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‘Runaway Bride’ 20th anniv. brings celebration to Berlin

Administrative Assistant Allison Early, left, and Ivy Wells, Berlin’s economic and community development director, pose with cardboard cutouts of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere as part of the 20th anniversary of “Runaway Bride.” The town has month-long plans for celebrations.

By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer

(Aug. 1, 2019) It’s the 20th anniversary of the romantic comedy, “Runaway Bride,” and Berlin has planned a month-long celebration for it.

It’s the first time festivities have been planned to recognize the 1999 movie that was filmed in town, said Ivy Wells, Berlin’s economic and community development director.

In the film, Richard Gere plays a journalist who tracks down a bride, Julia Roberts, who became notorious for leaving her grooms at the altar. The film is set in the town of “Hale,” a reference to the Hale Harrision Brilliant Peach grown by the Harrison Brothers orchards and nurseries from the turn of the century to the 1960s.

Wells said filming in town “put us in the national spotlight,” and people often come to see the place where Roberts, Gere and Joan Cusack walked the same streets.

“It’s your quintessential small town family atmosphere,” she said.

While Wells said there is a self-guided walking tour, visitors were the inspiration to go a bit bigger for the anniversary.

“It’s actually a response to what the people who visit the town want,” she said.

Wells also tested the waters to gauge public interest about the month-long idea with a post on the Town of Berlin’s Facebook page on July 18. It received 478 reactions, 69 comments and 136 shares as of Tuesday morning.

Wells added there are multiple ways people can celebrate the film.

Residents and visitors can get their photo with cardboard cutouts of Roberts and Gere at a photo station at the Berlin Visitors Center on 14 S. Main St. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Wells also said the shops featured in the movie would have posters, and the lamp posts will be decorated with “wedding bows to make it look like you’re walking down the aisle when you drive into town.”

Additionally, she said there’s a free guided walking tour at 4 p.m. on Mondays, as well as a 25-question movie trivia game where guests with 10 correct answers would be eligible for a free one-night stay at the Atlantic Hotel on Main Street in downtown Berlin. Completed trivia papers should be submitted to a collection box in the welcome center’s vestibule.

The event will culminate with the showing of Runaway Bride at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 at the intersection of Jefferson and Main streets. Berlin’s Arts and Entertainment Committee is hosting the event.

Wells said Jefferson Street would be closed for the movie.

Robin Tomaselli, vice president of the Arts and Entertainment Committee, which is hosting the event, said guests could participate in a wedding-themed costume contest with prizes awarded to the best-dressed man, woman and child. A parade on Jefferson Street is also planned.

“It’s a good way to celebrate the movie, to celebrate the history of Berlin … and it should be a fun free event for people of all ages,” Tomaselli said.

Tomaselli also said moviegoers will sit in style with cafe table and chairs. The cost will be $40, and will include light fare, a beverage and a piece of wedding cake., with profits going to the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee.

Wells added the Atlantic Hotel would also have a dinner special with a luau theme.

With the month-long shindig the town is throwing, Wells said she hopes people appreciate how the movie’s location affected the town.

“So many movies are filmed on Hollywood sets, and this was actually filmed in the town, in the shops, on the street,” Wells said.

Tomaselli agreed.

“I have seen that movie a thousand times, but there is something really wild about sitting on that street close to the porch of the Atlantic Hotel and viewing that movie, and realizing that it was filmed here,” Tomaselli said. “Even seeing what the town looked like back then.”

Tomaselli also said she understands why area residents hold a special place in their hearts for Runaway Bride and the fictional town of Hale.

“I didn’t live here then, but a lot of people that lived and worked here, and still live and work here remember that as being just a really incredible time in Berlin’s history, which is why I think people continue to bring it up even though it’s been so long since it was shot,” she said.

Wells said she hopes increasing awareness of the month-long celebration could even drum up attendance from the film’s actors.

“Who knows maybe Richard Gere, Joan Cusack or Julia Roberts may show up one day,” she said. “Please come we welcome you.”