From drizzle to rain and eventually snow another day has passed at the annual four-day It’s a Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls.
Bedford Falls, the fictional setting of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” resembles the small town of Seneca Falls; and the cheerful Christmas spirit shown from visitors traveling both near and far jumped-off the silver screen once more during this whimsical holiday weekend.
The beloved classic Hollywood cinema film has touched the minds and hearts of those who have encountered its cherished tale, especially 9/11 first responder Chris Edwards, a former New York City firefighter.
Edwards elaborated upon his story and how he watched the iconic 1946 Frank Capra film for the first-time following the 2001 terror attacks at the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum on Fall Street.
Across the street from the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum, Corky Jarrett was conferred the 16th annual George Bailey award at the Trinity Episcopal Church that was presented to her by Karolyn Grimes, who portrayed Zulu Bailey in the film.
As a Seneca Falls resident for more than 50-years, she has served in multiple volunteer capacities with the Seneca County Community Christmas Project, Coats for Kids andSt. Francis and St. Claire Parish Nicaragua Mission program, among other efforts.
During the ceremony, she was described at the celebration as a behind-the-scenes person and “the Santa Claus of Seneca County” by a peer who formerly served at the Cayuga-Seneca Community Action Agency.
“I admire you so much. You have given yourself throughout the years to this community for over 50-years. I mean, that’s just amazing and you’re the silent person who gets all the work done,” Grimes said.
Meanwhile at Café XIX on East Bayard Street, the giant cinnamon bun eating contest commenced with familiar faces around two tables sharing milk and cinnamon buns.
Each person was served a plate full of cinnamon buns, which weighed three pounds and after a timed period the plates were re-weighed to determine the top three winners of the competition.
This year’s winner, Jim previously won three out of the four times he participated in prior contests by clearing one pound and 15 ounces. “I’m full. It feels great. It’s fun, you know. It’s really fun to go against people you know,” he said.
A boy named Carter placed second with one pound and three ounces, followed by Brody, an 11-year-old who ate one pound and one ounce in cinnamon buns.
Following his latest victory and redemption from last year, Jim even confirmed that he still plans on walking the race later that day.
Back at the Trinity Episcopal Church, filmmakers presented a 30-minute sneak-peek screening of a work-in-progress documentary titled “The Real Bedford Falls: It’s a Wonderful Life,” which is narrated by New York Times best-selling American author and television journalist Bob Dotson.
Doston, most notably known for his long-running series, “The American Story with Bob Dotson,” was a popular feature program on the NBC Today Show for 40-years.
Like Edwards, Doston was also touched by It’s a Wonderful Life and he felt compelled to return to Seneca Falls and narrate this uniquely American story that reflects the holiday spirit of this nation.
“It’s a Wonderful Life is more than a movie to me. I spent 40-years at NBC News and the last 25-years on the Today Show doing a segment called “The American Story,” in which I look for Bedford Falls. I look for the George Baileys of the world who had some idea on how to bring people together and have the patience to do it and make life better,” Dotson said.
While Doston has visited Seneca Falls in the past, he shared that the scenic view was not the reason that he returned this time.
“I didn’t come here because it’s a pretty place. I’ve been here before, but I came here for what this represents to this town, to you folks and the movie; and that is the geography of hope in this country,” he added.
After the screening, Dotson spoke with FingerLakes1.com about how the tale of “It’s a Wonderful Life” can be shared with small town communities throughout America.
“Very rarely do we get to work on a project that’s about us. The rest of us. I mean that’s what this story is all about. I think there’s a reason that the director, Frank Capra that Seneca Falls was Bedford Falls because in reality he wanted to make sure that everyone saw a little bit of Bedford Falls wherever they were in their neighborhood just by opening their eyes and walking down the street,” Dotson said.
But most of all, Doston emphasized the hallmark message of Capra’s film, which reminds viewers that “all lives matter,” no matter who you are or where you come from and also mentioned that the spirit of Bedford Falls rests inside everyone.
“The real Bedford Falls is inside all of us,” Doston concluded.
As tradition, the It’s a Wonderful Life parade still carried on despite a heavy downpour of rain following the screening.
Gabriel Pietrorazio is a senior at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He’s written for the Town Times of Watertown, Connecticut Times, Finger Lakes Times, and currently serves as reporter for FL1 News. Feedback, tips, and story ideas can be sent to [email protected].