Anne Rota

Holiday House Tours popular again this year

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The sixth annual Holiday House Tours were presented over the weekend and were once again popular with those who attended.

Nine locations were featured as part of this year’s house tours, seven of them being private homes. The other two included the tourism booth on Sandwich St. North as well as Vivace Estate Winery on Concession 5 North, the latter also housing the Christmas Tree Dress Exhibit that was done in conjunction with St. Clair College design students.

“We’ve seen some beautiful things,” said Judi Rocheleau, as she toured a Rankin Ave. home with Bern O’Mahony. “This one is gorgeous. This is really beautiful.”

Rita Azar looks at the “Island View” home on Front Road North as part of this year’s Holiday House Tours.

Rocheleau said they had been through “Island View,” the featured home on this year’s tour, located at 671 Front Road North and owned by David and Deanna McDowall. She said that was worth the price of admission alone.

“What we’ve seen so far is beautiful,” she added, noting the homes were decorated “perfectly without being overdone.”

As for whether she picked up any ideas for her own home, Rocheleau replied “you’ve got that right.”

“I like to look for new ideas for decorating,” agreed O’Mahony.

Rocheleau added she enjoys the River Lights Winter Festival and wanted to contribute to it by going to the Holiday House Tours. The tours are just one part of the festival’s itinerary.

Rita Azar called the homes and the greetings at each of them “very friendly” as she toured “Island View.” She said she enjoyed the “uniqueness of each home” on the Holiday House Tour.

“It has been amazing,” said Azar. “It is my first tour and it is out of this world.”

Andrew Gruening and Sherry Boxall stand in the dining room of their Front Road North home during the Holiday House Tours.

“Island View” wasn’t the only Front Road North home on the tour, as Sherry Boxall and Andrew Gruening had their home on the tour as well, with it being just north of the featured home. Their decorator brought the idea to them last year, Boxall explained, and they decided to go on the tour with the McDowalls.

Boxall said people were very friendly as they went through their home and it was a nice experience. The couple has a lot of Amherstburg and Essex County antiques and that was one of the many highlights of their home.

Anne Rota, manager of tourism and culture with the town, said things went well.

“We’re probably looking at about 1,000 people this year,” she said. “We’re noticing a lot of people from out-of-town this year.”

Judi Rocheleau and Bern O’Mahony look at a decorated dining room table at a Rankin Ave. home on the first day of the two-day Holiday House Tours Nov. 24.

While it was their sixth year, it was the first year the Holiday House Tours involved a winery. Vivace Estate Winery was able to get some exposure, with Rota adding the tours also led to spin off business in town as she knew some people were headed to local restaurants and businesses. Rota added that is “what it’s all about – showcasing our community and bring business to town.”

Proceeds from the Holiday House Tours help fund the River Lights’ programming, including activities at the Gingerbread Warming House in Toddy Jones Park.

“We are so happy to be part of River Lights,” added Jean Qian, owner of Vivace Estate Winery. “Everyone looks so happy.”

“It’s a really great experience and nice to celebrate the holidays with the community,” added Vivace staff member Madison Vandenham.

Tourism department touts 2018 Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, given green light for 2019

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s tourism department has been given the go-ahead to plan the 2019 Amherstburg Uncommon Festival after giving council details on the 2018 event.

Rota, who thanked council at the Oct. 9 meeting for its support of her department over the last four years, said they are trying to have Amherstburg viewed as “the apple of Essex County’s eye” and that tourism brought 179,701 visitors to town in 2017. According to Rota, statistics are trending upwards at a rate of 38 per cent.

This year’s Amherstburg Uncommon Festival drew an estimated 35,000 people over the three-days with Rota stating that there was 27 hours of continuous programming and 38 program participants including artists, cultural organizations, program providers and vendors. There was 500,000 square feet of “operational festival grounds” and 260 volunteers both local and non-local.

The town invested $28,631, Rota added, and that sponsorships and donations generated $89,895. She added that the event generated almost $2.8 million in Ontario spending.

Most visitors came from southwestern Ontario, she told town council.

Image courtesy of www.amherstburg.ca

The appeal of the 2018 Amherstburg Uncommon Festival was “diverse” and Rota indicated that many of the people heard about the festival through social media. She also promoted the rebranding efforts, stating it’s more than a logo but a website as well in which such things as online booking and ticket sales will be available.

“Kudos to you and your whole department,” said Councillor Jason Lavigne.

Lavigne credited the tourism department for their work on all festivals, adding that the rebranding “wasn’t just spending money” as he said it will help promote events and bring in more money. He added that he attended this year’s festival and it was great for children.

Councillor Leo Meloche remarked that he made a few Harry Potter wands in his workshop to help participate in the festival.

“It was a great event,” said Meloche. “For a first time event, it was very successful.”

Councillor Rick Fryer also praised the town’s tourism department and hoped to get more “buy-in” from the downtown businesses next year. Rota said there were seven meetings with businesses in leading up to the 2018 Amherstburg Uncommon Festival and that “our doors are always open.”

“All in all, I thought the downtown was well received,” said Fryer.

Public engagement sessions on possible town re-branding Wednesday afternoon and evening

The public is reminded that the town is holding two information sessions with regards to its proposed new branding strategy Wednesday afternoon and evening.

The town has partnered with marketing agency Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc. to develop the branding strategy, as well as “an innovative new tourism website” to attract visitors, guests and investors.

Cinnamon Toast has aimed to gather information about what makes Amherstburg unique to other municipalities and what elements stakeholders would like to see reflected in the town’s future brand and logo.

Information is also being sought on how often the town’s website is accessed, and what visitors to the site find most valuable, including ease of use, information about events, attractions including restaurant and accommodation recommendations.

“Amherstburg continues to be progressive in meeting the growing interests of new markets. We encourage everyone to participate in filling out the short survey to help us in the creation of an exciting new logo and tourism website,” manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota stated in a press release published online last month.

There will be two public consultations sessions Aug. 29 and those sessions will be led by Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc. and attended by town representatives. The first session will be at 3 p.m. with an evening session planned for 6 p.m. Both will be held at the Libro Centre.

The town agreed in May to spend up to $75,000 plus HST on a branding strategy, which will also include a communications strategy and a “brand identity manual.”

The Town of Amherstburg is encouraging the public to find the survey on its “Talk the Burg” online feedback website and at its main website of www.amherstburg.ca.

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.

 

Town seeking public input on branding strategy

 

The Town of Amherstburg is looking for public input on its new branding strategy.

The town has partnered with marketing agency Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc. to develop the branding strategy, as well as “an innovative new tourism website” to attract visitors, guests and investors.

To launch the project, Cinnamon Toast has created a survey, accessible online, to engage residents of the community as well as interested parties from neighboring areas. It aims to gather information about what makes Amherstburg unique to other municipalities and what elements stakeholders would like to see reflected in the town’s future brand and logo.

The survey also seeks information on how often the website is accessed, and what visitors to the site find most valuable, including ease of use, information about events, attractions including restaurant and accommodation recommendations.

“Amherstburg continues to be progressive in meeting the growing interests of new markets. We encourage everyone to participate in filling out the short survey to help us in the creation of an exciting new logo and tourism website,” manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota stated.

There will be two public consultations sessions Aug. 29 and those sessions will be led by Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc. and attended by town representatives. The first session will be at 3 p.m. with an evening session planned for 6 p.m. Both will be held at the Libro Centre.

The town agreed in May to spend up to $75,000 plus HST on a branding strategy, which will also include a communications strategy and a “brand identity manual.”

The Town of Amherstburg is encouraging the public to find the survey on its “Talk the Burg” online feedback website and at its main website of www.amherstburg.ca.