Evelyn Casini casually eyed the throngs of visitors lining the main road that slices through the normally sleepy Sonoma County town of Bodega. She leaned against a post in front of the Casino Bar and Grill, which has been in her family since 1912, hardly even offering a glance as a woman walked by with stuffed crows hanging from her hair and blouse.
“It still brings people in,” she said, referring to the 1963 film The Birds, which was partially filmed in the town. “It actually put us on the map, let’s put it that way.”
Casini remembered when the film crew invaded the town. No one had seen anything like that before. And no one had seen anyone like Alfred Hitchcock.
“It was something we didn’t expect to see,” Casini said. “Mr. Hitchcock was bigger than big at that time.”
Over the Labor Day weekend, the town held a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of The Birds. The Potter School House and the Saint Teresa of Avila Church played prominent roles in the film, and are often sought out by visitors. Casini said even before all the anniversary hoopla, people would flock to the town to searching for the movie's locations.
“I have people from all over the world come here, in the middle of the night, during a storm,” Casini said. “I ask them how did you find this place and they say ‘The Birds!”
Some towns might shy away from such fame. But Bodega is embracing it. On Monday, a life-sized wax Hitchcock welcomed visitors to the Bodega Country Store which was selling Hitchcock bobble head dolls and refrigerator magnets.
A local property owner decorated a swing set and monkey bars with stuffed crows and was selling tickets to take pictures with them. The owner of the Potter School House, which is now a private residence, was selling tickets to tour the building for Labor Day only. The money was going to the Bodega Land Trust.
“It was scheduled to be demolished,” said Bodega Country Store Owner Mike Fahmie. “Alfred Hitchcock saved the schoolhouse by using it for filming.”
Fahmie has his own collection of Birds memorabilia inside his office next to his store. Movie posters and props from the film line the walls. Fahmie said he never tires of the visitors who come asking questions about the film.
“There’s very few places where you can actually go and touch something,” Fahmie said, “or see something from that era still around.”
On Monday, a brass band paraded down the Bodega Highway with a cast of people dressed as either Hitchcock or the film’s star Tippi Hedren parading behind. The real Hedren was five miles away in Bodega Bay signing autographs for fans in the Tides Restaurant which was also featured in the film.
Actress Veronica Cartwright who was 12-years old when she nabbed a featured role in the movie, padded through Bodega posing for pictures with fans.
“What’s scary about the whole thing is you see birds every day,” Cartwright said. “And here in this town you have it running everywhere. It’s hysterical.”
For many, though, the draw is the town itself, which looks a lot like it did in the 1800s. Old wooden buildings once held general stores – and time has spared the Saint Teresa of Avila Church which was built by shipbuilders in 1859.
Cornelliea O’Neill of Santa Rosa was impressed the town still looks like it did when menacing movie birds swooped out of the sky to attack school children on the schoolyard.
“I just think it’s still authentic,” O’Neill said. “It’s still old. It looks like the movie. Just nobody’s running.”