By Shelby Gillis | firstname.lastname@example.org
While walking through downtown St. Augustine, almost everything you stumble across has a story behind it, most of which stretch all the way back to four and a half centuries ago.
Next September marks the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine’s founding. To celebrate, the city of St. Augustine is putting together a series of events to educate tourists and help the community to embrace its history.
St. Augustine occupies a unique place in American history, according to Dana Ste. Claire, Director of the Department of Heritage Tourism and Historic Preservation.
“One of the many things that makes St. Augustine so unique is that, to this day, it is the oldest and most continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S,” Ste. Claire said.
There are many events already scheduled for next year, including an exhibition that portrays how Hispanics, Africans and Native Americans came together to create the basis of American culture.
Also on the list is a week of festivities entitled “Celebrate 450!”, which includes free downtown stage performances, concerts on the event field, Spanish music and dance performances at the St. Augustine Amphitheater, a reenactment of the Menendez landing and a street festival downtown. The King and Queen of Spain are also slated to visit St. Augustine during the festivities.
Ste. Claire said the city wants to not only celebrate the anniversary, but establish St. Augustine as a destination.
“People need to understand the important role that St. Augustine plays in a cultural and historical perspective, as well as in world history itself,” Ste. Claire said.
After the celebration, St. Claire hopes that visitors will be able to see that St. Augustine is much more than another tourist town.
“It is a major cultural destination,” Ste. Claire said.
St. Augustine’s age requires a lot of upkeep and renovations in order to maintain historic integrity. In preparation for the 450th anniversary, the city is currently working on restoring the seawall, as well as Hypolita Street.
“The list is virtually neverending” Ste. Claire said.
Over the past three years, St. Augustine has celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution, the 500th anniversary of the founding of Florida and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
The city has a lot in store to help celebrate the anniversary next September and is seeking as much involvement from the community and students as possible.
Flagler College students are encouraged to volunteer and help educate visitors and locals about St. Augustine’s rich history. To find more information about the celebration and volunteering, visit www.staugustine-450.com.