Windsor Essex Events Get The Party Started

Biz X magazine June 2022 cover story
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Windsor Essex Events Get The Party Started

After two years of seeing festivals and events totally shut down or severely curtailed by pandemic restrictions, we are now seeing a return of many of the special activities attended by residents and visitors across the region and beyond.

From the Woofa~Roo Pet Fest in Amherstburg to the Kingsville Highland Games, and from the Ford Fireworks along the Detroit River, to the LaSalle Strawberry Festival, there’s something on the horizon for almost every taste and age group.

Gordon Orr, Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, says the approaching summer months will be a welcome sign of normality for the hospitality and tourism sector, which has been heavily battered by COVID restrictions since early 2020.

“It’s a strong sign that the local tourism and hospitality sector is re-opening and ready to welcome residents and visitors to a whole host of events,” says Orr. “Many of these events are trip-motivators and provide activities for family and friends in town to visit with local residents.” Orr also acknowledged that sponsors, vendors and volunteers play key roles in making sure these events are successful.

“These events also provide great exposure for businesses and introduce them to future customers they might not otherwise see,” adds Orr. “Festivals and events are what bring people together and this region has always been known for being a social community, and welcoming to all demographics.”

Dave MacNeil, Chief Executive Officer of Festivals and Events Ontario, believes the return to full-scale events will still take some time as people gradually begin to feel comfortable with going out and about.

“We hear that volunteers are hard to come by in some communities, but I imagine that will change slowly,” says McNeil. “These events are important throughout Ontario and they help build community by bringing together people with similar interests, whether it’s wine, music, beer, food or culture.”

For information about activities across Ontario, see: FestivalsAndEventsOntario.ca. For specific events locally you can go to: VisitWindsorEssex.com, but also continue to read this article, LOL!

Since June is traditionally Tourism Month, Biz X magazine has put together a list of the many events planned for this region throughout June until mid-July. (Publisher’s Note: The Parenting Biz section of this edition, starting on Page 30, has the details on The Mama & Family Expo, June 24 & 25. As well, the July/August issue will cover events from mid-July to the end of September).

At the time of writing, event organizers were still in the preparation phases of most profiled events here, so only the information known when this article was assembled could be included. If you are interested in attending any of these events be sure to check the websites listed since details can change right up until the last minute.

Let’s start with two big events Biz X sponsors and then follow up with other events taking place, in date order.

The Woofa~Roo Pet Fest, June 25&26

This family and pet-friendly event returns to the Libro Sports Complex, 3295 Meloche Road in Amherstburg, for an indoor and outdoor show from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. each day.

“I think everyone is ready to have a summer of normality,” says Woofa~Roo Pet Fest event organizer Lorene Clayton. “Our last event was in 2019 and it’s well past time to get back to having a normal life again.”

Clayton reports there are more sponsors and vendors than in the past and her seventh event promises to provide two days of fun activities for people and pets of all ages.

Two years ago, more than 9,500 people and 3,500 dogs attended the two day event and Clayton believes it could be even bigger this year.

“We have great support from all of our sponsors and vendors and it’s become a huge event on their summer calendar,” she adds.

It has also become a large fundraiser for pet rescue groups such as SNAP For Cats, CK Animal Rescue, St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program, CAT Assistance Team and Second Chance Animal Rescue.

“It’s difficult to tell how many dogs are adopted as a result of the show because applications are only accepted at the time of the festival,” explains Clayton. “It can take a few months before any adoptions are accepted, but we do believe a great many people become interested in rescued dogs as a result of the show.”

Among the activities planned are dock diving and dog agility events, lure coursing (sponsored by Biz X), displays of parrots and reptiles, a Windsor Police Service K9 show (on the second day only), dog races, charity contests and displays by specialty vendors.

There’s also a Pet-Ucation inter-active session, sponsored by LaSalle’s Oxford Learning Centre, which gives pet owners an opportunity to ask questions of pet experts and animal behaviour specialists.

Jeanine Simard, Owner of Bark & Fitz, is also excited that the festival is returning following a two year absence.

“We had a great response two years ago and it really helped launch our business, so we’re looking forward to seeing some of the same people again, along with new customers,” says Simard.

Her store sells food and treats for cats and dogs, as well as a full line of pet-friendly healthcare items including supplements and probiotics.

“We’ll be there both days and we’ll have a good variety of our entire line of products,” adds Simard.

Anne Rota, Manager of Tourism and Culture for the Town of Amherstburg, believes the event has already become a signature attraction for the town.

“We are thrilled the Woofa~Roo Pet Fest is back this year,” says Rota. “It’s a great family event and kudos to the organizers of all special events. It takes a lot of effort on their part, but it pays off (for other businesses near the event site) when attendees find all the amazing amenities Amherstburg has to offer when they visit us.”

Victor Pundzius and his wife Kathy, who own For Your Fur Kids, have been long-time supporters, as the pet fest is an opportunity for them to meet with customers and explain their philosophy on what they sell.

“We always try to suggest that people do their homework and buy their pet food from reputable companies,” says Victor who has been involved with the festival since its inception. “We try to deal with companies that make the food themselves rather than simply packaging someone else’s products.”

Referring to having a booth there, he adds: “The festival is also a great opportunity to get our brand out there and provide people with some samples of what we sell.”

The couple also provide merchandise for auctions and they help out with the festival’s charitable causes.

Kristi Rivas and Keith Waters, business partners of Amherstburg’s Wigle Home Hardware, are once again providing financial support as a silver sponsor.

“It’s a great event and we’re happy to be involved,” says Rivas. “It’s given our business some added exposure and we love the fact it’s such a family-friendly festival. It brings a lot of people to town because there are a lot of dog owners and dog lovers out there.”

Of course, the whole event is a community effort with many businesses and organizations sponsoring certain sections and vendors taking part. The following is a list (known at the time of writing) of sponsors and vendors. Please note certain sponsors may also have a booth on site, whereas others may have donated items or services and not be in attendance.

Platinum sponsors of the Woofa~Roo Pet Fest are: Biz X magazine, Oxford Learning Centre in LaSalle, AM800 CKLW and The Windsor Star. Silver sponsors are: Chalet Studio Photography & Gardens, Wigle Home Hardware, Blackburn Radio, and Canadian Tire in Amherstburg.

Windsor Police Service K9 Unit, Lee E. L. Watson and Border City Barkers are event sponsors. Bronze sponsors are: Donna Jean Mayne Fine Sculptures, Stiemar Bakery and In Loving Memory of Tank.
Community sponsors who donated goods and services to enhance the festival and items for the silent auction include: Ruff Trade Ties, Amanda’s Pet Sitting Service, Aerus, Bark & Fitz, Horizon Pet Nutrition, Color Street, The Hungry Pooch, Skate Amherstburg, Tupperware, K&B Bracelets, Country Rose, Pawsitively a Dog Thing, For Your Fur Kids and Emma’s Dog Treats.

Other community sponsors include: TheraPaw Baths, Farmina Pet Foods, Katch My Drift, Jack & Oak Pet Accessories, Stellar Boutique, Hazel In Pink, Dogora Active Wear, Everyday Pretties, RE/Max, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, K9 PlayGRRRound, Lifetimes On Riverside Retirement Residence, Popper’s Kettle Corn, Ren’s Pets, Jump Realty and Reg’s Barkery.

The vendor list (with some community sponsors above) includes: SweetLegs Windsor With Lynn, Cheesecake Babes, Katie Favell Pet Portraits, Hoof & Hound Photography, Stonepath, Doggie Delights, Weiser Essentials, Wiggle Wear, LG Custom Creations, Leaf Filter Gutter Protection, Down The Lane Designs, Nuccelli’s Frozen Yogurt, Bubble Tea Express, Crossroads Canine Academy & Daycamp, Noah’s House Mental Health Foundation and Tailwagger’s Inn. Others vendors are: Allstate Insurance, Lucky Pups Bakery, Crime Stoppers and Mia’s Paws.

The entry fees are $10 for adults, $5 for those between the ages of six and 16 and there is no charge for those under the age of five. Certain activities like the lure course, contests and challenges have a separate fee.

Kingsville Highland Games, June 25

This year’s edition of the Highland Games takes place in Lakeside Park, 315 Queen Street in Kingsville, with gates opening at 8:30 a.m.

After a more than a 30 year hiatus, the games were resurrected in 2019 before taking another two year break because of pandemic-related restrictions.

The Town of Kingsville is the proud sponsor of the games, which have been organized, and will be run by, a Committee of Council. The Committee, comprised of volunteers and a staff person, is chaired by Doug Plumb.

Plumb was instrumental in bringing the Highland Games back to Kingsville. He developed a plan and budget, secured cooperation from the necessary participants and has been tireless in his efforts to produce a memorable event for all to enjoy.

“It’s a great event and it feels good to bring it back,” says Plumb. “It’s a family-friendly event for the most part with competitions, Scottish entertainment and sports during the day, before it switches over to an entertainment event in the evening hours.”

The event features a pipe band competition, a Highland dance competition, Scottish heavyweight events, a 5k kilt run/walk, a tug-of-war competition, a Mayoral Haggis Hurl, a clan village, sheepherding demonstrations, a beer garden featuring local beers, (Banded Goose Brewery, Grove Brewing Company and Kingsville Brewery), and Pelee Island Winery, food and merchandise vendors and activities for lads and lassies. As well, a Ceilidh (a traditional Scottish or Irish social gathering) features The Mudmen, Todd Porter and Steel City Rovers from 5:30 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Cover story continues on Page 18

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Dave Hall is a former reporter for The Windsor Star who contributes monthly features to Biz X magazine. Dave spent almost 40 years at the paper, covering sports, general news, municipal politics and business. Prior to that, Dave worked for The Brampton Times where he covered general news and sports.