A re-enactment of the 1565 landing of St. Augustineâ€™s founder, Don Pedro Menendez, a Thanksgiving Feast and a living history timeline will be among the highlights of the City of St. Augustineâ€™s 443rd Birthday Celebration according to an announcement received by Historic City News from Jay Humphreys; Communications Director of the Visitors and Convention Bureau.
This annual event, scheduled for August 28th through 30th, celebrates St. Augustineâ€™s unique status as the Nationâ€™s oldest city and provides a colorful look at life when Florida was an important part of the Spanish Empire.
Despite hurricanes, wars, plagues and countless pirate raids, the City of St. Augustine has survived and flourished continuously since that Saturday in September 1565 when Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles proclaimed the Spanish settlement. This yearâ€™s birthday celebration will focus attention on the Native Americans who lived here before, during and after the arrival of the Spanish settlers; the reenactment of Pedro Menendezâ€™s landing in 1565 followed by a celebration of Mass; a special interactive exhibit of the cityâ€™s historic timeline; and a birthday party complete with cake and games.
August 28 (Thursday) Celebrating Those Who Were Already Here
On this date in 1565, the Spanish fleet arrived offshore and in recognition of the fact that it was the feast day of St. Augustine, Admiral Menendez named the area after the celebrated Bishop of Hippo. The Spaniards were not the first to think of the St. Augustine area as â€œhome.â€ Native Americans known as the Timucua had been living there for at least 500 years when the Europeans first arrived. From 6 to 9 p.m. the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park will come alive with demonstrations of culture and lifestyles of the Timucua. Seminole and other U.S. tribes that have been part of Floridaâ€™s history will also be represented at an Indian Pow Wow honoring the Native American traditions that are a part of the cityâ€™s history.
August 29 (Friday) A 16th Century Celebration
From 5 to 8 p.m., 16th century entertainers, including jugglers, madrigal singers, and actors will present authentic skits and comedies in the gardens of Ripleyâ€™s Believe It or Not! Museum.
August 30 (Saturday) A Day Long Celebration
A full day of activities begin at 9:30 a.m. with an authentic re-enactment of the arrival of the cityâ€™s founder, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, at the Mission of Nombre de Dios, the exact landing point of the Spanish colonists in 1565. The site of the landing is marked today with a 208-foot stainless steel cross erected in 1965 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the cityâ€™s founding.
The Celebration of Mass
The landing reenactment will be followed, as it was 443 years ago, with a celebration of Mass at an outdoor wooden altar by the waterâ€™s edge at The Mission de Nombres de Dios.
Decades before the Pilgrims sat down for a harvest feast with their New England neighbors the Wampanoag, the good people of St. Augustine had already established the tradition with their neighbors the Timucua. At noon, that First Thanksgiving will be remembered with a cooking contest featuring authentic 16th century foods and recipes. The contest will take place at a special historical encampment featuring a living timeline of the cityâ€™s history on the grounds of the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park.
The Birthday Party!
From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., everyone is invited to the Birthday Party. Held at the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum on St. George Street, the party will feature free birthday cake, great live music performed by the Driftwoods, authentic Colonial crafters and artisans, games and fun for the entire family. Birthday cake will be distributed as long as quantities last and soft drinks and water will be available for purchase. No food or drink may be brought into the museum.
Admission to all events is free. General admission fees apply to enter Fountain of Youth Park, Ripleyâ€™s Believe it or Not Museum and the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum.
For more information about the City of St. Augustineâ€™s 443rd Birthday Celebration, including event location maps, visit their website, or call 1.800.653.2489.
Historic City News contributed photo