Okay, so I got lost on the way to Ford Fest.
The announcements said it was being held in Centennial Park so I took the Eglinton West 32A bus to the end of the line and started walking. I came to the park, but saw no signs of Ford life. It turns out that Centennial Park is roughly the size of Belgium – a huge swath of baseball diamonds, sports fields and golf links – and I was on the wrong side.
Like a downtowner, I looked for a cab. Ha! I called a cab, but the taxi guy needed an address and I was on a grassy verge in the middle of – who knows where? The dispatcher referred me to a Mississauga cab company, which referred me back to a Toronto company. I started walking over acres of newly mown grass. From behind a ski hill I heard distant strains of music. What was that they were playing? I made out Moves Like Jagger. Ah, Ford Fest.
This Fest, the first in Etobicoke held outside the Fords’ backyard, is the best-organized yet. I pass a line of 20 or so Ur-in-Luck (get it?) portable toilets. I come to the lineup for burgers and corn. The orderly queue stretches about 200 metres. There is a separate lineup for the beer tent and another for photos with Mayor Rob Ford, who waits like the girl in the kisses-for-cash booth at a country fair. As folks stop to praise him, he smiles shyly, shuffles his feet and, Elvis-like, mutters, “thank you, thank you very much.”
It is hard to tell how many people have come because they love Mr. Ford and how many because they love corn and beer, but the hard core of Ford Nation are here in good numbers. Jackie Baisden, 56, a nurse, says she is “celebrating the togetherness and love he shows us. He’s a people person. Just like he finds time for us, we find time for him.”
Her grandson Nicholas McComie, 10, says he plays soccer on an Etobicoke team and the mayor has come to see them. “I like him because he’ll make us laugh and say funny things,” says Nicholas. “He makes good decisions and he’s a very nice person.”
Behind the food line, kids tear up and down the ski hill as night falls and the bright field lights come on. A guy who makes balloon animals has a balloon array on his head that says “Ford.” All over, people wear Ford Fest Rocks T-shirts or wave Ford flags. At the music tent, singer Jenny James hands out the lyrics to her tune Mayor Ford (The World Will Remember), which she debuted at the previous Ford Fest, in Scarborough earlier this summer. The immortal words include, “We’ve seen tax-and-spend heroes before, their fancy speeches, oh what a bore.” No one seems bored tonight.
If politics is bread and circuses, the Fords know how to deliver. After an hour or so posing for pix, the mayor takes the stage. Camera phones flash. Kids are hoisted on shoulders. Cheers break out as Mr. Ford promises to “keep taxes low and put more money in your pockets.”
He tells his followers, “Words can’t describe what this means. This is truly a reflection of Ford Nation.” As he leaves the stage, his brother Doug yells, “God bless Ford Nation.” Another lusty roar from the crowd, and folks go back to their burgers and beer.