On May 12, 2020, the CNE announced cancellation of the annual late summer Fair due to the COVID 19 Pandemic. A responsible and understandable action. A significant cancellation for those from the Toronto area. The CNE was an ‘end of summer fun ritual’ before the grind of return to school, return to work, shorter days and longer cooler, colder nights that follow Labour Day. It will be missed by many.
The Military has played an important role in the Fair. First, the grounds are located near Fort York, and were part of a War of 1812 battle with the Americans in 1813. During World War One the CNE grounds were turned into a vast military training and housing centre known as Exhibition Camp. During the War, the Fair continued. Troops would educate visitors through demonstrations, trench warfare, drills and manoeuvres.
The Spanish Flu pandemic which hit Canada hard in 1918-19, costing about 55,000 lives, did not shut down the CNE. The timing was such that the virulent Second Wave had passed.
In World War Two the CNE served as a Recruitment Centre and Military Camp. As such the Fair was closed, reopening in 1947.
The Warriors Day Parade was established in 1921. It is the largest running annual parade of its type. Although” Stood Down” in 2020 due to COVID 19, the Warrior’s Day spirit was shown in a Ten vehicle march past for 99-year-old veteran, Ed Stafford, at his home in Etobicoke. It was staged by the Ontario Military Vehicle Association (OMVA), and a CBC video report is linked in to view.
The CNE created a virtual Warrior’s Day Parade. The link is attached for your viewing.
The CNE has been an important event for the Military as it allows CAF members to educate, demonstrate and interact with a large audience (1.7 million visitors in 2016), enabling the CAF to maximize its reach to Canada’s largest city.
The Vintage Signals Team has been highly active in bringing the Military Signals story to CNE patrons working in conjunction with the CAF display, Veteran Affairs and others. In 2014, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of WW1, the VST set up a display by a WW1 Trench and era equipment display. The VST sent a Morse Code message from the CNE grounds by use of era Visual Signalling Equipment (Heliographs, Flags, Lamps) across the Lake, aided by Coast Guard Boats to HMCS HAIDA at Hamilton harbour. HMCS HAIDA received and acknowledged this message: ‘August 1914 ONE HUNDRED YEARS WE REMEMBER THEM’. The VST continued to be active at CNE Displays with a WW1 focus until 2018. It has marched in the Warriors Day Parade in the Military Themed Living History/Re-enactor Contingent category. VST received an Award presented to HCol Ken Lloyd by retired CDS Lt Gen Walter Natynczk in 2018. VST primary focus changed to WW2 in 2019 to acknowledge 75th Anniversary of D Day and a WREN contingent was added.
The CNE has been shut down in the past and has been able to reinvent and regroup to the better. We look forward to being part of that.