River Lights Winter Festival to get underway soon with multiple activities



By Ron Giofu


The River Lights Winter Festival will soon return, and another full slate of activities will be on tap.

This year’s festival will see lights lit from Nov. 17 through Jan. 6 with displays in King’s Navy Yard Park, Toddy Jones Park and elsewhere in town. Residents and businesses are invited to get into the holiday spirit and decorate their homes and storefronts as well.

This is the first year the River Lights Winter Festival will be a town-sponsored event, though roughly a dozen volunteers are helping to set up the event with over 100 more expected to help present it once River Lights gets underway.

Sarah Van Grinsven, special events support co-ordinator with the Town of Amherstburg, said volunteers took only two hours to paint the walls of the Gingerbread Warming House before the walls were put up at the Toddy Jones Park pavilion.

“All of the light displays started going up on Tuesday,” Van Grinsven told the RTT last Friday morning.

Though not hooked up yet, Van Grinsven said roughly 80 per cent of them were erected.

“The larger ones will be put together in the next two weeks,” she said.

River Lights also gets supported through the town’s parks department, Van Grinsven noted.

The opening ceremonies for the River Lights Winter Festival will be Nov. 17. There will be the “usual awesomeness” that night, she noted, with that including the outdoor holiday movie, hot chocolate, tree lighting ceremony and fireworks. The River Lights official opening will be preceded by the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s Super Santa Run, which starts at 5 p.m.

Bumble got his “pre-debut makeover” on the weekend at the home of Ray and Lori Bezaire. It was created by Lori for River Lights. (Submitted photo)

Telus will also be in town with its free interactive playground during the opening weekend, she noted. There will also be activities at the Park House Museum and the Commissariat that night as well.

“We always like to highlight the heritage of our community,” said Van Grinsven.

The gingerbread house contest is back again this year with entries due Nov. 15. A special scavenger hunt will also be part of River Lights this year, with details to come.

River Lights also hosts the annual Holiday House Tours. This year’s house tours are the weekend of Nov. 24-25.

“Ticket sales this year have been the best yet,” reported Van Grinsven.

Online sales have been going very well, she said, and “we’re still three weeks out.”

The Holiday House Tours is a self-guided event that allows people to get inside homes they wouldn’t normally be allowed access to.

“We have amazing homes every year, but we’re excited this year to offer homes that people have been interested in for many years,” said Van Grinsven.

There are eight homes featured this year, as well as a stop at Vivace Estate Winery, which is hosting the Christmas Tree Dress Exhibit, as well as providing complimentary tea, treats and wine tasting. St. Clair College design students will be helping create the dresses, said Van Grinsven.

Tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Tickets, which are priced at $25 per person, are available at the Gordon House, Sobeys Amherstburg, Dusty Loft Antiques and Collectibles, Country Bliss and Windsor Crossing Premium Outlets. They can also be purchased online at

The Holiday House Tours help fund the rest of the River Lights Winter Festival, Van Grinsven added, as they want to keep the rest of the festival free for families.

Sponsors also help keep the festival free, she added, and they are grateful for the help of businesses, individuals and groups who help out.

“We’re always working on new projects,” stated Van Grinsven, noting King’s Navy Yard Park will be lit up in “an extra special way” this year.

For more information, visit their website at, follow them on Twitter at or like them on Facebook at

People can also phone 519-730-1309 for additional information.

Registrations still being accepted for Nov. 17 “Super Santa Run” in Amherstburg


Special to the RTT


As the holiday season approaches, the Super Santa 5K Run and Walk, an Amherstburg tradition is set to take place in support of Essex Region Conservation on Saturday, November 17, starting at 5 p.m.

A sea of Santas will make their merry way through downtown Amherstburg along a beautiful route that highlights a number of historic sites, including Fort Malden and Navy Yard Park. The Super Santa Run kicks off the spectacular Amherstburg River Lights Festival, and participants can enjoy the jolly festivities, which include fireworks at the end of the run.

The annual event in support of trails and trees was launched with a generous donation of $5000 from Richard and Colleen Peddie, who are long-time supporters of the Santa Run.

Super Santas will once again fill the streets during the Nov. 17 5K Run/Walk through Amherstburg. (Special to the RTT)

“We are so incredibly grateful to Richard and Colleen Peddie for their incredible support of the Super Santa Walk/Run,” stated Richard Wyma, Executive Director of the Essex Region Conservation Foundation.  “There’s already been some fundraising momentum from other participants as a result, and we’re hoping that with everyone’s participation, the Peddie’s generous gift will be matched.”

In fact, to encourage more of the nearly 500 Santas to obtain pledges, prizes incentives for top fundraisers have been introduced.  “The top youth fundraiser will receive 10 free passes to the Adventure Bay Family Water Park,” Wyma said.  “And for adults, the top fundraiser will receive a $250 gift card to the Devonshire Mall to help with holiday shopping!”

Registration fees are $45 per adult, and $35 for children under 16.

All participants will receive a free Santa suit to wear during the run, and a delicious post-race meal, courtesy of Sobeys Amherstburg.

All funds raised support the efforts of the Essex Region Conservation Foundation in enriching the Place for Life by planting trees and creating trails, so join in the jolly fun and register your entire family today at .

Santa’s ‘nice list’ already includes Union Gas, Kingsbridge Developments, Richard and Colleen Peddie and Sobey’s Amherstburg for supporting this event.


Social media seminar coming to town, all parents welcome


By Ron Giofu


Ever wonder what your kids are up to online?

Do you want to know about who they are interacting with on the internet and where they are posting to?

A social networking and online safety seminar is coming to Amherstburg Nov. 6 with speaker Paul Davis, who travels the country conducting these seminars, to talk about social media, smart phones and digital trails, cyberbullying, texting, sexting, online gaming and online security.

Teresa Conte, parent council president at Malden Central Public School, said she saw Davis speak twice, including a few years ago in Kingsville. She believes that more people in Amherstburg should see him speak.

Davis will be presenting to students at Malden Central, Anderdon and Amherstburg public schools as well as General Amherst High School Nov. 6-7.

However, the Nov. 6 evening presentation that is being held at General Amherst High School is open to all parents, regardless of school, as well as to those who work with children or youth.

“We’re opening it to the entire community,” said Conte, of the Nov. 6 evening presentation that starts at 6:30 p.m.

Conte said that parents need to learn about social networking and online safety before they can teach or guide their children.

Guest speaker Paul Davis will talk about how to use social media responsibly to students and parents. The seminar for parents is Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at General Amherst High School. Everyone is welcome.

“We live in a rapidly changing digital world where our busy lives as parents don’t always allow us to keep up with the latest trends in technology and potential risks that affect our children and teens,” she said. “Parents need to make attending this evening session a priority just as they do with attending their children’s sport, music and school events.”

Conte believes that poor parent attendance at previous community social networking and online safety presentations is the result of fear—”the first being the fear of finding out what potential dangers their children are being exposed to in their own town and neighbourhood, the second fear is having to examine their own social networking/online behaviour and then making the necessary changes to correct them.”

Parents and those who work with youth should attend the public presentation so they know what is going on, Conte stated, as she said there are online problems happening locally on a regular basis.

“It’s worldwide. It’s going on in the community schools,” she said. “Parents don’t want to believe it.”

The Nov. 6 evening presentation to the public will be about 90 minutes, she added.

“After attending both of Paul’s past presentations, I made some changes to the amount and type of information I post online.  I expect to learn more in this upcoming presentation and I will continue to make changes because I want to teach my children by modeling the behaviour and not just lecturing to them,” said Conte.

Conte said she joined Malden Central’s parent council committee five years ago “because it seemed like a natural progression after a 20 year career of working at an organization whose mission was to teach and guide pre-teens, teens and young adults to make healthy life choices and decisions.” She hopes parents will come out Nov. 6 to learn about the dangers that can exist online, as she didn’t fully grasp it herself until she first saw Davis speak.

“I think parents need to understand how social media works,” said Conte.


Park House Museum presenting new writing contest


By Ron Giofu

Do you want to be creative but not sure what to write about?

The Park House Museum may have the answer.

The Park House is holding a writing contest, though younger children may have an opportunity to submit pictures, with curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak stating it’s been an idea that she has had for a while.

Participants must include one of three themes – Amherstburg’s holiday traditions, traditions in our community or Amherstburg’s heritage. Pouget-Papak said it can be a piece of fiction or non-fiction and involve what the topic means to you, a character or a character from the past.

The writing competition is open to all ages. Categories include pre-school to JK/SK, primary (Grades 1-3), junior (Grades 4-6), intermediate (Grades 7-9), senior (Grades 10-12) and adult (ages 18-and-over). Pictures will be accepted from the pre-school to JK/SK category.

“Part of our mandate is being inclusive,” said Pouget-Papak. “Everyone who enters will go into a ballot draw and we will pick one winner.”

All entries will be displayed at the Park House Museum for one year as well as being archived for future generations. There is no limit to how long entries can be, as Pouget-Papak said the length of entries “is open to your creativity.”

The Park House Museum is presenting a new writing contest. Winners will be announced Nov. 17.

Winners will be announced during the opening night of the River Lights Winter Festival Nov. 17. Participants could win a one-year membership to the Park House and a $10 gift card.

Pouget-Papak said literacy is important and that sometimes people have to write about things that they don’t find fun. She hopes this contest will allow people to be creative and enjoy writing.

Submissions are due by Nov. 15 at 4 p.m. They can be e-mailed in PDF format to, mailed in 8×11 paper format to the Park House Museum, 214 Dalhousie St., Amherstburg, ON N9V 1W4 or dropped off at the Park House Museum, River Town Times office at 67 Richmond St. or the Marsh Historical Collection at 80 Richmond St. Entries must be in an envelope marked “Park House Museum writing contest.”

Entry forms are available at those locations as well, or on the Park House website at

The Park House Museum will be hosting “We’ll be Home for Christmas: A World War One Christmas and Other Edwardian Traditions” Nov. 25 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission for that event is by donation.

“Dickens by Candlelight: An Evening Tea and Selected Renditions” will be hosted on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. Pre-registration and payment is required and the cost is $10.

For more information on the writing contest or the Park House events, call 519-736-2511.

Holiday House Tours return Nov. 24-25


Special to the RTT

A popular part of the River Lights Winter Festival is set to return in late November.

On Saturday, November 24 and Sunday, November 25, the popular and beloved River Lights Holiday House Tours is making a return this holiday season. The town states that tickets are now available for purchase.

The self-guided tour, which features some of Amherstburg’s most spectacular private homes, allows the public to view these spaces decked out for the holidays. There are eight homes featured this year, as well as a stop at Vivace Estate Winery, which is hosting the Christmas Tree Dress Exhibit, as well as providing complimentary tea, treats and wine tasting.

Paige Bezaire, Chas Bondy, Jenny Mayea and Laura Micallef admire one of the table settings during the Holiday House Tours last November. The 2018 Holiday House Tours are Nov. 24-25.

Tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Tickets, which are priced at $25 per person, are available at the Gordon House, Sobeys Amherstburg, Dusty Loft Antiques and Collectibles, Country Bliss and Windsor Crossing Premium Outlets. They can also be purchased online at

Tickets sell out fast, so people are encouraged to get their tickets early.

For more information, visit or People can also phone 519-730-1309 for additional information.