There are literally thousands of events, festivals, celebrations, games and gatherings that occur in Toronto which could easily be classified as Special Events.

ExpandCity of Toronto Definition of a Special Event

A special event is a sporting, cultural, business or other type of unique activity, occurring for a limited or fixed duration (one-time, annual) and presented to a live audience, that impacts the City of Toronto by involving the use of, or having impact on, the public realm (owned, leased or controlled by the City of Toronto). It usually occurs on the public realm but sometimes can 'spill over' from private property.

Activities that are part of a regular series or subscription are not deemed special events, unless they are an atypical activity outside the ordinary (e.g. A regular scheduled baseball game is not a special event, but the Championship Series is a special event).  Also excluded are construction-related permitting and film permits.

ExpandKey Dimensions and Criteria

There are a number of key dimensions and criteria that can influence the character and impact of a special event. The first set of bullets focus mostly on the scale of the event. Then there are two additional dimensions that can impact policy (characteristics of the proponent/organizer) and whether the event is gated (entry is controlled usually for liquor license or ticketing) or totally open to the public.

Scale

  • Length and frequency of activity: How many days and how often the event occurs.  
  • Number of venues, roads or sites: Single site/venue or multiple
  • Attendance: Number of participants and spectators expected
  • Out-of-town Attendance: Number of participants and/or spectators drawn from outside an 80km radius of Toronto
  • Quantity of City permits and/or approvals required
  • City coordination required: Number of services, divisions required and complexity of the event
  • Value of City services required:  Includes paid and in-kind services, does not include grant programs
  • Bidding Process: Is there a global bid process
  • Infrastructure Requirements:  Purpose-build facilities and infrastructure (transit, housing)
  • Measured Benefits: Economic, Tourism, Hotel Rooms, Media, Exposure

Two additional criteria would further divide each category:

  • Organizational status: Private, for profit, corporate or charitable, not-for-profit, government
  • Admission:  Open/free or Gated/charge

The City of Toronto uses SIX categories - Mega Events, A, B, C, D and Local Street and Community Event.

Category Descriptions

ExpandMega Event

Length: A minimum of two weeks, to up to six months

Frequency: Held every four years in rotating global locations

Number of venues, roads or sites: Unlimited (usually many across City and/or region)

Attendance: Unlimited (usually over 500,000)

Out-of-town Attendance: Over 100,000 out-of-town draw

Quantity of City permits and/or approvals required: Unlimited (usually many)

Value of City services required: Over $1,000,000

Bidding Process: Bid takes place on global scale, with significant international support and promotion required to be successful.

City Coordination Required: Production of event led by external organization or other order of government. City leads local event coordination, including venues and logistics.

Infrastructure Requirements: Purpose-built event facilities and significant levels of ancillary infrastructure (e.g. transit, housing, etc.)

Measured Benefits: Significant economic and business benefit, utilizes hotels City-wide, provides the City of Toronto with international media/branding opportunities via live broadcasting, and television, radio, or print advertising

Examples: Olympic Games (Winter or Summer), World Expo, FIFA World Cup

ExpandCategory A

A "Category A" event applies the following criteria:

 

Length: Could vary from a day to a month

Frequency:  Not occurring annually or repeating within five years

Number of venues, roads or sites: Unlimited (usually many)

Attendance: Unlimited (usually over 200,000)

Out-of-town Attendance: Over 50,000 out-of-town draw

Quantity of City permits and/or approvals required: Unlimited (usually many)

Value of City services required: Over $100,000

City coordination required: Multiple levels of government coordination and/or City-wide divisional coordination

Measured Benefits: High economic and business benefit, utilizes 3 or more hotels, provides the City of Toronto with media/branding opportunities via television, radio, or print advertising

Examples: World Youth Days and Papal Visit, 100th Grey Cup Festival

Example: 

Toronto has been chosen to play host to a World Youth Days attracting over 100,000 people to our City.  Events will be held across the city over a week period and involve major dignitaries, a parade of thousands and an open air mass.

Based on this information, the group would be required to:

  • Contact the City of Toronto Event Support Unit to discuss your event design and requirements at least 2 years from the proposed date(s) of the event as these events can require a multitude of City services
  • In some cases a dedicated staff person(s) or Secretariat will be established to liaise with the event

ExpandCategory B

The following criteria defines a "Category B" special event:

 

Length: Up to 1 month

Frequency: often annual

Number of venues, roads or sites: Up to 5 locations

Attendance: 20,000 to 200,000

Out-of-town Attendance: Minimum 25% out-of-town draw

Quantity of City permits and/or approvals required: 5 to 10

City coordination required: Over 3 City Divisions

Value of City services required:  Up to $100,000

Measured Benefits: International, national and local media coverage, economic and business benefit, promotes the City of Toronto within the event's marketing campaign

Examples:  Honda Indy, Luminato, Pride Festival, Taste of the Danforth, Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

Example 1: 

An annual arts festival takes place over a two week period at interior and exterior venues throughout the city drawing participants and audience from around the world.  The event has the support of corporate and government sponsors and portions are broadcast.  Part of the festival involves closure of roads throughout the city for several days.

Based on this information, the group would be required to:

  • Contact the City of Toronto Special Events, Event Support unit to discuss your event design and requirements at least 1 year from the proposed date(s) of the event
  • Contact Tourism Toronto to discuss hotel blockings, promotion and marketing of the event
  • Establish an internal working group / committee to meet frequently and address operational needs and potential City Services requirements, suggest monthly meetings until two months from the event and then Weekly or Bi-Weekly meetings until event date(s)
  • When securing private venues / properties for the event secure supporting documentation from Property owners or Management companies along with appropriate insurance requirements
  • Apply for Transportation Road Closure – Temporary Street Closure Permits well in advance to allow for proper vetting by City staff, in some cases multiple meeting with Transportation services will be required to address operational concerns
  • Provide a Certificate of Insurance to facilitate any Street Closure(s)
  • Notify impacted residents and business of any street closure(s)
  • Discuss buyout of Metered parking with Toronto Parking Authority anywhere that the event disrupts this service
  • Contact the TTC and discuss rerouting of Buses on any routes that may be disrupted due to the event or road closures associated with it (fees may apply)
  • Provide potential street closure signs and road barricades, depending on the nature of the street(s)
  • Submit a Toronto Fire Application to ensure emergency access through all road closures
  • Consult with Toronto EMS on emergency service coverage for all event dates
  • Submit  Public Health  Temporary Food Establishment Application for anywhere food will be served to the general public for purchase or otherwise
  • Ensure BBQ's are operated within safety standards if being used
  • Create a Site map of the proposed venue(s) for submission with your application(s)
  • Apply for Building Permit (s) through Toronto Building Services for any structures that may be erected
  • If Alcohol is to be served contact the City of Toronto Clerks office in writing and have the process to have your event declared an event of Municipal Significance prior to applying to the AGCO for a Special Occasion's Permit
  • If Alcohol is to be served contact the AGCO and apply for a Special Occasion's Permit (SOP)
  • Contact and consult with the Toronto Police Paid Duty office and discuss any requirements needed throughout the event for beer gardens, road closures, public safety, etc.
  • If using amplified sound, contact Municipal Licensing and Standards and apply for a Noise By-law exemption (if required, based on hours of operations)
  • Develop a Solid Waste Management Plan for the duration of the event, Solid Waste staff can assist you in developing requirements
  • Contact the Toronto film and Television office and secure any permits required for filming or live broadcast of the event

ExpandCategory C

The following criteria defines a "Category C" special event:

Length: Up to 5 days

Frequency: can be annual

Number of venues, roads or sites: Up to 5 locations

Attendance: 10,000 to 50, 000

Out-of-town Attendance: Minimum 10% out-of-town draw

Quantity of City permits and/or approvals required: 5 to 10

City coordination required: Up to 3 City Divisions

Value of City services required:  Up to $50,000

Measured Benefits: Local media coverage, economic and business benefit, promotes the City of Toronto within the event's marketing campaign

Examples: Canada Day Events, Khalsa Day, Sporting Life 10K, Toronto Ribfest, Woofstock, Ride for Heart

Example:

An organization wants to hold a 5KM Charitable Run to benefit a local charity on a Sunday  morning using several City Streets to facilitate the run and require these roads to be closure for a period of time . The race would start and finish at a Festival Site located on a Civic Square close to the race route.  The 5KM Charitable Run has the support of corporate sponsors and portions of it will be broadcast on television.

Based on this information, the group would be required to:

  • Establish an internal working group / committee to meet frequently and address operational needs and potential City Services requirements for the proposed Race, suggest monthly meetings until two months from the event and then Weekly or Bi-Weekly meetings until the Race date(s)
  • Create a Site map of the proposed Race Route for discussion and eventual submission with your Temporary Street Closure application(s)
  • Contact the City of Toronto, Transportation Services, Right of Way Management Department to discuss your proposed race design, requirements and date(s)
  • Apply for a street closure permit in accordance with City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 743, Use of Streets and Sidewalks through the City of Toronto, Transportation Services, Right of Way Management Office.  Characteristics of a Foot/Road Race may include but are not limited to:
    • Requires the closure and use of multiple local roads or sites
    • Requires coordination with a variety of City Services
    • Participant numbers can be between 500 – 25,000
    • May have a combination of Charitable, Corporate and Civic partners
  • Applications should be submitted based on the following time lines:
    • eight weeks prior to the first day of the proposed closure on any boulevard and on any local road
    • 12 weeks prior to the first day of the proposed closure on a collector road
    • 16 weeks prior to the first day of the proposed closure on an arterial road
    • 52 weeks prior to the first day of the proposed closure on an expressway
  • Provide a Certificate of Insurance to facilitate any Street Closure(s)
  • Notify impacted residents and business of any street closure(s)
  • Discuss buyout of Metered parking with Toronto Parking Authority anywhere that the Race disrupts this service
  • Contact the TTC and discuss rerouting of Buses on any routes that may be disrupted due to the Race or road closures associated with it (fees may apply)
  • Provide potential street closure signs and road barricades, depending on the nature of the street(s) to be closed
  • Submit a Toronto Fire Application to ensure emergency access through all road closures
  • Consult with Toronto EMS on emergency service coverage for all Race dates
  • Contact and consult with the Toronto Police Paid Duty office and discuss any requirements needed throughout the Race such as road closures, public safety, etc.
  • If using amplified sound, contact Municipal Licensing and Standards and apply for a Noise By-law exemption (if required, based on hours of operations)
  • Develop a Solid Waste Management Plan for the duration of the Race, Solid Waste staff can assist you in developing requirements
  • Contact the Toronto film and Television office and secure any permits required for filming or live broadcast of the Race
  • Apply for Building Permit (s) through Toronto Building Services for any structures that may be erected
  • Apply for permits required for the use of the appropriate Civic Square and review any and all conditions that may apply

ExpandCategory D

Criteria for a "Category D" special event:

Length: Up to 3 days,

Frequency: can be annual

Number of venues, roads or sites: One location

Attendance: 2,000 to 10,000

Out-of-town Attendance: Minimal

Quantity of City permits and/or approvals required: Under 5

Value of City services required:  Between $1,500 and $25,000

City coordination required: Single Division

Measured Benefits: Local Business Benefit

Examples:  Festival on Bloor, Himalayan Festival, Toronto Challenge, Turkish Festival

Example:

A local Business Improvement Area (BIA) wishes to host a new street festival to celebrate a cultural holiday. They wish to close the main street, serve food, have a beer garden, and entertainment including bands, buskers and a few carnival rides.  The street has a bus route and metered street parking.

Based on this information, the group would be required to:

  • Obtain a Transportation – Temporary Street Closure Permit
  • Provide a Certificate of Insurance to facilitate the Street Closure
  • Notify impacted residents and business of the street closure
  • Provide potential street closure signs and road barricades, depending on the nature of the street
  • Submit a Toronto Fire Street Closure Application to ensure emergency access
  • Submit a Public Health Temporary Food Establishment Application
  • Ensure BBQ's are operated within safety standards
  • Create a Site map of the proposed venue for submission with your application
  • Contact City of Toronto Clerks office in writing and have the process to have your event declared an "Event of Municipal Significance" prior to applying to the AGCO for a Special Occasion's Permit to allow the service of Alcohol
  • Contact the AGCO and apply for a Special Occasion's Permit (SOP) to allow the service of Alcohol
  • Contact the Toronto Police Paid Duty office once you have received your SOP and book any Paid Duty officers that may be required
  • If using amplified sound, contact Municipal Licensing and Standards and apply for a Noise By-law exemption (if required, based on hours of operations)
  • Develop a Solid Waste Management Plan
  • For amusement rides to be considered for use at a special event/festival you must obtain the appropriate Technical Standards and Safety Association (TSSA) Certification and Insurance OR make sure your supplier has these
  • Discuss buyout of Metered parking with Toronto Parking Authority
  • Contact the TTC and discuss rerouting of Buses on this route (fees may apply)

ExpandLocal Street and Community Event

The Criteria for a "Local Street and Community Event" is:

Length: Under 1 day to 2 days,

Frequency: annual or can be a one off, local event

Number of venues, roads or sites: One location

Attendance: Less than 2000

Out-of-town Attendance: Minimal

Quantity of City permits and/or approvals required: Under 3

Value of City services required:  Under $1500

City coordination required: Single Division

Measured Benefits: Local community focus

Example 1 - LOCAL BLOCK PARTY

A group of residents is organizing a local block party to get to know their neighbours. They wish to close a side street, put up some inflatable bouncy castles, have a BBQ, and perhaps invite police and fire to provide community information.

Based on this information, the group would be required to:

  • Provide a Certificate of Insurance to facilitate the Street Closure
  • Notify impacted residents and business of the street closure
  • Provide potential street closure signs and road barricades, depending on the nature of the street
  • Submit a Toronto Fire Street Closure Application to ensure emergency access to road during closure
  • Submit a Public Health Temporary Food Establishment Package
  • Ensure BBQ's are operated within safety standards
  • Contact their local Toronto Police Station – Community Response Unit about an appearance
  • Contact Toronto Fire Services – Education Unit about an appearance

We would also recommend informing the local City Councillor, and BIA (if applicable), for information purposes.

 

Example 2 - SOCCER TOURNAMENT:

A local adult soccer club wishes to host a tournament and end of season party in their local park. They wish to erect a small stage for entertainment, serve food and have a beer garden in a tented area.

Based on this information, the group would be required to:

  • Obtain a Parks, Forestry & Recreation – Special Events Permit for a City of Toronto Park
  • Create a site map of the park, noting activities and structures, for submission with your application
  • Potentially apply for a Building Permit  if tent is over 60 sqm/600 sqf
  • Provide a Certificate of Insurance to facilitate the Parks, Forestry & Recreation permit  and Toronto Building Services Permit 
  • Contact City of Toronto Clerks office in writing and to have your event declared an "Event of Municipal Significance" prior to applying to the AGCO for a Special Occasion's Permit to allow the service of alcohol
  • Contact the AGCO and apply for a Special Occasion's Permit (SOP) to allow the service of alcohol
  • Contact the Toronto Police Paid Duty office once you have received your SOP and consulted with Parks, Forestry and Recreation to book any Paid Duty officers that may be required
  • If using amplified sound, contact Municipal Licensing and Standards and apply for a Noise By-law exemption (if required, based on hours of operations)
  • Submit a Public Health Temporary Food Establishment Application Organizers & Vendor Packages
  • Ensure BBQ's are operated within safety standards
  • Develop a Solid Waste Management Plan for your event

 

Example 3 - HIGH SCHOOL PARADE:

A high school wishes to hold a neighbourhood parade to celebrate the football team's championship win. They ask if Toronto City Council can recognize the win.

Based on this information, the group would be required to:

  • Contact the Toronto Police Services, Traffic Services and apply for a Parade Permit
  • Arrange for any Police Services that may be required to facilitate the parade once route and streets are determined
  • Develop a Solid Waste Management Plan for the parade route
  • Contact the City of Toronto, City Clerk's Protocol Office to request a congratulatory scroll or proclamation