The long, unbroken line of cars winding their way along Routes 219 and 242 into Ellicottville like some sort of automotive conga line is the first clue that something BIG is happening in town. Fall Festival, aka Oktoberfest, is Ellicottville’s oldest, most popular weekend event and the biggest bash of the year! On the first weekend of every October, tens of thousands of festival goers converge on our quiet little town for a fabulous fall weekend of great live entertainment, food, friends and fun.
The party starts on Saturday, Oct. 6 and doesn’t wind down until late Sunday, Oct. 7. There’ll be live music in the air, arts and crafts in the streets, carnival rides for the kids, ski sales, chairlift rides, incredible fall edibles on every corner, crowning of the new Ellicottville Idol and plenty of everything for everyone. It’s a party jungle out there and no one will want to miss a minute.
The streets of the historic business district are transformed into a European-style, open-air market resplendent with the creations of local artists and craftsmen. Every store, restaurant and bar is stocked to the rafters to welcome thousands of weekend revelers. For one dazzling weekend a year, all roads seem to lead to Ellicottville and our quaint little village becomes a shining city of light and celebration surrounded by jewel-toned hills.
But just the mention of the first weekend in October conjures up a veritable cornucopia of emotions in the hearts of all Ellicottville business owners from eager anticipation and excitement to nail-biting anxiety. There’s the real fear that all the carefully planned renovations won’t be finished on schedule or there’ll be a serious shortage of some essential stock item that either won’t be delivered on time or simply slipped some minds and was never ordered. Local merchants and their loyal employees have been sensing “it” for weeks as we would a looming storm front. We’re like giddy children watching the approach of a late summer thunderstorm from the safety of our front porches. We can hear the soft rumbling of distant thunder and see the flickering of lightening in every UPS delivery and box we unpack as we eagerly brace ourselves for the approaching fury.
The other day I caught Peter Kreinheder, owner of Ellicottville Brewing Company, smiling behind the bar as he watched his able crew cheerfully stockpiling full beer kegs like squirrels anticipating a long, hard winter. When I asked him how it was going, he just laughed and said that Fall Festival was “a necessary evil.”
“As in E-V-L?” I asked.
“Absolutely!” he replied. That pretty much sums it up.