10th Annual Florida's Birding & Photo Fest, April 25 - 29, 2012

Festival Features More Than 100 Birding and Photography Events!
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Feb. 29)... Florida's Birding & Photo Fest will be presenting programs and tours led by some of the world's best bird and nature photographers during the 10th Annual Florida's Birding & Photo Fest, April 25 - 29, 2012.

Headquartered on the campus of the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience located on the Intracoastal Waterway south of St. Augustine, the Festival is one of the most celebrated of its kind in the nation, with attendees and participants flocking in from all over the world. For photographers - from beginner to professional - this is an opportunity to sharpen skills with lessons from true masters. For birders, it's a chance to gather with fellow enthusiasts and marvel at the incredible diversity of species here in northeast Florida.

The 2012 Festival features more than 100 exciting birding and outdoor photography events including Birding presentations on migration, warbler and shorebird identification, photography field workshops and classroom sessions about night and macro photography.

Workshop presenters include a "Who's Who" of the best in the business with credentials and experience that clearly establishes them as "world class" outdoor photographers.  New to the festival this year are George Lepp, one of North America's best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging, and Mike Moats, an award winning professional nature photographer who specializes in macro photography, or as he calls it, "tiny landscapes".  Other popular photography presenters returning to this year's festival include Tim Grey, Chas Glatzer, Kevin Karlson, Greg Downing, Maxis Gamez, Deb Sandidge, Vinny Colucci and Melissa Southern.

In addition to the photography programs, more birding events and tours have been added to the festival, including kayak tours led by Ripple Effect Eco Tours and boat tours led by St. Augustine Eco Tours, as well as a series of trips led by world-renowned professional birding guides from Tropical Birding Tours.

Registration and tickets for Florida's Birding & Photo Fest workshops, seminars, trips and tours are available online at www.FloridasBirdingAndPhotoFest.com.  Also on the site are lodging options, including the Festival's four beachside host hotels - Holiday Isle Oceanfront Resort, Hampton Inn St. Augustine Beach, Hilton Garden Inn St. Augustine Beach and Beacher's Lodge, each of which offers special rates to attendees.

Florida's Birding & Photo Fest is organized and hosted by St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches. Click here for more information:  http://www.floridasbirdingandphotofest.com/PhotoFest/Birding_Tour_Guides.html


This Weekend's Events in St. Augustine

Saturday: February 25

Living History Days at Fort Mose
Experience living history demonstrations as volunteers in period dress offer visitors a fascinating glimpse into the past. Program is weather permitting.The demonstrations take place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Fort Mose State Park located at 15 Fort Mose Trail in St. Augustine. Admission is $4 per vehicle or $2 for pedestrians or bicyclists. For more information, call 904.823.2232 or visit www.floridastateparks.org/fortmose

Menendez Birthday Grand Procession
Everybody loves a parade - especially a 16th century exhibition. Enjoy this colorful and lively procession of authentic 16th Century reenactors, musicians and entertainers as they stroll along St. George Street to Lightner Museum for the opening of the Nocha de Gala, the 493rd birthday celebration of St. Augustine's founder Pedro Menendez de Aviles. The procession begins at 5 p.m. at City Gates, located at Orange and St. George Streets. For more information call 904-669-1485.

Casa Monica Nocha de Gala (Night of the Ball)
Be a part of this 16th century masked ball celebrating the 493rd birthday of St. Augustine's founder, Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés.  The celebration begins at 5 p.m. with a grand and exciting procession through downtown St. Augustine to announce the arrival of Menéndez and his colorful entourage. A cocktail reception and dinner will be followed by dancing to contemporary tunes.  Gala attire is black tie or 16th century costume.  The Noche de Gala takes place from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Lightner Museum Ballroom, 75 King Street in St. Augustine.  Sponsored by the Casa Monica Hotel, this is St. Augustine's most exciting social event of the year. Tickets are $195 per person, or $75 per person for just the cocktail reception. All proceeds go toward the restoration of Lightner Museum.  

19th Annual RSVP Chocolate and Beyond Gala
Savor a parade of chocolate delicacies from many of the area's finest restaurants and specialty shops at this annual event hosted by the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of St. Johns County.  The gala begins at 6:30 p.m. at St. Augustine First Coast Technical Institute, 3640 Gaines Road.  Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Whetstone's Chocolates and Cold Cow Ice Cream or by calling 904.547.3945

Uptown Saturday Night
From 5 to 9 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month, experience live music, refreshments, new exhibits, book signings and much more at the galleries, antique stores and unique shops on St. Augustine's San Marco Avenue between Ripley's Museum and the Mission Nombre de Dios.  The Mission Nombre de Dios provides FREE PARKING. For more information, call 904.823.9263.


St. Francis Inn's Bozena Dobrzeniecki Wins ROSE Award

Mike and Bozena Dobrzeniecki with her ROSE Award

The North Florida Hotel & Lodging Association bestowed its top housekeeping award - the ROSE Award (Recognition of Service Excellence) to our very own Bozena Dobrzeniecki last night at the 4th Annual ROSE Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront.  The event was attended by St. Francis Inn owners Joe and Margaret Finnegan, Kelly and Mike Brooks, and Bozena and her husband Mike.

ROSE (Recognition of Service Excellence) Awards recognize Northeast Florida front line hospitality employees who demonstrate excellent customer service. These industry champions showcase the region's commitment to creating an extraordinary visitor experience.  More than 150 employees were nominated and there were 74 finalists in the 24 categories.

Bozena started with the St. Francis Inn in February 2006.  She quickly demonstrated that she was more than up to the task of making our guest rooms sparkle.  In recent years she has taken on the additional responsibility of designing and arranging our fresh flowers for both the public rooms and guest rooms.  Last year she also started taking care of the live plants around the Inn and they are flourishing.  Bozena is a delight here at the Inn with her quick smile and sunny disposition.



St. Francis Inn circa 1936-1937

From the St. Augustine Record:  Photos of St. Augustine from the Library of Congress.  Back in the 1930's the Inn was known as The Graham House.  Notice the screen door on St. Francis Street?

# Title: Graham House, 279 St. George Street, St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida # Creator(s): Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer # Date Created/Published: [1936 or 1937]


Beach Boys Coming to St. Augustine !

The Beach Boys, one of the world's most legendary and influential bands, have reunited for a global 50th Anniversary Tour. Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks will be performing together for the first time in more than Two Decades.

The band will be performing at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre on May 2nd. Tickets go on sale Friday, February 24th at 10:00 am. Ticket prices will be announced shortly.


This Weekend Arts & Crafts Festival * St. Augustine Beach

  FEBRUARY 18-19, 2012  
  SAT. 10-5  SUN. 10-4

An array of Fine Art, Fine Crafts, Food, and   Music by Patchouli (www.patchouli.net)!


Harvey at Limelight Theatre

Enjoy this family-friendly comedy production about mild-mannered Elwood who insists his imaginary friend Harvey - a man sized rabbit - is real and his sister decides to have him committed. Performance times are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and this Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.  All performances take place at the Limelight Theatre, located at 11 Old Mission Avenue in St. Augustine. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $20 for students and military. For more information, call 904.825.1164 or visit www.limelight-theatre.org


Flight to Freedom
Participate in a unique living history event where you will meet a number of travelers on route to Fort Mose in Spanish St. Augustine, the first legally sanctioned free black settlement in the United States. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be guided tours, food, drumming and music, authentic historic re-enactors, colonial weapons demonstrations and more. It all takes place at Fort Mose Historic State Park, located at 15 Fort Mose Trail just north of St. Augustine. Free shuttle service from the Old Jail at 167 San Marco Avenue will be provided. Admission to the park is $2 per person. For more information call 904.823.2232.
Citrus Harvest Festival 
Explore several varieties of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes at the historical Washington Oaks State Gardens Park citrus grove. The festival takes place form 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. At 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. there will be guided tours of the historic citrus grove, the perfect environment for you to enhance your knowledge of citrus. At 11 a.m. there will be a program on cooking with citrus by Ruth Micieli of Simple Gourmet. Other activities will include a plant clinic and the Friends of Washington Oaks will offer for sale "home-made" baked goods featuring citrus together with hot and cold beverages, and of course a plant sale. Admission is $5 per vehicle (up to 8 passengers) and $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists. For more information, call 386-446-6783 or email  melissa.kafel@dep.state.fl.us

A Day in the Colonial Market
Step back in time and browse the wares of artisans who will be demonstrating and selling colonial crafts at the Colonial Spanish Quarter, 29 St. George Street in St. Augustine. In addition to demonstrations, exhibits and goods presented by a silversmith, blacksmith, jewelers, spice & tea traders, leatherworkers, woodworkers, beekeepers, local farmers piglets, needlework, soap makers, weavers, and a sponge monger, there will also be a petting zoo, lots of food and music and theatre troupes recreating life in an18th century colonial Spanish market. The event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free with a suggested donation of $1 per person. 904-825-6830

Changing of the Guard
Witness twilight time in colonial St. Augustine as soldiers guarding the town are dismissed for the night, and their replacements arrive to take over guarding Government House. The commander of the new watch puts the replacement soldiers through a rigorous drill before they take over their posts. The retiring soldiers are ordered to clear their weapons with the command of "Disparen!" The resounding blast of musket fire assures 18th century St. Augustine that the changing of the guard has taken place and the town is safe for the night. This traditional Spanish military parade travels along St. George Street from City Gates at 5:30 p.m. The changing of the guard takes place at 6 p.m. in front of St. Augustine's Government House in the Plaza de la Constitucion. The event is free. (This is the last Changing of the Guard of the season.) For more information, call 904.808-1999.


500 Years of History!

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


Oyster Roast Saturday Feb 4, 2012 Noon-4pm

 Cathedral Parish School - just 2 houses up from the Inn on St. George Street - is sponsoring an Oyster Roast Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 from 12:00 - 4:00pm.  They will be serving steamed oysters, chowder, shrimp boil, wings, and hotdogs.  They will also be selling beer and wine.  There will be musical entertainment from two local bands and a kid's area with games and face painting.

There is a small admission to get in, food and drink are available for purchase.  All-U-Can-Eat Oyster tickets will be sold for $25 at the gate.  All proceeds will benefit Cathedral Parish School.


Rodeo, Harvey & Popular Art Walk This Weekend in St. Augustine

First Friday Artwalk
Enjoy the latest exhibits, music, entertainment and refreshments at more than 20 St. Augustine art galleries.  Don't miss potter Worley Faver and painter Russ Wilson, along with painters Claire Kendrick, Kristin Hosbein and  Wendy Norton who will display a stunning collection of their work at the Worley Faver Gallery, 11A Aviles Street.  Park for free at the San Sebastian Winery, 157 King Street, where sightseeing trains and trolleys offer free round-trips to the heart of the art district - or go on your own self-guided art walk.  Galleries are open from 5 to 9 p.m.  For more information, call 904.829.0065 or visit www.artgalleriesofstaugustine.com.

Canvas, Clay Collage & Cutting Edge Art Exhibit
Stop in the St. Augustine Art Association Gallery to see this captivating juried art exhibit. "C"-ing is believing when four themes combine in one exhibit setting. Cutting Edge is defined as work that pushes the boundaries of ideas and/or materials. The St. Augustine Art Association Gallery is located at 22 Marine Street in St. Augustine. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://www.staaa.org or call 904-824-2310.


Harvey at Limelight Theatre
Enjoy this family-friendly comedy production about mild-mannered Elwood who insists his imaginary friend Harvey - a man sized rabbit - is real and his sister decides to have him committed. Performance times are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.  There will be an additional performance at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 12.  All performances take place at the Limelight Theatre, located at 11 Old Mission Avenue in St. Augustine. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $20 for students and military. For more information, call 904.825.1164 or visit www.limelight-theatre.org.

Pro Riding at St. Johns County Fairgrounds
Head over to the St. Johns County Fairgrounds for a fun-filled evening of bull riding and calf roping. This exiting rodeo takes place at 8 p.m. each evening. Tickets are $12 for ages 12 and older and $8 for students ages 6 to 11. The St. Johns County Fairgrounds is located at 5840 State Road 207 (approximately 7 miles west of I-95) in Elkton. For more information, visit http://stjohnscountyfairgrounds.com.