Benicia welcomes the heart of summer fun this month, beginning with its two-day Independence celebration, starting with the Torchlight Parade July third, and family picnics and fireworks on the Fourth of July.
The historic parade was started more than a century ago by the city’s volunteer fire department. Participants used real torches to see, since the parade took place at night. After a hiatus, it was revived in 1975 just before the Bicentennial year, and moved to afternoon hours July third to avoid conflicts with other cities’ parades—and let others come see Benicia’s procession. The Torchlight Parade starts at 6:30pm, July third on First Street at D Street, and can have up to 120 entries, said Nancy Martinez, Benicia Main Street Executive Director. It ends at City Park, Military and First Street, where a secret panel selects winners.
Jeannie and Tim Hamann, owners of Hamann Real Estate, are this year’s grand marshals, honored for their Hamann Foundation that helps cancer victims. Behind them will be the City Council, studios’ dancers, athletes, gymnasts, dog club members with their pets, commercial entries, automobile clubs’ vintage show cars, Benicia Old Town Theatre Group representatives and, new this year, Travis Air Force Base’s entry. One unusual past entry involved people flipping a hefty tractor tire along the parade route.
On Independence Day, Benicians gather for the Picnic in the Park, packing food, grilling onsite or buying from vendors, including Soroptomists’ ice cream booth. “This event is a wonderful way to spend the Fourth,” she said. Entertainment includes singer Michelle Lambert and the group Tin Man. Children can play in Jubilee Jump’s jumpy house, Martinez said.
Benicia’s fireworks display will start about 9pm on July Fourth. After collaborative talks among the Oakland fireworks company, Pyrotechnic Spectaculars by Souza, Benicia Fire Department and Main Street, the launch site is back at the pier, to give viewers a better show. “We’re so excited about that,” Martinez said.
Other summer fun includes the Ghost Walks, starting at 8pm, the third Friday of each month. Reservations are required, and can be made by calling 707.745.9791.
Golden Bough returns July 26 to the Benicia Historical Museum at 2060 Camel Road. Doors open at 7pm, and the concert starts at 8pm. Their show,“Travelin’ Songs—the Best of American Folk,” highlights the ensemble’s sweet vocals and expert instrumentation. Tickets are $25, available at the museum’s office, at Bookshop Benicia, 636 First St., and online at BrownPaperTickets.com and Beniciahistoricalmuiseum.org.
The annual Benicia Waterfront Festival, from 11am to 6pm, Saturday, July 27, and Sunday, July 28, celebrates the city’s picturesque setting. Originally a seafood festival, it grew for 14 years until Main Street traded it for a jazz festival that lasted several years. But it was missed. Enthusiasts persuaded Main Street seven years ago to revive the Waterfront Festival, now a major regional festival, Martinez said. Attendees enjoy live music, wine and craft beer tasting, and the chance to buy various foods and shop at a vendor village. Children have a special activity area. Performing July 27 are DJ Black Ice, In Living Cover and Foreverland, a Michael Jackson tribute band, and July 28 are House of Floyd, Neon Velvet and Tortilla Soup, a blend of new and returning acts.
Daily admission is $10, $4 for those 65 and older and free to those 12 and younger accompanied by paid adults. A weekend general pass is $15. Tickets are available online at Beniciamainstreet.org.
A Taste of First Street, from 6pm to 9pm, Tuesday, Aug. 20, lets ticket buyers sample cuisine tastes from participating First Street restaurants and have two glasses of wine. Tickets are $35 for singles and two for $65, available from Benicia Main Street.
Benicia Public Library, 150 East L St., has a packed-full summer schedule in air-conditioned comfort. On the calendar are book club meetings, writing sessions, senior movies, electronic and table games, classes and reading programs and other activities that continue all the way through fall.
Its schedule is available online at Benicialibrary.org.