Rural Canadians learn from U.S. region: Part 12

Seneca Falls was our next stop. This small town is working hard from many angles to revitalize its local economy and tourist attractions.

The tour of the Finger Lakes by rural small business owners from Norfolk County, Canada, was organized by Norfolk County Tourism & Economic Development and sponsored by Ontario’s Southwest Tourism.

Bronze statues

Bronze statues in the Women’s Rights National Historic Park / Photo: Clark Hoskin

In 1848, Seneca Falls hosted the first women’s rights convention in the U.S., a historical event. Today, this history is celebrated at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. Our bus arrived here, and Kimberly Szewczyk of the Park and Jeff Shipley and Mackenzie Green of the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce greeted us.

After a tour around the building, we headed to the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry. The curator, Chris Podzuweit, explained that the town no longer has falls, because they were flooded to make way for an expansion of the Erie Canal in 1918. A boater on Long Point Bay in Lake Erie can sail to Seneca Falls, via the canal, and then onto the Atlantic Ocean.

Seneca Falls has developed its waterfront through landscaping and improving canal tie-up facilities, offering a “free wall” – free water, electrical service and showers to boaters. Extended stays in Seneca Falls are encouraged with the installation of a boardwalk and lighting. Almost 200 years old, the Erie Canal remains important to the town’s economy.

Don Earle, Town Supervisor for Seneca Falls, also greeted us. He explained the Town’s recent amalgamation with the village resulted in savings for taxpayers.

It's A Wonderful Life Festival

It’s A Wonderful Life Festival, 2009 – Lineup for autograph of actress who played Zsuzsu in the movie / Photo: Clark Hoskin

Seneca Falls holds the annual It’s A Wonderful Life Festival in December, celebrating the town’s curious connections to the classic holiday film. While planning the film in 1944, director Frank Capra got a haircut here on his way to visit his aunt. The town of “Bedford Falls” in the film is said to have been inspired by Capra’s stop here. The winter festival now includes the It’s A Wonderful Run 5K, a successful fundraiser. Last year, over 3,100 people completed the race. Some in our group visited the WomanMade Products store in downtown Seneca Falls, a retail shop with a T-shirt factory in the back. The store features lots of clothing celebrating the Finger Lakes, women’s rights, and It’s A Wonderful Life.

Every August, Seneca Falls hosts Empire Farm Days, an annual agricultural exhibition that began as a potato farmers’ event in 1931. Hosted on a 300-acre farm south of town, the event is the largest outdoor agricultural trade show in the Northeastern U.S.

These were just a few of the stops along the way on the Norfolk County Finger Lakes Study Tour. Watch this blog for more chapters in the story. See photos of the trip on the Invest in Norfolk facebook page.

(c) Clark Hoskin 2015

Finger Lakes Study Tour blog posts

  • Part 1: Wine & Culinary Centre | Technology Farm
  • Part 2: Winewagen Tours
  • Part 3: Weaverview Farms | Milly’s Pantry
  • Part 4: Yates County Arts Centre | Finger Lakes Ec Dev
  • Part 5: Climbing Bines Hop Yard & Brewery
  • Part 6: Wiemer Vineyards | Glenora Cellars
  • Part 7: Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel | Ice Bar
  • Part 8: Finger Lakes Distilling
  • Part 9: Cornell Lab of Ornithology | Ithaca Commons
  • Part 10: Americana Vineyards
  • Part 11: Seneca County Army Depot
  • Part 12: Seneca Falls
  • Part 13: Warfields Restaurant
  • Part 14: Debriefing at The Combine