By Jann Wiswall

The Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce has harnessed the power of the community to reenergize Ellicottville’s Mardi Gras weekend in a big way.

Over the past few years, interest in building floats for the parade had been waning. Last year, in fact, there were no floats, though there were numerous energetic and creative marching groups to keep parade spectators cheering.

The Chamber was faced with a decision – either cancel the event or commit to reviving it. During a meeting of Chamber members last month, it became clear that the community doesn’t want the event to die.

So the resurgence began.

The first step was to tap the creative mind of Carol Fisher, who launched Ellicottville’s very first Mardi Gras parade in 1994 as a way to promote the grand opening of Kazoo during Holiday Valley’s Winter Festival.

Not surprisingly, that first parade, with some 20 floats and spectators lining the streets, turned out to be a powerful draw for the entire village and its businesses, as well as for the resorts.

And in Western New York, Ellicottville’s Mardi Gras parade soon became famous as the next best thing to New Orleans’ celebration!

Fisher is now heading a Chamber committee to help rebuild community involvement in the 23rd annual parade on March 12 and to go even further by kicking off the festivities on Friday night (March 11) with a “Junior Bacchus Ball” at EBC, complete with a pageant to crown the Winter Festival’s king and queen.

The most pressing task right now, said Fisher, is “getting businesses to sponsor floats, as well as volunteers to help build them.” This year’s theme is “where we have been and where we are going.”

Because certain rules and regulations must be followed, businesses must submit applications through the Chamber’s website (www.ellicottvilleny.com). The application deadline is March 9, but there is a limit to the number of floats permitted and interest is heating up, so get those applications in today!

Marching groups of all sorts also are encouraged to submit their applications to participate in the parade. Fisher is especially interested in having children’s groups, such as scouts, sports teams and clubs, participate.

For more information, call Barb Pump, the Chamber’s membership and events manager, at (716) 699-5046.