ACOC

River Lights to begin with “Downtown Holiday Nights” Nov. 18

 

By Ron Giofu

The River Lights Winter Festival is fast approaching with it being kicked off with “Downtown Holiday Nights” Nov. 18.

The event is a joint initiative between River Lights and the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) and is sponsored by Libro Credit Union.

River Lights administrator Sarah Van Grinsven said one of the highlights will be the “12 Days of Christmas” scavenger hunt that local businesses are participating in. That runs Nov. 18 from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and Nov. 19 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Participants will take their entry card to the 12 participating business and get it stamped once they find the “theme” in each location. The winner will receive prizes from local businesses valued at $600 with the victor being selected at the Nov. 19 tree lighting ceremony.

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“This is big for the businesses,” said Dorothy Kryworuchko Languedoc, a director with the ACOC and owner of Pied-A-Terre Home Décor & Gifts. “It’s supporting local businesses. It’s huge.”

ACOC president Carolyn Davies said businesses are excited about the scavenger hunt, stating it will bring people into downtown businesses and have a lot of fun looking for the scavenger items in the process.

Half of the businesses were signed up right away, Davies added. Most of the spots have been filled since then.

“They are enthusiastic,” said Davies.

The ACOC president said people are not obligated to purchase anything at the businesses but said businesses can add a second incentive for the public if they see fit.

Other components of the “Downtown Holiday Nights” include ice sculpture artists, a holiday market featuring local artists and locally grown food, vignettes, a pair of horse-and-buggy operators, candlelight tours of the Park House Museum, and Father Christmas telling stories of St. Nicholas at the Commissariat with the Provincial Marine holding an encampment outside as well.

“It’s going to be a fun evening just before the tree lighting,” said Van Grinsven. “It’s a great partnership between River Lights and the Chamber to get the holiday season started for adults.”

Van Grinsven added Libro stepped forward because they wanted to help the program. Cathy Thomas, branch manager of the Amherstburg location, said Libro likes giving back to the community and enjoys “spreading prosperity” in southwestern Ontario.

“Working with River Lights and the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce is the cherry on top for the end of the season,” said Thomas. “It’s part of giving back to the community. We’re looking forward to it.”

“We’ve created a fantastic tradition,” added Van Grinsven. “It’s perfect for the holidays.”

The addition of the “Downtown Holiday Nights” to the busy River Lights agenda is also a night to see what businesses in the downtown core have to offer, Van Grinsven stated.

“It’s really adding to the atmosphere of what Amherstburg has,” she said.

“We really want to have businesses go the extra mile,” added Kryworuchko Languedoc. “It really adds to the ambiance (in downtown Amherstburg).”

The entire River Lights Winter Festival runs from Nov. 18- Dec. 30. For more information, visit www.riverlights.ca, call 519-736-4642, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/riverlightsconnection or follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RiverLights.

Harvest Festival organizers gearing up for Sept. 9-11 event

 

By RTT Staff

 

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival is fast approaching and plans are starting to fall into place.

The event is Sept. 9-11 at Fort Malden National Historic Site with the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) helping to organize the event. Co-chairs Chris Gibb and Aldo DiCarlo indicate the Harvest Festival will help keep Amherstburg as the focal point during the second weekend of September.

“The mayor approached the chamber about saving the weekend for Amherstburg,” said Gibb. “He recognized what needed to be done and stepped up and did it.”

Gibb said the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival worked hard to build up their event and when they were not able to put it on again this year, DiCarlo approached the chamber about doing something that weekend.

DiCarlo, who is trying to keep his duties as mayor and committee co-chair separate, said he approached the ACOC due to a belief that something else could be created elsewhere.

“The weekend really was open. It was built up for ten years,” said DiCarlo. “It was clear if we didn’t do something, someone was going to pick it up. I contacted the group I knew who could pull (another event) off.”

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The wine festival was credited for their work, with organizers using much of the same ideas they had in terms of set-up and infrastructure but adding different twists to it for the Harvest Festival. The event is not an official “town event” and is being done with the blessing of the wine festival committee.

Organizers are “cautiously optimistic,” said DiCarlo. Wristband technology will allow patrons to “load” a monetary amount on it and swipe it with the bill going to the credit card of the patrons’ choice. Gibb noted that will eliminate the need for tokens with DiCarlo noting that every wristband will be associated with a specific person.

The festival will also have “Feast ON” designation, meaning that at least 50 per cent of the culinary tastes are sourced from local ingredients. The weekend will feature both “Feast ON” and “Bev ON” tours throughout the three-day festival.

“That (Feast ON) designation is not easy to get, I’m told,” said DiCarlo, noting the organizers had help from Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) in obtaining the designation.

DiCarlo added “it makes perfect sense to me to showcase everything we do” and noted the wineries, craft breweries and distilleries, such as Wolfhead Distillery, bring strong local components to the table including locally-grown crops used in creating their products and local materials used in processing them.

The local flare spills over into entertainment, “which we are proud of,” said DiCarlo.

“What was most important to us was to gain local people and that all entertainment is local,” he said, with local meaning from the Windsor-Essex County area.

Currently scheduled for the opening night are Kelsi Mayne, the Crystal Gage Band, Buck Twenty and Ashley Lynn and the Spurs. Saturday night entertainment includes Claudia DiNatale, Transeo, the Funk Junkies, the Sarah Smith Band, and Greatest Hits Live while Sunday’s entertainment has the Joan Charette Quartet, Double Barrel and Jorge Miguel scheduled.

Gibb said Saturday night is getting close to the 6,000-person sell-out mark.

“We are very impressed with the ticket sales so far,” said Gibb.

Seminars from “taste artisans” and “beverage artisans” will also be featured as part of that weekend. A list of taste and beverage artisans can be found at www.weharvestfestival.com. As the festival gets closer, patrons will also be able to download a “EatDrinX” app on their smartphones. That app will assist people in finding the taste artisan of their choice and the menu items they want to try.

Menu items are not yet finalized, said DiCarlo, and they will be once it is known what the “bounty of Essex County” is come harvest season.

Fort Malden is getting in on the act, doing live demonstrations and are even developing their own beverage with hops being grown right on the grounds.

“It’s kind of a cool, unique idea,” said Gibb.

“(Fort Malden) didn’t want to make it a passive venue for the event. They are very excited to partner with us,” said DiCarlo.

Hours are Sept. 9 4-11 p.m., 12-11 p.m. Sept. 10 and 12-6 p.m. Sept. 11. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the gate for Sept. 9-10 with the Sunday being $15 in advance and children 18 and under free with a ticket-holding parent. A weekend pass is $60. Tickets are available online at www.weharvestfestival.com, at any WFCU location and at the Gordon House.

“By the time it’s done, I think it will be a good example of what can happen when people work together,” said DiCarlo.

For more information or to volunteer, visit the website, their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/weharvestfest or follow them on Twitter @WeHarvestFest.

Mardi Gras thrills the downtown crowds over the weekend

 

By Adam D’Andrea

 

Downtown Amherstburg was a sight to be seen last weekend as the streets flooded with crowds, magicians, bands and even a space-age Elvis Presley.

For the second year in a row Dalhousie Street was transformed into Bourbon Street during the 2016 Mardi Gras Street Party. The event was hosted by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce with the hopes of attracting around 5,000 visitors to the downtown core.

Silver Elvis entertains crowds in front of the Waterfront Ice Cream Parlour  during the Mardi Gras Street Party last Friday evening. (RTT Photo by Adam D'Andrea)

Silver Elvis entertains crowds in front of the Waterfront Ice Cream Parlour during the Mardi Gras Street Party last Friday evening. (RTT Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

“We’re expecting about the same as last year with a little bit more. Last year we had 4,300 people. We’re hoping to hit around 5,000, maybe around 2,500 per night,” said Chamber of Commerce general manager Monica Bunde last Friday. “That’s a nice-sized crowd and that’s a manageable crowd for the police, security and our volunteers.”

(UPDATE: The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce estimates the crowd at approximately 2,000 for Friday and Saturday combined. That figure was given late Tuesday afternoon.)

Entertainment throughout the weekend was provided by buskers such as magician Bill Nuvo, Silver Elvis, the Stilt Guys and Jojo’s Bizarre Circus, as well as a number of local bands from throughout Essex County. An increased entertainment budget was one of the major changes made from last year’s event.

The Stilt Guys strike a pose during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie St. last Friday. (Photo by Adam D'Andrea)

The Stilt Guys strike a pose during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie St. last Friday. (Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

“We found last year that’s what the people wanted. They wanted more music, more bands and more buskers,” Bunde said. “They wanted to see them throughout the streets.”

In addition to an increased budget, the Chamber of Commerce also increased the physical size of the festival this year.

“The footprint has been extended to the Dalhousie Bistro on Rankin Avenue and Dalhousie Street, so it gave us an extra block and four more restaurants,” Bunde said. “The Dalhousie Bistro, The Cellar, the Beacon Ale House and Waterfront Ice Cream.”

Tap performs during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie Street last Friday evening.

Tap performs during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie Street last Friday evening. (RTT Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

Bunde said the Chamber of Commerce is already planning for next year’s Mardi Gras festival. One of the initial steps they’re taking in the planning process is to survey festival goers and use opinions to their benefit.

“We try hard with these festivals and we listened and surveyed people last year. We have people doing surveys Friday and Saturday with the Canada Festival Network,” she said. “They’re going to do some surveys for us and give us some data so we can move forward and hopefully next year we can have an even more successful event.”

According to Bunde there is a high demand for new and exciting festivals in the area and pointed to the Windsor Essex Harvest Festival, which will take place at Fort Malden in September, as an example.

Rachel Pitre tosses a ring onto magician Bill Nuvo’s head during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie Street on July 22. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

Rachel Pitre tosses a ring onto magician Bill Nuvo’s head during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie Street on July 22. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

“The community needs these festivals. They come together,” Bunde said. “The sponsors that we have, they’re all so excited to sponsor these types of events. There’s great response from the community and I think everybody wants it.”

This year’s festival was sponsored by LiUNA! 625, Amherstburg Audiology and Hearing Aids, Rivertowne Dental, Joe Meloche Ford, CIBC and ReMAX.

Mardi Gras getting ready to return to the downtown streets this Friday and Saturday

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A touch of New Orleans returns to Amherstburg this weekend.

The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce’s (ACOC) Mardi Gras returns to the downtown core this Friday and Saturday night with the footprint being expanded this year to include the portion of Dalhousie St. from Richmond St. to Rankin Ave.

Despite that one block expansion, ACOC general manager Monica Bunde said one lane will be kept open in that block to accommodate traffic.

There will be an increased number of gates this year, she added, with three as opposed to two. The new gate will be at Rankin Ave. and Dalhousie St. with the two existing gates – on Richmond St. at Ramsay St. and one near Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 – remaining.

Friday night bands include TAP, United Snakes and One Man Out with music and entertainment getting underway at 6:30 p.m. and scheduled to last until 11:30 p.m. Saturday night’s music is scheduled to last from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. with bands being the Rustbelt Revelators, Dave Russel, White Noise and Dream Catcher.

Mardi Gras returns to the downtown core this Friday and Saturday night. Richard and Jennifer Lanoue are ready for the event. There is also a Super Sidewalk Sale during the day Saturday.

Mardi Gras returns to the downtown core this Friday and Saturday night. Richard and Jennifer Lanoue are ready for the event. There is also a Super Sidewalk Sale during the day Saturday.

In addition to those bands, some restaurants in the area will be providing their own music as well.

“It’s going to be jam-packed with music,” said Bunde. “There will be music everywhere.”

Buskers will also be featured during Mardi Gras as well. Friday night’s buskers are scheduled to be Bill Nuvo, the Stilt Guys, Silver Elvis, JoJo’s Bizarre Circus and the Vertika Pole Fitness Dancing Troupe. Included as part of Saturday night’s entertainment will be Bill Nuvo, JoJo’s Bizarre Circus, the Stilt Guys, Silver Elvis with Special Guests and Billionz Cobra.

With the roads being closed in the area the entire weekend, it allows the ACOC to present its “Super Sidewalk Sale” as well. That will run Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

“All shops will be open and we hope everyone comes downtown,” said Bunde.
The streets will be closed during the sidewalk sale so people will be able to walk the streets. There will also be entertainment for children during the sidewalk sale as well.

“The streets will be open to foot traffic so come and enjoy the downtown,” said Bunde.

Many of the restaurants within the designated Mardi Gras area will have extended patios, she added.

“I’m hearing a ton of excitement,” said Bunde. “The shops and restaurants are looking forward to it. They are all revving up for it.”

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate for both days with a weekend pass being $25 in advance or $30 at the gate. Bunde said last year’s Mardi Gras drew about 4,300 people overall with the goal this year to have 2,500 to 3,000 each night.

“We’re hoping for a few hundred more,” she said. “That would be great.”

Tickets are available at all WFCU locations in Windsor-Essex County, the Gordon House or online at www.amherstburgstreetparty.com.

First ever Sunday Market Wellness Stroll pleases organizers

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The first of three Sunday Market Wellness Strolls was held Sunday morning with organizers happy with how things went.

Participants got to try their hand at yoga, pilates, belly dancing and other forms of exercise in the Navy Yard Park during the event as well as receiving an opportunity to visit some of the 12 vendors that were set up in the parkette area. It was presented jointly by the Amherstburg Farmers Market and the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC).

Ena Monteleone leads people through yoga during the Sunday Market Wellness Stroll.

Ena Monteleone leads people through yoga during the Sunday Market Wellness Stroll.

“It’s getting the community together,” said stroll co-organizer and ACOC board member Gay-anne Ledingham.

Ledingham said it was also a way to bring people to downtown Amherstburg on a Sunday morning and for them to enjoy healthy exercises and products. The dozen vendors that were there featured “all natural, healthy choices,” she stated. Many of the businesses involved donated their time to support the event.

Organizers were “very happy” with the turnout, she added, but there is room for others should they want to come next month.

“We can always use more,” said Ledingham.

Some local businesses in the area also got involved, as Ledingham said Riccardo’s Italian Restaurant donated bocconcini to those who attended.

Heather Vandenham from Seasons leads one of the exercises.

Heather Vandenham from Seasons leads one of the exercises.

Connie Campbell-Dupuis attended Sunday morning’s stroll and enjoyed the yoga aspect of it.

“The setting is perfect. Just doing it by the water is very helpful,” she said. “(Instructor Ena Monteleone’s) voice helps. I have to join yoga.”

Josh Rene from Tasty Traditions Gourmet Treats & Gifts said they turned out to the market because they wanted people to try their products but also out of a love for the town.

“We love Amherstburg and we love bringing our products to Amherstburg,” he said. “We jumped at the opportunity. It’s really good. It’s really exciting.”

Pilates was also part of the Sunday Afternoon Wellness Stroll.

Pilates was also part of the Sunday Afternoon Wellness Stroll.

Ledingham was thankful to everyone who supported the event, including town council for granting permission for the event to be held in Navy Yard Park. The next two strolls are scheduled for July 31 and Aug. 21 from 8 a.m.-12 noon.

For more information, contact Ledingham at 519-736-2771.