Every year, Historic City News reports as the City of St. Augustine honors its founder; don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, at the Noche de Gala celebration.
This year, we welcome a new Menéndez: Chad Light. Light, a resident of Saint Augustine for more than a decade, originally came to the nation’s oldest city for his love of history. Interestingly, Light has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Master of Science in behavioral psychology from Marshal University and UNC at Chapel Hill. It is quite possible that this unique combination of studies has made Light the excellent reenactor he is.
Light has been reenacting since he was a boy, when he was first introduced to replicating history by his father. Since then, Light has reenacted as a frontiersman in a French and Indian War, a member of Roger’s Rangers in the Revolutionary War, and a Spanish Marine in St. Augustine (to name a few). He also appeared in the movie The Last of the Mohicans with St. Augustine’s Men of Menéndez. All reenactments up until his most recent focused more on the era than the individual. Reenacting Menéndez has been Light’s first experience with capturing the essence of an individual.
For two years, Light has submerged himself in the study of Menéndez, his speech patterns and mannerisms, and the 16th century Spanish colonial period. He has gained most of his knowledge on the era and Menéndez’s life from research conducted by St. Augustine’s Eugene Lyon and Albert Manucy. Both Lyon and Manucy were authors of many historical works and are regarded as experts on Spanish colonial history. Light watches no television, and the only time in which he uses the internet is for research.
When Light began to portray Menéndez, he cut his waist-length black hair, and trimmed his mustache and beard accordingly. When in character, his speech is inflected with 16th century Spanish dialect, another topic of which Light has studied furiously. Of Menéndez, in Light’s research, he has found that Menéndez was “a student first and a Spaniard second. He was genuine in his service and a man above most of his peers. He was fond of his own opinion, but his opinion was often the best in the room.”
This year’s Noche de Gala will focus on a banquet feast put on in honor of Menéndez’s birthday. Menéndez loved music and singing. Born and bred a gentleman, he was also educated in art and culture. Light will tap into these characteristics of Menéndez to make for a truly spectacular evening. Light, fluent in Spanish and having spent eight years in El Salvador, Honduras and Panama while in the U.S. military will bring all of his research, studying, and life experience to his performance on the evening of Saturday, February 26. This year’s Menéndez, Chad Light, certainly will not disappoint.
Noche de Gala, known as St. Augustine’s premier event celebrating St. Augustine’s long standing Spanish tradition and heritage is a favorite annual event for locals and lovers of history like.
Tickets are $185 per person, $160 per person for members of the Heritage Fund. For more information or to make reservations, please call (904) 209-4226.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by Jackie Hird