NOTL Ambassadors embrace rain and visitors

·3 min read

Sunday's rain and grey skies did nothing to dampen the spirits of the many people out on Queen Street.

It was the perfect day for Niagara-on-the-Lake's Ambassadors to get out and interact with the community.

And that’s exactly what they did.

“It’s great to be back. I literally flew in last night and I’m happy to be on duty today,” three-time ambassador Vlad Haltigin said on Sunday afternoon as he and Lord Mayor Betty Disero walked through Old Town.

Haltigin had just returned from Vancouver where he was visiting his five-week-old granddaughter.

He and Disero introduced themselves to almost every person who walked by with varying results.

Some people were eager to stop and engage with the masked pair dressed all in blue while others, wary eyed and on the move, just kept walking.

Haltigin wasn’t at all surprised that the rain didn’t keep people away on Sunday.

“Niagara-on-the-Lake has a charm which is unique,” he said.

“It’s a very welcoming feeling and hopefully we’re helping to make people feel even more welcome.”

Haltigin, who hails from England, found the mild rainy weather somewhat familiar.

“For me, this is a fine English summer day,” he said.

The ambassador program is run through the Chamber of Commerce and partners with many other enterprises in town, such as the Shaw Guild, Vintage Hotels and the municipality.

The goal of the program is to “provide helpful, accurate and timely information to help you make the most of your Niagara-on-the-Lake experience,” the group's website says.

And that could be in the form of letting visitors or even locals know where to enjoy a good steak, sharing a piece of history, or, as is more commonly asked, where to use the bathroom, as Laurie Harley said during a training session earlier this year.

Haltigin said within 15 minutes of starting his ambassador shift he had met people hailing from all over the world and celebrated NOTL’s ability to attract a wide range of international tourists.

One of those visitors was Judy Hampton from Oregon.

“I’m just on a trip, just being a tourist,” she said after a brief conversation with Disero and Haltigin.

“We’re starting in Toronto and then heading to Montreal,” she said.

Hampton was excited to reach her final destination as she had last been to the island city of Montreal when she was only six years old.

Disero said the large volume of Old Town foot traffic was a cause for optimism and positivity about the town’s post-COVID economic recovery.

“I see all good things in our future and it’s only going to get better,” she said.

Seemingly always in her lord mayor mindset, Disero was quick to address the future of the town as she walked the streets on Sunday.

“As we did at the beginning of the term, we will continue to make sure that planning is targeted and focused towards maintaining a built form and a heritage that we want,” she said.

“And also to help build infrastructure but the infrastructure is going to be most important to provide amenities for people to be able to like to live here and also for businesses to really come back stronger,” she said.

“I think that’s always been our focus and will continue to be our focus. And anyway that I can help, I am here. Count me in.”

Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report

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