Putting the whee! in CNE for over 50 years
Legendary rides that prove time really does fly when you’re having fun
Heading to the CNE to scarf down some Tiny Tom Donuts and trying to keep them down while screaming the day away on a roller coaster is as much a Toronto tradition as tuning into the Maple Leafs on a Saturday night or sitting in traffic on, well, pretty much any summer day.
Come Aug. 15, the Canadian National Exhibition, Canada’s largest annual fair, will open its gates for the 136th time since it was first founded in 1879. Since its humble beginnings, the CNE has wowed generation after generation with its freak shows, death-defying acts and thrilling midway rides.
The bearded ladies are, sadly, a thing of the past. Buildings have also come and gone: the Grandstand (later Exhibition Stadium), Crystal Palace and Shell Tower, to name but a few. And of course, many of the rides and roller coasters that zigged and zagged their way into our hearts are no longer standing.
The Flyer, built in 1953, was once advertised as the “fastest flyer in the world,” reaching speeds of up to 65 miles an hour. It was 2,612 feet in length, 62 feet in height and capable of carrying over 26,000 screaming people daily. Today, it is not unheard of for a roller coaster to top speeds of 100 miles an hour, but in the ’50s, it would have been a huge feat. Of course, as newer and faster rides came onto the scene, the Flyer’s aging wooden frame lost favour with the thrill-seeking public, and the CNE said goodbye to it in June 1992.
The Alpine Way, which opened in 1966, was unique in North America. Built by the Bridge & Tank Company of Canada and operated by Conklin Shows (now North American Midway Entertainment), its two aerial lines of suspended cable cars ran for half a mile through the Ex. It was 31 metres high, and it cost roughly $710, 000. Unfortunately, it was torn down in 1994 to make room for the National Trade Centre (now the Direct Energy Centre). The sky ride now stands in tribute to the Alpine Way.
Once the Ex’s most iconic ride: the Zipper, introduced in 1967 (built by Chance Manufacturing), was 57 feet tall, with 12 free-flipping cars, and it operated at 7.5 rpms. Today, it is still amongst the CNE’s most popular thrills, with upwards of 1,500 riders daily.
The CNE runs Aug. 15 to Sept. 1, www.theex.com.
The Zipper (an exhilarating take on the Ferris wheel) is a classic ride that is still counted as one of the CNE’s most popular thrills
L-R: The first run of the Flyer in 1953, an aerial shot of the Flyer and the Sky Ride