Turning Archive 2005

OT-My Day at the Ex, Story, Pics

Jim Shaver - Oakville, Ontario

Today was a special day for me, a Daddy-Daughter day and we had decided a week ago that we would head down to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) for a fun filled day of rides, cotton candy, corn dogs, games of chance and just pure one on one time. Now the CNE (also known as the Ex) is a great tradition here in the Toronto region. The Ex runs for the last few weeks prior to and concluding on Labour day, it makes the passing of summer and beginning of the school year. the Ex has been running for 127 years now and is all about carnival and fun! Today was that and more, something I had never expected to find there happened to me and others.

We got on the GO train in Oakville and rode in to Toronto. The price of gas and parking really make the train a steal of a deal for getting into and out of the city and besides, Dana loves riding the train. All along the ride in Dana was super excited about what she wanted to do first and what she wanted to see, what foods she wanted to sample and how much fun we were going to have, all the while clinging to my arm and looking out the train window as the world slipped past.

We arrived at the CNE entrance, Dana and I entered the grounds of the fair. I was fumbling through the large crowds, adjusting to it's flow, making sure that I did not loose grip of Dana's hand, getting through the turnstiles. All the while my conscience was filled with the thoughts of how to make this a special day that she would remember for a long time, holding her sweet little hand and thinking about the excitement of the Ex and all it's 127 years of tradition.

As I cleared the funnel of humanity at the main gate I heard a sound...actually music ..carnival like coming from an old fashioned music machine, somewhere. My thoughts for the moment switched away rides and tickets to the sound of this distant music, and I was drawn to it. As I approached the source I found a large trailer sitting aside the main entrance avenue for the pedestrians, it was a Stinson Band Organ, and orchestral band organ built by the Stinson Band Organ Company in Ohio.

In a word the visual presentation of this organ was mind blowing, I was totally drawn to it and consumed by it's demanding presence. My heart also had a transformation in spirit from the day to a place far away and one of pain, for the good people of the Gulf area impacted by hurricane Katrina. You see, the sounds of music that drew me to the Band Organ were the incredible and power sounds of God Bless America. I was totally in awe and I sat down with Dana on a bench directly in front of it. Together we sat frozen by the sounds and the character mechanics of the puppets playing the music. Dana was simply speechless at the fantasy of the organ with all it's moving parts and the comical and classical mechanical puppets playing. Inside myself though the heavy heart from the past 6 days returned to me and I fell back to a place in my heart that pained deeply for the people of the gulf.

I sat there and passers by who were in hast with plans and activities to get into the CNE started to stop in front of the organ and for whatever reason they too were held in it's magnetic grip and could not move. Soon there were three and four rows of people behind me just standing there in silence and in wonder of the glory of this incredible Band organ and the tune it was playing. In a moment I felt, as powerful as this song had been in the post 9-11 days that this song needs to be played now with more purpose than ever before. This song has a binding quality, an energizing powerl that I feel the US needs deeply in the gulf regions right now to help people recover the emotional and devastating losses that they have endured in the last week. A part of me wanted to lift this machine and trailer onto my shoulders and carry it down there and have every one stop for one moment and listen to that pure message and the incredible words that are gifted to that music. You know me well as a Real Canadian, I feel deeply for the innocent that have suffered right now , I also do feel deeply for the damage left in the US beyond material things, this is about humanity.

And then the song was over, and around me many of us exchanged smiles and said not a word, but we all knowingly were feeling a sense of purpose in the notes for the humanity that needs to be cared for in the US. For me and many others I suspect that this song is bigger than any other anthem I know...and for the strangest reason every one standing there at the same time started to applaud, a machine! Well not a machine, but the spirit of the song.....it was an incredible moment I was so deeply moved I can not tell you how powerfully I felt, It was very deep. I looked later at the side of the trailer and saw an Illinois plate on it, I thought, it's here for a reason these two weeks of the Ex, but How I would love for the People of the US to sit and listen to it's carnival sounds and feel it's power full message right now.

In the end I walked away today with some amazing memories today. Dana had her ice cream waffles, cotton candy, corn dog, 200 rides and even won a prize frog (now named CC ??) on the midway. But I also came away feeling stronger at heart for those who need to feel that strength right now and knowing that in another way that things will be okay one day for them.

There is something about the simple purity and hope in a child's dreams that can help ground our Adult and worldly troubles too,

I did make a video clip on my digital camera of a 30 second segment of the organ while it played God Bless America , it's grainy and small, but I will email it to any one who wants a copy, just contact me.

Thanks for viewing,

Take care,


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