First-ever Escape Room Festival held at Fort Malden National Historic Site


By Jonathan Martin


Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada has held its first escape room festival.

The festival featured eight escape rooms – interactive, narrative-based puzzle rooms – and participants were allowed to pick five to escape from.

Fort Malden interpretation officer Alex Dale organized the event and he said he had wanted to expand the escape rooms already offered by Fort Malden but wasn’t sure how to do it without disrupting the historic site’s other programs.  He said the best course of action seemed to be to simply “have a day of fun” and bring the area’s escape room aficionados together all at once.

Dale put together some all-new escape rooms with help from his staff.  He said creating the puzzles for the rooms is challenging but rewarding.

“I like to keep things tactile,” he said.  “I want to engage people by forcing them to interact with their environments.”

Dale also brought in three professional escape room companies to plan and operate four of the eight offered at the event.  Hidden Trail Escape Room, Breakout Kingsville and Exodus Windsor Escape Room showed up, riddles in hand, to confound the day’s parkgoers.

Dustin Vermast is one of the co-owners of Breakout Kingsville.  His room, specially created for the day by managing director Adam Cole, brought participants into the tent of a mid-1920s era traveling magician.

Eventgoers were promised a magic show, but the magician, Mr. Hocus, was nowhere to be found. In his place was a letter promising access to his magical secrets – and a future of riches and renown – if whomever found his letter could solve his puzzles and open his chest.

Christopher Slickboer tries to figure out the combination on a lock in Breakout Kingsville’s escape room at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada last Saturday. The escape room was one of eight at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada’s first escape room festival.

Unfortunately for those who are proficient at puzzle-solving, Mr. Hocus is a dark magician.  The only things in his chest were pieces of evidence that incriminated whomever touched them.

Those who beat the puzzles lost the game.

The tent Vermast brought to Fort Malden is one piece of a larger narrative, according to Cole.  Mr. Hocus has two other rooms dedicated to him at Breakout Kingsville’s actual facility.

For Cole, this room was an opportunity to further explore the character he has built a universe around.  Hocus’ newspaper clippings, the photos on his armoire, his knickknacks and decorations and personal effects – even his choice of music – all said something about the man Breakout Kingsville dreamed up while fully-immersing the player into that dream.

For Vermast, as much as it was about the art of expanding an ongoing narrative universe, it was also about breaking into a new market.

“We’re here as a bit of a marketing piece,” he said.  “We want to educate the public about how awesome escape rooms are and, as a county business, it’s important that we draw on the Windsor folks who are here today.”

It seemed to be working.  Dale said the public response was “overwhelmingly positive.”  All 46 time slots were sold out.  He said he wants to have another festival in the future and will use this one as a learning experience.

“This was a pilot,” he said.  “There were a few logistical issues to iron out, but we’ll learn from those and will hopefully make this an even bigger festival next year.”

Fort Malden will host its annual Canada Day celebration on July 1.  Its “free admission day” will take place Aug. 4, with a murder mystery following that evening.

Meadowview Estates subdivision debuts on “Parade of Homes”



By Ron Giofu


A brand new subdivision in Amherstburg has made its debut on the Windsor-Essex Home Builders’ “Parade of Homes.”

Prospective home buyers and curious onlookers got their first look at the Meadowview Estates subdivision, which sees homes currently under construction on the 34-acre site at the corner of Meloche Road and Simcoe St.

“It’s slated for 140 homes,” said Jason Laframboise, who developed the site with builder Norbert Bolger. “It’s a mix of semi-detached and single family homes.”

Realtors Jason Laframboise and Mitchell Deslippe stand in one of the model homes in the new Meadowview Estates subdivision.

Laframboise and Mitchell Deslippe are selling the units Bolger is constructing with Laframboise stating that single family homes are custom builds. The semi-detached units come in two sizes, with 1,255 square foot units costing $299,900 and 1,470 square foot units selling for $339,900.

Interest in the subdivision has been great, even greater than Laframboise and Deslippe anticipated.

“It’s taken off so much faster than we thought it would,” said Deslippe. “It’s fantastic.”

“Sales are definitely exceeding what we thought they would,” added Laframboise.

Laframboise said, “we literally just completed our first model” and that comes after ten years of work by himself and Bolger to get the subdivision off the ground.

“It’s been a long haul but it’s definitely rewarding,” he said, of finally having homes going up.

They are currently in phase one of the subdivision, with that including 54 homes, but Laframboise believes they may soon have to look at starting phase two. He estimates the subdivision will be fully constructed within three to five years with a commercial development also possible on the Simcoe St. side of the development.

An exterior look at some of the townhomes in Meadowview Estates.

Many of the people looking at the semi-detached units are retirees and empty-nesters, with Deslippe adding families are also taking a look at the single family homes. People who are looking at the units love the location, said Laframboise, including the availability of walking paths and bicycle lanes nearby.

Laframboise and Deslippe estimate the Meadowview Estates subdivision will generate roughly $42-45 million in sales when all is said and done.

“It’s fantastic for the Town of Amherstburg,” said Deslippe. “It’s great for the residents. It generates tax dollars.”

Local cadets show their abilities at annual review



By Ron Giofu


The 202nd Fort Malden Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps got a chance to show what they’re all about last week.

The local cadet corps, which is sponsored by Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 in Amherstburg and Royal Canadian Legion Br. 338 in Harrow, held its 41st annual cadet review last Wednesday night at Amherstburg Public School. In addition to parading into the gym, the cadets conducted a pair of demonstrations and there were several awards handed out.

Capt. John M. Vanthournout
inspects the corps during the annual review June 20 at Amherstburg Public School.

Winners included:

Outstanding Green Star – Cadet N. McLean

Outstanding Red Star – Cpl D. Russelo

Outstanding Silver Star – MCpl A. Bisson

Outstanding Jr NCO  – MCpl A. Bisson

Outstanding Sr NCO (Roy Northrup Award) – Sgt K. Matlock

CO’s Award – MWO D. Bezaire

Best Overall Cadet – MWO M. Ashton

Most Improved Cadet – MCpl M. Bisson

Best Attendance – Cpl E. Brundritt

Top Marksman – Sgt K. Matlock

Pat Thrasher Award – Cpl D. Russelo

Capt. John M. Vanthournout, this year’s reviewing officer, praised the corps and said he started out just as today’s cadets have. He noted they are learning many things from leadership to how to be a good citizen and many will be learning new things while being paid at various summer camps.

Capt. Jeff Turner (left) presents the Ambassador for Peace medal from the Korean government to Capt. Richard Girard.

“These cadets are going to be our future leaders,” said Vanthournout. “(Cadets) is an exciting program. It’s the best kept secret around. People don’t know enough about it.”

Capt. Jeff Turner, the corps’ commanding officer, also had another special presentation. He presented an Ambassador for Peace Medal to Capt. Richard Girard, a Korean War veteran. Girard acknowledged the brother he lost during that war. While he can’t wear the medal due to rules put forth by the Canadian Armed Forces, he said if he could, he’d wear it for his brother.

Girard told the corps, whom he commanded several years ago, that he was proud of them and that their demonstrations brought back many memories.

“Your demonstrations were great,” he said. “I enjoyed them.”

Don Nantais, liaison officer with Br. 157, said he enjoys being around the kids.

“They are almost like my own kids,” he said, noting he has been liaison officer for 19 years.

For more information on the 202nd Fort Malden Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, call 519-736-4900 or e-mail

Council gives administration spending authority in “lame duck” period, but not without debate



By Ron Giofu


The Town of Amherstburg has authorized administration to have the ability make unbudgeted expenditures over $50,000 and dispose of property valued at over $50,000 during the “lame duck” period.

While many stated this is a common motion passed by municipalities across the province, one member of council voiced concerns over the motion. During debate of the motion at the June 11 meeting, Councillor Diane Pouget believed it would be “foolish” of council to pass it without some sort of safety assurances built in. She said the motion as recommended gave administration “carte blanche” to sell town property or make unbudgeted purchases and wanted to ensure additional safeguards were in place.

“It’s absolutely necessary and the responsible thing to do,” said Pouget. “I’m not speaking against anyone here. I’m trying to protect council and our residents.”

Pouget and Councillor Joan Courtney voted against the motion, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Jason Lavigne and Rick Fryer voting in favour. Councillor Leo Meloche did not attend the meeting as his wife passed away only a few days earlier.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The original version of this article had Councillor Joan Courtney voting in favour. She voted against the motion and the story has now been corrected to reflect that.)

CAO John Miceli said the motion did protect the residents, citing an example that if a fire truck was in an accident and couldn’t be used, administration has the authority to carry out measures to replace the vehicle.

“What you are suggesting is that administration would not go through with the will of council,” said Miceli.

Miceli added his concern was if unbudgeted expenditures were to come up during the lame duck period, which would start July 27 if six members of the current council don’t run in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Pouget countered that other emergency measures, such as borrowing a fire truck from a neighbouring municipality, could be used but DiCarlo pointed out an emergency road repair that is being done in River Canard would have had to wait until a new council if it occurred during a lame duck period and such a motion wasn’t in place.

“This isn’t something unique to Amherstburg,” said director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin, of the motion.

Lavigne had similar comments to Galvin, adding an example of if something happened at the water treatment plant, an expenditure couldn’t be approved until a new council was in place unless such a motion was passed.

“I understand (Pouget’s) concern, that’s why I researched it,” said Lavigne, who noted many municipalities in Ontario pass such motions in election years. “This is 100 per cent common in Ontario. Literally hundreds of municipalities in Ontario have the same motion. Why are we different here in Amherstburg?”

Pouget believed council was giving up some of their rights and while she acknowledged council would be notified of any such expenditure in the lame duck period, “we can’t do anything.”

Fryer said “it’s a matter of trust” and didn’t foresee any major issues and no sale of property, including the 12 remaining acres of Centennial Park that the Greater Essex County District School.

“To put fear in residents that they’ll spend money like drunken sailors is bullcrap,” said Fryer. “That’s not going to happen.”

Fryer’s comments prompted code of conduct concerns, and DiCarlo urged council to be respectful of

other people’s opinions.

“McGregor News” presentation packs community centre



By Ron Giofu & Jonathan Martin


A pair of events have been held recently in McGregor by the Town of Essex, but Amherstburg had some involvement in both.

The Essex Municipal Heritage Committee presented “McGregor News,” a presentation that explored the first 25 years of the Village of McGregor. The village is currently split between Essex and Amherstburg down Walker Road.

The evening had some Amherstburg involvement too, as it was held in collaboration with the Marsh Historical Collection.

After tours of St. Clement Church, people made their way into the McGregor Community Centre where retired librarian Nancy Brown made a presentation on the origins of McGregor along with events and people that shaped the community.

“The bulk of the information came from volume one of the McGregor News,” explained Brown. “McGregor had its own column in The Amherstburg Echo from 1875-1900.”

Timber was a big draw in McGregor’s early years.

“That was the big resource at that time,” said Brown.

Despite being a predominantly French village, it was named for William McGregor, whose background included being an Essex County warden and Member of Parliament.

After men such as Thomas Adair and Thomas Ouellette started buying up land in and around the “Walker Path,” now known as Walker Road, the timber industry started booming with Hiram Walker wanting lumber to build railway cars. Rail lines stretched from Walkerville to Kingsville. Sawmills also went up in and around McGregor, which was known for its tall trees.

During its first 25 years, McGregor had six butchers, two meat markets, three harness shops, five shoemakers, nine barbers, eight blacksmiths and much more.

“It’s hard to imagine there was so much activity back in those days,” said Brown.

While fires in 1881, 1890 and 1891 caused damage including the warping of train tracks, there was still much activity including the construction of schools and churches. An original wood framed church was built in 1880 while the current St. Clement Church was built in 1903.

St. Clement Church

“Just like today, there were fundraisers for things,” said Brown.

People would travel by train around the county going to picnics and dances and listening to debates and bands. Sometimes, attendance went into the thousands, Brown indicated.

Such clubs included bachelor’s clubs, the McGregor Council of Chosen Friends and many other groups.

One tale was about a seven-year-old girl fainting, and later dying, after seeing a large snake. Other people reportedly saw the same snake later on and Brown referred to it as “our own Loch Ness Monster.”

Brown used to work in the McGregor Library and came across materials from the village’s history. She became very interested in the area’s roots and got a lot of information from the Marsh Historical Collection.

Rita Jabbour, assistant planner with the Town of Essex, said the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee is the resource base for information and knowledge for Essex council, administration and the community on all matters of heritage.

McGregor residents from both the Amherstburg and Essex sides of the road took part in a recent community cleanup. (Special to the RTT)

“The Town of Essex is made up of four communities with distinct and unique histories. McGregor is unique in particular because it transcends the Essex and Amherstburg municipal boundary line. Guest speaker series, like the presentation with the Marsh Collection Society, is one of the ways in which the committee endeavours to communicate the rich history of those four communities. Speaker series also serve to shed light on important organizations and institutions, like St. Clement Parish and the Marsh Collection Society, which by their existence, preserve and communicate our local history.

Jabbour said they do not have a formal speaker series established; guest speakers are just one of the methods that the committee employs to communicate Essex history.

“We were very, very pleased with the turnout. The committee recorded nearly 150 people in attendance. I think this really speaks to the thirst in the community for information about our past and merits consideration of a speaker series,” said Jabbour. “The committee would like to work with the Marsh Historical Collection to organize a Part 2 to Nancy’s presentation in the future – hopefully with more chairs and food! In the meantime, the committee plans on unveiling two historical plaques this summer on the Colchester Reef and the founding of Harrow, in advance of Explore the Shore in July and the Harrow Agricultural Fair in August.

Those who attended the McGregor event are encouraged to contact the Town of Essex at 519-776-7336 ext. 1128 or to suggest future topics for guest speakers.

A few weeks earlier, McGregor got a lot cleaner thanks to a community cleanup.

Richard Meloche, deputy mayor of the Town of Essex and Leo Meloche, Amherstburg town councillor and deputy mayoral candidate invited local residents to pick up litter from the Town of Essex’s four urban centres.

Around 50 people turned out for the cleanup, which more than doubles the 20 or so who showed up for previous years, according to Richard Meloche.

“I think a big part of it was Mrs. Ducharme and Mrs. Wood from Colchester North Public School, who decided to help out,” he said.  “They brought around 25 people just themselves.”

Altogether, the group picked up around 60 bags of garbage in a two-hour span.

“I was surprised and disheartened at the number of liquor bottles I found on the side of the road,” Leo Meloche said.  “I don’t like the idea of booze being that close to roads.”

Each volunteer was supplied with gloves and bags, which were purchased by the Town of Essex.  After the work was done, a free lunch was hosted for the volunteers by the McGregor Columbian Club, which Richard Meloche said was rented by the town at a discounted rate.  Leo Meloche said he would look into contributing financially to future iterations of the annual project.

“Amherstburg benefits from this too,” he said.  “It’s only fair.”

The Meloches agree that the benefits are definite and pronounced.  They explained that they like to see their communities get taken care of, but they love to see their neighbours coming together to make it happen.