Locked out workers picketing outside the CNE grounds chanted and rallied while officials, including Premier Doug Ford and Mayor John Tory, took the stage to open the annual event.

During opening remarks, picketers nearly drowned out the premier and mayor, who helped kick-off of the 140th Canadian National Exhibition on Friday morning.

Striking technical and staging experts were locked out of Exhibition Place in July.

The president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 58 said striking staff were asked by Exhibition Place to suspend picketing until after the CNE, a request he says the union refused.

Exhibition Place previously said a contingency plan is in place and it will be business as usual for the CNE this year, though visitors can expect to walk through a picket line to get into the annual event.

“When you’re the mayor you accept responsibility for a lot of things. I accept that fact,” Tory said of the ongoing strike. “I just thank god we live in country where people can come and express their views. We want to make sure the CNE is very successful and everyone feels welcome to come down here, as I hope they will.”

Ford would not comment much on the ongoing disruption, saying the strike is ‘not his territory.’

“They have the right to strike. They have the right to voice their opinions,” he said. “I wish them all the best…After they finish protesting they should come in and enjoy some food and come in and have fun.”

Ford also took some time to share memories made at the CNE with his late brother, former Toronto city councilor and mayor, Rob Ford.

“It’s a tradition in the Ford family. You have to come to The Ex,” he said. “We’d come down here go to a food building and eat… We’d always go on rides first then the food building.”

The annual fair and festivities were opened with a procession of the Toronto Police Mounted Unit and The Band of the Royal Regiment of Canada.

Highlights at this year’s events include the debut of The Zipper, which has undergone a “makeover” this year. Culinary highlights include chocolate-banana steak eclairs, s’more fried chicken sandwiches, and pickle ice cream.

Admission to the grounds today is $10 at the gate.

- With files from the Canadian Press