Fort Marion, circa 1856


Beginning with most recent action:

July 14, 2011

The City of St. Augustine has assumed management of the city's 450th commemoration.

City Manager John Regan, with an in-house management support team, has directed an official logo design, web page, and procedural outline for City Commission review in 3 p.m. workshops before its regular 5 p.m. meetings the second and fourth Mondays monthly.

Regan's outline includes as "key partners" the county Visitors and Convention Bureau, County Chamber of Commerce, and County Tourist Development Council.

Among the city plans: hiring fundraisers, public relations, and event managers.

Following a format developed by the private First America Foundation which dissolved recently, the city plans no committees but will have Partnership and Request for Event forms for organizations interested in programs or projects for the 450th.

450 Community Corps Chairman George Gardner is referring all inquiries to the city manager's office, 904-825-1006, [email protected].

June 8, 2011

Easy does it, says the executive board of the 450 community corps, as the corps ramps up amid confusion over planning for the city's 450th anniversary.

An early general meeting of the corps was considered, to assure the community that programs and projects will be developed - with some already under way - despite a lack of accomplishment by the private First America Foundation designated by the city last August.

But the board favors getting some "solid initiatives" under way first. "Better to deliver than to promise," one member said.

Among projects: Tour guide testing/training revision, citywide beautification, a period clothing rental program, and a black 18th century militia.

This is the first meeting of the 450 Community Corps board in nearly two years, and the last general meeting was in February 2009, as the corps stepped back to an assisting role rather than appearing to compete with city efforts.

Attending the June 7 board meeting were George Gardner, Scott Manny, Eric Johnson, and Gerald Eubanks. Absent were Roy Jaeger (out of town), Nancy Birchall (resigned due to directorship with First America Foundation), and Bob Russell.

Management of our city's 450th anniversary is being shifted to a community-based non-profit foundation.

City officials agreed to the shift, realizing a government-appointed steering committee would be subject to Florida's Sunshine Law, limiting efficiency in day-to-day discussions and operations.

City Manager John Regan said the shift "moves us from the conceptual to the developmental and implementation phases." A formal agreement will designate First America Foundation, Inc., as the city's official foundation. Regan said $275,000 in "seed money" will open the foundation's bank account.

Attorney and former St. Johns County Chamber Chairman Don Wallis and Jacksonville businessman and city resident Colin Bingham developed the foundation plan, similar to that of the Jamestown 2007 commemoration. The foundation's first chores: reaching out to governments, the community, and businesses.

Last October, formal planning for our 450th began with a flurry of activities under the direction of our City Commission, with former Historic Tours of America National Museum Director Dana Ste. Claire at the helm as 450th Commemoration executive director.

A commission workshop, Regional Steering Committee meeting, community general assembly, and start of a seven-part First America program series got things started.

The 450 Corps Executive Board authorized a name change to 450 Community Corps, and accepted Dana's request to "assist in the organization of events and community resources for the 450th Commemoration."

Its mission: "to generate community interest, ideas, and potential sponsorships to help support the 450th Commemoration Commission," and specifically, to be "responsible for the recruitment, coordination, and training of volunteers, as well as general information services."

The 450 Community Corps has since gathered more than 300 volunteer applications, while the 450 Commission office has identified at least 40 potential committees. A major Regional Steering Committee meeting is planned for April, when Dana will outline plans for developing those committees.

Two committees are already recognized and well under way: the Maritime Activities Committee - originally the 450 Corps' Ship Committee - focused on construction of a 16th century tall ship, and Romanza, developing an annual music and arts festival patterned after Charleston's Spoleto.

A third committee is quietly developing its plans for a period clothes closet - period dress to be made available to both reenactors and newcomers to living history interpretation, to encourage participation in those many events.

Visit our Idea Vault and vote for your favorite projects and programs for our 450th commemoration.

A round of meetings over the next week signals the start of organizing the challenges to develop a world-class commemoration of our nation's oldest city. Public meetings include:

The 450 Community Corps, its Ship Committee, and the Romanza Festival Committee we spawned are each scheduled to make brief presentations at Wednesday's Steering Committee meeting.

A general 450 Community Corps meeting will be scheduled after this round of sessions to begin efforts in cooperation with the formal organization.

The "450 Community Corps," proposed by your executive board and supported by 450 Director Dana Ste. Claire, makes it clear that our Corps - perhaps perceived as a "maverick" organization to get commemoration planning under way two years ago - is today a part of, and not apart from - the great challenges ahead.

Dana assures us that there will be an enormous list of opportunities for citizen involvement, and he'll be relying on the 450 Community Corps to assist in filling those opportunities. It is the fulfillment of our mission statement:

"The 450th Community Corps is dedicated to the success of the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration by encouraging active community participation, promoting projects and programs, and assisting individuals and organizations in achieving these goals."

It's unfortunate that we have not met as a full organization for seven months. But rapid developments in the organization of an official 450 effort brought continued delays.

Be assured that all the effort you put into generating community interest and developing an awesome list of potential programs and projects is not wasted. Dana has asked us to make a presentation at the next Steering Committee meeting - in late September or early October. At that meeting, he plans to present a strategic plan and organizational outline to move our community's efforts forward.

Our next general meeting will follow that Steering Committee meeting. In the meantime, your board will continue to develop a business plan and achievable strategic objectives, and to update our 450 Community Corps citizen/organization database.

We will shortly be sending you an outline of proposed Value, Vision and Mission statements, and Talking Points and Program Ideas. We look forward to your feedback.

We've all heard "It Takes a Village ..." It's critical that we all get out the word. Our Corps and the commemoration effort involves our entire county and all its diversity.

A name change to 450 Community Corps, a mission statement, and updates on projects already under way, will be brought to a general meeting of the 450 Community Corps by its board of directors in the near future.

The name change will avoid confusion with the federal commemoration organization, and the mission is to encourage active community participation, promote projects and programs, and assist individuals and organizations in their development.

Among the exciting projects under way are construction of a 16th century caravel, the "San Augústin," a Charleston Spoleto-style festival its steering committee is calling "Romanza," a St. Augustine song being developed by a New York songwriter, a commemorative stamp, photo and artifact exhibits, and La Compania de Juan Ponce de Leon (company of Ponce de León), to interpret the explorer's exploits.

The 450 Community Corps board of directors is focused on project development not for the upcoming commemorations specifically, but as legacy programs. They'll be put in place when they're ready, become part of the commemorations if adopted by the federal commission, and continue beyond our 450th as features of our oldest city's experience.

The work of the 450 Community Corps is inspired by comments from a number of residents that the community has not been included in formal discussions so far, and that many worthwhile projects will take time to plan and develop.

Waiting for formal efforts to begin for our 450th anniversary has been almost as long as our founding settlers waiting for Spain's annual situado (subsidy), and while ours ($500,000 a year with the Federal St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission) is not likely before next spring, the people part begins Thursday, June 18.

Mayor Boles' 14-member Working Committee of community leaders will meet with Consultant Jeanne Zeidler in public session from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. at Flagler College's Ringhaver Center.

"This will be a presentational meeting," City 450th Commemoration Executive Director Dana Ste. Claire says, "with presentations by Mayor Boles and (Williamsburg VA) Mayor Zeidler," executive director of the Jamestown 2007/400th Commemoration.

The 450 Corps Executive Board (George Gardner, Scott Manny, Nancy Birchall, Bob Russell, Roy Jaeger, Gerald Eubanks, and Eric Johnson) has met twice since our last general meeting in February, looking at ways for us to move forward. Consensus: we already have several committees developing programs, and good signs from Dana of our fit into the commemorations.

We have always been hamstrung on gaining credibility to effectively raise funds for programs. Dana has pledged that, while fundraising is critical to the commemorations, it will be our community resources that pull off their success. I'm confident we have the right players in place - with Dana the official element and the passion of our 450 Corps in support.

We'll schedule a general meeting of the 450 Corps soon after Thursday's formal 450 meeting, with a location and time better suited for public gathering.

The executive board of the 450 Corps will produce a short-list of 8-10 action ideas from nearly 100 submitted over the past year to the 450 Corps. That list will be brought to the full membership for consideration at a public meeting as soon as possible.

The board, after meeting with official 450 Interim Director Dana Ste. Claire, decided this is the best course to move forward while official planning for the commemoration continues. Ste. Claire anticipates a federal commission and local strategic plan will not be in place before the end of summer, and the 450 Corps' role in the official plan is still unclear.

Board members agreed that the 450 Corps role at this time should not be to raise funds and develop projects for the official commemoration, but rather to motivate and assist organizations and individuals in the development of programs and projects which will stand the test of time, to be field-tested before, and survive as legacies after, the commemoration. Examples include the building of a 16th century ship, for which a 450 Corps committee was developed months ago, and Ste. Claire said recently should be "a signature commemoration project."

The best will rise to the top. Among funding opportunities are grants of up to $20,000 in the federal commission legislation, as well as Tourist Development Council annual grants. Organizations and individuals with "shovel-ready" programs will stand the best chance when these opportunities arise.

Board members include George Gardner, Scott Manny, Bob Russell, Nancy Birchall, Eric Johnson, Gerald Eubanks, and Roy Jaeger.

Exciting potential projects, a revised mission statement, and restructuring evolved from the citizen 450 Corps meeting Thursday, February 19.

A Spoleto-style arts festival, a St. George Day, and an exhibit of Spanish masters in art were among ideas presented by or brought to the corps, joining an already active 16th century ship project. Each has strong advocates to develop their ideas. Chairman George Gardner said such projects can be developed now and extended beyond the commemoration period regardless of what shape the formal 450th organization takes.

A revised mission statement was prompted by that continuing uncertainty over an eventual formal organization. The tailored down version is still being tweaked. The original statement assumed the work of the 450 Corps would be folded into a formal organization.

The revision: The mission of the 450 Corps is to generate and facilitate programs and projects commemorating the 450th anniversary of the founding and history of St. Augustine, our Nation's oldest continuously occupied European settlement.

And our regular monthly meeting time, 8 a.m., and limited location are difficult for many citizens to attend. George asked for names of folks interested in serving on a smaller executive board, to work through plans and ideas for presentation to larger community meetings at better times and larger location. Contact him at

The next citizen 450 Corps meeting will be Thursday, Feb 19, at 8 a.m. Page Edwards Gallery in the Oldest House complex. All meetings are open to the public. We'll be discussing a mission statement for the 450 Corps and progress reports from current committees, listed below.

Provisional chairs have been named for just some of the many potential citizen committees for our 450th. These are not "official" committees - there’s no official organization for the upcoming 500/450 commemorations yet. But these are start-ups to begin developing programs and projects, which will certainly be the meat and potatoes of the commemoration period.

Provisional chairs will draw together folks interested in particular areas, and call meetings to brainstorm ideas and begin program development. If you see an area of interest, contact the provisional chair. If you have ideas for further committees, contact George Gardner [email protected]

The answer is keep doing what you're doing and be cheerleaders for a three-year commemoration of our history.

The question to Mayor Joe Boles was how the citizen 450 Corps can fit with his plans for our 450th, and the answer came during a spirited dialog with some two dozen members and citizens at its monthly meeting January 22.

The mayor, who recently formed a panel of community leaders to advise consultant Jeanne Zeidler in developing an organizational structure, said our city's been busy pushing legislation for a federal commission, developing contacts with our sister cities and with America's growing Hispanic leadership, and understanding protocol to invite world leaders to the commemoration.

Boles envisions a "three-year lineal World's Fair, because we don't have the ground to condense all our history into one year." Among his thoughts: getting international governments and organizations to adopt buildings on our Citizens for Historic Preservation (CPSA) endangered historic structures list, restore them as hospitality venues during the commemoration, and then turn them over to our city.

"The 450 Corps has developed a great list of program ideas," the mayor said. "The time will come to plug in all those activities."

Public Meeting

Mayor Joe Boles is scheduled to meet with us Thursday, January 22 to dialog concepts for the 450th Commemoration. The meeting is at 8 a.m. at the Page Edwards Gallery in the Oldest House complex, and is a public meeting.

The Jaycees of the 1960s "were our city," one 450 Corps member noted as members discussed next steps in our efforts during our December meeting. Full minutes of the meeting, as well as all 450 Corps meetings, are on our Forum page.

Jaycee events were for community, while events today are aimed at tourists, another noted, and the 450th should be for community. A strong start will be fundraising, not so much for the money as the people count, with all contributors listed on our web site to grow the list of support. One suggestion: modest contributions be supporters, larger contributions sponsors, and the biggies - corporate contributors - be underwriters of the 450th commemoration.

More than 200 citizens have signed up with interest in various committees, and 450 Corps will focus in January on getting specific subcommittees going. General categories include Logistics - guest services, security, traffic, etc.; Marketing - promotion, fundraising, public relations, etc., and Events - projects, programs, etc.

Roy Jaeger is developing a 450 Corps mission statement; 450 Corps members will plan to meet with consultant Jeanne Zeidler during her visit in January; Roy and Nancy Birchall will focus on organizing the marketing/fundraising/PR subcommittee, and George Gardner will sort out events subcommittee interest to begin organization of that subcommittee.

The 450 team is in harness. Announcement by Mayor Joe Boles of a 16-member working group and consultant for our 450th Anniversary has cleared the air and set the course for planning this major commemoration period.

Boles presented a list of local leaders to advise Jeanne Zeidler, former executive director of the Jamestown 400th Commemoration, who will consult on organizing our commemoration. Our County Commission is being asked to fund the consultant fee of $20,000 from bed tax monies, while our city will provide office space.

Like a well-disciplined team of horses before the carriage, the 450th Commemoration Working Group and Zeidler will ramp up the government side, while the citizen non-profit 450 Corps will work in our community, generating interest, programs, and projects with our citizens, businesses, and community organizations.

The 450 Corps will meet in public session Wednesday, December 17, at 8 a.m. in the Page Edwards Gallery at the Oldest House complex, to set the framework for development of numerous subcommittees. One already at work, the Ship Subcommittee, will meet a day earlier - Tuesday - same time and place, to continue its work.

The 450 Corps will move ahead with plans and programs without waiting for city or federal officials to create a formal organization. Meeting Oct. 15, members decided to proceed with plans to build a 16th century caravel to be named San Augústin, to seek volunteers for subcommittees on events, logistics, and marketing, and to begin fundraising efforts.

The city is waiting for federal legislation for a 450th Commemoration Commission, and there are no plans for a follow-up to a community meeting held in June.

A replica 65-80-foot caravel - workhorse of early Spanish explorers - is expected to cost more than $2 million, but 450 Corps believes it will draw sponsorship and contributions as a centerpiece for our commemoration.

In addition to committee opportunities, 450 Corps is seeking volunteer graphics artists for logo designs and brochures. Contact

The 450 Corps Ship Committee has the endorsement of St. Johns County's Historic Resources Review Board in an effort to "establish a wood lot where timber logs salvaged from developers or lost to tropical storms can be recycled into invaluable ship building timber."

Board Chair Don Reis said, "The members not only see the opportunities offered by your program, but also can identify other future possibilities that might flow out of it, all with long term benefits for the community."

The Ship Committee, developing plans for construction of a 16th century replica ship for St. Augustine's 450th Anniversary, is seeking a 2-5 acre woodlot "to store logs in the rough in preparation for milling with a portable sawmill." C ommittee Member Sam Turner, director of the LAMP Boatworks at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, said the timber could be used as well "to support and partner with other organizations that have unusual lumber requirements," including LAMP projects and restoring historic buildings.

His vision includes woodlot use "to mill the trunks into slabs, planks, and beams that will in turn be stacked and cured on site in preparation for use in ship and boat construction. Scraps and off-cuts, a byproduct of the milling process, will be burned to produce charcoal that in turn will be used in blacksmith forges producing iron ship and boat hardware such as nails, bolts, and rudder mountings in support of this project."

Our next 450 Corps meeting will be Wednesday, Sept 17, at 8 a.m. in the Page Edwards Gallery on the Oldest House grounds. Enter the Charlotte Street walk-in gate from Oldest House parking lot. All meetings are open to the public.

The agenda will include ideas for distributing our bumper logos, development of subcommittees and a flowchart to suggest to the City Commission, and thoughts on ways to increase interaction on our website forum

450 Corps member Maury Kaiser has not only volunteered to head up a committee for a 16th century replica ship for St. Augustine, he's also anted up the first $450 in a campaign to get $450 from 450 St. Augustinians to help support the project.

Maury heads up the LAMP volunteers building boats for the 18th century replica Galveztown, being built in Malaga, Spain. The ship is expected to visit us in 2011 to collect her boats.

The 450 Corps meeting August 6 brought support for establishing committees to target anniversary planning areas and reduce the frequency of general meetings. Bob Fuller will head up the fundraising committee, while additional committees are being developed. A general meeting September 17 will sort out these plans.

The 450 Corps will be discussing, at its 8 a.m. meeting Wednesday, how to distribute 2,000 bumper stickers - 4-inch round stickers of the 450 logo with the 450 website along the lower edge. The stickers were funded through a contribution.

Also on the agenda, next steps in moving forward with commemoration planning. Possibilities raised in the past include establishing subcommittees; hosting community meetings; contacting organizations, and developing a fundraising plan.

A report to city commissioners on the citizen 450 Corps efforts over the past 10 months has led to debate on establishing an official 450th steering committee.

Following a briefing at the commission's July 14 meeting by corps member Dr. Susan Parker, director of the St. Augustine Historical Society, Commissioner George Gardner - also a member - urged early formation of an independent non-profit 450th corporation, recommended a year ago by an exploratory panel. Mayor Joe Boles countered that the committee should be government-appointed and operate in the sunshine, and that real interest in planning needn't get under way "until 2-3 years out, because it's hard to get interest stirred up much earlier,"

Gardner has pressed for early formation of a committee to begin tackling long-term projects and programs. Boles suggested a follow-up meeting to the June 25th "Community Kickoff" could be held in August or September, and acknowledged Vice Mayor Don Crichlow's recommendation that "some form of organization" be presented at that meeting.

Organized last October, the 450 Corps is a non-profit 501 (c) (3), has distributed 5,000 "idea-gathering" brochures, created this website, and is preparing to distribute bumper stickers using an adopted 450th logo.

An update on the history and activities of the 450 Corps will be presented to City Commissioners at Monday's regular commission meeting. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the Alcazar Room at City Hall.

Corps member Dr. Susan Parker, Director of the St. Augustine Historical Society, will note that the Corps "stands ready to assist and be part of an anticipated formal steering committee for an outstanding commemoration period."

Organized last October, the 450 Corps is a non-profit 501 (c) (3), has distributed 5,000 "idea-gathering" brochures, created a website, and is preparing to distribute bumper stickers using an adopted 450th logo.

Strong messages from our state's premier historian and the director of Jamestown's 400th Commemoration Commission greeted some 200 citizens at the June 25th Community Kickoff for St. Augustine's upcoming 450th Anniversary.

The University of Florida's (and St. Augustine's) Dr. Michael Gannon: "We had the first church, the first school, the first hospital, public market and town plan. By 1600 there were 120 shops and houses here. We have to take this opportunity to tell the story."

Williamsburg VA Mayor Jeanne Zeidler, who directed last year's Jamestown commemoration: "We had a federal commission, a state commission, a local host committee with 140 members scattered over a range of subcommittees, 140 public/private partners, 181 communities signed on, and 3,000 volunteer shifts on the climactic commemoration weekend. It's a big job."

Mayor Joe Boles emceed the kickoff, which also included Visitor and Convention Bureau Director Glenn Hastings and Economic Development Director Nick Sacia.

Gathering names and interest in volunteering was a major purpose of the event. To get on board, contact our city's Public Affairs Director Paul Williamson by email or at 904.825.1004.

Bumper stickers - 450 Corps is considering bumper stickers as both a fund-raiser and good advertisement for our 450th as residents begin their summer travels and visitors link us to their hometowns. Using the circular logo we've adopted, we're thinking of offering it both as a standard sticker and in a circular design. Give us your thoughts in the Forum.

Community meeting - Wednesday, June 25 from 7-8 p.m. is our opportunity to hear about and comment on planning for the 450th anniversary of our Nation's Oldest City.