SENECA FALLS — Zuzu will be back. So will young Violet Bick and Tommy Bailey.
It’s the time of the year when Seneca Falls transforms into Bedford Falls from the classic Frank Capra holiday movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
The annual Wonderful Life Festival will be Dec. 13-15 in the place many people here are convinced was the setting for Capra’s 1946 movie. Capra drove through the village en route to visiting relatives in Auburn in the 1940s, reportedly getting his hair cut at Tommy Bellissima’s Barber Shop and taking note of the canal running through the middle of the village, one of several similarities between Seneca Falls and Bedford Falls.
Capra died in 1991 without saying if Seneca Falls was his inspiration for Bedford Falls. His granddaughter, Monica Capra Hodges, will come to Seneca Falls for the festival, as will Mary Owen, daughter of actress Donna Reed, who played Mary Bailey in the movie.
Karolyn Grimes, who played little Zuzu Bailey in the movie, has been here every year since the festival began. Jeanine Roose, who played Violet Bick, will be here, as will Jimmy Hawkins, who played Tommy Bailey.
Chris Podzuweit of the It’s A Wonderful Life Committee, said this year’s festival is shaping up to be one of the best yet.
“Come visit us to experience holiday magic, which includes a huge bonfire and caroling with Santa, a pasta dinner at Mrs. Martini’s with It’s A Wonderful Life movie trivia, free horse-drawn wagon rides, the IAWL parade, a train ride with Santa and the Taste of Bedford Falls, numerous viewings of the movie and a chance to interact with Grimes, Roose and Hawkins for three days,” Podzuweit said.
The festival is free and Podzuweit said it is a “great way to catch the holiday spirit.” Parking isn’t an issue. Visitors can park in the Mynderse Academy parking lots on Troy Street and take free shuttle buses to Fall Street downtown.
“The It’s A Wonderful Life Festival is one of the most popular and well-attended holiday festivals in the state. Thousands come to Seneca Falls each year to see the transformation to Bedford Falls, complete with Martini’s car, characters from the movie and much more,” Podzuweit said.
The weekend events actually begin Thursday, Dec. 12. The Seneca Community Players will present the first of several performances of the radio play “Merry Christmas, George Bailey!” from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at the Academy Square auditorium, 12 N. Park St. Tickets are $8 and can be bought at WomenMade Products downtown, by calling (315) 568-9364 or at the door.
Events planned for Friday, Dec. 13, include a presentation by Karolyn Grimes on “Zuzu, My Little Gingersnap” at 9 a.m. in Bee’s Cafe, 107 Fall St.; “From the Historic 1913 Seneca Theater to the Most Inspiring Film of All Time: Envisioning the Expansion of the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum” from 11 a.m. to noon at the museum, 32 Fall St. with actors from the film present; a book signing by author Michael William, writer of “The Essential It’s A Wonderful Life: A Scene by Scene Guide to the Classic Film,” from noon to 2 p.m. at the Wonderful Life Museum; actors from the movie sign autographs at the old Mynderse Library, 31 Fall St. from noon to 2 p.m.; Wonderful Life characters stroll on Fall Street from noon to 5 p.m.; a talk on “Strolling Down Memory Lane” by Jeanine Roose at 2 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 27 Fall St.
Also, “Donna Reed and Me, a Wonderful Lifelong Friendship” presentation by Jimmy Hawkins at 3 p.m. at Trinity Church, 27 Fall St.; the It’s A Wonderful bonfire, tree lighting, caroling and Santa at People’s Park on Water Street from 6 to 8:30 p.m.; music by the Calvary Chapel Worship Band with Bailey’s burgers and hots available. A free screening of the movie will be at the Delavan Theater at the New York Chiropractic College on Route 89. Shuttle buses will leave The Gould Hotel at 8:30 p.m. and return following the film, which will be shown from 9 to 11:15 p.m.
A full day of activities and events are scheduled for Saturday.
Free, horse-drawn wagon rides will be offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the corner of Fall and State streets. The 16th annual George Bailey Award presentation by Karolyn Grimes at the IDEA Center for the Voices of Humanity at Trinity Episcopal Church, followed by a reception and tours of the church, 27 Fall St.; a giant cinnamon bun eating contest at 11 a.m. at Cafe XIX, 20 E. Bayard St. and a presentation by Monica Capra Hodges at 11 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church and a screening of the in-progress documentary “The Real Bedford Falls. It’s a Wonderful Life” exploring the connections between Seneca Falls and Bedford Falls from noon to 12:30 p.m. at Trinity Church.
There will be a book signing by Mary Owen from noon to 1 p.m. at the IAWL Museum, the It’s a Wonderful Parade on Fall Street from 1 to 2 p.m., the 11th annual It’s A Wonderful Run 5K at 4:10 p.m. at the Bailey Bridge; the Taste of Bedford Falls at 100 Fall St.; a Dance By The Light of the Moon featuring the Greater Finger Lakes Jazz orchestra with free admission at Mynderse Academy gym, 105 Troy St. and a photo opportunity with actors from the movie from 8:30 to 9 p.m. at the Mynderse gym.
Sunday will feature a 17th anniversary celebration breakfast with Karolyn Grimes from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Gould Hotel, 108 Fall St.
There will be Bedford Falls Express 90-minute train rides starting at 9:30 a.m., leaving from Academy Square, 12 N. Park St., and Uncle Billy’s Wonderful Scavenger Hunt from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A program on Zuzu and Tommy in Search of Young Violet will be presented by Grimes , Hawkins and Roose at 2:30 p.m. at Trinity Church. The weekend will conclude with the ringing of the bells and a Christmas Buffet Dinner with the movie actors from 6 to 9 p.m. at Seneca Falls Country Club on Route 89.