I mentioned a couple of days ago that my friend invited me to the fair, more properly called the Pacific National Exhibition, or just the PNE. The PNE is a Vancouver tradition going back 100 years. I love it, and before I had children I made it a point to go every year. I have entered draws to “Win a House, Win a Car!” I have eaten fair food and ridden on the rickety wooden roller coaster. I have watched chicks hatch and seen pigs race.

And then I got pregnant and took a long hiatus. The idea of taking small children into the big, bustling crowds scared me. Not to mention the many and various opportunities for whining that the fair presents to children. Rides we’re not going on. Treats we’re not buying. Games of chance we’re not playing. Old time-y portraits we’re not having taken. Oh yes, I could make a list as long as my arm filled with ways that taking children to the fair could go Very Badly Indeed.

Waiting for friends at the PNE
Waiting outside the PNE gates

But. But. Having children in general can go Very Badly Indeed at anytime, even if you never leave your house. And it can also go Very Well Indeed, even when you least expect it. It can take something that is merely fun and make it amazing. Like, say, Christmas. Christmas was fun before I had kids, but now it’s something else entirely. Maybe the fair would be the same? There was really only one way to find out.

Checking out the baby chicks
Watching the baby chicks

And so I found myself waiting outside the gate for my friends and their children. And then I found myself inside the gate with said friends and children. And we could barely contain the palpable excitement from the little ones. In fact, we couldn’t containt it, we could only ride along as they succumbed to the fair experience.

Fair games
What would a fair be without carnival games?

We saw animals. The kids played farmer and got free chocolate milk. We ate junk food. We danced along with Dal Richards, who has been at the PNE for more than 70 years. We saw the Superdogs. We let the kids play a fishing game. We saw a monster truck. We nearly lost at least one of our children about 17 times. We left before things got too crazy, but not before buying even more junk food on the way out.

Jacob plays farmer
Jacob playing farmer

Roping a calf
Hannah practices her roping

Was it kind of insane to take the children to the fair without my husband for backup? Probably. Was it worth it? I would say so. The PNE is such a huge local tradition. I love that about it. I love that you can go back every year during the last 2 weeks of summer and do it all again. You can eat the same food and see a lot of the same shows and walk through the same barns. And I want to share that with my kids. Yes, it’s a lot of work. No, I don’t get to see things on my schedule or at my pace. But it’s the PNE all the same.

Monday afternoon crowd at the PNE
The teeming crowds

Sharing events with your children is worth a little discomfort, I think. I’m glad that my own parents were willing to make that trade-off for me. And so I make the same trade-off for my children. And the reward for me, aside from eating mini donuts and re-experiencing the fair through my children? A good night’s sleep when everyone’s exhausted. $25 for 3 hours of parking is a small price to pay for an early bedtime, don’t you think?

Hannah and the dolphin she won
Hannah and the dolphin she won

Happy Amber, heading home
Me, still smiling as we head for home

In a few days it will be Labour Day, and summer will be over. But for now, we cling to our last days of freedom, and we go to the fair.

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  1. “$25 for 3 hours of parking is a small price to pay for an early bedtime, donÒ€ℒt you think?” Yes, a worthwhile investment indeed πŸ™‚ I’m glad you had a great time and that Hannah won that cool dolphin.

    My husband wants to go to the CNE this weekend and I’m also balking at the whole craziness of it all since it’s the last weekend of the fair. And especially going with a 7 year old who wants to play every game and an almost 4 year old that wants to go on every ride!
    Tanya’s last post … Pockets of timeMy Profile

  2. I have such a huge thing for the fair. It’s Oktoberfest in Munich in a couple of weeks and each year I wish I could go. I miss it so much.
    Mel’s last post … Thankful FridayMy Profile

  3. This is lovely! We just went to the New York State Fair this past week – wow, that thing is HUGE. Took a bazillion photos, and I hope my kids remember this stuff as they get older.

    “Sharing events with your children is worth a little discomfort, I think.” <<– yes, absolutely. (particularly when it comes with an early bedtime, ha!)
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Whole Wheat Banana-Apple PancakesMy Profile

  4. I’m glad you had a great time! The pictures are wonderful!
    Wendy Irene (Give Love Create Happiness)’s last post … New Blog FriendsMy Profile

  5. Ahhh, the joys of the PNE. If nothing else I learned that I CAN handle too overly excitable children in a chaotic environment like the PNE….bring on Disneyland I say!!

    Oh, and I have pictures I need to send you. Off to do that πŸ™‚
    Carrie’s last post … Red Writing Hood- The LampMy Profile

  6. I “discovered” the PNE Fair thru taking my Wee Guy. We first visited when he could be carried/walked occasionally and have been back many times since then. This year he got a free ticket with his school report card which helped ease the financial load (cos yes, it is expensive).
    It’s becoming more and more fun to go with him but also he’s noticing more and making more “requests” which I assess before turning down. Since he already has a Playland pass (it’s been a regular stocking stuffer for a number of years, and I get in on a half price guardian pass to accompany him on the rides – win, win).
    I love showing him the animal barn since we don’t get a lot of exposure here, and checking out the crazy street performers. We saw Superdogs for the first time and were awestruck when we got to go down into the arena to hang out with our favourites (starstruck anyone?).
    His big moment this year was surviving as a cheerleader at the Pig Racing. He wanted to volunteer, got overcome with stagefright but hug in there to get a T shirt and a mini donut coupon at the end. So.very.proud πŸ™‚

    PS: when they’re older try for cheaper/free street parking further west off Hastings – it’s a gentle walk and there’s a great coffee stop for post-fair refreshments
    pomomama’s last post … heading down the mountainMy Profile

  7. I loved the photos! I felt like I was there (only it’s quieter here I’m sure).
    I haven’t been to the PNE since I was 13 years old… or maybe 14 because I think Expo 86 was the year before the last time I was at the PNE.
    I LOVED the food fair, the rollercoater (I think we went on at least 10 times in a row before my folks got bored and wanted to move on). I’ve never had the pleasure of the farm areas…. I would have LOVED that!
    Another thing I would love is that inflated dolphin… so cute!
    It was noisy, bright and exciting to every one of my senses — I do remember it so well thanks to your photos.
    *pol’s last post … September is here!My Profile

  8. Yeah! Glad to hear the PNE was a successful trip & that There were smiles all around!

  9. Brave woman — you’re right though, any place with kids is an Awfully Strange Adventure, which is both dangerous and wonderful. The last time we went to the CNE, I went on a ride and felt horribly nauseous and thought I was getting too old for rides. Then I found out I was pregnant. We totally have to take the kids next year.
    allison’s last post … Word Picture Wednesday- The Park After DarkMy Profile

  10. Good for you! I took the boys to the local fair a couple times, and I remember buying them cotton candy because that’s what you do at fairs in my limited experience, and ending up eating it all myself because they didn’t like it: too sweet!
    Francesca’s last post … all-well-now cakeMy Profile

  11. That looks like a fabulous fair! We went to a local county fair, and it was nice, but not very big.
    Lady M’s last post … Mama Faces Her FearsMy Profile

  12. You are so right about it being worth it to share events with our kids! Yeah, it can be a pain the butt to transport them places, but look how much fun you had in the end!
    Old School/New School Mom’s last post … Co-Sleeping and The New Baby Part IIMy Profile

  13. My husband sadly feels the totally the opposite – I think he will regret this

  14. We were there today. O had the best time in the world. Danced to Bobs and Lolo, got a hug from Curious George and Franklin, danced to the music on the midway, danced to the ipod charger shaped like a pig, loved the people selling stuff in the buildings and begged to go to bed when we got home. The fair is my favourite too, always has been since I moved here, and now that I get to experience it in another way with a child, I love it even more. And I get to go back as an adult this weekend and have a beer, gamble, and spend a small fortune on mops, steamers and all the latest gadgets… and I can't WAIT! πŸ™‚

  15. We go to the PNE every year…my daughter’s first trip was at 2.5 months, my son’s was at 4 weeks! Ack, that was a bit scary. My husband always went as a kid, so it’s a tradition he insists upon. I thought that farm for the kids was fantastic – my 6-year old (who I suspected was going to be bored) LOVED it and kept saying throughout the day “I got to be a farmer today!”. It’s tiring for everyone but yes, we all have a good sleep so it’s well worth it. (And ouch, reading the previous comments I realize I completely forgot about the PNE pass that came in my daughter’s report card…I think I won’t mention that to my husband!!)

  16. I thought the fair went amazingly well. I was pretty darn worried I would lose it…or lost a kid. But I maintained my sanity, kept both of my kids, and managed to handle Em who was not in her crib at nap time for the first time in her entire life. It was even much more fun that I had anticipated. Big pluses all ’round. Next year, maybe the kids will be calm enough that I’ll even be able to chat with you guys. πŸ™‚
    Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)’s last post … LemonsMy Profile

  17. We skipped the Ex this year, as they call it here, but I have found memories of going and hope to take the kids. If only it weren’t so expensive!
    Capital Mom’s last post … Tomato soupMy Profile

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