Light Up! Night
24th season of the Nights of Lights begins with Light-Up! Night, November 18
As it has each year for over two decades, the Nights of Lights begins with Light-Up! Night the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
The program begins at 4:00pm with a spirited performance by Showtime USA, a high energy song and dance troupe of young people that deliver a wide variety of holiday musical favorites. Showtime’s performance will be in front of St. Augustine’s City Hall, the Lightner Museum, located at 75 King St.
Then at 5:30pm from the historic Plaza de la Constitución Gazebo, the All Star Orchestra takes the stage with great swing and big band sounds all in grand holiday style.
At 6:30pm, the lighting ceremony begins that culminates with the turning of a switch that fills every corner of the city with brilliant, magical holiday sparkle. Entertainment continues in the Plaza until 8:00pm as thousands gathered for the lighting linger in the downtown area for dinner, some shopping and to simply enjoy the beauty of the city and the company of good friends.
Getting Ready for Light-Up! Night
With just days to go until the start of the city’s annual holiday celebration, Nights of Lights, preparations by city crews are nearing completion on public buildings and throughout the city’s many parks as strands of lights are hung over massive live oaks and wrapped around the tall straight palms that line the streets.
Equally busy are the hundreds of residents and business owners who are working diligently outlining nearly every roof line and arched doorway of the Spanish Colonial buildings and the tall sturdy towers of the 19th Century hotels.
Then on Light-Up! Night, Saturday, November 18, all the hard work pays off as the Nation’s Oldest City becomes a city of light with a magnificent display of white lights that shine through January 31.
Light-Up! Night is just the first night of Nights of Lights as the holiday display continues, every night, through the end of January. The best way to experience the Nights of Lights and get the best views is to park at the Historic Downtown Parking Facility, adjacent to the St. Augustine Visitor Information Center, and then enjoy displays by strolling the city's Old World Streets or taking a horse and carriage ride or board one of the tour vehicles. Simply put, get out of the car and enjoy the lights.
Also, since the lights burn bright every night, many are discovering a more leisurely pace, shorter lines and less traffic by visiting the city midweek when many hotels and bed and breakfast inns offer reduced rates.
For complete visitor information, including a calendar of events during the 10-week long Nights of Lights and details on the city's wide variety of accommodations, restaurants and dining opportunities, visit www.NightsofLights.com.
Honorees named for lighting the city
For the past 15 years, a tradition of Light-Up! Night has been naming those who will actually “flip the switch” that turns on the lights that kick off the annual Nights of Lights. This week St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver continued that tradition when she identified the two people who will launch the holiday tradition, now in its 24th year.
“Over the past year so many in our community have reached out to serve the needs of others by assisting with basic needs and finding ways to enrich the quality of life for all. I am proud to announce that I have asked two people who represent the theme “Serving our community near and far,” to kick off this year’s Nights of Lights,” said Shaver. “They are the owner and Executive Chef of Michael’s Tasking Room, Michael Lugo, and Wanda Bray, the city’s Event Administrator who, after more than 15 years, is retiring in early 2018.”
Chef Lugo, a native of Puerto Rico, opened Michael’s Tasking Room in 2006 and in the last decade had made major contributions to the area’s culinary landscape and to the welfare of communities near and far. During the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Lugo worked tirelessly to gather contributions and coordinate delivery of relief supplies for Manati, Puerto Rico where he has family. Several thousand dollars in donations and his own efforts resulted in a Jacksonville shipping company delivering food, water, toiletries, batteries and pharmacy items directly to those Lugo knew were in need, and the effort is continuing today.
In addition, Lugo’s charitable efforts are ongoing here at home. Shortly after Hurricane Matthew, Lugo opened his restaurant in order to help feed city crew members who had put in long hours without a break, and he and his staff regularly participate in fundraising events like The Spanish Wine Festival, which gives back to his community in which Lugo says he has truly found creative satisfaction.
There is not an event held on the city’s public property in the last decade and a half that has not felt the guidance and assistance of Wanda Bray. Bringing her organizational skills gained through years working in association services in Ft. Myers and Tallahassee, and her extensive experience in hospitality management and event planning, Bray filled a need in city services when she joined the Department of Public Affairs in 2002.
As part of city staff, Wanda has been much more than the person who issued an event permit. Her self-effacing graciousness, and kindness combined with her knowledge has made the difference between success and failure for the many public and private events. Wanda has helped the city play host to hundreds of official visitors, including royalty with all of its protocol, always quietly behind the scenes making sure everything went smoothly. Her smile no matter what has been her trademark as she served the City, worked with staff, and the many people whom she served. As much as any person, her work has helped to elevate the cultural resources and activities throughout the St. Augustine community that so many residents and visitors enjoy.
“As the city’s elected leaders, members of the City Commission have a commitment to protect the quality of life our residents enjoy. But, we are dependent on individuals, our neighbors and friends, who have a deep passion for the city and honest compassion for others, who really make St. Augustine a great place to live,” said Shaver, adding “I know the entire Commission will be proud to stand with Michael and Wanda as we continue the great tradition of all of our community, the Nights of Lights.”
The Nights of Lights is funded by the City of St. Augustine and the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council. The City of St. Augustine manages the installation and maintenance of displays at over 100 locations in the downtown area, including buildings, parks, and gardens throughout the city. Much of the credit for the success of the Nights of Lights must go to the businesses and residents who voluntarily participate at their own expense truly making the St. Augustine a city of light.
For guidelines regarding Nights of Lights displays, click here.