CNE Games – A Look Along The Midway of the Past & Present

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1974 - Crowds on the CNE Midway in front of the Poodle, Groovy Games and Skill-O game booths
1974 – Crowds on the CNE Midway in front of the Poodle, Groovy Games and Skill-O game booths (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 95)

For over 100 years, The Midway has been a big draw for those visiting the Canadian National Exhibition. In 1937, the world-famous travelling amusement company Conklin Shows began providing and operating the games, sideshows and rides for the annual fair. Today, those same thrills are provided by North American Midway Entertainment, the company that purchased Conklin Shows in 2004.

The Midway Games & Prizes

Games like Whac-A-Mole, Water Race, Skee Ball, Duck Pond, Balloon Darts, One in Wins, and Ring-A-Bottle tempt passers-by with the pride of winning a coveted plush toy. And, the harder the game, the bigger the prize. But before the stuffed animals, lucky winners at fairs in the early 1900s were awarded food, hats, plaster statues, and cigarettes. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, grocery items like ham, sugar, or tins of coffee were given as prizes since necessities were more important.

During the more recent CNEs, it takes twenty-six tractor-trailer trucks to deliver 270,000 stuffed toys for prizes each year. Some of the most popular plush prizes are Pikachu, Smurfs and the Bavarian Bear. Did you know there are over 110 games on The Midway?

1960s - Winning a Mister Panda stuffed toy on The Midway
1960s – Winning a Mister Panda stuffed toy on The Midway (CNE Archives)

The History of Stuffed Toys

The origins of stuffed toys are thought to have begun in Germany by a businesswoman named Margarete Steiff. When Margarete was a child, she contracted polio, which paralyzed her legs. She overcame her challenges and became a skilled seamstress. Ms Steiff operated a shop where she sold felt clothing and household items she made. In the 1870s, Margarete found a pattern for a small stuffed elephant in a magazine. She made one for her shop and used it as a pincushion. She noticed when customers came to her shop, their children loved playing with it as a toy.

Ms Steiff began producing the tiny elephants as toys; by the mid-1880s, her company had sold over 5,000 of them. The Steiff Company that Margarete founded over 140 years ago is still in business today, making all kinds of plush toys.

CNE Midway Game Photos

1935 - The Weight Guesser game on the Canadian National Exhibition Midway. To attract people to the scales, guessers would call out to passers-by with a weight higher than what they were. This would coax the irate person to place themselves in the chair under the weight scale to prove them wrong, thereby getting crowds to gather. After sitting in the chair, the guesser's first words were "Feet off the ground"
1935 – The Weight Guesser game on the Canadian National Exhibition Midway. To attract people to the scales, guessers would call out to passers-by with a weight higher than what they were. This would coax the irate person to place themselves in the chair under the weight scale to prove them wrong, thereby getting crowds to gather. After sitting in the chair, the guesser’s first words were “Feet off the ground” (CNE Archives)
1953 - Duck Pond, Bowl Away, Balloon Darts, Peg-A-Panda and other games along The Midway
1953 – Duck Pond, Bowl Away, Balloon Darts, Peg-A-Panda and other games along The Midway (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 101)
1936 – Looking west on The Midway at the Canadian National Exhibition. Notice the Horse Palace on the left, the Weight Guesser booth on the right and the Coliseum in the distance
1936 – Looking west on The Midway at the Canadian National Exhibition. Notice the Horse Palace on the left, the Weight Guesser booth on the right and the Coliseum in the distance (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 11532)
2022 – The Big Birthday game at the CNE Midway. How is the game played? You put money on your birthday month. The wheel is spun, and if it lands on your birthday month, you win a prize
2022 – The Big Birthday game at the CNE Midway. How is the game played? You put money on your birthday month. The wheel is spun, and if it lands on your birthday month, you win a prize
1960s - Winning a Mister Panda stuffed toy on The Midway
1960s – Winning a Mister Panda stuffed toy on The Midway (CNE Archives)
2022 – Shoot Out game at the CNE. How is the game played? Players buy BB gun pellets and try to shoot out the star on the paper target to win a prize
2022 – Shoot Out game at the CNE. How is the game played? Players buy BB gun pellets and try to shoot out the star on the paper target to win a prize
August 25, 1974 - Skill–O and Kitty Kats games at the CNE Midway
August 25, 1974 – Skill–O and Kitty Kats games at the CNE Midway (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 103)
2022 – Skill-O dart game at the CNE Midway
2022 – Skill-O dart game at the CNE Midway
August 1970 – Walking on the CNE Midway with prizes in hand
August 1970 – Walking on the CNE Midway with prizes in hand (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC06886)
1972 - Crowds on the CNE Midway next to the Bingo booth with the Ferris Wheel and the Zipper in the background
1972 – Crowds on the CNE Midway next to the Bingo booth with the Ferris Wheel and the Zipper in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 58)
2022 – The Bingo tent at The Ex with BMO Field in the background
2022 – The Bingo tent at The Ex with BMO Field in the background
2022 – Looking east from the Crown and Anchor stand at the CNE Midway. How is the game played? Players put their money down on one of six symbols, including a crown, anchor, diamond, spade, club and heart. If the wheel lands on your symbol, you win a prize
2022 – Looking east from the Crown and Anchor stand at the CNE Midway. How is the game played? Players put their money down on one of six symbols, including a crown, anchor, diamond, spade, club and heart. If the wheel lands on your symbol, you win a prize
1974 - Crowds on the CNE Midway in front of the Poodle, Groovy Games and Skill-O game booths
1974 – Crowds on the CNE Midway in front of the Poodle, Groovy Games and Skill-O game booths (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 95)
August 25, 1974 – In case you didn't win a prize on The Midway, you could always buy one at the Souvenir booth
August 25, 1974 – In case you didn’t win a prize on The Midway, you could always buy one at the Souvenir booth (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 95, Item 38)
2022 – Kentucky Derby at the CNE Midway. How is the game played? Each player pays for one ball for their lane. Players roll their ball up the alley into the coloured holes - yellow moves one space, blue two spaces, and red (the most difficult) moves three spaces. The first horse to finish the race wins a prize
2022 – Kentucky Derby at the CNE Midway. How is the game played? Each player pays for one ball for their lane. Players roll their ball up the alley into the coloured holes – yellow moves one space, blue two spaces, and red (the most difficult) moves three spaces. The first horse to finish the race wins a prize
1974 - Along the Exhibition Midway
1974 – Along the Exhibition Midway (CNE Heritage)
2022 – Water Gun Fun on the CNE Midway
2022 – Water Gun Fun on the CNE Midway
August 25, 1974 – Crowd in front of Fun Way, Lucky Striker and Monte Carlo game booths at the Canadian National Exhibition Midway
August 25, 1974 – Crowd in front of Fun Way, Lucky Striker and Monte Carlo game booths at the Canadian National Exhibition Midway (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 104)
2022 – Fish Till You Win game on the CNE Midway
2022 – Fish Till You Win game on the CNE Midway
1978 - Palm reading on the Midway was $2
1978 – Palm reading on the Midway was $2 (CNE Archives)
1978/87 - CNE Midway game
1978/87 – CNE Midway game (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 363, Item 6)
2022 – The Ring-A-Bottle game at the CNE Midway. How is the game played? Players buy rings and then toss them to try to land the ring around the neck of a glass pop bottle to win a prize. Notice the CN Tower in the background
2022 – The Ring-A-Bottle game at the CNE Midway. How is the game played? Players buy rings and then toss them to try to land the ring around the neck of a glass pop bottle to win a prize. Notice the CN Tower in the background
1981 - Age or weight guesser on The Midway
1981 – Age or weight guesser on The Midway (CNE Archives)
1980s – Weight or age guesser on the CNE Midway. Notice the Flyer roller coaster in the background
1980s – Weight or age guesser on the CNE Midway. Notice the Flyer roller coaster in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 1465, File 54, Item 80)
August 27, 2007 - Curious George game on The Midway at the Canadian National Exhibition
August 27, 2007 – Curious George game on The Midway at the Canadian National Exhibition (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 219, Series 2311, File 2433, Item 29)
August 27, 2007 - Midway game at the CNE
August 27, 2007 – Midway game at the CNE (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 219, Series 2311, File 2433, Item 27)
2022 – Fool The Guesser at The Ex. How is the game played? You deposit your money in the box depending on the prize you want to try to win. If the guesser DOES NOT guess your age within 2 years, your weight within 3 pounds or your birth month within 2 months, you win a prize
2022 – Fool The Guesser at The Ex. How is the game played? You deposit your money in the box depending on the prize you want to try to win. If the guesser DOES NOT guess your age within 2 years, your weight within 3 pounds or your birth month within 2 months, you win a prize
1953 – Crowds on the CNE Midway. Guess Your Weight booth is on the left, the Pitch Till U Win game is in the background, and Bingo is on the right. Notice the Coliseum in the distance
1953 – Crowds on the CNE Midway. Guess Your Weight booth is on the left, the Pitch Till U Win game is in the background, and Bingo is on the right. Notice the Coliseum in the distance (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 105)
2022 – Getting the CNE Midway ready to open with the CN Tower in the background
2022 – Getting the CNE Midway ready to open with the CN Tower in the background
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