Downton Abbey comes to Amherstburg



By Ron Giofu


People dressed in their Sunday finest and came down to King’s Navy Yard Park Sunday for the first-ever Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

The event was presented in partnership between the town’s tourism department and the Belle Vue Conservancy. There were two sittings with manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota stating there were about 250 tickets sold combined.

“It’s a good number especially for a first year considering what a wet and dreary spring we had,” said Rota. “People were watching the weather forecasts. Mother Nature shined on us today.”

The weather for the tea was warm and sunny and Rota said the location proved to be a draw as well.

“I think, given the location of King’s Navy Yard Park and the magnificent blooms of the rhododendrons and azalea gardens, it’s a perfect fit for a garden tea party.”

A fundraising total for the Belle Vue restoration was not known as of press time, but Rota said the Downton Abbey-themed event was about raising awareness of the 200-year-old mansion as well. Belle Vue sits at 525 Dalhousie St. and the Belle Vue Conservancy is in its second year of raising money trying to try and restore it.

Joanna Starczewski, Maya Dobosz and David Wagner were winners of the costume awards at the morning session of the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party May 27. At right is Linda Jackson of the Belle Vue Conservancy.

The day also raised awareness of Amherstburg and the Navy Yard Park, Rota added.

“I think the Royal Wedding inspired people to come out in their hats and fascinators,” she added. “It’s all about costumes, role playing and coming out and having a great time in Amherstburg. That’s why we are Amherstburg Uncommon.”

The Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, which Rota alluded to, is Aug. 3-5.

Michael Prue and Shirley Curson-Prue were dressed to the nines for the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

Linda Jackson, chair of corporate outreach for the Belle Vue Conservancy, pointed out the role Bob and Norma Sutherland had in creating the rhododendron and azalea beds in Navy Yard Park. She also recognized the volunteers who have maintained and grown the beds since.

Jackson added it was nice to see Navy Yard Park used that way. She also noted the proceeds from the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party will benefit the restoration of Belle Vue, which is getting a new roof. The windows are the next phase of the restoration project with fundraising currently underway for that.

“She will truly be a gem in the Windsor-Essex County area,” said Jackson, of Belle Vue.

Martha Minogue-Fiorino plays the harp during the morning session of the May 27 Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.

David and Helen Wagner of Windsor came to Amherstburg for the event and dressed in costume.

“We are into steampunk,” explained Helen. “We’ve been doing it for about seven years.”

David added they have a costume room at their home with various different steampunk attire.

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