June 25, 2020
To the people of British Columbia:
We just can’t imagine summer without you. We understand that everything needs to be different this year, but we were as saddened as everyone else was by the April 18 news that our beloved PNE Fair, the place where the people of our province have come together for generations to celebrate, connect and build memories, wasn’t going to happen in 2020. In the days that followed that announcement, our team dealt with hundreds of calls from long-term partners, team members who would not have a job this year and our extended family of suppliers, concessionaires and exhibitors. Frankly, the breadth of the impact broke our hearts.
As the news spread, the calls, emails and social media outreach from the public also started to come in. We heard from people across the province. They thanked us for the memories we played a part in creating, from first Roller Coaster rides to baby pigs to sunset concerts to first dates and first jobs. We were humbled as the momentum grew, from five-year-old Charlotte in Abbotsford who sent her tooth fairy money to us and asked if we could give it to one of our concessionaire families to help them during this time; to the tearful phone call from 86-year-old Maureen in Coquitlam remembering 63 straight anniversary Fair visits with her husband who has now passed.
Maybe it’s our history of innovation and resilience, more likely, it was Charlotte and Maureen and thousands like them that motivated us to try Canada’s first drive through Taste of the Fair Experience – the Mini Donut Edition. We wanted to stay connected with you and hoped we would sell enough tickets to assist the struggling concessionaire families who participated. But soooo much more happened. I personally welcomed cars from Hope, Chilliwack, Mission and Pemberton. You came by the thousands. You drove from all corners of the lower mainland, after working the night shift as a front line health care worker, and with the family you usually go with to the PNE Fair. Some families came more than one day. You cheered our staff and encouraged our concessionaires to keep fighting. As we tried to thank you for coming… you thanked us.
So, we tried again with a second Taste of the Fair series with the Car-B-Q for Father’s Day weekend. Working closely again under the guidance of Vancouver Coastal Health, we took BBQ ribs, poutine and mac & cheese and added Canada’s first drive-thru vintage and custom car show. And you came out again, and in doing so gave support and hope to four more local concessionaire families during an incredibly difficult time. Thank you. Again, you inspired and motivated us.
So today, on behalf of the entire PNE family, I am proud to announce that while things need to be different… they don’t have to stop. We want to keep providing you a way to connect, have fun and enjoy the summer. Today, the PNE team proudly shares our healthy and safe, summer plans.
On Canada Day the PNE will host the first ever drive thru Canada Day celebration and the only live Canada Day parade of 2020. We’ve designed it to be COVID-safe as a ‘reverse’ Parade where we encourage families to wear red and white and decorate their cars with flags and Canadian-themed items. All our guests will stay in their cars and drive along the Parade Route. The experience will include Canadiana-themed entertainment and displays and a route that weaves drivers through the site and through the floor of the historic Pacific Coliseum. Cars can also pre-order the food offerings that people have been asking for since starting our drive through series – corn dogs, hot dogs, fresh squeezed lemonade, cotton candy and, of course, a Canadian favourite – poutine.
In the spirit of bringing together our community, this experience will be offered at $10 per car, plus the cost of any food purchased, which goes to support our concessionaires. Three of the PNE’s longest standing and multigenerational Fair concession families will be supported through this event.
And on July 10th we will carefully reopen Playland Amusement Park . This will take place in phases over the summer. This first phase opening will include between 10-12 of our most popular family-friendly rides and attractions. We plan to increase the number and types of rides in future phases, and as always, we will work with health authorities to ensure the experience is following all safety protocols. With your Playland admission, you will also get a fun face mask and you can know that your support of Playland is helping to bring hundreds of summer jobs back to BC. It might not be our usual thousands of jobs, but we will do everything we can to support our team.
On the BC Day long weekend in August, we will host the next in our Taste of the PNE series. Details on this one are yet to come, but this will allow us to connect with you again, bring you more of your favourites and continue our dedication to supporting as many of our concessionaire partners as possible this summer.
And finally, after much introspection and planning, I am extremely proud to announce that we will be staging a 2020 PNE Fair Experience, albeit in an unconventional fashion. You have our commitment that we will ensure proper social distancing and follow all the guidance of Vancouver Coastal Health. This will be a drive-thru experience that will include all your Fair favourites, from the Superdogs to agriculture exhibits and other family fun. The 2020 PNE Fair will bring British Columbians together (but apart) to create what may be the most unique Fairtime shared memory in our history.
These events do not mean that the PNE’s economic position is greatly improved, but it’s a start, and most importantly it will allow us to recall hundreds (although not thousands) of our Fair and Playland employees. It will provide some desperately needed income for our exhibitors, partners and concessionaires. And it will allow us to stay connected and play the role the PNE has traditionally held in this province of being the place where British Columbia gathers to re-connect following great adversity – the Great Depression, two World Wars and now COVID. We at the PNE know in our hearts that the strength of our history is the foundation upon which we will build a bright future, and we humbly thank you all, for your incredible support these past two months.
President and CEO of the Pacific National Exhibition
On behalf of the thousands of members of the PNE family.