By Jann Wiswall

Most people who know Ellicottville are lucky enough to have known its favorite Irishman and unofficial ambassador, Bob McCarthy.

McCarthy passed away unexpectedly last spring, leaving a hole in many hearts. But he also left a legacy of selfless generosity that the community is determined to keep alive.

One of the best known of those legacies is the annual Irish Christmas event, which raises funds and collects toys and gifts to make the holidays special for needy families in the community. And the Rotary Club of Ellicottville has taken hold of the 17th annual event this year in McCarthy’s honor.

The newly re-named “Bob McCarthy’s Irish Christmas” event is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 2 and Rotary member and event organizer Greg Cappelli says, “It promises to be the biggest one yet, especially as friends and acquaintances come out on Bob’s behalf.”

As always, McCarthy’s Christmas tree-decorated wagon will be parked early Friday morning in the village, this year in front of Ellicottville Brewing Company (EBC), to collect unwrapped new toys and gifts for the Rotary Club’s Santa’s Workshop and the Sheriff’s Santa Program.

Santa’s Workshop provides gifts and Christmas dinner to families (children and adults) who otherwise would not be able to afford them.

The wagon will be in place all day long; financial donations also are welcome.

That evening, residents and visitors alike are invited to gather at EBC for drinks, dinner and music from 6-10 p.m. Area restaurants, including Dina’s, Madigan’s, Katy’s Café, the Silver Fox, Ilio DiPaolos and EBC will serve dishes specially created to offer “a taste of Ireland” (or you may order from EBC’s extensive regular menu) for a small donation and Jerry Dixon and his band “Seanachie” will perform Irish tunes.

The signature event of the evening is the highly competitive, energetic pie auction.

In the past, McCarthy, a master woodworker, created ten or more gorgeous pie boxes to hold delicious homemade pies baked by area residents. The boxes are a highly sought-after keepsake and some have gone for as much as $2,000 each in past years.

McCarthy’s elaborate wooden birdhouses and unique furniture pieces also were auctioned at Irish Christmas.

Cappelli said that it came as no surprise to those who knew him that McCarthy had already started on 2016 auction pieces at the time of his death. They include three birdhouses, which are on display at Katy’s Café and the Ameri-Can boutique, as well as a beautiful wedding chest.

This year, those pieces will be auctioned and several talented area woodworkers have volunteered to create this year’s pie boxes (Ed Frederickson), additional birdhouses (Art Chubb) and several custom furniture pieces (Hugh Dunne).

Volunteers are still needed to help with a variety of tasks in preparation for the event. Please call Cappelli at (716) 474-7832 if you can help. Visit Rotary Club of Ellicottville on Facebook for more information and make sure to plan to participate on Dec. 2.