The end of August means that we’re elbow deep into Canadian National Exhibition time. I used to love going to the CNE. I’d dutifully collect a bag full of recipes for featured products in the Agricultural building from Foodland Ontario (Potatoes! Eggs! Beef! Dairy!) There were really great product demonstrations for things like the Best Mandoline I’ve Ever Owned (and accompanying Rosti grater), induction cooktops and ceramic knives and Sham-wows (shams-wow?) and all kinds of other late-night-paid-commercial-announcements crap (Sidebar: Remember when Mike Rowe skyrocketted the entertainment value of the QVC overnight segments by about a gazillion percent. OMG, his sass was legendary). But my favourite things were the food building and the midway. The food building has slightly less allure now that everyone is trying to create the most outrageous new thing to try (are we being serious with the Deep Fried Butter?) and it’s less about product developers trying to get a product off the ground – I distinctly remember the (discontinued but then re-introduced) New York Seltzer featured there… we drank a *lot* of that in the theatre school I attended in the halcyon days of my youth. We thought it made us look sophisticated with our fancy fruity bubbly water. Which is what you want more than anything when you’re 11.
But I digress. Let us turn our attention to the CNE Midway. The Wayback Midway wasn’t a travelling operation like it is now. There were Built On Site rides – The Flyer and the terrifying Wild Mouse, amongst my favourites, the very benign Alpine Sky Ride (which was demolished but rebuilt a decade a go). As soon as the first one of us turned 16 in the mid 1980 and convinced someone’s parents to let us take their car for the day, we were high-tailing it to the midway. So good. Alas, I haven’t been on a midway ride since Child got the ride passes on the opening day of the Perth Fall Fair, and didn’t want to ride the Scrambler himself (but reallyReallyREALLY wanted to ride the Scrambler).
There’s a ride that has always been part of the outdoor carnival repertoire, from the CNE to Canada Day and Fall Fairs and those fairs that would just show up in the mall parking lot randomly in the late spring. The Music Express – sometimes also called the Polar Express, if it had giant hostile looking white bears painted on it instead of scrolling bars of music on a purple background. A hilly circle that went forwards and then backwards while the carnival barker yelled “DO YOU WANT TO GO FASTER??!?” Ninety percent of the patrons cheered, but a few pleasegodno riders just looked pained and/or sick. That is the source of our throwback today. The ride, not the folks not enjoying their life in high speed, that is.
While the tunes blasting out of the Music Express have changed over the years, these are the ones that still show up on the soundtrack, no matter what year it is. So, friends, whether you’re a Ride All Day person or a just-a-few-tickets person, I hope you enjoy the ride.