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An Uncommon Gathering in Canada

The Amherstburg Uncommon Festival is set to return to the Ontario town near Detroit

Saturday, September 21, 2019
Amherstburg Uncommon Festival attendees

Escape rooms and a Victorian-style circus sideshow are among the prime attractions at the second Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, a mostly free steampunk- and fantasy-themed event set for Sept. 27-29 in downtown Amherstburg, Ontario. Other activities will include teapot racing, costume contests, puppet shows, magic shows, a flea circus, ghost tours, and an outdoor screening of Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone on Saturday night.

The festival is produced by Amherstburg’s Tourism & Culture office, which estimates that about 35,000 people attended last year’s inaugural event. The town is in southwestern Ontario, a short drive south from Detroit.

The circus entertainment will be presented by Carnival Diablo, which promises “an outrageous Circus Sideshow extravaganza steeped in the Victorian mysticism of the 19th century.” Multiple showtimes are scheduled on all three days. It’s one of a few ticketed events at the festival. Tickets cost CA $5 and can be ordered through Eventbrite. The show is not recommended for kids under age 9.

Another ticketed event is the Fantastic Feast on Friday and Saturday night, featuring a multi-course dinner and actors portraying steampunk characters. The meal will be served at the Artisan Grill, 269 Dalhousie Street. Tickets cost CA $75.

Amherstburg Uncommon Festival attendees

Exodus Escape Rooms, which has locations in Windsor and London, Ontario, will host seven escape rooms in outdoor tents. Last year’s festival had two escape rooms, which proved to be among the most popular attractions, says Amherstburg tourism coordinator Sarah Van Grinszen.

Costume contests will be held Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. First-, second- and third-place prizes will be awarded each day.

Singer-songwriter Emm Gryner and local band Huttch will play at a free concert on Friday night.

The program also features hot air balloon rides, archery, wacky golf (like miniature golf), a tea garden, birds of prey demonstrations, and ticketed make-and-take workshops. The Windsor Family Credit Union is sponsoring an Innovation Pavilion with science presentations for kids. About 15 steampunk vendors will occupy the festival’s Mercantile Row.

Most activities will take place at King’s Navy Yard Park on the town’s waterfront along Dalhousie Street. Hot air balloon rides and Carnival Diablo will be set up nearby at Toddy Jones Park. Free shuttle buses will transport attendees between the locations.

Van Grinszen says the 2018 festival drew attendees from throughout Ontario as well as Michigan and Ohio. It won an award for “Best New Festival or Event” from Festivals & Events Ontario, a regional trade association. For this year’s event, the town won a CA $15,189 grant from Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

Hours for the festival are Friday, Sept. 27, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 28, noon to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 29, noon to 6 p.m. See the festival website and Facebook page for more info.

Photos courtesy of the Amherstburg Tourism & Culture office.

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