The village of Seneca Falls, New York claims that it was the inspiration for Bedford Falls in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. Every December, the town has an annual It's a Wonderful Life Festival. The town boasts both The Hotel Clarence, named for George Bailey's guardian angel, and the It's a Wonderful Life Museum. This year, "The Bailey Sisters", Karolyn “Zuzu” Grimes and Carol “Janie” Coombs as well as Mary Owen, the daughter of Donna Reed, will attend the festival. The town will also give out the 10th annual George Bailey Award - "to honor an individual who embodies the spirit of George Bailey by consistently contributing to the lives of his/her neighbors. The award especially seeks to recognize individuals who have not received awards previously and without whom Seneca Falls would be a very different place." The festival website has a very interesting article discussing the reasons why the town, despite never being mentioned by Frank Capra, may be able to claim it's the "real" Bedford Falls. Here's an excerpt from that article and a link to the Festival website:
The final proof offered for the town’s claim is the story that Frank Capra visited the town in late 1945. He was going to visit an aunt in nearby Auburn and stopped in Seneca Falls and had his hair cut. Barber Tommy Bellissima didn’t know who Frank Capra was at the time, but when the movie came out, he recognized the name of his famous patron on the poster. He remembered Capra because the two had talked at length about their lives in Italy and common experiences as immigrants. The name stuck with Bellissima because capra in Italian means goat.
But Capra never mentioned Seneca Falls in his memoirs, and nothing about the town is found in his archives. No definitive proof has been found that Frank Capra visited Seneca Falls and brought the image of the town back with him to Hollywood.
Bedford Falls might just be a composite of small towns across America, set in Upstate New York. But the fact is no town in Upstate New York has as many similarities to the town in It’s A Wonderful Life as does Seneca Falls. Either by design or extraordinary coincidence, when Frank Capra created Bedford Falls, he replicated Seneca Falls.