No one can say that the Vancouver PNE Fair is not resilient in the face of adversity.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the annual late-summer party featured drive-thru shows with reserved tickets and outdoor favorites like SuperDogs performing in front of the public in vehicles.
This year, the 111th version of the traditional celebration of fun, food and farm animals, called FUNdamentals, will see participants ditch their cars and ride around the attractions (mostly outdoors) again, albeit with reduced capacity and with masks and social distancing recommended.
At a press conference today (August 19), PNE President and CEO Shelley Frost described the featured events this year and promised that despite restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic – “the footprint of our fair is much smaller, almost entirely on the outside” – the memories of people coming together to have fun at PNE will come true once again.
“We want to show you our resistance …” said Frost. “In two days we will be this place.
The 2021 festival opens Saturday (August 21) and runs through September 6, and entrance tickets must be purchased in advance (call 604-252-3700 or visit ticketleader.ca).
Playland passes, for children and adults, can be purchased at the same time as reserved lounge tickets, which will be date and time specific.
The exhibition center will be open from 11 am to 11 pm every day; it will be closed on Mondays (except for Labor Day).
A complete map and schedule of the NEP can be downloaded as a PDF here. The links to the applications will soon be posted on the show website.
The PNE states above its safety guidelines on its website that “PNE 2021 will operate at reduced capacity, in accordance with all applicable orders from the Provincial Health Office, with the health and safety of our guests being our primary objective “.
Some of the venerable fair’s most popular decoys, such as the aforementioned SuperDogs and the West Coast Lumberjack Show, will be featured on stages and outdoor seating.
In addition, the old cattle sheds will once again connect the townspeople to the various agricultural sectors of the province, as they have done during the 111 years of existence of the fair. Children’s exhibits and educational exhibits are the order of the day here, along with live animals, including babies.
Food vendors are another big draw for visitors to the show every year, and this year’s offerings include treasured favorites like mini donuts, Jimmy’s Lunch, foot-long hot dogs and perogies. Hunky Bill, not to mention about 30 other suppliers of pizza, tacos, grilled meats and anything fried.
Fairtrade cooking aficionados should know that not all vendors will accept cash, with the goal of making fewer personal transactions, and that credit and debit cards are the preferred payment methods. PNE Gift Cards, which can be used in place of cash, will also be available for purchase at two customer service points.
PNE boss Frost told the briefing that the SuperDogs show, this year called Happy Together, will delight fans at the PNE Amphitheater three times a day. Likewise, Frost noted, the West Coast Lumberjack Show near Agrodome Square will satisfy wheelchair loggers three times a day with its chainsaw, log hauling, and ax throwing demonstrations.
Frost also pointed out that a relatively recent show that has become a crowd favorite, For the Love of Drag, returns with its roster of Vancouver drag superstars performing twice daily pop classics, the post – midday and evening, at the Coca-Cola Stage in the entertainment area.
Additionally, Frost said, nine rotating daytime and evening musical performances – ranging from tributes to Neil Diamond and ABBA to Paperboys in Motown, soul and beach parties – in one location will be free with admission. (Go here for full time and date information.)
Entertainment for family and kids has their own place on ToonCity’s central stage, where a three-time-a-day pirate musical called It’s fun to be a pirate and featuring a troupe of well-trained youngsters playing with pirate mascots Bones and Scully, share the house with the interactive Blue’s Dance Party, which is scheduled twice a day.
At 7:30 p.m. every night, ToonCity’s stage becomes a giant movie screen where classic cinematic family dishes, like Frozen 2, The beauty and the Beast, and the latest Hollywood remakes of Aladdin and Lion King– literally takes center stage. (Go here for movie times.)
The popular Market stalls (50 of them this year) have been moved to the livestock building and will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the daily enjoyment of visitors and shopping.
Another tradition, the PNE Prize Home, has already been built on site in South Surrey, near the beaches of White Rock, but hopeful ticket buyers can see an exhibition hall and view details of the structure of the grand prize. (Associated raffle prizes this year include one Harley-Davidson motorcycle, five Chevrolet vehicles, a Yaletown furniture shopping spree, and cash prizes).
Electric Fire, the fair’s nightly “Pyro Musical Finale”, will begin at 9.45pm, and a traveling marching band and traveling actors will entertain the park during the day.
Metro Vancouver is a major part of the fair this year with an outdoor showcase in the PNE Amphitheater called Together We Make Our Region Strong.
At the press conference, Vancouver City Councilor Lisa Dominato, who is also PNE’s Board Chair, introduced the new attendee. “We are delighted to partner with Metro Vancouver this year to showcase the incredible work being done in the region,” she said during the opening remarks.
Sav Dhaliwal, chairman of the Metro Vancouver board, praised the PNE, which he said he first visited about half a century ago.
“The PNE Fair is part of our cultural fabric,” said Dhaliwal, Burnaby City Councilor. “People come back with the memories they have accumulated over the years.” He added that Metro Vancouver’s 21 member municipalities will send their mayors and councilors to the showcase “throughout the fair” for “scheduled conversations.”
“The fact that we are here at the PNE show is proof of our resilience,” added Dhaliwal.