Our Beloved PNE

The History Of the PNE

Bathing Beauties 1927 PNE




The PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) celebrated it's 100th Birthday last  summer. From livestock, pig races, demolition derbies, and the “As Seen on TV” marketplace, to cotton candy, fried onions, mini donuts and The Mousetrap, it has become a Vancouver tradition.

  • 1910: The first Vancouver Exhibition was launched. The exhibition and agricultural fair saw 5,000 people on opening day, each paying the 50 cent admission.  Over the next 10 days, some 68,000 people attended… …and for the next two decades the Vancouver Exhibition was the second largest in North America after New York City.

1910 – Procession for the opening of the first Vancouver Exhibition, Granville & Dunsmuir
  • 1915: The Vancouver Exhibition became a permanent structure at Hastings Park. In 1915 it was also the first time the fair offered up major prizes (totally $50,000).

(Left) 1918 – Women’s Building (Right) 1925 – Inside Women’s Building
  • 1926: Happyland opens.
    1929 – Entrance gate to the Vancouver Exhibition and Happyland on Renfrew


1931 – Pure Foods Building

  • 1934: The PNE gave away its first prize home (valued at $5,000).

PNE Food stalls 1930

  • 1936: The Parker Carousel from Kansas City (built in 1912) was bought by Happyland at the PNE and made its way to Vancouver.

1947 Elephant in PNE Parade on Hastings Street

  • 1947: It was announced that one of Happyland’s main attractions, the Giant Dipper, would be torn down in order to make room for an expanding race track at Hastings Park.
  • 1947: The Vancouver Exhibition was renamed the Pacific National Exhibition.
  • 1942 to 1946: The PNE was closed and like the Canadian National Exhibition served a military training facility for the duration of World War II.


1940s – Line up at the Giant Dipper, Happyland

  • 1957: Happyland was demolished. The Parker Carousel went into a pavilion at the PNE.

1953 PNE Parade on Hastings

  • 1958: The largest roller coaster in Canada was built at the PNE grounds. Playland opens up on a new site (not the old Happyland location).

1958 Opening of new Wooden Rollercoaster


Elvis at the PNE 1957


1950s PNE House
  • 1962: PNE attendance passes the one million mark.

The Wave Swinger 1960's

Stevie Wonder 1962 at PNE (he was 13 years old)

  • 1963: The 8,000-seat Agridome opened at the PNE.

Mack and the Pollack Show Elephants 1963 PNE

The Beatles at the PNE 1964

The Rolling Stones 1972 at the PNE

  • 1972: The pavilion that housed the Parker Carousel was demolished so the carousel was put outdoors and brought in at the end of the season.

Original Parker Carousel


  • 1989: The Parker Carousel was purchased by the City of Burnaby and now resides at the Burnaby Village Museum.

Restored Parker Carousel

  • 1993: Playland became a division of the PNE.


Lost Buildings of the PNE

I found this neat list of buildings that are no longer at the PNE site. It's a great peak into the past.

  • Armed Services Display Building (1950s)
  • Aquarium
  • Athletic Field (1910)
  • Baby Dipper
  • Band Stand
  • 1950s BC Pavilion; later BC Sports Hall of Fame
  • Dining Hall
  • Dip the Dips (1915)
  • Directors' Dining Room
  • Display Barn
  • District Display Exhibit
  • Empire Stadium; later Empire lot and now Empire Field (and maintained by the Vancouver Parks Board)
  • Feed Store
  • Ferryboat Wharf (1910)
  • Food Building; now part of the Sanctuary parkland
  • Forestry Hall (1913)
  • Fountain
  • Giant Dipper
  • Grandstand (1910)
  • Green House
  • Happyland Carousel Building
  • Horticultural Building
  • Industrial Building (1910); later as The Women's Building
  • Livestock Judging Pavilion
  • Manufacturers' Building; also Machinery Hall and later Transportation Building (1910)
  • Mineral Exhibit
  • Miniature Railway
  • Post Office
  • Poultry & Pigeon building (1950s)
  • Press Bureau
  • Pure Foods Building (1930s)
  • Race Track and Stables (around 1905)
  • Racing Paddock
  • Refreshment Stands
  • Sheep Stables
  • Shoot the Chutes
  • Showmart (1929); now part of the Sanctuary parkland
  • Skid Road (Midway) (1910)
  • Stable Restaurant
  • Stock Judging Building
  • Streetcar Station (1910)
  • Swine Building (1950s)
  • Vaudeville Stage

Pig Races at PNE 2000


Over the years the PNE has hosted hundreds of different attractions. The Pig Races have really stood the test of time. They are so adorable. Their incentive is a single mini-donut. The first one back to the pen gets it!

Superdogs 2003 PNE

And we can't forget another yearly favorite - The PNE Superdogs! For four decades these amazing dogs have been thrilling PNE audiences with their talents.

The fair's Laura Ballance says there were some moments that actually changed the city. "The Elvis concert. We hadn't seen anything like that in British Columbia. A lot of people don't realize that Elvis only ever played three dates in his entire career outside of the United States. One of those was August 31st, 1957 at the P.N.E."

"The fair itself has evolved and changed as the city's evolved and changed and I think that that's why it's stayed so relevant -- we've really gone from being more of a static, traditional fair that you would still see in other parts of North America, in to an entertainment showcase," says Ballance. It's still the largest ticketed event in B.C. "The PNE truly is the place where you come with your grandparents, and then one day you come with your grandchildren. It's very multi-generational."

The PNE today



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