festivals

Council looks for festival bill during contentious final meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

At the now-former council’s final meeting of the term Nov. 26, members pressed for information on the outstanding bill owing the Amherstburg Police Service for service at non-town festivals.

The festivals, which have been said to be the Harvest Festival and the Mardi Gras, were the subject of a Nov. 13 motion by then-Councillor Diane Pouget. Pouget questioned who is responsible, how much is owing and how the bill will be collected.

A report did not appear at the Nov. 26 meeting as administration cited a “procedural matter” as a previous motion regarding the matter would have had to have been reconsidered. Then-Councillor Joan Courtney said “it would have been nice to hear the motion was not valid” prior to the Nov. 26 meeting.

According to Pouget, she said she conducted her own investigation and that the bill began at $20,000. It now is believed to be at $17,000. She said she has asked treasurer Justin Rousseau and “for two years it has been sitting on the treasurer’s desk.”

“It should be very simple,” Pouget said of her request. “Here we are again.”

CAO John Miceli responded that “the bill has not been sitting on the treasurer’s desk for two years” and contented the Amherstburg Police Services Board had it on their books for one year. Miceli said the town has no evidence of a signed contract with anyone and encouraged Pouget to bring it forward if she found one in her investigation.

“If you have a signed contract, please share it with us,” Miceli told Pouget.

“It’s true the bill came before the Amherstburg Police Services Board,” said then-Councillor Jason Lavigne, who was also a member of the board. “They refused to pay it. To suggest we don’t know who owes the money or how we are going to get it is ridiculous.”

Lavigne added “this is no fault of the Amherstburg Police Services Board.” He further charged that Miceli asked the board not to collect that money.

“Councillor Lavigne, that is not the truth,” Miceli responded, stating again the board had it on its books for one year. Rousseau added that while he and Miceli attended an APSB meeting, he noted that collection of town receivables should flow through the finance department.

Leo Meloche, then a councillor and now the deputy mayor, noted the APSB runs autonomously from council. He also questioned where a contract was.

“Do we have a signed contract?” he asked. “That is part of the process we have to follow.”

Councillor presses for information regarding police bill for festivals

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

An issue relating to policing costs for non-town sponsored festivals came up again at the Oct. 23 town council meeting.

As she did two weeks previous, Councillor Diane Pouget pressed for information regarding money that the town may have to write-off for policing costs for two festivals. In an e-mail she later sent out to people in the community, she believes $17,000 is still owed for costs relating to the Mardi Gras and the Harvest Festival.

Pouget wanted more information and asked why DiCarlo was “stopping me from making my motion.”

DiCarlo responded that the information being requested could not be discussed in public session.

“It’s public money,” Pouget responded. “Why can’t I get a report? This has been going on for two years.”

CAO John Miceli said efforts to recover the money are still ongoing.

“We are following the collection policy the town has approved,” said Miceli.

Miceli maintained a position he took at the Oct. 9 town council meeting that efforts to collect the money will continue and that, if it is not successful, then consideration for writing it off will be brought tot town council.

Pouget indicated that the taxpayers should not be on the hook for such an expense, and that those responsible for the bill should be held accountable.

Councillor Rick Fryer believed it was an issue moreso for the Amherstburg Police Service Board and that “in a roundabout way,” the issue is due to an APSB decision that town council is not privy to.

Pouget made a motion to direct administration “to provide council with a report regarding the status of a significant amount of money owed to the Amherstburg Police Department for services rendered at a festival or festivals, that were not sponsored by the Town of Amherstburg. This report must be made available at our next council meeting.”

That motion was defeated in a 3-2 vote with Fryer, DiCarlo and Councillor Leo Meloche opposed. Pouget and Councillor Joan Courtney were in favour. Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Jason Lavigne were not at the Oct. 23 meeting.

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.

Mardi Gras thrills the downtown crowds over the weekend

 

By Adam D’Andrea

 

Downtown Amherstburg was a sight to be seen last weekend as the streets flooded with crowds, magicians, bands and even a space-age Elvis Presley.

For the second year in a row Dalhousie Street was transformed into Bourbon Street during the 2016 Mardi Gras Street Party. The event was hosted by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce with the hopes of attracting around 5,000 visitors to the downtown core.

Silver Elvis entertains crowds in front of the Waterfront Ice Cream Parlour  during the Mardi Gras Street Party last Friday evening. (RTT Photo by Adam D'Andrea)

Silver Elvis entertains crowds in front of the Waterfront Ice Cream Parlour during the Mardi Gras Street Party last Friday evening. (RTT Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

“We’re expecting about the same as last year with a little bit more. Last year we had 4,300 people. We’re hoping to hit around 5,000, maybe around 2,500 per night,” said Chamber of Commerce general manager Monica Bunde last Friday. “That’s a nice-sized crowd and that’s a manageable crowd for the police, security and our volunteers.”

(UPDATE: The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce estimates the crowd at approximately 2,000 for Friday and Saturday combined. That figure was given late Tuesday afternoon.)

Entertainment throughout the weekend was provided by buskers such as magician Bill Nuvo, Silver Elvis, the Stilt Guys and Jojo’s Bizarre Circus, as well as a number of local bands from throughout Essex County. An increased entertainment budget was one of the major changes made from last year’s event.

The Stilt Guys strike a pose during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie St. last Friday. (Photo by Adam D'Andrea)

The Stilt Guys strike a pose during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie St. last Friday. (Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

“We found last year that’s what the people wanted. They wanted more music, more bands and more buskers,” Bunde said. “They wanted to see them throughout the streets.”

In addition to an increased budget, the Chamber of Commerce also increased the physical size of the festival this year.

“The footprint has been extended to the Dalhousie Bistro on Rankin Avenue and Dalhousie Street, so it gave us an extra block and four more restaurants,” Bunde said. “The Dalhousie Bistro, The Cellar, the Beacon Ale House and Waterfront Ice Cream.”

Tap performs during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie Street last Friday evening.

Tap performs during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie Street last Friday evening. (RTT Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

Bunde said the Chamber of Commerce is already planning for next year’s Mardi Gras festival. One of the initial steps they’re taking in the planning process is to survey festival goers and use opinions to their benefit.

“We try hard with these festivals and we listened and surveyed people last year. We have people doing surveys Friday and Saturday with the Canada Festival Network,” she said. “They’re going to do some surveys for us and give us some data so we can move forward and hopefully next year we can have an even more successful event.”

According to Bunde there is a high demand for new and exciting festivals in the area and pointed to the Windsor Essex Harvest Festival, which will take place at Fort Malden in September, as an example.

Rachel Pitre tosses a ring onto magician Bill Nuvo’s head during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie Street on July 22. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

Rachel Pitre tosses a ring onto magician Bill Nuvo’s head during the Mardi Gras Street Party on Dalhousie Street on July 22. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

“The community needs these festivals. They come together,” Bunde said. “The sponsors that we have, they’re all so excited to sponsor these types of events. There’s great response from the community and I think everybody wants it.”

This year’s festival was sponsored by LiUNA! 625, Amherstburg Audiology and Hearing Aids, Rivertowne Dental, Joe Meloche Ford, CIBC and ReMAX.