Hundreds gathered outside the gates of the PNE Saturday to ring in the start of the 2019 season. It’s summer tradition for many families from across the province.

“We've been coming to the PNE since we were, like, two,” said Francesca Boischos, a fairgoer.

“It's our tradition every year to come back,” added her dad, Nick.

The Boischos family arrived bright and early to be first in line.

“We're going to get tickets for the concert tonight. I'm so excited to see Blue Rodeo. We'll see the Superdogs. That's my favourite since I was little,” said Francesca.

Attendance was down last year; organizers blamed poor air quality from a brutal wildfire season.

"Generally, we are in 700,000 to 750,000 is what we budget for and then we cross our fingers, and hope for that good weather to get to the higher end of that range,” said Laura Ballance, a spokesperson for the PNE.

Fairgoers said Saturday’s overcast skies made for a perfect day, but those in Playland didn't share that sunny disposition.

“I was getting excited about going on the roller coaster from all the things I remembered about it and it's closed,” said a ride-pass holder who was visiting from Vancouver Island.

Both rollercoasters and several other rides were behind locked gates Saturday.

The closures included, the Beast which was shut down earlier in the week after it began spewing oil mid-ride.

“We did determine there was a part broke within the gear box. The part is en route from Europe, where the ride is manufactured,” explained Ballance.

No one was hurt in the incident, although a few customers did get sprayed with oil. The Beast is expected to be up and running again in a week.

"If you were going to ride amusement park rides anywhere in the world, Playland, British Columbia and Canada are very, very safe places to do so,” said Ballance.

Fairgoers are disappointed, but say the memories they've made here over the years will keep them coming back.

The PNE said annual inspections of its rides are done by Technical Safety BC, seasonal ones are done by independent contractors and daily checks are conducted by staff.

A full list of ride closures is available on the PNE’s website.