By Mary Heyl

Autumn is officially here, and with this new season comes an exciting line up of seasonal events in Ellicottville and the surrounding areas! From Fall Festival to Pumpkinville to Night Lights at Griffis Sculpture Park, there are so many ways to celebrate fall with family and friends. With all of these great activities coming up, you won’t even notice that summer is over, as you’ll be just as busy in October as you were in July!

It’s almost impossible to have a conversation about autumn in Ellicottville without talking about Fall Festival, which takes place next weekend on Oct. 7 and 8. Each year, the village welcomes thousands of visitors who enjoy this celebration of all things fall on Washington Street and its surrounding side streets. On Saturday and Sunday, enjoy the outdoor food court (on Jefferson Street), fine arts and crafts show, kids carnival rides (Washington Square) and curb market (Monroe Street). Many of Ellicottville’s restaurants will be featuring great entertainment in the evening, so be sure to stay for dinner.

Nearby at Holiday Valley Ski Resort, the Sky High Aerial Park and Mountain Coaster will be open until 6 p.m. from Friday through Sunday (located near the Tannenbaum Lodge). On Saturday at 9:30 a.m., Holiday Valley kicks off its annual 5K Race, with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Holiday Valley Main Lodge. Runners take to the local streets on this fun, challenging course proving Fall Festival is the place to be for celebrating this wonderful season and keeping the heart pumping. Preregister now at http://heartrateup.com/fallfestival5k10717.html or register on race day at the lodge. A fun post-race party takes place at the Holiday Valley Mountain Sports Center and includes a light lunch, beverages, great door prizes and awards!

The excitement continues on Sunday, October 8 with the Fall Festival Mountain Bike Race, which covers a 4.7 mile course that begins at the Holiday Valley Mountain Sports Center. Racers in several different classes from Ellicottville and the surrounding area compete for awards and prizes in a fun and challenging course filled with rigorous climbs, single-track areas and fun downhill sections. Pre-register online at http://heartrateup.com/fallfestival5k10717.html or register at the sports center at 8:30 a.m. The race begins promptly at 10 a.m. and concludes with door prizes and an awards ceremony for the top three finishers in each age group and class.

Even if you’re not an athlete, there’s still plenty to enjoy at Holiday Valley during Fall Festival! On Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m., enjoy Mardi Gras Chairlift Rides to experience the fall foliage like never before. At Spruce Lake, there will be a Live Birds of Prey Show at 2:00 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Throughout the weekend, enjoy live music from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. featuring area bands such as the Tommy Z Band, The Strangers, the Black and Blues Band and Midlife Crisis. To learn more about Holiday Valley Fall Festival events, visit http://www.holidayvalley.com/activities-events/ellicottville-fall-festival/.

Be sure to visit Pumpkinville, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. now through Halloween. Located at 4844 Sugartown Road in Great Valley, Pumpkinville is your destination for all of your favorite seasonal delights including fresh apples, cider, homemade donuts, pies, kettle corn, gourds, and pumpkins, of course! This year, Pumpkinville has partnered with Universal Pictures and the upcoming Curious George movie to bring you a great variety of fun including a giant Curious George corn maze and visits from Curious George, himself. The famous little monkey will be visiting Pumpkinville this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) and will be available for photos from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days. While you’re there, be sure to check out the wacky new goat house and new Apple Blasters, which are ten times more powerful than a corn cannon, and definitely the most fun you’ve ever had with fruit.

If you’re looking for a scarier kind of fun, Nightmare Hayrides on Somerville Street is now open Fridays through Sundays through Oct. 29. Nightmare Hayride is a 25-minute tractor drawn hayride that will lead you down a creepy haunted path with live scary creatures. Follow that up with a visit to the Gothic Chamber, Haunted Wooden Maze, Haunted Barn and Vortex Tunnel. For more info, visit www.nightmarehayride.com.

For the fifth consecutive autumn, Griffis Sculpture Park is illuminated with colorful and theatrical lighting during Night Lights at Griffis Sculpture Park, which is open for just 17 nights between September 13 and October 8. Since 2013, the show has attracted over 5,000 visitors to the park for this unique experience of outdoor art. The trails are open from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The park will be open extended hours during Fall Festival weekend: 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Friday, October 6 through Sunday, October 8.

During Night Lights, guests venture on an unguided walk through a portion of the Mill Valley Road site of the sculpture park, where the trails and sculptures interact with creative lighting and soundscapes. Guests are encouraged to bring flashlights for a few darker sections of the trail. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 7 through 12 and free for children ages six and younger. To learn more, visit www.griffispark.org and follow Griffis Sculpture Park on Facebook.

On Oct. 28, the EVL Half and 5K returns to Ellicottville. Costumes highly encouraged, racers should be ready to run a beautiful course with an after-party at EBC. Awesome medals and t-shirts give you yet another reason to sign up. For more info, visit www.evlhalf.com.