Enbridge

River Lights Winter Festival illuminates the town

 

 

By Christian Bouchard

 

The heart of downtown Amherstburg will continue to shine throughout the holiday season.

The 12th annual River Lights Festival was officially kicked off Saturday night with the lights of the town bringing smiles to hundreds of people. The festival lights, which are lit nightly from 5:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. are located at the historical King’s Navy Yard and Toddy Jones Park.

The River Lights Winter Festival officially opened with the municipal tree lighting Nov. 17.

The River Lights once again partnered with the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s Super Santa Run. Following the 5km race/walk, hundreds of Santas, families and friends gathered around Navy Yard parkette for the commodious tree lighting. The festival also encouraged all to explore the lights, decorate cookies and enjoy fireworks over the Detroit River.

River Lights was once again sponsored by Enbridge for the fifth year in a row. Enbridge supplies renewable power to nearly 2,400 homes in the region with its 15-megawatt Amherstburg solar facility.

According to Suzanne Shea, a representative for Enbridge, River Lights gets a little brighter every year.

The River Lights Winter Festival officially opened Nov. 17.

“Nothing kicks off the holiday for me like River Lights,” said Shea. “I’m not even from here but I come here every year to celebrate.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was on hand for the event to help with the tree lighting. DiCarlo said the municipal tree lighting ceremony is a night to ring in the holidays, celebrating love, gratitude, and friendships.

DiCarlo added the River Lights committee, which helped brighten the town for the past 12 years, has worked tirelessly to beautify King’s Navy Yard Park and Toddy Jones Park with what only can be described as an outstanding program.

The River Lights Winter Festival, which opened Nov. 17, has illuminated displays in both Navy Yard Park (pictured) and Toddy Jones Park.

“These volunteers bring their passion and pride to this event,” said DiCarlo. “Year after year they’re responsible for putting smiles on faces for thousands of people who have made River Lights a yearly tradition.”

The downtown streets and historic parks of Amherstburg will stay lit until Jan. 6 when the six-week long festival comes to an end.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo brings greetings at the municipal tree lighting ceremony Nov. 17.

For more information on the River Lights Winter Festival and the upcoming events, please visit www.riverlights.ca.

 

 

 

Enbridge steps up with annual donation towards River Lights

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Enbridge will once again be the presenting sponsor of the River Lights Winter Festival.

An official cheque presentation was held outside the Gordon House where the renewable energy company presented a cheque for $15,000.

“This will be Enbridge’s fifth year sponsoring the exceptional programs and some of the light

displays at the River Lights Winter Festival,” says Suzanne Shea, communications and

stakeholder relations senior advisor of power operations with Enbridge. “We are proud to have the opportunity to continue to partner with the town and share in the holiday spirit with the Amherstburg community.”

Shea told the River Town Times last Tuesday that they continue to sponsor River Lights “to celebrate the holiday season with the community and strengthen our partnership with the town.”

According to a press release, Enbridge supplies renewable power to nearly 2,400 homes in the region, thanks to its 15-megawatt Amherstburg solar facility.

Suzanne Shea, communications and stakeholder relations senior advisor of power operations with Enbridge, presents a cheque for $15,000 to Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale. Enbridge is once again sponsoring the River Lights
Winter Festival with the municipal tree lighting ceremony being Nov. 17.

“With Enbridge’s generous support, we are proud to continue the unique festival programming

our town has come to know and love. Old world charm in our vibrant community, with our

dazzling light displays, is the signature backdrop for historic Amherstburg during this event,” Mayor Aldo Di Carlo said in the press release.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he appreciated the generosity and the fact companies like Enbridge step up and sponsor events like River Lights.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said DiPasquale.

The six -week long festival kicks off with the municipal tree lighting ceremony Nov. 17. Sarah Van Grinsven, the town’s special events co-ordinator, said the proceeds from the Enbridge sponsorship go towards making River Lights bigger and brighter. The money, Van Grinsven noted, will help offset some of the costs of opening night.

The Town of Amherstburg made the River Lights Winter Festival an official town event earlier this year.

Van Grinsven said roughly 6-8,000 people attend the opening ceremonies for the River Lights Winter Festival with about 30,000 coming to the event overall.

“We’ve become a family tradition,” said Van Grinsven.

 

Attendance up at this year’s River Lights Winter Festival

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The River Lights Winter Festival has officially concluded and its co-ordinator is reporting an increase in attendance.

Sarah Van Grinsven estimates that approximately 28,000-30,000 people passed through this year, “which is awesome.”

“Visitation was definitely up this year,” she reported. “Every year, it goes up. We’ve become a tradition for families to come out to. A lot of people don’t celebrate their holidays without River Lights being involved.”

The 2017-18 festival didn’t get started in a traditional way, as Mother Nature brought a soaking rain the Saturday of opening weekend.

“This year started with a twist because we’ve never had to postpone opening night at River Lights,” said Van Grinsven. “That really got us hopping trying to make alternative plans.”

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

Van Grinsven stated that vendors and partners were able to push things back one night in order to have opening night on Sunday.

“Everyone likes River Lights and wants to see it run smoothly,” she said.

While the fireworks weren’t able to be rescheduled this year, plans call for them to return next year. Van Grinsven said they will plan for a rain date as well.

“We’ve never had to have a rain date before,” she stated.

The Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s Super Santa Run was also held opening weekend and took place as scheduled, even with the rain.

“It was pretty awesome to see how dedicated people were,” said Van Grinsven.

While 2018-19 plans still have to be worked on and finalized, Van Grinsven said the committee always finds ways to improve it and make the winter festival brighter. This year included the addition of trees wrapped with lights in Navy Yard Park between Richmond St. and Rankin Ave.

The view from the intersection of Dalhousie St. and North St., looking into Toddy Jones Park.

“That really seemed to bring the two parks (Navy Yard Park and Toddy Jones Park) together,” said Van Grinsven. “I know we’ll be able to do more of that in the future. We’re always adding to River Lights.”

The Holiday House Tours were “fabulous” this year, she reported, adding praise for the decorators of the homes. The Christmas tree dresses were a hit there and were later transported to Windsor Crossing outlet mall in LaSalle where they helped promote Amherstburg and the festival, she added.

“Having all of that cross-promotion showed Essex County what we can do in Amherstburg,” said Van Grinsven.

The gingerbread contest was popular again this year, she continued, as was the warming house. The House Youth Centre helped run the warming house as volunteers provided hot chocolate for the attendees.

The parkette at King’s Navy Yard Park was lit up for River Lights. The annual winter festival officially concluded Jan. 7.

“It’s great for youth to be involved in it,” said Van Grinsven. “They enjoy doing the activities with us.”

Telus helped sponsor the hot chocolate program with Van Grinsven thanking all sponsors for their assistance with this year’s event. Enbridge sponsored the entire festival for the fourth straight year and will be back for at least another year, with Van Grinsven adding that knowing Enbridge is back for another year helps River Lights plan next year’s event.

“Thank you to everyone who made this work,” she stated. “We have over 100 volunteers and community partners. All of the organizations (that assisted) are made up of volunteers. River Lights works because of the volunteers in Amherstburg. It’s wonderful to see how the community comes together and how important this is to the quality of life in Amherstburg. Thank you to everyone who made it happen.”

River Lights Winter Festival partners again with Enbridge

River Lights Winter Festival has received support from Enbridge again this year, with this year’s sponsorship amounting to $15,000.

“This is our eleventh year of the River Lights Winter Festival and the fourth year that Enbridge has supported the winter events. With Enbridge’s sponsorship we are able to continue to boost programming and light up our town with the beautiful light displays which have become a signature backdrop in historic Amherstburg,” says Mark Usher, long time committee member of the River Lights Winter Festival.

The event kicks off Nov. 18 with the town’s tree lighting ceremony and the opening night of River Lights. A movie, fireworks and activities from the Park House Museum and Provincial Marine are planned.

“It’s going to be better than last year,” said Usher.

“Enbridge is one of Canada’s largest renewable energy companies and we are proud to help support the solar powered displays at the River Lights Winter Festival,” says Ian MacRobbie, Enbridge’s Eastern Region General Manager, Power Operations. “As the owner of the 15 megawatt Amherstburg solar facility – which generates enough power to supply nearly 2,400 homes – this partnership is a natural fit for our company and we look forward to sharing the holiday spirit with the Amherstburg community once again this winter.”

River Lights board members and volunteers accept a $15,000 from Suzanne Shea (far left) of Enbridge. Enbridge is the primary sponsor of River Lights again this year.

River Lights board members and volunteers accept a $15,000 from Suzanne Shea (far left) of Enbridge. Enbridge is the primary sponsor of River Lights again this year.

Suzanne Shea represented the company at a cheque presentation last Wednesday at the Gordon House and called River Lights “a great event.” She said she came with her six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son to the event and plan on driving in again this year.

“It was exciting,” she said. “All of the lights are solar powered which fits in with our theme.”

The six week-long festival includes the hundreds of solar-powered custom made light displays, the life size Gingerbread Warming House showcasing the annual Gingerbread House Contest and free crafts and hot chocolate. The program runs until Dec. 31. Animated and themed solar powered displays begin to illuminate starting at approximately 5:30 p.m. every night at the Kings Navy Yard Park and Toddy Jones Park.

Approximately 6,000 people attended opening night last year, with the events preceded by the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s “Super Santa Run.” Overall, River Lights organizers estimate 25,000 people pass through the festival.

 

River Lights officially open for tenth anniversary year

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

For the tenth consecutive year, Amherstburg is shining thanks to the River Lights Winter Festival.

The River Lights Winter Festival started Friday with the “Downtown Winter Nights” event that featured a scavenger hunt at local businesses, ice sculpting, horse-and-buggy rides, a downtown market and more and spilled over into Saturday night when the Super Santa Run, tree lighting and fireworks were held.

A group of carolers entertain near the Navy Yard Park parkette Nov. 18.

A group of carolers entertain near the Navy Yard Park parkette Nov. 18.

“This is River Lights tenth year. We are so excited,” said River Lights co-ordinator Sarah Van Grinsven.

Van Grinsven was happy to see the large turnout for Saturday night’s tree lighting ceremony as was Ian MacRobbie, general manager of Enbridge. Enbridge, who developed the Amherstburg Solar Farm, is the presenting sponsor of River Lights for the third straight year. He noted the lights are solar powered.

Ruthanne and Melissa Vuk were volunteering at the Park House Museum during the opening of River Lights.

Ruthanne and Melissa Vuk were volunteering at the Park House Museum during the opening of River Lights.

“It’s a great fit for us,” said MacRobbie, noting it is a Top 100 festival in Ontario.

Nicole Fogarty from Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) believed River Lights provides a “perfect holiday setting” in Amherstburg. She pointed out that events like River Lights take more than just great ideas, but people who “roll up their sleeves” and put the work in to make it happen.

The fountain in the King's Navy Yard Park parkette is lit up this year for River Lights.

The fountain in the King’s Navy Yard Park parkette is lit up this year for River Lights.

The Great Grocery Giveaway winner was also announced. That partnership between The House Youth Centre and Sobeys raised $10,000 for the House. Activities co-ordinator Rebecca Vander Vaart announced that Gail Cecile won the top prize.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo also pointed out that 2016 is the tenth anniversary of River Lights.

“That’s just awesome,” he said.

Town crier Frank Gorham welcomes the public to the tree lighting ceremony Nov. 19.

Town crier Frank Gorham welcomes the public to the tree lighting ceremony Nov. 19.

DiCarlo thanked Enbridge and all of the sponsors and supporters of the festival. He also pointed out the partnership between River Lights organizers and town departments to ensure the lights and activities get set up.

“Thanks for making Amherstburg shine,” said DiCarlo.