Experience Christmas Magic at the It’s a Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls, New York
The town of Seneca Falls, New York is getting ready for the annual It's a Wonderful Life Festival!
Set to take place from December 7 to 10, 2023, the Seneca Falls community believes that the classic movie, directed by Frank Capra, was based on their town and go all out each year. Festivities start on Thursday, December 7 with a night block party featuring music, burn barrels, activities for kids, a hot chocolate bar, and s'mores.
Throughout the weekend, visitors can enjoy screenings of the original black-and-white and colorized versions of the movie, which will be shown with hot drinks and light snacks. The festival information center will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday, offering information, merchandise, and souvenirs. There will be horse-drawn wagon rides on Saturday and Sunday, as well as rides on the Bedford Falls Express Train featuring four 90-minute runs on Sunday.
In addition to the nearly 50 scheduled events and activities during the festival, the It's a Wonderful Life Museum at 32 Fall St will be open for exploration all three days. The Post Office on State Street will offer a chance to cancel letters from Bedford Falls Postal Station. People can look for It's a Wonderful Life movie character re-enactors wandering the downtown streets Friday through Sunday, and there will be opportunities for photos with Mr. Potter, Violet, George Bailey, and other cast members.
Other activities include annual favorites such as Friday's Mrs. Martini's pasta dinner and the Wonderful Bonfire and Tree Lighting with Santa. The Wonderful Parade will be with the Bedford Falls Mediocre Marching Band, the Witchy Women of the Finger Lakes, and many other community groups and organizations.
The weekend also includes Saturday's popular It's a Wonderful 5K run, Sunday's Uncle Billy's Wonderful Scavenger Hunt, and the Wonderful Music Brass Ensemble.
Actors who played in the movie who will be present include Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, Jimmy Hawkins, who played Tommy Bailey, and Donald and Ronald Collins, who played young Peter Bailey. Also planning to attend are Mary Owen, Donna Reed's daughter, Monica Capra Hodges, Frank Capra's granddaughter, and John Kuri, son of Emil Kuri, set decorator for the movie.
Seneca Falls has many reasons to believe that Frank Capra based Bedford Falls in It's a Wonderful Life, on their town. There are similarities in architecture from homes on Cayuga Street to the Bailey home, post-war housing developments, and significant Italian and Irish heritage of residents.
A former Seneca Falls barber, Tommy Bellissima, recalled cutting the hair of a man who introduced himself as Frank Capra when the screenplay was still under development. Capra is known to have visited relatives in nearby Auburn.
Both Seneca Falls and Bedford Falls are in upstate New York, in relatively close proximity to Rochester and Elmira, both mentioned in the movie. In the original screenplay, Harry Bailey attended Cornell University in Ithaca, near Seneca Falls. The studio recommended not referring to the college by name. The Bridge Street bridge, a steel truss bridge, is a close match to the bridge in the movie from which George Bailey jumped to save the angel Clarence. The local bridge has a plaque dedicated to Antonio Varacalli, who died in 1917 when he jumped into the canal to save a suicidal woman, possibly inspiring Capra to have George Bailey jump in to save Clarence.
Whether or not the movie was based on Seneca Falls, the town has fully embraced the nostalgic holiday spirit, and the It's a Wonderful Life Festival is a magical experience for all who attend.
Look Inside The 'It's A Wonderful Life' Museum In Seneca Falls, New York
Gallery Credit: Traci Taylor
Tour Seneca Falls - Birthplace of Women's Rights
Gallery Credit: Traci Taylor