Anne Rota

Mixed bag of viewpoints at logo public meeting



By Ron Giofu


A crowd of about 20 people attended the public consultation session at the Libro Centre regarding the proposed new logos with varying opinions on which one they liked best.

Cinnamon Toast New Media, led by owner/creative director Bronwyn Mondoux, made a presentation to parks and recreation committee members and heritage committee members followed by another presentation to the public last Saturday at the Libro Centre. At the public meeting, Mondoux brought forth the results of the “Talk the Burg” survey, which had 558 responses and 468 of those identifying as being from Amherstburg. Eighty tourists replied while ten identified as local business owners.

About 47 per cent of the residents liked “Option B,” which was the stylized “A” logo while 37 per cent of the tourists liked “Option A,” which was the original logo brought forth to council in mid-January.

“Option C,” the other logo that was presented after the council meeting with buildings and waves in it, was the second favourite of both residents and tourists, Mondoux reported. The least liked logo in both groups was the simplified version of the original logo.

Logos discussed include Option A (left), Option A simplified (centre),Option B (top right) and Option C (below right).

Option A will be the one that will again be recommended to town council for adoption, as Cinnamon Toast New Media believes that is the one that will connect with millennials and also will address the town’s strategic plan and values as well as what was in the original Request for Proposals (RFP).

Norm Mickle said of Option A that “I don’t understand the logo concept at all” and that Option B looked too similar to that of the Amherstburg Admirals’ logo. Mickle said that Amherstburg is a town that “pioneers new things” and that “we do things here that other towns follow.” He didn’t believe the logos he referenced would inspire tourism or businesses to move here.

“My personal feeling is that neither of these do any of that,” said Mickle.

CAO John Miceli said the town’s Official Plan that was adopted in 2009 outlines the economic importance of tourism “and how important it is to the growth of this town.”

“We got this right back in 2009,” he said. “It’s been ten years and no one did a thing.”

Miceli admitted he wasn’t a fan of Option A at first and preferred Option C. However, he said Option A captured everything the town was looking for in a logo.

“We’re trying to develop tourism as an industry,” he said. “We’ve said since 2009 that we should be doing this.”

Gord Freeman pointed out local artist Elio Del Col designed a logo several years ago that didn’t get off the ground. He believed the consultants should have been given copies of the two-volume book series on Amherstburg to get an education on what the town is about.

“I am not in favour of rebranding. We are the brand here,” said Freeman. “We are recognized in the province. We are the historic heart of southwestern Ontario. Pretty much no one else has what we have, except Sandwich possibly.”

Nancy Atkinson said she circulated the originally proposed logo to family and friends who questioned what it was. She added that when she vacations, “never do I look for a logo.” Atkinson added that she doesn’t understand why the logo is so important and that festivals “are awesome and speak better for all of us.”

Bob Rozankovic questioned why the recommendation supports the 37 per cent of 80 tourist respondents, rather than the responses from the residents.

“This doesn’t make sense,” said Rozankovic. “Shouldn’t the new logo carry the approval of the residents first and foremost?”

Rozankovic added “a logo will never draw tourists here. I’ve travelled the world – a logo doesn’t do it.”

Former councillor Diane Pouget pointed out that she voted against the $76,000 branding expenditure because “I think it’s a waste of money.” She believed that a logo design could have been found within the community and not by hiring a firm from outside of Amherstburg.

“We could have done it with high school students,” said Pouget, adding “I have not heard of anyone that likes it.”

Pouget added that she was previously at the committee meeting and reported they were having difficulty achieving consensus.

Sarah Gibb believed there was too much focus on the town logo and that it’s “one piece of the puzzle.” She added she plans her family’s vacations and uses online tools such as new websites to do it.

“It’s a bigger picture item,” she believed, of the branding strategy. Gibb added that “we need to attract people here” over other local municipalities.

“I want them to come here,” she said.

Gord Freeman pointed out the town had a new logo designed several years ago by Elio DelCol.

Janet Willoughby supported Option A, believing that “it makes us unique.” She added that logo will look good on a t-shirt or mug and that the colours were nice as well.

Mondoux noted the logo helps “set the tone” but noted there are other components of the branding project to come, including the new tourism website.

“This is going to turn into so many pieces,” she said.

Anne Rota, the town’s manager of tourism and culture, also said the logo “is a small piece” and there is a “beautiful, beautiful website that is coming.”
“Let’s not get stuck on the logo,” she said, though added the recommended option “has a piece of what everyone wanted in a very edgy way.”

Both the town and Cinnamon Toast New Media revealed that the new logo will not replace the current town crest, the latter still said to be in the plans for more official documentation and will stay on town vehicles.

“Perhaps we should have done a better job communicating that,” said Rota.

The matter will appear before town council again Feb. 25.

Town council agrees to honour River Lights volunteers



By Ron Giofu


A couple who have been integral parts of the growth of the River Lights Winter Festival will be honoured.

Mark and Karen Usher will be honoured with a plaque at the pavilion in Toddy Jones Park as it will be dubbed the “Karen and Mark Usher Gingerbread Warming House.” Jennie Lajoie, a member of the River Lights committee, appeared before town council to make the request and called the Gingerbread Warming House “a much loved and integral part of the festival in which thousands of families have visited Amherstburg to not only enjoy the lights, but to partake of the activities and beauty of the Gingerbread Warming House.”

Volunteers, including the Ushers, put up walls and decorations on the pavilion every fall to get it ready for the River Lights Winter Festival.

Lajoie pointed out that the Ushers spend “hundreds of volunteer hours” getting the warming house ready and Lajoie pointed out that it is the venue for the gingerbread house contest and other events during the River Lights Winter Festival. The events are mostly free in part “because of the hard work and efforts of Karen and Mark Usher for over 11 years!”

The Ushers have lived in Amherstburg for 43 years, Lajoie added, and Karen was a nurse at a medical clinic while Mark taught for 32 years at General Amherst High School.

“Both have dedicated part of their retirements to giving back selflessly, graciously and warmly to their beloved community so that others can enjoy a magical, family tradition at Toddy Jones Park,” Lajoie stated.

Councillor Patricia Simone questioned whether the plaque would be displayed all year, or just during River Lights. Lajoie said they envision a permanent, all-year plaque.

Simone voiced a concern that others may start coming forth with similar requests, noting that most town events are run by volunteers. She said she didn’t want to exclude anyone if someone else should come forward.

The Gingerbread Warming House will be named for River Lights volunteers Mark and Karen Usher. (Special to the RTT)

Lajoie promoted the Ushers by stating they have been volunteering for River Lights for 11 years and “they are busy all year round.” CAO John Miceli added the town has started yearly events to recognize the town’s many volunteers.

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche pointed out there are other recognition events, including a yearly tree planting ceremony at Co-An Park in McGregor.

“I see no harm in doing more of that,” said Meloche.

Councillor Michael Prue wanted to know if the town had any sort of policy regarding recognizing residents and groups.

“If we have a policy, we should follow it,” said Prue.

“There is not a policy,” noted Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We are working on a policy.”

Prue followed up by wondering what the specifics were of the plaque, including size, location and what it is made out of. Lajoie said it will be a 12×18 metal plaque.

Mark Usher attended the meeting and thanked council for agreeing to the honour.

“River Lights is super special,” he said, adding families come down to look at the lights and enjoy themselves.

“It’s all about families,” he said.

DiCarlo envisioned the town hosting an event for the Ushers after the plaque is installed.

Car show becomes controversial



By Ron Giofu


The future of the Amherstburg’s Gone Car Crazy Show has become controversial with the former event chair and the town’s tourism department giving different versions of what they believe is going on.

Eleanor Renaud, who chaired the event for its first 13 years, has stepped down and said she was pleased to have two “prominent business owners from Amherstburg” step up and volunteer to run the show.

“Much to my surprise, I was informed that the show was being taken over by the tourism department and the two men who had volunteered to co-chair the show  ‘would be able to assist’,” said Renaud. “That is a slap in the face to these people who are willing to take time from their own businesses to keep this show alive and continue with its success. Also, there was an indication of a possible name change of the show, as well as possibly a new location. Well, so much for supporting the downtown businesses and restaurants who do very well the day of the show.”

Renaud stated the volunteers of the car show committee struggled for 13 years “making it the great success that it is.” The event grew from 125 cars their first year to over 700 this past year.

“We are all volunteers, with no other reward besides the pride that came with such success. We did receive a meagre $2,500 from the town every year and the bulk of our finances came from sponsorships,” said Renaud. “We truly appreciated the support of the local merchants and the hundreds of participants that came from across southern Ontario and the U.S.A.”

Renaud said they had over 80 dedicated volunteers, many of whom in 13 years were “feeling the aches and pains of getting older” but persisted because they felt this show meant a lot to them. She questioned the town’s transparency, stating “how is it that for 13 years we were able to put on the best show ever for $2,500 (input from the town) and now that the tourism department has taken it over, their budget needs to increase by $147,000 so that they can hire 1.5 new employees to handle the extra work load? This amount will also be increased by thousands when you factor in how much extra workload and overtime will be spent by town employees to put on the show when the car show committee did it all for free. When our host of volunteers see this, trust me, they will not be there to lend a helping hand because the heart has been taken out of the show.”

Renaud also asked about the tourism department’s transparency as it relates to a proposed Business Improvement Association (BIA).

Organization of the Amherstburg’s Gone Car Crazy show is now mired in controversy. Eleanor Renaud stepped down as chair last year and volunteers and the town have differing viewpoints on how the 2019 event is being organized.

“At the second BIA information meeting,  Ken Thrasher asked ‘who is the driving force behind the push for a BIA? Anne Rota replied ‘the Tourism Dept organized the meeting but there was no driving force behind the meeting. There were inquiries regarding a BIA from some businesses and the town was asked to present information sessions’,” she said. “Really? That’s your story?  So if this is true – why is part of the tourism budget requesting  an  additional 1.5 employees? The budget request clearly states that these people are to accommodate the extra workload for the car show, as well as, initiate the BIA strategic plan.”

Renaud added that “lack of transparency and hidden agendas do an awful lot in ruining the possibility of retaining those hardworking volunteers who give so unselfishly of their time.”

However, Rota, the town’s manager of tourism and culture, and tourism co-ordinator Jen Ibrahim offer a different viewpoint. Rota said it was Renaud who approached the town due to the committee getting older and needing some support. Ibrahim said the business owners that stepped up “were given an opportunity to take it over and execute it as they see fit.”

“It’s a lot of work executing the car show,” she said.

Rota added “we’re really excited about working together with them” and compared it to River Lights, which the town also took over and runs with a committee.

“It’s not just the car show,” said Rota. “We’re finding a lot of volunteer organizations have the same people year-after-year.”

The town still needs the support of volunteers, Rota continued, and that the town can help streamline the process for groups and help with the organization. She also noted the climate isn’t what it was five years ago and that there are more concerns around liability and compliance with town policies.

Rota said Car Crazy would “absolutely not” move if the town were involved and remain in downtown Amherstburg.

“It’s not moving, for sure,” she said.

Rota added the tourism department is not asking for $147,000 in new bodies, but just half of a position or about $50,000. She said they are asking for one of the positions to be made full-time.

“I don’t think people realize the tourism department is a seven-day operations starting in May,” she said. “From May until the end of October, the department is operating seven days per week. This town is growing. We just can’t do it any more at 37.5 hours per week and two people.”

With River Lights now under the town umbrella, the work of the full-time co-ordinator now falls to the town. Sarah Van Grinsven did that job and is now a town employee. Rota added the town will be asked to strengthen the town’s tourism profile and attractions to support the hotels that are planned for the municipality.

As for the BIA, Rota stated they had “a couple of downtown business owners come to us and say what is involved with a BIA.” The town looked into it, she said, and presented a pair of information meetings.

“It really has to be business driven,” she said, noting the map of the area was a concentrated area of businesses and was to show the maximum of what a BIA would cover.

Steve Maluske, one of the business owners that stepped up to try and run it, said he will be involved as long as he can actually have control of the event.

“I want to see what is going on,” said Maluske. “I don’t want to be a puppet. The only way I’ll stay in is if I have full control over the show.”

If the town wants too much control, Maluske indicated he would not be interested in being involved. He also questioned the tourism department wanting to add staff to oversee volunteer-run events.

“Eleanor did a fine job,” said Maluske, “and (the town) is basically throwing everything into the works.”

Noting “it’s a big job” to put on the car show, Maluske said it has always been a volunteer-run event.

“Why, all of a sudden, does the town want to do this and take away from the volunteers and cost the taxpayers money? I don’t understand it. Leave the politics as politics and the people as people.”

Town hosts second BIA information meeting



By Ron Giofu


About 25 people attended a second information session about a proposed BIA in Amherstburg, though the organizers of the meeting state they are not the ones pressing for a BIA.

The meeting was held last Wednesday night in the upstairs community room at the Libro Centre with presentations being made by representatives of the Kingsville BIA and Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI). Local lawyer Anthony Leardi and local car dealer Ken Thrasher both questioned who is seeking a BIA in Amherstburg.
“I’d really like to know who is driving this,” said Thrasher.

The tourism department organized the meeting but manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota replied that there was no driving force behind the meeting. Rota said there were inquiries regarding a BIA from some businesses and the town was asked to present information sessions.

“It would not be run by the Town of Amherstburg,” special events support co-ordinator Sarah Van Grinsven added of a potential BIA.

Representatives from the Kingsville BIA presented to business owners in Amherstburg last Wednesday evening at the Libro Centre.

Christina Bedal and Beth Riddifrod represented the Kingsville BIA and outlined their work, including management of BIA district beautification projects, promotional opportunities, education, maintenance support, networking and town representation.

“Our board of managers are volunteers,” said Bedal. “They are a committee of council.”

The levy is determined by the board and becomes the operating budget for the BIA, with Riddfrod noting that are a minimum and a maximum amount that a business within the district could be charged. Bedal and Riddifrod noted the levy is reviewed annually so that increases aren’t large and shocking to the members. Each BIA would work to determined how a levy would be calculated.

In Kingsville, the BIA has two members of its council on the board and those members are assigned by Kingsville council. The Kingsville BIA allows up to ten additional board members though each BIA has control over the size of their own boards.

One full-time BIA co-ordinator is employed in Kingsville and performs administrative work, research and implementation of programs, educates members, raises concerns to the board, promotes the town through programs and social media, networks with members of the town and whatever else is required of her by the board.

Lynnette Bain, vice president of tourism programs and development with TWEPI, said they work with BIAs and do so to “understand strategic priorities” and “find commonality.”

“The more we know about you, the better we can market the region,” said Bain.