Anne Rota

About 500 from Windsor-Essex County attend Holiday House Tours

 

By Ron Giofu

 

People from Amherstburg and surrounding municipalities streamed through the ten houses that were decorated and on display for the Holiday House Tours.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo snaps a photo on his phone of some of the decorations at the Bondy House Bed & Breakfast. DiCarlo and wife Laura were two of the roughly 500 people that toured the ten locations that were decorated for Christmas.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo snaps a photo on his phone of some of the decorations at the Bondy House Bed & Breakfast. DiCarlo and wife Laura were two of the roughly 500 people that toured the ten locations that were decorated for Christmas.

The house tours, a part of the ongoing River Lights Winter Festival, saw ten houses on display with nine of them being private homes and the tenth being the Park House Museum. Monica Bunde, who helped co-ordinate the tours and was a decorator of one of the homes, said the Park House was the “tea room” stop on the tour with the other homes being clustered around the municipality.

The homes were decorated either by local businesses, by decorators or the homeowners themselves.

“We’ve expanded the footprint this year,” said Bunde. “We’ve expanded outside of the downtown core so people get the feel for all of Amherstburg.”

The homes were concentrated in different areas of the town with four, counting the Park House, being within walking distance in the Dalhousie St./Rankin Ave. area, three more within Amherst Pointe, one at the corner of Alma and Victoria St. S. and the other two in the former Anderdon Township.

Debbie Scott and Suzanne Shepley volunteered at the home on Front Road South.

Debbie Scott and Suzanne Shepley volunteered at the home on Front Road South.

“It made it easier,” explained Bunde. “You can park and walk to see three or four homes then go to the next section.”

Bunde said they not only wanted visitors to see the homes themselves, but visit the boutiques and restaurants in Amherstburg as well.

“People have been booking lunch or dinner,” added Anne Rota, the town’s manager of tourism and culture. “It’s a package. It’s not just looking at the homes. It’s an economic stimulus for the town.”

Homes that were considered somewhat “iconic” were featured on this year’s Holiday House Tour. Bunde said many of the homes have been the subject of people wondering what they looked like on the inside and the house tours gave people that glimpse.

A Park Ave. home was decorated on two floors, with the photo being taken on an upper floor.

A Park Ave. home was decorated on two floors, with the photo being taken on an upper floor.

Not only did people willingly open their homes this year, but Rota said there are already six requests from homeowners to be on the Holiday House Tours in 2017. She remarked there could soon be a waiting list for homes.

Rota added that early estimates had about 50 per cent of the attendees be from outside of Amherstburg as a lot of people from the Windsor-Essex County area converged on the town for the tours.

Carolyn Davies and Merv Richards had their home, the Bondy House Bed & Breakfast, as one of the stops on the tour. Davies, the current president of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC), agreed that it was a great event that brought hundreds of people to town. She said not only did it bring the people, but it strengthened the local economy in the process.

“It’s an event, it’s an experience,” added Bunde. “It’s for everyone.”

It is estimated that 500 people turned out for this year’s Holiday House Tours.

Amherstburg showcased for Communities in Bloom national judges

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg was on display for the national Communities in Bloom judges late last week and now the town awaits to see how it did.

Sylvie Cormier from Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec and Colleen Stockford from Sussex, New Brunswick were in Amherstburg last Thursday through Saturday taking a look at the town and seeing what it has to offer. They were given a look at Boblo last Thursday but the main tour was by trolley all-day Friday with stops including the Libro Centre, the Walker Aggregates quarry, Holiday Beach Conservation Area, the Canadian Coast Guard base, Fort Malden National Historic Site with lunch being in the middle of that tour at the Park House Museum.

Communities in Bloom judges Sylvie Cormier and Colleen Stockford were joined by council members and administration during a tour of Amherstburg last Friday. One of the stops was Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada.

Communities in Bloom judges Sylvie Cormier and Colleen Stockford were joined by council members and administration during a tour of Amherstburg last Friday. One of the stops was Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada.

The Saturday portion of the tour included a walk through Navy Yard Park led by parks manager Annette Zahaluk and historian Robert Honor.

“It’s fabulous,” Stockford said after Friday’s tour. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been knowledgeable but fun as well.”

Cormier said she was impressed by not only what she saw, but who she met as well.

“The people have been so kind and nice,” said Cormier. “They are proud of their city and community as well. I am very impressed.”

Stockford stated they were happy with the agenda items on the tour, but the surprises they received along the way as well. Those surprises included each of the judges getting to fire a musket while at Fort Malden.

Those who live in the area may take for granted some of the amenities Amherstburg has, added Stockford, but the town has qualities which stand out to visitors.

“You are luck to have what you have here,” she said.

Cormier pointed out the many volunteers the town has and those volunteers helped ensure the judges had a great visit.

“It takes a lot of people to put this on,” noted Stockford. “They made us feel a part of it.”

Judge Sylvie Cormier fires a musket at Fort Malden.

Judge Sylvie Cormier fires a musket at Fort Malden.

Judge Colleen Stockford fires a musket at Fort Malden.

Judge Colleen Stockford fires a musket at Fort Malden.

Amherstburg was their final stop on a two-week judging trip. Also included as part of their journey were the other towns Amherstburg is competing against in the 9,001-25,000 population category. Those include Bois-des-Filion, Quebec, South Huron, Ontario and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

The judges were impressed not only with the beauty of the town but some of the technology and industry they saw. Town officials hope that translates into success when the judges reveal their verdict at a Communities in Bloom conference in Regina Oct. 27-29.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo believed the tour of the town went well.

“We got some positive feedback from the judges,” said DiCarlo. “I think we showed them a lot of things they don’t see in other municipalities.”

While Amherstburg has a lot of natural beauty, that is something many other municipalities can boast as well with DiCarlo noting the judges were looking for more than that. He said the community involvement in Amherstburg is a big plus for the town.

“Hopefully it’s something (the judges) are taking away with them,” he said. “I think stuff like that sets us apart from other municipalities. We see it, bring it and live it.”

Seeing volunteers and community members engaged in Amherstburg “is just unbelievable to some people,” added DiCarlo, “so hopefully we showcased that today.”

Judges Colleen Stockford and Sylvie Cormier stand at the CiB floral display in Navy Yard Park with parks manager Annette Zahaluk.

Judges Colleen Stockford and Sylvie Cormier stand at the CiB floral display in Navy Yard Park with parks manager Annette Zahaluk.

Manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota and visitor information manager along with numerous members of council and administration accompanied the judges on Friday’s tour. Rota said the town appreciates the co-operation it got for the Communities in Bloom tour.

“We were very fortunate that businesses and organizations like Diageo, the quarry, the Coast Guard and others opened their doors to the judges so that we could not only share our beautiful gardens but highlight and show our industrial partners,” said Rota. “The residents got on board and it shows how much Amherstburg cares about its own community. We could not do this without our partners and residents on board. It was a huge team effort.”

Win or lose, the town had a good three days with the judges, Rota believed.

“I think Amherstburg put its best foot forward,” she said. “We think the judges were left with a good impression of Amherstburg but either way, the town looks amazing.”

Amherstburg was awarded five blooms, the highest ranking possible, in last year’s provincial competition.

Town gearing up for visit from national Communities in Bloom judges

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After the town of Amherstburg received the highest rating of “five blooms” in last year’s provincial Communities in Bloom (CiB) competition, the hope is that the feat can be repeated in this year’s national event.

Amherstburg will be competing against three other municipalities in the 9,001-25,000 population category in an attempt to see which town stacks up the best. Competing municipalities include one from Quebec – Bois-des-Filion – and two from Ontario – South Huron and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Amherstburg has drawn comparisons to Niagara-on-the-Lake in the past and manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota said having them as one of Amherstburg’s competitors will be a challenge.

“Competing against Niagara-on-the-Lake does put a lot of pressure on us but we think that all of Amherstburg’s amenities and beauty are just as important as Niagara-on-the-Lake,” said Rota.

The judges come to Amherstburg July 28-30 with the main days of judging being July 29-30. Rota said the contest is far more than just about flowers and beauty, with judging categories including tidiness, urban forestry, environmental action, landscape, heritage conservation as well as floral displays.

With it being a national competition, Rota said they will be showing judges about the global presence that exists in Amherstburg through the “world class businesses” that have located here.

A flower bed in the Navy Yard Park is ready for the Communities in Bloom judges.

A flower bed in the Navy Yard Park is ready for the Communities in Bloom judges.

The Friday tour includes stops at the Libro Centre, the Walker Aggregates Quarry, Holiday Beach Conservation Area, the Park House Museum, the Canadian Coast Guard base, the south gateway water settling pond, Diageo and Fort Malden National Historic Site. The Saturday tour includes a tour of King’s Navy Yard Park, the peace sculpture and the Battle of Lake Erie monument.

“The pride, sense of community and feeling of accomplishment generated through participation are visible in communities that participate in CiB. These benefits make it a program where everyone wins,” said Rota.

Rota added that participants can benefit financially from the program through community tourism initiatives, business opportunities for the entire community, and other related projects. A valuable information exchange network allows communities to share accomplishments, best practices and projects.

All participants are showcased on the Communities in Bloom website through the “Explore our Communities” section, with a description page and a link to their respective community website. The Communities in Bloom magazine, published twice a year, also features participants and program results, as well as articles and educational content.

The town also had to prepare a community profile book to submit to the judges in advance. For residents to view the community profile book, they can visit http://www.amherstburg.ca/Event/Details/cibnational2016.

Rota also stated the town has submitted two applications for outstanding achievement awards with one being in the “Winter Life” category and the other being for its floral displays.

“I have a feeling we have a pretty good chance in at least one of those two categories for sure,” said Rota.

The judges are from Quebec and New Brunswick.

“It’s very nice to have an outsider critique our community and give us some feedback,” said Rota.

The town puts a lot of effort into the Communities in Bloom submission and appreciates the effort residents and businesses do sprucing up their own properties.

“We are very appreciative of the support we get from the entire community for this program,” she said.

 

 

Fees waived for Amherstburg Farmers Market

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has waived all fees for the Amherstburg Farmers Market after one of the vendors voiced concerns with the proposal at the most recent town council meeting.

Steeve Bouchard of Bouchard Farms wanted the $3,625 fee proposed for the farmers market waived and council granted his request.

“I think in the seven years we’ve had the market at the ‘Little White Church,’ we’ve not paid any fees,” said Bouchard.

Bouchard told town council vendors do not pay fees in many other local municipalities and the majority of markets don’t have them.

Manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota said the fees were arrived at as a result of council’s user fee bylaw that was adopted earlier this year. Rota said vendors rarely move inside the building and use very little hydro.

CAO John Miceli pointed out that administration’s recommendation was to reduce the fees from $3,625 to $625.

Councillor Rick Fryer said the traffic at the corner of County Road 20 and Howard Ave. during the market season “is fantastic” and said he didn’t see a benefit in charging a fee for the market. Councillor Joan Courtney added her belief that “this group deserves to have the fees waived.”

The 2016 Amherstburg Farmers Market is scheduled to open for the season May 21 and will run every Saturday at the “Little White Church” into the fall.

For more information or to become a vendor, call 519-736-7514 or e-mail www.amherstburgfarmersmarket.com.

Local realtor aiming to tell region “you’ll love it” in Amherstburg

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

An idea that began at the recent “Mayor’s Breakfast” has turned into something a local realtor and small business owner would like to see go viral in support of the town.

Norm Mickle was one of the real estate agents who attended the breakfast earlier this year and said the thought of promoting the town came up during a brainstorming session. “Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here” was the slogan he has been promoting since then.

You'll love it here copy

“I piped up (at the Mayor’s Breakfast) and said our problem in this town is the negative media,” said Mickle.

Mickle said that town council is still relatively new and is tied down with day-to-day business and believes that small business owners should do their part to help promote the town and to “start to tell everyone we have a great place to live.”

The town has a “rich history” and a lot of shops, businesses, services and amenities that residents and visitors alike can enjoy, he stated.

“It’s the safest town in the whole country,” said Mickle. “This town has everything you would want. We have it all here. We’ve got a lot going going for us.”

The “Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here” initiative is an easy, cool way for businesses and residents to get involved, he said, and Mickle further believes it will help local businesses “survive and thrive.” In addition to his real estate office, his wife Janet owns Mealtime Express and he is looking to help those businesses and every other one by promoting a positive message about Amherstburg.

“Can one guy make a difference? I don’t know if I can but I want to make a difference,” said Mickle. “All I’m trying to do is help my businesses and hope at the end of the day it will help everyone. If we all do it, it will put a smile on everyone’s face.”

Mickle reported that everyone he has come in contact with regarding the “Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here” initiative has come on board. He believed constant positive messaging will drown out any lingering negativity in the community.

Anne Rota, manager of tourism with the town of Amherstburg, said a similar slogan has been used “for a number of years” but credits Mickle for trying to promote it further.

“I think, as residents and people who live and work here, we love Amherstburg,” said Rota. “We know that for sure. It’s time to get that message out as best we can.”

Rota said the Canadian dollar is favourable right now in terms of attracting U.S. visitors and said the town has a lot of things to be proud of.

“We have so many wonderful attractions and businesses,” said Rota. “I think it’s time we bring a positive message every time we market Amherstburg.”

Rota believed the timing was right for such an initiative, as the visitor season is fast approaching. She believed the slogan is something that can bring everyone together.

“We’d like to make an amazing campaign with this slogan and see where that takes us,” said Rota.

Calling the logo a “funky, edgy design,” Rota said it should appeal to a wide demographic. It is something she said the tourism department plans to use in print and social media materials.

Residents know about how good Amherstburg is to live in, she added, “so why not tell the rest of the world?”

Monica Bunde, general manager of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce, said the ACOC will place the logo on the billboard in Malden Centre and attach it to their e-mails.

“I think we need to get more positive messages out there,” said Bunde. “The more times people see that, they will believe it. It’s a great slogan.”

Bunde noted the speech recently given at the ACOC’s Business Excellence Awards by former Windsor mayor Eddie Francis, which noted that Amherstburg is part of a market that has 5.7 million people.

“We need to bring those people to our town,” said Bunde. “Once people come here, they’ll love it!”