September 3, 2011

Attraction proving a miraculous success

Kevin Tazumi

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Chance to walk on water a massive draw for children attending this year’s PNE


Kids attempt to do something that is unheard of: Walk on Water

It’s part ride, part game and — judging by the long lines of kids it attracts every day — entirely fun.

Tucked away in a corner of the PNE this year, Walk on Water involves sliding into a massive inflatable ball, then scurrying around on a pool of water for four minutes.

“I was trying to bump into them,” said Abby Johnston, 11, referring to her friends and twin brother, after slithering out of the ball on to a platform. “The bottom feels like jello.”

“It looks kind of scary, but it’s fun,” added Ben Horodyski, also 11.

Employees at the PartyWorks Interactive section of the fair said lines usually begin to snake around the site as the afternoon wears on.

“It’s been our most popular ride. Every kid wants to go on it,” said Keely Wallace, who works at the cash register.

Added Keely’s brother, Peter Wallace, who helps kids into the inflatable balls: “I had one kid say, ‘This is my fourth time.’”

Whether they’re walking on water, taking in a kidfriendly musical show on the Family Theatre stage or learning about farm animals in the Safeway Farm Country barn, the PNE is packed with activities for kids who are too young (or too short) to jump on the wild rides, said Laura Ballance, spokeswoman for the event.

This year, instead of mailing out free tickets for schools to stuff into year-end report cards – a longstanding tradition – organizers decided to allow all kids under 13 into the PNE for free.

“This year, more than any other year, there’s a focus on younger fairgoers,” Ballance said.

The new policy allows families to come back more than once to take in events they might have missed the first – or even second – time around, she said.

Three-year-old Erin and her sister, Shannon, 6, sat colouring in the barn after visiting some of the animals. The girls and their parents made the trek from Burnaby to the PNE for the third time this season.

” Ev e r y t i m e s h e comes here, ‘I want to be a farmer.’ That’s what she says,” said Joanne, Erin’s mom.

Her favourite animals? “The pigs. No, the chickens,” Erin said, turning away from her art for a moment.

Allowing city kids a chance to interact with farm animals is an important part of the PNE, Ballance said. After all, it began as a fair to showcase B.C.’s industry and agriculture, as the original 1910 slogan said.

“The agriculture area will take up a big chunk of [a family's] day,” Ballance said. “The opportunity to see those animals up close is magical [for kids.]“
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