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Honorees “flipped the switch” for the 13

annual Nights of Lights


Visit for directions to Historic Downtown Parking Facility.

The Nights of Lights began its 13th year on Saturday, November 18, with a recent tradition in this city of age-old traditions by honoring members of the community with invitations to turn on the lights for the city’s Christmas tree and then “flipping the switch” to light the entire city.  Approximately 10,000 people crowded the Plaza de laConstitución. 

This year the city once again honored those who have devoted service to our community: one who works as a police officer to make our neighborhoods safer and two others who work to improve living conditions for residents in our neighborhoods.

First Comes the Tree

If policing starts with awareness and prevention, then Officer Reneé Morris is a master at policing. Now in her 11th year with the St. Augustine Police Department, Officer Reneé is Crime Prevention Practitioner and Community Resource Officer for the Department where she educates the public, from children to senior citizens, on how to be safe. In additional to her work with the city’s Neighborhood Crime Watch programs, she makes frequent presentations before businesses and community groups and is actively involved in Domestic Violence Task Force, St. Francis House Board of Directors, the Homeless Coalition, and is a member of the St. Johns County Drug Court Team and runs a Juvenile Diversion program for troubled children.

Officer Reneé was honored by being the one who turned on the city’s Christmas tree.

Lighting up the whole town

Those who “flipped the switch” that lights the city are the two people most closely identified with improving housing than any one else in St. Johns County.

Diane Quick has been the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of St. Augustine and St. Johns County since 2002 and has led the volunteer organization to a production rate of constructing 12 homes a year. Diane came to St. Johns County from the Habitat affiliate in Jacksonville where she coordinated the efforts of 50,000 volunteers and saw over 700 homes built there. To date, over 50 Habitat homes have been built in St. Johns County.

Joining Diane in flipping the switch was Bill Lazar, who founded the St. Johns Housing Partnership in 1998 to provide repairs to low-income homeowners in St. Johns County. The Partnership has grown from a staff of three and one program into a 12 employee company that not only addresses sub-standard housing, but has expanded into developing new homes for working families and offering credit counseling and financial literacy services.

In announcing these three honorees, St. Augustine Mayor George Gardner pointed out their combined efforts to strengthen neighborhoods in our community.


“Officer Reneé has been diligent in teaching individuals how to be safe by being alert and increasing their own self esteem, and Diane and Bill have dedicated themselves to helping individuals be secure in their own homes,” said Gardner. “Being safe and being secure are the building blocks to a strong community, and it is a delight to honor these individuals for their leadership.”

Mayor George Gardner started honoring community leaders who are not usually in the limelight by inviting them to kick off the annual holiday celebration three years ago.

Past honorees are :


  • Tree - Linda James, Lincolnville Neighborhood Advocate
  • City - Patti and Carl Rang, Leaders in Historical Reenactments


  • Tree - Brian Fancher, Sergeant First Class, Florida National Guard
  • City - Ray Ashton, Director, St. Johns County Emergency Management


  • Tree - Ester Kramer
  • City -  Bill Lennon

Nights of Lights Begins with a Celebration

As it has since its initial season, the Nights of Lights began with a spectacular lighting ceremony in the city’s historic Plaza de la Constitucion located in the heart of the historic district.

The program began at 4:30pm with a spirited holiday performance by Showtime USA, a high energy fun filled singing and dancing troupe of children and teens that has delighted audiences at Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens, and Six Flags Over Georgia.

At 5:30pm, the All Star Orchestra, under the direction of Gary Strohminger, returned for an encore performance this year. The popular 20-piece band, performing from the Gazebo, filled the Plaza with great swing and big band sounds all in grand holiday style.

The lighting ceremony began at 6:30pm when St. Augustine Mayor George Gardner continued the tradition of asking members of the community to step onto the stage to turn the switches that lit the city’s official Christmas tree and then the entire city.

Those who make it possible

The City of St. Augustine manages the installation and maintenance of displays at over 100 locations, including buildings, parks, medians and gardens throughout the city, but much credit for the continued success of the Nights of Lights goes to area businesses and residents who voluntarily and at their own expense participate in the event. Because they join in, the city truly becomes a city of light.

Click here to learn more about being a part of the Nights of Lights. The Nights of Lights is funded by the City of St. Augustine and the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council. For more information visit

For a brochure on all the activities during the 10-weeks of the Nights of Lights, contact the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau at 800.653.2489 or online at


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