Seneca Falls New York will transform into Bedford Falls for one wonderful weekend this December to celebrate the 77th anniversary of "It's a Wonderful Life."

Every December the town changes its name for one weekend, to honor the iconic Christmas movie many believe was inspired by Seneca Falls. Surviving actors from the film even come to town to celebrate.

Photo by Mira Earls
Photo by Mira Earls

Main Street

Cast members from the 1946 classic will be participating throughout the weekend attending events, offering opportunities for autographs, hosting special presentations about the making of the movie, and more. Haidee Oropallo, It’s a Wonderful Life Festival Committee President, talks about how it's a unique opportunity to meet the actual It’s a Wonderful Life movie stars:

“We are so fortunate to have cast members, Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey; Jimmy Hawkins, who played Tommy Bailey; and Donald & Ronald Collins who played Young Pete Bailey, join us for the celebrations this year. As special additions for 2023, we have Mary Owen, Donna Reed’s daughter; Monica Capra Hodges, Frank Capra’s granddaughter; and John Kuri, son of Emile Kuri, set decorator for It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Photo Credit - Henry Law
Photo Credit - Henry Law

Bedford Bridge

Main street isn't the only similarity. The bridge where Antonio Varacallit tried to rescue a woman who jumped in 1917 is the same place George Bailey jumped to save his angel Clarence in the movie. “It is nearly a replica of the same bridge that George Bailey had grown up with all his life," said Grimes.

Photo Credit - Henry Law
Photo Credit - Henry Law

Seneca Falls Similarities

There are also rumors the man behind the movie, Frank Capra, stopped in Seneca Falls in 1945 for a haircut. Many believe he saw the plaque on the bridge as a sign for his new movie home. Capra never said whether Bedford Falls was inspired by Seneca Falls but there are too many coincidences to ignore.

  • Both are mill towns
  • There's the same grassy median George runs down in the movie
  • Both towns are filled with Victorian architecture
  • Both have a large Italian population
  • George’s sister-in-law’s father owns a glass factory in Buffalo
  • 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 Bedford Falls High School was dedicated in 1927 the same year as the old Mynderse Academy
  • 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

There's even a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, honoring the movie and its roots which will be expanding this year.

Photo Credit - Henry Law
Photo Credit - Henry Law

The 77th Anniversary Celebration of “It’s a Wonderful Life” will run from December 8th through December 10th with several cast members making an appearance:

Karolyn Grimes (“Zuzu Bailey”)
Jimmy Hawkins (“Tommy Bailey”)
Michael Chapin (“Young George’s Friend”)
Donald and Ronald Collins (“Little Pete Bailey”)

The festival ends with the ringing of the bells every year to honor those who have left an impact on the community. You can buy a bell to ring for someone you want to honor at, where you'll also find a list of daily events.

Wherever the real Bedford Falls is, it'll be a wonderful weekend in Seneca Falls where plenty of angels will get their wings.

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