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 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.
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.
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 playing farmer
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.
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
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.