What to Expect at Ford Fest 2013
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What to Expect at Ford Fest 2013

The mayor is holding a Scarborough-based version of his annual public barbecue tonight.

The crowd at Ford Fest 2012.

Every summer, Mayor Rob Ford holds Ford Fest, a giant outdoor barbecue that’s open to the public. The next one is happening tonight, July 5. (The Fords have suggested that there may be another, later in the summer.)

If you read Torontoist, chances are that you don’t agree with the mayor’s politics or his personal conduct, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t go to his party. The whole city is invited, and that includes you. Here’s how to make the most of your night out at Ford Nation’s moveable feast—assuming it isn’t completely rained out.

The Location

Ford Fest has historically been held in Etobicoke, in Ford’s mother’s backyard. This year, probably in recognition of the fact that running a political event as though it were a prom afterparty isn’t the best outreach strategy, the mayor is taking his show on the road. Tonight’s event takes place in Thomson Memorial Park, in Scarborough. It starts at 6 p.m.

When to Arrive

There’s no point in arriving late to Ford Fest. If you show up early, you’re not going to end up alone with the mayor, struggling to make awkward small talk. In fact, you’re unlikely to interact with him at all, beyond a possible handshake on your way in. In past years, he’s made himself scarce for the bulk of the event. His brother, Doug Ford, is more of a mingler, but he’ll be mobbed by photo-seeking supporters throughout the night.

You might as well arrive as close to 6 p.m. as possible. The Fords are expecting a crowd of thousands, so a timely arrival will ensure that you get a good parking spot. Going early will also allow you to catch speeches and photo-ops. At previous Ford Fests there have been some politicians (other than the Ford brothers) in attendance, but that was before the crack scandal. It should be interesting to see who takes the stage this year.

There will almost certainly be someone at the gate collecting names and email addresses. There’s no real reason to give fake information—the worst-case scenario is that your email gets added to Ford’s campaign mailing list—but you can make up a false name if you want.

Eat First

There are free hamburgers at Ford Fest, but they’re not to be relied upon. Last year, the line for food was about 90 minutes long. Hungry guests were grabbing as many burgers as they could hold in their hands. It was like watching footage of refugees at a Red Cross tent after a tsunami, except everyone was dressed for leisure. You don’t need the mayor’s meat. Have a sandwich beforehand.

The Atmosphere

It’s hard to generalize the people who show up to Ford Fest. The crowd in past years definitely hasn’t been as white or as geriatric as might be expected. Some attendees were clearly there for the free food and not the politics. It’s possible to get mildly buzzed on free beer and wine, and as long as you’re respectful, nobody will mistreat you or question your right to be there.

There will probably be a handful of odd personalities in attendance, but that’s true of any event related to city politics. On the other hand, you may find a contingent of curious outsiders like yourself.

The Music

The past two Ford Fests have had live music from a cover band called Gently Bent, whose drummer is Gary Crawford (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest), a council ally of the mayor’s. We don’t know if Crawford and company will be providing the soundtrack at tonight’s event, but we do know that a performer named Jenny James is, at some point, supposed to be doing a live version of the song in the video below, an original composition entitled “Mayor Ford (The World Will Remember).”

(Note the image, at :13, of Ford with a crack pipe Photoshopped into his hand. We assume its inclusion was a mistake.)