Harvest Festival

Harvest Fest brings local wine, beer, spirits and food to Fort Malden with new rock music twist


By Jolene Perron


When a local businessman took over Harvest Fest, he promised some new aspects to the festival while keeping it’s key components in mind – strengthening the local wine, spirit and craft brewery exposure.

He delivered.

“We’re trying to keep it small and make sure our vendors make a lot of money, that’s what this is about,” said event coordinator, Chris Mickle. “It’s about local vendors, and injecting that cash income into our local businesses. They are doing very, very well. We have a smaller amount of vendors, that was on purpose though.”

Mickle brought together six local craft breweries, three local wineries and Windsor and Essex’s only distillery. They also brought out seven food vendors.

My Son The Hurricane took the stage Saturday night, with brass instruments and a high energy performance bringing a crowd to dance in front of the stage.

“This is the most beautiful spot in all of Essex County and you can’t have a better view than this,” said Laura Moore, certified master taster for Coopers Hawk Winery. “One of the best things about involving ourselves in festivals is the exposure. People don’t often come out to the wineries and see who we are but when they come to the festivals they see who we are they get a chance to taste some of the fine wines and hopefully it’s going to bring them out to the wineries.”

Harvest Fest brought together six local craft breweries, three local wineries and Windsor and Essex’s only distillery. They also brought out seven food vendors.

The festival brought an estimated crowd of 7,500 people to Fort Malden over the span of three days. Mickle said their pre-sales went better than expected and were higher than the previous years.

“We had a great start Friday night, it was a nice warm up for the vendors, wineries, breweries and distilleries,” said Mickle. “Great music too – everything has been fantastic. Everybody loves the layout, the new style of music, with the international headliners and touring bands. We tried to stay a little bit more easy listening during the day with the blues, the folk and the jazz and kick it up with a little rock and roll at night.”

Melissa Hunter and Justin hunter enjoy a drink along the waterfront during Harvest Fest Saturday evening.

Greg Grondin from G.L. Heritage Brewing Co., which has only been open nine weeks, said that being a new brewery in town, events like Harvest Fest allows them to get their name out to the public and “the response is great for the beer and for the whole town.”

“We’re learning as we go, we’re taking notes for next year,” said Mickle. “Being an Amherstburg boy, born and raised, I’m proud to be able to throw this event and I’m very happy the town has shown their support for this event. I’m very happy the town and the community have our backs.”


Harvest Festival coming back to Amherstburg this September


By Jolene Perron


The team that brought the Fork and Cork festival to Windsor-Essex for the last six years has agreed to take on Amherstburg’s Harvest Festival.

Chris Mickle, owner of Protenders and Windsor’s Dominion House Tavern, was born and raised in Amherstburg. He’s run the Protenders business for 20 years, after starting out as a bartending school, and eventually expanding to special event staffing and management 15 years ago. In addition to running the Fork and Cork Festival, the Protenders are also a large part of Bluesfest Windsor, the Redbull Air races and more.


“We chose to take on the Harvest Festival because we attended last year and saw great potential for a great festival,” said Mickle. “Also I’ve wanted to host a huge event in my hometown since I got into the festival and special event business.”

He, along with Cory Clarkson, Mike Doidge and Kristian Neill will be making a couple of major changes to the festival, including eliminated the cashless wristbands and adding some international touring bands into the musical lineup, which will be announced in a could of weeks along with their list of food and beverage vendors.

The festival is set to take place September 8, 9 and 10. Stay tuned for Harvest Festival announcements in the coming weeks.


Town says no to taking over WE Harvest Festival



By Ron Giofu


If the Windsor-Essex (WE) Harvest Festival returns in 2017, it won’t be run by the town of Amherstburg.

And if there is a festival in early September at Fort Malden National Historic Site, there is still a chance it could be the return of the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival.

Councillor Rick Fryer made the motion not to proceed with the Harvest Festival as a town event, though said he would support the town assisting another organizer now that the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) has decided not to organize it again.

“Right now, I’m saying we are not involved with it. We weren’t before,” said Fryer.

Fryer also referenced a letter council received from members of the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival committee wondering why they were not contacted before council received a report suggesting the town take over organizing the Harvest Festival. Fryer said he didn’t want to “push the wine festival away” and also didn’t want to burden town staff with the job of organizing another Harvest Festival.

According to Fryer, many municipalities lose money when they try to organize such events.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said he was in favour of supporting organizations putting on events, but that the town shouldn’t be putting events on themselves.

“The town should not be in the event-running business,” said Lavigne.

Lavigne asked “why are the (ACOC) getting out of running the festival?” and believed the town should turn to the wine festival organizers to give them the opportunity to bring back their event for that weekend.

“The Shores of Erie Wine Festival is way better than us. I guarantee you that,” he said, regarding the ability to run festivals.

“To me the biggest red flag is when the Chamber of Commerce decided not to do (the Harvest Festival) again after one year,” added Councillor Joan Courtney. “I worry about that.”

Courtney said she agreed with the beliefs of both Fryer and Lavigne.


Councillor Leo Meloche believed the decision to not have the town take over the Harvest Festival came too quickly.

“I’m concerned about making a quick decision,” he said. “This all came quickly to all of us. I think we should look at it.”

Meloche questioned whether there were benefits to the town that were not being taken into consideration and that, while he has concerns over cost and liability, he wanted to keep an open mind.

“I think this proposal should be looked at in more depth than writing it off so quickly,” said Meloche, adding discussions with Shores of Erie International Wine Festival committee members should be part of the process.

Paul Mersch, a board member with the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival committee, said they want a festival in town the second weekend in September and indicated it could be the wine festival.

“There is some intent of us coming back if all goes well in the court case,” he said.

Mersch said wine festival committee members were shocked when the town didn’t approach them with their report about the Harvest Festival, adding wine festival volunteers were told the Harvest Festival was a one-year event. The ACOC issued a letter in late October stating they would not run a 2017 Harvest Festival.

While there is interest in making a comeback, Mersch acknowledged “can we do it is a different question.” There were talks about a combined Harvest Festival and wine festival committee, he noted.

The letter the wine festival committee sent to council questioned why no one approached them in the one month since the ACOC said they wouldn’t present another Harvest Festival. The committee also stated it provided logistical support to the Harvest Festival and rented equipment to them “at a dramatically reduced rate.”

The wine festival committee also stated it has pumped thousands into the local economy and has donated thousands to various charities and causes.

“In reading the agenda, we saw on Oct. 28 the Chamber decided running a festival was not their mandate,” the wine festival’s letter states. “On Nov. 7, the report was filed from John Miceli CEO and Anne Rota, manager of tourism and culture. Could someone not have found the time in one month to contact us out of respect for everything the Shores of Erie Wine Festival has done for our town?”

Karen Gyorgy, chair of the Shores of Erie Wine Festival committee, did state they want an event of some sort that weekend and praised the organizers of the Harvest Festival.

“Kudos to the town, Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce and TWEPI (Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island),” said Gyorgy. “Volunteers put together a festival in very little time. For this they should be congratulated.”

Gyorgy said their only question was why the wine festival were not asked or approached about their intention before the report went before town council.

“We fully support festivals and tourism,” she said. “Unfortunately at this time, we were unable to make commitments.”

Lynnette Bain, vice president of tourism programs and development with TWEPI, appeared before council and said food and drink events are job creators and a growing industry. Bain spoke highly of the Harvest Festival and its “Feast On!” designation which meant they had at least 50 per cent of locally sourced product.

“WE Harvest Festival has the potential to be a tourist driver,” she said, “not a tourist enhancer.”

Bain added her belief that “town administration has the ability and skill to run the event” and that the Harvest Festival has the potential to get to the level of the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival.

According to a report from CAO John Miceli, the 2016 WE Harvest Festival drew 4,834 people. Original estimates of attendance by organizers was 8,000 people.

There were 24 vendors with eight being from Amherstburg, Miceli’s report stated, with 350 volunteers being used. He stated total vendor sales were over $146,000.

The event was highly endorsed by South West Ontario Tourism Corporation, stated Miceli, under the Ministry of Tourism, Recreation and Sport, the Ontario Culinary Alliance and Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island with it also being recognized as “an important regional economic driver.”

“Through statistical data provided from the event, it was reported that businesses and vendors within the festival grounds realized substantial financial growth and brand recognition,” said Miceli.

Miceli added that other downtown establishments as well as other “contracted services” gained sales before and after the event.

“It is highly unlikely that an event such as the WE Harvest will occur in 2017 without Town involvement,” the CAO wrote. “This is understandable with the outstanding litigation of the Wine Festival and the Chamber’s recent decision not to move forward with the event in 2017. In light of this information, council’s decision is critical. This decision will play an important role in reaffirming to residents, stakeholders and investors the Town is committed to developing an alternative economy for improving quality of life for current and future residents of the Town through the promotion of tourism.”

Miceli added: “The Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model (TREIM) is a measure used by the Ministry of Tourism, Recreation and Sport for economic impact. On a recorded 4,834 visitors, the economic impact in Ontario from the event realized $436,490 for total spending. This would include revenue and taxes on goods, gas, food & drink, accommodations, contracted fees etc. Locally, the TREIM measured the Direct GDP for our region as $193,783 and the Direct Labour benefit realized was $129,298. Should Council proceed with WE Harvest these dollars will continue to be realized in the locally economy at little or no cost to the ratepayer. This is a significant contribution to the local economy for a three-day event and will have a multiplier effect should the Town increase attendance the number of visitors to the event.”

ACOC president Carolyn Davies told the RTT Friday night she was hoping the town would take the event on.

“We want to keep the spot open for Amherstburg,” said Davies. “There were a lot of people competing for that time slot.”

The festival is good for economic development and tourism, she believed.

Davies said the ACOC’s mandate is to support businesses and “give them a strong foothold.” She indicated the ACOC is looking at supporting businesses in other ways, including finding ways for businesses to combat rising hydro costs.

Chris Gibb, a co-chair of the 2016 WE Harvest Festival, said it was “a great success” and wanted council to agree to take on the event.

“Harvest Fest gave local restaurants a chance to reach an audience they might not be able to reach. Our local wineries, distilleries, and craft breweries raved about the great exposure they received,” said Gibb. “Most importantly, by bringing people to Amherstburg to visit an event like Harvest Fest, it gives us a chance to show what a wonderful town we have and who knows, maybe a house is built or sold because of a visit to an event like this? Maybe people come back to visit a restaurant or shop they saw while at Harvest Fest, maybe Wolfhead Distillery increases employment because of increased sales.”

Gibb believed issues of liability could be addressed through a variety of steps.

“I was in charge of security last year and some of the procedures we implemented helped minimize the risk we took on,” said Gibb. “Not allowing anyone under 19 at the event, checking ID of both patrons and vendors, and working closely with the Amherstburg police were all ways to try and keep risks to a minimum.”

Gibb called the Harvest Festival “a true gem for Amherstburg” and said thousands of residents saw the value in it. He co-chaired the event with Aldo DiCarlo, the town’s mayor. DiCarlo was not in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.

Harvest Festival this weekend, ticket sales going well



By Ron Giofu


The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival is this weekend and organizers are reporting “very good” numbers in terms of ticket sales.

The festival runs Friday through Sunday at Fort Malden National Historic Site and organizing committee co-chairs Chris Gibb and Aldo DiCarlo state that things are coming together.

“We think Saturday may be a sell-out,” said Gibb.

The number of people on the grounds at Fort Malden will be capped at 6,000 at any one time. DiCarlo, also the town’s mayor, said tickets should be purchased sooner rather than later to ensure there are tickets available for the day people want to go.

While there will be no shuttle bus service at the Harvest Festival, Amherstburg Taxi and other area taxi companies will be on site to transport people home if they need a ride, Parking will be available at the Honeywell site and people can walk or cab from there if they choose.

“We’ve got cabs from all around the county,” said DiCarlo.

Roads will be closed in the immediate vicinity of Fort Malden during the festival, including Fort Malden Dr., Dalhousie St. from North St. to Fort Malden Dr. and Laird Ave. from Elm St. to North St. Gibb stated those roads are being closed in the interest of public safety and to ensure residents in that area won’t have a lot of cars in the immediate vicinity of their homes. Those residents will be given full access to that area during the three days, Gibb added. The exact hours of the closures has been announced by the town as 3 p.m.-midnight both Friday and Saturday and 12 noon-7 p.m. Sunday.


While it is known that at least one person from Texas plans to attend the Harvest Festival, DiCarlo said the focus is ensuring things get set up and are properly running for those in attendance regardless of where they come from.

Tickets are on sale at the Gordon House but also at WFCU locations in Windsor-Essex County and through the web either at www.weharvestfest.com or at www.ticketscene.ca. Gibb said people from across the region are purchasing tickets.

“Everyone knows Amherstburg knows how to throw a good party,” said Gibb.

All entertainers are local to Windsor-Essex County and DiCarlo believes that to be a great selling point.

“The entertainment is a great lineup,” he said. “I’ve heard most of them and I think there are some great choices there. I just love the fact they are all local.”

Currently scheduled for the opening night are Kelsi Mayne, the Crystal Gage Band, Buck Twenty and Ashley Lynn and the Spurs as it has a pop and country theme. Saturday night entertainment includes mainstream artists such as Claudia DiNatale, Transeo, the Funk Junkies, the Sarah Smith Band, and Greatest Hits Live while Sunday’s entertainment has vocal and instrumental artists like Joan Charette Quartet, Double Barrel and Jorge Miguel scheduled.

The event is Feast On and Bev On certified, meaning that at least 50 per cent of the culinary tastes are sourced from local ingredients, with tasting tours and Feast On and Bev On tours scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Sunday will be a family day with youth and children 18 and younger permitted on the grounds as long as they are with a paid adult.

Taste artisans for the weekend from a food perspective include Blackjacks, Bistro 42, Butchers on the Block, Kingsville Golf & Country Club, Koi Sushi, Oropomodoro Pizzeria, Smashed Apple Catering, The Vines and Wheely Scrumptious. Beverage artisans include Aleksander Estate Winery, Brew Microbrewery, Colchester Ride Estate Winery, Colio Estate Wines, Coopers Hawk Vineyards, Frank Brewing Company, North 42 Degrees Estate Winery, Oxley Estate Winery, Paglione Estate Winery, Pelee Island Winery, Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery, Walkerville Brewery and Wolfhead Distillery.

Gibb and DiCarlo also pointed out that the new electronic wristband system can see patrons load their wristband with money from their credit or debit card to avoid lines and purchase food or drinks quicker. There will also be a social media component with the wristbands so patrons can “check in” from the Harvest Festival right from their wristbands.

“People don’t have to worry about unspent tokens,” said DiCarlo, adding the money that goes unspent can be refunded electronically to the purchaser.

People can also download the “EatDrinX” app on their smartphones. That app will assist people in finding the taste artisan of their choice and the menu items they want to try.

Gibb added each person who attends will be able to receive a souvenir mug.

“It’s something you will remember for years,” he said. “I think people will be impressed with it.”

Those who wish to volunteer can still do so by visiting the Harvest Festival’s website or by calling 519-736-2001.

“We could always use more but we’re really floored with the support we’ve received,” said Gibb.

Hours are Friday 4-11 p.m., Saturday12-11 p.m. and Sunday 12-6 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the gate for Sept. 9-10 with the Sunday being $15 in advance and children 18 and under free with a ticket-holding parent. A weekend pass is $60. For more information or to volunteer, visit the website, their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/weharvestfest or follow them on Twitter @WeHarvestFest.

Harvest Festival organizers gearing up for Sept. 9-11 event


By RTT Staff


The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival is fast approaching and plans are starting to fall into place.

The event is Sept. 9-11 at Fort Malden National Historic Site with the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) helping to organize the event. Co-chairs Chris Gibb and Aldo DiCarlo indicate the Harvest Festival will help keep Amherstburg as the focal point during the second weekend of September.

“The mayor approached the chamber about saving the weekend for Amherstburg,” said Gibb. “He recognized what needed to be done and stepped up and did it.”

Gibb said the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival worked hard to build up their event and when they were not able to put it on again this year, DiCarlo approached the chamber about doing something that weekend.

DiCarlo, who is trying to keep his duties as mayor and committee co-chair separate, said he approached the ACOC due to a belief that something else could be created elsewhere.

“The weekend really was open. It was built up for ten years,” said DiCarlo. “It was clear if we didn’t do something, someone was going to pick it up. I contacted the group I knew who could pull (another event) off.”


The wine festival was credited for their work, with organizers using much of the same ideas they had in terms of set-up and infrastructure but adding different twists to it for the Harvest Festival. The event is not an official “town event” and is being done with the blessing of the wine festival committee.

Organizers are “cautiously optimistic,” said DiCarlo. Wristband technology will allow patrons to “load” a monetary amount on it and swipe it with the bill going to the credit card of the patrons’ choice. Gibb noted that will eliminate the need for tokens with DiCarlo noting that every wristband will be associated with a specific person.

The festival will also have “Feast ON” designation, meaning that at least 50 per cent of the culinary tastes are sourced from local ingredients. The weekend will feature both “Feast ON” and “Bev ON” tours throughout the three-day festival.

“That (Feast ON) designation is not easy to get, I’m told,” said DiCarlo, noting the organizers had help from Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) in obtaining the designation.

DiCarlo added “it makes perfect sense to me to showcase everything we do” and noted the wineries, craft breweries and distilleries, such as Wolfhead Distillery, bring strong local components to the table including locally-grown crops used in creating their products and local materials used in processing them.

The local flare spills over into entertainment, “which we are proud of,” said DiCarlo.

“What was most important to us was to gain local people and that all entertainment is local,” he said, with local meaning from the Windsor-Essex County area.

Currently scheduled for the opening night are Kelsi Mayne, the Crystal Gage Band, Buck Twenty and Ashley Lynn and the Spurs. Saturday night entertainment includes Claudia DiNatale, Transeo, the Funk Junkies, the Sarah Smith Band, and Greatest Hits Live while Sunday’s entertainment has the Joan Charette Quartet, Double Barrel and Jorge Miguel scheduled.

Gibb said Saturday night is getting close to the 6,000-person sell-out mark.

“We are very impressed with the ticket sales so far,” said Gibb.

Seminars from “taste artisans” and “beverage artisans” will also be featured as part of that weekend. A list of taste and beverage artisans can be found at www.weharvestfestival.com. As the festival gets closer, patrons will also be able to download a “EatDrinX” app on their smartphones. That app will assist people in finding the taste artisan of their choice and the menu items they want to try.

Menu items are not yet finalized, said DiCarlo, and they will be once it is known what the “bounty of Essex County” is come harvest season.

Fort Malden is getting in on the act, doing live demonstrations and are even developing their own beverage with hops being grown right on the grounds.

“It’s kind of a cool, unique idea,” said Gibb.

“(Fort Malden) didn’t want to make it a passive venue for the event. They are very excited to partner with us,” said DiCarlo.

Hours are Sept. 9 4-11 p.m., 12-11 p.m. Sept. 10 and 12-6 p.m. Sept. 11. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the gate for Sept. 9-10 with the Sunday being $15 in advance and children 18 and under free with a ticket-holding parent. A weekend pass is $60. Tickets are available online at www.weharvestfestival.com, at any WFCU location and at the Gordon House.

“By the time it’s done, I think it will be a good example of what can happen when people work together,” said DiCarlo.

For more information or to volunteer, visit the website, their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/weharvestfest or follow them on Twitter @WeHarvestFest.