TORONTO - It was a Rob Ford backyard barbecue for the public like no other.
More than 6,000 Torontonians turned out for the mayor’s annual Ford Fest backyard party Friday night, held in the sprawling, fountain-filled backyard of his mother’s home on Weston Wood Rd. in Etobicoke.
Ford invited the”whole city” to this year’s Ford Fest during a late-August radio interview.
He promised a “great time,” complete with beer, hotdogs and hamburgers.
And Ford delivered.
As endless lines of people of every shape, size, age, ethnicity and social class formed lines around the backyard’s in-ground pool, a live band cranked out classic rock from under a white tent.
This year’s barbecue comes at a particularly stressful time for Ford.
Since Wednesday, Toronto’s 64th mayor has been the main player in court proceedings to determine whether he was in conflict of interest when he participated in both a city council discussion and a vote to determine if he should repay more than $3,000 that he raised for his youth football foundation while a councillor.
Toronto’s integrity commissioner had blasted Ford in 2009 for allegedly using his status to solicit the donations.
If a judge finds Ford guilty, he could be tossed out of office.
“Some people think it’s a horrible thing to help kids out, but I’m helping them out!” Ford yelled to Friday-night’s crowd - a thinly veiled shot at the legal proceedings.
His brother, Councillor Doug Ford, told the Sun later the party was a healthy distraction for the mayor.
“I think this just goes to show how much support is out there for him,” he said.
Moments earlier, the mayor was on stage, alongside Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and a handful of city councillors, being presented with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by York Centre MP Mark Adler.
Not long after Ford put forth his invitation to the public, a member of Toronto’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual community posted a Facebook page urging those in the LGBT community to show up to the event.
One organizer hinted in the media that since Ford has routinely skipped Toronto’s Pride parade, they’d bring Pride to him.
One small group at the party - some of them wearing rainbow-patterned clothing - identified themselves as part of the LGBT community, but seemed to be set on having a peaceful evening instead of a confrontational one.
It was reported Thursday the Ford family had hired a private security firm and paid-duty officers to keep law and order at the party.