Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took about 600 people by surprise Monday afternoon when he participated in a small community event in Tofino, B.C.

"There was a lot of great emotion out of his presence," said Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation chief councillor Elmer Frank. 

The First Nation kicked off its week-long TFN Days with a parade, opening ceremony and barbecue in the small West Coast town it claims as its traditional territory.

Trudeau and his family have been vacationing in the area, setting off waves of Trudeaumania.

"We got wind that he was going to be around ... so we just took a shot in the dark and sent off a letter inviting him to participate," Frank said. 

"I was really honoured that he did accept our offer."

Justin Trudea TFN days

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and two of his three children take part in the opening ceremony of TFN Days in Tofino, B.C.

The prime minister joined the main float — a large canoe — in the 30-minute-long parade with two of his three children, sitting alongside Frank and the community's hereditary chief. 

Frank said Trudeau didn't confirm his participation until an hour before the parade started, just as event organizers were putting the finishing touches on the floats. 

They stayed for about 45 minutes afterwards, Frank said, and were presented with a song and a gift at the opening ceremony. 

"It was a great experience. He's a very humble, respectful man," Frank said.  

"It gives a lot of hope for a lot of things that are definitely going to be challenging for First Nations in the future." 

The Prime Minister's Office said Trudeau is in the area on personal time and his participation wasn't part of his official itinerary.