Lori Bezaire

River Lights Winter Festival to get underway soon with multiple activities



By Ron Giofu


The River Lights Winter Festival will soon return, and another full slate of activities will be on tap.

This year’s festival will see lights lit from Nov. 17 through Jan. 6 with displays in King’s Navy Yard Park, Toddy Jones Park and elsewhere in town. Residents and businesses are invited to get into the holiday spirit and decorate their homes and storefronts as well.

This is the first year the River Lights Winter Festival will be a town-sponsored event, though roughly a dozen volunteers are helping to set up the event with over 100 more expected to help present it once River Lights gets underway.

Sarah Van Grinsven, special events support co-ordinator with the Town of Amherstburg, said volunteers took only two hours to paint the walls of the Gingerbread Warming House before the walls were put up at the Toddy Jones Park pavilion.

“All of the light displays started going up on Tuesday,” Van Grinsven told the RTT last Friday morning.

Though not hooked up yet, Van Grinsven said roughly 80 per cent of them were erected.

“The larger ones will be put together in the next two weeks,” she said.

River Lights also gets supported through the town’s parks department, Van Grinsven noted.

The opening ceremonies for the River Lights Winter Festival will be Nov. 17. There will be the “usual awesomeness” that night, she noted, with that including the outdoor holiday movie, hot chocolate, tree lighting ceremony and fireworks. The River Lights official opening will be preceded by the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s Super Santa Run, which starts at 5 p.m.

Bumble got his “pre-debut makeover” on the weekend at the home of Ray and Lori Bezaire. It was created by Lori for River Lights. (Submitted photo)

Telus will also be in town with its free interactive playground during the opening weekend, she noted. There will also be activities at the Park House Museum and the Commissariat that night as well.

“We always like to highlight the heritage of our community,” said Van Grinsven.

The gingerbread house contest is back again this year with entries due Nov. 15. A special scavenger hunt will also be part of River Lights this year, with details to come.

River Lights also hosts the annual Holiday House Tours. This year’s house tours are the weekend of Nov. 24-25.

“Ticket sales this year have been the best yet,” reported Van Grinsven.

Online sales have been going very well, she said, and “we’re still three weeks out.”

The Holiday House Tours is a self-guided event that allows people to get inside homes they wouldn’t normally be allowed access to.

“We have amazing homes every year, but we’re excited this year to offer homes that people have been interested in for many years,” said Van Grinsven.

There are eight homes featured this year, as well as a stop at Vivace Estate Winery, which is hosting the Christmas Tree Dress Exhibit, as well as providing complimentary tea, treats and wine tasting. St. Clair College design students will be helping create the dresses, said Van Grinsven.

Tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Tickets, which are priced at $25 per person, are available at the Gordon House, Sobeys Amherstburg, Dusty Loft Antiques and Collectibles, Country Bliss and Windsor Crossing Premium Outlets. They can also be purchased online at www.amherstburg.ca/riverlights.

The Holiday House Tours help fund the rest of the River Lights Winter Festival, Van Grinsven added, as they want to keep the rest of the festival free for families.

Sponsors also help keep the festival free, she added, and they are grateful for the help of businesses, individuals and groups who help out.

“We’re always working on new projects,” stated Van Grinsven, noting King’s Navy Yard Park will be lit up in “an extra special way” this year.

For more information, visit their website at www.amherstburg.ca/riverlights, follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AmherstburgNow or like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amherstburgconnection.

People can also phone 519-730-1309 for additional information.

Just a few days left to participate in “12 Days of Christmas” Scavenger Hunt



By Jolene Perron


As part of Amherstburg’s annual winter festival, the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce is always looking for ways to expand the festival and bring the local businesses more exposure.

“The 12 days of Christmas is a scavenger hunt style event that started with a handful of down town businesses three years ago,” explained Chris Gibb, board member of Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce. “Each year it has grown until we now have a situation where we it is ‘first come, first served.’ It’s really grown into an event all by itself. Our goal is to create a unique way for people to discover businesses they might not otherwise know about. It also helps the businesses reach new customers that may have never visited their location in the past.”
Gibb explained this year they had even more businesses apply than they had spaces for, and joked it may turn into 15 or 17 days of Christmas in the coming years, and it just goes to show the support the local businesses have the community.

The idea of the scavenger hunt, is the participating businesses each have a “prop” in their stores. This “prop” is a 3D sculpture created by Just Cork It owner and artist Lori Bezaire. From 11 pipers piping, to a partridge in the pear tree, Bezaire created 10 of the 12 props used by the local businesses.

“We put them in the stores in a corner somewhere, so it makes people go through the store to look for the prop,” explained Bezaire. “We’re asking the store owners to promote their business while people are going through and then once they find the prop they can get their stamp. We decided it would be better to do it over 12 days, so it gave these businesses a longer period of time for them to be able to promote their businesses more and not just have people running through to get a stamp. We are hoping this will bring people through stores that they may not have ever been through and shop local.”

Bezaire’s involvement with the sculptures started when she spent nine months creating Bumble from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which was followed by her creation of Frosty from Frosty the Snowman.

“I am totally honored, I love being creative and it’s nice to share and I love our community so be able to participate and even as a store owner to be able to promote our business as well, I love Amherstburg and to be able to share and be creative with the town of Amherstburg is an honor to me,” said Bezaire. “I love the idea of the 12 Days of Christmas, for me it’s an opportunity for all of the businesses to network together and promote one another. A strong business core makes for a strong town, I’m hoping this will inspire that.”

The participating businesses this year are 67 Richmond Street, Amherstburg Audiology, Duby’s Home Centre, Embrace Dental Hygiene, Just Cork It, Libro Credit Union, Mealtime Express, Precision Jewellers, River Canard Outpost General Store, Royal Canadian Legion Fort Malden Branch 157, Sotto and Wolfhead Distillery. No purchase is necessary to participate in the event, and those who get all 12 stamps are eligible for a prize valued at $600. The winner will be announced at the River Light “Ignite the Night” opening ceremony this Saturday at 6 p.m.

River Lights gets boost thanks to talent of local resident


By Ron Giofu


Frosty the Snowman has attended this year’s River Lights Winter Festival with Bumble and the Santa in a Bathtub returning as well.

Those creations, along with others, are due to the talents of Lori Bezaire.

Frosty is the latest addition, with the famed snowman located near the Christmas tree in the Navy Yard Park parkette. Bumble and Santa in the Bathtub are in Toddy Jones Park.

“He’s the biggest,” said Bezaire, in reference to Frosty.

Whereas Bumble took nine months to create, Frosty took 12 weeks. Bezaire explained that Bumble is all paper maché with a lot of the work also being to ensure it was made waterproof. Frosty, on the other hand, was made from spray-foam insulation over a wire frame and then modified to make it look like a snowman.

While Bezaire created the finished product, she is quick to point out the creations aren’t just hers alone. Local resident Dave Varney of Sunset Enterprises welded the frames of both Bumble and Frosty and put the wire mesh on the latter.

“He made the body and I covered it,” said Bezaire. “He’s definitely an artist.”

Amherstburg resident Lori Bezaire’s creative abilities are seen once again at this year’s River Lights Winter Festival. Her latest creation is Frosty the Snowman.

Amherstburg resident Lori Bezaire’s creative abilities are seen once again at this year’s River Lights Winter Festival. Her latest creation is Frosty the Snowman.

Bezaire has been busy making smaller creations that will be seen during this weekend’s Holiday House Tours as well as the Santa mask on the side of the Gordon House. She does the work during the summers in her family’s garage out of pride for Amherstburg.

“I love our town,” said Bezaire. “I love to give back to our town.”

The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) helps fund her efforts with private donors, such as the Baker Busch law firm, also helping out. She said without the financial contributions, the creations wouldn’t have happened.

“It’s a great creative outlet,” said Bezaire. “I enjoy doing it. I do it for the kids. I’ve always been kind of crafty. I love challenges.”

Seeing the reactions of the children makes all the effort worthwhile, she added.

Having Frosty, Bumble and the rest helps River Lights stand out from winter-themed events in other communities, she believed. Bezaire also stated she would be willing to do another big project, if someone would sponsor it. There is talk about doing a Grinch for next year. The rough cost of creating the Frosty the Snowman was $3,000, she added.