This year, the City of Benicia and Benicia Main Street made the difficult decision to cancel the annual Torchlight Parade on July 3rd and the firework picnic on July 4th due to a concern over mass gatherings. City Manager, Erik Upson, explained, “In Benicia, we don’t have the facilities that would allow us to limit the size of mass gatherings.” The annual parade often brings in around 20,000 spectators, so this is a critical issue to consider. He went on to state that “The safety of our community remains our top priority. We have the end of this pandemic in sight and can look forward to celebrating again as a community next year.”

Although we are all saddened by another year without one of our favorite summer traditions, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy this beautiful July weather! Small neighborhood celebrations are not only allowed, but encouraged. Call up your friends and family and plan a fun backyard barbeque with us!

The backyard barbecues, as we know them today, became popular in the early 1960s; they were the go-to family event on a sunny weekend. Dad would stand in front of the grill, barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers. Mom would make homemade lemonade by the pitcher and watch as the kids ran through sprinklers. When the food was ready, the entire family would gather around the picnic table and enjoy a delicious meal over its white and red checkered tablecloth.

Charcuterie spread with wine
Salad bowl on picnic table

Soon, these backyard parties turned into a neighborhood event. Multiple families would gather together to sip cocktails and play games together in the summer heat. It was an excuse to spend quality time with friends and extended family. Now, the All-American backyard barbeque is something most of us look forward to every summer.

Planning a backyard BBQ can be a daunting task, so we put together a few tips and tricks to help you out.
  1. Prep, prep, prep. Try to prep as much as you can ahead of time so you can enjoy the party.
  2. Assign each guest a side dish, appetizer, or dessert. Cooking the entire meal is a ridiculous amount of work for one person, and everybody loves a chance to share their best recipes.
  3. If the weather cooperates, consider setting up the table and games the night before or the morning of the party. That way, you have more time to rest before the party starts.
  4. Batch cocktails and bottled/canned drinks are your best friend. It’s no fun to get stuck at the bar making drinks all afternoon. I’m a massive fan of “serve yourself” mimosa bars and Cutwater Cocktails.
  5. Ask your guests about dietary restrictions and hot dog vs. hamburger preferences before you go to the grocery store. Knowing how much of every item you need cuts back on stress and unnecessary waste.
  6. Set up some outdoor wastebaskets. There will be tons of napkins, beer bottles, etc., and you don’t want to be cleaning up after people all night.
  7. To avoid awkward introductions and set the right mood, invest in a Bluetooth speaker to play music. (Check out our Benicia Magazine Playlist for this month, it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser)
  8. Outdoor lighting. It will get dark, so I suggest you put out some tiki torches or any other outside lighting the day before the party.

Whether you’re planning on hosting a BBQ, hitting the road or taking a flight, all require a perfectly curated playlist to get that summer feeling started. Creating this perfect playlist can take hours or even days of searching music apps, adding and subtracting songs, making sure the mood is just right. To help take that stress away (we’ve all had enough of that this past year) we’ve put together a mix for any occasion. This list is compiled of old classics, recent hits and up and coming artists. Simply put this playlist on repeat and relax all summer long.

  1. American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  2. Golden – Harry Styles
  3. Steal My Sunshine – LEN
  4. Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix) (feat. Stevie Nicks) – Miley Cyrus, Stevie Nicks
  5. Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
  6. Cruel Summer – Taylor Swift
  7. The Best – Tina Turner
  8. It’s Note Living (If It’s Note With You) – The 1975
  9. Island In The Sun – Weezer
  10. Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley
  11. Dancing Queen – ABBA
  12. Middle of Love – Jake Wesley Rogers
  13. Left Hand Free – alt-J
  14. Gimme Shelter – The Rollings Stones
  15. Sunflower, Vol. 6 – Harry Styles
  16. Let’s Go Crazy – Prince

Listen on Spotify.


As if the planning wasn’t tricky enough, now it’s time for the execution! Here’s the basic party schedule I’ve found works best.


As soon as guests arrive, offer them a beverage from the cooler or point them toward the mimosa bar. Don’t forget to grab yourself a drink as well; this is a party, after all.

12:00 pm

Yard games and snacks! Giant Jenga, corn hole, lawn darts, and backyard bowling will keep guests entertained for hours.

Make sure that the playlist is on, and the speaker is turned up; let’s set the right energy early on.


Time to start grilling! Take orders from all of the guests, and be sure to throw vegetarian options on the grill first to avoid any meat-contact problems.

Announce last call at 4:30. You’ve been grilling for two hours and you deserve a break. This is also a great time to make sure there’s plenty of water available. It’s hot, and some of your guests have been sipping cocktails since noon.

5:00 pm

Time for dessert! Clear off the snacks table and bring out the brownies, cupcakes, and miscellaneous treats your guests have baked (or bought).

If you’ve planned arts and crafts, this is the best time to get it started. People are mellowing out; their thirst is quenched, their tummies are full, a mini DIY project is perfect for keeping everyone entertained.

8:00-9:00 pm

You’ve reached the finish line. The sun is going down, so it’s time to turn on those lights and get the fire pit going, if you have one.

It’s helpful to set out some Ziploc bags or disposable Tupperware for guests to bring home any leftovers. Everybody worked hard on the food, so we don’t want to throw anything away.


Party’s over, kids, so any guests overstaying their welcome can help with the cleanup. Hopefully, most of the trash has found its way to the wastebaskets, and the majority of leftovers are with your friends who’ve already left.

If you’re anything like me, then you’ll be perfectly fine rinsing off plates, glasses, and silverware, then simply leaving them in the dishwasher for tomorrow. You’ve done a lot today, and your bed is calling your name, so the backyard games and furniture can wait.

If you host or attend a backyard BBQ this month, share your photos with us or tag us @beniciamagazine on Instagram so we can see how much fun you had!

Salad bowl on picnic table
Charcuterie spread with wine
Hand-sewn apron from Happy Life Pottery in yellow
Mt. Beautiful wine, two bottles on ice

Bamboo salad bowl: This bowl is made of solid bamboo, it is ecologically friendly and gorgeous $78, Tongs $12

Classic highball glass: Beautifully designed and perfect for summertime cocktails $12 each

Romancing the Home – 617 First Street- 707.747.1717

Cutting boards in two sizes: Recycle, redesign, reuse – Napa Sonoma Wine barrel head Cheese tray. Large-$60,  Small $50

Hand sown fun & funky aprons: Completely reversible with an adjustable neck strap & three pockets on either side! Comes in 2 lengths $35 short $40 long

632 First Street, 707.742.3411,

Bruehol Beer: Bruehol specializes in German style pilsners, lagers, and good ol’ American IPAs!

4828 E. Second Street. 707.327.6768

Mt. Beautiful wine: Mt. Beautiful has excellent wine pairings for smoked meats and other BBQ fare.

Order online and pickup in town.

High ball glasses
Hand-sewn apron from Happy Life Pottery
Bruehol beer, three crowlers and a mug overflowing with beer