Amherstburg will play host to a new, winter festival designed to attract members and supporters of the LGBTQ2+ community and put the Town on the map as a year-round destination for tourists.
The TRUE Festival on Saturday, Feb. 15 will feature a Cupid .5K Dash in conjunction with the Essex Region Conservation Authority, which already runs the popular Super Santa 5K.
The outdoor event, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., will also feature a street dance party with a 70s theme, live performances, celebrity DJs, ice sculptures, a costume contest and a “Warming Igloo” licensed area.
Manager of Tourism Anne Rota said the festival was wrapping up at 10 p.m. so that revelers would be encouraged to patronize the bars and eateries in the downtown core. Organizers are estimating the festival could attract 200 people but are hopeful it could attract as many as 500.
Funding for the festival is coming from the $250,000 Canadian Experiences Fund grant the town used to enhance and expand the popular Winter River Lights Festival. The Town’s grant application talked about boosting year-round tourism and attracting “LGBTQ2+ visitors through marketing, programming and a new themed light display.” About $31,250 of the grant money is earmarked for that purpose.
“Moving forward Amherstburg is well poised to attract new markets through an inclusive community event such as the TRUE festival,” said Rota’s report to Council. “Working with businesses and in particular extending winter activity and sales is a key objective of this project.”
Council approved the closure of Dalhousie Street at Richmond to North of the Legion parking lot and approved an exemption for the festival to take place in King’s Navy Yard Park, ordinarily a passive park. Council also designated the event as one of municipal significance to facilitate the granting of a Special Occasion liquor license permit.
“Municipalities play a key role in combatting discrimination against LGBTQ2+ individuals,” said Rota’s report. “Municipalities have a responsibility to govern service delivery in a way that is inclusive and accessible, to ensure the safety of residents and to promote a sense of belonging and inclusiveness.”