Florida Turns 500

Located midway between Jacksonville and Daytona, Florida’s Historic Coast remains the only documented location for Juan Ponce de Leon’s 1513 voyage of discovery – a voyage that made him the first European to set foot on the shores of what would become the United States (and provided him with the opportunity to name his discovery La Florida). The only surviving navigational fix from the momentous voyage was taken by his world renowned navigator, Anton Alaminos, at noon on April 2, 1513. It showed his fleet was just offshore from his newly-named La Florida at a position of 30 degrees 8 minutes north latitude. That position is north of today’s St. Augustine and just south of Ponte Vedra. Although the exact location of the historic landing is not known, the logbook for the expedition shows that Ponce and his crew came ashore the next day to plant the flag of Spain. The second major historical landing took place on September 8, 1565 when Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore to found the city of St. Augustine as a Spanish military base. Every day since then, there have been people of European descent living and working in St. Augustine.

Significant commemorative events through April include:

September 30: Gifting of the Juan Ponce de Leon Baptismal Fount

Mayor of Santervas, Spain, birthplace of Ponce de Leon, will present a baptismal fount to the City of St. Augustine and the Catholic Church at the Mission Nombre de Dios.


October 1: Viva Florida Forum

Florida’s Secretary of State (and possibly the Governor), members of the 450th Federal Commission, officials, international dignitaries and industry specialists meet in St. Augustine’s Flagler to discuss and update plans for the city’s 450th Anniversary Celebration.


October 3-6: Spanish Wine and Food Festival

St. Augustine outstanding Spanish culinary heritage will be celebrated with a City of St. Augustine 450th Celebration Legacy Event. This festival features the very best in Spanish foods served at The Tasting Room and Rhett’s; a Spanish banquet at the impressive River House; and an impressive Spanish wine tasting at the city’s VIC Expo Hall.


October 20: Spanish Constitution and Law Program Series

This scholarly event at St. Augustine’s Flagler Auditorium will examine the role of the Spanish Constitution of 1812 in securing the independence of numerous New World nations. St. Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitucion is home to the only surviving monument to this constitution in the Western Hemisphere.


November 14 & 20; December 5, 2012; January 9 & 23, 2013

Discover First America Program Adventures

Praised both for their educational value and their highly entertaining formats, these free presentations at St. Augustine’s Flagler Auditorium tell the incredible story of the city’s history through dramatic productions, re-enactments, music, dance and humor.


January 19-April 19: Viva Picasso!

St. Augustine’s Spanish history, culture and artistic traditions will be celebrated with an impressive exhibit of the works of Picasso at the Visitor Information Center Expo Hall.


April 3: Commemorative Mass

San Juan, Puerto Rico’s bishop and cardinal will celebrate Ponce de Leon’s historic landing with a special mass conducted at St. Augustine’s Cathedral Basilica.


April 3: Commemorative Re-enactment of the Landing of Juan Ponce de Leon

This colorful re-enactment will take place at St. Augustine’s historic downtown bay front.


April 26-June 22: Ancient City Mosaic Exhibition

The city’s 450th anniversary will be marked with an exhibit of 450 mosaic created by Florida artists. On display at the Visitor Information Center Expo Hall.


April (TBD): Nao and Galleon

Provided by the Nao Victoria Foundation of Spain, full scale replicas of Ponce de Leon’s flagship will visit St. Augustine.


MAY 10 -12: Florida Anthropological Society (FAS) 65th Annual Meeting

In commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of LA Florida, the St. Augustine Archaeological Association will host the 65th Annual Meeting of the FAS featuring tours, workshops and lectures.


May 10 – 20: St. Augustine Romanza

Over three dozen cultural organizations collaborate to produce over 60 shows and exhibits. Celebrations include the Ponce de Leon 500 Parade Commemorating the discovery of Florida in 1513.


May 17 – 20: Florida Historic Trust 35th Annual Statewide Preservation Conference

In commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of La Florida and the 125th Anniversary of the opening of Henry Flagler’s Hotel Ponce de Leon, Florida’s Trust for Historic will hold its 35th Annual Preservation Conference in St. Augustine.


May (TBD): Royal Visit

Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia will dedicate the bells of the St. Augustine Cathedral Basilica. A royal reception will follow.


Additional commemorative events will follow throughout the year. In 2014, events will mark the 50th anniversary of St. Augustine’s significant contributions to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Events in 2015 will focus on the City’s 450th Birthday. For more details on these and other events, visit www.staugustine-450.com. For more information on events, activities, holiday getaway and vacation opportunities in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com, become a fan on Facebook or call 1.800.653.2489.

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