Events

House Youth Centre teams with Windsor-Essex Pride Fest on new program

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

The House Youth Centre has entered into a new partnership with Windsor-Essex Pride Fest.

The two non-profit organizations have announced plans to launch a new program for local LGBTQ+ youth.

The program, named LGBTQ Connect, will run out of the House on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.  Program co-creator Jolene Perron said it will use a peer-support structure, similar to the one the House employs for its other programming.

“(LGBTQ Connect) is going to be about positive affirmation and camaraderie, which is super important for the LGBTQ+ community,” Perron said.  “We don’t have a whole lot of organizations where you can go and talk about what’s on your mind or you can feel that sense of community in Amherstburg.”

House of Shalom Youth Centre and Windsor-Essex Pride Fest members sit together on the House’s back staircase. The two charities have joined forces to support local LGBTQ+ youth by starting a new program.

Windsor-Essex Pride Fest (WE Pride) president David Lenz said the lack of resources for LGBTQ persons in the county has been a major concern for his organization.  In January, WE Pride held a community consultation with Amherstburg Community Services, where Lenz and his colleagues listened to the concerns of county-based sexual minorities.  The general consensus of the evening was that LGBTQ+ persons living outside of the City of Windsor feel a sense of social isolation and lack opportunities for community-building.

LGBTQ Connect, Lenz hopes, will help address that issue.

“Why reinvent the wheel when you’ve got great people in the community already?” he said.  “We’ve partnered with the House to reach a demographic that we heard through online polls feels under-served.”

LGBTQ Connect is for youth aged 13-20, which expands upon the 14-18 age-range the House Youth Centre’s other programs serve.

Sam Major Bebbington stands in front of his partner, Jolene Perron. Major Bebbington is co-leading the LGBTQ Connect program, which the House Youth Centre and Windsor-Essex Pride Fest are collaborating on.

House Youth Centre activities coordinator Ashley Marchand said the program is “essential” for youth in Amherstburg.  She said the number of the House’s members who identify as LGBTQ+ have steadily increased over the past few years.  As the number of marginalized youth increases, Marchand believes their need for support does, too.

“One fifth of our youth identify as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community,” she said.  “The more we looked into programs that are being offered to them, the less we found unless they were able to drive to Windsor, which is often not a possibility for youths in this age bracket.”

The program is being funded by part of a $450 thousand trillium grant WE Pride received in support of its programming.

They money is going towards expanding WE Pride’s programming in multiple communities, Lenz said.  He added that his organization’s partnership with the House Youth Centre won’t be its last foray into Amherstburg.  He said that if local LGBTQ+ persons or allies have ideas for programming, they are welcome to contact WE Pride through their website at www.wepridefest.com.

The House Youth Centre can be reached through its website at www.houseofshalom.ca or by calling 519-736-6811. The House is located at 247 Brock St., at the corner of Brock St. and Gore St.

Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest this weekend, volunteers needed

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The ninth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest is this weekend and volunteers are still needed.

Carl Gibb, chair of the Ribfest committee, acknowledged that “we need volunteers” but said plans are coming together nicely nonetheless.

“Things are going well,” said Gibb.

Four ribbers – Ribs Royale, Texas Rangers BBQ, Dinosaur and Fat Boys BBQ – are anticipated to converge at Centennial Park in what will be the final Ribfest at that location. There will also the return of the Golden Onion, Elephant Ears, ice cream, specialty fries, hamburgers, desserts and more.

A wide variety of vendors are also expected to be on site.

The bands, organized this year by an entertainment committee led by Rick Rock and John D’Alimonte, feature such performers as Bad Romance, Soul Minors, Soul Delegation and Buck Twenty Friday night, the Rio Michaels Trio, Johnny Toronto, Throwback Kings, Jody Raffoul, Dusty, No Drama and South River Slim on Saturday with Sunday’s lineup featuring Adam Butcher, Back to Back, The Delvitos, and Chris Borshuk and Kelly Hoppe.

“It’s an exciting time this year because of the bands we have,” said Laura George, a Rotarian and member of the Ribfest committee.

“We’re hoping for big crowds due to the bands we’ve got,” added Gibb.

The Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest returns to Centennial Park July 6-8. Volunteers are still needed for this year’s event. It will be the final Ribfest at Centennial Park.

Organizers are hoping for the biggest Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest yet.

As for next year, the search continues for a new location. Centennial Park will be unavailable as 15 of the 27 acres was sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board for a new public high school.

“We hope to continue to work with the town. The town is attentive to our needs,” said George.

Gibb added it’s a good feeling that both the public and the ribbers want to come back every year.

The Ribfest committee will enter the weekend thinking of one of its members, as Barb Brookbanks recently passed away.

“It’s kind of left a hole,” said George. “We were able to rally and we tried to fill her shoes.”

For more information, visit www.amherstburgrotary.com and click on the “Ribfest” tab at the top of the screen.

To volunteer, contact Ann Marie Favot at 519-980-7697 or George at 519-982-2684.

The Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest runs from 12-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 12-7 p.m. Sunday.

Planning for Amherstburg Uncommon Festival ongoing

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Plans for the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival are underway and town tourism officials believe things are coming together nicely.

The festival, planned to be in the downtown core including Navy Yard Park and Toddy Jones Park, is set for Aug. 3-5 and manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota is enthusiastic about what the Civic Holiday weekend will do for the town.

“Something uncommon is about to hit the streets of Amherstburg,” said Rota. “Every day, a new exciting activity is added. By Aug. 3-5, people are going to be amazed at what is going to be in Amherstburg.”

Among the list of activities is a children’s innovation pavilion in Navy Yard Park which will include robotics, falconry and flight demonstrations, a straw maze, hat making, ghost walks, costume contests, tea pot races, a Canadian Historic Aircraft aerial display, quidditch games, psychic readings and Dr. Von Houligan’s Carnival of Calamities. The latter will see a big top set up in Toddy Jones Park with tickets to enter being available at WFCU.

“Tickets are only $5 each because of a generous donation from WFCU, who sponsored the tent,” said Rota.

Rota said even the tourism department is surprised by the level of interest the festival has been receiving.

“We are amazed with the popularity of Harry Potter and steampunk,” said Rota. “We never thought there would be so much interest out there.”

The bulk of the event will be free, said Rota, and noted they have received a number of sponsors that have helped with costs.

“The streets will be filled with activities for the entire three days,” she said. “There are some very, very uncommon and unusual acts. We have fireworks every single night that ends the show.”

The costume contest will be judged by representatives from Windsor Comic-Con and have male, female and children categories.

“We will have giant steam engines on display and a chuckwagon at Toddy Jones Park,” added Rota.

What will be involved with the “Insecta Alley” will be left as a surprise for now, she stated.

There is no plan to have food trucks or vendors involved, Rota said, with people encouraged to visit local restaurants as many will have Harry Potter and steampunk-themed menus.

“We are really encouraging people to visit downtown businesses and restaurants,” she said.

For more information on the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, call the tourism office at 519-730-1309, visit www.amherstburg.ca/uncommon or visit the tourism department’s Facebook page by searching “Amherstburg Connection.” The public can also follow the tourism department on Twitter by searching @AmherstburgNow.

General Amherst art students do something “uncommon” for upcoming festival

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A group of General Amherst High School art students will have a presence at the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival whether they are there in person or not.

Grade 11 students Mackenzie Szwed, Antonio Simone and Grace D’Alimonte created three large paintings depicting scenes from the film “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and they will be displayed during the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival that will be held Aug. 3-5.

Teacher Andrea Craig-Wammes pointed out that students Vanessa Favot and Ryan Sinasac helped out when they could. Craig-Wammes worked with tourism co-ordinator Jennifer Ibrahim on developing a project for General Amherst art students then the students took it from there.

D’Alimonte said working as a team made the project enjoyable and Szwed called it “really fun” to be a part of.

The group spent about 40-45 hours after school on the project with preparation work starting as early as January.

Amherst art students created work for the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival. From left: Mackenzie Szwed, Antonio Simone, Grace D’Alimonte.

“We knew it was going to be a big project,” said Simone.

The paintings depict “three establishing moments in the story,” he added with D’Alimonte stating “it tells the story just by the three (paintings).”

Ibrahim said the paintings will be displayed by the straw maze during the festival.

“It’s something we can look back on,” added Szwed.

Simone said Craig-Wammes encouraged them to “think outside the box” and that it paid off.

“This is a community project,” stated Ibrahim.

Ibrahim added that it showcases the “best in Amherstburg” in terms of artwork and that visitors from around southwestern Ontario and Michigan will be among those to view their work. The plan is to display the paintings annually.

Craig-Wammes added that the project was student-led and that they used outdoor acrylic paint to create the subject matter.

General Amherst preparing for the return of the OFSAA “AA” volleyball championship

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Preparations are continuing for the return of the OFSAA “AA” volleyball championship to Amherstburg and Windsor.

General Amherst High School is hosting the tournament, but matches will be played not only at General Amherst but at the St. Clair College Sportsplex as well. Jeff Miller, a teacher and senior girls volleyball coach at General Amherst, said Amherst will host the consolation final as well as the bronze and gold medal games.

The tournament starts March 3, 2019 with the banquet at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts and actual game action runs from March 4-6. It is the second time that General Amherst has hosted OFSAA, the first time being in 2012.

Miller said they are trying to ensure that each team has to come to Amherstburg at least once for a game.

The 20-team tournament will see the champions of the 18 regional athletic associations in Ontario come to the area as well as a second team from the region that has last year’s champion. General Amherst will also play in the tournament as the host team.

“They know about it but I don’t think they understand what it entails yet,” said Miller.

The last time the General Amherst Lady Gens advanced to OFSAA was in 2015, meaning no members of the team the school will have next year will have played in the provincial tournament.

“We’ll have a pretty young team next year but a pretty decent team,” said Miller. “The biggest thing for us from a developmental standpoint is it makes our season three to four weeks longer.”

With OFSAA now a guarantee, Miller said that allows them to gain more practice time and obtain experience playing some of the top girls volleyball teams in Ontario.

“It’s going to help us for the following year,” he said.

The 2012 tournament received good reviews as people enjoyed the drive into Amherstburg and the experience of them being here. Miller and assistant coach Mary Ewer have been to ten OFSAA championships, and they would like to use their past experiences travelling to OFSAA as well as hosting OFSAA to make this tournament the best it can be.

“Ideally, we are trying to create a good experience for the 20 teams the will be coming here,” he said.

Miller said they will be seeking out sponsors in the coming months and will be using a lot of General Amherst students as volunteers during the tournament.

“We’re going to need 40-50 volunteers in all different aspects,” said Miller.

They are also planning to give out information on local restaurants and businesses to people visiting Amherstburg.

“A lot of people coming here have never been to this area before,” he said.

There will be approximately 300 players taking part in the 2019 OFSAA “AA” girls volleyball championship and Miller estimates upwards of 1,000 people coming in total when parents and other supporters are factored in.