Tis the season for those soft and fluffy cinnamon pillows that we like to call mini donuts. There will always be a spot in me for the PNE. It gives me a little bit of nostalgia every summer bringing me back to my childhood when PNE was a fun and exciting place for me. Not even Disneyland (or any other family trips) would be give me that same familiar feeling. There was a time when my cousin, my brother, and I would count down the days to Playland, and we would make a list of which rides we would go on. In which order. (Ok, maybe that was just me out of the group). I loved it. The rides. The junk food. The morning to dusk play time. The sound of kids screaming on the rollercoasters. The sticky cotton candy floors. Of course, when I entered my mid teen years and university, there was a lull in attending the PNE... but now, I go for very different reasons than rides and carnival games. This is what PNE is for me as an adult.
Started the day later. If we're not lining up for rides a thousand times, there didn't seem to be a need for a morning start. We caught the afternoon show of the Superdogs. Although it is just as I remember it as a kid. The show doesn't change. (Except now it is in a dark stadium vs. outside).
The good thing about it being in a stadium is we were able to spot this concession stand. Dole Whip! If you haven't tried it, you're missing out on some really good and refreshing pineapple ice cream. The only other places I was able to get Dole Whip was at the pineapple plantation in Hawaii and in Disneyland. It is just about the best thing you could get on a hot summer day.
A lot of other people seemed to have the same idea of enjoying this summer day on PNE's opening day.
It's been quite a few years now that they've had this BBQ competition. And I have to admit that it is some of the best BBQ I've eaten. There isn't really a great BBQ place in town that I'd rave about, nor is it the same eating BBQ in a restaurant and not outdoors at a fair. Each stand has its own unique BBQ sauce. They are all packed with delicious flavour but different from one another.
This year, we went with the Gator's and the Smoke and Bones stand. Be prepared for a pretty long wait to get these ribs, briskets and pulled pork. But it is all worth it. They have put in more picnic tables around this BBQ area, which is certainly a plus. Mmm, finger-licking good BBQ is always a summer staple.
The purpose of us going to the PNE on opening day was for their free concert series. We were there hoping to catch a few songs of Phillip Phillips. In previous years, the outdoor concert was free-for-all. You can watch it up close or you can watch it from afar while lining up at a food stand. But this year, they have decided to put the concerts at a bigger stage and fence off the area. The concerts are still free but they limit the number of people into the concert area. This threw us for a loop when we approached the concert gates to find out that the concert was full. There were a few angry fans at the door that security had to fend off. People started to lift up the tarps covering the fences, so they could watch the concert from afar. I didn't care that much if I missed it or not, but my friends and I decided to stay until we heard a couple songs.
But leave it to D to notice that one of the security guards was still slowly letting a few people in at a time. We quickly walked over, passing all the angry people standing by the fence... and we somehow got ourselves in. And I'm glad we did. 'Cause D, Bran, and I had a great time at the concert. Phillips Phillips is great live. And his music style was enjoyed by all ages at the fair. From the bopping oldies to the screaming teenagers.
Off in the distance, rides are still going. People screaming. I love this carnival atmosphere. Bran and I both commented on how we enjoyed this concert set-up (minus the hiccup of getting in), and we're already talking about the next concert we want to see.
And then for the slow songs...
The concert made the night! I've been playing Raging Fire, Gone Gone Gone, and Home a couple more times since I've got home. Does that ever happen to you? It's not so much about being a Phillip Phillips' fan or loving the songs as much as the songs bringing you back to good times you had. Have you ever caught a song playing on the radio that brings you back in time? Or puts in you a better mood because it reminds you of good memories?
After the concert, we walked around Playland. It used to be my favorite side of the fair. I still remember the time deadline that my parents would give my brother and I. We can ride on rides up until this certain time, and then it was the adults' turn to do adult things on the PNE side of the fair. The then "boring" side. My dad used to let us have a few good whacks at the games, and sometimes, we'd win an ugly toy or two. We didn't care so much back then as what the toy was, as long as we got one. My favorite game used to be the horse-racing ball-rolling game. I was pretty good at it.
When I was young, we were always instructed to find our parents after a ride at one of these blue and white gambling stands. We weren't allowed to walk up to the stands though. Nor did we really want to. Time has changed now... D, Bran and I watched a few games and D placed a few bets. A part of me was not wanting to let go of the games and rides yet. I don't wanna grow up.
I guess there's at least one thing that's great about being a grown up at a fair like this. I don't have to beg an adult to buy me all the junk food I want. I could pick up my own bags of mini donuts.
The grease splattered against the glass. Appetizing isn't it. But really, there are no other mini donuts as good as these ones. There is just somethin' about eating them at the PNE... So. good. Fresh from the fryer.
We made our way to the Adults Only Beer Garden and piano bar. Sat at a picnic table underneath the stars, and enjoyed our Parallel 49 Ruby Ale and donuts listening to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing".
We were happy not to recognize a few songs. We aren't all that old yet. We were entertained by a couple of drunk men dancing and doing the twist, enjoying their perfect summer night. We asked ourselves, "Is that us in the future?".
If it is, that's pretty cool. They obviously seemed to be having an amazing time. Maybe it's okay that we aren't lining up for hours at the rollercoasters, or stuffing our faces with cotton candy and candy apples. There will always be the "kid" in us, no matter what age we are. We just have a different kind of playground. As long as we're always having fun.
And that we did. Till midnight when the fair closed. We walked out with half the lights turned off. It was a fun night at the PNE. Till the next concert.