Toronto mayor's 'Ford Fest' proves popular

The guests came, but the rain and protesters stayed away at an open outdoor barbeque hosted by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his family on Friday evening.
Private security guards size up the situation outside the site of the Ford Fest barbecue ahead of the festivities. (Colin Butler/CBC)

The guests came, but the rain and protesters stayed away at an open outdoor barbeque hosted by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his family on Friday evening.

Dubbed "Ford Fest," the party held at Ford's mother's home at 15 Weston Wood Rd. near Royal York Road and Eglinton Avenue drew a crowd that at times made for standing-room only conditions in the backyard.

It was estimated that 5,000 people might attend. It's unclear how close the attendance came to that number, but the event drew a steady stream of partiers. 

The barbecue is a tradition dating back 12 years when Toronto's mayor was a member of council. Since then it has become popular with Ford supporters and curious neighbours. The party is open to all, so long as visitors promise to behave.

CBC News reported that 150 boxes of burgers and 45 boxes of hot dogs were delivered to the Ford residence on Friday afternoon in preparation for the party. A beer delivery truck was also spotted.

Earlier in the day, the mayor sent out email invitations and put the invite on his Facebook page. Others were informed of the party via robocalls voiced by the mayor's brother, Coun. Doug Ford.

"I'd like you to join my family and me tomorrow at our annual backyard barbecue, Ford Fest. It's going to be a fun-filled evening with live music, dancing, barbecue and lots of beverages," Doug Ford said in the Thursday telephone message.

"We're going to celebrate Ford Fest in the backyard of Mrs. Ford with lots of fun, lots of rock and roll from my perspective. And [it's] a good night for the city," he said ahead of the party. "We're putting politics at the door and having a good time."

Guests began arriving just after 6 p.m. They were asked to pass through private security and sign in before being admitted.  By 7:30 p.m. the backyard area was crowded with party goers drinking and eating. They were entertained by Gently Bent, a classic rock ensemble that includes Coun. Gary Crawford on drums.

This year, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community set up a Facebook page inviting more than 6,000 people to show up. Some were expecting them to show up and protest at Ford Fest, as Ford has not appeared at Toronto's massive Pride parade during his time as mayor, but no protest materialized.

Party ends stressful week for Ford

The barbecue comes at the conclusion of a trying week for the mayor, who testified on Wednesday in relation to allegations he violated conflict of interest rules over his participation in a council vote that absolved him of a directive to pay back $3,150 in donations that were given to his football foundation.

If Ford is found by Justice Charles Hackland to have been in a conflict-of-interest position, he could lose his job.

But at Friday's gathering Ford brushed aside questions about the case.

"That’s up to the judge," he told CBC News. "I had a great day, just came back from football, got my kids here, got my friends, my supporters. I’m sure everything will work out just fine."