Gala Menéndez delves into Ancient City history

By Lindsay Imwold |

Gala Menendez 2010 Assistant Director Janet Smith considered this year’s event a success.

The annual event celebrates the birthday of St. Augustine’s founder, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. This year was his 491st birthday.

“A few new things happened this year and it all went well,” Smith said.

The Gala benefits Heritage Tourism, which restores historic monuments around town by putting up plaques beside them and helping with the preservation of artifacts. Various volunteers who help the Gala run smoothly, including Flagler students, dress in 1500s’ attire courtesy of the Government House and re-enact, greet guests, and help out where needed during the formal event.

There, the procession of costumed volunteers followed SAG actor Chaz Mena, who played the role of Pedro Menéndez, to the Lightner Museum to the occasional shouts of “Viva Menéndez! Viva St. Augustine!”

In the Lightner Ballroom, patrons enjoyed cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres followed by dining on the Mezzanine. The Gala held an open bar and dancing until midnight with live music provided from The Company.

“In the past, sometimes people didn’t stay right up until the end,” Smith said. “The sign of a successful event is when many stay until the end and sing and dance with the band; this time the guests were out having a great time even as late clean-up started after midnight.”

Devin Vaché, former president of Flagler’s Spanish Club, and David Estler, both recent Flagler graduates, volunteered this year.

A few unexpected changes arose, but all still turned out well.

“Chaz Mena’s wife was supposed to come and play Menéndez’s girlfriend beside him, but she couldn’t make it unexpectedly,” Smith said. “So, Flagler theatre student Laci Burlison, who is also chair of the wardrobe department, stepped up and got the acting role of Menéndez’s girlfriend. Jessica Solomon also only learned the day before that she would have to sing the National Anthem because of an emergency situation in which the hired singer couldn’t make it.”

Solomon wasn’t sure if she was going to be able pull it off but she’s glad she did.

“At first it was intimidating,” said Solomon. “I was told what to wear down to a tee and had to run out the day before to buy a dress, and make sure I had the shoes. But they needed someone and I said hey, I can sing the National Anthem.”

Smith said Flagler student talents were put to use at the Gala Menéndez.

“Two future stars got their debut [at the Gala],” she said.

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