Benicia Magazine Spring Quarterly 2024 Issue

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Spring Birding

ECRWSS PRSRT STD US POSTAGE PAID PORTLAND OR PERMIT NO. 2160 $5.00 Spring 2024 Please deliver 3/1/24
Wandering in the Wildflowers
2 • Benicia Magazine Hardware Ace i t Pedrot 830 Southampton Road 94510 CA Benicia, (707) 745-NUTS (6887) FOR A FLAWLESS BENICIA GARDEN Let our experts help you bring out the best in your yard Pedrotti Ace Hardware 830 Southampton Road Benicia, CA 94510 707.745.NUTS (6887) • 3
4 • Benicia Magazine Publisher Mary Hand Editor in Chief Genevieve Hand Art Director Cooper Mickelson Website Specialist Genevieve Hand Contributors T.L. Bergier Caitlin Emmett Kyle Gerner Mary Hand Linda Hastings Alexa Manning Darrell Mcelvane Cooper Mickelson Gethsemane Moss, Ed.D Kevin Nelson Dalia Nino Jean Purnell Penny Stell Maura Sullivan Angie Trumbo Social Media Specialist Dalia Nino Cover Photo Michael Van Auken Administrative Support Karina Escalante Alexa Manning Advertising Sales 707.980.1563 Contact Us 707.980.1563, PUBLISHER Benicia Publishing, LLC Benicia Magazine is published monthly by Benicia Publishing, LLC. Copyright © 2021, all rights reserved. Contents of Benicia Magazine cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without the written consent of the publisher. Opinions expressed in Benicia Magazine editorial or advertisements are those of the authors and advertisers, and may not reflect the opinion of Benicia Magazine’s management or publisher. Benicia Magazine, Downtown Benicia, CA 94510. 707.980.1563, Celebrating our 19th Year • 5
Art & Philanthropy 10 BHS Performing Arts Young Artists Blossom 12 Youth Art Emily Thompson Energizes Youth Art Education 32 Benicia Theatre Group Blithe Spirit Business 18 The Little Art Shop Locally Curated Hidden Benicia 34 They Make Baseball and Softball Happen Food & Drink 39 Bar None — Spiked Sparkling Basil Lemonade Community 14 Spring Cleaning Simplify in Thirty! 15 Women's History Month The Life of Dorothy Dandridge 16 Sports BHS Students Spring into Sports 22 Benicia Moms Group A Hub of Support 38 Events Calendar * Picket Fences continues on Bloom! Wandering in the Wildflowers Spring Birding Experiencing Wonder in the Local Wetlands Gandering at Gaggles 6 • Benicia Magazine Spring 2024 Cover Photo: Michael Van Auken 24 28 FEATURES AROUND TOWN From the Publisher Booktails She Would Be King by Tommy Orange Dinner & a Movie The Cafe at the Inn & Baseball 8 36 37 COLUMNS

On the Cover

Our cover models represent the blooming of talent amongst Benicia’s young people. Tamary, a junior at BHS, has danced for most of her life and Max, a multi talented performer, mastering several instruments as well as singing, is a BHS graduate. They had never met prior to the cover photo shoot but acted like professionals with years of experience.


Currently a sophomore at BHS, Tamary has been a student of dance since she was 3. She loves dance and has performed at many competitions while at Farnsworth Academy. Tamary is also an exceptional student who plans on furthering her education at San Diego State University where she will pursue her nursing degree.

Special thanks to Jenn from The Collektive for providing the beautiful dress worn by Tamary


A native Benician, you can often find Max helping out at various community events and service clubs, such as the Kiwanis. He is an Eagle Scout, a singer and a multiinstrumentalist whose hobbies include traveling the world.

Max has traveled internationally with Voena Choir. He notes that he’s been fortunate enough to travel to various places in Europe, to the UAE, as well as to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. These experiences have inspired in him a love of travel and of experiencing other cultures. Max, who joined Voena at age 7, remains involved with the choir and has since become a teacher there. Currently, Max is a student at DVC with plans to go to Cal next year.



BUSD New Student Enrollment

Enrollment for incoming Universal Transitional Kindergarten, Kindergarten and new Elementary & Secondary school students to BUSD opens in February

For Kindergarten: Your child must turn five years old by September 1, to enroll in Kindergarten

For Universal Transitional Kindergarten (UTK): BUSD is also offering Universal Transitional Kindergarten for all Benicia students who NOW turn five years old between September 2 and June 2. These dates are firm and exceptions are not considered.

All enrollment including for Universal Transitional Kindergarten is completed at each of our Elementary Schools starting the month of February and information can be found at

Open Enrollment for all Elementary students desiring to attend a school outside of their school of residence is held the month of March. The form will be opened on March 1 and can be found at on the BUSD website.

Please call the School directly for additional information and to schedule an appointment to complete the enrollment.

Benicia • 7
Unified School District 350 East K Street, Benicia, CA 707.747.8300
Dress from The Collektive

n From the Publisher

"The earth laughs in flowers."

Finally, it’s spring! Winter may have its allure, but there's nothing quite like the moment when the earth begins to wake up from its cold weather sleep. Benicia truly blossoms in spring. From the explosion of flowers at our vintage homes, to the burst of creativity in the arts, and the beginning of summer sports and recreation, the community comes to life in spring. With warm days almost here, let’s dream a bit about the arrival of spring.

March is for spring cleaning inside and out. Clearing debris and readying the garden for planting, perusing flower catalogs and planning your garden. It is also time to get rid of stuff that can really accumulate over winter. Check out Simplified Spaces, an article that takes you step by step on how to clear clutter.

Blossoming talent in the arts, both visual and performing, are on display this spring.

Benicia Theatre Group will produce Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, a classic comedy that has withstood time and trends. We sat in on the final night of casting and watched the actors exchange lines. It was a fascinating process in which each actor took on every character, and ultimately auditioned for every part … we almost had the lines down ourselves! Although no decisions were made before we departed, we are sure that the production will be fabulous. Not to be outdone, BHS is producing a dance showcase and Seussical, the musical. Both performances promise to be exceptional. Also this spring, Arts Benicia will be hosting several youth and family art events and classes. Under the leadership of Emily Thompson, Arts Benicia is hosting classes that include Family Art Day, after school programs, EcoArt Camp, and the Benicia Middle School exhibition.

What else does spring bring to Benicia youth? Sports, of course. I’m talking about volleyball, tennis, golf, track and field, swimming, softball and baseball. All blossoming on the fields at BMS and BHS. A great way to support the BHS marching band is to turn out for the Benicia Classic Car Show in April, great cars for a great cause.

This time of year is also when we celebrate moms and elevate women; those to whom spring blooms are most frequently gifted. Be sure to thank the mom in your life—biological or otherwise—for helping you blossom and bloom.

Finally, the most wonderful thing about spring is getting outside again. We live in an area where nature blooms with an intensity that is astounding. From wandering the flowers in the yards of lovely homes in old town, to bird-watching, to hiking and walking all over Benicia and beyond, it’s time to move. Walk, bike, hike or paddle, but get yourself outside to enjoy Benicia Spring. B



— MARY 8 • Benicia Magazine Post or send your suggestions & ideas to: | Columns | Letters • 9

Performing Artists

This Spring, Benicia’s youth takes the stage. We can expect a dance showcase and Seussical, the musical, to grace the Hayley Horn Auditorium. Led by Erica Pecho and Colleen McAdams respectively, Benicia High School’s students will bloom under the mentorship of experienced performers.

Seussical, directed by Colleen McAdams with assistance from English teacher Rachel Morgado, is slated to hit the stage this spring. McAdams, the new face of the Theater Department, put on her first show last fall. Though it was the first play she directed, the theater was full of laughs from audience members of every age.

As a vocal specialist, McAdams was faced with many challenges while producing The Play that Goes Wrong. Even so, the end product was an amazing experience for everyone involved. Most importantly, the students were empowered to have fun and take risks with their acting choices. I, myself, thoroughly enjoyed the show and it warmed my heart to see teens have such freedom and adventure.

Seussical is a show that McAdams is much more familiar with. After the success of the fall play, the spring musical is expected to wow. Classic stories by Dr. Seuss are blended with music and dance to build a fun show that is perfect for

at BHS

families to attend. Crowd favorites, such as Cat in the Hat and the Whos, will make appearances.

Under the wisdom of a seasoned performer, students new to acting and singing will experiment with new tools of self expression. Those more experienced will continue to challenge themselves and cultivate their talent. Though this is one of America’s most performed shows, Benicia High’s performers will put their own stamp on this production that will be well worth seeing.

"Though this is one of America’s most performed shows, Benicia High’s performers will put their own stamp on this production that will be well worth seeing."

Pecho’s dance students have enjoyed a wealth of opportunities to prepare for their upcoming shows. With the goal of contributing to a vibrant and dynamic dance community, Pecho coordinated a visit to Napa High School called “Day of Dance” where students from local dance studios and nearby school dance programs performed for each other. Not only did BHS’s dancers get practice performing for others, they also were able to engage in a supportive, non-competitive convergence of artistry.

The dancers are expected to set and achieve goals, as well. Besides developing their technical skills as dancers, the dance students are also receiving an education in nurturing essential life skills that will be useful to them in college and beyond. Discipline, teamwork, and perseverance are just some of those skills.

I had the pleasure of previewing the talent in the department during choreography auditions. I saw firsthand the love and care Pecho is putting into her students’ education: Dancers were asked to apply to be choreographers, simulating the experience of chasing real-life opportunities.

Before they could show their talent and creativity, the applicants had to demonstrate their preparedness with a cover letter explaining why they have earned the chance to choreograph themselves, or their peers. Then, after performing their sample of what they would produce, each dancer faced mock-interview questions.

around town | Art & Philanthropy 10 • Benicia Magazine
Photo by Amour Owens Lee Photo by Malik Rahim

The small taste of what I saw during these auditions was enough to make me antsy for the final performance. From technique to entertainment value to heart, these dancers have got it. And now, with Pecho to mentor them, Benicia High’s dancers will also have the knowhow to pursue a career in the performing arts.

Pecho has loved watching her dancers grow as young adults as they work together to put on a show.

“[I’ve been] watching young people come alive, find their voice, and showcase their love of dance to others. They've shown me, time and again, how to make a positive imprint in our community.”

Pecho emphasized that the dance program is so much more than creating a performance. “As we move together, we're not just learning dances; we're learning about each other, enriching our dance education, breaking down barriers, and building a community that uplifts everyone while also sharing our passion for dance.”

"[I’ve been] watching young people come alive, find their voice, and showcase their love of dance to others. They've shown me, time and again, how to make a positive imprint in our community.”
"Attending the plays, musicals, dance shows, and improv productions shows these students that the work they put into their performances has value - and will be appreciated by others."

While the performers focus on supporting each other, the Benicia community can support them by attending their shows.

The Dance Department show is on May 16th. The Dance 3 students, the dancers in the most advanced dance class offered at BHS, will perform in additional shows on May 17th and 18th.

Buying a ticket is the best way to show that Benicia values the arts in our schools. It is an investment in the futures of the students that cross the stage, encouraging them to continue to develop as artists. Attending the plays, musicals, dance shows, and improv productions shows these students that the work they put into their performances has value— and will be appreciated by others.

You can purchase your tickets for both the musical and the dance show on the Benicia High School website and choose your seats, or tickets will be available at the door. B

around town | Art & Philanthropy
Photo by Amour Owens Lee

Emily Thompson Energizes Youth Art Education at Arts Benicia

Emily Thompson Energizes Youth Art Education at Arts Benicia

Not long after moving to Benicia in 2011, Emily Thompson and her partner, Elan Laporte, got a plot at the community gardens on First Street. “It was there that I met Shelley Dupuis and Elisabeth Gulick, some amazing ladies,” Emily recalls. “Within moments, they had roped me into volunteering with the children’s program at Arts Benicia.” As she became active in local volunteer work, Emily was identified as a dynamo and a person that makes things happen with her enthusiastic nature and infectious smile. As Youth Art Coordinator at Arts Benicia, she has helped grow a program that now includes after-school classes at the Commanding Officer’s Quarters (COQ), Family Art Day programs coordinated with each gallery exhibition, Summer EcoArt Camp, art instruction for Benicia Unified School District’s STEAM Wheel program, and Next Generation, a major, biennial exhibition of youth art. “With our move to the Commanding Officer’s Quarters, the youth program has a new identity for families. I love how Arts Benicia pulls people into this building, which is itself inspirational in a historical, cultural way.”

The after-school program at the COQ was launched last year with local artist-teachers including Lorraine Curtis, who is teaching The Art of Self-Portrait for 5th through 12th graders starting February 29. Youth art classes are held on Thursdays and Fridays so that students have an opportunity to see professional artwork in the galleries. “It was amazing to see the creative work that the kids put together through the course of the classes,” shared Adela Fernandez, mother of enrolled twins. “My kids loved it and always looked forward to each class.”

around town | Art & Philanthropy 12 • Benicia Magazine

Emily has been working with Neama Ray, the art teacher at Benicia Middle School, to coordinate an AB Presents exhibition of artwork by Ray’s students this spring at Benicia City Council. “Since our Next Generation exhibition is held every other year,” she says, “this exhibition helps remind our community of the important art programs throughout Benicia.”

Thompson grew up in the Mad River Valley in Vermont. Encouraged by a creative mother, she engaged in art activities during childhood and into high school. She attended Wheaton College, a small private college in Massachusetts. “Wheaton didn’t have sororities or fraternities, but the college did have theme-based houses that you could apply to live in with your friends. We were the art house. Half of us were visual arts majors, the other half were music majors.” Over the first year the students transformed the house into a gallery complete with art on the walls and musical events. They became a sensation on campus, with the art faculty participating in rotating exhibitions. By their senior year the college paid to install a hanging gallery system and began a fundraising effort featuring the theme house and its residents. Eventually a multi-million-dollar art building was established. “None of us got to use it, but we helped sell the donors on how important the arts are.”

Thompson studied photography as an art student, spending many hours in the small campus darkroom. Gradually she expanded her work from photography to painting and mixed media. “Andy Howard was my photography teacher and mentor, but my aesthetic was different. I took a lot of portraits and the social life on a college campus was often my subject.” As a painter, her work was colorful, embracing florals, landscapes and nature.

Within a few years after graduation in 2000, she and a friend moved across the country to Ventura, where she became involved in part-time teaching ventures with the City of Ventura’s Cultural Affairs department and Visitors Bureau. She later worked as director of the Buenaventura Art Association, managing two galleries, and implementing children's art classes. She left for Benicia when partner Elan pursued a job opportunity there.

Hired for her second stint as Youth Art Coordinator in 2022, Emily has taught ‘Tinkering” in the schools over the past five years. “My favorite part about tinkering is that it’s not an art class. It’s about teaching kids to be safe and using their own

imagination to create with what they have. I had the opportunity to teach with Bonnie Weidel in a First Five preschool program, and I often think of her and her legacy in Benicia. I loved her method of keeping it simple… the rules, the materials, the lesson, and the kids just make the magic happen. Kids don't need a lot of instruction,” Emily asserts. “They just need materials and the opportunity to use their ingenuity. Each young person has their own persona that's expressed through their art. All you need to do is give them a crayon and they're good to go.”

For more information about the Arts Benicia Youth program, Family Art Day, after school programs, EcoArt Camp, and the Benicia Middle School exhibition, visit youth-art-classes/. Scholarships for tuition-based programs are available from Arts Benicia for students with financial need. B

My favorite part about tinkering is that it’s not an art class. It’s about teaching kids to be safe and using their own imagination to create with what they have.
around town | Art & Philanthropy • 13

Simplified Spaces

In a world filled with hustle and bustle, finding tranquility within our living spaces has become more important than ever, especially as the season of renewal approaches with the promise of Spring Cleaning. Maintaining an orderly and decluttered space can have beneficial effects on mental and physical health. But, the task of decluttering can seem daunting. Enter, Simplified Spaces, a decluttering business founded by two dynamic ladies, Megan and Leewan, who are on a mission to create harmony through organized living. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with the brains behind the operation to uncover their secrets to decluttering success.

Benicia Quarterly: What inspired you to start Simplified Spaces?

Simplified Spaces Founders: We have been friends for a long time, helping each other declutter our spaces. Then, we began organizing spaces for friends and family free of charge. Organizing, our love language and act of service, alleviates life's overwhelmingness for those around us. The order, baskets, and systems called to us, prompting us to turn our shared passion into a career. Our goal is to share the transformative power of decluttering, helping others find calm in their homes.

BQ: How does Simplified Spaces differ from other decluttering services?

SSF: What sets us apart is our personalized approach. We don't just declutter; we curate spaces that align with our clients' lifestyles. Our process is rooted in understanding their needs, ensuring the solutions we implement are sustainable and tailored to their unique preferences. Our goal is to help others “Feel Good” in their own home.

An Interview with the Founders of Simplified Spaces

BQ: What challenges do people commonly face when it comes to decluttering?

SSF: Time constraints and emotional attachments to belongings are recurring challenges. People often find it difficult to let go of items tied to memories. We guide them through the process with empathy and provide practical solutions to overcome these hurdles, going as deep as they want us to.

BQ: What is your approach to handling unwanted items, and how do you recommend finding new homes for them?

SSF: We believe in sustainable practices, so instead of merely discarding items, we explore options for donation, recycling, or finding new homes. For example, we use as a permanent digital home for photographs, videos and more. Our goal is not only to declutter physical spaces but also to contribute positively to the community and the environment.

BQ: What are your go-to places to donate items?

SSF: We love Trash to Treasure (Museum of History Benicia), Faith Food Friday (826 Solano Ave, Vallejo), VVA Pickup (pickupplease. org), Aldea Treatment Foster Care & Adoption Services, and Cary Wong, a retired volunteer in Benicia, who helps collect items for those in need.

BQ: How can readers start decluttering their spaces today?

SSF: We have a simple approach. We first ask our clients how they want their space to look and feel. We then use 3 bins for each space we are focusing on, and label them “Trash”, “Keep” and “Donate”. After sorting items, we organize the ”Keep” items. To kickstart your journey, we've prepared an exclusive PDF guide, "Simplify in Thirty" This comprehensive resource provides actionable tips and a roadmap to reclaiming your living areas. Download the PDF at

Embark on the journey to a simplified life by following expert advice and practical tips from Simplified Spaces. For an immersive experience, watch their video on our Instagram page, and kickstart your Spring Cleaning challenge by downloading their guide. Share your progress by tagging us @beniciamagazine in before and after photos of your transformed spaces. Though it can seem like a herculean effort, especially if you’re doing it yourself, the rewards of a decluttered life are worth it. Take the leap towards a clutter-free and organized lifestyle today!

Don't miss out on more decluttering insights and inspiration – follow Simplified Spaces on social media @SimplifiedSpacesBayArea. B

around town | Community
Simplify in Thirty with
14 • Benicia Magazine

During the 1920s it was common to pressure women to focus their goals on getting married, staying home, maintaining the household, and providing emotional support to their husbands. Even those who went to college were encouraged to get the wedding ring instead of pursuing a life for themselves independently—especially a career. In the media, such as films, women were portrayed as happy homemakers which caused unmarried women during their twenties to fear that if they did not marry, they would grow old alone.

Later, during the ‘40s and ‘50s, it was common for households to have large families with three or more children. There have always been advocates, trailblazers, and those who refused to settle for what society expected them to be. Women have fought against the expectations and broken barriers. This is not an attempt to advocate either way, but an effort to shed light on some of the challenges women faced during this period, including those pursuing careers as actresses with a desire to portray a positive image on film.

In 1945, The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences nominated Dorothy Dandridge for her role as the leading actress in Carmen Jones. Nominees included Dandridge, Grace Kelly (won), Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, and Jane Wyman. Dandridge made history when she became the first Black woman nominated in this category. Actresses during this time faced challenges balancing the image that movie studios pushed versus how they saw themselves. It was common practice for movie studios and the media to perpetuate negative images of Black women.

Some of Dandridge’s early roles included parts with the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races in 1937 and Sun Valley Serenade in 1941. During this time, it was difficult for any woman to have a role that wasn’t based on stereotypes, and especially for Black women, as they were given roles that were primarily domestic or service-oriented. Dandridge was also a Golden Globe nominee for her role as Bess in Porgy and Bess—an example of a harmful stereotype enforced by the media.

Dandridge married Harold Nicholas (September 6, 1942-October, 1951) of the famous Nicholas Brothers, dancers who shared the stage with artists like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Nicholas was reportedly unfaithful and abusive while Dandridge was left to take care of their disabled daughter.

Dandridge blamed herself for her daughter’s disability.

The doctors believed that had Dorothy made it to the hospital sooner, her daughter would have been delivered in a timely manner, but, because of the delay, her daughter suffered a lack of oxygen to cause brain damage. (It should also be noted that the archaic forceps used during delivery could have contributed to the damage.)

Dandridge had a long-time affair with Otto Preminger, director of Carmen Jones, who was married. Her relationship with Preminger became physically and verbally abusive. Dandridge became pregnant by Preminger but was forced to terminate the pregnancy per demand by the executives of the movie studio.

In 1954, Dandridge became the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Life Magazine. Dandridge had to file for bankruptcy after her second marriage to Jack Dennison (June 22, 1959-December 20, 1962). Poor investments and mismanagement of funds by her husband depleted her financial wealth. This caused Dandridge to eventually place her daughter in a mental institution because she was unable to care for her. Dandridge died on September 8, 1965— at age 42—from an accidental drug overdose of antidepressants.

We appreciate all of the women who have paved the way and done everything in their power to navigate systems that have been unwelcoming and traumatic. It is crucial to find mental health support, a network or group that can provide support and guidance to make the journey manageable.

The autobiography Everything and Nothing by Dorothy Dandridge and Earl Conrad offers greater insight into the challenges and heartbreak she endured navigating her career and personal life.

Note: Stereotypical images were often communicated through the lens of the media, which portrays African American women as rude, dominant, rebellious, aggressive, and directly associated with the terms Mammy, Sapphire, and Jezebel. This labeling included being the mothering and caring type, the loud argumentative type, or the sexually seductive type (Johnson et al., 2016). Some self-defined images and terms have been used to dispel such stereotypes and negative labeling of African American women, including the Super-Woman or the Strong Black Woman (Johnson et al., 2016). (The Lived Experiences of African American Women in California K-12 Public Schools by Gethsemane S. Moss)

Dorothy Dandridge around town | Community • 15
Women’s History Month The

BHS Students Spring into Sports


Tryouts for Volleyball occurred in early February. Their season got off to a slow start, dependent on Basketball playoffs and thus the availability of the gymnasium. Coach Patascil, leader of the Junior Varsity (JV) and Varsity teams for the past several years, will continue to work hard with the players towards as many wins as possible.

Fun Fact:

Volleyball has been around since 1895, created by William G. Morgan.


n Alexa Manning

With fun facts provided by Najwa Zughayar

pring Sports bring a buzz of excitement as the weather begins to warm and the sun sticks around. Immediately after school, student athletes head to the locker rooms to get ready for practice, often not getting the chance to begin their homework until late in the evening.

However, love for the sport trumps all. Their playing eligibility hinges on their grades, encouraging them to continue working hard in the final stretch of the school year. Seniors get to show off one last time while other students hope for a chance to get scouted by their top university.

Benicia High School takes pride in its athletes, both as players and people. Showing up for the athletics at Benicia High is akin to showing up for the future. With many sports on the docket this season, there are plenty of chances to support Benicia’s youth.

Tennis is one of the few sports offered in multiple seasons. Players can train and compete in both fall and spring. Coach Reyes has created a welcoming environment where students who have never played the sport before are able to try something new.


Everyone may not know this, but BHS offers Golf to its students. Part of this sport’s mystery is due to the fact that the school doesn’t have the appropriate facilities. Instead, the players travel to Blue Rock in Vallejo for their weekly practices. Golf stands as BHS’s most underrated gem.

Fun Fact:

Golf was invented in Scotland!

Track & Field

You may have noticed the teenagers running around town—one of them may be the next generation’s greatest Track & Field star. A diverse sport with many events from running to jumping to throwing various objects, the spectacle is exciting for any viewer.

16 • Benicia Magazine
around town | Community
Photo by Camryn Wittry


The city pool, James Lemos, is what BHS’s swim team calls their home turf. With practices every day of the week, Benicia’s swimmers are some of the hardest workers and actually will sweat it out under the water.

Fun Fact:

Did you know that most swimmers sweat underwater?


Benicia High’s Softball games began in late February. Though Softball was only introduced in the 1940s, the sport’s popularity has had a steady ride. It has also provided its female players with new opportunities to play in college under scholarships. Coached by Kristin Grubbs, the BHS JV and Varsity games are not to be missed.


The Varsity and Junior Varsity teams plan to take the field by storm as America’s favorite pastime returns this spring. Games will be Tuesdays and Thursdays, open to fans of the sport or the players themselves. Jaden Mason will pitch for the Varsity team one last season before heading off to play for the University of Nevada in Reno. B

around town | Community • 17

Little Art Shop Little Art Shop

Locally Curated

Business and creativity go hand in hand for The Little Art Shop’s owner

Mary Williams, a former engineer, never aimed to be an art shop owner—although she grew up with artistic influences.

“In my youth, my grandmother was a china painter,” she says. “Her work is actually in the Smithsonian. She’d paint on bisque, china vases, and other things with different pigments and liquid enamels. That’s why I got into fused glass art ... I’ve approached my glass with the mindset of china painting: with many layers. You paint, you fire, you repeat.”

The Little Art Shop, which started out as a business in Fairfield, has lived in First Street’s Tannery Building for about six years. Early in Covid times, Williams had gotten a spot as an artist here, and was then approached to buy it by the previous owners who were looking to sell. Williams reflected on the current art offerings and decided to take the plunge into ownership.

“Part of the reason why I decided to go ahead and buy the gallery was, at the time I was asked, the Laguna Arts Festival was going on,” she shares. “I went down to benchmark how the big dogs do it, and The Little Art Shop can really compete with any gallery out there.”

Williams’s deep passion for highlighting local artists shines through when she speaks of the 30-35 artists she has in the shop. She also takes pride in its environment being an approachable, unique, and welcoming one that truly will speak to anyone, from art newbies to absolute pros.

around town | Business 18 • Benicia Magazine


Little Art Shop’s upcoming artist of the month schedule:

“The special thing about our little gallery is the support for local Benicia artists,” she says. “If I really like the art, I’ll accept as far as Sacramento, but I really like to keep the focus on local talent. And I’d describe our space as fine art all the way to fun art. There's something for everyone, at all price points. That’s what attracted me to The Little Art Shop to begin with. There's a place for fine art galleries, and I love them, but it’s not me. I like to be comfortable and unpretentious. Anyone, even new lovers of art, can come in and feel comfortable and find something they just love.”

If you’re an artist who’s interested in finding a home at The Little Art Shop, Williams is always open to it. There’s a natural attrition rate that leaves spots open once in a while, and Williams won’t care what your creative resume reads like.

“[If someone is interested], all they do is leave their name and number and I’ll call, letting them know how the gallery works and what makes it special,” she says. If it’s a fit for what we need for artwork, then I will bring them on. I don’t pay attention to someone’s pedigree, or education in the art world. I want someone who has a natural love and talent and a fire in their belly for creating. For example, a couple of years ago, I had a woman in her nineties. It was always her dream to be in a gallery and showcase her silhouette art—you know, like the kind they have at Disneyland? She was masterful; just really, really good. She’d whip out this amazing silhouette in less than a minute. That’s what I try to find, the rare and special talent. We just have a cool group of people.”

However much experience with art you do or don’t have, be sure to pop into the Tannery Building and say hello to Suite E which, along with all of their art, has a wonderful view of the water and “Neptune’s Daughter” statue. Their current hours are 11:00am-5:00pm daily.


March highlights needle felting artist Carolyn Appenzeller. “She makes the most incredible felted animals,” says Williams.


April will focus on quilling artist Kathy Canfield-Shepard, who uses paper strips to create masterful designs. “I call her my quilling queen shepard,” Williams says.


May will feature acrylic artist Kerry Lee, who’s “specializing in intentional creativity and art with meaning,” says Williams.

Art Walk

This year’s Art Walk will combine First Street art galleries with Benicia Art at the Arsenal for a two-day extravaganza. Williams is hoping to hold a chalk art competition in the outdoor walkway by “Neptune’s Daughter.” Join them on Saturday, May 4th and Sunday, May 5th.

Art Walk

Williams plans to have artists set up tables in the hallway for demonstrations and mini classes. To keep up-to-date on when these and more will take place, be sure to follow The Little Art shop on Facebook, on Instagram at littleartshop.benicia, or sign up for their email list at B • 19 Business
20 • Benicia Magazine Follow us on Instagram for news, event updates, local business spotlights, giveaways, and more! Personal Training Studio gri n 707.747.6677 Lisa McVeigh, Owner 2038 Columbus Pkwy, Benicia, CA 94510 Benicia Chamber of Commerce 2017 Business of the Year PUPS ’N’ PURRZ PUPS ’N’ PURRZ Specializing in All of Your Pet’s Needs! Monday, Wednesday-Saturday 10:30-5pm Sunday 10:30-4pm Closed Tuesday 422 First Street, Benicia 707.748.7433 Sign up for the Benicia Beat Newsletter to receive bi-weekly updates on everything Benicia. To Advertise Call 707.980.1563 Director y of Local Businesses Quality Painting & Home Repair Hire My Husband 707-746-7958 • 925-969-0133 CA Contractor Lic. # 943231 Winner of the Angi Super Service Award 10 years running

Saturday, March 9th 1-5pm

Let out your Irish cheer and sample craft beers inside participating downtown businesses. Wearing green is encouraged, but not required to have fun!

Ages 21 and older. • 21 Tickets available at Benicia Main Street 90 First Street, or online at 707.745.9791

A Hub of Support A Hub of Support

In the heart of our town, lies a vibrant hub of connection, support, and community—The Benicia Moms Group (BMG). For over 20 years, this organization has been dedicated to empowering moms and transforming lives through its wide array of programs and initiatives.

More than just a mom group, BMG embodies the very essence of community spirit, offering companionship, understanding, and solidarity of mothers navigating the beautiful chaos of motherhood.

Though the group is specifically designed for mothers with preschool children and babies, members often stay connected to the club long after their kids start school. The Benicia Moms Group is a fun, fulfilling way to share the experience of being a mom. They offer a variety of opportunities every month to connect, such as coffee dates, moms-only events, and family events.

With a modest annual membership fee, most events are either included or subsidized. The Executive Board meets monthly to curate an active calendar throughout the year, ensuring there’s always something happening. So, feel free to join in whenever it’s convenient for you!

BMG understands that financial constraints should never stand in the way of accessing the support and camaraderie offered by BMG, and offers membership grants or sponsorships for those in need. They encourage anyone facing financial challenges to reach out directly. Their goal is to ensure that every mama who wants to be part of the BMG community can participate fully, regardless of their financial situation.

Moms Supporting Moms: BMG fosters a sense of camaraderie and belonging among members. Mothers in the group find companionship and understanding with each other. BMG members stand by each other, showing the power of compassion and unity. Through BMG, mothers realize that they are not alone in their motherhood journey. Through the forum they can exchange advice, share stories and can use the platform to gift items, such as outgrown baby and toddler supplies, equipment, clothing, books, etc.

BMG also honors its members by publishing a monthly newsletter, which features nominations for "Mom of the Month" and provides a platform for members to promote their businesses. This initiative not only celebrates the achievements of our members but also fosters direct community support.

Local & Philanthropic Support: BMG extends its reach beyond its membership to support philanthropic activities that uplift and benefit the broader community, organizing fundraisers in support of the Family Resource Center, such as Holiday Adopt-A-Family and a Backpack Drive for those in need. Each Board member

around town | Community
22 • Benicia Magazine

“This group has profoundly changed me and many others in our early motherhood journey. We believe in the power of community, as reflected in our mantra ’It takes a village to raise a mother.’ Our support is invaluable, aiming to enrich motherhood and uplift the Benicia mama community.“

“Being a BMG member and local business owner, I’m thrilled to offer exclusive yoga classes to their members. BMG’s support fuels my passion and business, creating a symbiotic relationship where we both thrive.“

volunteers time to host events and is committed to making a positive impact in the lives of others.

BMG also supports and promotes local businesses through partnerships, events, and initiatives, enhancing economic growth and community development. By working with local business owners and patronizing local establishments, BMG adds to the vibrancy and sustainability of our community.

In the last year, BMG partnered with local boutiques for private shopping events and yoga classes, promoting businesses through exclusive discounts for their members.

Mom Events: BMG organizes regular events and activities to keep moms engaged and connected, offering opportunities for socializing, recreation, and relaxation. These include mom’s night out gatherings and family-friendly outings. These events foster friendships and provide breaks for busy moms.

Benicia Moms Group serves as a shining example of the power of community and collaboration. By working together and supporting one another, we can create a brighter, more supportive future for all families in our community.

Playdate and Connection Opportunities: BMG also offers interactive playgroups that stimulate learning and creativity based on age. Additional sub-groups include book clubs, and BMG Moms in Motion.

Join Us Today

Do you want to be part of our supportive community?

Join the Benicia Moms Group and start connecting with other moms today!

Upcoming Community Spotlight: Don’t miss BMG’s Big Truck Round Up fundraising event on June 15th! BMG, in collaboration with the Museum of History, Benicia is hosting a fun-filled day for the whole community. Come and join us and show your support! More details will be announced soon.

Get ready to have fun and make a difference! B

around town | Community • 23

Experience the Wonder of Local Wetlands

Join me on a morning stroll through a unique wetland in our own community: The Cordelia Slough

Trumbo Conservation & Education Specialist, International Bird Rescue

A slough (pronounced “slew”) is a type of wetland where freshwater and tidal ocean water mix along a stream or river. This unique environment provides food and shelter for a thriving ecosystem of birds and other wildlife.

As we begin our walk with clear skies overhead, marsh grasses, shallow waters, and mudflats on either side, a series of high-pitched yips rings out to your left. The first thing you notice as you look for the sound is a pair of long, bright yellow legs. They belong to the aptly named Greater Yellowlegs, a large, vocal shorebird with a long bill that probes for small invertebrates to eat.

Farther out, beyond the trail, the water runs deeper. Through binoculars, you see a variety of ducks along with Canada Geese and huge white swans. These birds have flocked together to rest and forage while on their migratory journeys.

Your ears pick up an unusual call that is both lyrical and mechanical. You look toward the nearby reeds and find it comes from a shiny black bird with bold red shoulder pads.

The Red-winged Blackbird sings loudly to stake his territory as several mottled black and brown females busy themselves in the reeds, constructing hidden nests where they will raise their young this spring.

As you round the corner, a burst of wingbeats startles you as a small flock of Western Meadowlarks leaves the trail for safety in the nearby grasses. The streaking of the feathers on their backs kept them well hidden and now they seem to have entirely disappeared once again into the vegetation. This camouflage not only hides them from humans but also the overhead eyes of birds of prey. Perched in the top bare branches of a tree, you see a pair of White-tailed Kites –elegant white and grey with piercing red eyes. They take to the sky in search of food, and we round the corner of the trail.

The final stretch of our walk is dense with trees growing along a trickling stream that flows from a dam, the handiwork of American beavers. The shade and green foliage starkly contrast the browns and blues of the marshland we’ve been strolling through. In the shrubs, you see several small finches and warblers hopping from branch to branch. performs aerial acrobatics over the water before perching on a low-hanging

24 • Benicia Magazine
White-tailed Kites Red-winged Blackbird Photo by Hal Moran Greater Yellowlegs Photo by Angie Trumbo Photo by Angie Trumbo

branch to eat the winged insect it caught, and a tap-taptapping brings your gaze to a small black-and-white Downy Woodpecker working its way up a tree trunk.

Slowly and quietly we walk further down the path, taking special care not to disturb the resident of the next tree. Here, a magnificent Great Horned Owl is catching some daytime shuteye after a busy night of nocturnal hunting. This rare but beautiful sight is the perfect way to end our walk through the wetlands.

"Wetland ecosystems like this one, once threatened and destroyed, provide critical habitat for a wide range of vulnerable and endangered wildlife..."

Wetland ecosystems like this one, once threatened and destroyed, provide critical habitat for a wide range of vulnerable and endangered wildlife, including thousands of migratory birds traveling along the Pacific Flyway. Access to the Cordelia Slough has been generously granted to International Bird Rescue thanks to the Pacific Flyway Fund, and we are working to bring this outdoor experience to youth in surrounding communities.

We invite classrooms, scouts, boys and girls clubs, and other youth groups to participate in the Cordelia Slough Youth Education Program. For more information, visit and B

Despite their efforts, the local Canada Geese had no bearing on my decision to move to Benicia in 2022. I tend to ignore them when I’m not actively avoiding them, a habit I developed while growing up in a San Jose suburb. Canada Geese commandeered our little league fields, scavenged our hot lunches and forced the fountains and ponds to be drained at my neighborhood’s largest park. I don’t particularly like them. And yet, these past few years in Benicia I’ve gotten far more interested in their whereabouts than I ever have before, regularly reaching for my binoculars and camera due to the company they keep during the spring and fall.

Each fall, millions of ducks and geese fling themselves southward along the Pacific Flyway, and in the spring, they head back north to their respective breeding grounds. The Sacramento Delta is a critical staging area for thousands of these weary travelers, and Benicia is conveniently located on the Delta’s doorstep. While many Canada Geese and Mallards are year-round Benicia residents, their migratory cousins will sometimes make pit stops a little further removed from their flight paths toward the Central Valley’s grain fields. It’s a universally common phenomenon for migrant fowl to hang with whoever looks, quacks or honks like them, and while I haven’t seen much interspecies mingling amongst our local Mallards, I’ve now seen Benicia’s geese take in stray kin several times.

feature • 25
Black Phoebe Photo by Angie Trumbo n Kyle Gerner Photos by Kyle Gerner

It started with a weird looking white blob following a gaggle of Canada Geese along the First Street Green. I got a little closer, and realized it was some type of goose, but couldn’t quite identify it without more glass in front of my face. I raced home, came back with my telephoto lens, and proceeded to have my closest-ever encounter with a Ross' Goose. Surrounded by a dozen Canada Geese twice its size, it seemed perfectly at ease and perfectly out of place loafing around next to the busy parking lot. I squatted in broad daylight on the opposite side of the field, and watched as the whole gang ambled toward me.

"I got a little closer, and realized it was some type of goose, but couldn’t quite identify it without more glass in front of my face. I raced home, came back with my telephoto lens, and proceeded to have my closest-ever encounter with a Ross' Goose."

The lead goose noticed me, of course, but clearly thought little of me as she blinked slowly and buried her head back down in the grass, deciding to prioritize lunch. Her followers did the same, and while I doubt the Ross' Goose had ever knowingly chosen to get this close to a human, he seemed ok with it given his bodyguards’ street savvy. watched him for about 30 minutes as

The same thing happened with Cackling Geese at the Matthew Turner Shipyard Park. Nine of them grazed amongst the larger Canada Geese, adopting their cousins’ same mild-atbest interest in me as I squatted respectfully yet unapologetically in the middle of their buffet table. Cackling Geese look nearly identical to Canada Geese, but with smaller body portions, higher-pitched vocals, and the occasional white stripe at the base of their neck. These geese were very hard for me to notice at first, given their likeness to Canada Geese, but it got me wondering how frequently I’ve overlooked them.

Now I’m constantly scanning Benicia’s Canada Geese flocks for bonuses, like Cackling and Ross' Geese. Snow Geese and Greater White-Fronted

come, and how hard our local conservationists have worked to bring their numbers back to the point where we can actually see them overflow their preferred habitats into urban areas.

"Now, each sighting reminds me of how far these species have come, and how hard our local conservationists have worked to bring their numbers back to the point where we can actually see them overflow their preferred habitats into urban areas."

he attacked the lawn with his tiny, blunt block of a beak, and when they all passed me and got to the end of the field, away they flew in search of more lunch. I never saw the Ross' Goose again.

I appreciate the Canada Geese who help make these visitors feel welcome, and hopefully they will continue to adapt and successfully navigate our built

This spring, take an extra gander at the geese in town and consider reporting your observations in

26 • Benicia Magazine feature

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Join us on and select the “Talk of the Town” tier. You’ll get access to additional patron-only content and quarterly merchandise from Benicia Magazine, too! • 27

Wandering the Wildflowers

n Mary Hand

There’s nothing so lovely as spring in Solano County. It boasts a variety of terrain that ranges from sweeping mountain vistas, to gently rolling hills and flat tidal marshes. We have included a hike or two outside of Solano because the wildflowers are just spectacular.

Peak season for Solano/Contra Costa: Mid-March to late April/May

Walk and Hike

Green Valley Falls

In the spring the lush green canyons and waterfalls might make you feel that you have suddenly been transported to Hawaii. Yet that is exactly what it feels like in this little canyon located in the hills between Fairfield and Napa. It’s an easy 2.2 mile hike with a little bit of elevation gain. Once you approach the falls, you’ll see that the canyon surrounding it is lined with moss, ferns, and dripping with water. It’s a pretty amazing place that is owned by the City of Vallejo Lakes System and is only opened to hikers four times a year with a guide. Generally, the four hikes are on Saturdays in April, May, and June and are limited to the first 30 people. Contact for reservations.

Stebbins/Cold Canyon Reserve

While there are a couple of wonderful trails here, the most popular is the Blue Ridge Loop. You can either start by hiking up the Blue Ridge Trail up the ridge and keep going, or follow the Homestead Trail up the canyon before climbing the ridge to the Blue Ridge Trail. You can also extend your hike by doing the Annie’s Rock loop; the views are amazing from there. Along the Blue Ridge you’ll get great views of Lake Berryessa and the surrounding mountains. Even better in the spring when everything is green with lots of wildflowers. Located off of Highway 128, west of Winters, Solano.

Rockville Hills Regional Park

It’s a little (not so) hidden gem tucked in the hills north of Cordelia that consists of varied terrain from rolling grasslands to oak forests. In the middle of the park there’s a sizable lake that makes a nice place for a picnic or to stroll around. In other parts of the park you can get great views of Fairfield/Suisun and the valley beyond, explore a small cave, and view the remnants of a small quarry. The best time to do this hike is in the spring when the hills are green and full of wildflowers. Rockville Hills has some early spring flowers. Milk maids, Indian Warrior, Buttercups, Popcorn flower, Small flowered Nemophila. Now starting to show Hound’s tongue, Scarlet fritillary, Mission bells, Amsinckia, wild pea, Castilleja, Blue dicks.

feature 28 • Benicia Magazine

Mount Diablo State Park

The state park surrounding this 3,849-foot peak about 28 miles southeast of Benicia usually sees blooms beginning in early March, sometimes lasting into May. Choose from a variety of hiking trails to see blue skullcap, Fendler’s meadow-rue, sanicula, Johnny-jump-ups, bush lupine, monkey flowers, globe lilies, California poppies, bird’s eyes, and wallflowers. Summit Rd, Walnut Creek, CA

The Bay Area Ridge Trail, south from the Tilden Park Steam Trains, Orinda

There are many of the woodland flower, trillium, on this trail blooming less than a quarter mile from the trailhead. There are great views of Mt. Diablo from various spots, along with hillsides of lupines, poppies, mule’s ears, blue dicks, and checkerbloom, among others. The trailhead starts across the road from the steam trains and heads south.

Charles Lee Tilden Regional Park, 2481 Grizzly Peak Blvd. Orinda.

Tilden Regional Park, Seaview Trail, Berkeley

This is a beautiful hike with great views in all directions that is very popular, especially with dog owners. There are loads of lupine bushes, poppies, paintbrush, mule’s ears, and other wildflowers that bloom throughout the spring. Try the unofficial or “social trail” that heads uphill to the left about two miles into this hike. In May there are lots of Ithuriel’s spear, fiddlenecks, paintbrush, baby blue eyes, sticky monkey, and more up in an open meadow above the main Seaview Trail.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Antioch

This park is over 6,000 acres and contains what remains of three old coal-mining towns. There’s a lot to explore, but be sure to visit the old Rose Hill Cemetery by hiking uphill on the Nortonville Road Trail. Continue up to the Black Diamond Mine Trail where there are yellow and white mariposa lilies among many other wildflowers throughout the season. Black Diamond Mines Preserve is due north of Mt. Diablo, and has lots of the same wildflowers with trails that are much less steep.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Upper Parking Lot, 5175 Somersville Road, Antioch. Weekend fees.


Rides from slow and leisurely to difficult and well, very difficult.

Benicia Recreation Area

Difficulty: Easy.

Distance: 5 miles.

Type: Out and Back.

Approximate Time: 30 minutes.

This bike and pedestrian path inside the park is a great place to get out in nature, birdwatch, fish, and watch the ships pass by.

Green Valley Ride

Difficulty: Easy.

Distance: 5 miles.

Type: Out and Back.

Approximate Time: 30 minutes.

This separate bike and pedestrian path runs parallel to Green Valley Road. Ride in the shade of trees that line the southern half of the trail, then the trail opens up to views of Green Valley as you travel north.

Alamo Creek Bike Trail

Difficulty: Easy.

Distance: 10 miles.

Type: Out and Back.

Approximate Time: 1 hour.

Ride from one end of Vacaville to the other on this winding path that follows Alamo Creek.

Grizzly Island Trail to Rush Ranch

Difficulty: Medium.

Distance: 7 miles.

Type: Out and Back.

Approximate Time: 1 hour.

This ride has a mix of calm local streets, a separated bike path through wetlands, and a county road with no shoulder.

feature • 29

Bike (cont.)

Lagoon Valley Loop

Difficulty: Medium

Distance: 9 miles

Type: Loop

Approximate Time: 1 hour.

Lagoon Valley Regional Park is just off of I-80 with over 470 acres of natural landscape to explore by foot or bike. Daily and annual parking passes are available at the gate.

Three Valley Loop

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance: 18 miles

Type: Loop

Approximate Time: 2-4 hours

Experience some of the most picturesque agricultural areas in the county on this ride. Be prepared that most of these low-volume county roads have no shoulders, however some stretches provide bike lanes or separated bike paths.

Bridge to Bridge Loop

Difficulty: Difficult.

Distance: 23 miles

Type: Loop

Approximate Time: 3 hours

Two bridges, two counties, four cities, all surrounding the Carquinez Strait.This ride has quite the variety with plenty of climbing and great views as your reward.

We'll see outside!

Vallejo, Benicia & Fairfield Loop

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance: 30 miles

Type: Loop

Approximate Time: 4 hours

This popular ride for cyclists will test your lungs and your legs while passing through three Solano County cities and some of the best hillsides in the County.

Lake Solano Loop

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance: 36 miles

Type: Loop

Approximate Time: 4 hours

Begin in Lagoon Valley Regional Park and head north through the orchards to Lake Solano. Pop over to the charming town of Winters to refuel for the ride back.

Martinez to Davis

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance: 61 miles

Type: One Way

Approximate Time: 6 hours

For a grand finale, traverse the entire county by bike. Take in views of straits, marshes, and wetlands, then hills, valleys, and open space. And at the end, give your

feature 30 • Benicia Magazine • 31


Get ready to laugh during the Benicia Theatre Group’s spring 2024 production of BlitheSpirit

32 • Benicia Magazine around town | Art & Philanthropy

The Benicia Theatre Group likes to stick with a cadence of putting on a drama production in the fall and a comedy production in the spring. They wrapped up the thriller DEATHTRAP, which focused on a washed-up playwright, last year; it was a huge hit.

“It was fabulous and well-received,” says Brian Hough, Benicia Theatre Group’s board president.” We had a great audience that showed up and showed support for us. Everyone had very positive feedback on it; it was a great show, and we were really proud of the production.”

True to form, Hough and team are now setting their sights on something that will bring a little humor to playgoers. The Benicia Theatre Group had yet to select its four main cast members and three supporting cast members at the time this article was written (the Benicia Theatre Group always selects production sizes that will fit their small yet mighty stage), but we do know that the Assistant Director will be Matt Goff with uber-experienced Director Clinton Vidal at the helm.

“Clinton has been with the Benicia Theatre Group for over a decade,” says Hough. “He’s an awesome person. I’ve done many shows with him and was even an actor under him. He’s an award winning, very accredited director.”

Blithe Spirit was originally the brainchild of English playwright Noel Coward in 1941 and has had many various adaptations throughout the years. Coward wanted to bring some comedic relief—an escape from reality, if you will—from what was going on in history during this time period. The play was incredibly well-received, setting a new record for runs in London with 1,997 performances. In the present day, you may have even seen the 2020 screen adaptation starring names such as Dan Stevens, Leslie Mann, and Isla Fisher.

Hough never wants to give too much of their production’s story line details away as it’s ideal for audience members to be surprised (it’s always enticing to hold a bit of mystery until you’re experiencing something

unfold live, right?), but I did get some basic snippets that we can look forward to seeing.

“The play is a comedy and a farce with three acts,” says Hough. “It’s basically about a novelist socialite [Charles Condomine] that invites an eccentric medium and clairvoyant [Madame Arcati] to his house. The novelist conducts a seance with the hope of gathering material for his new book, but it backfires and the ghost of his ex wife’s past [Elvira] haunts him. I don’t wanna give it away, but with reading the script so far, I really feel sorry for Charles. Elvira is there to—you know—keep him on his toes. It’s truly going to be a fun play.”

Hough is also pumped about other production visuals and details aside from the script—and they’re getting noticed for such elements.

“We’re looking forward to the Arty Awards,” says Hough. “I noticed our previous set design from DEATHTRAP is on their page. The Artys were down for a couple years during Covid, but now they’re back up and running. They recognize achievements in performing arts in Solano County. I can’t wait for the special effects that are going to go on in Blithe Spirit, and I’m looking forward to co-designing the set. I’m really excited about it.”

Between Benicia Theatre Group’s opening night on Friday, April 19th, and their closing production on Sunday, May 12th, there will be a total of 12 chances to catch Blithe Spirit at the Historic B.D.E.S Hall.

“It’s a little longer than some productions have been—about 2 hours and 20 minutes,” says Hough. The script is 140 pages compared to the last one for DEATHTRAP at 106.”

Hough also wants to leave patrons attending Blithe Spirit or those attending any show—a friendly reminder that the theatre tickets aren’t assigned and operate on a first-come, first served seating basis.

“Definitely show up early to get good seats,” he says. “Sometimes people show up five minutes before and get stuck sitting in the back. Unless you have a party of five or over, which we will try to reserve seats together for, it’s general seating.

To purchase tickets, which are $26 for general pricing and $24 for students and seniors, visit B • 33
around town | Art & Philanthropy

Spring is here (or almost). Which means only one thing in Benicia: Baseball and softball are breaking out all over. More than 900 boys and girls from the ages of 3 to 18 will play these sports in town this year. In fact, they already are, and have been since January.

No doubt you’ve seen them in action if you’ve been to Community Park or a school park or the two baseball fields on the east side of First. The excitement and drama of Opening Day occurs for both Benicia Girls Fastpitch Softball and Benicia Little League on the busy first Saturday of March.

Given this small town’s long tradition and support of youth sports, none of this activity can accurately fall under the heading of “Hidden Benicia,” the title of this column. There is one big aspect of these games, however, that is often out of view, largely unsung, and sometimes even taken for granted: All the volunteers who make it all happen.

“We have 200 volunteers this season,” says Benicia Little League President Joe Bateman. “It’s a big number but with 600 kids playing baseball, you’re gonna need 200 volunteers.”

Jobs paid merely in expressions of gratitude include managers, coaches, player agents, team parents, groundskeepers, scorekeepers, and some umpiring positions. This season, the league is opening the concession stand at Maria Field for games held there. Katherine Wills will be in charge. A volunteer, naturally.

Including the president, there are 12 volunteers on the BLL Board of Directors. They are: Austin Grey, Rob Trost, Chris Dao, Marty Jones, Robinson Wills (Katherine’s son and the great grandson of Major League Baseball all-time great Maury Wills), Luke Bergeson, Chris Cohen, J.D. Heckamon, Donovan Olech and Eli Nolan. We wanted to list all these names because, man, these people put in some serious time, clocking 500 hours or

more a season with some combining their board duties with managing or coaching or other jobs.

It’s the same over at Girls Fastpitch Softball. Lots of people doing double shifts, logging lots of hours. “Sometimes I feel like it’s my full-time job, but I love it,” says Amber Robinson, who is league president as well as webmaster for its online site.

Over 300 girls are participating in softball this year, requiring about 90 volunteers to hold tryouts, coach the teams, groom the fields, organize the all-important post-game snacks, and on and on and on. It is easy to see how the softballers might face some organizational challenges, given that their youngest division, the Pee-Wees, are three and four years old. Little League’s T-ball doesn’t start until the boys reach the more senior age of five.

Some parents continue to donate their time even after their children have aged out of the program because they enjoy being around young people and believe so strongly in the value of youth sports. “This is a really good town with a lot of very involved parents,” says Bateman. “I’ve heard that some cities have problems getting volunteers for Little League. You don’t have to ask a lot here. It’s a tight-knit community. A lot of people want to help.”

“ You don’t have to ask a lot here. It’s a t I ght-kn I t commun I t Y . a lot of people want to help. ”

Bateman’s counterpart in softball concedes that her program has a little more trouble “trying to find people that are able and willing to help,” says Robinson. “It’s hard. It’s a big-time commitment. We understand people have to balance their schedules between jobs, family and our sport.”

around town | Community 34 • Benicia Magazine

Nevertheless, she adds, “We love the sport and we do it for the girls. It’s not just about scoring runs and winning games. We call it a family. The girls have their sisters playing with them and you can feel it through and through.” Spoken like a true volunteer.

Fastpitch Softball has a whopping 24 positions on its board, which is going to severely challenge our determination to list as many of these unsung, unpaid heroes as we can in this article. A few people do two jobs. But here we go anyhow: Robinson, Kathy Sullivan Edwards, Dometrius Fowler, Chris Manzi, Steve Green, Ray Wang, Dave Jump, Dylan Chinea, Kelly Brown, Dustin Bertolluci, Veronica Petit, Danielle Fowler, Bob Morgan, Mike Haro, Chris Galligan, Jamie Schlee, Andrea Deluca, Corey Ott, Katrina Fineman and Jen Haywood. B

around town | Community • 35

Book and Cocktail Club

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had some disappointing experiences with sequels. I’ve often loved a debut novel or the first book in a series so much that I didn’t even read the synopsis of the author's next book before preordering it, only to be left wondering how on Earth the same writer I was previously praising could write something so underwhelming or messy.

When I heard that Tommy Orange, East Bay writer and author of There There, was releasing his sophomore novel this year, I knew I had to do everything I could to get my hands on a copy. After digging a little deeper into this author’s lore, I learned that Orange wrote his highly anticipated sequel to There There alongside his good friend and fellow author, Kaveh Akbar (yes, the very same Kaveh Akbar who wrote our February pick, Martyr! ) and I felt my expectations rise to almost unobtainable heights.

Orange exceeded those expectations.

Wandering Stars expands the story of There There in both directions, serving as a prequel and sequel to the events of the 2018 novel that touched so many hearts. Although Wandering Stars can stand on its own, I highly recommend you read There There before picking it up. Regardless, I will avoid spoiling anything significant from Orange’s debut novel in this review.

The first portion of Wandering Stars takes us back in time to the Sand Creek Massacre where we meet Star, a young survivor brought to the Fort Marion Prison Castle and forced by Richard Henry Pratt to learn English and practice Christianity. Pratt is an evangelical prison guard who will go on to found the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, an institution dedicated to the eradication of Native history, culture, and identity. A generation later, Star’s son, Charles, is sent to this school, where he is brutalized by the man who was once his father’s jailer. Amongst the torment, Charles cherishes moments of joy with a fellow student, Opal

“Stories do more than comfort. They take you away and bring you back better made.”

Wandering Stars Wandering Stars

Wandering Stars

Viola, as the two envision a future away from the violence that follows their bloodlines.

The second portion of the novel drops us in Oakland in 2018, where Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield is barely holding her family together following a tragic event. We watch as each of her nephews struggles in his own way to heal from a collective trauma, whether it’s through an emotional reliance on prescription medication, self-harm as a way to suppress PTSD and connect to their Cheyenne heritage, or avoidance of those who remind them of what has happened.

Tender and honest, Wandering Stars explores what it takes to mend a broken spirit. Orange has a gift for taking large themes and concepts and feeding them to the reader in a way that doesn’t feel like work. It takes a seriously talented, emotionally intelligent human to write something this deeply feeling and not overcomplicate it.

As in There There, this story is told through multiple points of view, each as strong as the last. His characters are flawed and so tragically real that I often forget they’ve been created by a man typing away at his computer. Nothing felt forced or like a lecture, but, in the end, I felt I had learned something big (or many big somethings). Another instant classic, I would not be surprised to see Wandering Stars alongside There There as required reading for students in the near future.

I’ve seen reviews saying this book will save lives, and I strongly agree with that. Whether you’re struggling through recovery or depression or trauma or any combination

of these things, Wandering Stars will see you and hold you and lift you back up as it encourages you to keep going. If you’ve read and loved There There, I’ve no doubt you’ll run to Bookshop Benicia to get yourself a copy of this book. And if this is the first you’ve heard of Tommy Orange, you don’t just have to take my word for it. A quick Google search will bring you to hundreds of articles praising Orange and what he’s done for the world through his writing. B

Booktails' Mocktail of the Month

Sip the Season

Sip the Season


1 lemon, juice and zest

3 sprigs of rosemary pinch of salt

sparkling water (if cold) honey (if hot)


- Cold -

Muddle all ingredients together except for the sparkling water. Strain and top with sparkling water.

- Hot -

Simmer rosemary and lemon zest in 1 cup of water. Add in honey and lemon juice at the end.

column | Booktails
36 • Benicia Magazine

The Cafe at The Inn

The Inn at Benicia Bay, 145 East D Street Benicia, CA

n Gourmet Gracie and Movie Magic

Eat, Drink and Gather at the new "go-to" place for breakfast and lunch, just steps from First Street in downtown Benicia. Coffee daily at 7:30am, everything else 8am until 4pm.

You might know The Inn at Benicia Bay by their reputation for stellar overnight accommodations with breakfast included. Providing breakfast for the rest of us was a nobrainer. Tracee and Dennis are the gracious owners of this beautiful spot. Along came Chef Kyle with experience from Meadowood, Bardessono and, most recently, Provisions in Vallejo. Chef Kyle brings a passion for creating delicious seasonal food with an emphasis on family and community. The Cafe opened in November 2023 to rave reviews.


The multiple rooms inside The Cafe are spacious and homey with eclectic furnishings and lots of charm. The "happy" colorful patio outside is perfect on warm days for taking in a bit of sunshine while enjoying seasonal bottomless mimosas. Children and dogs are welcome. The menu changes often based on what's tastiest and fresh. Full breakfast is available and includes Italian coffee, quiche specials, homemade sausage, Hen Pen eggs, brioche toast and spectacular English muffins! Lunch specials might be chicken pot pie, soups, salads, deviled eggs and, always, the American Wagyu Beef Burger. And.... popsicles!

As Dennis says, "The Cafe is just good home cooking, if your mom was Julia Child!" Gracie agrees! Plus, they offer lovely wines from small wineries like Chronicle and St. Finley and local beer from Bruehol and Napa Smith. Stop in for special wine tastings on Thursdays between 4pm and 6pm. Dinners start on April 4, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Don't miss the fresh menu creations and treats at The Cafe at The Inn. Weekend brunch is a must! Cheers!

Sports Movies

n Gourmet Gracie and Movie Magic

Baseball, baseball and more baseball! The season opens March 28, 2024. Here are some flicks to get you in the mood:

Moneyball - 2011 Sports/Comedy. 133 minutes. PG-13.

True story of the Oakland A's 2002 winning season that changed baseball forever with computer generated analysis. Stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Nominated for 6 Oscars. Intense characters. Prime, Netflix, Apple TV.

The Hill - 2023 Drama/Sports. 126 minutes. PG.

The true story of Rickey Hill, son of a traveling pastor who overcomes obstacles to pursue his baseball dream. Stars Dennis Quaid, Scott Glen, Colin Ford and Bonnie Bedelia. Inspirational! Netflix, Apple TV, YouTube.

The Captain - 2022 ESPN Documentary. Seven Episodes.

A portrait of Derek Jeter's life and Hall of Fame career. Interviews with Jeter, his family and teammates. A journey to discover the man behind the iconic Yankees number 2 jersey and the insatiable drive to be the best version of himself. Directed by Emmy winner Randy Wilkins. Educational. Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+.

"Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too." - Yogi Berra B • 37 column | Dinner & a Movie

around town | Events


Where's Jack London?

Downtown First Street

Details at

March 9

St. Patrick's Day Beer Crawl

Benicia Main Street 1-5pm

March 9

It Starts with the Heart Benicia Clock Tower 5-10pm

Tickets on Eventbrite, $120

March 23 & 24

Downtown Benicia Egg Hunt

Benicia Main Street 12-4pm

Details at

Starting April 18

Benicia Farmer's Market

Downtown First Street Thursdays, 4-8pm

April 23

Benicia Education Foundation's Run for Education 12 pm

April 26

Tim and Jeannie Hamann Foundation Annual Dinner and Auction

Benicia Clock Tower

Tickets on sale March 1

April 27

Art Scavenger Hunt

Downtown First Street 12-4pm

Details at

May 4 - 18

Spring into Giving

Benicia Main Street

Details at

May 18

Opening Day on the Strait

Benicia Yacht Club 10am-5pm


May 30


2024 Annual Golf Tournament

Details at

Music & Entertainment


Trivia with King Trivia

Mare Island Brewing Co.

First Street Taphouse 6:30pm

First Fridays

First Fridays at the Museum Museum of History, Benicia 6:30-9:30pm

March 2

The Glory and Grandeur of Beethoven

Empress Theatre

Details at

April 19-May 12

Blithe Spirit: A Supernatural Comedy

Historic BDES Hall

Details at

April 20 & 21

Porgy and Bess: Vallejo Symphony

Empress Theatre

April 20th - 8pm, April 21 - 3pm

Details at

Classes & Workshops

April 12

Peppino D'Agostino: Jazz Guitar Workshop 1604 Bayview Cir, Benicia 3:30-7:30pm

April 27

Benicia & Vallejo Annual Demonstration Food Forest Tour Avant Community Garden 9am-4pm

Arts Benicia

Spring Classes

1 Commandant's Lane, Benicia

From collage to pastels, watercolor to mono prints to mixed media. Over seven classes are offered this spring.

Happy Life Pottery

632 First Street, Benicia

Happy Life Pottery offers a variety of classes such as sculpture workshops, pottery, and wheel throwing classes.

Benicia Outrigger

Canoe Club

810 W 9th Street

We paddle in the waters of the Carquinez Strait. Outrigger canoe paddling is a great sport for families, and paddlers of various ages and abilities. Join our ‘ohana on the water and experience the aloha from our club. Learn to paddle anytime this spring. B

Local Music Venues

Lucca's Beer Garden

Empress Theatre The Rellik
Month of March

With the early spring prediction from Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil this past February, it’s time for a seasonal beverage update. With the sun shining this much we need an extra little sparkle without the champagne price tag.

A classic beverage with a savory twist, you can’t resist the Spiked Sparkling Basil Lemonade. Refreshing lemonade base with a touch of crisp bubbles and a sweet basil botanical finish. Vodka or a floral gin would be the spirit of choice. You can even experiment and go with the botanical options of vodka.

For this spring refresh you can either create your own lemonade or use your favorite store-bought lemonade. Fresh slices of lemon accompanied by fresh basil leaves is the way to go. Dry basil will not work for this. If you want to add extra garnish, create a spiced rim with raw sugar, lemon juice and crushed left-over basil leaves.


9-10 large basil leaves

1-2 lemon slices, your preference

1 cup of lemonade

4 oz of vodka or gin

1 can of seltzer to the side to top off mixture


Pitcher Batch into Individual Pours:

Add your lemonade, basil leaves, vodka and ice. Give a vigorous stir before pouring into a tall glass over a fresh large ice cube. For a little extra razzle dazzle, create the sugar rim and add a thin slice of lemon to the side of the glass before adding fresh ice. Fill your vessel ¾ of the way and add your choice of soda water, or my personal favorite, Topo Chico. Garnish with another slice of lemon or small cluster of basil leaves. B

around town | Food & Drink
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