Toronto

CNE unveiling new attractions to find an 'evolving and changing audience'

The CNE polled 2,500 people to see what they wanted out of the Exhibition, and have brought out several new attractions in response to those comments.

The Canadian National Exhibition will have an Asian market, a silent disco and a display of giant gnomes

The Zipper ride is turning 50 this year, and has gotten a new look that will be unveiled at the CNE. (Canadian National Exhibition)

Wendy Cheung has been going to the Canadian National Exhibition with her family almost every year since she can remember.

Even though she's lived in Ottawa for more than a decade, Cheung, 50, still makes the trip to Toronto every year to spend a day with her family at the Ex.

They love all the traditional attractions, but that's not all that keeps them coming back.

"We go to see what's new and upcoming and different that we've never seen before," said Cheung, who works as a real estate agent in Ottawa.

This year, the CNE employed a novel method to come up with "the new and upcoming and different" that people like Cheung crave.

Using a social media platform called Vision Critical, the organizers posed questions and received responses from around 2,500 people.

So, what did they come up with this year? Here's a taste of the new attractions you can enjoy when the Ex opens on Aug. 17:

Legends of the Silk Road Come to Light

Legend of the Silk Road Come to Light is an exhibit on the ancient route that transported rare and valuable goods via caravan between Asia and Europe.

According to the CNE website, 50 artists created 17 "illuminated larger-than-life synthetic silk lanterns. These lanterns will stand stories-high in stature and create a luminous kaleidoscope of colour."

Lanterns similar to these will be on display this year, showcasing legends and myths from the Silk Road. (Canadian National Exhibition)

There will also be an Asian market featuring food and merchandise.

Silent Disco

On the evenings of Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 27 and 28, there will be a disco on Princes' Boulevard, but with a novel twist.  You can dance, but to music only you can hear. 

"As many as 300 headphones will be made available to patrons (each of whom must leave a deposit which is refunded upon their return), on a first-come, first-serve basis," the CNE website says.

Giant Gnomes

Gnomes may be mythical creatures of small stature but the CNE is turning the tables this year. As you enter Heritage Court from the midway, you'll be greeted by three 12-foot and three 6-foot gnomes "crafted out of their native greenery," according to the fair's website. 

"We understand that our customers reflect the community in which we live, multicultural, multi-ethnic and full of all different kinds of perspectives," said John Peco, chief officer of business development and innovation for the CNE.

"The community of Toronto today is very different than what it might have been a generation ago, so we have to be very sensitive to the needs of that evolving and changing audience," said Peco.

Each new display has its target audience, according to Peco. He said the Silk Road exhibit will feature spots for the perfect Instagram selfie, to bring in the millennial audience.

While Peco admitted this year might be leaning more toward the new, the CNE is still keeping around the time-tested fan favourites.

"It is definitely a balance," said Peco.

"We want to keep those things that are a part of the culture of the city and of the CNE intact, but at the same time we want to offer the excitement and have programming that resonates with the needs as they evolve."

The Cheung family has been going to the CNE for 40 years. (Submitted by Wendy Cheung)

Cheung, for her part, said she's looking forward to these new attractions, and plans to try out the new features.

"It has changed, but for us as a family, it's always an attraction for us to go together and see what the changes are."

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