River Lights

ACOC holding “Twelve Days of Christmas” scavenger hunt again this year

 

 

The Christmas carol, “12 days of Christmas” has been a traditional song that has been sung for 237 years. It was written by Fredrick Austin in 1780 and has become a favourite melody during the Christmas Holiday season around the English-speaking world ever since.

Honoring that Christmas tradition, the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) is holding its second annual “Twelve Days of Christmas Scavenger Hunt” starting Nov. 7 at noon ending Nov. 18 at noon.

“This gives participants lots of time to take ballot cards and find the treasures hidden around town,” said ACOC president Carolyn Davies. “No purchases are required to take part.”

Davies said the ACOC has taken this theme and created a scavenger hunt “to have some fun and enhance the holiday spirit.”

“The purpose of the event is to highlight local Amherstburg businesses by creating an incentive for participants to explore shops and restaurants in different parts of Amherstburg,” she said. “The contest will give businesses an opportunity to show case their products and encourage participants of the hunt the opportunity to discover Amherstburg businesses that they may not have been aware of in the past and get to know the local shopkeepers better.”

The “Twelve Days of Christmas” scavenger hunt, presented by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce, will help kick off the 11th annual River Lights Winter Festival.

There will be 12 Amherstburg businesses that will be involved in the scavenger hunt, she added. All interested businesses are invited to send their request into the ACOC by Sept. 30. They will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis.

“Those who are interested in supporting the contest but missed out on the limited slots can still participate in a modified way. More details will be provided to participating and supporting businesses once the locations are determined,” said Davies.

Scavenger hunters can start their hunting Nov. 7 at noon and will have 12 full days to seek out all the other locations, ending Nov. 18 at noon sharp. Davies said the ballot boxes will then be picked up and the draw for the winner will take place Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. as part of the Downtown Holiday night event.

“There is one grand prize of approximately $600 value of gifts contributed

by participating merchants equaling $50 each,” Davies explained. “Each participating merchant and supporting merchants are also encouraged to offer in-store incentives with each purchase made by scavenger hunters.”

Davies added that “anyone and everyone can participate in the scavenger hunt by going to one of the participating stores who will provide the required ballots with all the participating stores and the clues to items they will be seeking.”

The ACOC looks forward to the community participation in this “Spirit of the Holiday” contest, she continued.

“As the slogan says, Amherstburg, You’ll love it here.”

The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce’s phone number is 519-736-2001 and their website is www.amherstburgchamber.com. Their e-mail address is amherstburgchamber@gmail.com.

River Lights Winter Festival partners again with Enbridge

River Lights Winter Festival has received support from Enbridge again this year, with this year’s sponsorship amounting to $15,000.

“This is our eleventh year of the River Lights Winter Festival and the fourth year that Enbridge has supported the winter events. With Enbridge’s sponsorship we are able to continue to boost programming and light up our town with the beautiful light displays which have become a signature backdrop in historic Amherstburg,” says Mark Usher, long time committee member of the River Lights Winter Festival.

The event kicks off Nov. 18 with the town’s tree lighting ceremony and the opening night of River Lights. A movie, fireworks and activities from the Park House Museum and Provincial Marine are planned.

“It’s going to be better than last year,” said Usher.

“Enbridge is one of Canada’s largest renewable energy companies and we are proud to help support the solar powered displays at the River Lights Winter Festival,” says Ian MacRobbie, Enbridge’s Eastern Region General Manager, Power Operations. “As the owner of the 15 megawatt Amherstburg solar facility – which generates enough power to supply nearly 2,400 homes – this partnership is a natural fit for our company and we look forward to sharing the holiday spirit with the Amherstburg community once again this winter.”

River Lights board members and volunteers accept a $15,000 from Suzanne Shea (far left) of Enbridge. Enbridge is the primary sponsor of River Lights again this year.

River Lights board members and volunteers accept a $15,000 from Suzanne Shea (far left) of Enbridge. Enbridge is the primary sponsor of River Lights again this year.

Suzanne Shea represented the company at a cheque presentation last Wednesday at the Gordon House and called River Lights “a great event.” She said she came with her six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son to the event and plan on driving in again this year.

“It was exciting,” she said. “All of the lights are solar powered which fits in with our theme.”

The six week-long festival includes the hundreds of solar-powered custom made light displays, the life size Gingerbread Warming House showcasing the annual Gingerbread House Contest and free crafts and hot chocolate. The program runs until Dec. 31. Animated and themed solar powered displays begin to illuminate starting at approximately 5:30 p.m. every night at the Kings Navy Yard Park and Toddy Jones Park.

Approximately 6,000 people attended opening night last year, with the events preceded by the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s “Super Santa Run.” Overall, River Lights organizers estimate 25,000 people pass through the festival.

 

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.