River Lights

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.

River Lights gets boost thanks to talent of local resident

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Frosty the Snowman has attended this year’s River Lights Winter Festival with Bumble and the Santa in a Bathtub returning as well.

Those creations, along with others, are due to the talents of Lori Bezaire.

Frosty is the latest addition, with the famed snowman located near the Christmas tree in the Navy Yard Park parkette. Bumble and Santa in the Bathtub are in Toddy Jones Park.

“He’s the biggest,” said Bezaire, in reference to Frosty.

Whereas Bumble took nine months to create, Frosty took 12 weeks. Bezaire explained that Bumble is all paper maché with a lot of the work also being to ensure it was made waterproof. Frosty, on the other hand, was made from spray-foam insulation over a wire frame and then modified to make it look like a snowman.

While Bezaire created the finished product, she is quick to point out the creations aren’t just hers alone. Local resident Dave Varney of Sunset Enterprises welded the frames of both Bumble and Frosty and put the wire mesh on the latter.

“He made the body and I covered it,” said Bezaire. “He’s definitely an artist.”

Amherstburg resident Lori Bezaire’s creative abilities are seen once again at this year’s River Lights Winter Festival. Her latest creation is Frosty the Snowman.

Amherstburg resident Lori Bezaire’s creative abilities are seen once again at this year’s River Lights Winter Festival. Her latest creation is Frosty the Snowman.

Bezaire has been busy making smaller creations that will be seen during this weekend’s Holiday House Tours as well as the Santa mask on the side of the Gordon House. She does the work during the summers in her family’s garage out of pride for Amherstburg.

“I love our town,” said Bezaire. “I love to give back to our town.”

The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) helps fund her efforts with private donors, such as the Baker Busch law firm, also helping out. She said without the financial contributions, the creations wouldn’t have happened.

“It’s a great creative outlet,” said Bezaire. “I enjoy doing it. I do it for the kids. I’ve always been kind of crafty. I love challenges.”

Seeing the reactions of the children makes all the effort worthwhile, she added.

Having Frosty, Bumble and the rest helps River Lights stand out from winter-themed events in other communities, she believed. Bezaire also stated she would be willing to do another big project, if someone would sponsor it. There is talk about doing a Grinch for next year. The rough cost of creating the Frosty the Snowman was $3,000, she added.

River Lights officially open for tenth anniversary year

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

For the tenth consecutive year, Amherstburg is shining thanks to the River Lights Winter Festival.

The River Lights Winter Festival started Friday with the “Downtown Winter Nights” event that featured a scavenger hunt at local businesses, ice sculpting, horse-and-buggy rides, a downtown market and more and spilled over into Saturday night when the Super Santa Run, tree lighting and fireworks were held.

A group of carolers entertain near the Navy Yard Park parkette Nov. 18.

A group of carolers entertain near the Navy Yard Park parkette Nov. 18.

“This is River Lights tenth year. We are so excited,” said River Lights co-ordinator Sarah Van Grinsven.

Van Grinsven was happy to see the large turnout for Saturday night’s tree lighting ceremony as was Ian MacRobbie, general manager of Enbridge. Enbridge, who developed the Amherstburg Solar Farm, is the presenting sponsor of River Lights for the third straight year. He noted the lights are solar powered.

Ruthanne and Melissa Vuk were volunteering at the Park House Museum during the opening of River Lights.

Ruthanne and Melissa Vuk were volunteering at the Park House Museum during the opening of River Lights.

“It’s a great fit for us,” said MacRobbie, noting it is a Top 100 festival in Ontario.

Nicole Fogarty from Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) believed River Lights provides a “perfect holiday setting” in Amherstburg. She pointed out that events like River Lights take more than just great ideas, but people who “roll up their sleeves” and put the work in to make it happen.

The fountain in the King's Navy Yard Park parkette is lit up this year for River Lights.

The fountain in the King’s Navy Yard Park parkette is lit up this year for River Lights.

The Great Grocery Giveaway winner was also announced. That partnership between The House Youth Centre and Sobeys raised $10,000 for the House. Activities co-ordinator Rebecca Vander Vaart announced that Gail Cecile won the top prize.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo also pointed out that 2016 is the tenth anniversary of River Lights.

“That’s just awesome,” he said.

Town crier Frank Gorham welcomes the public to the tree lighting ceremony Nov. 19.

Town crier Frank Gorham welcomes the public to the tree lighting ceremony Nov. 19.

DiCarlo thanked Enbridge and all of the sponsors and supporters of the festival. He also pointed out the partnership between River Lights organizers and town departments to ensure the lights and activities get set up.

“Thanks for making Amherstburg shine,” said DiCarlo.

River Lights Winter Festival starts this weekend

Special to the RTT

Ten years and the River Lights Winter Festival is shining brighter than ever!

Opening ceremonies will kick off with wonder and wishes for a prosperous, peaceful and mindful holiday season at the historic towne square in downtown Amherstburg.

A new commemorative display adorning the fountain is installed for the tenth year anniversary.  A larger than life Frosty visits during Saturday’s outdoor, classical movie “Frosty the Snowman” encouraging visitors and residents to make their 2016 wishes at this magical scenery. The ERCA Super Santa Run at 5 p.m. preludes the popular tree lighting count down at 6 p.m. followed by fireworks along the Detroit River.

riverlightslogo

Partnering with Anderdon Public School marching band, Walkerville and General Amherst High School arts students add youth and spark to the program. Snap a family picture at the new Victorian photo mural or with the hilarious stilt guys where kids of all ages will undoubtedly be in for a treat.

“But that’s not all! The beautifully handcrafted gingerbread houses on display at the Gingerbread Warming House at Toddy Jones Park are an attraction in of itself”, says Sarah Van Grinsven. “Amherstburg is one of those places that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a Christmas card from the past, and the 10th year celebration will be very special,” she adds.

For more information, visit www.riverlights.ca or like them on Facebook.com/RiverLightsConnection

“Decorating Divas” team with Canadian Tire

 

 

By RTT Staff

 

For the third consecutive year, the River Lights “Decorating Divas” were at Canadian Tire making things more festive.

The Divas decorated three trees this year at the store with River Lights co-ordinator Sarah Van Grinsven pointing out it is done in conjunction with the Holiday House Tours, one of the events that is part of the River Lights Winter Festival.

In return for decorating the Christmas trees, Canadian Tire makes a donation to the Holiday House Tours, she added.

“We, in turn, decorate a home for the house tours with Canadian Tire products,” she added.

The River Lights “Decorating Divas” joined Canadian Tire staff in decorating three trees at the store last Monday. The Holiday House Tours are coming Dec. 3-4 and one of the ten homes will be decorated with items all found at Canadian Tire in Amherstburg.

The River Lights “Decorating Divas” joined Canadian Tire staff in decorating three trees at the store last Monday. The Holiday House Tours are coming Dec. 3-4 and one of the ten homes will be decorated with items all found at Canadian Tire in Amherstburg.

The River Lights Holiday House Tours are Dec. 3-4 from 1-6 p.m. each day. Van Grinsven said tickets are $25 and on sale at the Gordon House, Sobeys, Pied-A-Terre, the Village Shop and Park House Museum. There will be ten stops on the tour this year with mainland waterfront properties being the focus.

River Lights gets underway this weekend with the Downtown Holiday Nights starting Friday night and the tree lighting Saturday night. The latter follows the Super Santa Run, which starts at 5 p.m. on downtown streets.

For more information on the Holiday House Tours or River Lights in general, call 519-736-4642 or visit www.riverlights.ca.