In 1975, my summer was cut short on Aug. 15 when I got the bad news that my mom, who knew someone at the PNE, found me and several of my friends jobs at the annual fair.
Suddenly, our carefree Frisbee playing days at Jericho Beach were no more. Now we had to get up early and bus down to Hastings Park to sling tacos, fry onions, set up the ring toss booth and in my case collect tickets for the train that circled the grounds.
I was choked that I was missing valuable beach time, but after a couple of days I liked the idea of making some decent coin before heading back to school.
Riding around the grounds turned out to be a lot of fun. I can still smell the various fragrances at different points of the route. Onions and candy floss would morph in to popcorn and candied apples and as the train approached the barns at the western edge of the property, the pungent aroma of cow manure.
The fair at the PNE was originally an agricultural exhibition that was a vehicle for ranchers and farmers to showcase their livestock and products and to buy and sell inventory.
Last week our Delta South MLA Ian Paton participated in a rally in Vancouver to support PNE workers and the fair in general. Paton’s family has been involved with the PNE since the 1930s and he has been a director of the British Columbia Youth in Agriculture Foundation (BCYA) for 35 years.
The PNE is looking for funding to creep out of COVID debt and is looking for provincial government support to come up with $8 million to ensure the fair can continue to operate. This has resulted in Vancouver and Victoria squabbling with each other over whose responsibility it is to keep the fair viable.
The agricultural component of the PNE is hugely important as it supports 4-H initiatives and the BCYA. And, if you have children, you more than likely have seen the faces of joy and wonderment as kids and toddlers pet the cows and pigs in the stalls.
The BCYA used to have a yearly auction and fundraiser to raise money for youth agricultural projects around the province. Fresh Roots, and Delta’s own Farm Roots and Project Pickle have benefitted from this fundraising opportunity in the past.
I am hopeful that local and provincial governments, and possibly private industry, can get together to keep this renowned institution afloat.
The PNE contributes about $200 million to the local economy during the course of two weeks. The fair will not generate that revenue in its limited operations this year, but it will be open. I encourage everyone to head down to Hastings Park and enjoy a free concert, pet a cow and enjoy a foot long hot dog.
Mike Schneider is founder of Project Pickle and likes to write about growing, cooking and eating food.