VANCOUVER -- Cars lined up outside of a gate at the Pacific National Exhibition to grab bags of a fair favourite: the mini doughnut.

Friday was the first day of the doughnut drive-thru, where people stayed in their vehicles as they drive up to the four vendors for “A Taste of the PNE.”

Organizers said an estimated 2,500 packages were purchased online in advance, proving once again, the sugar-and-cinnamony treat is a quintessential part of the fair.

“My family and I come down to the PNE every year, it’s something that we've been doing for quite awhile now, and mini doughnuts is very much a part of our experience,” said Jon Barrett.

At one point, vehicles were spilling out onto Hastings Street near Cassiar Street.

Stephanie Cook arrived just before the event started at 12:45 p.m. and said she had to wait an hour.

"It was actually pretty quick," she said. "We were expecting to wait longer."

'Season has gone kaputz'

The PNE is expecting to lose $52 million in revenue this year because of the pandemic.

Large-scale events across the country have been cancelled, putting vendors’ businesses in limbo.

"The whole season has gone kaputz, like, there's no fairs or festivals anywhere within Canada

at this point. So, we’re trying to figure out how we can make it through and what we need to do to try and survive," said Calgary’s Nathan Maier, owner of Those Little Donuts.

Langley-based Cin City Donuts is also grappling with the uncertainty. The owner said he’s been using the downtime to plan his next steps.

"We’ve been preparing for a couple months just ready to go, ready for work, so we were ready to go when (the PNE) gave us the call," Nathan Simpson said. "There's always going to be demand and people want to get together so it's just about finding the right way to bring everyone together."

PNE CEO Shelley Frost said it’s important to support their vendors, adding "every dollar counts."

She said the drive-thru offers optimism during this time of uncertainty.

"I just feel like it's a little ray of sunshine and a little ray of hope for the future," she said. "Getting people back out to a little bit of a sense of normalcy and bringing some of the favourite fun stuff from the summertime, we're happy to be at the heart of that."

Frost said they’re exploring other drive-thru ideas involving more food items and activities, hinting there could be a series of these events this summer.

The mini doughnut drive-thru runs from 1 to 7 p.m. until Sunday.

Tickets can be purchased in advance or on-site through tap-only credit or debit cards.