I grew up in Toronto in the days when the CNE used to give free Children’s Day passes to all grade school kids. I went to the "Ex" every year from approximately 1954 to 1967. The Military Tattoo in the Grandstand in 1967 was a real high point of my attendance that year; they haven’t come close to such an interesting attraction since. I was not so regular after 1967; I guess Expo 67 took something out of my enthusiasm for the Ex.
I started going again annually when my son was in grade school but by high school he didn’t seem as interested and our (my wife and I) attendance slipped to occasionally. We haven’t been since our last year living in Toronto, almost 17 years ago.
The main attractions of the Ex for me were the Food Building and the Automotive Building. The Ex, when I went regularly, was truly an exposition. Companies used the fair to introduce new products and the upcoming model year of cars. I saw my first microwave oven at the Ex; the Better Living Centre had the manufacturers of appliances showing off their new wares. The Arts and Crafts Building showed school arts and crafts.
The last few times my wife and I visited the Ex we were very disappointed. Gone were the showings of new products. The Food Building had become a glorified mall food court. There were no small food producers showing their products and even the large processors were gone. The big restaurant chains had replaced them. The car manufactures were not anywhere to be seen; they now introduce their new line-up at the spring auto shows. The manufacturers of home appliances and products were also nowhere to be seen. They seem to have been replaced by jobbers and large flea markets scattered throughout the grounds. The Arts and Crafts building was one large flea market, as were most of the permanent buildings. Even the Agricultural Building had a flea market. I guess the Royal Winter Fair now groups the winners of the various local fairs.
I really have no interest in attending a large food court and flea market and I was never very interested in the midway and the rides. There is no exposition nor learning opportunities left at the Ex to attract me anymore.