Up Close & Personal: Alley Katz
Organization Beautifies Village: Flowers Stay Out for Fall Fest
By Nicholas Pircio
“Love these ladies, they help keeping our town looking its best all summer long!” That comment found on the organization’s Facebook page perhaps best sums up the mission of Alley Katz of Ellicottville. Their flower planting efforts are appreciated by both residents and visitors, with the colorful results seen up and down the village streets. You’ll get one last chance to take in the sight during Fall Fest, before early fall fades to wintry grey.
Alley Katz begins their annual beautification work early each year. The first notices of spring planting go out in May.
In tracing its roots, Chairperson Debbie Yantomasi says Alley Katz began several years ago through the efforts of Edna Northrup and Jody Bentley. “In the beginning there were just a few flowers here and there. It involved a lot of fundraising on their part through bake sales and quilt sales. It’s gotten to the point now where we do get funding from the Village, the Town, the Chamber and several other places; Holiday Valley and HoliMont to mention a few. Most of the businesses donate as well.”
Volunteers maintain 66 barrels containing flowers, and 50 hanging baskets. “We also do flowers in creek beds, the flower bed in front of the new Daily Grind coffee shop, the circle in front of the Gazebo, and around the Clock Tower.”
Additional hands are always welcome by Alley Katz. According to Yantomasi, “I always say that at the age of 61, I don’t bring the average age (of volunteers) down too much. A lot of these ladies have been doing this for years and they are as energetic as can be.” Members range in age from 85 down to perhaps the mid 40’s. “At any given time there are ten to fifteen of us.”
Outside of their summer work, Alley Katz decorates the Gazebo for the winter season. “But generally we start just prior to Memorial Day weekend, and we’re pretty much done by the end of September.” This year the group is leaving all the plants out for Fall Fest weekend. “(We’re doing this) in the hope that people will be able to see how beautiful it looks and keeping our fingers crossed that they (the plants) won’t be damaged.”
What might some of the hardier plants be? Yantomasi says, “We find that Angel Wing begonias do well no matter what the temperature is. We also find that black-eyed Susan and sweet potato vines seem to endure any type of temperature variation. Those seem to be the go-to plants. About six years ago we began planting the Cannas, which are a very exotic and different looking plant. They seem to do really well, so we’re going to stick with those.” Yantomasi notes that most of the plants are annuals and have to be replaced every year.
At times the men pitch in as well. “We do get the husbands to help us on our two major work days.; usually the week before Memorial Day weekend when we do a lot of prep work to get things ready. And we plant on site, so the flowers are delivered on that Tuesday morning, usually the first Tuesday in June. And then we plant everything that day, so that involves a lot of work as well.”
Alley Katz focuses their efforts on the downtown area, mainly along Routes 219 and 242, and Monroe Street.
Yantomasi says that the Village provides someone to water the flowers every day, along with the plants being fertilized. “We (Alley Katz) do not take credit for the window boxes in front of all the merchants; they do that on their own. But the Village does water everything that’s out.”
The group meets every Tuesday morning at 9 o’clock to make the rounds. “After festivals we have to clean up whatever people decided to leave inside the barrels and repair any damage that’s done. Afterwards we sit down and have coffee, courtesy of Dina’s Restaurant.”
Meeting times for Alley Katz are every Tuesday throughout the summer following that first meeting in May, generally through September. “This year is the exception because we are going to meet the week after Fall Fest to make sure that everything has been taken out.”
Donations can be made by check payable to Alley Katz at P.O. Box 1407, Ellicottville NY, 14731. You can contact Debbie Yantomasi at (716) 699-5239 or (716) 803-3388.