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Nancy Smith

Gussied-Up St. Augustine Expecting a Royal Visit for Its 450th Birthday

January 5, 2015 - 6:00pm

It's a big year for St. Augustine, a settlement in existence since 1565. A birthday in the nation's oldest city is always cause for celebration, but this one, say residents, the 450th, is very special.

Local folks have already begun celebrating, and they are expecting millions of visitors to come give them a look in 2015. Among them could beKing Felipe VI of Spain. St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles gives him a 95 percent chance of showing up during the festivities.

Boles said St. Augustine has landed the U.S.Spain Council Summit for 2015 -- a significant accomplishment for a city the size of St. Augustine. And that means the king probably will come because Felipe "has always opened the U.S.-Spain Council meetings and his intention is to keep doing that now that he's the king."

A visit from the king is interesting news to Fernando Viota of Spain. He is working and living in St. Augustine right now on the Nao Victoria, a tall ship also from Spain.

"I can tell him that the people here are really nice and it's a beautiful city," Viota told First Coast News in October.

Felipe VI was just sworn in as king this past summer. Viota thinks the king and queen's visit will have broader implications.

"I think it will be an open door for a future relationship between America and Spain," Viota said.

Juan Manual Gomez agrees. He's also from Spain and just starting a business in St. Augustine.

"A lot of people in Spain do not know St. Augustine," Gomez noted. "So thanks to this event, a lot of people will discover this beautiful town and a lot of people will come to St. Augustine to visit us."

Gomez also thought that when the king and queen arrive in St. Augustine, they "will feel like they are home."

St. Augustine has seta remarkable record for endurance unmatched in American history.Despite hurricanes, wars, plagues and pirate raids by the dozen, the city has survived and flourished continuously since Sept. 8, 1565, when its birth was proclaimed by Don Pedro Mendez de Aviles.

Perhaps the most spectacular event in the city's near year-long birthday celebration is "Celebrate 450!" fromSept. 5 to 12 at various locations throughout St. Augustine. This event coincides with the "real birthday" and provides something for everyone looking to embrace Florida history.

Here's the schedule (subject to change). Remember, * denotes a free event:

Saturday, Sept. 5 to Sunday, Sept. 6

Music Festival and Downtown Stages Performances*

This two-day event features a music festival with performances by internationally known artists at the Events Field. The event also includes free music performances at stages throughout downtown St. Augustine.

Sunday, Sept. 6

EMMA Concert Association presents a Spanish Music and Dance Performance

This performance at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre provides an evening of entertainment that showcases St. Augustines Spanish heritage.
2 p.m. gates open.
3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Local performing arts organizations will produce the first performance (St. Augustine Orchestra, St. Augustine Community Chorus, First Coast Opera & Limelight Theatre). This performance will be free to the public and produced by Artistic Director Gary Cadwallader.*

4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. On the grounds, the St. Augustine Textile Guild, Heritage (re-enactors) organizations, and the Art Association will provide hands-on activities and demonstrations geared toward family involvement.*

7 p.m. Evening Concert: Ensemble Espanol The ensemble will perform all styles of Spanish dance flamenco, classical Spanish dance Estilizati, Folklore, 18th century dances, ballet (classical dance) and castanets.

Monday, Sept. 7

On the eve of St. Augustines 450th anniversary is a spectacular fireworks display over the Matanzas River.

Tuesday, Sept. 8
Mendez Landing Re-enactment*, procession*, commemorative mass* and street festival*

Four hundred and 50 years to the day of St. Augustines founding is an authentic, historical re-enactment of Pedro Mendezs landing at the Mission Nombre de Dios. A procession takes spectators to The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine for a commemorative mass. The king and queen of Spain have been invited. The days events conclude with a street festival.

Wednesday, Sept. 9 to Saturday, Sept. 12
St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival

The lineup at this year's St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival includes ...
Sept. 9 Kickoff luncheon
Sept. 10 Vino veritas
Sept. 11 Cava reception and dinner (The king and queen of Spain are invited.)
Sept. 12 Grand tasting and batalla

But there are many more events and activities going on in St. Augustine right now -- and straight through September to show the city to the world.Read about them all here. And watch Sunshine State News as the year wears on for more news of what Visit Florida and St. Augustine officials promise will be a larger-than-life, strictly Florida birthday party.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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