River Lights Winter Festival illuminates the town



By Christian Bouchard


The heart of downtown Amherstburg will continue to shine throughout the holiday season.

The 12th annual River Lights Festival was officially kicked off Saturday night with the lights of the town bringing smiles to hundreds of people. The festival lights, which are lit nightly from 5:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. are located at the historical King’s Navy Yard and Toddy Jones Park.

The River Lights Winter Festival officially opened with the municipal tree lighting Nov. 17.

The River Lights once again partnered with the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s Super Santa Run. Following the 5km race/walk, hundreds of Santas, families and friends gathered around Navy Yard parkette for the commodious tree lighting. The festival also encouraged all to explore the lights, decorate cookies and enjoy fireworks over the Detroit River.

River Lights was once again sponsored by Enbridge for the fifth year in a row. Enbridge supplies renewable power to nearly 2,400 homes in the region with its 15-megawatt Amherstburg solar facility.

According to Suzanne Shea, a representative for Enbridge, River Lights gets a little brighter every year.

The River Lights Winter Festival officially opened Nov. 17.

“Nothing kicks off the holiday for me like River Lights,” said Shea. “I’m not even from here but I come here every year to celebrate.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was on hand for the event to help with the tree lighting. DiCarlo said the municipal tree lighting ceremony is a night to ring in the holidays, celebrating love, gratitude, and friendships.

DiCarlo added the River Lights committee, which helped brighten the town for the past 12 years, has worked tirelessly to beautify King’s Navy Yard Park and Toddy Jones Park with what only can be described as an outstanding program.

The River Lights Winter Festival, which opened Nov. 17, has illuminated displays in both Navy Yard Park (pictured) and Toddy Jones Park.

“These volunteers bring their passion and pride to this event,” said DiCarlo. “Year after year they’re responsible for putting smiles on faces for thousands of people who have made River Lights a yearly tradition.”

The downtown streets and historic parks of Amherstburg will stay lit until Jan. 6 when the six-week long festival comes to an end.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo brings greetings at the municipal tree lighting ceremony Nov. 17.

For more information on the River Lights Winter Festival and the upcoming events, please visit




“Row Madness” sees Garage Gym team with local charity



By Ron Giofu


The Garage Gym is hosting its “Row Madness” event again this year and a scholarship started by a local woman will be the beneficiary.

The Addolorata De Luca Leadership (ADL) Scholarship was recently selected by The Garage Gym as the charity of choice Nov. 25 “Row Madness” fundraising event. The fundraiser will be held at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery from 12-6 p.m. this Sunday with the winery serving its product with G.L. Heritage Brewing Co. also scheduled to be on hand pouring their craft beer.

There will be music, drinks and The License to Sear food truck will be available to anyone who wants to come and support the competitors and the charity.

Cessidia DeBiasio, founder of the ADL Scholarship, said the ownership at the Garage Gym is very supportive of the community and believe in giving back. She said people can take part in groups or individually or they can just come out to support the cause and cheer the rowers on.

“All the money is directed to the scholarship,” she said. “It’s a great way to increase community awareness, comradery and teamwork.”

Individuals and teams will be completing 42,195m in a rowing marathon style. Participants are asked to each raise $100 in pledges. Top individual fundraisers and team fundraisers (teams consist of five individuals) will receive prizes. It will consist of members from The Garage Gym, located in Amherstburg and Kingsville, as well as community members.

DeBiasio stated the event is open to all skill levels, ages and strengths. She noted that 100 per cent of donations given to the ADL Scholarship are used to provide scholarships to deserving first or second generation Canadian student leaders at The University of Windsor.

“These students are giving back to our Windsor-Essex community and the University of Windsor,” she said.

DeBiasio is hopeful that this year’s “Row Madness” is as successful as last year’s event, as this is her first year as the charity of choice. Last year’s fundraising event, held by Garage Gym, hosted over 300 Garage Gym clients and community members and received “significant media attention,” she said. For more information on the

Event, please visit: or

Companies and individuals can also sponsor the event, with DeBiasio calling it “a great marketing tool” for them. She said when money is donated to a smaller charity like the ADL Scholarship, it has a great impact.

“The fact that (Garage Gym co-owner Tony Smith) is supporting a small, grassroots charity is amazing because it shows what type of leader he is,” said DeBiasio, who noted she was “over the moon” when she learned the ADL Scholarship was chosen. “It’s nice to see he really does help everyone.”

DeBiasio said she has been working on the ADL Scholarship for about three years and has raised $25,000, good for one scholarship thus far. She is hopeful of reaching at least $40,000 so that two scholarships can be awarded, but would be even happier to offer even more.

“The more money we raise, the more scholarships we can give out and the more students we can help,” she said.

To register a team, register as an individual, to get pledge sheets, or to get more information on joining another team, please e-mail For more information or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, e-mail or

For more information on the scholarship itself, visit The public can keep up on the ADL Scholarship on Facebook @theadlscholarship and Instagram @theadlscholarship.



“Decorating Divas” getting trees ready as part of Holiday House Tour preparations



By Ron Giofu


A team of volunteers known as the “Decorating Divas” were busy recently helping to welcome the holiday spirit.

The volunteers are part of the Holiday House Tours committee and they were decorating Christmas trees at the Canadian Tire store in Amherstburg. It is at least the fifth year they have participated with Sarah Van Grinsven, special events support co-ordinator with the Town of Amherstburg, noting it is a partnership between the River Lights Winter Festival and Canadian Tire.

Van Grinsven said the trees are decorated with Canadian Tire products while two of the homes that will be on the Nov. 24-25 Holiday House Tours also being decorated by décor and products that come from Canadian Tire. The House Tours are part of River Lights.

“It works really well,” Van Grinsven said of the partnership.

Local Canadian Tire dealers Stephen and Paige Pike have been very supportive of the partnership since taking over the Amherstburg store, Van Grinsven added, and that has been very helpful for the Holiday House tours.

“Their store has a lot of Christmas items to offer, which is wonderful,” said Van Grinsven, noting there is a variety of different décor on hand.

The “Decorating Divas,” who are part of the Holiday House Tours committee, helped decorate trees at Canadian Tire. The Holiday House Tours are Nov. 24-25.

“It’s a fantastic community event,” Paige Pike said of the Holiday House Tours. “We’re just happy to be part of it.”

Pike said that Canadian Tire gets a boost from having their products showcased and she also praised the “Decorating Divas,” whom she said does a “great job” decorating the trees in the store every year.

Tickets for the Holiday House Tours are $25 per person, and 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 River Lights Winter Festival got underway Nov. 17.

Caesars Windsor Cares kicks off Stuff-a-Stocking for Seniors donation drive with $1,500 donation



Special to the RTT


Since 2013, Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) has collected donations every year to ensure seniors at risk of loneliness and isolation receive a gift during the holidays through their Stuff-a-Stocking campaign.

This year, they’re starting their campaign off strong with a donation of $1,500 from Caesars Windsor Cares.  ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo says this is as good a start as they could have hoped for.

“This donation really gets us off on the right foot and we can’t thank Caesars Windsor enough for stepping forward like this,” DiBartolomeo said. “Giving to our local seniors, many of whom won’t see many, if any, other gifts come their way this year, is one of the best ways to truly get into the holiday spirit.  We’re really looking forward to seeing our community step up yet again.”

Local seniors help stuff stockings for seniors. ACS is running its Stuff a Stocking for Seniors campaign again this year. (Submitted photo)

Caesars Windsor isn’t stopping with their donation, as they will also give staff the opportunity to volunteer to help prepare the stockings for delivery.  According to Kelly Wolfe Gregoire, vice President of human resources at Caesars Windsor, the staff and management there are thrilled to be involved in the program.

“We are proud to work with Amherstburg Community Services to help older individuals live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives at every stage of the aging process,” Wolfe Gregoire said.

Donations are now being collected at ACS, 179 Victoria St. S. in Amherstburg.  They need small gifts that can easily fit into stockings such as small toiletries, candy and treats, warm socks, homemade cards, and other small items.  Monetary donations by cash or cheque can be brought to ACS’ office, while donations made by credit card can be given on their website,

For more information, those interested can learn more by visiting ACS’ website or call their office at 519-736-5471.



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.