Words by Molly Britt
A look into the annual Deck the Chairs exhibit in Jacksonville Beach
As a Floridian, I can tell you, I know how it feels to hope for the dreamy white Christmas. Snow falling, lights up around the house, and hot chocolate without sweating while we drink it because our families needed the heat on in 69 degree weather. Well, we may not have the ideal winter weather, but we definitely have lots of fun lights and hot chocolate – we just ignore the heat. Some of Northeast Florida’s greatest Christmas lights exhibits happen here, and thankfully, there’s one right at the heart of Jacksonville Beach.
Jacksonville Beach Deck The Chairs (JBDTC) is an annual event hosted at the Seawalk Pavilion throughout the entire month of December. The month-long event partners with small business and local non-profits, among other groups, in an effort to promote art and create opportunities for children’s art education. The organization Deck The Chairs began back in 2013 and grew year by year to what it is now…a nationally known holiday event hosting thousands of visitors.
JBDTC began as a way to liven up the holiday spirit in Jacksonville Beach. It became a beloved tradition where local companies and non-profits would decorate their own lifeguard chairs with lights and props to showcase at the Pavilion for six weeks. The organization and event hosts hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, and donators who are in support of promoting education in the arts. The event boasts over 40 wonderfully festive lifeguard chairs, along with a giant Christmas tree made out of lights. Some of the companies sponsored include the Jaguars, First Coast News, Circle K and so many more. Personally, my favorite part is the Beaches Go Green exhibit, in which plastic found littered on the beaches is reused in their beautifully lit piece in a way to generate national attention over plastic usage.
According to founder, Kurtis Loftus, Deck The Chairs has been “able to positively impact millions of lives with our creatively inspired holiday spirit.” The annual exhibit showcases over 500 holiday performers open to public viewing and brings in more than $60,000 to distaste to local no-profits and art groups. Not only does this event benefit the attendees and local businesses that sponsor, but it also is a way to bring in revenue for areas at the beach that typically face slower crowds during the colder temperatures.
As part of their exhibit, Deck The Chairs hosts their very own “SeaSongs Light Show.” This “one-of-a-kind motion activated holiday sound experience” features 140 feet of custom exhibit designed to play various musical chords when visitors interact with it. This six week long event is completely open and free to the public. As a long-time resident of Jacksonville Beach and a lover of the holiday season, I can tell you this event is one of my favorites every year. My entire family gathers with friends and spend the night enjoying the festive lights and decorated chairs. Pictures are taken and hot chocolate is drank while we walk around in the fresh air. I understand St. Augustine during December is a favorite among visitors from all over, but if you want to take a break from the insanely large crowds, I highly recommend a night spent under the Chairs.