By Rhonda Parker
ST. AUGUSTINE – Mark your calendars maritime history and swashbuckler fans!
“Pirates and Privateers” and the history of America’s Oldest City’s port will be the theme of the first program in a five-part series to be held at Flagler auditorium in conjunction with the city’s 450th Birthday coming in 2015.
The “Discover First America” series will begin on December 7, at 7 p.m. at Flagler College Auditorium, located at 14 Granada Street, and will feature Pat Croce, author of The Pirate Handbook: A Rogue’s Guide to Pillage, Plunder, Chaos & Conquest and owner of St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, as well as maritime archeologist Dr. Sam Turner of the First Light Maritime Society. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for book-signing, lobby displays and demonstrations.
After returning recently from Portabelo, Panama where the renowned pirater expert and adventurer had the opportunity to dive on and study several shipwrecks involved in Sir Francis Drake’s burial at sea, (http://lodeplus.com/politics-in-jacksonville/st-augustine-pirate-museum-s-pat-croce-s-discovers-drake-shipwrecks) Croce will speak about his adventures and the journeys of the pirates of St. Augustine – from Drake to Robert Searle.
Croce offers this teaser: “Drake sailed into St. Augustine and burnt it to the ground. Some people call him a ‘privateer’. I know for a fact he was a pirate. But you’ll have to come to find out why!!”
Dr. Turner also has some exciting tales to recount and will tell about life in 1500s St. Augustine when pirates frequently raided the young city and burned repeated to the ground. He’ll also talk about the early history of the nation’s oldest port based on recent historical and archaeological research.
The event will also feature: Piracy: Tools of the Trade: A rousing 16th and 17th century weapons and duel demonstrations by actor, historian, and—for the night—17th century English gentleman pirate, Chad Light, who is the State of Florida and the City of St. Augustine’s “official” Pedro Menendez reenactor.
This event is sponsored by the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum and the First Light Maritime Society.
All attendees receive a St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Passport with souvenir stampings provided.
The “Discover First America!” program will offer a series of free monthly events that explore St. Augustine’s rich history and culture, and include live entertainment, food, dance, colorful costumes, shipwrecks, pirates, discovery, archaeological sites, Revolutionary War, and the military presence in St. Augustine for more than four-and-a–half centuries.
The program is presented as part of the four-year long St. Augustine 450th Commemoration. Each series will begin at 7 p.m. with the doors opening at 6 p.m. It is advised to come early for seating.
“We are thrilled to bring this series of events back to the community,” said Dana Ste. Claire, development director for the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration. “The first series was standing-room only, and we are excited to continue presenting information on St. Augustine’s history and culture.”
Upcoming Programs in the “Discover First America” Series:
On Jan. 10, 2012, Kathleen Deagan, internationally acclaimed archaeologist, will report on her latest finds at the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park, which is located on the area settled by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565. Carl Halbirt, city archaeologist, will tell of his new discoveries, including a possible early wooden fort. Menendez re-enactor Chad Light and his cast will recreate the historic landing in 1565, which will include a full entourage of Spanish soldiers, Timucuan Indians and Catholic priests. This event is sponsored by the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park.
The Madness of King George
On Jan. 25, 2012, Roger Smith will recount the last days of the British reign in America, which took place in St. Augustine at the Pena-Peck House. Smith will also talk about the rich colonial maritime history of St. Augustine. John Stavely, author, tour guide and re-enactor, will appear as Jesse Fish, the persuasive British broker. A colonial fashion show will conclude the program. This event is sponsored by the First Light Maritime Society (St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum and the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program) with support from the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation.
St. Augustine Tapestry
On Feb. 7, 2012, the lifeways, foods, songs and dance of the multiple cultures of St. Augustine will be presented, including the Menorcan, Greek and African cultures. These cultures are important threads of St. Augustine’s tapestry. Also, the secret colonial recipes for rum and Menorcan clam chowder will be revealed. This event is sponsored by the Casa Monica Hotel.
To Arms! Four & a Half Centuries of Military History in St. Augustine
On Feb. 16, 2012, the military presence from the beginning of St. Augustine will be depicted. For centuries, St. Augustine has been shaped by wars, battles and military campaigns. From the soldiers of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles and the Fort Mose Militia to the Revolutionary, Seminole and Civil Wars, and finally the modern-day National Guard, 450 years of military history will be covered in 100 minutes through soldier re-enactors and vignettes. This event is sponsored by the St. Augustine 450th Military Commemoration Committee of the St. Johns County Veterans Council.
St. Augustine 450th Commemoration passports will be given to all participants. Also, souvenir stampings in the passport will be provided. The Discover First America! series is sponsored by the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration, Flagler College, St. Johns County Tourist Development Council, St. Augustine Record, Florida Power & Light Company, National Park Service/National Underground Railroad Network, Augustine.com, SGS Art & Design and Destination Planning.
About the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration
The St. Augustine 450th Commemoration is planned as a four-year celebration, beginning 2012 with the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Spanish Constitution; continuing 2013 with the 500th Anniversary of the landing of Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer of Florida and, by all official accounts, mainland America; continuing 2014 with the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act; and ending in 2015 with the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565 as the oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States.
Events during the commemoration will serve to build an understanding of and appreciation for the legacies of St. Augustine. These events will focus on signature themes that reflect the major chapters in St. Augustine’s and America’s history. For more information, call 904.825.1053 or visit www.staugustine-450.com.
Special thanks to Jennifer Zuberer of the city’s 450th staff, and for Kari Cobham of the Pirate Museum for contributions to this article. Applications for volunteers, vendors and other community participation are available at the city’s new 450th Commemoration website. Check the website frequently for upcoming events and information on the exciting countdown to the birthday of America’s oldest city!
Croce’s passion for pirates: http://youtu.be/DUZQfinzfBM
For more about Croce’s Drake expedition:
Very cool video! Hunt for Drake’s lead-lined coffin: http://youtu.be/ZySvEhJdRjE
Croce Video of some of Croce’s pirate collection: http://youtu.be/35Amq-QUu0g
Another very cool pirate treasure hunter vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjyvGE8p2R0&feature=related
Well – and I just can’t help myself: Nickelback – “Burn it to the Ground” seems apropos (WARNING: some offensive language): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=do2TlytS4Eg