When Playland at the PNE opens its doors on Saturday, it not only marks the symbolic start of summer in Vancouver, but the historic amusement park’s 100th birthday.
“There’s not many things in Vancouver that have the honour of saying they’re 100 years old,” said Laura Ballance, a spokesperson for Playland, adding that centennial celebrations will take place at the PNE fair in August.
Ballance said Playland as we know it started in 1958 when the wooden roller-coaster was built, but the amusement park had already been around in various incarnations for 48 years.
“Really, it started with that first fair in (August) 1910,” she said. “It was called Skid Road.
There were children’s rides and midway games like an old-school carnival.”
Then-prime minister Sir Wilfred Laurier opened the fair and around 5,000 first-day visitors paid a whopping 50-cent admission.
The Vancouver World newspaper ran a story the day after the grand opening referring to the park as being in “the wilderness in eastern Vancouver.”
“There was nothing here,” said Ballance. “There was a campsite until the early 1930s because it was considered too far to come for a day trip. Most people came by train.”
Eventually the neighbourhood of East Vancouver grew up around the park in part thanks to the prize home giveaways.
Ballance said the homes were put on logs on display during the fair, and when someone won a home, the building was pulled off site by Clydesdales to a nearby plot of land.
From Skid Road, the fair evolved into Happy Land with the addition of shoot-the-chute rides. Happy Land was eventually torn down to make way for Playland.
Today the amusement park has more than 40 rides, including two roller-coasters and a log ride, the Drop Zone and Hellevator, a 35-foot climbing wall, midway games, and more.
• Playland will be open on weekends until the school year ends, then will be open daily.
• For hours and admission visit pne.ca.