Plans progress for town of Ellicottville bicentennial

Plans for the town of Ellicottville’s Bicentennial Celebration in 2020 are moving along. This vintage photo shows the oldest frame house in Ellicottville, built in 1817. Pictured (From left): Mrs. Anna Skinner Ellis (standing) with Saxton cousins (seated). On the lawn are Albert M. Ellis III and John W. (Sam) Ellis, Jr. who were children of John Webster Ellis and Esther Harns Ellis.

ELLICOTTVILLE — Plans for the town of Ellicottville’s Bicentennial Celebration in 2020 are moving along and gradually taking shape. The last meeting was held Aug. 20 at the Ellicottville Memorial Library.

Organizer Dawn Westfall said about a dozen people generally come to the meetings and 11 were in attendance, so they had a fairly good turnout. She said anybody can come and help with the planning.

Westfall said the committee made a lot of progress at the meeting. They’ve been hammering out more details about sponsorship from local businesses which, she said, she’d never thought about before.

“Several people from the core committee are representatives of local businesses and restaurants such as The Gin Mill, Villaggio and Holiday Valley,” she said. Brian McFadden and Jessica Wallace from the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce and several members of the historical society including town historian Mary Elizabeth Dunbar and Ann Rothrock, a veteran of the Great Valley bicentennial planning committee, also attended.

According to Westfall, they currently have three main events that are solid and definitely happening, which they have talked about from the start.

The Winter Carnival will kick off the bicentennial celebration and is still set for March 14-15. Westfall said Holiday Valley has taken that event over, so they are working on those details.

“When the time gets closer, we’ll talk more about manpower for that weekend. We’ve talked about having some displays with old pictures and having people there to talk about the history and answer questions,” she said. “I think their theme might be ‘the 1820s; or something like that. There are also some costume ideas and other things to make that the focal point of their weekend carnival.”

The town’s birthday party celebration will take place on April 13 with a Day of Proclamation at the town center with a birthday cake and other refreshments.

“Old Home Weekend” is solidly set for July 17-19. Westfall said it’ll be a carnival weekend kind of a thing at the park in Eville. She said Old Home Weekend will coincide with Alumni Weekend.

“We chose that weekend so we’d have more people coming home anyway for alumni activities which, I think, is usually just on Friday. I would like to have a street dance on Friday night,” she said. “We are talking about events for Saturday and Sunday like a barbecue and different things like that. We are definitely doing a parade that morning, and we have talked about a chicken barbecue on Sunday, but we haven’t firmed up those plans yet.”

Mark Dunkelman’s Reunion of the 154th will be held during Old Home Weekend, Saturday, July 18 at the town center. Also on Saturday, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is going to sponsor a carnival and have activities for kids.

People have talked about house tours and cemetery tours several times but, Westfall said, nobody has stepped up and committed to the project.

Westfall said they have decided to do a Bicentennial Calendar with old photos from the town. She said a couple of committee members have been working on that, so the project is gaining traction.

“The hope is to possibly have them printed by Fall Fest, which would be awesome because you know how many people run through Ellicottville during that event,” she said. “But, we still have to work out the details of printing, and we are currently looking for businesses that would like to do a sponsorship and place ads.”

As with the Great Valley Bicentennial, a Pioneer Certificate program is underway for the Town of Ellicottville’s Bicentennial. Westfall said they recently announced the program on their historical society Facebook page that they are doing the Pioneer Certificates for the bicentennial.

“Several people have already expressed interest and have sent their applications in for that. We have at least four already,” she said. “It’s a good program and it generated a lot of people to think about the history of the town and their family.

“Sometimes when we talk about towns, we focus on just the founding people — the handful of pioneers who were here since day one and we stop there. But there are so many other stories to tell. When you read some of the history from back in the 1800s, you get the biographical sketches of prominent people and they don’t talk about the other people who settled the towns.”

Being part of the historical society and cognizant that next year is the town’s bicentennial, Westfall said she is the one who got the “ball rolling” and is the unofficial chairperson for planning the event.

“I started this, but I have always said it’s not about the historical society. It’s town-wide and I want as many participants as possible in this planning,” she said. “The more people we have with ideas, the more fun this is going to be. I want people to bring ideas, but also a willingness to take the lead in something. There is no end to great ideas, but they need to be implemented.”

Westfall said even if somebody wants to be a part of the committee, it’s not mandated that they come to every meeting. But, she still needs to maintain communication with people if they can’t come.

Planning meetings are held on a monthly basis; dates and times vary. The next meeting will be Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Ellicottville Memorial Library, 6499 Maples Road. For further information, contact Westfall at 699-6201 or email her at daylight398@gmail.com.

(Contact press reporter Deb Everts at salpressdeb@gmail.com)