When Benicians line up for the Torchlight Parade or gather for family picnics at City Park, they’ll be keeping traditions that began more than a century ago.

The Torchlight Parade dates to the late 1800s to early 1900s back when real torches provided illumination in the dark. Few worried about fires; the volunteer fire department was in charge. That version fell in and out of favor, returning for good in the 1970s in anticipation of the nation’s bicentennial.

The revival brought changes. Instead of at dark, the Torchlight Parade started in the afternoon. Unlike most Independence Day parades, the Torchlight Parade takes place July 3. The Fourth of July is reserved for the Picnic in the Park and fireworks. This year’s parade will start at 6:30pm July 3 on First Street at D Street and proceed along First Street to Benicia City Park at First Street and Military. There, entries will be judged, said Deborah Housman, event coordinator.

Spectators likely will see bands, dance groups and other participants this year. Awards also are available for floats, drum and bell corps, drill teams, majorettes, color guards, automobiles, novelty entries and mounted units. The American Legion Honor Guard, made up of the American LegionVeterans of Foreign WarsSons of the Legion and the organizations’ auxiliaries also will participate, as will the Napa-Solano Veteran Riders motorcycle organization, made up of veterans and associate members who ride in support of veteran issues.

Flag On Vintage Downtown Benicia Home

First Street will be closed by 1pm July 3, Housman said. “As a courtesy to First Street businesses, parade enthusiasts are reminded that chairs should not be laced along the parade route until after 9 in the morning on July 3.” She said that for safety’s sake, people shouldn’t tape or tie chairs together, and they should be placed far enough away from the curb to allow people to get in and out of their cars during the day. Once the parade starts, Housman cautioned, “Do not run out in the middle of the parade!”

Dave Horn is the emcee this year, and the entries will be judged by the Pacific Coast Judges Association. The next day, Benicians start congregating at noon at Benicia City Park, where they’ll be entertained by performers. They also can browse an open-air market. Plenty of children’s activities are offered through 7pm. Then it’s time for fireworks, which will fill the sky with sound and color starting about 9pm July 4 at the foot of First Street. Information on these events are on the Benicia Main Street website, beniciamainstreet.org/benicia-events/annual/.

Later in July, Benicia Waterfront Festival will attract thousands to the end of First Street. This edition of the festival has been going on for six years, although an earlier version took place from 1994 to 2006

“It’s a family-friendly event, and lawn chairs are okay to bring. Just no pets,” Housman said. Food and drinks are allowed inside the event boundaries, she said, adding that the festival is a two-day celebration of Benicia’s picturesque waterfront locale and the First Street Green.

Visitors will sample craft beers or have wine by the glass, obtain tasty foods, shop at the vendor village and watch their children have fun at Activity Alley. Highwater Blues, TinMan, Divalicious, House of Floyd, West Grand Boulevard and Tortilla Soup will provide musical entertainment throughout the two days.

The Benicia Waterfront Festival will take place from 11am to 6pm July 28-29. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for those 65 and older and $15 for an adult weekend pass. Children younger than 12 will be admitted free with a paid adult admission. Tickets are available online at eventbrite.com/e/benicia-waterfront-festival-2018-tickets-42434579971. Those interested may visit beniciamainstreet.org and its social media pages, facebook.com/beniciamainst and on Twitter, @beniciamainst.