After a rainy summer, mostly sunny skies surrounded Toronto August 15 - Sept.1 for the Canadian National Exhibition. Attendance soared to 1.31 million, a number fair officials attributed to the great weather, new attractions and a marketing campaign with the message that Toronto area residents didn't have to travel far to "get away".
Gate pricing was $14 for admission ($10 for children and seniors). Magic Passes, which included admission and unlimited rides, were available for $31. One promotion that was highlighted was the "$5 after 5pm" program. This promotion allowed anyone who came to the CNE after 5pm on a weekday to pay only $5 for admission. It proved to be a huge success and really drove their weeknight numbers, especially for the concessionaires, according to fair officials.
The marketing budget, which remained the same as in 2008, focused on the greater Toronto area and neighboring Ontario communities. Market research has shown that 70% of CNE guests are from the Toronto area so the message of not having to travel far for a "get away" was a popular theme.
Marketing Manager Karen Lynch pointed to the challenge of marketing the fair in a very competitive Toronto market. There are similar competitors (such as Canada's Wonderland), but there is also more competition at home with entertainment systems, video games, etc. "Our success comes from the tradition that the CNE has become, and the fact that it is family entertainment", said Lynch. "With the world becoming increasingly hi-tech, people are searching for those unique experiences that remind them of their childhood and days gone past. For 2008, The EX offered its visitors several one-of-a-kind performances that harkened back to the golden years of the traveling circus"
North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) brought 60 rides to the CNE midway. New to the CNE for 2009 were the Mega Drop and the Double Shock. The Mega Drop, from Fabbri, takes 52 seconds to bring riders to the top and only 3 seconds to fall.
Kiddie Land had 29 rides and 31 rides were featured on the adult midway. NAME shifted the midway at the CNE 75 feet to provide additional space and ease of movement.
Amber Swedgan, Director of Media and Communications for NAME said the "$5 after 5" gate promotion worked well and the midway saw a spike in sales between 6 and 8 pm. On site unlimited ride passes were sold for $31. In advance $31 unlimited ride passes were sold that included gate admission.
2008 marked the CNE's 130th anniversary and the beginning of a new ten-year relationship for NAME and the event said Tony Diaz, manager of NAME's International Unit. "The CNE was better than ever, great weather and great crowds", he said. "It's a tremendous start to our new ten year partnership".
In fact, Diaz said the International Unit had set ride revenue records at all of their Canadian events, capping a great run in Canada.
In addition to Diaz as general manager and Swedgan heading marketing and communications, the International Unit includes John Anderson, Midway Manager, Gary Oldham, Concession Manager, Scooter Korek, Administration, Bea Negus, Corporate Food and Mike Hupalo, Director of Safety.
Off the ride midway, entertainment and the world famous CNE food midway proved to be great attractions once again. The CNE booked 105 food vendors in their food building and an additional 30 outdoor food vendors.
Circus Orange, an aerialist pyrotechnic show, was one of the new highlights of the event. Also new this year were Hippike, a gypsy tale with equestrian stunt riding and an escape artist show, Ridgeway & Johnson.
Concerts included The Trews, Mickey Rooney, Ray J, Tony Orlando, Kim Mitchell, David Clayton Thomas, and the World Classic Rockers. All concerts were free with admission to the CNE.
The CNE has instituted a number of green initiatives throughout the fair to reduce its carbon footprint. These included:
- Standardized temperature set points for all buildings
- Deactivating escalators & reducing lighting during off hours
- Turning off concession marquees and booth lighting until dusk
- Solar powered golf carts, sales kiosks and garbage compactors
- Low emission electrical generators
- Bio-diesel fuels in equipment
Karen Lynch, Marketing Manager, said that she believes that gas prices may have a significant impact in the long run, especially on concessionaires and midway companies that have to travel. However, she believes that in the short term, the rising fuel prices may have actually helped attendance in 2008. Now that fuel prices are dropping, this is another issue that will have to be addressed in 2009 CNE planning.