Five years ago, Enchanted Mountains, Cattaraugus County’s tourism organization, had an idea! What if there was a way to spotlight local goods, encourage people to spend their money locally, and enjoy one of the most beautiful seasons of the year in Cattaraugus County, all in one event? The W.I.L.M.A. exposition became the answer to that question.
Now in its fifth year, W.I.L.M.A. (which stands for ‘We Invite Local Manufacturers and Artisans’) is a two-day event at the Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds in Little Valley, October 21-22. Cattaraugus County manufacturers, artisans, and crafters will set up their unique, locally made products - from wreaths to carved sculptures, to horseradish - all for your browsing and #shoplocal pleasure.
However, W.I.L.M.A. is more than an acronym, as anyone who has participated in the event knows. According to Cattaraugus County Tourism Web Technician, Jeremy Knab, W.I.L.M.A. also refers to the woolly bear that kicks off the event each year. Since the expo takes place during woolly bear caterpillar season, the event begins with one of the county’s legislators finding a woolly bear (Wilma, the woolly bear) at the fairgrounds and predicting the severity of the coming winter, based on the size of the caterpillar’s reddish middle stripe!
W.I.L.M.A. is the perfect opportunity to shop for a distinctive gift for the upcoming holiday season, while keeping your money in the community. Shopping local is more than just avoiding long lines and crammed parking lots at the mall (although this is an added perk!) Buying locally-made products supports business owners and families right in the community, while also creating jobs and encouraging local tourism. Additionally, shopping local reduces transportation costs and lessens the environmental impact of these businesses.
Of course, shopping local at the W.I.L.M.A. event is just plain fun, as the variety of items and the personal, friendly service offered by local business owners create an entirely different experience than shopping in a big box store. In the words of Jacqueline Gardner, Cattaraugus County Tourism Assistant, “I like that it gives some of the smaller businesses in Cattaraugus County a time to shine. It’s very cost-effective for the businesses to be there, and they get a lot more special attention than they would at a larger festival. It’s a great family-friendly atmosphere.”
Some of the vendors that visitors can expect to see include Marcia’s Toys and Gifts of Little Valley, Wallflowers Designs of Randolph, Milkhouse Country Crafts of East Otto, and Rustic Originals of Salamanca. Jodi Scanlan, owner of Rustic Originals, is excited to take part in W.I.L.M.A. and share her hand-crafted home décor items! What started out as a creative outlet became a business venture in 2015 when Scanlan decided to share her work with others. “I make things to help me relax - I have another business that keeps me very busy. Rustic Originals started as a hobby but has turned into a nice little extra business that I truly enjoy,” explained Scanlan.
Scanlan makes country primitive signs, florals, and Christmas ornaments, and she also teams up with other artisans to offer more variety and have more helping hands. Other offerings include Lora Farnham’s homemade soaps, bath products and candles, and Nichole Pennell’s children’s dresses, onesies, and bibs. According to Scanlan, “The most popular items are the signs. People love to stop and read them, and I try to have one to fit most everyone!”
BACKWOODS CHAINSAW DESIGNS
Sarah Walker, owner of Backwoods Chainsaw Designs, will be at the W.I.L.M.A. event with a variety of impressive carvings and sculptures. Walker got her start with this unique art form by watching other chainsaw carvers at different fairs and festivals in the area. “At the Franklinville Maple Festival a few years ago, I watched the carver for over an hour; he must have noticed because he struck up a conversation. He told me I had to promise I’d go home and give it a try, so I did,” explained Walker.
Walker has now been carving for four years, and she went full time with her business just this past May. When asked what her most unique request was, Walker had a hard time narrowing it down: “It’s hard to choose just one … I love the odd requests customers order. I did a giant two-foot cupcake once, and I’ve also carved a giant Mack truck bulldog out of a 9-foot by 5-foot stump. The list goes on!” In addition to a carving demo by Walker, visitors to W.I.L.M.A. can expect a great variety of smaller seasonal items including pumpkins, trees, owls, bears, and a few surprises.
MAUDE BELL’S PREPARED HORSERADISH
Shop for the foodie in your life (or yourself!) with Fat Root, LLC of Hinsdale. Company founders Steve and Christine Clute, Jeff and Julie Goodyear and Jeff and Sue VanDeCar invite you to enjoy a local tradition that dates back to the 19th century with the Bell family. In the late 1800s, William and Maude Bell married and lived along the tow path of the Genesee Valley Canal just off of Fay Hollow Road in Hinsdale, where they raised their two children. The family grew a variety of vegetables and sold them at the local market, but the most popular item was Maude’s prepared horseradish. Enjoyed by locals in Hinsdale and the nearby city of Olean, Maude’s horseradish became a high-demand local item, and Maude could hardly keep up with the demand. After Maude’s death in 1975, there was no longer a locally grown and processed horseradish in the area. Finally, in 2014, Fat Root, LLC began operations and now grows its own horseradish along the historic Genesee Valley Canal in Hinsdale. Their product, “Maude Bell’s Prepared Horseradish,” will be available at W.I.L.M.A. for visitors to enjoy.
W.I.L.M.A. takes place indoors in the 4H building at the fairgrounds, and will run from 10am-5pm on Saturday, Oct. 21 and from 11am-3pm on Sunday, Oct. 22. Admission is free! For more information or to become a vendor, visit www.enchantedmountains.com.