Once in a Lifetime: St. Augustine Celebrates 450 Years

In 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon landed in what he called “La Florida” and claimed the region and all its gold and treasures for the King and Queen of Spain. In 1565, the Spanish crown sent Pedro Menendez de Aviles to establish a colony. Menendez landed near what is now the Mission Nombre de Dios. He named the settlement “San Agustín,” having first sighted the coast on the feast day of Saint Augustine.

Pedro Menendez lands in St. Augustine during Founder"s Day Re-Enactment
Pedro Menendez lands in St. Augustine during Founder”s Day Re-Enactment  Photo@Debi Lander

September 2015 marks the 450th anniversary of the city’s founding, making St. Augustine the oldest continually occupied European settlement in America. For anyone who considers Jamestown the epicenter of America’s beginnings, let’s get the record straight. “In 1607, when a small band of Englishmen founded Jamestown, St. Augustine had already existed for 42 years, ” states author J. Michael Francis in his commemorative book America’s First City.

Celebrate 450! is a free, five-day celebration set for September 4-8, 2015, a series of programs, festivals and exhibitions. Don’t miss the once in a lifetime event. In fact, the city is expecting a royal visit from the Spanish King sometime during the celebrations to strengthen and continue the bonds between Spain and St. Augustine.
More than 60 hours of free entertainment will be scattered over five stages throughout the historic district and include Grammy award winning headliners Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and Aaron Neville among others. Friday, Sept 4th will feature Aaron Neville at 8:30 on the Bayfront Main Stage; Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell will perform on the Bayfront stage at 9:30 pm on Saturday night, Sept 5.

A KidZone and Family Oasis will be located in the heart of the festival on the west side of the Plaza de la Constitution in front of the Government House. Activities will include face painting, history touch boxes and archeological sand digs, plus a dog station.

Celebrate 450!
Celebrate 450!

Even after the Street and Music Festival concludes, Celebrate 450! continues for another two days.

On Labor Day, Sept. 7, the community will continue the annual tradition of commemorating the city’s birthday with, of course, birthday cake and more entertainment. The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. from the Plaza de la Constitution’s Gazebo with a reading of the official proclamation followed by the serving of birthday cake for all who attend. The ceremony will be preceded with a performance by The Driftwoods at noon and followed by two hours of music by Mid-Life Crisis until 5:00pm.

Founder's Day Reenactment Ceremony at Mission de Nombre, St. Augustine, FL
Founder’s Day Reenactment Ceremony at Mission de Nombre, St. Augustine, FL

Tuesday, Sept. 8 is the actual day that St. Augustine marks the 450th anniversary of its founding by Don Pedro Menendez. The day’s events start with a reenactment of the landing of Menendez and the hundreds of settlers who accompanied him and founded the City of St. Augustine. The reenactment will be staged on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios near the exact location of that original landing. The colorful event truly makes history come alive. Following the reenactment, a procession will travel down San Marco Avenue to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine for a commemorative Mass scheduled for 11 a.m.

To create these pedestrian friendly events, streets located near the event sites will be closed at various times throughout the festival. The area is bounded by, and traffic will be prohibited on, Orange Street, Cordova Street, King Street east of Cordova Street and Avenida Menendez. Satellite parking areas with shuttle buses will be available.
For up to the minute information visit www.StAugustine-450.com/Celebrate450.

Breaking News: While not able to visit St. Augustine during the anniversary festival, King Felipe VI of Spain will attend the U.S. Spain Council International Summit in St. Augustine September 18 – 20. The economic development summit is an event that engenders discussion among world leaders.