Town of Ellicottville bicentennial celebration planned to restart in 2021

Plans for the town of Ellicottville’s 200th birthday celebrations have been postponed until 2021, save one still planned for October. This undated photo shows the oldest frame house in Ellicottville, built in 1817.

ELLICOTTVILLE — There is hope to restart the town of Ellicottville’s 200th birthday celebrations in 2021.

All but one bicentennial event for 2020, the town’s birthday year, was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions but there is a plan in place for next year.

Organizer Dawn Westfall said the bicentennial committee met May 28 via Zoom to decide what their next move is in observance of the town’s bicentennial event. She said about nine committee members participating in the meeting collectively decided to postpone all bicentennial activities and do a restart next year.

“We plan to restart and try to do all the events we had planned for this year. The decision was made out of respect for those people who may not be able to celebrate right now. Some people aren’t ready for that kind of public participation,” she said. “It’s really hard to make a decision because we want to be able to celebrate, but we also want as much participation as possible.”

According to the book, “Cattaraugus County Bicentennial History,” the organization of Cattaraugus County and the designation of Ellicottville to serve as the county seat occurred in 1817, but the village was not incorporated until 1837. The town of Ellicottville was formed from the old town of Ischua, now Franklinville, on April 13, 1820.

After the town was formed, it took its name from the village. Ellicottville was named in honor of Joseph Ellicott, the surveyor employed in the late 1700s by the Holland Land Company, which had purchased millions of acres of land in Western New York.

Westfall said they are going to start all over and will begin with another bicentennial kick-off during Mardi Gras and Winter Carnival weekend next March. The first bicentennial event of the year was held successfully March 14-15 during Winter Carnival weekend at Holiday Valley.

Maintaining the 6-foot social distancing recommendation, people were presented with a room full of Heritage Town photos and Ski Heritage photos, historical pieces and storyboards from the museum and a short video of the museum at the main lodge.

Visitors also had the opportunity to watch a video of Edna Northrup, Ellicottville’s well-known adventurer, skier and author of “For the Love of Skiing,” talk about her memories of the early days of skiing in Ellicottville.

The committee hopes to have the town’s birthday party celebration next April, the month when the town was formed, Westfall said. A big part of this year’s planned birthday party was to include the presentation of Pioneer Certificates to people who applied to honor their Ellicottville ancestors. She said the descendants who applied for their Pioneer Certificates received them in the mail this spring.

Westfall said Old Home Week has been rescheduled for the third weekend in July and will coincide with Ellicottville Central School’s Alumni Weekend. Planned activities for next year’s Old Home Week include a street dance downtown on Friday night; a parade Saturday morning in the village; a carnival and activities for kids, sponsored by St. Paul’s; and the annual reunion of the Descendants of the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment at the Town Center. The committee is also thinking about having a family-oriented activity on Sunday to end the weekend.

“Everything we had planned and all the funds we raised are staying put for next year’s celebration,” she said. “We will begin reaching out to volunteers again in the fall to get things back on track.”

Although the activities marking the town’s bicentennial will start up again next year, in March, Westfall said they’re hoping to do a soft kick-off in early October when the Ellicottville Historical Society plans to unveil a historical marker honoring the town’s first permanent settler, Grove Hurlburt, who built the first house in 1815. She said the plaque will be erected somewhere on the property of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, east of the village along Route 242. More information will come at a later date.

Westfall said the Ellicottville Historical Society Museum is not open at all this summer and probably will not be open for the rest of the year. She said most of the volunteers are of the vulnerable population that is most threatened by the coronavirus. In addition, the museum space is very small, so it would be difficult for people to practice social distancing.

For updated information about the bicentennial planning meetings or to volunteer, contact Westfall at 699-6201 or daylight398@gmail.com.

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