FinnegansBy Stephanie Keis Timblin

In cooperation with the Ellicottville Rotary and the volunteer members of the Jefferson Street Cemetery Restoration and Preservation project, led by local philanthropist Robert McCarthy, a truly unique and Irish whiskey-infused fundraiser will be held on Friday, July 19 at the Gin Mill, in downtown Ellicottville, to raise funds for the continued restoration of the Jefferson Street cemetery.

The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 through the dedicated efforts of the committee. Established in 1817, the cemetery was the first to serve the Village of Ellicottville and contains over 400 burial plots, several of which are considered “paupers graves.” The committee plans to purchase a monument to honor those laid to rest without stones or markers.

“Finnegan’s Wake” is an Irish ballad that became a music hall tradition in the 1850s. The song “Finnegan’s Wake” is known to be a staple of the Irish folk music group The Dubliners, and was most recently recorded by Irish-American Celtic punk band the Dropkick Murphy’s.

In the traditional version, Tim Finnegan is born “with a love for the liquor,” falls from a ladder, breaks his skull and is thought to be dead. The mourners at his wake become rowdy and spill whiskey over Finnegan’s corpse, causing him to come back to life and join in the celebrations.

The cast of characters for Ellicottville’s version of Finnegan’s Wake will include many local familiar faces, including Connor Callahan as Finnegan himself, and Joany Klopp Bund as the grieving widow.

Tickets for the event are available for purchase at the Gin Mill at a cost of $40. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the ticket price includes two live Irish bands — Gerry Dixon, a one man Irish band, and “The Leftovers of Buffalo, N.Y. There will be door prizes and raffles, as well as a special guest bartending appearance from a true blue former Ellicottville resident and Irish girl “Claire.”

In addition to Finnegan’s Wake, the Rotary is conducting a silent auction for a small handcrafted Irish cottage that can be viewed near the gazebo in the center of the village. Minimum bids for the cottage begin at $3,000.

Finnegan’s Wake coincides with the annual Americana Folk Art Festival to be held on July 20–21. On Sunday, an auction of donated folk art items will take place to additionally benefit the cemetery restoration project.