Benicia Dog Festival: The Cause for Paws

Feature photo by Luke George

It’s no big secret that Benicia is a dog-friendly town. We could expound lengthily about all the dog-friendly amenities Benicia has to offer. However, until recently, there was one thing our town was missing: a dog festival. After the sensational success of last year’s Inaugural Dog Festival, we are happy to report that it is returning in October as the Second Annual Benicia Dog Festival.

Many of last year’s crowd-pleasing events will be making a comeback, such as the dog agility course, police dog demonstrations, and dog fashion show.

There will also be some differences. Last year’s event drew dog-lovers and their pooches from Benicia and surrounding cities who packed the First Street Green. This year, the City has granted an expansion of the festival onto First Street, allowing food and drink vendors in addition to the merchandise vendors, pet adoption, and microchipping stations. The red carpet for the fashion show will run along the pier parking lot at the end of First Street and in the roundabout, there will be a stage with live music. The beach along First Street will be open for dogs to enjoy off-leash – leashes will still be required everywhere else.

Beyond the popular success of last year’s Inaugural Dog Festival, it also was successful in fulfilling its greater purpose: raising money for emergency pet rescue organizations. The event founders, Gaul Culley and Kelly Dillingham hold this goal dear as they were moved by the displacement and endangerment of so many pets and other animals during the catastrophic California wildfires in recent years. They established a 501(c)(3) nonprofit through the Solano Association of Realtors specifically to support the organizations that provide care for animals during natural disasters. Approximately $30k was raised last year, all of which is made available to rescue organizations within 24 hours of an emergency.

Police dog demonstrations at Benicia Dog Festival

Photo by Andrea Grech

Those who attended last year’s festival enjoyed not only a convivial atmosphere for human and canine alike, but some also came away from the event with more than a good feeling.

Pet adoptions took place and are planned to take place again at this year’s festival. One attendee, Linh Pham provided us her experience of having found a new best friend last year:

Boba the rescue dog from Benicia Dog Festival

My husband and I heard about the Benicia Dog Festival and decided it would be a nice opportunity to get out for some fresh air. We also joked about how funny it would be if we came home with a dog. The festival was amazing. There were tons of vendors and pet owners out having a great time.

We came across the Rocket Dog Rescue booth, which had puppies and kitties available for adopting. Like everyone else, we just wanted to pick them up and play. But one dog was not like the others. He wasn’t hyper, just super chill, relaxed, and very cuddly. We instantly fell in love. Unlike my husband who grew up with pets, I had never owned a pet. We hadn’t come to the festival expecting to adopt, but we decided that having a furry friend to hang out with while working from home and as a deterrent for intruders would be a good idea. Rocket Dog made the adoption process quick, easy, and painless. Within 30 minutes, we were walking away with a new family member we renamed Boba.

There was an adjustment period, but we wouldn’t trade him for the world. Boba is far from the guard dog we thought he would be. He’s scared of everything but will follow you anywhere and gets into everything. He doesn’t bark when guests come over but is excited for new friends to play with and cries when they leave. He’s high-energy, yet puts himself to sleep at 8:30 every night. To say that we rescued him from an unfortunate situation may be true, but he is the one that makes our lives complete.

The Second Annual Benicia Dog Festival is scheduled to take place on Saturday,  October 15th, 2022. At the time of this writing, event organizers are hoping to expand the festivities into the week leading up to the festival with fun meetups and dog-friendly happy hours. The festival is still accepting vendors, sponsors, donors, and volunteers for this year’s event. You can find out more about the festival and how you can get involved at Vendor fees and donations are tax deductible.