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The City of St. Augustine remains committed to providing accessibility to all and provides for handicapped accessible parking in the city. For a map of accessible parking locations, Click Here To notify the city regarding accessibility concerns contact: Will Franke, Building Official, Phn: 904.825.1065, Fax: 904.209.4335, Email: email@example.com; or Todd Grant, Public Works Deputy Director, Phn: 904.825.1040, Fax: 904.209.4286, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also write either of these contacts at City of St. Augustine, P.O. Box 210, St. Augustine, FL 32085-0210.
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For the 12th year, thousands of people crowded into St. Augustine’s historic Plaza de la Constitucion for the start of the city’s annual holiday spectacular, the Nights of Lights. And for the third year, the city honored members of the community with invitations to turn on the lights for the city’s tree and then “flipping the switch” to light the entire city.
The Nights of Lights began this year on November 19 and continues through the end of January.
Excitement built all day long as the downtown streets became more and more crowded with visitors and residents alike. By late afternoon the Plaza already showed signs of being the center of a very big event. Families had spread blankets where toddlers could play and groups of seniors had their folding chairs in a circle as they conversed.
Showtime USA, was once again a crowd pleaser with the large cast’s high energy, fun filled entertainment. This is the fourth year the singing and dancing troupe of children and teens have delighted audiences at the start of the Nights of Lights.
By the time the All Star Orchestra took to the stage at 5:30pm and nighttime approached, the Plaza was reaching capacity. As the All Stars played their great swing and big band sounds, all in grand holiday style, the crowds kept coming and the anticipation kept growing.
If it were possible to know just how many people were in the Plaza at 6:30pm, it would be possible to know this famous park’s capacity. Simply put, there was not room for one more person when the lighting ceremony started.
At the start of the ceremony, the crowd thanked those who make the Nights of Lights possible. Representing the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council was St. Augustine Beach City Commissioner Barbara Ellis, and representing the St. Johns County Commission was Commissioner Bruce McGuire. The Council and the Commission are responsible for supportive funding for the annual event.
Mayor George Gardner and Honoree Linda James
pose for a photo at the switch that will light the city’s holiday tree.
In recent years some of the city’s unsung heroes who have devoted many years of service to their community have been asked to “flip the switches” that first light the tree and then the entire city.
Linda James, a lifelong resident of Lincolnville, was asked to light the tree the year. For decades Linda has been a leader in both her neighborhood and her religious community. She was among the founders of St. Augustine’s first Neighborhood Crime Watch and has been an advocate for her neighborhood at every opportunity. Her commitment to safe streets and neighborhood involvement has long been credited with keeping one of the city’s most distinguished neighborhoods a great place to live.
As soon as Linda was at the switch the countdown began: “10…9…8…,” and when the crowd reached “…2…1!” the tree became an evergreen tower of light as the crowds cheered.
Patti Rang and her husband Carl (not pictured) were honored this year by turning the switch
to start the Nights of Lights. Accompanying Patti as she “flipped the switch” were
her daughter Lara Winchester, and Scott Manny, one of the organizers of the
British Grande Illumination.
With the tree illuminated, it was time to light the city. Patti and Carl Rang were honored this year by being asked to do that duty this year.
The couple was among those who established one of St. Augustine’s most famous holiday traditions, The British Grande Illumination held annually on the first Saturday in December. Through their dedication to faithful historical reenactment, they have been instrumental in making St. Augustine’s history come alive for residents and the millions who visit the city each year. It was for all that hard work they were honored this year.
Although Carl was unable to attend, Lara Winchester, their daughter accompanied Patti on stage along with Scott Manny, another leader in the city’s corps of reenactors. All were appropriately dressed in British colonial attire.
As all eyes turned towards the dark branches of the oak canopy over the Plaza, the thousands present began the second countdown ending with “3…2…1!”
In the blink of an eye, the Ancient City instantly dazzled in the brilliance of holiday light and the crowds broke into thunderous cheers and applause.
The All Star Orchestra continued to fill the Plaza with holiday favorites as some people poised for photos in front of the tree, some shopped the vendor booths in the Plaza and others strolled off in every direction to enjoy the decorated buildings and start their holiday shopping along the Nation’s Oldest City’s narrow Old World streets.
The 10-weeks of the Nights of Lights is truly one of the most festive times of year for a city that thrives on festivals. For more information on the busy schedule of events that will run through the end of January, call 800.653.2489 or visit St. Augustine, Ponte & the Beaches at www.getaway4florida.com.
If you are driving into the St. Augustine for the day, make your first stop the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Visitor Information Center for information on accommodations, restaurants, museums, and attractions. Parking is available adjacent to the Center for $6.00 per day with complimentary return parking the following day.
Those who make it possible
The Nights of Lights would not be possible without a generous grant from the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council.
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 Holiday Light.
St. Augustine’s Government House stands guard over the Plaza de la Constitution during the Nights of Lights.