The return of the CNE and the renewal of multigenerational traditions

For many, this year’s Canadian National Exhibition meant more than a return to the familiar sights and sounds of the late-summer event.

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, CNE 2022, commonly referred to as The Ex, also marked the revival of cross-generational traditions.

“While this is a generational business for me and a family business, it is also something that is an experience that generations have gone to CNE and enjoyed,” said Sam Scanga, owner of several food stalls at The Ex, referencing attendees. ‘ love her Primo Spaghetti 1.99.

Click to play video: ''It's part of everyone's story': CNE's post-pandemic return revives multi-generational traditions'

‘It’s part of everyone’s story’: CNE’s post-pandemic return revives multi-generational traditions

‘It’s part of everyone’s story’: CNE’s post-pandemic return revives multi-generational traditions

Sam’s parents operated kiosks at the CNE 40 years ago and he said he had helped since he was ‘pretty young’.

“They were here in the 80s and started out with different concepts and different booths,” he said.

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“And over the years, we’ve moved to multiple locations, and it’s been an amazing experience.”

From left to right: Luigi Scanga, Cathy Wright, Sydney Scanga, Maria Scanga, Robin Scanga.


Sam has since taken over from his parents and his children are also involved, running stalls selling a range of foods from spaghetti to fried pasta and fried cookie dough.

He said the two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was “difficult”, but he is happy to see the event getting back up and running.

“One thing I will say about CNE is that everyone and all the vendors in this building operate like a family,” he said.

“I have been here for many years. There are different operators who have been here for, you know, seasons and seasons and seasons.

He said that throughout the pandemic, they spoke to each other on the phone and supported each other.

“It’s something you might not recognize behind the scenes, but it’s something great that I care about,” Sam said.

Maria Scanga (left) and Luigi Scanga (right) with their granddaughter Sydney Scanga.


Sam’s wife, Robin Scanga, is also running her own stall at The Ex for the first time, having witnessed and helped Sam and his family operate their stalls over the years.

She said she had “always tried many different mediums” and eventually decided to start “Robin’s Nest Soap Company”.

“Once we came back this year and I started this business, my husband was like, ‘Well, we’re going to be here anyway. Why not try it? “, did she say.

“And so my kids all work there. My only daughter works here with me sometimes and it’s a family affair.

Their children, Mason, Luke and Sydney, were all happy to see The Ex return.

“It felt like something was missing,” Mason said of the past two years.

“Because, you know, every summer, we all know that towards the end, we take time to come and bond as a family here and work.”

Mason, now 18, said he started helping The Ex when he was just 13. And he added that when he has children, he will pass the tradition on to them.

“100% absolutely. They have to know the things we went through,” he said.

When they were younger, the Scanga children often wandered around the CNE while their parents worked, visiting various vendors, including Tammy Zekan’s “You Name It” teddy bear stand.

Zekan still operates at CNE and, like the Scangas, has a family history tied to his shop, which offers personalized teddy bears where customers can have their names embroidered.

Tammy Zekan with her mother at their “You Name It” teddy bear stand, which has been around for over 30 years.

Katherine Cheng / Global News

“It’s good to be back,” she said.

Zekan has been coming to CNE for decades and said it “just keeps getting better”.

Zekan and his mother started their business over 30 years ago and see customers from many years ago coming back to them.

“The kids who received our bears now have kids and they are thrilled to have one that matches theirs,” she said.

“It’s good that people who got them as kids are now buying them for their kids.”

Andrew Gidaro, COO of Astro Amusements at CNE, operates 26 games at The Ex.

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His business at CNE began with his father, who worked when he was 12 for a woman who operated a ring toss game.

“Eventually he took over his dealerships and from there he grew the business to have a number of dealerships,” Gidaro said.

“Eventually my mom came over for a summer job and ended up working here and from there they ended up getting together and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Today, Gidaro, his brother, sister and half-sister are all involved in the business.

He said the shutdown for the past two years has been “pretty difficult” with his income dropping to zero.

“Thank goodness things are back to normal and people are coming out and supporting us by playing the games and riding the rides,” he said.

Gidaro said he ultimately hopes his children, who are currently aged nine, six and four, eventually take over the family business.

“It’s too early to say if they want to take over, but I can tell you they love it,” he said.

“They are third generation. I hope they will take over. »

The CNE is heading into its last weekend of the year and wraps up on September 5 – Labor Day.

The CNE halfway comes alive at sunset.

Catherine Cheng


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