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Fr. Terry Morgan, Pastor of the Cathedral-Basilica prepares to celebrate the Mass at last year’s St. Augustine’s Birthday Celebration.
St. Augustine’s Birthday Celebration, a day-long schedule of longstanding traditions and fun filled entertainment, will be held on Saturday, September 4.
This year, the city celebrates its 439th birthday.
Founded in 1565 as a Spanish colony by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, St. Augustine is commonly called the Nation's Oldest City since it is the longest continually inhabited city founded by Europeans in what is now the United States. Although the city’s actual birthday is September 8, the celebration is held on a Saturday close to the anniversary date to accommodate greater participation by the community and visitors.
The Birthday Celebration activities begin with the traditional reenactment of the landing of Menendez and a Mass held at the Mission Nombre de Dios starting at 9:30am. Then the day’s activities move to the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum for entertainment starting at 3:00pm. All events are free and open to the public.
The landing of Menendez
The commemoration of the city’s founding begins in the same manner and at the same location as did the actual events. Historical accounts and archeological research indicate that on September 8, 1565, with nearly 1,000 voyagers cheering, Menendez set foot on the shores of Florida at the location of today’s Mission Nombre de Dios. In honor of the saint whose feast day fell on the day Menendez first sighted shore, he named the colonial settlement Saint Augustine and then all in attendance celebrated Mass. The site of the landing is marked today with a 200 foot high cross, erected in 1965 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the city’s founding.
The morning’s event begins at 9:30am with choral music and the landing of Menendez, portrayed this year by Mario V. Hugas, Jr., a thirteenth generation native of St. Augustine. A charter member of the Los Floridanos Society, whose membership traces its family heritage back to St. Augustine’s original families, Hugas is a descendent of both the Solana and Sanchez families. The honorary Menendez will be accompanied by a contingent of reenactors specializing in interpretation of 16th century Spanish colonists and Native Americans.
Following the landing there will be remarks by guest speaker Dr. Kathleen A. Deagan, Distinguished Research Curator of Historical Archeology for the Florida Museum of Natural History located in Gainesville, Florida. Dr. Deagan has long been associated with archeological research in St. Augustine including work at the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios. At the conclusion of the morning’s events, Dr. Deagan will be available to sign copies of her books at the Shrine Gift Shop on the grounds of the Mission.
Following the Dr. Deagan’s address, Mass will be cerebrated by a member of the clergy of the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Augustine, the nation’s first parish.
The Mission Nombre de Dios is located at 27 San Marco Avenue. The event is open to the public and free parking is available at the site.
Latin music and birthday cake
Starting at 3:00pm Birthday Celebration activities resume in the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum on St. George Street.
The Luis Mario and his Latin jazz Band will perform high energy classic and contemporary Latin jazz and salsa favorites from the stage in the Quarter from 3:00pm until 5:00pm. Featured every weekend at St. Augustine’s popular Habana Village Café, the band has been called the Ancient City’s own premier Latin band.
During intermission, St. Augustine’s Royal Family will cut the traditional birthday cake and serve portions to all in attendance. The Royal Family, representing the Spanish Royal Family in 1672, the year the Castillo de San Marcos was commissioned, is selected each year from heritage families in St. Augustine. This year's Royal Family consists of Melissa Hall as Queen Mariana, Allison Giddens as Princess Margarita Maria and Caleb McClellan as the Boy-King Carlos.
Those attending the concert are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating. No food or drink may be brought into the museum but soft drinks, beer, wine and snacks will be available for purchase.
Stepping into the Quarter is a step back in time
The Colonial Spanish Quarter is a living history museum where interpreters in authentic 18th century dress depict a time when St. Augustine was a remote outpost of the Spanish Empire. The Quarter illustrates the life of Spanish soldiers and their families in 1740 St. Augustine. Artisans and craftsmen describe their work and answer questions as they go about their occupations in blacksmithing, carpentry, leatherworking, candle making and other trades.
The museum is open daily from 9:00am until 5:30pm and in honor of the city’s birthday will offer free admission on September 4.
Parking and information
Parking is available at the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Visitor Information Center (VIC). All of the events associated the Birthday Celebration, including those at the Mission Nombre de Dios and the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum, are located within walking distance of the VIC. Additionally, the VIC is an excellent place to obtain information on area accommodations, restaurants, museums and attractions.
For more information on St. Augustine’s Birthday Celebration, call the city’s Department of Public Affairs at 904.825.1004.