There’s no better place to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day than in the Nation’s Oldest City. And, for Historic City News readers, there is no safer way to celebrate with dazzling fireworks displays than at Fireworks over the Matanzas.
Holidays are built around traditions and 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.
First, there’s music
Starting at 6:00pm one of the region’s most popular big bands, The All Star Orchestra, returns to the Plaza de la Constitución (click here for a map) 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 runs from 6:00pmuntil 8:00pm. The concert is free and those attending should bring lounge chairs for seating.
Then there’s fireworks!
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 and patriotic 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 (click here for a map).
For over two decades Fireworks over the Matanzas has been produced by Fireworks by Santore, a company based in nearby Flagler County, that’s been in the fireworks business for over 125 years. Fireworks over the Matanzas is just one of more than 250 shows produced by Fireworks by Santore annually including shows for Daytona International Speedway, Sea World Orlando, Walt Disney World and a large number of corporate and private events all across the country.
This year’s Fireworks over the Matanzas will include over 5,000 individual shells ranging in size from 1″ to 12″ in diameter. Some will explode as low as 100 feet above Matanzas Bay, others as high as 2,000 feet and everywhere in between. In addition to St. Augustine, Santore crews will be firing shows in 40 other locations on July 4th to celebrate our nation’s birthday.
Enjoy downtown after the show
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 on July 4th. Given the choice between spending time strolling downtown with friends and family or waiting in traffic, more and more people are taking their time for departure.
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 have prohibited fireworks confiscated and be subject to $100 citation or arrest.
Simply put: Have a great time with friends and family, but keep it safe and legal!
Personnel from the St. Augustine Fire Department and the St. Johns County Emergency Medical Services will patrol the downtown throughout the evening, staging out of an area at the corner of S. Castillo Dr. and Cuna St. That same area will also be equipped with a “cool zone trailer,” a facility allowing those feeling overwhelmed by the heat to rest for a few minutes, often a good way to avoid heat exhaustion (click here for map).
Getting in, parking, and getting out
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 show.
Rerouting of traffic begins at 8:30pm and will include prohibiting vehicular traffic on the Bridge of Lions, Avenida Menendez and S. Castillo Dr. in order 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.
The Historic Downtown Parking Facility located at the Visitors Information Center (click here for a map) can accommodate 1,200 vehicles. The rate is $12 per car per entry.
Parking in city owned lots and on-street is free on July 4th, as it is on all national holidays, with the largest concentration of surface parking located on Granada St. behind the Lightner Building (click here for a map). Also there will be no access to or from the parking lot of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument from 6:00pmuntil approximately 11:00pm.
Following the show, King St. and W. Castillo Dr. will be dedicated to west-bound traffic out of the downtown to Ponce de Leon Blvd. (U.S. 1). 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.
If arriving by water
The Bridge of Lions will not open for marine traffic from 8:30pm until 10:30pm. Vessels will be prohibited in an area north of the Bridge of Lions to a point approximately in line with Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Water based law enforcement will patrol Matanzas Bay and will notify vessels of the prohibited area.
Or…ride a bicycle
A growing trend in recent years has been the use of bicycles by those who live close to downtown or to take advantage of perimeter parking areas and bike the last mile to downtown.
Bicycle parking sites are located throughout the downtown making it easy to secure bikes before going to dinner or taking that pre-fireworks stroll. Click here to see locations of permanent bicycle parking. There will also be temporary bicycle parking locations set up at Ponce Circle (map) and on the north side of the Visitor Information Center (map).