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Village lays claim to “It’s a Wonderful Life”

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Village lays claim to “It’s a Wonderful Life”
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Christmas can be a special time anywhere, but in one village in the Finger Lakes, it's a time to tell the world again about the role it played in a classic holiday film. YNN's Bill Carey says when you spend time watching Jimmy Stewart walk the streets of Bedford Falls this year, think of Seneca Falls.

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. -- It's a story they've told before. Film director Frank Capra, on his way to visit relatives in Auburn, stops for a haircut in a small town along the way. He's in the process of preparing to film, "It's a Wonderful Life." And here, so Seneca Falls claims, he found just the type of town he needed.

So every Christmas season, Seneca Falls makes its argument that it was the model for Bedford Falls. Noting the references in the movie to nearby Rochester and Elmira. The iconic steel truss bridge. The nearby mill that had once offered jobs.

And these days, you can spend the night at the Hotel Clarence. Or stop for coffee at Zuzu's Cafe. Or you can stop nearby and meet the real Zuzu, or at least the actress who played George Bailey's daughter 65 years ago. Karolyn Grimes makes it a point to be here every Christmas season.

Grimes said, “I just love it. It's grown so much. I look forward to this every year.”

And this year, she has company. Carol Coombs-Mueller played another Bailey daughter, Janie. Both are still amazed at the impact the film they made six-and-a-half decades ago still has.

“You know, in these times, and times are difficult, a lot of people losing their jobs, of course. I think the film just gives hope to people,” Coombs-Mueller said.

“It's all about each man touches another's life. It's about each one of us make a difference. And it gives us inspiration because it makes us think about what's important in our lives,” Grimes said.

For the people who make their way to Seneca Falls each year, there is no argument about the message.

“George Bailey, feeling like his life doesn't matter. Feeling like he's been unimportant and insignificant. And he has an opportunity to see how important his life has been,” said Jodi Dueker.

Outside of some anecdotes and a few similarities, there's no real proof that Bedford Falls was based on Seneca Falls. But, in the end, who really cares?

The focus here is on a message that dollars and cents don't count as much friends and family.

Events are scheduled throughout the weekend in Seneca Falls, including a parade, a "Wonderful Life" look alike contest and a "dance by the light of the moon."

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