CNE Bandshell

The CNE Bandshell is an open-air concert venue in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Built in 1936, it is located at Exhibition Place on the Lake Ontario lake shore. It hosts the annual music program of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and is also used for festivals and picnic events, for which the "Bandshell Park" can be rented from the City of Toronto.

CNE Bandshell
The Bandshell with an updated canopy extension (ca 2007)
General information
InauguratedAugust 28, 1936
CostCA$47,000 ($847 thousand in 2018 dollars)[1][2]
OwnerCity of Toronto
Design and construction
Architecture firmCraig and Madill


Inspired by the Hollywood Bowl, the Art Deco-styled Bandshell was built in 1936 according to designs prepared by the Toronto architectural firm of Craig and Madill.[3] It cost CA$47,000 ($847 thousand in 2018 dollars)[1] to construct.[2] The building has two-and-a-half dressing rooms, an office, a "green room", a "switch room" and a sound room. The stage is 338 square metres (3,640 sq ft) in size.[4]

The adjacent green space is known as Bandshell Park. In the north-east corner of the park is the Exhibition Place Carillon. At the north-side of the park is the "Garden of the Greek Gods" collection of sculptures. South of the bandshell is the "Acqua Dolce" Restaurant facing the rose garden.


The Bandshell was dedicated on August 28, 1936, by Ontario Premier Mitchell Hepburn, Toronto Mayor Sam McBride and the Lord Mayor of London Sir Percy Vincent at the opening of the Canadian National Exhibition.[5] Highlighting the initial musical program was the Kneller Hall Band of Great Britain and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.[6]

The Bandshell replaced the 1906 bandstand in the park,[7] one of two bandstands built in the early 1900s, the other was in today's Centennial Square (and subsequently rebuilt). The park was also the site of Canada's tallest flagpole and largest Canadian flag, marked with a small memorial. The flagpole, from a single tree, eventually had to be replaced and was removed. The CNE's largest Canadian flag now is located near the Ricoh Coliseum building. In the 1800s, the park was the site of the Crystal Palace exhibition building, which burnt down and was replaced by the present Horticulture Building to the north of the park.

Notable events

The list of famous acts to have played at the Bandshell is literally almost innumerable. The list of acts includes Salman Ahmad,[8] Louis Armstrong, Glen Campbell, Blondie (band), Johnny Cash, The Diamonds,[9] Esther Ghan Firestone,[10] Bob Hope,[7] Quincy Jones,[11] Guy Lombardo,[7] Don McLean,[12] Joni Mitchell,[7] Bob Newhart, Salt-N-Pepa,[7] Neil Sedaka,[13] The Stampeders, The Glorious Sons The Guess Who,[7] Tommy James and the Shondells. More recently the likes of America, April Wine, Frankie Avalon,[14] Susan Aglukark, Abraham's Children, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Big Sugar,[12] Chubby Checker, Benny Dayal, José Feliciano,[15] Foghat, Herman's Hermits, Monster Truck, Moxy Früvous, The New Pornographers, Leroy Sibbles, Rick Springfield, The Tea Party, Tokyo Police Club and Trooper have played the open-air venue.

The Bandshell was also used extensively for performance by military bands, such as the United States Navy Band.[9] Danny Kaye once guest-conducted the United States Air Force Band.[16]

On August 25, 2003, as part of the CNE's 125th anniversary celebrations, and as part of Kid's Day, a Guinness World Record was set by the Bandshell as Sesame Street's Elmo hosted the largest Hokey Pokey song and dance routine.[17] The number of participants recorded was 4,431. The record was subsequently broken in 2010.[18]

The Bandshell is the site of the annual opening ceremonies for the CNE, often opened by dignitaries. In the past various Canadian Governor Generals have spoken at the opening ceremonies. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King opened the fair in 1947 with a speech.[19] In recent years, Bandshell Park has hosted the Toronto Festival of Beer [20] and the CHIN International Picnic.[21]


  1. Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada tables 18-10-0005-01 (formerly CANSIM 326-0021) "Consumer Price Index, annual average, not seasonally adjusted". Statistics Canada. January 18, 2019. Retrieved March 6, 2019. and 18-10-0004-13 "Consumer Price Index by product group, monthly, percentage change, not seasonally adjusted, Canada, provinces, Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit". Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  2. "History Walking Tour". CNE. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  3. Heritage Toronto, CNE Bandshell Archived 2012-02-16 at the Wayback Machine
  4. "Bandshell Park Stage" (PDF) (pdf). Exhibition Place. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  5. "Premier Opens C.N.E. Under Drenching Rain". The Globe and Mail. August 29, 1936. pp. 1–2.
  6. Heritage Toronto plaque "CNE Bandshell". Heritage Toronto. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  7. "The Bandshell". Ontario Association of Architects. September 1, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  8. "Salman Ahmad: opening doors, and minds, through music". Toronto Star. July 26, 2010. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  9. Bradburn, Jamie (May 9, 2012). "Mapping Our Music: Before 1960". Torontoist. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  10. Fitterman, Lisa. "Esther Ghan Firestone: Canada's first female cantor delighted audiences with her voice". The Globe and Mail.
  11. Billboard August 25, 1973, p. 47
  12. "Canadian National Exhibition Bandshell performers line-up". CNE Blogspot.
  13. Powell, W. Andrew (August 22, 2011). "Canadian National Exhibition celebrates 75 years of the bandshell". The Gate. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  14. Ouzounian, Richard (August 23, 2013). "Frankie Avalon on beach parties, the simplicity of the past, and Annette Funicello: The Big Interview". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  15. Ouzounian, Richard (August 15, 2014). "Jose Feliciano still smoothly persuasive after all these years". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  16. "Danny Kaye Conducting At The Bandshell, 1950". CNE. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  17. "Thousands hokey pokey for world record". UPI. August 26, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  18. "FryFest Breaks Hokey Pokey World Record". KCRG. Archived from the original on September 5, 2010. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  19. "Historicist: Johnny at the Fair". Torontoist.
  20. Parniak, Sarah (July 2, 2015). "Tasting Notes: Indulge your love of gin or beer at these upcoming special events". Now Toronto.
  21. "Canada Day events in the GTA". Toronto Star. June 30, 2009. Retrieved October 27, 2015.

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