By Deb Everts
In two years, the town of Ellicottville will commemorate its 200th birthday and members of the Ellicottville Historical Society have commenced plans for the celebration in 2020.
Dawn Westfall, president of the Ellicottville Historical Society, is following in the footsteps of Marilyn Siperek, Great Valley’s town historian, who started planning that town’s bicentennial two years ago.
“It was slow going at first because people thought they had plenty of time to plan it,” Westfall said. “But it really does take a couple of years to plan something like this — to get things going, to put the word out and to try to connect with other people.”
No date has been set yet, but Westfall thinks it will be a year of ongoing celebration events similar to Great Valley’s events this year. The town of Great Valley began its bicentennial celebration April 15 — the date the town was established 200 years ago. She said they might do the same thing for the town of Ellicottville.
Westfall, who calls herself a transplanted Floridian that came to the Great Valley/Ellicottville area 18 years ago, has a huge interest in history and genealogy.
“Family history brings people together. It isn’t a community unless it has roots and history,” she said. “I enjoy helping people find their roots and make family connections because it gives me a lot of satisfaction.”
Westfall said people at the initial meeting on May 9 came up with a lot of great ideas including concerts, cakes, calendars, home tours, recipes, storefronts and skiing celebrations. Someone on the committee mentioned having an actual Day of Proclamation which, she said, is another good idea.
During their discussions, the committee was wondering when the last Old Home Week was held in Ellicottville. Westfall said they haven’t done a lot of research yet, but they’re thinking it was in the late 1930s or so.
“I was looking in some old Ellicottville Post newspapers that are online and I saw a letter to the editor that the high school students sent to The Post in 1947 saying they were disappointed that they were not having an Old Home Week in Ellicottville that year. I’m not sure if that was the end of the event, so I have to research that more. I’m sure somebody will help me answer that question,” she said. “That might be a time period that we can pinpoint to develop events for the bicentennial.”
The Bicentennial Committee currently includes the core members of the Ellicottville Historical Society including Westfall, who is president; Ellen Sirianni Frank, vice president; Judy Brown, treasurer; Carolyn Litchfield Bauer, secretary; Mary Elizabeth Dunbar, town historian; and Faith and George Burgard, who recently came onboard to help with the planning. Westfall said anybody can be a part of the planning committee and several other people in the community who are not historical society members have reached out.
At each monthly meeting, there will be a discussion on the bicentennial. Westfall said they’re just getting started and, even if someone does not want to serve on a committee, they will welcome their ideas. She hopes more people will come and want to participate. She’s thinking groups from different agencies, organizations and former high school classes in Ellicottville will get together to add their input at some point.
“We really want to get other people involved, and we’re looking for those who have ideas. If they choose, people could be armchair researchers and do some research for us because we have all the newspapers online for The Ellicottville Post at fultonhistory.com,” she said.
Westfall also said she’d like to invite Holiday Valley and HoliMont to get involved because skiing is a huge part of what Ellicottville is all about. She said they’ll be looking for some history about skiing in Ellicottville.
“It’s not necessary to have lived here for six or seven generations to be a part of this historical town,” she said. “We have lots and lots of visitors that could be a part of this celebration as well because they have memories of Ellicottville, one way or the other.”
The next historical society meeting will be held June 13 at 7 p.m. The meetings are held every second Wednesday of the month, May through October, at the Ellicottville Memorial Library at 6499 Maples Road. See their Facebook page for a list of the speakers series.
For updated information on Ellicottville’s bicentennial planning, contact Westfall at 699-6201, firstname.lastname@example.org or any historical society member including Dunbar at 699-2162. Visit the Ellicottville Historical Society’s Facebook page.