The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) is a nonprofit organization that operates an annual 15-day summer fair, a seasonal amusement park, and indoor arenas in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The PNE fair is held at Hastings Park, beginning in mid-to-late August and ending in early September, usually Labour Day.
The organization was established in 1907 as the Vancouver Exhibition Association, and organized its first fair at Hastings Park in 1910. The organization was renamed to the Pacific National Exhibition in 1946. During the mid-20th century, a number of facilities were built on the PNE grounds, including Pacific Coliseum and the PNE Agrodome. In 1993, the amusement park adjacent to the PNE, Playland, became a division of the PNE.
The Vancouver Exhibition Association (VEA), the predecessor to the Pacific National Exhibition organization was first formed in 1907; although the association was not incorporated until 18 June 1908. The VEA had petitioned Vancouver City Council to host a fair at Hastings Park; although faced early opposition from the city council and the local jockey club that used the park for horse races. However, the city council eventually conceded to the VEA’s request and granted the association a 5-year lease to host a fair at Hastings Park in 1909.
The VEA held its first fair at Hastings Park in August 1910. It was opened by then Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier as the Vancouver Exhibition. The biggest attractions of the two-week fair are its numerous shops, stalls, performances, a nightly fireworks show, and the exhibition’s Prize Home. From its beginnings, the exhibition was used as a showcase for the region’s agriculture and economy.
In the initial years of the Second World War, the fairgrounds saw an increased military presence. However, the exhibition itself was not cancelled until 1942, after the Canadian declaration of war against Japan was issued. From 1942 to 1946 the exhibition and fair was closed, and like the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, served as a military training facility for the duration of World War II. During this time, the exhibition barns that were used to house livestock, were used as processing centres for interned Japanese Canadians from all over British Columbia. The interned Japanese Canadians were later shipped away to other internment camps throughout British Columbia, and Alberta. The Momiji (Japanese word for Maple) Gardens on the PNE’s grounds serves as a memorial for the event. The barns used for the internment of Japanese Canadians are still used to house livestock during the annual fair, and serve as storage area to house some of the PNE’s property the rest of the year.
On 7 February 1946, the Vancouver Exhibition Association changed its name to its current moniker, the Pacific National Exhibition; and later reopened the fair to the public under that name in 1947. The organization was formally reincorporated as the Pacific National Exhibition in 1955.
The highest attendance at the fair was recorded in 1986, with 1.1 million guests visiting the PNE, most likely due to Expo 86 that was occurring at the time. In 1993, the amusement park adjacent to the PNE, Playland, became a division of the PNE organization.
During 1997-1998, the PNE grounds was transformed with the demolition of a number of buildings including the Food Building, Showmart and the Poultry Building. This gave way to the Sanctuary, a parkland setting with a pond. The pond restored part of a stream that once flowed in the park out to the Burrard Inlet. The city restored a large portion of the park. Many old fair buildings have been demolished and replaced by a more natural character. Although land was purchased in Surrey that was to become the fair’s new home, the PNE has since transferred ownership from the province to the City of Vancouver and will remain at Hastings Park. The PNE is a registered charity.
Two attractions at the PNE were named as heritage sites by the City of Vancouver in August 2013. The Pacific Coliseum and the Wooden Roller Coaster were added to the list.
In 2020, the fair went on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside other agricultural and county fairs across Canada, including the Calgary Stampede, the Canadian National Exhibition, and K-Days.
In the early hours of February 20, 2022, a major fire broke out on PNE grounds, where multiple vehicles, tools and equipment, and buildings were destroyed as a result.
The PNE grounds contains several buildings and exhibition halls. The PNE Forum is a 4,200 square metres (45,000 sq ft) exhibition facility that is used for large displays and trade shows. Rollerland is a 1,840 square metres (19,800 sq ft) exhibition, banquet hall and venue for the Terminal City Roller Derby.
Two buildings on the PNE grounds are indoor arenas. The Pacific Coliseum is multi-purpose arena that holds 15,713 permanent seats, with provisions for 2,000 temporary seats for concerts and certain sports. The PNE Agrodome is a smaller indoor arena with 3,000 permanent seats, with provisions to expand up to 5,000 seats. Entertainment facilities includes the Garden Auditorium, a building that features a built-in stage and dance hall. The PNE grounds also feature amphitheatre with bench-style seating for 4,500 visitors.
Other buildings on the PNE grounds includes the Livestock Barns, a large multi-use facility, and the organization’s administrative offices.