The annual Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) held at Hastings Park in Vancouver is, for many people in the city, a yearly summer activity as well as an experience had by a huge percentage of the tourists who travel to the province every summer. In honor of this year’s PNE (which opened last Saturday) today’s post is going to take a quick look at the history of the fair which celebrated its 100 year anniversary back in 2010. While the exhibition is, these days, known for being a family friendly environment filled with rides, games, shows, and food it was not always used for this purpose.
At its inception, the Pacific National Exhibition, opened by British Columbia’s Prime Minister of the time Sir Wilfrid Laurier, was known instead as ‘The Industrial Exhibition’ and it was the second largest event of its kind in North America (behind the New York State Fair) with over 68,000 visitors the first year.
During its earliest years, the PNE was used predominantly as a showcase for the region’s agricultural and economic sectors but, over the years, it has undergone many alterations to its function as it has grown. During the period of WWII, the PNE was closed and the area instead served as a military training facility while the PNE barns were used to intern and process Japanese Canadians from all over the province. In the after-effects of this event, the Momiji Gardens on the PNE grounds became a memorial and a reminder of this unfortunate period in Canadian history.
The PNE has seen many historical events over its run such as the introduction of the first rotary phone in the Pacific Northwest. It has also allowed for the creation of a number of award-winning shows which were created specifically for the fair. These include:
- Cirque Pop
- City Rhythm
- Bring on the Night
As well as many of the largest consumer shows getting their start as exhibitions at the fair:
- Vancouver Boat Show
- BC Home Show
- Pacific International Auto Show
Around the time of the fair last year (August 2013), two of the features of the PNE, the wooden roller coaster and the Pacific Colliseum, were named heritage sites by the City of Vancouver. In its current form, the fair runs for 17 days in August, during which time it typically admits over 900,000 visitors making it the largest annual ticketed event in the province.