By Katie Lutz | email@example.com
St. Augustine is set to begin their 19th annual Nights of Lights winter celebration on Saturday, November 17th, at Light-Up! Night. On this night over 3 million Christmas lights will illuminate downtown St. Augustine at 6:30 PM when the switches are flipped in the gazebo of the Plaza de la ConstituciÃ³n.
The Night of Lights became one of St. Augustine’s unique traditions after a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee made by city commissioner, Bill Lennon, during their winter celebrations. He fell in love with the lights, pitched the idea to the city and after a few years of deliberation and funding from the tourism development council they began their first year in 1994.
“It took a huge effort that first year to get everything lit, but that’s how it all started,” says Paul Williamson, St. Augustine Director of Public Affairs.
Not much has changed with the lights since then. No new lights have been added, with the exception of the five years the Bridge of Lions was under construction. The bridge has been added back to the long list of places the lights will be placed after construction ended last year.
The lights are not only placed on public and city owned buildings, private business owners also get involved in the celebration.
“St. Augustine is charming enough as it is, this is a way to highlight and distinguish it during the holiday season,” Williamson said.
Light up! Night begins at 4 PM with the Showtime USA Chorus in front of the Lightner Museum. At 5:30 PM the celebrations moves to the Gazebo in the Plaza with the All Star Orchestra. By 6:30 PM downtown St. Augustine is filled with 7 thousand to 8 thousand people to watch as a community leader lights the giant Christmas tree, and as a former mayor flips the switch that lights the entire city. The two people who will flip the ceremonious switches have not yet been confirmed.
The ten week long celebration does not end with the Light up! Night.Events that follow will be candlelight tours of historic buildings, the festival of trees, arts and crafts festivals, concert series, the annual Christmas parade, the beach Surf Illumination, luminaries, Regatta of Lights, seasonal themed runs, and more.
“Nights of Lights is a big umbrella for many events. Its more than something to see, it’s something to do,” Williamson said.
Flagler College plays a huge roll in Nights of Lights, especially this year. Flagler will boast more lights than ever before in celebration of the 125th anniversary.
“The Nights of Lights is not only beautiful to look at but it’s a beautiful tradition that makes St. Augustine so special. I look forward to it every year,” Flagler College junior Mary Solazzo said.
The Nights of Lights celebration has received national recognition as a major Southeast event. The Nights of Lights was named by AAA as one of its 12 Favorite Places to Catch the Holiday Spirit in the USA, also named by American Bus Association as one of the nation’s top 100 events several years in a row and was listed in National Geographic magazine as one of the top 10 places to see holiday lights in 2011.
For more information on the Nights of Lights celebration and events visit www.nightsoflights.com and make sure to not miss out on November 17, Light up! Night.