The History of the Benicia Holy Ghost
Benicia celebrated its first Holy Ghost Festa on May 25,1907. IDES Council #35 conducted the celebration at the UPEC Hall on First Street. The IDES Lodge and the Holy Ghost Committee thrived for over four decades until the early 1950’s. With the retirement of Chief Cook, Manuel Ribeiro, in 1953 the Benicia Holy Ghost faced the threat of folding. The Holy Ghost Committee cancelled their annual Festa, scheduled for May 31.
A contingent from Benicia participated in the Vallejo Festa the week before. While the majority of the parade participants attended church at St. Vincent’s, members Joe Gonsalves, Norm Gonsalves Sr., Elias Silva and Sebastian Bento gathered at Hussey’s Bar on Sunday, May 24, 1953 and made a pact to continue the Holy Ghost Festa. The following Saturday, May 30, 1953 they conducted a special meeting called by Sebastian Bento. In attendance; Joe Gonsalves, Norm Gonsalves Sr., Joaquin Gonsalves, Elias Silva, Joe Maia Sr., Joe Andrade, Joe Daniels, Gerry Dana, Manuel Ribeiro and Elvin Ribeiro. This group of men re-established the Benicia Holy Ghost Committee.
The committee named a date in September to celebrate the Festa. Members of the committee marched in twenty-eight different parades throughout the summer of 1953 in an effort to gather participants to the Benicia Festa. Including Vallejo, they marched to many locales such as Fort Bragg, Dixon, Rio Vista, twice in Petaluma, Novato, Sebastopol, Sausalito, twice in Hayward, Four times in Oakland, San Leandro, San Pablo, Rodeo, Crockett, and Mission San Jose.
The efforts of that committee have continued to thrive to this day. Many offspring of those men and other fourth and fifth generation marchers and workers participate in the organization and continued success of the Festa.
- 1890, St.Dominic’s church completed. The Holy Ghost parade has marched to and from St. Dominic’s every year since 1907.
- December 29,1900, a delegation from the Oakland chapters of IDES and SPRSI arrived in Benicia by ferry. They walked to the UPEC Hall and conducted two meetings. The committee organized council #7 Dona Maria Pia of the SPRSI during the afternoon and IDES Council #35 that evening.
- May 25,1907, IDES Council#35 holds their first Holy Ghost Celebration at the UPEC Hall on First Street, naming Rose Duvall as Queen.
- May 1915, IDES Hall completed at 140 West J Street with the first Festa taking place at the new facility.
- 1917, downstairs of the Hall utilized as a roller rink. Rink re-established in 1940 and 1950.
- The local chapter of the Kiwanis held its anniversary party and meeting at the Hall every year between 1918-1951.
- October 1, 1920, the Benicia IDES Hall Association adapted by-laws with a total membership of sixty-six men.
- Benicia High School class proms conducted at the Hall between 1920-1950.
- 1934, Manuel Ribeiro took over the responsibility of organizing the Hall Association.
- During World War II, 1941-45, IDES #35 conducted dances at the Hall on Friday and Saturday nights. Proceeds for the Friday night dances were donated to St. Dominic’s with Saturday night’s proceeds going to the council.
- May 30, 1953 a special meeting conducted that re-established the Benicia Holy Ghost Committee.
- The Bettencourt family donated Our Lady of Fatima statue to St. Dominic’s in 1954 and carried it in the parade for the first time. Members of the family continue to carry the statue each year.
- In 1956 the women’s auxiliary of the Holy Ghost Committee, with money earned from conducting card parties, purchased the twelve sopas pots for $155.53 apiece. The pots measure 26”x 26”, hold enough to feed more than 200 people, and are still in use today.
- 1964 the Benicia Holy Ghost rents the hall to the Benicia Old Town Theater Group, establishing a working relationship that remains intact today.
- July 1972, date of annual Festa switched to fourth Sunday in July.
- January 1980, Holy Ghost Committee holds first annual crab feed as a fund-raiser with Frank Saitz and Peggy Silva donating fifty dollars apiece to establish the initial funds.
- The committee organizes a silent auction to raise over $12,000.00 for Hall repairs following damage caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989.
- Four generations of Queens marched in the Holy Ghost parade in July of 1993. Matriarch Maimie Joseph, queen in 1918, led her family in the parade that featured Eleanor Daniels 1945, Denise Bennett 1965, Megan Kirkpatrick 1990 and Tiffany Bennett 1993.
- In 2004 Sarah Haynes marched in the parade as the third generation of living Little Queen’s; Marjorie Gonsalves 1948, and Marjorie Gifford 1973. All three are descendants of our first Queen, Rose Duvall, 1907.
- 100 Year Anniversary celebrated on July 22, 2007.
- The B.D.E.S. Hall continues to be the site for many civic affairs, wedding receptions, music concerts, theatrical productions, and countless other functions.
Check out our list of 101 Benicia Holy Ghost Queens
Watch the Video About Our History by Norm Gonsalves Sr.