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New festival receives over $4,800 in one-time relief in fees

Mind Body & Soul Logo

The Amherstburg Mind, Body & Soul Festival is planned for the Libro Centre July 19-20 and town council has agreed to a one-time waiving of fees to help organizers present it.


Linda DiPasquale of the Amherstburg Pickleball Association, flanked by Wren Dosant of the Windsor Valiants basketball organization and Nick Cacciato from the Amherstburg Soccer Club, outlined several fees that would have to be paid to use indoor and outdoor facilities at the Libro Centre. The total amount of fees she asked to be waived – a request that was granted – was $4,885.82.


DiPasquale credited Cacciato with coming up with the idea, which is to bring together several sports and recreation organizations into two days of activities. The idea is to “foster health and well-being for our residents and visitors.”


The festival’s objective is to provide opportunities for individuals of all ages and backgrounds to learn about and/or engage in activities that promote physical fitness, positive mental well-being and “nourishment of the soul.”


“The premise is to provide educational resources and workshops on topics such as nutrition, injury prevention and mental wellness so attendees will have the opportunity to gain valuable insights and tools to have healthier lifestyles,” said DiPasquale. “Further to that, there will be opportunities for participants to become active and engaged in tournaments and various activities.”


DiPasquale said the event is “holistic” and “multi-faceted,” with numerous organizations from Windsor-Essex County taking part. The goal is to promote “overall well-being.” The festival could also “showcase Amherstburg as a hub for healthy living.”


Organizers hope to make it an annual event, she said.


“We are definitely in the grassroots stages of our planning and will look to keep things fairly simple for our first year,” she said.


The group is not-for-profit and not looking to make financial gain, she said, with any proceeds made to be donated to the Miracle League of Amherstburg.


Activities will include a bike road race, bike safety training, pickleball tournaments and training, an outdoor film screening, a soccer tournament, a free throw competition, scrabble tournament, ball hockey tournament, Miracle League baseball, live music, a frisbee tournament, a yoga demonstration, a chess tournament and a soccer skills competition.


Organizers are promoting such groups as the Amherstburg Soccer Club, Windsor-Essex Bike Community (WEBC), the Amherstburg Admirals, Windsor Valiants, Amherstburg Pickleball Association, Rivertown Dance Academy, Painting Perfection, Balance Yoga, Garage Gym, Ultimate Frisbee, Miracle League of Amherstburg, Chess Challenge Windsor and the Warrior Scholar Martial Arts Academy as being willing to contribute.


“In addition to these, we are planning to have information and educational resource booths for attendees to visit,” said DiPasquale.


DiPasquale said there are “undoubtedly” many benefits to the community.


“This would be such a huge boost to our local economy,” she believed.


Environmental preservation, a positive public image, community building, improved mental and physical health, a long-term health impact and a sense of pride in the community were also cited by DiPasquale as benefits to the town.


Not waiving fees could have caused high admission charges, which organizers believe could have seen people not wish to attend.


“I think it’s a great event,” said Councillor Linden Crain. “You are bringing together a number of different organizations in the community.”


Crain said the event is promoting health and wellness and will bring more people to the Libro Centre.


CAO Valerie Critchley said “it’s a great initiative” but cautioned there are other non-profit groups that use town facilities for charitable purposes but also pay user fees. One example was the Hockey for Hospice tournament where the town recoups fees.


“I think if council is looking at waiving this fee it would be probably a good practice for (council) to have a report from (administration) on what that could mean for other events and what the total lost revenue to the town could be for events that we already do charge for that are non-profit,” said Critchley.


Councillor Diane Pouget supported the organizers’ request to waive the fees and asked if waiting for a report could delay their plans. DiPasquale said they acknowledged their request could be precedent setting but because it is the festival’s inaugural year, there hasn’t been time to collect donations or sponsorships.


DiPasquale added they would do their best to proceed without a waiving of fees, something they ultimately didn’t have to worry about. Cacciato said organizers expect the festival to grow in subsequent years and would be willing to pay fees next year. Director of parks, facilities and recreation Heidi Baillargeon said her department had yet to receive a formal request detailing the event’s activities and agreed with Critchley that administration should provide a report.


Baillargeon said it’s a great initiative but there are additional things to consider, stating a report would have taken three to four weeks to prepare.


Councillor Peter Courtney said the festival is a great idea, but the town has to do its due diligence on the matter.


“I think that after hearing from our staff, I think it’s best to wait for a report,” said Courtney. “I’ve heard some concerns as precedent setting is precedent setting.”


DiPasquale said the $4,885.82 is “a substantial event” as they want to use multiple amenities at the Libro Centre.


Councillor Don McArthur supported waiving the fees for the festival.


“I don’t think we need an administrative report to come back and tell us it’s precedent setting because it’s not precedent setting,” said McArthur. “Someone has come here seeking an exemption for a specific reason and that specific reason is they want to take all the money they make and donate it to the Miracle League. I don’t think there’s a report in the world that can come back and tell me that’s a bad outcome of this.”


Organizers are taking time and risks to put on the festival, which promotes items that are in the town’s Strategic Plan, he stated. McArthur said the reason organizers don’t want to pay fees because the nearly $5,000 can do a lot of good for the Miracle League. He wanted council to show they believe in them and wanted organizers to leave satisfied.


“I overwhelmingly support everything that Councillor McArthur has said,” said Pouget. Pouget added she supports the request because the report before town council is clear and says it was recommended for approval “and all of a sudden we’re going to say no?”


“I don’t believe it is precedent setting. I think it’s a one-time only request,” said Pouget. “(Organizers) did say they were prepared to pay for it next year when they are more organized and have more time. I’m going to support this motion.”


Crain added he was involved in organizing the 100th anniversary of General Amherst High School prior to his election to council. He recalled the fees were waived for that.


“I do think we need a process in place, for sure,” said Crain. “We’re waiving fees for some events and some events we’re not. We’re a bit wishy-washy in what we’re permitting and what we’re waiving.”Crain added he was “comfortable” in waiving the fees and town council can take another look if additional costs come back.


“This is an event where user groups are using the space they’re already paying for,” said Crain. “If they are paying for this again, it’s almost like they’re double-paying.”


Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb said “this is a valuable project” but said he would rather have a report first.


“We make donations during budget. We waive fees. It has to stop somewhere,” he said. “There has to be some sort of logic to this.”


Gibb said he loved the user groups involved but there has to be “some type of rhyme or reason” for waiving fees, thus his desire to see a report first.


“I can’t just do this because it’s really just another charitable donation,” said Gibb. New festival receives over $4,800 in one-time relief in fees

By Ron Giofu

 

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