A family day at the PNE on a tight budget

A day of old fashioned fun shouldn't be this expensive, right?

Credit: Kerry Sauriol

A day of old-fashioned fun shouldn’t be this expensive, right?

The PNE has rolled up the welcome mat for the 99th year. The Prize Home has been won by someone else yet again (dammit!), and all the “cute” animals have headed back to the country for some well deserved rest—or so we tell our kids.

Yes, like the many other ‘rents out there, ours is a family that feels that an annual visit to the Pacific National Exhibition is a tradition, one now passed down from generation to generation. We went as kids, as teens and here we are starting the cycle all over again.

To be honest, we almost didn’t this year. My husband’s summer of unemployment was causing us some miserly misgivings. We did, however, continue to hold it over our kids’ heads to induce/beg for any sort of good behaviour leading up to the estimated date of visit to Vancouver’s version of the “happiest place on earth.”

Thanks to the unrelenting propaganda of not only CTV News but GLOBAL too, the kids had been indoctrinated into the wild fun that was to be had at the PNE this year. So we had to go, right?

It was my mom who came to our rescue. She cashed in some of her AirMiles for three ride and entrance passes and one adult gate pass. We were aghast at how much this saved us. But the $20 for parking almost did us in. Reeling from that shock, we staggered up to the entrance waiving our tickets and were thrilled to see them redeemed for Playland ride hand stamps for my husband, son and daughter.

We were especially thrilled when we started to tally up how much this would have cost us without the AirMiles tickets:

•  It was $15 for a ticket to the PNE.

•  An adult ride pass was $39.75.

•  The junior ride pass was $26.75.

•  The entrance and ride combo price for an adult was $46.75 and the junior $33.75.

Ouch! So even before we had grabbed a bag of mini donuts, our family of 4.5 would have spent $149.25.

$150 bucks and not one mole yet whacked. And nor would a mole be whacked for the joy or the chance of a crummy little stuffy—not when they wanted $5 a shot.

I will come clean here and admit that with our picky family we probably do not get our $150 worth of PNE fun. The kids want to go on rides, do the petting zoo, eat a lot of junk and that is pretty much it. 

Oh wait, that isn’t entirely true. What they really wanted to explore and play on was the bouncy castles at ‘Interactive Family Area.’ You could also be strapped onto a bungee thing on a trampoline for what looked like a fun ride. Weeeee! …oh, wait—you have to pay extra for these activities. They were not included in your gate pass or ride stamp.

Yep. Extra. More money. Like another $5–10 dollars more each per bouncy castle.

We dragged them past this area screaming and moaning while we bribed them with the excitement of any food they wanted for lunch. They were not impressed. No amount of Sno-Cones was going to make up for our vile cruelty. Giant cups of pop had no effect on their now sulky demeanor. 

It was only 2 in the afternoon. We had said “no” too many times now. They were hot and cranky. We were going to have to work our butts off to bring the mood up.

The Canadian Armed Forces came to our rescue by letting the kids play in their tank. Thank you, patient soldier dudes.[pagebreak]PNEPerhaps we are more cynical or miserly in our thinking compared to the thousands of other families there. Perhaps if we had immersed ourselves in the magic of the Super Dogs (the one show my son did want to see), or had been wowed by the ShamWow at the Marketplace Pavilion. If we had taken time to appreciate the Canstruction or the joy of KC Bears Street Party, just maybe we would have fully appreciated the joy of blowing $200-plus at a festival that, despite the enthusiasm, is showing its age a bit.

We couldn’t watch KC Bears party because my daughter has a great fear of people dressed in mascot costumes.

I greatly admire the people who run the PNE. I think they do a fantastic job with a very tight budget. I think Vancouver needs the PNE. It is part of this city’s cultural history and deserves more funding and help in maintaining the show year after year.

Playland, on the other hand. Playland needs a makeover. The same rides from when I was a teenager. The same midway games with the same prizes and the same music being blasted out from the rides. All for inflated prices.

We paid $10 for my kids to have a chance at scooping up plastic fish in a net. One chance.

Once again, our budget-conscious minds were cringing over this. We are still in a recession are we not? 

We looked around at all the families out spending the entire day at the event. Faces painted, stuffies won, mini donuts in hand and wondered just how they all felt about spending so much money in tough times like we are facing.

Our middle class family cannot be the only one’s watching their spending this year? But does a family tradition cancel out fiscal responsibility?

We were left wondering if it was all worth it. But the children claimed to have had a wonderful time, so perhaps we just over-thinking things and should just ignore the empty echoes from our wallets.

One day of old-fashioned fun should have no price, right?

And did I mention that I am the only one in my family that likes the mini donuts?


Kerry Sauriol

Vancouver blogger Kerry Sauriol jumped at the chance seven years ago to be a stay-at-home mom finding she’d rather be called a “stupid head” by her two eldest and sweetly precocious children than be fired by her peers. Kerry’s hold on sanity is her computer, the world of mommy bloggers and writing the latest post at her personal site Crunchy Carpets. Apart from obsessively Tweeting and Facebooking, she can also be found haranguing people to post on her other site Wet Coast Women.