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It’s A Wonderful Life Festival 2023 underway in Seneca Falls

This article re-published here with permission of the Finger Lakes Times

Whether or not you believe Bedford Falls in the classic 1946 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” was based on Seneca Falls, the annual festival devoted to the film will kick off Thursday with a community block party and ribbon-cutting ceremony from 5-8 p.m. on State Street.

For more than 20 years in early December, this community is transformed into the fictional town of Bedford Falls to celebrate Frank Capra’s beloved film. Many believe Capra stopped in Seneca Falls en route to Auburn prior to World War II and used its features and characteristics as the setting for Bedford Falls, although he never officially acknowledged that.

Jimmy Hawkins & Karolyn Grimes

“This year, on the film’s 77th anniversary, the organizers of the IAWL Festival want to thank and acknowledge the people of Seneca Falls who play host to the thousands of visitors that flood into the town every year and pay tribute to some individuals and organizations that have supported the community,” said Haidee Oropallo, head of the festival committee.

The block party will include a closure of lower State Street for a celebration featuring a disc jockey playing music, dancing in the street, fire barrels, a hot-chocolate bar, s’mores, and a video wall. At 6 p.m. there will be a ribbon-cutting marking the official opening of the festival and the presentation of the Ruth Dakin Bailey Grand Marshal Award. This year, that award will be presented to the family of the late Menzo Case, President and CEO of Generations Bank and a major community benefactor and promoter. The award is sponsored by Cari and Jeff Loop and the Kindness Trust Foundation in honor of Cari’s mother, Virginia Patton Moss, who portrayed Ruth Dakin Bailey, Harry Bailey’s wife, in the movie.

“Menzo Case was known to the Seneca Falls community as the modern-day version of George Bailey,” said Ann Sandroni, who will be presenting the award and who was last year’s grand marshal. “His generosity to the Seneca Falls community and unwavering support was truly inspirational.”

The annual Seneca Falls holiday lights contest winners will be announced. More than $2,000 in cash prizes in three separate categories will be awarded. This year, 20 homes competed for the six prizes.

The festival committee will present donations to several charities that support the hungry in the community. The donation of $8,000 corresponds to the amount of money Uncle Billy lost in the “Wonderful Life” movie, which ended up in Mr. Potter’s hands and jeopardized the future of the Bailey Business & Loan Bank. The Seneca County House of Concern, Cayuga-Seneca Community Action Program, Seneca Falls backpack program, and Trevor’s Gift are the benefactors.

“We are grateful to these organizations for all they do to support our community and know they can use all of our support during the holiday season,” Oropallo said.

Throughout the block party, Fall Street Brewing will provide tacos, and Parker’s Grille and Tap House will be selling chili and spiced zucchini soup with cornbread.

Visit www.therealbedfordfalls.com for a complete schedule of events for the festival that continues through Sunday.

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