Crowds flock to first day of CLE fun (15 photos)

Five-day event opened on Wednesday, with more than 55,000 expected to attend between now and Monday.

THUNDER BAY – The boys (and girls) are back in town and ready to thrill, feed and entertain tens of thousands of visitors to the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition’s annual summer fair.

For Sierra Sabaz, it’s an annual birthday celebration – minus the two years lost to COVID-19, forcing the cancellation of the event in 2020 and 2021.

The just-turned seven-year-old was thrilled to be back at the fair again, one of the first to arrive on Wednesday for the opening day of the five-day celebration.

“I usually come here for my birthday,” the youngster said citing the rides as her No. 1 reason for wanting to attend the CLE.

Missing a couple of years wasn’t all bad – it allowed Sierra to grow in stature and qualify for some of the more thrilling rides aimed at older fair-goers.

Among those was the Pirate Ship, which swings riders in a pendulum, higher and higher into the Thunder Bay sky until they are perpendicular with the ground below.

“When I went up and when I went down, I had butterflies in my stomach,” she said.

Older sister Mia Sabaz, 9, is also a fan of the rides.

“They’re all different. Some are spinning, some are calm. It’s really fun to go on different rides. It’s fun being at a different place.”

She was also looking forward to sampling the carnival food, including cotton candy.

“A bunch of treats,” Mia said.

Seven-year-old Walker Cheyne was also excited to try out as many rides as possible.

“My favorite one is the Pirate Ship,” he said. “You go up and down and it feels really funny.”

Older sister Elle Cheyne, 10, said she’s just glad to have the fair back.

“It’s so fun,” she said. “I missed it a lot, I love the fair.”

She wasn’t alone.

Fair chair Basil Lychowyd said the last time the fair was held, in 2019, about 55,000 people showed up over the five days. He’s expecting record-breaking crowds in 2022.

“Advance tickets were crazy,” Lychowyd said. “We pretty much sold them all out. We had less than 800 tickets to go. It’s crazy. People want to come to the fair. Accommodation around Thunder Bay is going to be tough to get, but they all want to come and enjoy themselves before they go back to school.”

In addition to the rides, there will be plenty of entertainment on hand, from a hypnotist to Canadian rock legends like Trooper, Kim Mitchell, Honeymoon Suite and Streetheart. There’s also plenty of games of chance for those with a bit of a competitive edge or gambling streak, not to mention livestock and horticultural displays.

And for those who like to shop, there are bargains to be found throughout the fairgrounds.

Admission to the CLE is $15 for adults and $10 for children four and older. Wristbands for unlimited rides are $45 per person, or individual tickets are $1 apiece, with rides requiring between three and five per ride.

The CLE wraps up on Sunday.

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