From a handful of antiques dealers who offered their wares to shoppers in 1963, the Benicia Peddlers’ Fair has grown to 300 vendors from several states catering to crowds of up to 30,000 on Benicia’s First Street Aug. 11.
They’ll be shopping for plants, jewelry, musical instruments, quilts, dolls, furniture, vintage toys and artwork. The all-volunteer event is a tradition that helps a good cause—the preservation of one of Benicia’s historic churches and support for such local charities as the Community Action Council, Benicia High School Key Club and the church’s own “Feed the Hungry” Wednesday night dinners.
The Benicia Peddlers’ Fair was originally conceived by the parishioners of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, at First and J streets, as a way to raise money for improvements and repairs to three buildings: the main church building, the parish hall and the old rectory that now is the parish office, said the fair’s chairperson and coordinator Julie Mackenzie.
Now the fair is 55 years old, and it will fill First Street with vendors. Some of them will arrive as early as 2am Aug. 11 to start setting up, so they can have their booths open by 7am. The routine is old hat to some vendors who have been regulars since the 1970s, Mackenzie said. Among those are Patricia Gibson of Pat’s Antiques and Georgia Stewart Antiques, as well as service clubs and the Napa/Sonoma County Firefighters Union that will sell food or beverages. Peggy Peterson’s Asylum Down sells African baskets, musical instruments and collectibles; and the Mount Diablo Iris Society offers prized bulbs for sale.
Jose Cabezas will perform Andean music and sell wood pan flutes at Ancient Winds. Jim Kay of Sequoia Sunset Old Books is returning, as is Bruce Morton of Sonoma Tin Type, a photographer with vintage costumes. Fans of shabby chic, Steampunk, French pillows, collectible toys, vintage yoyos, marbles, dolls, board games, stuffed animals, metal art and sculptures will find plenty of selections at this year’s fair.
“Also very popular and something we are proud of is the antique and collectible appraiser we bring in to the fair,” Mackenzie said. From 11am until 2pm that day, Steve Yvaska will appraise shoppers’ and residents’ family heirlooms except military memorabilia, guns, knives or fine jewelry.
Shoppers who need a break may visit the hospitality tent supplied by longtime host Valero Benicia Refinery. Assistance helpers and lost and found items will be at that pavilion, too. For years, the refinery has given the fair $2,500 that offsets safety and security expenses. Valero also underwrites the free Children’s Art corner on the lawn of the Benicia State Capitol. “Here, children can work with wood, paint and paper to make crowns, beaded bracelets and necklaces, with the help of St. Paul volunteers and with parental supervision," said Mackenzie. “The fair also gives visitors a chance to see Benicia’s downtown area, browse its shops, dine in its restaurants and take in its waterfront views,” she added.
The Benicia Peddlers’ Fair will take place from 8am to 5pm, Saturday, Aug. 11 on First Street from J Street to the Tannery Building at B Street. First Street will be closed to traffic at 1:30am to 7pm.