The Historic Cancellation Of ‘the Ex’ Due To Covid-19

For 142 years, it has been our end-of summer-tradition — an 18-day celebratory transition from the lazy and hazy days of summer’s freedom to the more structured routines of the fall. But not in 2020: “The Ex” has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision, announced May 12, along with the support of the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, to cancel this year’s edition of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is only the second occasion in its history (not since the Second World War) that Canada’s largest fair has closed in its entirety.

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“Safety always comes first at the CNE, and the decision to cancel our event is the right decision during this critical time to protect the health of all Canadians,” says John Kiru, president of the Canadian National Exhibition Association. “Summer in Toronto will not be the same without the sights and sounds of the CNE, alongside so many [other] annual festivals and cultural events that have been forced to cancel. We stand in solidarity with the collective effort to curb this global pandemic, and we will all do our part to ensure this happens.”

For generations of Canadians, The Ex has been a right of passage from summer to fall — one of thrilling rides, mysterious new foods, games of chance on The Midway, blazing-hot days and warm summer nights under the fireworks. Candy apples, candy floss, tiny doughnuts and anything “on a stick” passed as the daily menu. Preparing for a “Family Day” at The Ex was often like a strategic military operation for any parent, with the only solace being that the kids would be asleep before the light went out, and that they’d figure out what to do with that giant stuffed bear in the morning.

Blaring music and roaring crowds made the fair experience unlike any other, and the CNE has attracted the very best in entertainment over the decades. Frank Sinatra performed at The Ex. So did The Beach Boys, Buddy Rich, Stevie Wonder and Chicago. And the Canadian International Air Show held annually on Labour Day Weekend has been not only a signature event, but also a signature “sound” of a Toronto summer. The CNE remains one of the largest fairs in North America, attracting more than 1.4 million visitors each year.

This cancellation is yet another financial hit for Ontario and for Toronto brought on by the severity of COVID-19, as the CNE has an annual economic impact of more than $128 million on Ontario and $93 million on the Greater Toronto Area, employing more than 5,000 seasonal workers each summer.

However, more than money, the cancellation of The Ex is another hit to our collective psyche, another “normal” taken away from us — another reminder, as the months and now the seasons pass, of how 2020 is unlike any other year.

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