Each year in Jamestown, N.Y., thousands of Lucille Ball fans come to the actress' hometown to celebrate her career as a part of the Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy, which features standup comedy by known and up-and-coming comedians, outdoor screenings of Ball's films and all kinds of Lucy-related events.
This year, the festival was held from Aug. 1 to 5 and area commercial director and still photographer Lorena Beniquez was given the opportunity to lead a film crew from western Pa. to create a documentary about all the red-head-related fun.
"I can't even tell you how many Lucy impersonators were there," Beniquez said. "It was tremendous. It was so well done."
PHOTO By TREVOR SNOOK
This year, the festival featured a brand new event inspired by the Olympics called the "Lucy World Games," for which contestants competed in classic scenes from "I Love Lucy."
"One of the events was stuffing chocolates into boxes and then another event was stomping grapes," she said. "The winners would get a T-shirt that said, 'Lucy Games.' They tied it in with the Olympics and they even had a torch!"
Other competitions included a costume contest and a trivia contest.
One of the most surprising things about the festival, for Beniquez, was the diversity of Lucy fans.
"It's amazing the range of people that go there," she said. "Everyone from millenials who discovered the show through Nick at Nite to fans who watched 'I Love Lucy' when it originally aired."
The festival also attracts celebrities who name themselves among the Lucy devotees. Some of the past big names who have performed are Ray Romano, Whoopie Goldberg and Ellen Degeneres. Beniquez had the opportunity to film this year's stars for the documentary.
"We interviewed Paula Poundstone. We interviewed Lucy Arnaz, who is the daughter of Lucy and Desi. We also interviewed Billy Gardell, who is one of CBS' top-rated comedians right now," she said. "He's on the hit show 'Mike and Molly.' "
The comedians told her over and over about how important Lucille Ball was to them and to comedy.
"From what we were told from the female comedians is that she blazed the trail for all comedians that came after her," Beniquez said. "What keeps her relevant is that her comedy was about everyday situations. To this day, how they structured 'I Love Lucy,' that structure - using the two-camera system - is still used in modern sitcoms."
Beniquez said her crew documented the Lucy celebration over a four-day span, shooting for 14 hours a day.
"It was guerrilla filmmaking," she said. "The whole crew was from western Pa. and they were amazing to work with - they were wonderful professionals."
And although the shooting is finished, the film isn't completed just yet.
"We are not there yet," she said. "We are in post-production. I'm in the process of writing the script now. That's me all by myself, with input from producer Jeff Clark."
Beniquez said that the film already has been accepted to The Boonies International Film Festival in Warren, Pa.
"The Boonies slant is that they celebrate rural films and Jamestown is rural," she said.
Jamestown actually reminded her a lot of Williamsport.
"It's about the same size and everyone knows everyone," she said. "That made it easy to find out who knew her, who met her and to do research. If you needed someone's phone number, you would ask the waitress and you would get it. It's a beautiful arts town."
As of yet, there are no local screenings of the documentary scheduled.
For more information about Lucy Fest, visit www.lucycomedyfest.com.