By ANNE C. HEYMEN
Its party time as St. Augustine prepares to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the city’s founding by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. The city’s actual birthday is Sept. 8, but many special events are planned prior to and after that special day. In addition, a number of organizations have completed or are conducting lasting projects to mark this special date in the city’s history.
An invitation is extended for a big bash Sept. 5 at the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Park, where a 450th Landing Day Thanksgiving feast and celebration are planned.
On that day, re-enactors, after recreating the historic landing in 1565, will proceed to the location for a Thanksgiving meal which FOY officials describe as “the tradition of the first documented Thanksgiving Feast in what is now the U.S.” The first 300 guests will receive a free Thanksgiving Day meal from Smokin’ D’s Barbecue, and there will be music throughout the day provided by James and Sylvia Kalal and by the Pemberwicks.
Admission to the park will be free with identification to St. Johns County residents. When the free food is all consumed, feast tickets will be sold. Hours at the park are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with free parking. Tours are available for both humans and their dogs.
First families of this oldest city will gather for A First Spanish Families Reunion for all the descendant families from the First Spanish Period. The reunion is planned over the 450th weekend, with the main day featuring a standard old-time reunion from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 6 at Solomon Calhoun Center.
Other plans, according to organizers, include a restaurant dinner and brunch “to bookend the weekend and have attendees go to many of the 450th events and make our presence known as a group, ” says Crystal Solana, one of those involved in the arrangements. “At the main day we will have the National Geographic run Genographic Project to speak to us and take DNA samples for testing, a genealogy swap area where we can share our documents and photos and stories, and of course food and beverages and we are working on some kind of entertainment as well. We will be awarding our first scholarship” on that day for a Floridanos heading off to college. “We have $1,000 dollars donated by two members for the inaugural award and will continue it in the future with $500 each year. ”
Also planned Sept. 4-8 are a variety of events including a two-day music festival at Francis Field; a day-long Spanish music and dance performance sponsored by the EMMA Concert Association at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre Sept. 6 at the amphitheatre; fireworks Sept. 7 over Matanzas Bay; and the Sept. 8 commemoration of the landing of Menendez, Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica and a street festival. Worshippers at the Cathedral will get a first-hand look at the recently completed $4 million “Rejoice and Restore” project in honor of the city’s 450th birthday, undertaken by the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine and Cathedral Parish.
Sept. 12, the Pilot Club of St. Augustine will continue its tradition of honoring the city’s founding. In 1965, the club hosted a Quadricentennial luncheon at the Ponce de Leon Hotel, now home of Flagler College, and for the 450th a Datil Pepper Tea is planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 12 at the St. Johns County Agricultural Center, co-hosted by Master Gardeners of St. Johns County.
Descendants of the early settlers will be recognized, and refreshments will range from foods featuring the spicy datil pepper to finger foods for those who choose not to assault their taste buds with fiery refreshments.
Tickets are $10, and may be purchased from any member of the Pilot Club or by calling 824-2486 or 471-2246.
A variety of special projects are either continuing or have been completed by a variety of area organizations.
The Garden Club of St. Augustine shared its talents with a colorful floral display on the west side of the bayfront, with a floral tribute sharing the message 2015.
The Woman’s Exchange has undertaken three projects in honor of the 450th. First was the addition of eight interpretive panels to the structure’s Visitors Orientation Center at the Pena Peck House on St. George Street. The panels tell the story of the Pena-Peck House and the Woman’s Exchange here.
Next came the restaging of the kitchen to show what it might have looked like in the 1840s during the Peck era; and the final project is restoration of art work in the historic house. A grant from the Crisp-Ellert Fund is being used for that project. The Pena-Peck House is open to the public with tours available and a variety of items available for purchase in the shop. Another popular event is the yearly luncheon series in the house’s picturesque gardens.
The Post to Post Links II error: No link found for term slug "Ximenez-Fatio House", 20 Aviles St., maintained by the Colonial Dames, is conducting archeological digs as part of its 450th anniversary tribute. According to the historic home’s web site, “The project is expected to produce artifacts that date back to the original town plan of 1572 and Florida’s Territorial and Early Statehood periods from 1821until 1861, going forward.” The project will be open to the public and is free of charge for viewing on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The St. Augustine Art Association is spearheading Touch St. Augustine, with Braille signage and audio guides for the city’s landmarks.
Fort Mose Bastion Wall is being reconstructed at Fort Mose Historic State Park, north of the city.
The Maritime Heritage Legacy recently completed a replica of a chalupa like the one destroyed by Sir Francis Drake‘s men in 1586. That replica was constructed by an army of volunteers who worked at the Fountain of Youth Park, and it was successfully launched in April.
The Menorcan Pocket Park is a project of the St. Augustine Sister City Committee being created at the corner of Hypolita and Spanish streets as a tribute to the relationship between St. Augustine and Menorca, the island from which many of St. Augustine’s early settlers came.
Refurbishing of Tolomato Cemetery, on Cordova Street, one of the city’s historic cemeteries, is also underway.