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Florida’s Historic Coast Prepares for Commemorative Events

          ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Feb. 6) – Long associated with Ponce de León’s momentous voyage of 1513, Florida’s Historic Coast (St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches) will serve as a center of studies and events related to the 500th anniversary of the first major landing by Europeans on the shores of what would become the continental United States.

            Scholarly studies indicate that Ponce de León first sighted La Florida between March 27 and April 2. His last reported navigational fix prior to coming ashore was taken at noon on April 2. It showed his three-ship fleet was at 30 degrees, 8 minutes north latitude – just south of present day Ponte Vedra Beach.  It is thought they moved slowly northward and anchored before sunset.  The next morning, Ponce and his landing party came ashore.

         To honor and celebrate Florida’s rich Spanish – American heritage, Florida’s Historic Coast will play host to numerous events and celebrations. These will begin in the spring of 2012 with the bicentennial of the Spanish Constitution, and will continue with the 500th Anniversary of Ponce’s discovery of La Florida in 2013; the 50th Anniversary commemorations noting the pivotal role the City of St. Augustine played in the 1964 civil rights movement; and finally in 2015, the  Commemoration of the 450th Anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city.

        Each day of the year, visitors to Florida’s Historic Coast experience living history at a collection of exciting museums, parks and attractions.  For current updates on all things Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine | Ponte Vedra on Florida’s Historic Coast, become a Fan on the Ponce de Leon’s 500th Facebook Fanpage.

Following are some upcoming events that commemorate Ponce de León and other Spaniards who came to Florida and first brought European culture to what would become the United States:

March 3 – Searles Sack of St. Augustine: Captain Robert Searles 1668 Raid Reenactment
Relive history as the Historic Florida Militia re-enact Captain Robert Searle’s 1668 attack on St. Augustine.  Searle and his privateers sailed from Jamaica to loot the silver ingots held in the royal coffers at St. Augustine. Searlesbucs.com

March 19 – 24: Viva St. Augustine! Week
In 2012, Spain and most Spanish-speaking countries will celebrate the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Spanish Constitution, penned in 1812. Although short-lived, the decree of the Spanish Constitution two centuries ago is recognized as one of the most pivotal events in the shaping of governments worldwide. In March 1812, Spain called for all towns throughout the Spanish Empire to honor the constitution with monuments and by renaming their main plazas La Plaza de la Constitución. Completed in 1813, St. Augustine’s Constitutional Monument is the only known remaining Spanish Constitucion Monument in the world. StAugustine-450.com

March 19: Former President Bill Clinton Speaks at St. Augustine Amphitheatre
March 21: Grand Opening of the St. Augustine Expo Center
March 23: A Spanish Legacy Black Tie Event
March 23 – 24:  Spanish Grand Muster

May 3 to 6 – Culturally La Florida: Spain’s New World Legacy
Experience this city-wide cultural exposition with demonstrations, traditions, folklore, music, lectures, and performances. As part of the educational and cultural programming to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s 1513 discovery of La Florida, Flagler College, Florida Humanities Council, Florida’s Historic Coast and the City of St. Augustine will host this exciting celebration that commemorates and educates about the cultural and heritage influences since the time of Florida’s earliest Spanish settlements.  CulturallyLaFlorida.org

May 14 to 19 – Romanza Week
A week-long music and art extravaganza to kick off St. Augustine’s “anniversary years”, 2012 to 2015, leading up to its 450th year as the Nation’s Oldest and most romantic city. Romanza.org

May 19 – First Coast Opera: Viva España
Celebrate St. Augustine’s Spanish heritage during this performance of Spanish song, dance and music. FirstCoastOpera.com

June 1 & 2 – Reenactment of Drake’s Raid of St. Augustine
Relive history as the English corsair, Sir Francis Drake, and his raiders return to St. Augustine in an authentic re-creation of the 1586 sack of the city. DrakesRaid.com

June 23 – Battle of Bloody Mose
This exciting re-enactment commemorates the 1740 Battle of “Bloody Moosa” which forced the British to retreat from Spanish Florida. The settlement of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the First Free Black Settlement in North America, was home for hundreds of free blacks who escaped slavery from the English colonies to the north and became Spanish citizens. Fort Mose

September 7 to 9 – 16th Century St. Augustine Historic Encampment
Visit Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park to learn more about the 1565 founding of the nation’s oldest city through authentic interactive reenactments and demonstrations. FountainofYouthFlorida.com

September 8
447TH St. Augustine Founders Day Celebration
Witness a reenactment of the 1565 landing of St. Augustine’s founder, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. Ceremonies include presentations about St. Augustine and America’s Spanish history and a celebration of Mass at the Mission’s outdoor altar.  MissionandShrine.org

October 20 – Bicentennial Commemoration of the Spanish Constitution of 1812
Relive the celebrations of the Spanish Constitucion during this reenactment of its proclamation in 1812 St. Augustine.  There will be a dedicatory parade and authentic presentations in the Plaza de la Constitucion.  StAugustine-450.com

November 17 & 18 – St. Augustine Marathon
A sanctioned St. Augustine 450th event, these full and half marathons are certified by USA Track and Field, also making the event a qualifier for the prestigious 2013 Boston Marathon. StAugustineMarathon.com

November 24 through January 31, 2013 –   Nights of Lights
Tracing its origins to the Spanish tradition of displaying a lighted white candle during the Christmas holidays, the spectacular lighting in St. Augustine reflects the city’s 448-year history while creating a beautiful setting for the holidays through January 31.  Nightsoflights.com

January through March – Discover First America
A series of entertaining lectures and presentations that celebrate the history and heritage of Florida’s Historic Coast.  StAugustine-450.com      

March 25 through April 2 – Viva St. Augustine!
A series of events and presentations celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of La Florida.  StAugustine-450.com

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