Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada

Amherstburg celebrates Canada’s 151st birthday

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

A sea of red and white swarmed Amherstburg’s downtown core last Sunday to take part in the town’s annual Canada Day festivities.

The celebration was split between Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada and the Treats N’ Eats festival at Austin “Toddy” Jones Park.

The day kicked off with more than 2,000 runners streaming through the streets in the Canada D’Eh five kilometre run and concluded with a shoreline packed with onlookers enjoying the annual fireworks display.

In an address to festivalgoers at the start of the day, Amherstburg mayor Aldo DiCarlo thanked some of those responsible for putting on the massive festival.

Fireworks explode over the Detroit River as thousands watch from the shoreline during Canada Day celebrations
Sunday night in Amherstburg.

“First, I’d like to recognize the members of council here today,” he said.  “I’d like to thank all the town employees who worked quietly behind the scenes to ensure the day goes off without a hitch.  Primarily, but not entirely, these are the people in the tourism department, the parks department and, this year, to keep things cool, even the fire department joined in to spray down the runners this morning.  This event wouldn’t even get started without their dedication.

“Second, I’d like to thank the staff of Fort Malden for providing us with the most beautiful backdrop in the region.

“Third, I’d like to thank Chris and Debbie Uszynski and their team at RunningFlat for kicking off the day’s festivities.  Year after year they spend the day before setting up and then spend most of Canada Day tearing down.  We are very fortunate that they have kept this event in Amherstburg, as I can’t imagine Canada Day without the Canada D’Eh Run.

“Of course, we also have to thank the day’s volunteers.  It takes a great many people to put on this event and many of them are doing it for nothing.  At least, nothing but knowing they are doing their community a great service, which is the biggest reason we are so grateful.”

DiCarlo went on to name a long list of people involved in the day’s events by name, lauded the spirit of the town and expressed his best wishes for Amherstburg’s visitors before handing the mic over to Essex Member of Parliament Tracey Ramsey.

Ramsey took a different note in her address.

Stefan Coutu of Windsor plays Quidditch with his grandmother, Beth Dubeault.

She began by recounting her attendance at a citizenship ceremony earlier in the day.

“I stood proudly beside them and took that oath,” she said.  “Take a chance today as a family or by yourself to say that oath, to reaffirm your oath to Canada and the commitment that we have to our beautiful country.”

Ramsey went on to ask her listeners to “show (their) patriotism” through their purchasing power.  Canada returned fire last week in the so-called trade war the United States began by slapping duties on Canadian goods such as aluminum and steel.  Ottawa announced financial aid packages for affected Canadian industries and put its own tariffs in place amounting to $16.6 billion.

Rebecca Mickle sings as part of the Canada Day celebrations held at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada.

The dispute has brought out increasingly nationalist tones in Canada’s politicians, as well as declarations of solidarity with Canadian industry.  On the same day Ramsey spoke at Fort Malden, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Leamington.

Southwestern Ontario is an area that will be particularly affected by the ongoing trade dispute, since its industries use and manufacture items that are being heavily taxed.

Ramsey said the Canada Day celebrations mark an opportunity for Canadians to make a change.

“Over this next year, I challenge us all to support one another and buy Canadian,” she said.

 

 

First-ever Escape Room Festival held at Fort Malden National Historic Site

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada has held its first escape room festival.

The festival featured eight escape rooms – interactive, narrative-based puzzle rooms – and participants were allowed to pick five to escape from.

Fort Malden interpretation officer Alex Dale organized the event and he said he had wanted to expand the escape rooms already offered by Fort Malden but wasn’t sure how to do it without disrupting the historic site’s other programs.  He said the best course of action seemed to be to simply “have a day of fun” and bring the area’s escape room aficionados together all at once.

Dale put together some all-new escape rooms with help from his staff.  He said creating the puzzles for the rooms is challenging but rewarding.

“I like to keep things tactile,” he said.  “I want to engage people by forcing them to interact with their environments.”

Dale also brought in three professional escape room companies to plan and operate four of the eight offered at the event.  Hidden Trail Escape Room, Breakout Kingsville and Exodus Windsor Escape Room showed up, riddles in hand, to confound the day’s parkgoers.

Dustin Vermast is one of the co-owners of Breakout Kingsville.  His room, specially created for the day by managing director Adam Cole, brought participants into the tent of a mid-1920s era traveling magician.

Eventgoers were promised a magic show, but the magician, Mr. Hocus, was nowhere to be found. In his place was a letter promising access to his magical secrets – and a future of riches and renown – if whomever found his letter could solve his puzzles and open his chest.

Christopher Slickboer tries to figure out the combination on a lock in Breakout Kingsville’s escape room at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada last Saturday. The escape room was one of eight at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada’s first escape room festival.

Unfortunately for those who are proficient at puzzle-solving, Mr. Hocus is a dark magician.  The only things in his chest were pieces of evidence that incriminated whomever touched them.

Those who beat the puzzles lost the game.

The tent Vermast brought to Fort Malden is one piece of a larger narrative, according to Cole.  Mr. Hocus has two other rooms dedicated to him at Breakout Kingsville’s actual facility.

For Cole, this room was an opportunity to further explore the character he has built a universe around.  Hocus’ newspaper clippings, the photos on his armoire, his knickknacks and decorations and personal effects – even his choice of music – all said something about the man Breakout Kingsville dreamed up while fully-immersing the player into that dream.

For Vermast, as much as it was about the art of expanding an ongoing narrative universe, it was also about breaking into a new market.

“We’re here as a bit of a marketing piece,” he said.  “We want to educate the public about how awesome escape rooms are and, as a county business, it’s important that we draw on the Windsor folks who are here today.”

It seemed to be working.  Dale said the public response was “overwhelmingly positive.”  All 46 time slots were sold out.  He said he wants to have another festival in the future and will use this one as a learning experience.

“This was a pilot,” he said.  “There were a few logistical issues to iron out, but we’ll learn from those and will hopefully make this an even bigger festival next year.”

Fort Malden will host its annual Canada Day celebration on July 1.  Its “free admission day” will take place Aug. 4, with a murder mystery following that evening.

Escape Room Festival coming to Fort Malden this Saturday

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada is hosting its first-ever Escape Room Festival this Saturday.

Fort Malden and Parks Canada want to know “Are you the sharpest tool in the shed? When the clock is ticking, can you decipher the clues to solve the puzzles and escape in time? Can you escape from one room? Can you escape from five?!”

Escape rooms are described on Fort Malden’s website as “a physical and mental adventure game” where “players must solve a time-limited series of challenging puzzles and riddles to escape the room. Players must escape the room before time runs out – and time matters!”

Those up to the challenge of solving multiple escape rooms can go to Fort Malden between 10 a.m.-8 p.m. with the cost being $34.50 per person for five escape room experiences. It is an all ages event.

Teams of six will have 15 minutes to solve the clues and escape the room.

Participants will have the opportunity to win door prizes and vote for the People’s Choice Award for “Best of the Festival.”

Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada is holding an Escape Room Festival June 16. (Photo courtesy of Fort Malden’s website)

Mobile escape rooms from across Windsor-Essex County will be at Fort Malden and the public is invited to bring friends and solve as many of the escape rooms as they can.

Advanced registration is underway and to register, please phone Fort Malden National Historic Site at 519-736-5416. You will be asked to select your top five escape rooms and Parks Canada states that teams of two to six are asked to register together.

Staff will do their best to match the public with their selections.

There are a limited number of spots available, first come, first served.

Escape rooms include “Confined to the Barracks (presented by Fort Malden National Historic Site), “Cottage Fever” (presented by Fort Malden National Historic Site), “Disarm the Bomb” (presented by Hidden Trail Escape Room), “Legend of Hocus” (presented by Breakout Kingsville), “Recipe for Escape” (presented by Fort Malden National Historic Site), “Skullduggery in the Scullery” (presented by Exodus Windsor Escape Rooms), “The Cell” (presented by Hidden Trail Escape Room) and “The General’s Last Word” (presented by Fort Malden National Historic Site).

Local food trucks will be on hand as well while The Friends of Fort Malden will be presenting a “beer garden” to visitors that are 19 years of age or older.

There will also be musical entertainment by Rob Bondy and Endadaday, Allison Brown, Sara Fontaine and Hogarth, Hoppe & Borshuk with guest Phil Kasurak.

For more information, call Fort Malden National Historic Site at 519-736-5416, e-mail ont.fort-malden@pc.gc.ca or visit www.parkscanada.gc.ca/malden.

Friends of Fort Malden seeking new members

The Friends of Fort Malden is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with Parks Canada to preserve and promote the heritage of Fort Malden Historical Site and the value of local history. Through special events, the Friends of Fort Malden generate awareness and funding to support summer student employment at Fort Malden as well as other local historic programs.

We are seeking to increase our membership to continue our important mission of supporting the rich local history found here in Amherstburg Ontario.

Local historical gems found here locally like Fort Malden NHS and Park House Museum are organizations we are trying to promote. Most recently we are doing a cross promotion contest offering a Lantern made at Park House Tin Smith Shop to one lucky winner.

The Friends of Fort Malden, in cooperation with Park House, is excited to announce our 2018 membership campaign drive. How would you like to win this extraordinary “Star” Lantern? This lantern is made locally by a talented Tin Smith at the Park House Museum Tin Shop here in Amherstburg Canada? This handsome fully functional Lantern measures 13″ Tall X 4.5″ X 4.5″ and retails for $95 CDN.

This is an exceptional prize to “Get-Involved” and have “History Start with you!” Please stop by the Park House Museum to see this fantastic Lantern.

Photo courtesy of www.friendsfortmalden.org

While you’re at Park House take a tour of the museum. The Park House Museum is a year-round museum catering to the needs of visiting school children, seniors and the general public; they bring the story of Amherstburg and its people to life through programs and exhibits that are created to engage and inspire all who visit. They are located at 214 Dalhousie St. in Amherstburg.

You have three possible entries to win our contest. First, at no cost to you, simply go to our web site and register your name and information. This will give you your first entry into the contest as well as receive our free newsletter.

Would you like to receive two more entries? Join the Friends of Fort Malden at a yearly cost of $12.00 for two more entries.

For more information, visit www.friendsfortmalden.org or e-mail director/webmaster Randy L. Hall at info@friendsfortmalden.org.

 

(Editor’s Note: Non-profit groups and churches can submit write-ups to the RTT for free. People can e-mail Ron at mail@rivertowntimes.com or drop their info off at the office.)

 

Candlelight tours showcase Fort Malden in new “light”

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Guests had a chance to see Fort Malden by candlelight Saturday evening, a new tour idea, which their interpretation officer hopes will continue.

“We decided to do the candlelight tour this year to really showcase some of the evening stories of the history of The Fort,” explained Alex Dale, interpretation officer at Fort Malden Historic Site. “Not just the military history but some of the other stories, from the lunatic asylum period, to the establishment of the historic site itself, a lot of the stories that we really don’t talk about during the day. We focus more on the actions and the battles and events of the War of 1812 or the Rebellions of 1837 and the daily lifestyle of the soldiers, we don’t really talk about a lot of the evening aspects.”

Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada offered a candlelight tour last Saturday night. Their next event is this week’s Haunted Fort, run in conjunction with the House Youth Centre.

Dale explained, the tour didn’t just involve storytelling but there were even re-enactors on the grounds in period uniforms playing games, cooking in the cookhouse, and on guard duty. He said it’s very different from what they’re doing next week, which is the Haunted House Tours with The House Youth Centre. While that is more of a spooky, jump out at you sort of thing, this weekend’s events were more educational while still casting a new “light” on the stories of Fort Malden.

One of the stories Dale shared was the mass desertion of soldiers from the 89th regiment. He explained, soldiers were on guard duty, which was a standard, 24-hour shift. Their job was two-fold – to watch out for anybody who might be approaching The Fort and also to try to stop any soldiers who might desire to run away from deserting.

“Little did anybody think the guards themselves would be doing the deserting,” Dale said.

At quarter to one in the morning Feb. 24, one of the guards, shouted “all is well.” It was repeated all the way along. Then the next 15-minute interval he shouted “all is well” and there was nothing. There was no return, so he then shouted “all is not well” and the sergeant of the guard came running. A total of 12 soldiers had deserted that night, and as far as they have found with any documents they have tried to research, they were never found.

“I enjoy storytelling,” said Dale. “It’s my passion, as an interpreter. It also helps me with my own learning and my own passion in historical research because now I can find other stories and share them in a different light than some of the more normal stories we tell. For me it’s a new and exciting, and fairly enjoyable event. I’m hoping that it’s something we can carry on and do in the future as well.”