThe wooden roller coasterSpace that would likely be filled during the summer and the fair at the PNEThe Hellavator is popular because it suddenly and very rapidly moves passengers upwards. The ride in the background is the Atmosfear.
A Ferris wheel at Playland
A Ferris wheel at Playland
The haunted house
The haunted house
The wooden roller coaster
The wooden roller coaster
Space that would likely be filled during the summer and the fair at the PNE
Space that would likely be filled during the summer and the fair at the PNE
The Hellavator is popular because it suddenly and very rapidly moves passengers upwards. The ride in the background is the Atmosfear.
The Hellavator is popular because it suddenly and very rapidly moves passengers upwards. The ride in the background is the Atmosfear.

A View of Vancouver From the Atmosfear Ride

The main entrance to the fair at the PNE is located where Renfrew Street meets Hastings Street. (The roads are shown in the map below.) In 2016, a fair gate pass for adults cost $17.00 when bought at the entrance. It cost only $13.00 when bought at the PNE website or at specific retailers.

Creation of the Sanctuary in Hastings Park

The PNE and Playland are located in Hastings Park beside busy main roads. Near the roads are many houses. A few years ago, the neighbourhood banded together to protest the loss of their green area in Hastings Park due to the presence of both the PNE and Playland. These facilities had been in the park for many years but had expanded over time.

Another thing that annoyed the neighbourhood was the huge parking problem each year during the fair. Parking on the PNE grounds is limited and expensive, so people tend to park on the side roads beside the houses.

The protest became so intense that for a while it looked as though the PNE was going to have to find new premises. Eventually a compromise was reached. The PNE stayed where it was, but a green area known as the Sanctuary was created in Hastings Park. This is a lovely place filled with trees, a pond, walking trails, bridges and benches. The pond was created when a stream that had travelled in a culvert for fifty years was uncovered. In addition, the side roads closest to the PNE are now no-parking zones (except for the home owners).

Hastings Park in Vancouver

show route and directions
A markerHastings Park, Vancouver, British Columbia -
Hastings Park, 188 Renfrew Street North, Vancouver, BC V5K 3N8, Canada
[get directions]

B markerPlayland Amusement Park, Vancouver, British Columbia -
Playland Amusement Park, 2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC V5K 5J1, Canada
[get directions]

Black-Eyed Susan flowers in the Italian Gardens
Black-Eyed Susan flowers in the Italian Gardens | Source

The Sanctuary, the Momiji Japanese Garden and the Italian Gardens

The Sanctuary is a pleasant and peaceful place for PNE visitors. Many people stroll through the park during their time at the fair. It's surprising how much the trees deaden the screams and other sounds from Playland. It's nice to rest in the Sanctuary and watch for birds before returning to the activity in the fair or the amusement park.

The Momiji Japanese Garden is a small but significant garden near the Sanctuary. Its significance is due to two factors. It commemorates the very sad internment of Japanese Canadians in Hastings Park during the second world war. The establishment of the garden was also one of the first events in the "greening" of the park. The word "Momiji" means "maple".

Another pleasant place for fair visitors to rest is an area known as the Italian Gardens, which is located right next to fair attractions. It's a beautiful area with flowers, fountains, walkways and sculptures representing characters from Italian operas.

The Sanctuary and the two gardens mentioned above are part of the PNE grounds. Fair visitors can enter them without extra cost.

Photos of the Sanctuary and the Gardens

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Sanctuary in Hastings Park, with a Playland ride in the background on the rightAnother view of the SanctuaryA walkway in the SanctuaryA view of the PNE Fair from the Italian GardensThe Italian Gardens at the PNEAnother view of the Italian Gardens; the purple flowers are purple coneflowers and the white ones are white coneflowersSculptures representing opera charactersFountains in the Italian GardensA view of the Momiji Japanese GardenAnother view of the Momiji Japanese Garden
The Sanctuary in Hastings Park, with a Playland ride in the background on the right
The Sanctuary in Hastings Park, with a Playland ride in the background on the right | Source
Another view of the Sanctuary
Another view of the Sanctuary
A walkway in the Sanctuary
A walkway in the Sanctuary
A view of the PNE Fair from the Italian Gardens
A view of the PNE Fair from the Italian Gardens
The Italian Gardens at the PNE
The Italian Gardens at the PNE
Another view of the Italian Gardens; the purple flowers are purple coneflowers and the white ones are white coneflowers
Another view of the Italian Gardens; the purple flowers are purple coneflowers and the white ones are white coneflowers
Sculptures representing opera characters
Sculptures representing opera characters
Fountains in the Italian Gardens
Fountains in the Italian Gardens
A view of the Momiji Japanese Garden
A view of the Momiji Japanese Garden
Another view of the Momiji Japanese Garden
Another view of the Momiji Japanese Garden

The Greening of Hastings Park

A plan to transform more sections of Hastings Park into green areas has been created and progress has already been made. Greenways (attractive paths bordered by plants) have been created for pedestrians and cyclists in the park. Visitors to the PNE can explore these trails if they get their hand stamped before they leave the exhibition grounds. The stamp will allow them to return to the fair later on in the day.

A stream that was hidden for sixty years has been uncovered to create Creekway Park. This park and its greenway connects Hastings Park with New Brighton Park, which borders Burrard Inlet. The inlet is located near the north end of Hastings Park. It's the blue area in the map above. The creek greenway allows pedestrians and cyclists to reach the inlet without having to cross busy roads.

The increased greening of Hastings Park and the area to the north should make many local residents very happy. The plan will hopefully allow the PNE, Playland and nature to exist peacefully beside each other.

Useful Links

  • Hastings Park is well served by public transit. Bus information can be found at the Translink website.
  • A map of the trails in and around Hastings Park is provided by the City of Vancouver website.

© 2013 Linda Crampton

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Comments 22 comments

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

A wooden roller coaster?! This looks like a great way to end the smmer, with lots of fascinating things to see. Thanks for sharing!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment, Rebecca. I appreciate your visit! Yes, the fair is a great way to end the summer.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Oh, my goodness, the Fairs there are nothing like our fairs! How fascinating, especial the RCMP Musical Ride!!! The bee photo and the sand sculpture photos are amazing, as are all your photos. Sounds like a thrilling time.

Phenomenal hub here.

Voted up ++++ and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the lovely comment, Faith! I appreciate your vote and share. Thank you very much for the blessings, too!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Our big western Washington Fair is happening in another week and I can hardly wait. I've been going to it since I was five years old and I still love it. Thanks for the tour of your fair, Alicia.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

It seems to be the season for fairs! I hope you enjoy this year's event in Washington, Bill.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Linda. This fair really reminds me of our Big E fair that is held the last 2 weeks of September every year. These type of fairs are so much fun. I really enjoy the opportunity to see the animals up close and like the PNE we also have entertainment, rides, shows, etc.. You did a great job taking us through the PNE Fair. Anyone reading this is bound to want to visit. I love the animals photos. Voted up, shared,pinned, etc. Have a great weekend and enjoy the fair.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States

This looks like a wonderful old fashioned fair, but with many new rids also. It looks like it would be so much fun. I have not been on a wooden roller coaster since high school. One of the places I truly want to visit is Vancouver. It is way up on my bucket list. Awesome hub!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Bill. It's interesting to hear about other communities that have equivalent fairs to the one at the PNE. I'd love to visit some of these fairs! Thank you for the comment, the vote and the shares. Have a great weekend, too!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit, Pamela. Playland is very popular, but I prefer to watch other people on the rides and take photographs instead of going on the rides myself! I hope you make it to Vancouver one day.


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

You described the Fair at the PNE in such an enticing way, Alicia, that I wish I lived closer than I do on the other side of the country. Ah, well, perhaps one day I'll make it to the fair. :)

Thanks for this very interesting visit, m'dear.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, drbj. I wish travel was less expensive and more convenient. There are so many places that I'd like to visit!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Sounds like a great fair, but it also disrupts the neighborhood, too.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Yes, it is a great fair, and the neighborhood disruption is much less than it used to be.


Pamela Mae Oliver profile image

Pamela Mae Oliver 3 years ago from Georgia

I wish I could go! I love the fair, and you certainly have done a fantastic job with your article and your pictures!


Smireles profile image

Smireles 3 years ago from Texas

I really enjoyed your hub. Have always wanted to visit Vancouver and this gave me a really good look. I shudder to think about getting a bee beard but everything else was fun and interesting.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the kind comment, Pamela Mae Oliver. I appreciate your visit!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Smireles. Yes, the idea of getting a bee beard makes me shudder, too. I definitely wouldn't volunteer for this "fun"! The development of the beard is very interesting to watch, though. Thank you for the comment.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Fair at the PNE in Vancouver - A Fun Tradition with such lovely photos and looks like so much fun


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit, DDE. Yes, the PNE Fair is a lot of fun. It's a great place to take photographs.


Thief12 profile image

Thief12 2 years ago from Puerto Rico

Looks both fun and beautiful. If I ever visit Vancouver, I'll keep it in mind.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Thief12. If you ever come to Vancouver I hope you enjoy your visit!

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