Joseph Ellicott, surveyor and principal land agent for the Holland Land Company, had a keen eye for beauty. He made Buffalo what it is. We owe so much to his graceful layout, the streets fanning out from Niagara Square like the spokes of a wheel.
No wonder his name lives on in so many ways. The Ellicott Square Building. Ellicott Creek Park. Ellicott Street. UB’s Ellicott Complex. And the jewel of a village called Ellicottville.
How do we love Ellicottville? Last year right about this time, an Ellicottville gift shop called Tangled Twigs decided to count the ways.
The purveyors put up a chalkboard and invited passers-by to write what they loved best about the village.
“So many loving people,” somebody wrote.
Another one wrote, with simple accuracy: “It’s magical.”
Maybe that’s because it’s in the mountains. We don’t get that many mountains here in Western New York. That’s why, though it’s just an hour’s drive from Buffalo, Ellicottville feels foreign. It is like our little slice of Switzerland.
The magic the chalkboard writer mentioned peaks at the Ellicottville Fall Festival. This two-day event began in 1975 as a way to boost shopping for the winter ski season. Now, the festival plays host to over 300 artists, crafters and vendors. Tens of thousands of Western New Yorkers stroll through.
Be among them.
The festival gets into full swing at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The town’s main street, lined with white tents, brims with folks in jeans and sweaters. Beyond the quaint, narrow brick buildings, the mountains loom. When the leaves are changing, they blaze in colors of red and gold.
A shuttle will take you for a couple of bucks to Holiday Valley, the nearby ski resort, where there’s more food and entertainment, a ski lift that will take you over the treetops, and the Sky High Aerial Park, not for the faint-hearted. There’s also a ski swap, rides on the Mountain Coaster, and a Birds of Prey show (at 2 p.m. Oct. 8 and 9).
Tempting as all that is, there’s something to be said for staying in the heart of the festival, and yielding to the leisurely pace.
The tiny village becomes a swirl of Kettle Korn, cups of beer, cider, sweaters, turkey legs, french fries, chicken wings, gourmet treats and music by Western New York’s greatest good-time bands, holding forth on the stage sponsored by the Ellicottville Brewing Company. When the weather’s not perfect, you can duck into a tavern, like Balloons, a Cheers-like joint that’s always jumping. Or a pretty cafe, like Katy’s, or Dina’s. Whimsical street signs point the way toward various vendors. Betsy’s Consignments, Ellicottville Salt Cave, this way. Day Spa and Quilt Shop, that way.
The signs remind us, you can get your Christmas shopping done early. Gift shops abound: elegant Alexandra, cute Kazoo II, and global Gado Gado. We saved the best for last – a shop called the Purple Doorknob, brimming with nothing but thousands of socks. It bills itself as “the key to your sock drawer” and drapes socks out front, like colorful laundry.
All that adorable frou-frou would be enough to raise the eyebrows of Joseph Ellicott, the descendant of austere Quakers. He would, however, like the wide-eyed sweetness of the town that bears his name. And the beauty and resilience the Ellicottville Fall Festival signifies. Winter is coming, it reminds us.
The fun is just beginning.