One of my earliest memories as a kid was going to see the lumberjack showcase at the PNE here in Vancouver. I must’ve been about 5 and got such a kick out of watching lumberjacks spin on logs in the water, waiting for them to fall in to the pond of water.
I remember my parents buying me my first helium balloon – it was mickey mouse, I think. Well, actually, now that I think about it, that might have been at the airshow… anyway, I remember being very upset when we got home and I accidentally let go and well… we all know what happens to helium balloons when you let go…
But isn’t that what the fair is all about? Balloons, lumberjack shows, cotton candy, spinning rides that make you feel sick – especially after all that cotton candy. The agridome with all the animals and the 4H kids. The midway full of ridiculous sized stuffed animals that you never win. And the food…
The PNE takes place the last two weeks of the summer, ending on Labour Day. It got it’s start back in 1910 and at that time, was the second largest fair in North America – right behind the New York State Fair. (Yeah Toronto, it was bigger than the CNE!). Even now, the fair draws in close to a million visitors every year during those two weeks. And hey! It’s where the SuperDogs got their start!
This year, I went with my friend Donnie Vegas and his daughter Miss Katherine (aka Katie) and our friend Belle Elle (she of the famous Bake for the Quake Rocky Road Bars). I was there for photos and food – specifically the deep fried kind, Katie was there for rides and games, Elle was along for the fun and Don… Don was Miss Katherine’s wallet.
The last time I went to the fair was nearly 15 years ago. It’s something I mean to do every year but never actually get to. I think the last time, my brother bought me tickets to a fair concert.
My crowning Fair moment? Being in the crowd for a Tom Cochrane concert when they filmed the video for Mad Mad World. This was back when I was in university and Tom was riding the biggest hit of his career, “Life is a Highway” – it was the anthem of that summer. He wrote that song and it’s a kickass rockin’ road anthem that for some reason, mediocre country acts take pleasure in covering badly. Mickey Curry on the drums and the incomparable Molly Johnson singing backup. That song still makes me get up and dance to this day. He’s still one of my favourite songwriters…
One of my favourite ever quotes is from a Tom Cochrane song, Victory Day
Life isn’t big, no, it’s kinda small
Made of small moments, they’re all strung together
And if you don’t look out you might miss them all
And then it’s just passed you on by like the weather
Says it all – live all the small moments you’re given. But I digress…
Miss Katherine loved the midway – she was more adventurous than the height restrictions would let her be and even went on Break Dance on her own at the end. What’s not to love? All the bright lights, loud music, fast movement and people screaming.
Katherine did all right with the games – she amassed and impressive collection of stuffies by the end of the day, which we all took turns carrying…
We packed a lot in to the 7 hours I was there (I had to leave earlier than the rest of the group to meet Mardi from Eat Live Travel Write for dinner! Yay!!): lots of food, the SuperDogs, Bobs and Lolo (I mentioned Katherine is 6, right), the crazy motorsports dudes, the 4H club and all the animals – which are my favourite part.
The animals are always my favourite part. This is what I remember most from the fair when I was a kid. I also remember there being exhibits of the best homemade jam, the best eggs, the best needlework etc – sort of what a Fair used to be – who could grow the biggest pumpkin etc. I looked around this year, and tucked away in a corner there was a very small 4H display of the eggs and homemade jam. Guess it’s not quite the same draw it used to be…
While I was wandering through the stalls near the goats, it was actually very quiet – nobody was around. I came across one stall and was so surprised to see a little boy, maybe 7 or 8, lying face down in the hay with a goat, who was calmly lying on the ground chewing some straw. The stall was locked and the fence to get in was quite high.. my first thought was he’d tried to climb the wall and had fallen in. But he was breathing and then I saw his head was burrowed into the goat’s neck and he had his arms wrapped around it in a hug. I snapped a quick photo and then his brother came running around the corner telling him to get up and he looked up and said “I’m having a nap with my goat!” It was the sweetest thing. A boy and his goat….
Also, that cow was no cow, he was half a team of oxen and I swear to god he could have sat on me and not even noticed it. He was massive. When his brother stood next to me, I had to look up to look him in the eye.
We even checked out the Canadian Forces area because Katherine was really into it. She got to sit in the cockpit of a CF18 (not sure who was more excited – her or her dad…), climb around inside a military ambulance and charm a bunch of soldiers.
Great day with good friends and despite not finding the elusive deep fried jellybeans to try, it was a great time.
Now do yourselves a favour and check out the original Life is a Highway. I swear it will get your feet tapping… and remember
From Mozambique to those Memphis nights,
The Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s Lights…