Anne Rota

Amherstburg to spend upwards of $75,000 to devise new “branding strategy”



By Ron Giofu


Town council is moving ahead with a new branding strategy that could cost upwards of $75,000.

Council authorized administration to proceed with an agreement with Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc. at cost not to exceed $75,000 plus HST to develop a “branding strategy” for the town. Council approved up to $80,000 for such an initiative in the 2018 capital budget.

According to a report from manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota, the proposed branding strategy “will guide Amherstburg into a successfully integrated marketing and promotions plan that will be competitive with current and developing market trends. This will include a strong online and social media communications program with campaigns to raise the profile of Amherstburg.”

Key project deliverables for the Amherstburg branding strategy include development of a “comprehensive research paper” that will deal with perceptions of internal and external audiences, the source of the perceptions and suggestions for changing them through branding and marketing. Another goal that will be delivered through the strategy includes development of a new town logo and communications “for print and digital for the purpose of incenting visitation and targeting high yield consumer segments.”

Might we be seeing less of this logo in the future? A new branding strategy has been approved with a new logo part of that strategy.

The branding strategy will also lead to a new tourism website, a communications strategy and a “brand identity manual” and communications plan.

“Currently, Amherstburg has fallen behind in marketing and promotion in comparison to other municipalities in the region,” Rota said in her report. “Through the enhanced branding strategy, Amherstburg will build a competitive and sustainable tourism and economic vehicle attracting high yield consumers, maximizing the potential for growth as a destination of choice to visit and invest in.”

The strategic plan that council approved identified marketing, promotion and economic development as needs and goals for the community.

Not all council members were sold on the idea, however. Councillor Diane Pouget said she was opposed to the idea at budget time and remains opposed. She called it a “total waste of taxpayers’ money” and said the town’s logo and colours are not “tired,” but reflected the town’s military history.

The town’s ability to attract festivals and the possibility of a hotel announcement soon shows the town is gaining attention, she believed. The town must “live within its means” and the money could be used for other things, including infrastructure as it is “crumbling in rural areas.”

Town to take over River Lights Winter Festival



By Ron Giofu


The River Lights Winter Festival is now going to be run directly by the town.

While a volunteer committee oversaw the festival for its first decade in existence, the town will now take it over after the request was made by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce. According to a report from manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota, River Lights draws over 20,000 people annually to the downtown core and the volunteer committee has raised over $550,000 for the festival.

“Administration has met with the Chamber and its subcommittee on a number of occasions related to the above request. The basis for the request lies in the limited ‘go forward’ capacity, in terms of resources, of the Chamber to continue to deliver the festival,” Rota stated in her report.

There are 109 displays that are being transferred to the town, valued at approximately $100,000, with the River Lights committee also having about $25,000 cash in the bank and $25,000 in investments. Rota’s preliminary forecast for 2018 calls for $70,000 in revenue and expenses totalling $65,000.

The River Lights Winter Festival drew an estimated crowd of 28,000-30,000 people in 2017-18.

The town historically has committed $5,000 under the approved base budget “however, if event costs are covered by revenues from third parties and the town is directly operating the request, no further town contribution may be required,” Rota wrote.

Rota added the parks department labour costs have traditionally be donated in-kind. The 13-member volunteer committee, she added, would be interested in continuing to assist.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she supported the request.

“It’s the only way we can keep it,” she said. “We have to agree to take on the project.”

CAO John Miceli said he believes the festival will be enhanced. Miceli was questioned by Councillor Leo Meloche as to whether this will be a line item in the budget, and Miceli answered in the affirmative.

The River Lights has been named a “Top 100 Festival in Ontario” eight times by Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO).

This is Amherstburg – your community, your neighbourhood, your home


With its idyllic scenery and old-world charm, the town of Amherstburg sits on the banks of the famed Detroit River and Lake Erie. As one of the province’s most revered and beloved small towns, Amherstburg’s quaint, Victorian waterfront location has cemented its reputation as one of the most beautiful and sublime properties in all of Canada.

The Town of Amherstburg’s Department of Tourism and Culture is once again proud to present the 2018 Visitors Guide. In its pages, visitors and residents will discover the wealth of activities, retailers and services that make this town so remarkable – from art galleries to celebrated restaurants, world-class events to extraordinary museums, there’s always something new to discover in this astonishing town.

2018 marks the introduction of our newest festival, Amherstburg Uncommon. In celebration of Amherstburg’s architecture and design, we are eagerly presenting this steampunk and wizardry-themed event with great excitement. This rapidly growing cultural genre is a nod to Amherstburg’s rising reputation as one of the most progressive small towns in the country; it has been designed to draw in families and individuals by the tens of thousands!  Thanks to its elements of magic, mystic and mystery we are so proud to live here and host this event.

Amherstburg’s dedication to culture and tourism is unparalleled. In addition to the keen and enthusiastic team who are always happy to meet residents and visitors at the Gordon House, none of its efforts could be executed without the allegiance and hard work of the hundreds of volunteers who live, work and play in Amherstburg. Our mandate and obligation is to continually grow interest in this magnificent town, whether attracting visitors to our restaurants, stores and service providers, or enticing newcomers to put down roots and make this place their home.

And so, with pleasure, we invite you to check out and keep this guide, sharing it with your friends, families and neighbours. It is our honor to showcase this town, and we could not do it without you.




The Town of Amherstburg Department of Tourism and Culture

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.”

Local businesses hit record sales during Canuck It Up weekend


By Jolene Perron


With the Canuck It Up Festival bringing in approximately 80,000 people through the town, local businesses are speaking out about the benefits to their sales.

Anne Rota, manager of tourism and culture for the town of Amherstburg explained they use a “square footage/people events formula” for free events and customer count in the businesses and museums to come up with their total number of people who visited the town.

“It was an opportunity to showcase what a magnificent, walkable, historic town we have,” said Rota. “People also commented on the accessibility of our town for special events. They appreciated that the programming was easy to get to and that it was worth the trip.”

Owner/operator of Gilligan’s Fire Grill, David Hayes, said August is usually his slowest month of the whole year, but this year is a completely different story.

“This weekend was the busiest three days I have ever had in the three years I have owned the restaurant,” Hayes said in a statement to Rota. “Visitors came in from out of town for the festival and said they will be returning for the food and the town in the future.”

Large crowds not only came to town for the Canuck It Up! Festival, but they also kept local businesses and restaurants busy.

Large crowds not only came to town for the Canuck It Up! Festival, but they also kept local businesses and restaurants busy.

The Waterfront Ice Cream Parlor had very similar results. After hearing about the numbers expected, and preparing by stocking up on ice cream, cones, spoons and napkins which took over their home, Jen and Justin DeLuca said they had a line up which stretched across the street and to the canons at the waterfront.

“It was very busy,” said Justin. “It was the busiest weekend we have ever had in our 38-year history. The tourism department in the town of Amherstburg really nailed it. They did a great job.”

The couple explained their staff, past and present, worked tirelessly over the weekend and “did a phenomenal job.” Even their 6-year-old and 9-year-old daughters were picking up napkins and cleaning tables.
Around the corner, Gabriel’s Deli had a line-up for four straight hours on Saturday.

“Saturday was unreal,” said owner Abe Elsayed. “I did enough sales for a week, just on Saturday. Sunday was a little bit slower, but overall the weekend was a success. I think I did well, everyone did well down here. I think we need more of this. People loved it.”

It wasn’t just the food businesses that saw the benefits of the festival. Shirley Wigle, owner of Our Place, said whenever a festival comes to town in the downtown core, the businesses along that stretch often see an significant increase.
“Our Place did very well, the festival was great,” said Wigle. “Whenever they do a festival and they don’t charge to come to the downtown core, we all do wonderful. The people can come through, they come through with their families, and it’s great. We did very, very well. Any time they put the barriers up, but they don’t charge people to come into the downtown core, we do awesome.”

Rota said given that this was Amherstburg’s signature event for Canada’s 150th birthday, the town has a lot to be proud of. From the people, to the businesses, the gardens, and the collaboration overall, we are “the little engine that could, and a force to the reckoned with.”

“Amherstburg is known for large scale events and between the hard work that comes from the volunteers and the support from various departments within the town, we come together and just gel to produce an authentic experience for our guests,” said Rota. “We treat our visitors like guests and they love it. Of course there are always some hiccups but planning in advance and checks and balances are key. We can build on that momentum to strengthen economic impact and a great place to want to live and do business in.”