By Deb Everts
Next year, the town of Ellicottville will be celebrating its 200th birthday.
With the bicentennial coming up soon, the planning committee was off to an official start when they met at the Ellicottville Memorial Library Jan. 30.
Dawn Westfall, president of the Ellicottville Historical Society, said although the planning for the bicentennial celebration was initiated by members of the historical society last May, she wants everyone to be involved.
“We have lots and lots of visitors that could be a part of this celebration as well because they also have memories of Ellicottville,” she said. “If Ellicottville is anywhere in your family traditions then, by all means, come celebrate that. It’s part of Ellicottville’s unique history and it’s about the town coming together to celebrate its birthday.”
Westfall said this meeting was different because it was the first time they went beyond the borders of just the historical society, which she wanted to do anyway. She said they had a good turnout of nine people that included a few representatives from the town as well as Holiday Valley, a local restaurant and a local newspaper, so she was really pleased with that.
Although the chamber of commerce was not represented, she said they have reached out to the committee and this event will be huge for them to be involved in as well.
“I want to emphasize that this celebration is for the town of Ellicottville, not the village. “Many people remember the sesquicentennial celebration held in 1987 for the Village of Ellicottville, which was formed in 1837,” she said.
According to Westfall, the meeting focused on a number of topics related to the bicentennial celebration including the official birthdate of the town, which is April 20, and some initial ideas to possibly dovetail with the town’s annual events.
Westfall said the committee is hoping to coordinate a few of their bicentennial events with some of Ellicottville’s annual activities in 2020. She said Winter Carnival/Mardi Gras Weekend is March 14 and 15 that year, and Holiday Valley plans to do something to promote the bicentennial during that event.
The committee is also hoping to have flyers distributed about the other celebratory events that they’re going to be doing throughout the year.
“As far as we know at this point, the Winter Carnival would be a kickoff celebration kind-of-thing and the first event,” she said. “Then the town’s official birthdate, April 20, would possibly be a Day of Proclamation at the town center with a birthday cake and other refreshments.”
Westfall continued with more ideas from the committee saying the American Legion always coordinates activities for Memorial Day, including a parade, so they talked about having a bicentennial float and maybe focus on veterans’ history.
The third week in July is always the school’s Alumni Association Weekend, so Westfall said they are thinking of dovetailing with that event and making it their big bicentennial celebration with maybe a parade and Old Home Weekend because people will be in town anyway.
She said another idea might be to coordinate something with Mark Dunkleman’s annual 154th Reunion event that is held at various places each year. She said they are looking into if he can have it in Ellicottville.
Fundraising was brought up at the meeting. Westfall said just like with Great Valley, they will probably offer “Pioneer Certificates” to those people whose early ancestors came to the town of Ellicottville to settle. But, she said, it’s just in the beginning stages of talking and kicking around.
Westfall, who calls herself a transplanted Floridian that came to the Great Valley/Ellicottville area 18-years ago, has a huge interest in history and genealogy. She has thought about having people write down their memories of Ellicottville and to gather them in some way.
“As historians, we are the keepers of these memories but we also keep what memories we have already, so we need to be gathering those memories,” she said. “We have everything about the forefathers, and that’s great because that’s where our beginnings came from, but what about the 1920s in the town of Ellicottville? What about the 1950s, 60s and 70s? One of these days, somebody is going to ask these questions. It’s important and it plays a much more significant part of the future than we think.”
Westfall said anybody can be a part of the planning committee. It’s not necessary for their family to have lived in Ellicottville for six or seven generations to be a part of this historical town. She said it’s not just about the history of the first founders, it’s everybody.
“We’re looking for people who would like to help plan and assist with the activities. We have great ideas, but they need to be developed further,” she said. “Anybody who has Ellicottville in their heart, who has a memory of Ellicottville and wants to help celebrate the town’s heritage is welcome.”
Westfall said the bicentennial planning meetings will probably be held monthly on a Wednesday. She said the dates for the next couple of months are set for Feb. 27 and March 27 at 5 p.m. at the Ellicottville Memorial Library, 6499 Maples Road.
For updated information on the town of Ellicottville’s bicentennial planning, contact Westfall at 699-6201 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit the Ellicottville Historical Society’s Facebook page.