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It's a wonderful life in Seneca Falls... or is it Bedford Falls?

Ellen Abbott
Stores in Seneca Falls are redecorated as the festival approaches.

The bells will be ringing in Seneca Falls this weekend as the community celebrates the classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The festival brings to life the link between Seneca Falls and Bedford Falls.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
The Bridge Street Bridge in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

It’s been almost two decades since the picturesque village along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal started celebrating a suspected connection to Bedford Falls, the town in Director Frank Capra’s classic film. There are references to upstate cities like Elmira, Buffalo and Rochester. There’s also the fact that Capra got his hair cut in Seneca Falls shortly before making the movie. And, of course, the Bridge Street Bridge -- which looks just like the one George Bailey jumps off to save an angel.

Founders say the festival really took off a little over a decade ago, when Karolyn Grimes got involved. She’s the actress who played Zuzu, one of the Bailey children, who still takes part in several activities during the three-day festival.

"When I first started coming here, there were maybe 140 people.” Grimes says. “Now there’s thousands that come to this festival.”

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu (one of George Bailey's children) in "It's a Wonderful Life."

Memorabilia from the film is also prominent in the Seneca Falls It’s a Wonderful Life Museum.

Fran Caracciolo, one of the museum founders, says the future is looking good. There are plans to buy the structure in which it’s housed and create a permanent home for the museum.

"The town of Seneca Falls has just committed to providing the down payment for our purchase. That means a lot,” Caracciolo says. “That means the town recognizes the importance of these efforts to benefit Seneca Falls and the region.”

With a more permanent location, Caracciolo says they’ll be able to expand their interpretive and archival space, and construct a movie theater. For volunteer Anwei Law, it’s not surprising that so many people coalesce around the story of redemption and importance of an individual’s life.

"You know when you have people come here they’re surrounded by other people who love this movie. And that’s a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by people who love this movie and love this message and believe in this message,” Law says.