Great Independence Day fireworks tradition

300-FIREWORKS-2011-HCNHolidays are built around traditions and for Historic City News readers in St Augustine and St Johns County, few holidays have more great family traditions than the Fourth of July — great food, outdoor band concerts, a day with friends and family, and of course, fireworks.

They all come together in a grand celebration and there’s no better place to celebrate Independence Day than in the Nation’s Oldest City and no better way than Fireworks over the Matanzas on Thursday, July 4th, beginning at 6:00 p.m. with The All Star Orchestra and then at 9:30 p.m. the fireworks display.

Starting at 6:00pm one of the region’s most popular big bands, The All Star Orchestra, returns to the Plaza de la Constitución for a two-hour show filled with Big Band and Swing music along with all the traditional patriotic favorites. The All Star Orchestra’s performance from the Plaza’s Gazebo area runs from 6:00pm until 8:00pm. The concert is free and those attending should bring lounge chairs for seating.

Fireworks over the Matanzas, the highlight of St Augustine’s traditional July 4th activities has become synonymous with celebrating Independence Day in the Nation’s Oldest City. The spectacular aerial display of pyrotechnics high over Matanzas Bay begins at 9:30pm.

The 20-minute display is tightly choreographed to a stirring soundtrack of great popular music delivered over an extensive sound system transforming the entire Bayfront between the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the Bridge of Lions into a theatre of sight and sound.

Many visitors attending Fireworks over the Matanzas remain downtown at the conclusion of the show for a late dinner or to visit the shops that have learned the value of extended hours after the fireworks. Given the choice between spending time strolling downtown with friends and family or sitting in traffic wasting gas, more and more people are taking their time.

Keep it safe and legal

Those attending Fireworks over the Matanzas should remember two important safety rules that will be strictly enforced:

• Alcohol is prohibited on public property, including parks, streets and sidewalks; and
• Possession of fireworks that explode or leave the ground is illegal and those found with such fireworks will be subject to $100 citation or arrest and will have prohibited fireworks confiscated.

Simply put: Have a great time with friends and family, but keep it safe and legal.

In the event medical assistance is needed, the St Augustine Fire Department along with St Johns County Emergency Medical Services will have a base station at the main entrance to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and will have personnel roving on bicycles throughout the evening.

St Augustine’s annual Fireworks over the Matanzas draw more people–and cars–into the downtown area than any other single event all year long. A growing trend in recent years has been the use of bicycles by those who live close to downtown or carpooling with friends to minimize the number of cars in need of a place to park.

Rerouting of traffic will begin at 8:30pm and will include closing of the Bridge of Lions, Avenida Menendez and South Castillo Drive to all vehicular traffic to accommodate the vast number of pedestrians. The best advice is to arrive early, explore the city, enjoy the show, and be patient during departure.

Parking in city owned lots and on-street is free on July 4th with the largest concentration of surface parking located on Granada Street behind the Lightner Building. The Historic Downtown Parking Facility located at the Visitors Information Center can accommodate 1,200 vehicles. The rate is $10 per car per entry. Also there will be no access to or from the parking lot of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument from 6:00pm until 11:00pm.

St Augustine’s Old World streets are a key component of its Old World charm and a challenge when dispersing large numbers of vehicles, but the St Augustine Police Department has refined a traffic plan that moves vehicles safely and as quickly as possible out of the downtown area following the fireworks. King St will be dedicated to west-bound traffic out of the downtown as well as both lanes of West Castillo Dr. Traffic signals in the downtown area, along Ponce de Leon Blvd. (U.S. 1), Anastasia Blvd., and State Roads 312, 207 and 16 will be monitored to facilitate traffic flow.

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