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Mayor Rob Ford speaks during a Toronto Mayoral election debate in Toronto, March 26, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)MARK BLINCH/Reuters

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford kicks off his re-election campaign Thursday with an event that will be "history in the making," promises his brother and campaign manager Doug Ford.

The controversial mayor is holding a campaign-launch party at the Toronto Congress Centre in Etobicoke. Invitations to the evening event promise free swag to early arrivals. There also will be Ford memorabilia for sale, a move designed to cash in on Rob Ford's celebrity status to raise money for his re-election bid.

The mayor has developed an international following and been the butt of countless jokes on late-night television since he admitted last November that he smoked crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor."

Doug Ford predicted "thousands and thousands" will show up, based in part on responses to thousands of automated calls made by the campaign to residents this week to promote the event. Those who receive the calls are prompted to indicate whether they plan to attend and also whether they will vote for the mayor.

Mr. Ford said the crowds will make the campaign event held by rivals Olivia Chow and John Tory look like a "tea party."

"It's going to be history in the making, I believe," the Etobicoke councillor said Wednesday. "I've been to a lot of political events. Nothing is going to compare to this."

Those who do come shouldn't expect any major campaign announcements along with their bobblehead dolls. Doug Ford said the mayor's 20-minute address will stick to his accomplishments.

There also will be no major announcements about the campaign organization itself – one Doug Ford describes as the best he has worked with in 30 years. He suggested that revealing who is working on the campaign could lead to their coming under public scrutiny.

New polling numbers released this week put the mayor in second place, behind former NDP MP Ms. Chow, but Mr. Ford said his brother continues to have a strong base that doesn't waver.

Ms. Chow will be targeting some of that base Thursday, knocking on doors in South Etobicoke, according to her campaign schedule.