What's new at this year's CNE? East Coast Kitchen Party, Gaming Garage and more

There are a number of new additions to this year's Canadian National Exhibition, which opens on Friday.

The Canadian National Exhibition opens for another season Friday

A brand new 2.5-metre-tall sign is up at the Ex. (CNE)

Canadian figure skater, three-time world champion and two-time Olympic medallist Elvis Stojko is set to headline the Aerial Acrobatics and Ice Skating Show at the Canadian National Exhibition, one of several attractions at this year's fair.

"It's very exciting, very difficult. It has a wild factor," Stojko said this week.

This year marks the CNE's 139th fair and, of course, Canada's 150th birthday.   

"Elvis Stojko: how much more Canadian can you get than that?" said Virginia Ludy, CEO of the Canadian National Exhibition Board.

Not much, except perhaps Screech from Newfoundland.

The CNE's East Coast Kitchen Party takes place on the first weekend of the exhibition. (CNE)

That's one of the specialties on the menu for the East Coast Kitchen Party taking place on the first weekend of the Ex.

The jam will feature East Coast food, craft beer and entertainment.

Another brand-new attraction is the Gaming Garage. E-sports, board games, a Chess Grandmaster Challenge and even pinball machines will be set up where visitors can compete and win prizes.

The CNE's Gaming Garage debuts this year. (CNE)

A 7.5-metre unity totem pole carved from white cedar trees in Peterborough is the CNE's latest art piece. It was designed by an Ojibwa artist, Kris Nahrgang, and is meant to celebrate Indigenous contributions to Canada.

There will also be interactive wood-carving workshops with four Indigenous instructors. 

The unity totem pole, designed by Ojibwa artist Kris Nahrgang, is on display at this year's CNE. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

There is also an abundance of all-Canadian music that will be featured over the exhibition's 18 days, and a new sign set up for Instagram-able moments. 

While the CNE is a valuable asset to the city's cultural landscape, Ludy said, the economic contribution is also significant. 

"We have about a $70 million impact on the City of Toronto and about $100 million on the province," she said. "We employ over 5,000 youth over the course of the event, many from priority neighbourhoods."

Over 1.5 million visitors attended the exhibition last year and organizers are expecting a similar turnout for this year's fair, which runs from Aug. 18 to Sept. 4.