I have a PNE hangover. I started off my annual evening of pacific national exhibition-ism with a big plate of perogies from the incredible Hunk himself. Yes Bill was there. There is no mistaking that profile. Hunky Bill has been at the fair slinging Ukranian hash every year for forty years, taking time out from his restaurant and perogie maker biz.
All that cheesy-ness made me thirsty, so I chugged back a big lemonade. The real stuff. With lemons in it. Followed by a bag of those little donuts for dessert. I don’t even like donuts. Except for those. And then, inexplicably, after probably four decades without a craving, I suddenly needed to have some candy floss. “Just a taste,” I said to the nice girl whipping up a batch. She passed me a handful and OMG, a bubbly-gummy mouthful of pink clouds. “Mmmmmm,” I said. “It’s pure sugar,” my friend Mark admonished me. Like I didn’t know. But it didn’t spoil my moment. What happens at the PNE stays at the PNE.
Mark and I are diehard PNE-ers. We love it all, the greasy smells, the hawkers, the rip offs. Before we even enter the gate we’re usually down fifty bucks! Parking (negotiating for a spot with local residents is part of the fun), admission (we lucked out and hit Vancity night – five dollars a pop for credit union members and their friends) and the obligatory tickets, “Win a house. Win a car!” This year the dream home will be set down in the Okanagan – our homeland! Mark yelled confidently out to the long line of people waiting to walk through the home, “Don’t dirty my carpets!”
Each year as we step through the gates, we both look around breathlessly and shout: “Sell me something!” Last year we came home with 400 thread count Egyptian sheet sets for 30 bucks. Never mind that they pilled after a few washings. And while searching for the miracle mop I’d seen the year before and had kicked myself for not buying, we got mesmerized by the demo for the window squeegees. We both walked away with one. We used them once. Well, tried to use them. Those guys make it look so easy. My windows have been dirty ever since. But being taken is part of the fun.
One summer Mark sold the slicer dicers at one of the booths. We were more than friends at that time and whenever I would feel a little blue, he would do his spiel: “It slices, it dices….” and throw thin slices of cucumbers against the wall. You cannot stay sad or mad when your boyfriend can perform like that let me tell you.
This year the PNE celebrates its 100th year. A number of nostalgic headliner bands will be gracing their stage. Bryan Adams, Huey Lewis and the News, Cyndi Lauper. Last night we were there to see Loverboy. The 1980s rock band is making a come back at country fairs all over North America. Mike Reno, the lead, grew up in Penticton too. He and Mark were best buds. In fact, Mark was in one of Mike’s very early bands, on keyboard. And vocals. Sort of. He only found out later that they used to turn his mike off. Mark eventually kicked everyone out of the band and decided to make a go of it on his own. And that was the end of Mark’s band career. One of my cousins was in some of the early groups too – Morning Glory and Synergy I think they were called.
Mark says when Mike moved to Penticton from the Island, he showed up at the first day of school wearing a black pea jacket with a Beatles cap and boots. He was always cool. All us girls had a crush on him. And back when the Kid was really hot, he really could pull off those red leather pants. What I mean by that is he looked good enough that many women probably wanted to pull them off. Now he would certainly have trouble getting into them, but he still wore his signature red bandana last night. He only had to wring it out once. Or twice or so.
So, there we were, amid a jam packed sea of groupies. Sure there were a lot of us middle aged women who had eaten a few too many little donuts in our time – but there were young people too. Entire families. All sizes, shapes and colours, rockin’ to the Kid. Reno’s vocals were still top notch. I had all their albums in their heyday, but especially loved his ballads. Like Almost Paradise, the love theme song from Footloose that he sang with Ann Wilson from Heart. We sang along to every song last night. Mark sang with gusto, reveling in his chance to sing with the band again.
They closed with one of their big hits, the one that’s currently working overtime in the peanut butter cups ad. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, I would say the Kid was still pretty hot. I was definitely feeling the heat. Could have been the food.
You want a piece of my heart. You better start from start. You wanna be in the show. Come on baby lets go…
–Working for the Weekend, Loverboy