Feds help out with Roots to Boots Festival

By Joel Charron

Anne Rota, Manager of Tourism and Culture gets a little emotional when she talks about next year’s War of 1812 Bi-Centennial celebrations.

After all she has spent the last four year planning a celebration fitting for the momentous occasion, now thanks to a hefty grant from the Canada Government, she’ll have the means to do so.

On Friday, Oct. 14 Essex MP Jeff Watson announced that the town’s Roots to Boots Festival would receive funding of $98,360 through the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. This program provides Canadians with more opportunities to take part in activities that present local arts and culture and celebrate local history and heritage. The festival is planned for Aug. 3-5, 2012.

The commemoration of the War of 1812 in Essex County, Ontario, will feature the work of local artists and heritage performers. Activities will include music and theatre performances, Aboriginal presentations, heritage demonstrations and re-enactments, historical talks, and an art exhibit.

“The War of 1812 was a defining event in our country’s history,” said Watson, as he made the announcement in front of the Commissariate in King’s Navy Yard Park. “Without the War of 1812, Canada, as we know it would not exist and the war itself paved the way for our nations confederation as well played an instrumental part in the creation of our military.”

Other investments have already been made by Infrastructure Canada and Parks Canada as part of the Economic Action Plan for infrastructure and capital improvements to 11 historic sites across Canada associated with War of 1812, such as Fort Malden, Fort Chambly and the St. Andrew Blockhouse.

Mayor Wayne Hurst called the grant a “significant investment” which will help make the commemoration of the War of 1812 a huge success.

“It minds us of the importance of the War of 1812,” said Hurst. “This will allow us to make this region that much  richer in our history and better of understanding  what the War of 1812 did for our region and our country.”

Hurst also praised the work that Rota and the committee has done up to this point.

Rota said the $98,360 grant is a “tremendous help” in planning the Bi-Centennial celebrations.

“The planning for the last four year for the signature Roots for Boots event that will happen in the first week of August, now we can execute all the wonderful plans and bring together the arts,” said Rota.

Rota called Amherstburg an “1812 community.”

“It is definitely part of our brand, part of our heritage and part of Canada’s heritage,” she said. “This is amazing for the town of Amherstburg and the region. We always wanted to put on a very thoughtful, high end event, where people felt so proud to be Canadian and now we can do that.”

The project also includes the restoration of the Laird St. murals behind General Amherst High School, depicting local events related to the War of 1812.

“We were always hoping in the back of our mind that would come to fruition,” said Rota. “That (the murals) to us is an icon for Amherstburg. Those murals go back almost 50 years. That will be a true tribute for the people in Amherstburg.”

Rota also hinted that a major Canadian music star will be performing at the Roots for Boots Festival, but was not sure who as of yet.

“We got some feelers out,” she said.

“Our Government is proud to invest in the Roots to Boots Festival – War of 1812 Commemoration in Essex County,” said Watson. “Community celebrations such as this one help increase citizen participation, boost local tourism, and strengthen the economy.”

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