A southwestern Ontario town that will ring a bell for Essex County locals was the star of this week's episode of Still Standing, a CBC program that features comedian Jonny Harris exploring the ins and outs of Canadian small-town life.
Amherstburg took centre stage in the premiere of the show's ninth season. The film crew descended on the town earlier this year to document the legacy and individuals who make Amherstburg tick.
Dozens of residents crowded into a brewery Tuesday night to watch the episode.
Jen Desjardins-Grondin, owner of GL Heritage Brewing Company on Howard Avenue, set up projection screens and brought in a local food truck serving poutine. Cheers erupted as familiar faces appeared on screen.
Amherstburg residents gathered at GL Heritage Brewing Co. on Howard Avenue to watch the premiere of the ninth season of Still Standing, which featured their town. (Josiah Sinanan/CBC News)
"We're very excited that this episode is highlighting some really neat people and topics of our hometown," said Desjardins-Grondin.
"[We wanted] to honour some pretty amazing people who stick together through thick and thin and support one another, whether its entrepreneurship, tough times, fundraising, tourism."
The opportunity to have the town featured all started in March, when a producer saw Amherstburg resident Stu Smith on Dragon's Den and contacted him. Smith's product was a protective invention for fishing rods called the Rod Caddy, which didn't get picked up by the dragons.
"Initially when [she] first called, it was to get a feel for the town and how it's trying to reinvent itself," he said.
Amherstburg resident Stuart Smith was on Dragon's Den, pitching his invention, the Rod Caddy, a protective invention for fishing rods. (Submitted by Jen Desjardins-Grondin)
Smith shared how the town has had its ups and downs, including the loss of Boblo Island and other major industries, and is now working on a revitalization of sorts.
"As soon as I mentioned that there's this thing called Bagpipes in the Burg, I totally blew my foot off with any further conversations about the Rod Caddy. And you know what? It was actually a blessing in disguise."
Jen Desjardins-Grondin, co-owner of GL Brewing Company, poses with Smith at the viewing party for Amherstburg's Still Standing episode. (Josiah Sinanan / CBC News)
Bagpipes in the Burg is a relatively new event for the town. It was held every weekend in the summer to commemorate the history of the local Essex-Scottish regiment at Fort Malden, a national historic site in the town that played a role for British and American soldiers during the War of 1812.
"The bagpipes figuratively and literally bring the town together," said Smith. "Not only does it look cool, but you see people in tears, goose bumps. It's a really moving instrument."
Still Standing host Jonny Harris marches with bagpipers for an episode of the show. (Still Standing)
Smith and friend Kyle McDonald were the original curators of the parade. They say producers asked if a parade would be possible for the Still Standing episode. That request came with a two-week timeline.
At first, Smith thought it was a near-impossible feat.
"There's no way in the world we could pull this off [in two weeks] — the permits, the red tape, the financial expenses, even just lining up all the bagpipers and soldiers."
That's when Smith's wife Gina challenged him to try to pull it off regardless, and a change of heart made the impossible possible.
"We had bagpipers and soldiers from different sections come together to play that normally wouldn't," Smith explained. "We didn't know when we turned the corner if we were going to have 10 people or 10,000."
As the parade came together, Smith explained, more than 2,000 residents showed up.
"To say I'm proud is the biggest understatement. From the top down, everybody came out to support it."
Amherstburg residents gathered at GL Heritage Brewing Co. to watch the premiere episode of Still Standing's ninth season. (Josiah Sinanan/CBC News)
The episode, which premiered Tuesday evening, also highlighted the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and the underground railroad, award-winning "Professor Zaaa," a pizza chef at the local Armando's and the GrowLive Biological's insect farm.
"This is what Amherstburg is about," said Desjardins-Grondin. "We're so excited to celebrate this on a national scale — [for viewers to] know that we help each other through tough times and we celebrate the good times."
You can watch the Amherstburg episode of Still Standing on CBC Gem.