For ten days each year, the beloved fair returns to Winnipeg and settles into Red River Exhibition Park. ‘The Ex’ has been running for 63 years and offers free concerts, entertainment, petting zoos, and a range of vomit-inducing rides. Just kidding – I mean, fun (and sometimes scary) rides.
Having grown up in Winnipeg, visiting ‘The Ex’ as a child was a given. Now that I am a little more ‘mature’, it takes a bit more effort to make the trek out to the park, but it’s definitely worth it.
My partner and I decided to spend a sunny Wednesday night taking in the sweet cotton candy air, and feeling the children within us squeal with anticipation at every ride.
We were happy to see that the environment hasn’t changed much; the rides were all in the same spot as they were ten years ago, and the eclectic “carnies” remain as cheeky and eager to swindle as ever. Loud electronic music pulsed through the air, kids and girlfriends carried obnoxiously large stuffed animals, daunting line-ups surrounded us – ah, how we missed this place.
If you’re planning to visit ‘The Ex’ strictly for the concerts and atmosphere, the place is a steal with a $13 door entry.
If you’re looking to go on as many rides as you can … well, we’d recommend pre-buying the 12-ride pass at Mac’s or Sobeys for $26. It will take longer to ride 12 rides than you may think, mostly due to the lines, but there are “Midway Express Access” passes for $20, which will let you skip the wait!
Gord Bamford, Monster Truck, Down With Webster, Eddie Money, Karl Wolf … the list goes on. Wednesday night featured the “Internet Cat Video Festival” which we did not check out, unfortunately, but we’re sure many cat fans gathered to giggle at the many viral cat antics. (Remind me to go on YouTube later.)
This year has an impressive list of popular performers, and many more buskers and smaller acts that are also worth seeing. Remember to stop into the Midway Market and peruse the clothing, jewellery and trinkets. Also, the Agriculture Experiences you can take part in include: petting farm animals, Manitoba’s important commodity boards, antique tractors, and a Continental Stock Dog Competition. There’s definitely something for everyone here.
Fair goers can either pay $45 for an all-you-can-ride wristband, or buy ten coupons for $10 – adult rides are around 5-6 coupons per person. Two of us from GoWPG purchased 40 coupons, and we narrowed it down to our favourite rides.
The Polar Express: always fun, with upbeat music spinning around you as you clutch your seat and try not to crush the person beside you.
The Starship 4000: allows you to slowly feel gravity dissipate beneath you as your body slowly gets sucked to the wall in a blur of pumping techno music and floating purses.
The Swings: a guaranteed relaxing, nostalgic ride; and then there’s The Fireball … which angrily spins and throws you upside down (as riders pray that the ride is installed securely.)
The park also has typical fun houses with crazy mirrors and spinning tunnels, a haunted mansion, ferris wheel, a carousel, log rides, and bumper cars which all range from 2-8 coupons per ride.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit more, ‘The Ex’ also offers helicopter rides, The Slingshot, a rock climbing wall, and extreme trampoline jumping.
‘The Ex’ has your classic midway selection: corn dogs, cotton candy, lemonade, fries, mini-doughnuts. Although, they also have a range of interesting foods for the more daring individuals … who hopefully have speedy metabolisms! I’m talking about the “Chipdog” which is a hot dog weiner with a deep fried potato spiraling around it. Also notable: deep fried plantains (bananas), poutine topped with brie and smoked salmon, dry ice cream, and bacon-wrapped corn on the cob. Hungry yet? Or nauseous? (Kidding, again!)
We played three games, and won one small basketball. (…$15 dollars later.) The first we played involved throwing baseballs at empty beer bottles, with the goal of smashing two to win, but we only smashed one. No prize.
The next was using a BB gun to shoot at a paper target. Then we played a simple basketball shooting game (where we won the basketball), and finally a near impossible game where we (unsuccessfully) threw 36 tiny rings onto glass bottles in the hopes of winning a WII-U or an Xbox.
The games are all fairly challenging but rewarding, and no matter what your taste, there’s an exhilarating carnival game to delight (or maybe just frustrate) you.
Despite the rain and growing mosquito count, ‘The Ex’ is always worth a visit. The Exhibition runs until June 22nd, and if you buy a ticket this Friday – you will also get in free on Sunday. (Bounce Back Friday)
Check it out this weekend for an Electro Bash EDM party and Strawberry Shortcake musical playdate.
Visit http://www.redriverex.com/ for more information.
All photos by Nolan Bicknell
This review first appeared on http://www.gowpg.com/, a hotspot database for info on nightlife, restaurants, cool events and more.