Ah, spring! The season of renewal kicks into high gear this month, ushering in a host of fun-filled opportunities. From classic cars to roller coasters to great bowls of chili, you’ll find inspiration in the season’s offerings.

Great Bowls of Chili Challenge
Saturday, March 23, 12-4pm

The Chili Challenge promises to be another sold-out event, with local eateries and groups cooking up their take on the best classic version or an entirely unique chili. The competition is fierce! Benicia Clock Tower, beniciamainstreet.org.

Vallejo Symphony Orchestra
Sunday, April 7, 2013, 3pm

Pre-concert talk featuring Melanie Keller, 2pm

The highly acclaimed Vallejo Symphony Orchestra, seventh oldest in California, performs its spring concert, "Storms and Passions” featuring Fauré, Fantaisie for Flute and Orchestra (Melanie Keller, flute), Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4 in F minor and Schumann, Overture to "Manfred." Lander Hall, Touro University, Mare Island, vallejosymphony.org.

Benicia Farmers Market
Opens April 25

For the past 21 years, Benicians have gathered at the foot of First Street for the weekly Farmers Market. Fresh produce of all kinds including organic options, local honey, freshly baked breads and sweets, specialty food items and more. Live entertainment, hot food vendors and kids’ activities make for an entertaining social event while you shop. Foot of First Street, beniciamainstreet.org.

Opening Day on the Straits
Saturday, April 20

Taking a cue from the upcoming America’s Cup races in SF, this year’s theme for Opening Day is “Our Cup Runneth Over.” Festivities include the decorated boat parade, arts & crafts, food, games for kids, live music, dinner and dancing and annual blessing of the fleet. Festivities began at 10am. The Yacht Club is open to nonmembers. Beverages at the bar and dinner tickets are available for purchase. Benicia Yacht Club, beniciayachtclub.com
Photo Credit: Boats on the Strait, by Derith Lutz

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Opening Weekend March 16 & 17

The 135-acre park features some of the most thrilling roller coasters around, combined marine life, wildlife and wild rides. Forty rides and wildlife attractions will keep you busy for an entire day. If free-falling is your thing, you can practice your screams on the Medusa’s 50 foot plunge. Six Flags Vallejo, sixflags.com/discoverykingdom.
Photo credit: Photos Courtesy of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

San Francisco International Film Festival
Thursday, April 25 – Thursday, May 9

Established in 1957, the SFIFF is the longest running film festival in the Americas. This year’s two-week event features some impressive numbers: 289 screenings of 174 films in 41 languages from 45 countries, by 201 filmmakers from over 20 countries. The cinematic event generally attracts upwards of 80,000 attendees. Various screening locations in San Francisco, sffs.org.
Photo credit: Photos by Tommy Lau, courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Benicia Classic Car Show
Sunday, April 28, 7am-3pm

This annual waterfront event benefitting the Benicia High School Band program features a huge assortment of pre-1976 American-made cars and trucks. A professional DJ and the BHS Jazz Band will provide music while you peruse the maze of vehicles, craft booths and car-related merchandise. First Street Green, sites.google.com/a/pantherbandboosters.com/www/car-show.
Photo credits: Classic Cars and Trucks, Sheri Hoffmann/Panther Band

Arts Benicia Artist Open Studios
May 4 & 5

Thousands of visitors descend on Benicia for this annual event where artists open their studios to the public. Armed with a map, attendees can view art for sale in galleries and studios, many of which are live-work spaces. Learn about art and chat with local artists. Benicia Historic Arsenal and Downtown Benicia, artsbenicia.org.
Photo credit: Shipping Lane II, mixed media on panel, 36” X 36”, 2012, by Carol Dalton

Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival
Saturday, May 18 – Sunday, May 19, 6am-10pm

Sonoma Raceway is celebrating the Chevrolet Corvette’s 60th anniversary at this year’s Festival. Corvettes from several decades will be featured on the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course with nearly 400 historic racecars competing. Every ticket is a pit pass for an up-close look at the cars and their owners. A food & wine pavillion will offer tastings. Sonoma Raceway, racesonoma.com.
Photo Credit: Larry Bittner Racing his 2007 Corvette Z06