By Eva Potter
It’s been a cherished Christmas event at the Gin Mill for most of the 16 years it’s been in existence, but this year the annual Irish Christmas event is moving the increasingly popular event to a larger space in the village.
Ellicottville Brewing Company (EBC) will host this year’s fundraiser, which is a merry evening of music, food, drink, camaraderie and, of course, the infamous pie auction.
The change in venue has caused a bit of a stir this year, but there are good reasons for the move.
“Over the years, it’s become an iconic event and we just ran out of highway – we ran out of room. I got a lot of static about that — I’m breaking a tradition —but if we have more people who can’t get in than can get in, then I really need a different location. So that was the rationale,” explained Bob McCarthy, who started the event as a way to ensure that local children receive toys on Christmas morning.
McCarthy can’t give enough credit and thanks to Ed and Maribeth Rick who hosted the event at the Gin Mill for more than 10 memorable years. “We wouldn’t have been a success without them,” he said.
The toy drive begins early Friday morning when McCarthy parks a Christmas tree decorated wagon outside EBC on Monroe Street. You can stop by any time after 7 a.m. and drop off a new, unwrapped toy or gift for a child, teen or adult.
Then come back to EBC to enjoy the free event with live Irish music from 6–10 p.m., with a brief interruption at 7 p.m. for the infamous pie auction, featuring 10 delicious home-baked pies, donated annually by generous citizens of Ellicottville.
Each year, the 10 pies are accompanied by a wooden piece hand made by McCarthy. Last year, each pie came with a pie box. This year, McCarthy is building Irish chests, measuring approximately 26” long by 12–14” wide and 12” high, to go with each pie. One of the pies, donated annually by Joany Bund, will rest atop a beautifully crafted birdhouse that will go home with a lucky bidder.
Fueled by heated bidding, one pie went for more than $2,000 last year!
Additional auction items will include a one-of-a-kind weaving from Studio Donegal, which McCarthy and friend Huey Dunne brought back from their annual trip to Ireland. McCarthy is also crafting a mystery chest, which will have a lock and hasp — the highest bidder gets the key and all the Irish items in the chest. And don’t bother asking him what’s inside, because he isn’t talking!
Jerry Dixon, who lives in Ellicottville but originates from Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland, will play traditional Irish pub music. Plus, McCarthy’s friend Andy Guthrie is coming directly from Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland, to woo you with traditional Irish ballads.
In addition to the auction and music, guests can sample a Taste of Ireland, which will be set up similar to the Taste of Ellicottville. Six restaurants are donating Irish specialties for guests to savor at six stations. For a $5 donation per restaurant, guests can purchase tickets for Irish delicacies from Madigan’s, Katy’s Café, Tips Up, the Silver Fox, Ilio DiPaolas and EBC. Treats will likely include mac and cheese, Irish stew, traditional Irish bread pudding, bangers and mash and more. A cash bar will be available all evening.
McCarthy is hoping to attract 200–300 people to this year’s event. There is no admission charge and everyone is invited.
Most important, of all, though, is the event’s mission. All the funds raised are donated to the Rotary Club of Ellicottville, which supports Santa’s Workshop – a program that helps families put presents under the Christmas tree every year. According to McCarthy, any extra gifts will be donated through the Rotary to the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department this year.
“Everyone who’s in town on Dec. 4 is welcome to come to EBC to be part of Irish Christmas,” said McCarthy.