River Lights

Super Santa Run takes over the streets of Amherstburg

 

 

By Christian Bouchard

While Christmas is still a month away, Santa Claus paid a visit to Amherstburg.

At least a lot of lookalikes that is.

Over 400 Santas hit the streets of Amherstburg for the annual Essex Region Foundation’s Super Santa Run Nov. 17.

Over 400 people dressed up as Santa Claus participated in the ninth annual Super Santa Run. The event, presented by the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, helps raise money to support conservation efforts in the Essex region such as tree planting and trail development.

The Super Santa Run partnered with the opening night of the Amherstburg River Lights Festival. The community saw hundreds of jolly participants decked out in lights, kids in strollers and dogs dressed up in Christmas outfits run or walk the five-kilometre route along downtown Amherstburg.

“We are so thankful to partner with the River Lights Festival. It’s a great day that helps everyone get into the holiday spirit, said Danielle Stuebing, director of communications and outreach services for Essex Region Conservation.

Stuebing told the River Town Times Saturday night that a financial fundraising total was not available as funds pledged were still coming in. She noted she is expecting to have raised over $10,000 at the end of the day.

“It really does get you into the holiday spirit,” said Stuebing. “It is always fun to see hundreds of Santa’s fly to that start line and run down the beautiful streets of Amherstburg.”

According to Stuebing, there were people who traveled from as far as Toronto and the United States to participate in the event.

The streets of Amherstburg were packed Saturday night with runners and walkers in Santa suits with dogs even part of the event.

“It’s a different event from some of your more traditional runs. It looks at the holidays, the spirit of giving and conservation all tied together.”

Following the run, hundreds of Santas made their way to the Navy Yard parkette where Mayor Aldo DiCarlo would help with the ceremonial countdown as the town would officially kick-off the River Lights Winter Festival.

 

 

 

Town to take over River Lights Winter Festival

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The River Lights Winter Festival is now going to be run directly by the town.

While a volunteer committee oversaw the festival for its first decade in existence, the town will now take it over after the request was made by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce. According to a report from manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota, River Lights draws over 20,000 people annually to the downtown core and the volunteer committee has raised over $550,000 for the festival.

“Administration has met with the Chamber and its subcommittee on a number of occasions related to the above request. The basis for the request lies in the limited ‘go forward’ capacity, in terms of resources, of the Chamber to continue to deliver the festival,” Rota stated in her report.

There are 109 displays that are being transferred to the town, valued at approximately $100,000, with the River Lights committee also having about $25,000 cash in the bank and $25,000 in investments. Rota’s preliminary forecast for 2018 calls for $70,000 in revenue and expenses totalling $65,000.

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

The town historically has committed $5,000 under the approved base budget “however, if event costs are covered by revenues from third parties and the town is directly operating the request, no further town contribution may be required,” Rota wrote.

Rota added the parks department labour costs have traditionally be donated in-kind. The 13-member volunteer committee, she added, would be interested in continuing to assist.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she supported the request.

“It’s the only way we can keep it,” she said. “We have to agree to take on the project.”

CAO John Miceli said he believes the festival will be enhanced. Miceli was questioned by Councillor Leo Meloche as to whether this will be a line item in the budget, and Miceli answered in the affirmative.

The River Lights has been named a “Top 100 Festival in Ontario” eight times by Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO).

River Lights teams with Belle Vue Conservancy to spruce up historic home

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The historic Belle Vue home is being lit up for the holiday season.

The River Lights Winter Festival has stepped up and helped decorate the home with festive decorations and solar lights. Jennie Lajoie, who is involved with River Lights and the Belle Vue Conservancy, said the former agreed to take on the project.

“River Lights has kindly agreed to light up Belle Vue for the festival,” said Lajoie. “Most of the greenery came from the back of the property.”

Conservancy member Linda Jackson said they are “very excited” that River Lights took on the project.

Jennie Lajoie, Linda Jackson and Sarah Van Grinsven stand in front of a decorated Belle Vue.

“We cannot thank River Lights enough for what they are doing for us,” Jackson stated.

Sarah Van Grinsven, co-ordinator with the River Lights Winter Festival, said the decorations are connected to the period and they are not as “flashy” as some of the other River Lights decorations. She added that both groups wanted to work together to create the partnership.

“Everyone loves to work together in Amherstburg,” she said. “That’s what makes it so great.”

Lajoie noted that “every single dollar” the Belle Vue Conservancy raises goes straight to the 200-year-old home’s restoration. That is why River Lights stepped up to take care of the Christmas decorations, she added.

“It’s the re-birth of Belle Vue and the lighting up of the old girl,” remarked Lajoie.

For more on the River Lights Winter Festival, call 519-736-4642 or visit www.riverlights.ca. For more on the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com.

River Lights officially opened after one-day rain delay

 

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

What started out as a way to attract visitors to the downtown core during the slowest time of the year, has grown into an all encompassing festival with layers of economic involvement and holiday spirit.

“River Lights is so important for many reasons,” explained River Lights coordinator Sarah Van Grinsven. “One, community spirit.  River Lights brings people out of hibernation and enjoying the holiday season with their fellow citizens. Two, community partnership. So many groups work together to make River Lights work, from museums, galleries to other not-for-profits. And of course the sponsors who show they care through in kind and cash sponsorships. Three, economic development. The more action in the streets, the more in our downtown businesses.”

Ajay McGowan (right), Ryleigh Labutte (centre) and Colton Labutte (left) get an up-close look at the lights during the opening ceremony for the River Lights Winter Festival last Sunday night.

The opening weekend of the festival included the Super Santa Run, which was held Nov. 18 as planned despite the rain. The outdoor holiday movie and municipal tree lighting were rescheduled to Nov. 19, which turned out to be a much drier evening. Van Grinsven called the festival a “magical event” because of how it spreads joy to all those who visit and how it brings the community together. Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo echoed those thoughts and feelings.

Town crier Frank Gorham welcomes the crowd to the River Lights opening ceremony.

“People love the event,” said DiCarlo. “It’s family friendly and seems to have become Amherstburg’s official launch of the holiday season. I’ve also heard from visitors who come from outside the region for the event. Every year we add more to see and do, and clearly this is translating to the people who look forward to the event. Personally, my family has been attending since the first year, and we still look forward to it, especially when it’s not as cold.”

The municipal tree is lit at the Richmond Street entrance of the King’s Navy Yard park for the first time Nov. 19 during the opening ceremony of the River Lights Winter Festival.

The festival also includes the lights and displays around the Town of Amherstburg, as well as the gingerbread warming house, which will also be open in Toddy Jones Park every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. until Christmas.

Free carriage rides will be available Dec. 2, 9 and 15, and the Holiday House Tours will also take place next week, Nov. 25 and 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.riverlights.ca.

River Lights, Canadian Tire team for Holiday House Tours

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The River Lights Winter Festival kicks off this Saturday and the Holiday House Tours follow Nov. 25-26.

To help celebrate the latter, a local business has teamed with River Lights’ Holiday House Tour committee to aid in the presentation of the homes.

Volunteers from the Holiday House Tours were at the Canadian Tire store in Amherstburg last Wednesday afternoon decorating three Christmas trees that will be displayed in the Sandwich St. S. store. River Lights co-ordinator Sarah Van Grinsven said that River Lights receives a donation in return for the tree decorations.

The fifth annual Holiday House Tour will see professional decorators showcasing their talent in nine locations including extravagant waterfront properties, to designated heritage sites, and grand country homes.

“With the donation from Canadian Tire, we decorate the homes with Canadian Tire products,” said Van Grinsven.

The Holiday House Tour
committee, which is part of the River Lights Winter Festival, was at Canadian Tire last Wednesday afternoon decorating Christmas trees that will be used in the store. In exchange for decorating the trees, Canadian Tire made a donation towards the Nov. 25-26 Holiday House Tours. Canadian Tire’s Stephen and Paige Pike and Scott Miller joined committee members Sarah Van Grinsven, Jen Ibrahim, Michelle Lecours, Corine Jones, Elizabeth Davidson and Carla Lauzon Abson.

Included in the $25 ticket price is tea service, a holiday craft sale and, new this year, a Christmas Tree Dress Exhibit.  The Christmas Tree Dress Exhibit will showcase eight individually designed creations, each made from spruce, pine, or fir and holiday décor.

“It’s fashion with a twist and cannot be missed,” Van Grinsven stated.

Tickets are being sold at Sobeys in Amherstburg, Country Bliss, Dusty Loft Antique and Collectibles, Windsor Crossings Premium Outlets, online at riverlights.ca as well as the Gordon House, the latter being located at 268 Dalhousie St.

Stephen and Paige Pike, owners of the Canadian Tire store in Amherstburg, said they are happy to be involved.

“River Lights is a great community event we wholeheartedly support,” said Paige. “Sarah and her volunteers do a great job.”

Paige added that it is a “win-win” for all involved.

For more information on the River Lights Winter Festival, call 519-736-4642, visit www.riverlights.ca or e-mail riverlights@mdirect.net.