Benicia brings music, food and shopping with the festival


BENICIA – After a two-year hiatus due to a pandemic, the Benicia Waterfront Festival has returned with plenty of family fun.

“It was amazing to be back,” said Nancy Martinez, general manager of the Benicia Main Street program.

The Main Street Program is a state and national network of downtown revitalization projects coordinated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Benicia was chosen to be one of fifteen demonstration towns to participate in the program in 1987. The selection was based on the expressed commitment of the Town, town center businesses, landlords and residents to support this program .

The Benicia Waterfront Festival lasted around 10 years before stopping in the 90s. Later it was replaced by a jazz festival and in recent years it has become a festival with several different types of bands.

“Tortilla Soup Band came back again this year in the same timeslot because that’s what they love,” Martinez said. “They also come with a lot of fans.”

About 40 vendors came for Benicia’s annual waterfront festival, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Susan Hiland/Daily Republic)

Thus, the Waterfront Festival was revived, focusing on rock music and merchants. Since then, it’s been going strong with visitors packing the city center.

This year they have 40 food vendors and merchants as well as three groups each day.

They wanted to do the festival last year but didn’t feel comfortable with the Covid exhibits and decided to postpone it for another year.

“It worked because the groups we had booked before were available and we didn’t have to search for new ones,” she said.

Unfortunately, a few of the regular vendors have had to close and will not be returning to the fair.

“They just couldn’t go on because these events are their job and it was all shut down,” Martinez said.

Saturday’s bands included Wake the Neighbors, Strange Brew and In Living Color.

On Sunday, the bands will be House of Floyd, Cut Loose and Tortilla Soup, who have performed at the event for several years.

Anna Matlos-Massey and her husband David Massey traveled from Grass Valley to support the band Wake the Neighbors, who played the former.

“I’ve known bass players since I was 10,” Anna said.

“The weather was really nice today,” said David. “It was an easy ride.”

It was the first time they came to the event.

Cigar Box Kitchen is a new supplier this year. Steve Zwetsch and his partner Chris Morgon started looking for parts to make guitars. Guitars made from cigar boxes, cookie tins, and even a three-string pool stand were on display and for sale.

“Three strings are easier to start with than six,” Zwetsh said.

Lead vocalist Cornelius ‘Eric’ Warmerdam of Wake the Neighbors performs at the Benicia Waterfront Festival, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Susan Hiland/ Daily Republic)

“We just started hosting events about four years ago,” Zwetsh said. “So far everything has gone pretty well. We get a lot of special requests from customers.

The festival also has bouncy houses for children as well as several food vendors.

The festival continues from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at First Street Green, 1st and East B Streets.

The main street program is always looking for volunteers for different events. Everyone is welcome.

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