As the CNE struggles to maintain and even grow its audience, the future of the Canadian National Exhibition may just be coated with butter. One ball at a time.

Rename it the “Canadian Butter Exhibition” and they will come — with tongues drooling.

“It was extraordinary. Nobody predicted this success,” David Bednar, 58, general manager of the CNE, said of the debut of deep-fried butter balls.

Bednar goes so far as to say the CNE might have received a boost from the calorie-rich treat (315 calories for a four-sample serving size).

Final attendance figures for the Ex won’t be released until a board meeting in October, but Bednar expects the number to be either similar to or lower than last year’s 1.32 million.

“Our attendance will probably be a little worse than expectations,” Bednar said.

“I was amazed that this became as big as it was,” Bednar said after the 132-year-old fair closed with a whimper, amid rain and following Saturday’s cancelled air show.

Traditionally, the last weekend can make or break attendance. “Before the bad weather hit, we were heading to a good year,” Bednar said.

The CNE is undertaking an outreach study to examine why more people aren’t coming to the Exhibition.

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