Thousands of lights will brighten downtown Amherstburg this winter as part of the annual River Lights Festival, allowing residents, tourists and young families the opportunity to take festive walks while adhering to physical distancing protocols.
The lights will shine like they always have in Toddy Jones Park and King’s Navy Yard Park, a combined area of some 406,659 square-feet. Unlike year’s past, there will be no organized events because of COVID-19 so crowds don't gather. Pedestrians and drivers can instead enjoy self-guided walking or driving tours at their leisure all season long.
Administration felt, and Council concurred, that this accessible and inclusive set-up would be safe given the seasonal displays would be spread out over a large geographic area for a two-month period with no set schedule for viewing.
Signs will be posted reminding visitors to physically distance and By-Law officers will ride herd when scheduled, similar to the oversight provided during Open Streets.
I wholeheartedly support this idea. While we must all take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19, we need to balance restrictions against the importance of mental health. It is shaping up to be a long winter and walking outdoors, particularly in a safe, festive and expansive environment, will promote both physical and mental wellness.
"Not installing the light displays in Toddy Jones Park and King's Navy Yard Park would potentially result in loss of commerce in the downtown business core," said an Administrative report. "Not installing the displays will result in the loss of a safe, passive recreational opportunity for residents, in particular during the winter months, which may have an adverse effect on community social wellness."
The seasonal light displays are also sponsored, which allows for Town businesses, including those outside of the core, to advertise their services and offerings.
Council also agreed to continue with the Light Up the Town program, which was launched last year with federal grant money and saw area businesses participate in an outdoor streetscape lighting campaign. The festive lights along the commercial strip link the displays in both parks and give downtown Amherstburg such a festive, inviting vibe.
In addition, Council supported launching a Holiday Stroll program as a replacement to the popular Holiday House Tour, which sees participants view the festive interiors of beautiful homes from Dalhousie Street to Texas Road.
Instead of entering homes, participants this year will be invited to take self-guided walking or driving tours of homes featuring festive porches and front yards on historic Rankin Avenue.
The festive lights will be on display from November 14th through January 4th.
My Council colleagues and I also supported a reverse parade proposal pitched by the Windsor Parade Corporation, which stages the immensely popular Santa Claus parade every year. Reverse parades are also being hosted in Kingsville and Leamington.
Amherstburg's reverse parade, which must receive the blessing of the health unit, will see vehicles drive by stationary floats, will be held at the Libro Centre at a cost of $13,000.