The village of Seneca Falls will fill with aspiring George Baileys this weekend for its 65th annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” festival.

The headliners will be Karolyn Grimes and Carol Coombs-Mueller, who played Zuzu and Janie Bailey in the classic 1946 Frank Capra film.

Seneca Falls makes an exhaustive argument that it was the basis for Bedford Falls, pointing to geographical references within the film, similarities between the towns and Capra’s visit there in 1945 on his way to visit an aunt in Auburn.

The town has capitalized on that connection with the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum, the Hotel Clarence and Zuzu’s Cafe.

Grimes and Coombs-Mueller will sign autographs, take photos and answer questions from fans throughout the festival, which runs Friday through Sunday.

Grimes is a regular attender who’s loaned many of her personal artifacts to the museum in the village dedicated to the movie.

“She’s just such a nice person and she really treats everyone the same,” said Anwei Law, one of the festival organizers.

The National Park Service is hosting a public mural painting, with the finished product to go on display at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park.

There will be a look-alike contest, a parade, a gingerbread house display, a chili cookoff, free roasted chestnuts, sleigh rides and a vintage wedding gown fashion show.

On Sunday, there will be a showing of the film at the Old Mynderse Academy and a 5K run through the village.

The thread connecting all the diverse events is a sense of nostalgia and generosity, Law said.

“A lot of us grew up thinking of some small town that our grandparents grew up in,” she said. “Everything comes together to create this atmosphere where people feel good about themselves and about each other, because this movie makes you feel good.”

The movie’s theme of small-town folks banding together in the face of a money-grubbing bank has taken on added significance in the last few years, Law said.

“It’s kind of like what’s happening to Wall Street,” she said. “When you get away from families and people helping each other ... that’s what Mr. Potter was about. People see a lot of relevance in that.”

Justin Murphy


Twitter @CitizenMurphy

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