By now, the region is aware of Ellicottville’s propensity to bring in big crowds with a diverse and engaging festival schedule. Hundreds of vendors and bands have appeased the thousands of visitors throughout the years, and this summer will be no different. July 24-26 will see the return of the Ellicottville Jazz & Blues Weekend, a perennial favorite.
When the festival started in the late 1990s, it was comprised mainly of jazz musicians. The first couple of years, town brought in multiple acts. Visitors were treated to a passport - complete with bar logos being stamped into it - until the Department of Labor stepped in and said over half of the venues weren’t allowed to have live music inside.
“It’s this weird old speakeasy law,” Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director, Brian McFadden, told me. “That excluded a lot of bars that were treating people to really nice music. We knew we didn’t want to completely scrap the entire weekend, so we reinvented it.”
Fast-forward to the present and you’ll discover the same level of entertainment indoors along with a special outdoor main stage, and more of a blues feel.
“It’s a more blues-centric crowd now,” McFadden said. “There’s a lot of Chicago style stuff, some really great blues. There’s also a lot of crossover, so we’ve got a mix of both jazz and blues to attract people.”
Entertainment coordinator Dave Elder books many of the performances downtown, and works closely with the Chamber each year to secure the main act for Jazz & Blues Weekend. “We’re responsible for hiring the outdoor entertainment,” he said, “and the Winery of Ellicottville (on Monroe Street) is where we set up the main stage right outside their front doors. They graciously allow us to use their electricity and changing rooms.”
One of the main headliners for this year’s event is Chicago Authority, a really cool, 11-piece Chicago tribute band. They played a previous Jazz & Blues Weekend at Ellicottville Brewing Company, and people loved them. The acts on the street will surely make people want to dance and have fun.
“The earlier acts will be very family oriented,” McFadden said. “That way, folks can come out and bring their kids, have a good time and then get the little ones to bed before town gets lively at night.”
One particular venue to add to your weekend is Madigan’s on the main drag, which will play host to Hoagy & The Blues Bombers on Friday, July 24 from 5-9pm, and Mick Hayes the following evening, same time.
The full schedule of Jazz & Blues performances can be found on www.ellicottvilleny.com.
Stay tuned to the Chamber’s social accounts (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) for updates as the event draws closer.