Vancouver Province column: PNE gives us a taste of the fun we could use more of — all year long

The Province
Monday, August 27, 2007

You’ve got to love the Pacific National Exhibition, which got underway last weekend.
The annual lineups at The Fair, as it’s known, prove that West Coasters have an enduring passion for old-fashioned, Coney Island-like fun.

There’s nothing quite like riding the wooden rollercoaster, or munching on candy apples or caramel corn under a starry, August sky.

Not surprisingly, the midway is overrun with kids — and the rest of us who refuse to grow up — night after glorious night.

If only locals could enjoy the rickety-rides, Elvis impersonators and cotton candy year-round.

But, beyond the fairgrounds, it’s not easy finding this kind of good times in uppity Lotus Land. And that’s a shame for all of us.

Consider Vancouver’s downtown — where young children are at best a fashion accessory for well-heeled hipsters and, at worst, an obstacle to optimal enjoyment at the local coffee bars or izakayas.

This is not to take away from the recreational opportunities available to the young and the young-at-heart in the city centre. Vancouver is home to some wonderful museums, a superb urban forest in Stanley Park and a good deal of seawalk strolls and wooded hikes.

But outside of The Fair, the ticky-tacky purveyors of fun have been mostly chased out of the urban core, sometimes to the suburbs, but more often to points farther out. Drive-in theatres have given way to art cinemas. Ice-cream stands have made way for healthier choices like organic juice bars. And the aforementioned Elvis knock-offs are a certain non-starter.

A few years ago, the “No Fun City” campaign that took aim at our politicians for an alleged lack of good times in this region focused mostly on a shortage of public venues for getting drunk.

Drowned out in the debate was the city’s lack of a gathering place or landmark to tell the world that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Adding a bit of festive colour to Vancouver’s urban landscape doesn’t have to detract from this city’s sophisticated reputation.

Take the waterfront in Seattle. There’s nothing better than soaking up the carnival atmosphere there on a summer’s Saturday night, complete with fish and chips on the pier and a ride on the antique merry-go-round.

Los Angeles is home to the gaudy but beloved Santa Monica Pier, while ultra-civilized San Francisco has its Fisherman’s Wharf.

We certainly wouldn’t dismiss the residents of these world-class cities as boors for embracing some carefree fun.

Then there’s London,

England, with its super-sized and eye-catching London Eye ferris wheel — which even that city’s elites have come to embrace after initially giving it the thumbs-down.

The boisterous crowds at the PNE prove the craving for old-fashioned amusement is universal.

The lineups for mini-donuts are a tribute not only to the guilty pleasures of fried dough, but to a way of life that’s giving way to politically correct forms of fun.

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Filed under British Columbia, Entertainment, Food and Dining, Seattle, Urban Planning, Vancouver, Vancouver Province Columns

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