Amherstburg Uncommon

Newest Amherstburg festival proves to be “uncommon”

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Mother Nature put the “steam” into “steampunk” over the Civic Holiday weekend but enthusiasts of that and Harry Potter still came to Amherstburg anyway.

The first Amherstburg Uncommon Festival was held last Friday through Sunday, organizers are still pleased with how things transpired. High heat and humidity kept people off the streets at points, but the reported attendance figure by the town was 35,000 for the three days.

“One of the things we heard consistently is that Amherstburg knows how to put on quality events for families,” said manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota. “All of the big top shows were sold out each day. We felt bad we had to turn some people away.”

Matt Foubert, Kim Chapieski and Sienna Oke attended the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival Aug. 5.

Rota credited town departments and staff who worked together to pull the festival off. She said it was a “huge footprint” between Gore St. and North St., including Toddy Jones Park and Navy Yard Park, and that proved to be something they had to contend with to keep people entertained.

“That was a bit of a challenge as well as the intense heat,” she said. “However, people did come out. We can’t thank the volunteers enough for their generous hospitality. They tried to keep people cool and safe.”

Crowds were “a little quieter than usual” in the middle of the day but Rota said they noticed they started picking up after 3 p.m.

“I think we met our goal to bring something unique to Amherstburg,” she said.

Rota said she was pleased with how engaged local businesses were, stating some had special menu items, dressed up storefronts and sponsored the event.

“I think the taxpayers just can’t rely on the tourism department to do the heavy lifting. It’s important to have businesses get involved as well,” she said. “There is no way the Town of Amherstburg would be able to sustain this as a significant festival without the support of the businesses.”

The amount of people in Harry Potter and steampunk costumes was surprising, she added.

Demonstrations involving owls proved to be a “hoot.”

“We never realized how many people love to get into ‘kit’ (costumes),” said Rota. “People spent months making costumes for the event. They were a show in and of themselves.”

Participants and vendors are very willing to come back next year, she added.

“Being the first year on such a large footprint, we learned quite a bit,” Rota stated. “We’ve got some ideas to make it better (for next year). Overall, we were very proud of the presence of Amherstburg as a progressive, thoughtful community.”

People also enjoyed simply strolling down Dalhousie St. and looking at the older homes and buildings, Rota added.

Rota thanked all the sponsors, including WFCU and Walker Aggregates, as well as the “many other community supporters.” Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, who was dressed in steampunk attire, also thanked the sponsors during Friday night opening ceremonies. DiCarlo also thanked Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) for its support.

Dr. Von Houligan’s Carnival of Calamities got the crowd going with some fire-breathing action.

“We are grateful for the support and exemplary work TWEPI does for Amherstburg and Essex County,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo also thanked the province, specifically the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, for grant funding that allowed the town to present the festival.

“They waved their magic wand and gave their support for the festival,” he said.

The mayor also thanked the University of Windsor for the help with the STEM tent and the tourism department.

“We couldn’t have had this without the commitment and dedication to make Amherstburg the best it can be,” he said.

Shelley McIndoo of LaSalle, along with children Avery, Maddison and Jonah, attended in full costume. She said they were “absolutely” looking forward to it.

Ryan, Megan, Gwenyth and Olivia Beaudoin.

“Everyone likes to dress up,” she said. “I was happy for the town. It’s nice they can capitalize on the waterfront. I’d like to see more festivals on the waterfront.”

Paul Stephany, a vendor from Guelph, said he was happy with what he saw from the first-year event.

“It’s a really well organized festival from what I can see,” he said, adding “I like steampunk because you can take the best of the Victorian era and rewrite the worst making a whole new story.”

Lloyd and Yvonne Penney stayed at the Bondy House Bed and Breakfast, as did Lori D’Ascenzo, with the local B&B re-dubbed “The Three Broomsticks” for the Amherstburg Uncommon weekend.

“I was looking for a festival that was fun, different and outside the box,” explained D’Ascenzo. “I called (the Bondy House) and got more information.”

D’Ascenzo said she enjoyed the people who dressed up but was hoping to see more inventions as she has a science background. She added she really liked the looks on children’s faces.

“It’s unbelievable how they get into the magic of it,” said D’Ascenzo.

Jenna, Jack and Erin Mendel stand in front of a steam engine provided by the Essex County Steam and Gas Engine Museum Aug. 4. The museum is holding its own show at Co-An Park in McGregor Aug. 10-12.

The Penney’s explained that they are big Harry Potter fans with Lloyd also enjoying steampunk. Lloyd said he heard about the festival through social media and when they looked into it, they came down three weeks ahead of time and brought promotional material to a steampunk convention in Novi, Michigan.

“We’re having a good time,” Yvonne said Saturday morning.

Jon Kominek from Dresden was all smiles as well, as he sat in the cockpit of a plane brought by the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association.

“It’s been fun so far,” he said Saturday. “I’ve never been in the cockpit of a plane before.”

Jeff and Angela Deane from Essex enjoyed themselves and thought it was a good event.

Lydia Palmer and Paige Howson were two of the people that came dressed up to the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, which was presented the Civic Holiday weekend.

“It’s cool,” said Angela, with Jeff adding “it’s good for a first year.”

The Beaudoin family from Amherstburg – Ryan, Megan, Gwenyth and Olivia – liked having the festival in their own backyard. The family were all in costume Saturday morning.

“It’s wonderful,” said Megan. “We’ve looked forward to it since we first heard about it. We made the costumes and everything.”

Jenna, Jack and Erin Mendel from Amherstburg also enjoyed themselves.

“It’s awesome,” said Jenna. “I like dressing up and we’re huge Harry Potter fans. Hopefully, it gets bigger with more vendors. If it keeps growing, it will be awesome.”

For more photos from the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, view our Facebook album.

 

The Amherstburg Uncommon Festival starts tomorrow, runs through Sunday

 

 

The Amherstburg Uncommon Festival is this weekend and final preparations are underway.

Numerous activities during the three-day event are scheduled for the downtown core. Events will carry a Harry Potter and steampunk theme.

Among the list of activities is a children’s innovation pavilion in Navy Yard Park which will include robotics, falconry and flight demonstrations, a straw maze, hat making, ghost walks, fire performers, costume contests, tea pot races Saturday at 3 p.m., a Canadian Historic Aircraft aerial display, quidditch games, and psychic readings.

Dr. Von Houligan’s Carnival of Calamities will be under the big top set up in Toddy Jones Park with tickets to enter being available at WFCU. Tickets for that are $5 and are available at WFCU.

The bulk of the event will be free, with the exception of the Dr. Von Houligan’s Carnival of Calamities, with numerous sponsors helping to present the event.

“The streets will be filled with activities for the entire three days,” manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota told the RTT in June. “There are some very, very uncommon and unusual acts. We have fireworks every single night that ends the show.”

The costume contest will be judged by representatives from Windsor Comic-Con and have male, female and children categories. The contest ends at 9 p.m. nightly.

“We will have giant steam engines on display and a chuckwagon at Toddy Jones Park,” added Rota.

What will be involved with the “Insecta Alley” will be left as a surprise for now, she stated.

Festival attendees are encouraged to visit local restaurants and shops during the festival, as many of the downtown streets will be closed. There will be a shuttle service taking people from the Libro Centre to the festival site.

Street closures commence Friday to accommodate the Aug. 3-5 Amherstburg Uncommon Festival.

“We are really encouraging people to visit downtown businesses and restaurants,” she said.

The Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society (WECAS) put out a press release Wednesday announcing their participation, adding it will be in “an uncommon way.”

WECAS will be on hand to run the Rickshaw Stop, where guests of the festival are invited to ride the rickshaws in exchange for a donation of any value to WECAS’ Back to School Program. While the organization has been able to find several volunteers for Saturday, we are still seeking runners for Friday and Sunday.

“We are excited to be part of this Festival!  Every dollar we raise through the Rickshaw rides will go to support our Back to School Program which provides backpacks filled with school supplies to over 900 children and youth served by the Society.  We are so grateful to have such a giving community, and proud as an organization to see each child ready and positioned for success on their first day of school!”  stated Terry Johnson, interim executive director.

For more information on the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, call the tourism office at 519-730-1309, visit www.amherstburg.ca/uncommon or visit the tourism department’s Facebook page by searching “Amherstburg Connection.”

The public can also follow the tourism department on Twitter by searching @AmherstburgNow.

The Amherstburg Uncommon Festival opens at 4 p.m. on Friday, August 3 and 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 4 and Sunday, August 5. The festival closes after fireworks every night, which are at 10 p.m.

Opening ceremonies are planned for 5 p.m. Friday featuring the Canadian Historic Aircraft Museum, a Provincial Marine salute and the Rivertown Dance Academy.

 

Planning for Amherstburg Uncommon Festival ongoing

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Plans for the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival are underway and town tourism officials believe things are coming together nicely.

The festival, planned to be in the downtown core including Navy Yard Park and Toddy Jones Park, is set for Aug. 3-5 and manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota is enthusiastic about what the Civic Holiday weekend will do for the town.

“Something uncommon is about to hit the streets of Amherstburg,” said Rota. “Every day, a new exciting activity is added. By Aug. 3-5, people are going to be amazed at what is going to be in Amherstburg.”

Among the list of activities is a children’s innovation pavilion in Navy Yard Park which will include robotics, falconry and flight demonstrations, a straw maze, hat making, ghost walks, costume contests, tea pot races, a Canadian Historic Aircraft aerial display, quidditch games, psychic readings and Dr. Von Houligan’s Carnival of Calamities. The latter will see a big top set up in Toddy Jones Park with tickets to enter being available at WFCU.

“Tickets are only $5 each because of a generous donation from WFCU, who sponsored the tent,” said Rota.

Rota said even the tourism department is surprised by the level of interest the festival has been receiving.

“We are amazed with the popularity of Harry Potter and steampunk,” said Rota. “We never thought there would be so much interest out there.”

The bulk of the event will be free, said Rota, and noted they have received a number of sponsors that have helped with costs.

“The streets will be filled with activities for the entire three days,” she said. “There are some very, very uncommon and unusual acts. We have fireworks every single night that ends the show.”

The costume contest will be judged by representatives from Windsor Comic-Con and have male, female and children categories.

“We will have giant steam engines on display and a chuckwagon at Toddy Jones Park,” added Rota.

What will be involved with the “Insecta Alley” will be left as a surprise for now, she stated.

There is no plan to have food trucks or vendors involved, Rota said, with people encouraged to visit local restaurants as many will have Harry Potter and steampunk-themed menus.

“We are really encouraging people to visit downtown businesses and restaurants,” she said.

For more information on the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, call the tourism office at 519-730-1309, visit www.amherstburg.ca/uncommon or visit the tourism department’s Facebook page by searching “Amherstburg Connection.” The public can also follow the tourism department on Twitter by searching @AmherstburgNow.

General Amherst art students do something “uncommon” for upcoming festival

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A group of General Amherst High School art students will have a presence at the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival whether they are there in person or not.

Grade 11 students Mackenzie Szwed, Antonio Simone and Grace D’Alimonte created three large paintings depicting scenes from the film “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and they will be displayed during the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival that will be held Aug. 3-5.

Teacher Andrea Craig-Wammes pointed out that students Vanessa Favot and Ryan Sinasac helped out when they could. Craig-Wammes worked with tourism co-ordinator Jennifer Ibrahim on developing a project for General Amherst art students then the students took it from there.

D’Alimonte said working as a team made the project enjoyable and Szwed called it “really fun” to be a part of.

The group spent about 40-45 hours after school on the project with preparation work starting as early as January.

Amherst art students created work for the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival. From left: Mackenzie Szwed, Antonio Simone, Grace D’Alimonte.

“We knew it was going to be a big project,” said Simone.

The paintings depict “three establishing moments in the story,” he added with D’Alimonte stating “it tells the story just by the three (paintings).”

Ibrahim said the paintings will be displayed by the straw maze during the festival.

“It’s something we can look back on,” added Szwed.

Simone said Craig-Wammes encouraged them to “think outside the box” and that it paid off.

“This is a community project,” stated Ibrahim.

Ibrahim added that it showcases the “best in Amherstburg” in terms of artwork and that visitors from around southwestern Ontario and Michigan will be among those to view their work. The plan is to display the paintings annually.

Craig-Wammes added that the project was student-led and that they used outdoor acrylic paint to create the subject matter.

Tourism department highlights trio of events for the coming season

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s tourism department has highlighted a trio of upcoming events it is planning, including two new ones that have joined the schedule.

Tourism co-ordinators Sarah Van Grinsven and Anna Cabrera met with business owners at the Libro Centre last Tuesday and went over what is in the works. Roughly ten people attended the afternoon session with slightly more reported to have attended the morning session.

The first of the new events will be the Rhododendron Garden Tea Party, with Cabrera explaining that they want to showcase the town using one of the more popular assets, which is the rhododendron gardens in King’s Navy Yard Park.

The Rhododendron Garden Tea Party is planned for May 27 with the event having a “Downton Abbey”-type feel, Cabrera added. There will be two sittings – one at 11:30 a.m. and the other at 3 p.m. – in Navy Yard Park.

Van Grinsven said a similar event was held in 2012 for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and that went well, with people asking for more of those type of events in the future.

“It’s giving people what they want,” said Van Grinsven.

That event is being held in conjunction with the Belle Vue Conservancy.

There will be a Downton Abbey inspired costume contest for women, men and children as well.

“The rhododendron gardens are one of the focal points of the King’s Navy Yard Park each spring,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We will be honoured to welcome visitors with the added garden tea program. When the gardens are in full bloom, it’s an amazing spectacle for the region.”

The second new event will be the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, planned for Aug. 3-5. The event, which is proposed as an annual festival, will combine Harry Potter with steampunk, the latter being described by Cabrera as “Victorian-era science fiction.”

“Think of what the past might have looked like if we had today’s technology,” she said.

Cabrera stated that millennials “spend money on experiences rather than material goods” and that there is a hope that photos and videos of the event will “live forever” if put online.

“We didn’t pick this at random,” she said of the theme for Amherstburg Uncommon. “There is a rhyme and reason.”

Sarah Van Grinsven, one of the town’s tourism co-ordinators, goes over a map of the downtown core detailing proposed road closures for the Aug. 3-5 Amherstburg Uncommon Festival.

The bulk of the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival will be free with roads in the downtown core closed off. Van Grinsven indicated the only ticketed event will be a magic show under the “big top” tent that will be set up in Toddy Jones Park. Also proposed for the three-day festival will be aerial demonstrations from the Canadian Historical Aircraft Museum, rickshaws, live entertainment, craftsmen, a “quidditch” ball throwing activity, children’s games and entertainment and other attractions.

Many of the activities will focus on science, technology, engineering and math, Van Grinsven stated.

“We want the town to be transformed,” she said. “It’s all about the look. It’s all about the feel.”

Vendors will be screened to ensure they fit the theme, added Cabrera, and organizers hope to work with restaurants for themed menus and food items re-named to fit the steampunk or Harry Potter eras.

The Park House Museum will also be partnering with the tourism department for the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival.

Van Grinsven told business owners that “we want to bring business to you” and that Amherstburg Uncommon will be a family-friendly event.

“There is definitely no alcohol,” she said.

Restaurants and businesses may be able to expand patios but that has to be done in conjunction with the town’s licensing department.

“We want to facilitate the success of the businesses,” she said.

Some business owners voiced concerns with road closures and the ability to get back and forth to their businesses while others didn’t want to bring in products that organizers or vendors will be selling.

“We’re creating fun,” said Van Grinsven. “We’re creating a fabulous atmosphere for people.”

The third event highlighted at the meetings was the Canada Day event. That is scheduled to return to the grounds of Fort Malden National Historic Site July 1. Events like the Canada D’Eh run, which is presented by Running Flat, and the Ice Cream Festival for Toddy Jones Park are also planned for Canada’s 151st birthday.

For more information, call 519-730-1309.