Anne Rota

Downton Abbey comes to Amherstburg



By Ron Giofu


People dressed in their Sunday finest and came down to King’s Navy Yard Park Sunday for the first-ever Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

The event was presented in partnership between the town’s tourism department and the Belle Vue Conservancy. There were two sittings with manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota stating there were about 250 tickets sold combined.

“It’s a good number especially for a first year considering what a wet and dreary spring we had,” said Rota. “People were watching the weather forecasts. Mother Nature shined on us today.”

The weather for the tea was warm and sunny and Rota said the location proved to be a draw as well.

“I think, given the location of King’s Navy Yard Park and the magnificent blooms of the rhododendrons and azalea gardens, it’s a perfect fit for a garden tea party.”

A fundraising total for the Belle Vue restoration was not known as of press time, but Rota said the Downton Abbey-themed event was about raising awareness of the 200-year-old mansion as well. Belle Vue sits at 525 Dalhousie St. and the Belle Vue Conservancy is in its second year of raising money trying to try and restore it.

Joanna Starczewski, Maya Dobosz and David Wagner were winners of the costume awards at the morning session of the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party May 27. At right is Linda Jackson of the Belle Vue Conservancy.

The day also raised awareness of Amherstburg and the Navy Yard Park, Rota added.

“I think the Royal Wedding inspired people to come out in their hats and fascinators,” she added. “It’s all about costumes, role playing and coming out and having a great time in Amherstburg. That’s why we are Amherstburg Uncommon.”

The Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, which Rota alluded to, is Aug. 3-5.

Michael Prue and Shirley Curson-Prue were dressed to the nines for the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

Linda Jackson, chair of corporate outreach for the Belle Vue Conservancy, pointed out the role Bob and Norma Sutherland had in creating the rhododendron and azalea beds in Navy Yard Park. She also recognized the volunteers who have maintained and grown the beds since.

Jackson added it was nice to see Navy Yard Park used that way. She also noted the proceeds from the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party will benefit the restoration of Belle Vue, which is getting a new roof. The windows are the next phase of the restoration project with fundraising currently underway for that.

“She will truly be a gem in the Windsor-Essex County area,” said Jackson, of Belle Vue.

Martha Minogue-Fiorino plays the harp during the morning session of the May 27 Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

David and Helen Wagner of Windsor came to Amherstburg for the event and dressed in costume.

“We are into steampunk,” explained Helen. “We’ve been doing it for about seven years.”

David added they have a costume room at their home with various different steampunk attire.

For more photos, visit our Facebook album.

Amherstburg to spend upwards of $75,000 to devise new “branding strategy”



By Ron Giofu


Town council is moving ahead with a new branding strategy that could cost upwards of $75,000.

Council authorized administration to proceed with an agreement with Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc. at cost not to exceed $75,000 plus HST to develop a “branding strategy” for the town. Council approved up to $80,000 for such an initiative in the 2018 capital budget.

According to a report from manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota, the proposed branding strategy “will guide Amherstburg into a successfully integrated marketing and promotions plan that will be competitive with current and developing market trends. This will include a strong online and social media communications program with campaigns to raise the profile of Amherstburg.”

Key project deliverables for the Amherstburg branding strategy include development of a “comprehensive research paper” that will deal with perceptions of internal and external audiences, the source of the perceptions and suggestions for changing them through branding and marketing. Another goal that will be delivered through the strategy includes development of a new town logo and communications “for print and digital for the purpose of incenting visitation and targeting high yield consumer segments.”

Might we be seeing less of this logo in the future? A new branding strategy has been approved with a new logo part of that strategy.

The branding strategy will also lead to a new tourism website, a communications strategy and a “brand identity manual” and communications plan.

“Currently, Amherstburg has fallen behind in marketing and promotion in comparison to other municipalities in the region,” Rota said in her report. “Through the enhanced branding strategy, Amherstburg will build a competitive and sustainable tourism and economic vehicle attracting high yield consumers, maximizing the potential for growth as a destination of choice to visit and invest in.”

The strategic plan that council approved identified marketing, promotion and economic development as needs and goals for the community.

Not all council members were sold on the idea, however. Councillor Diane Pouget said she was opposed to the idea at budget time and remains opposed. She called it a “total waste of taxpayers’ money” and said the town’s logo and colours are not “tired,” but reflected the town’s military history.

The town’s ability to attract festivals and the possibility of a hotel announcement soon shows the town is gaining attention, she believed. The town must “live within its means” and the money could be used for other things, including infrastructure as it is “crumbling in rural areas.”

Town to take over River Lights Winter Festival



By Ron Giofu


The River Lights Winter Festival is now going to be run directly by the town.

While a volunteer committee oversaw the festival for its first decade in existence, the town will now take it over after the request was made by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce. According to a report from manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota, River Lights draws over 20,000 people annually to the downtown core and the volunteer committee has raised over $550,000 for the festival.

“Administration has met with the Chamber and its subcommittee on a number of occasions related to the above request. The basis for the request lies in the limited ‘go forward’ capacity, in terms of resources, of the Chamber to continue to deliver the festival,” Rota stated in her report.

There are 109 displays that are being transferred to the town, valued at approximately $100,000, with the River Lights committee also having about $25,000 cash in the bank and $25,000 in investments. Rota’s preliminary forecast for 2018 calls for $70,000 in revenue and expenses totalling $65,000.

The River Lights Winter Festival drew an estimated crowd of 28,000-30,000 people in 2017-18.

The town historically has committed $5,000 under the approved base budget “however, if event costs are covered by revenues from third parties and the town is directly operating the request, no further town contribution may be required,” Rota wrote.

Rota added the parks department labour costs have traditionally be donated in-kind. The 13-member volunteer committee, she added, would be interested in continuing to assist.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she supported the request.

“It’s the only way we can keep it,” she said. “We have to agree to take on the project.”

CAO John Miceli said he believes the festival will be enhanced. Miceli was questioned by Councillor Leo Meloche as to whether this will be a line item in the budget, and Miceli answered in the affirmative.

The River Lights has been named a “Top 100 Festival in Ontario” eight times by Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO).

This is Amherstburg – your community, your neighbourhood, your home


With its idyllic scenery and old-world charm, the town of Amherstburg sits on the banks of the famed Detroit River and Lake Erie. As one of the province’s most revered and beloved small towns, Amherstburg’s quaint, Victorian waterfront location has cemented its reputation as one of the most beautiful and sublime properties in all of Canada.

The Town of Amherstburg’s Department of Tourism and Culture is once again proud to present the 2018 Visitors Guide. In its pages, visitors and residents will discover the wealth of activities, retailers and services that make this town so remarkable – from art galleries to celebrated restaurants, world-class events to extraordinary museums, there’s always something new to discover in this astonishing town.

2018 marks the introduction of our newest festival, Amherstburg Uncommon. In celebration of Amherstburg’s architecture and design, we are eagerly presenting this steampunk and wizardry-themed event with great excitement. This rapidly growing cultural genre is a nod to Amherstburg’s rising reputation as one of the most progressive small towns in the country; it has been designed to draw in families and individuals by the tens of thousands!  Thanks to its elements of magic, mystic and mystery we are so proud to live here and host this event.

Amherstburg’s dedication to culture and tourism is unparalleled. In addition to the keen and enthusiastic team who are always happy to meet residents and visitors at the Gordon House, none of its efforts could be executed without the allegiance and hard work of the hundreds of volunteers who live, work and play in Amherstburg. Our mandate and obligation is to continually grow interest in this magnificent town, whether attracting visitors to our restaurants, stores and service providers, or enticing newcomers to put down roots and make this place their home.

And so, with pleasure, we invite you to check out and keep this guide, sharing it with your friends, families and neighbours. It is our honor to showcase this town, and we could not do it without you.




The Town of Amherstburg Department of Tourism and Culture

New festival coming to Amherstburg this August



By Ron Giofu


The Town of Amherstburg’s tourism department was so pleased with the results of last year’s “Canuck it Up!” Festival that it is now adding another August festival.

“Amherstburg Uncommon” will be held Aug. 3-5 and while tourism officials aren’t officially disclosing details until the March 19 town council meeting. In the meantime, they have received $23,350 under the province’s “Celebrate Ontario” grant program to help plan the event.

“We saw the application for the Celebrate Ontario 2018 grant as an opportunity to bring another large-scale event to Amherstburg,” said manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota. “Amherstburg Uncommon festival is hosted in Amherstburg but we see this as a large regional event.”

Even though the town has received the provincial grant, Rota said they will still be seeking corporate partners and sponsors as well as budgeted funds for the event.

“Definitely, our goal is to boost business for the downtown merchants and all businesses in Amherstburg,” she said. “Everyone knows Amherstburg is rebranding itself and positioning itself as wanting to attract new business and new investment. A great way to do that is through growing our attraction portfolio. By strengthening our festivals and events, we enhance the visitor experience therefor increasing attendance. People spend more money and we hope it leads to job creation.”

There will be a “symposium” for business owners to learn more about the festival and other 2018 events March 27 at the Libro Centre. Two meetings are planned with business owners invited to either the 8 a.m. meeting or the 3 p.m.

“We encourage all business owners and stakeholders to come out,” said Rota, “not only to find out about the new event, but everything relating to tourism and culture for the year.”

The “Amherstburg Uncommon” event will be “inclusive,” said Rota, adding that “people are going to be able to take part.”

“This will be a very family-friendly event,” she continued. “Receiving the grant makes us feel comfortable the Ministry of Tourism and Sport recognizes the potential of this new event.”