Five bucks a pop? Really? - The Orca
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Five bucks a pop? Really?

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Jody Vance wants to know: when and why did the Midway get so expensive?

There are few things as iconic in Vancouver as the PNE/Playland.

The rides, live music, food, forum buildings stacked with “as seen on TV” products, 4-H barns with pig races, Super Dogs — the list goes on and on. Vancouverites love the PNE; our family sure does.

That said, this week’s Middle is a bit of a ghostwrite-by-demand. My 11-year-old had an experience at Playland earlier this summer and ever since he has asked me, weekly, “is this week The Kid Casino Column?”

Well, Kiddo, here it is. Today we are searching for some Middle on The Midway in 2019.

Ah…the good old days. Whack-a-mole, balloon darts, milk jug ring toss, all 25 cents a play. My goodness the hours of fun we had there in the ‘80s, spending our quarters on giggles to win bad prizes. Mind you, it was remarkably rare for most of us to win anything — yet somehow we were surrounded by those lugging around stuffed monstrosities like Olympic medals.

Fast forward to my kid’s story.

“Mom, it was a great day at camp. I had the most delicious White Spot Burger — and then I spent the rest of my $40 (don’t ask) on a big fat waste, look at this.” He pulled out a rubber ball that wouldn’t qualify for the discount bin at dollar store, and a busted slide whistle.

“This, this is the rest. I learned a big lesson today. That place is a Kid Casino and it is a rip off.”

He’s 11 and sees clearly that it’s a rip off. He’s right.

Over the years, the Midway has become a No-Way for me, as prices went from silly fun, to silly stupid, to outright gouging.

“He’s 11 and sees clearly that it’s a rip off. He’s right.”

Whack-a-mole should not be $5 a play, not to mention how flawed it is; if you play alone, you always win a crappy toy. What kid will forfeit the toy to compete in today’s “gimme” world?

Why would anyone then experience the joy of going mano-a-mano with your besties? They don’t, and that sucks the fun out of whack-a-mole and, really, everything else on that Midway.

Why jack up those prices? Milk bottles are too expensive? The magnet fish are market price?

Please.

The cash grab is a bummer for this generation of kids who should have this carny experience. If nothing else, it would get them off the free whack-a-mole app on their phone, that I haven’t checked but am certain exists.

If whack-a-mole was 50 cents, we would play it 20 times; at $5, zero. Let’s do the math on that.

The other Kid Casino “arcades” that spit out tickets by the armload only to cost a truckload for anything worth, well, anything — yeah, get rid of those too. Just make the games cheap fun for kids to enjoy together.

Let’s pull the Midway back to the Middle where it’s still making money — and still a fun space for kids to play.

Let’s leave the Casino vibe where the grownups play and the house always wins.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

SWIM ON:

  • Recreation is big business in BC – Bob Price looked at the economics of golf.
  • Ada Slivinski on another runaway cost Canadian youth have to grapple with: cell phone bills.
  • Jody Vance wondered by an obvious – and healthy – source of recreation for her son was shuttered over the summer, when the Vancouver School Board closed basketball courts. (And thanks to this piece, they reversed course.)
SWIM ON