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When the Nights of Lights begins its 15th year on Saturday, November 22, it will continue what has become an evening of traditions in this city of age-old traditions, especially for what has come to be called Light-Up Night!
The city’s historic Plaza de la Constitución is the setting for all the Light-Up Night! ceremonies including the dramatic “flipping of the switch” to kick off the 10-week long Nights of Lights. Mayor Joe Boles will continue a tradition began last year of inviting the city’s senior most past-Mayor to accept the honor of lighting the city for the start of the Nights of Lights.
The festivities begin at 4:00pm with a spirited holiday performance by Showtime USA. The high energy, fun filled singing and dancing troupe will perform under the King’s Balcony at the west end of the Plaza.
Then at 5:30pm, the All Star Orchestra returns for an encore performance after an outstanding performance last year. The popular 20-piece band, performing from the Gazebo, will fill the Plaza with great swing music and big band sounds all in grand holiday style.
Light-Up! begins at 6:30pm when St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles officially opens the ceremonies from the King’s Balcony at Government House followed by the flipping of the switch from the Gazebo, first for the city’s tree and then to light the city.
In keeping with Nights of Lights tradition, the thousands gathered in the Plaza will be asked for their assistance in the lighting. With onlookers of all ages eagerly waiting, the countdown begins: "10…9…8…." Then, as all eyes turn towards the ancient oak canopy over the Plaza and the fanciful spires of the City’s skyline, the moment arrives: "3…2…1!" Light-Up!
Instantly, over two million white lights fill St. Augustine's every corner with brilliant and magical holiday sparkle, transforming the Nation's Oldest City into an enchanted city of light.
Once the lights are on, it’s time to enjoy downtown St. Augustine. With its narrow Old World streets filled with the glow of holiday lights, there is no better opportunity to stroll casually, stopping for dinner or dessert and of course some shopping.
The Light-Up Night! Ceremony
The most exciting moment on Light-Up Night! is the light-up itself and has been since Nights of Lights began in 1994. In the early years of the event, governmental officials would called upon to flip-the-switch, and when George Gardner took office as Mayor, he gave the honor to members of the community he identified as unsung heroes, those who contributed to the betterment of the community often without recognition.
Mayor Boles took the best of both past traditions and created a new one by recognizing those who have given of themselves as public servants to our city but who may have been forgotten. Mayor Boles has invited all former St. Augustine Mayors to join him in Light-Up Night! ceremonies and then the most senior mayor of those present will have the honor of flipping the switch to light the city.
Mayor Boles is St. Augustine’s 118th mayor since the city became part of the United States in 1821. Currently there are 13 living former mayors and all have been invited to participate in the ceremony. They and their years of service are: Ronald Jackson (1949-1950), Walter Bugeski (1958-1959), John Bailey (1965-1967), Arthur Runk (1973-1975), Edward Mussallem (1975-1979), Fred Brinkhoff (1979-1981), V. Noel Helmly (1981), Ramelle Petroglou (1981-1982, 1983-1985), Tracy Upchurch (1990-1992), Greg Baker (1992-1995), Len Weeks (1995-2000), Mark Alexander (2000-2002), and George Gardner (2002-2006).
Making the most out of the evening
The Historic Downtown Parking Facility at the Visitor Information Center (VIC) will charge a flat, all-day rate of $7.00, payable on entry. For a map and more information, visit www.vicparking.com.
Streets in the vicinity of the Plaza will be closed after 5:30pm as needed to accommodate pedestrian traffic. Parking will be restricted in areas adjacent to the Plaza throughout the day. Vehicular traffic in downtown will be very congested after 5:00pm.
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.
The Nights of Lights is funded by the City of St. Augustine and the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council. 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 www.nightsoflights.com.
Be a part of the Nights of Lights, click here.