River Lights and Wine Fest land on Ontario Top 100 festivals and events list


By Joel Charron

Two Amherstburg festivals have once again landed on the Festivals & Events Ontario (FEO) Top 100 list.

Shores of Erie International Wine Festival (SOE) and the River Light Festival recently received word that the both festivals achieved the provincial recognition.

The River Lights and SOE were two of six festivals that made the top 100 list in Windsor/Essex County. Both festivals were chosen to the top 100 list out of approximately 3,100 annual Ontario festivals.

“It says a lot about our community and the support we get from our community,” said SOE festival director Kelly O’Rourke. “We should all be very proud of this achievement.”

This is the fourth consecutive year SOE has been named to the top 100, while River Lights has enjoyed the honour three of the past five years.

“This is a great award that means a lot to us,” said SOE festival director Kelly O’Rourke.  “It’s great for people to recognize quality events.  Being named to the Top 100 really helps with our marketing.”

O’Rourke said the Top 100 logo goes on every piece of mail, e-mail or press release they send out and said it is an honor to receive that type of recognition from their peers in the festival industry. The Top 100 status is also helpful in securing government grants, she added.

O’Rourke added that being named to the list is something that SOE strives for every year.

“There is pressure there,” said O’Rourke of being named to the list. “You certainly want to be on that list because it gives you that recognition, which is so necessary in this competitive world of festivals and events.”

The Shores of Erie International Wine Festival has over 450 volunteers that support the annual September festival and O’Rourke said support is so strong they actually have to turn people away.

“We couldn’t do all this without our volunteers,” she said. ‘To have so many people willing to help and portray this positive image, that’s the type of thing that helps you get this award.”

River Lights administrator Karen Gyorgy said the award is “very humbling.”

Gyorgy states that River Lights is “a vehicle for marketing programming in the community for the winter thus bringing economic development for our businesses. River Lights is an organization that provides cultural investment to Amherstburg through private and public sponsorship and partnering with many local organizations and businesses.”

Gyorgy added that the 13 volunteer committee deserves the credit for the recognition.

“There are a lot of people who work very hard to breath life into this festival,” said Gyorgy. “The endless hours our committee and volunteers put in to make River Lights a winter destination is happening and I could not be prouder of the people that make this festival such a success.”

Last year, River Light obtained a Celebrate Ontario grant, which allowed the winter festival to bring in concerts where local talent was showcased, street actors and wine trolley tours throughout Amherstburg.

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