Amherstburg Uncommon

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.

Tourism department unveils two new town events

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A pair of new events are coming this year with the unveiling being at town council’s Monday night meeting.

Manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota announced that the Aug. 3-5 “Amherstburg Uncommon” festival will have Harry Potter and steampunk themes. Rota said there is a strong Harry Potter community in Michigan and described steampunk as “a genre inspired by a historical setting highlighting technology and aesthetic design inspired by the 19th century.”

Steampunk has also been described as “a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.”

Rota said their data shows many people like to come to festivals the Civic Holiday weekend, citing the success of the Canuck It Up! Festival held in 2017.

Image courtesy of www.amherstburg.ca

“Amherstburg has the momentum and clientele for another large event,” she said. “We are looking at many, many partners to participate in this event.”

The Canadian Historical Aircraft Museum aims to be part of the “Amherstburg Uncommon” festival including daily aerial demonstrations. The goal for the event is to attract at least 40,000 people.

It will be partially funded by the Government of Ontario.

There will be a “symposium” for business owners to learn more about the festival and other 2018 events March 27 at the Libro Centre. Two meetings are planned with business owners invited to either the 8 a.m. meeting or the 3 p.m. CAO John Miceli called the meeting “monumental” and said it is important to reach out to the community and “build the economic engine with special events.”

Rota also said there will be an Amherstburg Rhododendron Garden Tea Party, which will be held in Navy Yard Park May 27 with the support of the Belle Vue Conservancy. The event will feature two tents, 50 volunteers and two seatings for the tea, which is envisioned as an event similar to “Downton Abbey.”

“This will be in celebration of what we’re already known for – presenting the town in beautiful bloom,” said Rota.

Seatings would have 150 people each in Navy Yard Park.

The tourism department already gets inquiries as to when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom, she added. She said garden tourism is on the rise and the Communities in Bloom judges also suggested to exploit the town’s garden assets.

Councillor Leo Meloche praised the work of tourism department, which recently added Sarah Van Grinsven and Anna Cabrera to its complement.

“You and your staff are doing a great job,” Meloche told Rota.

“You and your staff are doing a great job,” he told Rota.

New festival coming to Amherstburg this August

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg’s tourism department was so pleased with the results of last year’s “Canuck it Up!” Festival that it is now adding another August festival.

“Amherstburg Uncommon” will be held Aug. 3-5 and while tourism officials aren’t officially disclosing details until the March 19 town council meeting. In the meantime, they have received $23,350 under the province’s “Celebrate Ontario” grant program to help plan the event.

“We saw the application for the Celebrate Ontario 2018 grant as an opportunity to bring another large-scale event to Amherstburg,” said manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota. “Amherstburg Uncommon festival is hosted in Amherstburg but we see this as a large regional event.”

Even though the town has received the provincial grant, Rota said they will still be seeking corporate partners and sponsors as well as budgeted funds for the event.

“Definitely, our goal is to boost business for the downtown merchants and all businesses in Amherstburg,” she said. “Everyone knows Amherstburg is rebranding itself and positioning itself as wanting to attract new business and new investment. A great way to do that is through growing our attraction portfolio. By strengthening our festivals and events, we enhance the visitor experience therefor increasing attendance. People spend more money and we hope it leads to job creation.”

There will be a “symposium” for business owners to learn more about the festival and other 2018 events March 27 at the Libro Centre. Two meetings are planned with business owners invited to either the 8 a.m. meeting or the 3 p.m.

“We encourage all business owners and stakeholders to come out,” said Rota, “not only to find out about the new event, but everything relating to tourism and culture for the year.”

The “Amherstburg Uncommon” event will be “inclusive,” said Rota, adding that “people are going to be able to take part.”

“This will be a very family-friendly event,” she continued. “Receiving the grant makes us feel comfortable the Ministry of Tourism and Sport recognizes the potential of this new event.”