By Ron Giofu, Amherstburg Echo
Monday, August 6, 2012 9:40:13 EDT PM
Re-enactors portraying Chief Tecumseh (left) and General Brock (right) exchange gifts during a staging of Brock’s Landing Sunday, August 5 in Navy Yard Park. The re-enactment was part of closing ceremonies of the Roots to Boots Festival.
AMHERSTBURG — Four years of planning appears to have been well worth it.
An estimated 40,000 people attended the Roots to Boots Festival over the weekend to enjoy the many attractions and festivities the weekend had to offer. People not only attended from Amherstburg and across Windsor-Essex County, but as far as Washington, Maryland, Alaska, Alberta, California as well as Europe.
Anne Rota, manager of tourism and culture for the town, said she spoke with one bed and breakfast owner who welcomed people from Ireland.
“I’m blown away by the number of people that visited Amherstburg for the very first time,” said Rota. “That’s incredible to me. I’m speechless. This really put Amherstburg on the map in a totally new way. It brought people in from all walks of life.”
Rota said the town should be proud it was the host of the War of 1812 Bicentennial event as it is, in her opinion, the “best place in Canada to celebrate the bicentennial.”
The public really embraced the event, she added, and that it was a festival designed to promote art and culture. She was pleased the town has added four “legacy projects” as a result of the bicentennial, including the new Provincial Marine monument designed by artist Mark Williams, the peace sculpture, the murals on the Laird Ave. side of General Amherst High School and Theatre Intrigue’s ongoing “Spirit of a Nation” musical.
“The whole (1812 Alive) committee is very, very happy at this time,” Rota said Monday afternoon. “I think it exceeded our expectations. I truly believe all the planning that went into it and the thought that went into the presentations really paid off for the town.”
Rota said there were still a lot of tourists were in town even on Monday afternoon, a day after the festival closed.
The Saturday morning parade was one of the highlights, she said, as people appreciated the floats and participants were themed appropriately.
“There was a sense of pride with the uniformed organizations in the parade,” she said.
Rota added the Roots to Boots Festival further proves Amherstburg can handle big events.
“We’re a small community with a huge potential for tourism,” she said.
War of 1812 project assistant Sarah Van Grinsven said the festival had an 1812 feel and that even the hot weather Friday and Saturday didn’t hamper the events.
“It’s been crazy. It’s been great to see the town come alive for it,” said Van Grinsven. “Everyone enjoyed the town and loved the way it looked. I don’t think we could have asked for anything more.”
Visitor information centre manager Jennifer Ibrahim said it was a one-time event to celebrate the bicentennial and most people were “ready to be engaged.”
Windsor resident Andy Bothamley came with his family Saturday and enjoyed it.
“It’s fantastic. They’ve done an amazing job,” said Bothamley. “It’s great.”
Amherstburg resident Maria Argoselo also enjoyed the event.
“I think they did a really nice job,” she said.
Argoselo said her family came for the parade Saturday and stayed the rest of the day.
“It’s more than what I thought it was going to be,” she said. “There’s a lot going on for everyone.”
Mayor Wayne Hurst told the crowd at Friday night’s opening ceremonies that Amherstburg is a town that knows how to put on special events.
“We have the people in place that come forward with effort and energy and they take pride and ownership in the community. That is why when we have events in Amherstburg, people come out,” he said. “We have put our best foot forward.”
Essex MP Jeff Watson said the War of 1812 defined the nation and confirmed the boundaries of two nations which have lived in peace since.
“It’s an enduring example of two nations living side-by-side with mutual respect,” said Watson.
Essex MPP Taras Natyshak stated Amherstburg always does a good job in promoting history and putting on events. He noted the town has presented many events in recent weeks and always recognizes the many facets of the War of 1812.
Robert Honor, chair of the 1812 Alive committee, said there was a lot of emphasis on art, music and culture and the clientele that attended the festival reflected that. He noted the many activities that stretched along Dalhousie St.
“I am very pleased,” said Honor. “We had things going on form Fort Malden to Murray St. The whole downtown was busy and full of activities.”
Honor credited a “very aggressive marketing campaign” for drawing in people from all over the globe.
“When we started planning this, I don’t think we were thinking as big as this,” he said. “Organizations wanted to be part of it. Sponsors wanted to be part of it. It got bigger and bigger.”