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

City 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.

Key Dimensions & 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.


  • 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