New Christmas lights and the snow make Seneca Falls look like Bedford Falls, from the 1946 film "It's A Wonderful Life."
Many visiting the town of Seneca Falls thought just that over the weekend and thousands turned out for the annual "It's A Wonderful Life" weekend celebration.
Highlights included the autograph sessions with actors form the movie and the record setting It's A Wonderful Life 5K Run. 4,058 people took part in the event Saturday night.
Here's a look at the weekend festivities.
Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy Bailey) signs autographs.
All Photos by Greg Cotterill, Finger Lakes News Radio.
Carol Coombs (Janie Bailey)
Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu Bailey) signs a bell.
Mary Owen, Donna Reed's daughter.
Lynn O'Leary Johnson(Right) played baby Janie at just 28-days old. Her mother worked at the moive studios and they needed a baby. Lynn picked up by Donna Reed in one scene and shown for about 3-seconds. She made $75.
Near the end of NBC's "Today Show" Friday morning, host and weatherman Al Roker mentioned he was leaving right after the show for Seneca Falls for the It's A Wonderful Life" celebration. Bad weather in New York City delayed Roker's flight, still about 100 people waited for Roker to arrive at the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.
Roker came to Seneca Falls to interview the remaining Bailey kids from the holiday movie favorite "It's A Wonderful Life." The film this year is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
You are there as Al Roker interviews Tommy, Zuzu, & Jannie Bailey. Jimminy Hawkins, Karolyn Grimes, and Carol Coombs.
Local, regional, and national media attention will mean bigger crowds this weekend for the annual "It's A Wonderful Life Weekend" in Seneca Falls. This is also the 70th anniversary of the 1946 Frank Capra movie which has become a holiday must-watch film for many.
A crew from NBC's "Today Show" headed by Al Roker will be in Seneca Falls Friday to interview the actors that played three of the Baiely children. Karolyn Grimes, Carol Coombs, and Jimmy Hawkins will all be in Seneca Falls for the first time together. They will sit down for the "Today Show" interview with Roker in the It's A Wonderful Life Museum at 32 Fall Street Friday afternoon. The interview is not open to the public. There will be an area roped off outside the museum for the public to greet the "Today Show" crew and the actors.
Photos by Greg Cotterill, Finger Lakes News Radio
The Seneca County Chamber of Commerce says on Friday News 10 WHEC-TV, Rochester will broadcast live interviews from Seneca Falls during their morning show from 4:30am to 7:00am. 13 WHAM-TV, Rochester will also be live in Seneca Falls betwen 7:00am and 9:00am.
Friday kicks off with a 10am press conference with the "The Bailey Kids" in the Wesleyan Chapel, 136 Fall Street at the Women's Rights National Historical Park. There is a welcoming reception from 10:30 to noon at the Gould Hotel. Jimmy Hawkins presents "75 Years in Film, From Classic Films to Live Televison to the Digital Age." That begins at 3:30pm at the Wesleyan Chapel.
Other highlights of the weekend include talks from Mary Owen-the daughter of Donna Reed, autograph sessions, street performers playing the out scenes from the movie, and Saturday night's "It's A Wonderful Life 5K" which starts on the Bridge Street Bridge.
To boost the Seneca Falls claim as the real Bedford Falls, Frank Capra visited the town in late 1945. He was going to visit an aunt in nearby Auburn and stopped in Seneca Falls and had his hair cut. Barber Tommy Bellissima didn’t know who Frank Capra was at the time, but when the movie came out, he recognized the name of his famous patron on the poster. He remembered Capra because the two had talked at length about their lives in Italy and common experiences as immigrants. The name stuck with Bellissima because capra in Italian means goat.
Leaving Bellissima’s barbershop, Capra would have gone over the steel truss bridge on Bridge Street to get to the main part of town. On that bridge was a plaque honoring Seneca Falls resident Antonio Varacalli, who had leaped into the icy waters of the canal in April 1917 to rescue a girl who had just attempted suicide by jumping off the bridge. Varacalli saved her but he was overcome by fatigue from the rescue and drowned.
The Similarities between Bedford Falls and Seneca Falls
Seneca Falls and Bedford Falls are both mill towns.
Seneca Falls had a grassy median same as the one George runs down in Bedford Falls with a movie theater located off to the side.
Both communities boast Victorian Architecture and a large Italian population.
The location is perfect: George’s sister-in-law’s father owns a glass factory in Buffalo, NY.
Bailey’s friend Sam wants to build a soybean processing plant outside of Rochester.
The bank examiner wants to get back to Elmira on Christmas Eve.
The train ran through Seneca Falls just as it did in Bedford Falls.
The Bedford Falls High School was dedicated in 1927 the same year as the old Mynderse Academy was dedicated.
In the film, the Bailey’s Savings and Loan Association builds low cost housing called Bailey Park. In Seneca Falls, 19th Century factory owner John Rumsey helped immigrant workers by lending them money and building low cost housing. It is still known as Rumseyville today.
A local businessman named Norman J. Gould owned Gould Pumps, and was one of the richest men in town. He drove his car with license number NJG1. Norman Gould also had great control over politics and economics of the area. Much as Mr. Potter did in the movie. Norman could send someone to fight in the military or retain them for his factory.