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'It's a Wonderful Life' museum gets even more wonderful

By Kathy Witt
McClatchy-Tribune

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    A ‘Wonderful’ trip

    The “It’s a Wonderful Life” Museum, 32 Fall St., Seneca Falls, NY, is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Admission: free. “The Bailey Sisters Return Home” event Dec. 7-9 is part of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival. Details: www.therealbedfordfalls.com.

    Hotel Clarence details/reservations: www.hotelclarence.com.



The little girl who wanted Jimmy Stewart to save a special flower has just added another distinctive collection to a museum that preserves the legacy of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Karolyn Grimes, perhaps better known as Zuzu Bailey, the child in the 1946 film classic starring Stewart and Donna Reed, has put a number of snow globes featuring scenes from the beloved holiday movie on display at the Seneca Falls “It’s a Wonderful Life” Museum.

Seneca Falls, located near Syracuse, N.Y., is considered by many to be the source of inspiration for the setting of fictional Bedford Falls. Grimes herself cites the main street architecture and steel truss bridge over the canal – all part of the landscape in this village located on the shores of Cayuga Lake. And museum coordinator Anwei Law notes that the collection contains envelopes addressed to the “Bedford Falls” station.

“They write to the Seneca Falls Post Office from all over, people seeking a postmark from Bedford Falls,” Law said.

The museum, tucked into what was the first movie theater in Seneca Falls, features primarily Grimes’ personal collection of memorabilia: original press book, lobby card and stills; autographed items from various cast members; movie tie-in collectibles; different signs that have been made over the years; out-of-print books written about the movie; a very rare Clarence ornament.

“There is also a display of images from the film along with quotes from Frank Capra, focusing on his philosophy of filmmaking with an emphasis on the value and dignity of each person,” Law said.

Added Grimes: “It’s a little jewel that’s starting to grow, but it’s already special.”

Visitors to the museum will also find copies of Grimes’ new book available for purchase. “Celebrating ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On” is about Grimes’ own life as well as fans’ stories of how the movie has had a positive impact on their lives.

“It is filled with trivia, rare photos, recipes and interesting facts about the film,” she said. “There’s also a section about Seneca Falls and photos of the museum.”

This December marks the museum’s second anniversary. To commemorate the occasion – as well as the 66th anniversary of “It’s a Wonderful Life” - a special event will take place in Seneca Falls on Dec. 7-9: “The Bailey Sisters Return Home” brings Zuzu and Janie Bailey (Grimes and fellow child actress Carol Coombs-Mueller) to the “Real Bedford Falls” for the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival. Not only that, the two will sign autographs, host hors d’oeuvres and a wine tasting at the Hotel Clarence and introduce the film at a special screening on Sunday. Additionally, Grimes will share insights about the film on Friday night.

Also coming to Seneca Falls for the festival is highly regarded artist Joe Yakovetic, who has worked with the Disney Company for 30 years and joined Time-Warner in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the film classics, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone With the Wind,” by creating a line of fine art paintings. Yakovetic specializes in “live performance painting” and will have original paintings for sale featuring “It’s a Wonderful Life” that he will paint during the weekend.

Other activities during this festival weekend include tours of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Museum; horse-drawn carriage rides; children’s activities; the third annual Bells of the Real Bedford Falls at 4 p.m. on Dec. 9, when bells will ring throughout Seneca Falls; and the Seneca Community Players performing their annual tribute, “Merry Christmas George Bailey.” (See the Calendar of Events for all activities and times.) Make a full weekend of it with an overnight stay at the Hotel Clarence, a boutique hotel named for the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“Watching this movie is a tradition,” said Grimes. “People have brought this movie into their homes and hearts. It is a movie with many layers, one that gives inspiration and hope and shows that each one of us is important - we do matter.

“We’re going to keep watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for many years to come.”

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