Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival a hit

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival appears to have been a hit.

The festival, which ran last Friday through Sunday at Fort Malden National Historic Site, surpassed 8,000 people. The target had been at least 6,000 people. The event was run by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) with Chris Gibb and Aldo DiCarlo acting as co-chairs.

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival was held at Fort Malden National Historic Site over the weekend with the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce being the main presenters. Ashley Lynn and the Spurs performed Friday night.

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival was held at Fort Malden National Historic Site over the weekend with the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce being the main presenters. Ashley Lynn and the Spurs performed Friday night.

Saturday night drew positive reviews, with Gibb stating that although it wasn’t sold out, they were “very happy with our numbers.

“For a first time event, we were elated to hit our numbers,” he added. “It shows people want an event at this time of year at this place.”

The addition of craft breweries and craft distilleries, the latter including Amherstburg’s Wolfhead Distillery, proved to be popular, Gibb continued.

“We got a lot of positive compliments about that,” he said. “Wolfhead was a hit.”

There were different attributes to this year’s Harvest Festival that people may not have seen at the previous Shores of Erie International Wine Festival but that turned out to be a positive attribute as well.

Dino Trevisol, Todd Brush, Larry Cote, Cathy Brush and Kim Sloan sit by the Detroit River Friday night.

Dino Trevisol, Todd Brush, Larry Cote, Cathy Brush and Kim Sloan sit by the Detroit River Friday night.

The venue and the weather again was deemed to be an attraction, as there was a bit of rain and wind Saturday but that cleared out of the area relatively quickly.

“For a first time event, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves,” said Gibb. “The overwhelming thing is we have one of the most valuable, publicly accessible waterfronts in the province. It is open to the public and is part of the public trust. (The public) wanted to use it. They wanted to come here and enjoy themselves.”

The plan for the Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival was to plan for this year only.

“We’re going to see what happens next year,” said Gibb. “We’re not thinking of next year.”

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival saw Crystal Gage perform Friday.

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival saw Crystal Gage perform Friday.

DiCarlo, also the town’s mayor, said he walked the grounds at Fort Malden all three days talking to people and said he received glowing feedback.

“Everybody is happy,” he said. “People are loving it. They are amazed.”

DiCarlo said he heard good things about the organization, the variety of food and drinks as well as the entertainment. The electronic wristbands went over surprisingly well and said it was the first time that technology had been used at a smaller festival in southwestern Ontario.

Food and drink vendors were running out of food and drinks Saturday night and lines were long but moved swiftly.

“A lot of people told me it exceeded their expectations,” said DiCarlo. “The most common word was variety. People were ready for something different. We were going for something different – a little bit upscale. The feedback people are telling me is we nailed it.”

Feast On and Bev On tours were popular both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Feast On and Bev On tours were popular both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Layout was similar to the wine festival, DiCarlo acknowledged, but they tried to do something different and also paid attention to the finer details, including putting bales of straw near the portable washrooms to dress the location up and block the views of them.

Both DiCarlo and Gibb thanked the many sponsors and volunteers for their support not only during the weekend but in the weeks leading up to the festival.

“We could never do it without the volunteers,” said Gibb.

DiCarlo also thanked the ACOC, as that was the organization he approached about staging an event during the second weekend of September.

“We had to have an event and we had to have it this year,” said DiCarlo.

Karen Wettlaufer from Wolfhead Distillery said they were thrilled to be part of the weekend. They had two booths set up on the grounds.

“This is very exciting. We are all about local and the festival is all about local,” she said. “We are are here with our neighbours who are also about local.”

Debbie Scott and Karen Wettlaufer show some of the products Wolfhead Distillery had to offer.

Debbie Scott and Karen Wettlaufer show some of the products Wolfhead Distillery had to offer.

Wettlaufer said it was great to be out at a public event and having people try their products. They were exposed to more people, some for the first time, and Wettlaufer pointed out “it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Carolyn Parent brought the “Wheely Scrumptious” food truck to the festival, stating it is only the second festival their new venture has been at – the first being last month’s Woofa-Roo Pet Festival.

“I am ‘wheely’ excited to be here,” she said. “It’s great to see so many local people.”

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival was good for the town, Parent believed.

“It’s brought a lot of visitors to Amherstburg,” she said.

The festival having “Feast On” and “Bev On” designations was important to Parent and she noted her business also tries to support local growers and vendors where possible.

Stacy Ouellette and Cheryl Purdie (along with friend "Dick") attend the Harvest Festival Sunday afternoon.

Stacy Ouellette and Cheryl Purdie (along with friend “Dick”) attend the Harvest Festival Sunday afternoon.

“I think it’s important for the community,” she said.
Parent added: “It’s a nice community event. We couldn’t ask for a better spot.”

Gordon Orr, president and CEO of Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI), acknowledged the Feast On and Bev On designations and believed it was one of the first in the region to boast such a designation. ACOC president Carolyn Davies said their mandate is to promote local business and community engagement and she believed the festival did that.

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