By Eva Potter

Night Lights events have been illuminating dark evening skies all over western New York — think Griffis Sculpture Park, Buffalo Botanical Gardens, Heron Music Festival, Jamestown Audubon Society — and now Ellicottville’s Nannen Arboretum.

Night Lights fever has hit the area and is expected to draw several thousand visitors over three weekends — May 15–17, May 22–25, and May 29–31. The event runs from 7:30 to 10 p.m. each evening.

The brainchild of Doug Sitler, of SitlerHQ LLC, this new Ellicottville event will take the Nannen Arboretum experience to a new creative level with colorful lights and soothing sounds.

Sitler said he and his crew will probably begin setting up next weekend and will use more than a half mile of power cables and predominantly LED lights to create the display.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Sitler. “You just start putting together scenes and then you fill in the empty spaces.”

The result is a combination of magical illumination, nature, relaxing music, live performances, and artists creating artwork live, resulting in a relaxing and one-of-a-kind experience. Some displays will even be interactive.

“We’ll have about 75 lighting fixtures, which all have color-changing elements to them, like ones you’d see in the theater or for a band. Then we’ll supplement these with additional lighting elements to pull the whole experience together,” explained Sitler.

Sitler truly appreciates visual and performing arts and tries to incorporate these elements into his shows.

“I take as many opportunities as possible to shine the light on local artists,” he said. “I think it’s important for people to see artists creating work. Maybe it will inspire our guests to do something big.”

Night Lights is looking for artists who want to create and display their art at the events to encourage interaction between artists and guests. If you are interested in participating, contact Doug Sitler at or (716) 984-7595. Artists will be scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. (See page 8 for artist details.)

There will also be live, family-friendly entertainment each night. The final schedule was not available as of publication, but confirmed performers include the folk-rock duo John & Mary from 10,000 Maniacs on May 17, Buffalo band The Observers on May 24 and a drum circle on May 16.

“We literally attract every demographic. We really pride ourselves on the family entertainment aspect. Everyone seems to have a good time with it,” said Sitler. “People follow us around. I jokingly say we’re becoming the Grateful Dead.”

The gates will open at 7:30 each evening, and organizers hope visitors will want to walk around in daylight along the paved pathways and enjoy Nannen Arboretum’s amazing variety of tree species, rare flowers, shrubs, herb garden, nature sanctuary, Japanese stone garden, and features like Lake Nipponica and the Amano Hashidate Bridge.

Once twilight hits, the lights will begin to twinkle along the Night Lights path, washing and transforming natural features with colors and light, making you see them in a completely different way. The feature is a little over a quarter mile long.

“We create the entire thing as an experience,” Sitler explained. “We will also bring in educational elements, like a scavenger hunt for young kids.”

Live entertainment is expected to begin around
8:15 p.m.

Tickets are $8 for adults and teens (kids 12 and under are free if accompanied by an adult) and can be purchased at the entrance to the arboretum. The Ellicottville Rotary Club will also be on hand to host a snack bar, as well as lend volunteer support to the event.

“The arboretum will benefit from gate revenue and the exposure this event brings. We have a great track record of bringing people,” said Sitler. “I know we’ll get people from Buffalo, Jamestown, Olean, Ellicottville, because we already have people from those towns following us, on top of the local community and the Ellicottville tourism industry. So we’re excited!”

There is no rain date for the event.

“If it rains, the lights will still go on, and the entertainment and artists will be housed in the auditorium of the Town Center building,” said Sitler. “As for the site and the people involved, I can’t say enough.”

The Nannen Arboretum is located adjacent to the Town Center building at 28 Parkside Dr. (corner of Parkside and Fillmore Drive) in Ellicottville, N.Y. It is managed by the Nannen Arboretum Society, a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing home garden and natural resource education and an opportunity for nature appreciation and leisure. The arboretum sits on 8 acres featuring more than 200 species of trees, a chapel, gazebos, an entertainment stage and more.

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