When the Nights of Lights begins its 16th year on Saturday, November 21, it will continue what has become an evening of traditions in this city of age-old traditions.
The city’s historic Plaza de la Constitución is the setting for the Light-Up! Night ceremonies including the dramatic “flipping of the switch” to kick off the 10-week long Nights of Lights. St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles will continue the tradition year of inviting one of the city’s past Mayors 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 of Government House 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 Mayor 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 decorated tree and then to light the city.
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!” 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 early holiday 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 were called upon to flip-the-switch, then later the honor was given to members of the community identified as unsung heroes, those who contributed to the betterment of the community often without recognition.
Mayor Boles took the best of both traditions and created a new one by recognizing those who have given of themselves as public servants to the city but who may have been forgotten. For the last two years, the Mayor has invited all former St. Augustine Mayors to join him in Light-Up! Night ceremonies and then each year one of those present has 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).
Light-Up! Night parking
Parking will be available throughout the city except around the Plaza de la Constitución. The Historic Downtown Parking Facility at the Visitor Information Center 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. Vehicular traffic throughout downtown will be very congested after 5:00pm and through the early evening. Those not attending the Light-Up! Night ceremonies may wish to use alternative routes.
Those who make it happen
The City of St. Augustine manages the installation and maintenance of displays at over 100 locations, including buildings, parks, and gardens throughout the city, but credit for the success of the Nights of Lights goes to area businesses and residents who voluntarily participate at their own expense truly making the city a city of light. For more information on Light-Up! Night, visit www.staugustinegovernment.com.
The Nights of Lights is funded by the City of St. Augustine and the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council. For information on 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 visit www.nightsoflights.com.