Elizabeth LeBlanc

Thousands come to Amherstburg to “Canuck It Up!”

By Ron Giofu

 

The Civic Holiday weekend’s “Canuck It Up!” Festival downtown and the accompanying Raiders, Rebels and Redcoats event at Fort Malden National Historic Site brought large crowds to Amherstburg.

Nicole Bertrand of Amherstburg takes a selfie with the World’s Largest Rubber Duck Sunday afternoon.

Nicole Bertrand of Amherstburg takes a selfie with the World’s Largest Rubber Duck Sunday afternoon.

The town was hopeful for 40,000 people and estimates exceeded that, with Amherstburg’s tourism department believing they may have at least doubled that amount.

Despite the large numbers, the festival didn’t always run smoothly thanks to winds and associated damage from the wind. The heavily hyped World’s Largest Rubber Duck failed to inflate on Saturday due to winds and minor damage caused during an attempted inflation, causing many to be disappointed and angry. Town officials and volunteers fielded complaints and social media was abuzz about the deflated duck, but things turned around Sunday when the duck was repaired, inflated and ready to go.

The Diplomats Drum & Bugle Corps march down Dalhousie St. to Toddy Jones Park where they played a Canada 150 concert.

The Diplomats Drum & Bugle Corps march down Dalhousie St. to Toddy Jones Park where they played a Canada 150 concert.

“We redeemed ourselves today,” Rota said Sunday afternoon.

While disappointed about the duck on Saturday, Rota said there was still a lot to do as the West Coast Lumberjacks performed, bands played in Toddy Jones Park and Navy Yard Park, a children’s area proved popular and the events that took place at Fort Malden.

“People were just happy to be in Amherstburg,” said Rota.

The tall ship Appledore V was also late arriving due to wind gusts, but did make it to Amherstburg Saturday night in time for an evening re-enactment at Fort Malden. The ship was in town courtesy of Parks Canada.

“I’m seeing a lot of new faces,” Rota said Sunday afternoon.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo tries log rolling during one of the West Coast Lumberjack shows.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo tries log rolling during one of the West Coast Lumberjack shows.

Vendors were running out of food and she said outdoor patios at downtown restaurants looked to be doing well.

“There were so many activities,” she said. “Every square inch of the (Navy Yard) park, Fort Malden and the new waterfront site (at Duffy’s) had something for everyone. I believe everyone loved coming out to the events.”

Rota called it “a great team effort” by staff and the over 200 volunteers the two-day event had.

“We couldn’t do it without being a team,” she said.

Two of the recipients of Canada 150 medals that weren't in attendance Canada Day got them on Canuck It Up! weekend. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (centre) presented medals to police chief Tim Berthiaume (left) and Sandra Braendle.

Two of the recipients of Canada 150 medals that weren’t in attendance Canada Day got them on Canuck It Up! weekend. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (centre) presented medals to police chief Tim Berthiaume (left) and Sandra Braendle.

Rota added the event was well received overall and “I can see the town of Amherstburg doing something of this magnitude again.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo agreed the town bounced back after Saturday’s problems.

“It was a lot of disappointment and I think that was more than reasonable,” said DiCarlo. “It was difficult to see all the kids disappointed. If anyone was more disappointed than me, I’d be surprised.”

Some people were more upset than others, the mayor added, but noted it was a weather-dependent event.

“As soon as we could, we got it up,” he said. “It’s great to see it up.”

DiCarlo said Sunday afternoon he has been receiving positive feedback and most people were “very positive.”

The World's Largest Rubber Duck emerged from overtop of the trees Sunday as people looked west from Richmond St.

The World’s Largest Rubber Duck emerged from overtop of the trees Sunday as people looked west from Richmond St.

“Duck or no duck, we put on an amazing event,” said DiCarlo. “There was a lot happening. It was an extension of our Canada 150 celebration.”

People got a chance to meet each other and “have a great time in Amherstburg,” the mayor added.

“I think the event was an absolute success,” he said. “We really have to thank the people in our tourism department. They got a lot of support from volunteers. They pulled off an event this big with a small department. I think it’s amazing the kind of people we had in Amherstburg.”

Log cutting competitions were part of the West Coast Lumberjack show.

Log cutting competitions were part of the West Coast Lumberjack show.

Allan and Rose Clemens came out to the festival and took pictures near the duck Sunday morning. The Elmira couple said they were not aware of the issues the day before and loved what they saw Sunday.

“We’re actually renting a cottage in Oxley and we came here to see the duck,” said Allan.

“I love it,” added Rose. “It’s fun.”

Diane Bradford of LaSalle said she came with family Saturday but returned Sunday when the duck was inflated.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “We came here yesterday but came back today to see the duck.”

Donna Gorrell of Amherstburg said Saturday it was very busy but “it’s nice to see this many people in town.”
Gorrell said her children were hoping to see the duck but were understanding of why it wasn’t erected that day.

“They understand,” she said. “It’s windy.”

The roar of the cannons joined the firing of the muskets during one of the re-enactments at Fort Malden.

The roar of the cannons joined the firing of the muskets during one of the re-enactments at Fort Malden.

Gorrell added she was excited to see small businesses open and welcoming customers during the festival hours.

Ivan and Christine Ouellette came in to Amherstburg Saturday and Ivan said they were disappointed the duck wasn’t blown up. He said that was the first place they went to but were going to walk around and see what else was going on.

“We’re kind of disappointed the big duck is not blown up but that’s OK,” Jennifer Marshall said Saturday afternoon. “It looks like there’s a lot of other stuff to do.”

Kathy Hay added Saturday that she was not disappointed in the least, saying it was great to see so many people enjoying themselves in Amherstburg.

“I think it’s something we can definitely use. It really puts Amherstburg on the map,” she said. “I don’t see anyone too disappointed.”

For the most part, people were happy at Fort Malden National Historic Site as well. Roughly 7,000 people attended the Raiders, Rebels and Redcoats event.

“It was a huge success for us,” said Fort Malden team leader Corrine Ross. “The battles were well attended. A lot of people from all over Ontario visited.”

Rhythm of a Nation performed in the parkette.

Rhythm of a Nation performed in the parkette.

Ross added that there were a lot of people who reacted to the battle re-enactments and many were engaged by what they experienced.

“For us, it was a huge success,” said Ross. “We’re very happy.”

Elizabeth LeBlanc, public relations and communications officer with Parks Canada’s Southwestern Ontario Field Unit, was also happy with the weekend’s festivities at Fort Malden.

“I think we had a phenomenal weekend,” she said.

Kingston Gardin rings the bell aboard the Appledore V tall ship.

Kingston Gardin rings the bell aboard the Appledore V tall ship.

LeBlanc said she believed many were re-visiting Fort Malden for the first time in a few years. The 7,000 attendance figure compared favorably to last year’s Military Heritage Days, which drew just under 1,000 people.

“Participants had a wonderful time,” said LeBlanc. “It was a super-positive experience.”

The Appledore V tall ship added to the weekend and although the Bayside, Michigan vessel was late, “we were just thrilled that given the winds and weather that we started the weekend with, they were able to participate in the battle Saturday night.

Crowds pour through Navy Yard Park Sunday to see the World's Largest Rubber Duck and the other attractions.

Crowds pour through Navy Yard Park Sunday to see the World’s Largest Rubber Duck and the other attractions.

“They were a huge hit on Sunday,” LeBlanc added.

LeBlanc said the general admission is still free to Parks Canada sites and responded to complaints over the $1.90 fee by saying it was due to enhanced programming and helped to cover costs over and above what is usually offered at Fort Malden.

“I don’t think we could have had a better weekend,” LeBlanc concluded. “It’s great to partner with the town of Amherstburg.”

To see more photos from the busy weekend, visit our Facebook album.

Feds to invest almost $1.2 million to revitalize Fort Malden National Historic Site

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Visitors to Fort Malden National Historic Site got a glimpse of over 2,000 years of military history over the weekend but the Fort itself will soon have its own history re-invested in.

Fort Malden will be receiving almost $1.2 million to reinvest in the fort’s heritage structures and visitor facilities. According to Elizabeth LeBlanc, public relations and communications officer for Parks Canada’s southwestern Ontario field unit, the investments “will protect our heritage and strengthen their appeal as destinations to celebrate our nation’s achievements.”

Work should start next year, she indicated.

The gun crew from the 34th regiment fire the cannon as part of Military Heritage Days at Fort Malden Sunday afternoon.

The gun crew from the 34th regiment fire the cannon as part of Military Heritage Days at Fort Malden Sunday afternoon.

“Starting in 2017, we are going to do an assessment of the site,” said LeBlanc.

Exteriors of buildings, windows, pathways, and lighting will be part of the assessment process in order to see what opportunities there are to reinvest and restore the historical site. Actual construction and renovations would occur in 2018 during off-peak times, she added.

LeBlanc said the money is coming through the Federal Infrastructure and Investment program.

It is not the first investment in Fort Malden in recent years, LeBlanc added, as $815,000 was invested in order to add to structures on the site in order that storage of materials could be accommodated better. There was also additional office space created, she said.

Military Heritage Days saw a bit of a different layout this year, she noted, as Fort Malden staff moved artillery and weapons demonstrations to the southern portion of the grounds, along the Detroit River. The new layout helped accommodate a “Seneca run,” an obstacle-course type of event where participants also fired muskets as part of it. People could also get a “birds-eye” view from one of the bastions onto the range.

Re-enactors with the 34th Regiment fire during a mock battle Sunday afternoon.

Re-enactors with the 34th Regiment fire during a mock battle Sunday afternoon.

“They changed it up a bit this year,” said LeBlanc.

The parade square was geared towards youth activities and attractions for younger age groups.

In addition to the grounds and buildings themselves, Fort Malden has also revitalized its programming, LeBlanc noted. A theatrical production was held last month with another planned for Aug. 19-20, the latter one to feature the story of the rebellion.

“It’s a great way to get this amazing story out to people,” said LeBlanc.

Roman re-enactor Joe Perz places a chainmail vest onto Elijah Morin during Military Heritage Days.

Roman re-enactor Joe Perz places a chainmail vest onto Elijah Morin during Military Heritage Days.

A murder mystery was held Saturday night and an “escape room” will be held Aug. 6 and Aug. 13 to allow people to decipher riddles and escape from a soldier’s barrack. There is also a day camp for youth planned for Aug. 8-12 as well.

“Hopefully there is something for everyone,” said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc added the programming team at Fort Malden is also looking at additional events for the fall months.

For further information on the new programs, call 519-736-5416 or visit www.parkscanada.gc.ca/fortmalden.

To see additional photos from the July 30-31 Military Heritage Days, please visit our our Facebook album.