Toddy Jones Park

Town council agrees to honour River Lights volunteers



By Ron Giofu


A couple who have been integral parts of the growth of the River Lights Winter Festival will be honoured.

Mark and Karen Usher will be honoured with a plaque at the pavilion in Toddy Jones Park as it will be dubbed the “Karen and Mark Usher Gingerbread Warming House.” Jennie Lajoie, a member of the River Lights committee, appeared before town council to make the request and called the Gingerbread Warming House “a much loved and integral part of the festival in which thousands of families have visited Amherstburg to not only enjoy the lights, but to partake of the activities and beauty of the Gingerbread Warming House.”

Volunteers, including the Ushers, put up walls and decorations on the pavilion every fall to get it ready for the River Lights Winter Festival.

Lajoie pointed out that the Ushers spend “hundreds of volunteer hours” getting the warming house ready and Lajoie pointed out that it is the venue for the gingerbread house contest and other events during the River Lights Winter Festival. The events are mostly free in part “because of the hard work and efforts of Karen and Mark Usher for over 11 years!”

The Ushers have lived in Amherstburg for 43 years, Lajoie added, and Karen was a nurse at a medical clinic while Mark taught for 32 years at General Amherst High School.

“Both have dedicated part of their retirements to giving back selflessly, graciously and warmly to their beloved community so that others can enjoy a magical, family tradition at Toddy Jones Park,” Lajoie stated.

Councillor Patricia Simone questioned whether the plaque would be displayed all year, or just during River Lights. Lajoie said they envision a permanent, all-year plaque.

Simone voiced a concern that others may start coming forth with similar requests, noting that most town events are run by volunteers. She said she didn’t want to exclude anyone if someone else should come forward.

The Gingerbread Warming House will be named for River Lights volunteers Mark and Karen Usher. (Special to the RTT)

Lajoie promoted the Ushers by stating they have been volunteering for River Lights for 11 years and “they are busy all year round.” CAO John Miceli added the town has started yearly events to recognize the town’s many volunteers.

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche pointed out there are other recognition events, including a yearly tree planting ceremony at Co-An Park in McGregor.

“I see no harm in doing more of that,” said Meloche.

Councillor Michael Prue wanted to know if the town had any sort of policy regarding recognizing residents and groups.

“If we have a policy, we should follow it,” said Prue.

“There is not a policy,” noted Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We are working on a policy.”

Prue followed up by wondering what the specifics were of the plaque, including size, location and what it is made out of. Lajoie said it will be a 12×18 metal plaque.

Mark Usher attended the meeting and thanked council for agreeing to the honour.

“River Lights is super special,” he said, adding families come down to look at the lights and enjoy themselves.

“It’s all about families,” he said.

DiCarlo envisioned the town hosting an event for the Ushers after the plaque is installed.

Amherstburg Farmers Market to relocate downtown



By Christian Bouchard


After nine years, the Amherstburg Farmers Market will have a new location to call home.

The market has been held at the Malden Community and Cultural Centre – a.k.a. “The Little White Church” – at the end of Howard Avenue and County Road 20 and opened in 2010. It has hosted local vendors every Saturday to sell a wide variety of local produce to baked goods and handmade crafts.

“Mr. D” of Mr. D’s Produce takes cover from the downpour of rain on the last day of the Amherstburg Farmers Market. The final day of the 2018 season was last Saturday.

The 2.5 acre lot, deemed a historical building is currently for sale with an asking price of $184,900, forcing the market and its vendors to find a new home.

“I’ll miss it and people will miss it,” said Hope Bailey, a first-year market vendor. “They’ll drive by and talk about the memories.”

According to market manager Rita Casagrande, the vendors enjoyed the “Little White Church” location as it was a central location attracting people from Windsor off Howard Ave. and the local cottagers as well as people from Kingsville and Leamington. Despite being sad to see the market go, Casagrande is looking forward to the markets new home in downtown Amherstburg.

“Our permanent spot will be where Duffy’s used to be,” said Casagrande.

Due to construction at the new downtown location, the market will likely have to relocate to Toddy Jones Park before making a permanent move to the downtown location at Duffy’s.

Hope Bailey was one of the vendors last Saturday at the Amherstburg Farmers  Market (left) while Amanda Haggert, Chanel Bouchard and Christina Bouchard from Bouchard Gardens were also selling goods during the market’s final day of the season.

The market has had several trial attempts at Toddy Jones Park throughout the years, however it has struggled to attract customers.

Casagrande stated the location at Toddy Jones Park was great but being a Tuesday afternoon with people at work made it difficult to entice customers.

“We just want to thank our customers who did come and supported us. We enjoyed having them and hope they will follow us to our new location,” said Casagrande.

Planning for Amherstburg Uncommon Festival ongoing


By Ron Giofu


Plans for the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival are underway and town tourism officials believe things are coming together nicely.

The festival, planned to be in the downtown core including Navy Yard Park and Toddy Jones Park, is set for Aug. 3-5 and manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota is enthusiastic about what the Civic Holiday weekend will do for the town.

“Something uncommon is about to hit the streets of Amherstburg,” said Rota. “Every day, a new exciting activity is added. By Aug. 3-5, people are going to be amazed at what is going to be in Amherstburg.”

Among the list of activities is a children’s innovation pavilion in Navy Yard Park which will include robotics, falconry and flight demonstrations, a straw maze, hat making, ghost walks, costume contests, tea pot races, a Canadian Historic Aircraft aerial display, quidditch games, psychic readings and Dr. Von Houligan’s Carnival of Calamities. The latter will see a big top set up in Toddy Jones Park with tickets to enter being available at WFCU.

“Tickets are only $5 each because of a generous donation from WFCU, who sponsored the tent,” said Rota.

Rota said even the tourism department is surprised by the level of interest the festival has been receiving.

“We are amazed with the popularity of Harry Potter and steampunk,” said Rota. “We never thought there would be so much interest out there.”

The bulk of the event will be free, said Rota, and noted they have received a number of sponsors that have helped with costs.

“The streets will be filled with activities for the entire three days,” she said. “There are some very, very uncommon and unusual acts. We have fireworks every single night that ends the show.”

The costume contest will be judged by representatives from Windsor Comic-Con and have male, female and children categories.

“We will have giant steam engines on display and a chuckwagon at Toddy Jones Park,” added Rota.

What will be involved with the “Insecta Alley” will be left as a surprise for now, she stated.

There is no plan to have food trucks or vendors involved, Rota said, with people encouraged to visit local restaurants as many will have Harry Potter and steampunk-themed menus.

“We are really encouraging people to visit downtown businesses and restaurants,” she said.

For more information on the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, call the tourism office at 519-730-1309, visit or visit the tourism department’s Facebook page by searching “Amherstburg Connection.” The public can also follow the tourism department on Twitter by searching @AmherstburgNow.

Canada Day Treats ‘N’ Eats Festival coming to Toddy Jones Park



There will still be a festival going on in Toddy Jones Park on Canada Day, but it will have a different name than in past years.

Now known as the Canada Day Treats ‘N’ Eats Festival, it will be taking over Toddy Jones Park from July 1. Event organizer Kim Hamilton said the former Ice Cream Festival is back with a name change to accompany it.

“Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I know you’ve heard of the exciting events going on in Amherstburg for Canada Day over the last few years,” said Hamilton. “We’re kicking off the summer of 2018 with the ‘Canada Day Treats N’ Eats Festival’ brought to you by Glitterfly Entertainment, coinciding with the Canada Day festivities at Fort Malden! The day kicks off with the town’s annual Canada D’Eh Run (presented by Running Flat). Our festival runs from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. at Toddy Jones Park, in conjunction with the Font Malden outdoor concert, BBQ and activities across the street. All of this is followed up by an extraordinary fireworks display at sunset, put on by the Town of Amherstburg!”

Various different characters will be available to visit with at the Canada Day Treats ‘N’ Eats Festival at Toddy Jones Park. (Photo from the Canada Day Treats ‘N’ Eats Festival Facebook page)

There will be a number of events at the Canada Day Treats ‘N’ Festival at Toddy Jones Park.

“This year the Canada Day Treats N’ Eats Festival is bringing you a boatload of family-friendly new and exciting activities including bouncy castles galore. There will be bounce-all-day passes available,” said Hamilton. “We will also have free mini-putt golf by Party Putt sponsored by Glitterfly Entertainment. There will be ice cream trucks (of course, it’s tradition!).”

Hamilton added there will be food trucks, merchant vendors (local artisans, businesses and not-for-profits), character visits with characters from “Fantastic Fathers,” face painting and glitter tattoos by Glitterfly Entertainment and Funky Faces, a princess meet and greet with a photobooth keepsake and “of course the use of Amherstburg beautiful park, playground and splash pad!  Don’t forget your bathing suits and towels.”

Hamilton asks people to remember that the festival is bike and pet-friendly “but please, pick up after yourself.”

“We’ve spent the last few months planning another amazing event for this year, and we are so excited to celebrate Canada Day with you all!” she said. “Please note a portion of funds raised each year, goes right back into the community, benefitting local charity organizations. You do not want to miss this amazing event!”

CWATS celebration tour comes to Amherstburg



By Ron Giofu


An annual celebration of Essex County’s trail and paved shoulder network ended with a bang in Amherstburg.

Amherstburg was one of the stops on the County-Wide Active Transportation (CWATS) celebration tour with every municipality in Essex County participating. The celebration in Amherstburg occurred last Thursday afternoon in Toddy Jones Park with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, members of both county and town administration and Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) officials helping to lead the walk. The walk left Toddy Jones Park, went through Fort Malden National Historic Site, proceeded south on Laird Ave. and returned to the park.

Const. Steve Owen instructs local students on bicycle safety as part of the County-Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) celebration. It started and ended at Toddy Jones Park with a walk through Fort Malden in between.

Const. Steve Owen instructs local students on bicycle safety as part of the County-Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) celebration. It started and ended at Toddy Jones Park with a walk through Fort Malden in between.

“It’s great to be here to reinforce active transportation through CWATS,” DiCarlo told the crowd of roughly 300 students that participated.

Students came from both Amherstburg Public School and General Amherst High School.

DiCarlo outlined paved shoulders and trails that have been installed in Amherstburg in recent years, including paved shoulders on County Road 5 (the portion of Concession 2 North between Middle Side Road and Texas Road), County Road 18 and the launch of the Cypher Systems Greenway.

“All of these will support cycling, walking and more active transportation in Amherstburg,” said DiCarlo.

Jane Mustac, manager of transportation planning for the County of Essex, said it was a chance to celebrate with their partners including the seven county municipalities, ERCA, the WECHU, Ministry of Transportation and others.

Students from General Amherst High School walk through Fort Malden during the June 8 CWATS celebration in Amherstburg.

Students from General Amherst High School walk through Fort Malden during the June 8 CWATS celebration in Amherstburg.

There are approximately 150 kilometres of trails in Essex County, said Mustac, noting that it took since 2012 to create that much. The widening of County Road 18 from Meloche Road to Concession 6 South to include bike lanes means people can get from the Willowood campground to Fort Malden on bicycle, Mustac pointed out.

The County of Essex dedicates about $1 million per year towards CWATS and partners also contribute. Not only does it go towards infrastructure, but education and outreach are included. The celebration in Amherstburg was the largest, Mustac added.

Students participating in the CWATS celebration walk along the Detroit River inside of Fort Malden National Historic Site last Thursday afternoon.

Students participating in the CWATS celebration walk along the Detroit River inside of Fort Malden National Historic Site last Thursday afternoon.

“We went out with a bang,” she said. “This is our last stop and they made it count.”

Mustac encouraged people to get out and use the trails.
“Try them out,” she said. “Let us know what can be improved. We are looking forward to the next phase.”

For more information on the County-Wide Active Transportation System, visit