September 2, 2006: St. Augustine's 441st Birthday [Florida]

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL (Aug. 14) – Re-enactments, music, a cooking contest, a fiesta and, of course, birthday cake will be included in the daylong celebration of the City of St. Augustine’s 441st birthday on Saturday, September 2. The birthday events, all of which are free and open to the public, will provide both visitors and residents with a day of fun and learning in one of America’s most historic settings.

Founded as a Spanish military base on September 8, 1565, St. Augustine is the Nation’s oldest continuously occupied European settlement. By the time the English created their first settlement in 1607 at Jamestown, Virginia, St. Augustine had been a thriving city with several thousand residents for more than three decades.

The Landing of Menendez: The birthday events begin at 9:30 a.m. with the traditional re-enactment of the landing of Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez at what would become the Mission of Nombre de Dios. On September 8, 1565, Menendez came ashore here to establish the settlement of St. Augustine. Just as was done on that date, Mass will be celebrated at the Mission’s outdoor altar. The Mission of Nombre de Dios is located on San Marco Avenue and the landing site is marked by the 200-foot high cross erected in 1965 as part of the city’s 400th birthday. Free parking is available at the site.

The 1st First Thanksgiving: More than fifty years before the Pilgrims dined with their Native American neighbors at Plymouth Colony, the people of St. Augustine had already established the Thanksgiving tradition. Shortly after the arrival of Menendez, the Spanish colonists and the local natives, the Timucua, sat down together to share in a feast of Thanksgiving. As part of the city’s birthday celebration, the Historic Florida Militia will hold a Thanksgiving Cooking Contest at noon on the grounds of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. The contest will feature dishes prepared only with ingredients that were available to the local Native Americans and the newly-arrived Spanish in 1565.

The Fiesta and Birthday Cake!: At 2 p.m., the birthday celebration moves to the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum on St. George Street. The living history museum will offer free admission beginning at 10 a.m. There will be special activities for children, live music provided by Luis Mario and his Latin Jazz Band from the Habana Village Caf?, and free birthday cake for everyone! The cake will be served by St. Augustine’s Royal Family representing the Spanish Royal Family of 1672—the year the city’s Castillo de San Marcos was commissioned. Members of St. Augustine’s Royal Family are selected annually from among residents who trace their ancestry to the earliest inhabitants of the city. The Birthday Fiesta concludes at 4 p.m. and the museum will close at 5 p.m.

Navy Band Concert: The birthday entertainment continues at 5 p.m. in the Plaza de la Constitucion with a concert by the Wind Ensemble of Navy Band Southeast. Always a St. Augustine favorite, the 35-piece band features marches, patriotic and classical music, Broadway tunes and new and exciting concert band music. For comfortable seating, blankets or lawn chairs are recommended.

Changing of the Guard: The final Changing of the Guard of the summer season will take place at 7 p.m. at Government House. This colorful event re-creates a daily activity in Spanish St. Augustine when the military unit assigned to guard the city for the night replaces the soldiers who have been on duty throughout the afternoon. In addition to the colorful uniforms and snappy drill routine, the firing of a musket volley that signals the city is secure for the night always thrills spectators.

St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine will be open from 9:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. with hourly tours of the museum from 12 - 7:00 noon.

(Posting date 15 August 2006

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