11/25/2019 0 Comments
This past weekend kicked off the Grand Opening of Jax Beach’s Deck The Chairs for 2019! Wahoo! My favorite time of the year is officially here.
While Thanksgiving is just around the corner, Christmas can never really come too early for me. Lights and trees, garlands and bows, ribbons and wreaths galore, popping up in every town along the coast… and it's all beyond beautiful to me.
And throughout all of Jacksonville there is an endless list of holiday adventures for both young and old alike, and all are starting right now.
We have Jacksonville’s Light Boat Parade, the San Marco Festival of Lights, Zoo Lights, lots of turkey trots, and Santa and reindeer runs aplenty. We also have St. Augustine’s 26th Annual Nights Of Lights which began this weekend as well; and it runs all the way through February 2, 2020! And of course much, much more. There’s way too much to ever take it all in - inside of one holiday season alone.
That’s why I’ll try to aim to attend at least roughly one or two new things each Christmas, and I then have some must-do holiday traditions as well. And Jax Beach’s Deck The Chairs is one of those such traditions.
It’s my HOLIDAY MUST DO.
It’s my CAN’T MISS.
And I think most other folks in town feel the same way. Besides all of our local area town tree lightings, if you live in Jax Beach, or close by in one of the other area island communities, Deck The Chairs is THE event of the season… here at the beach.
The iconic symbol of our town - the lifeguard chair - utilized all throughout the year by our brave and all-volunteer lifeguards, are brought over to Seawalk Pavilion by more volunteers, and set into perfect and matching rows in the center of town square. The chairs become uniformed soldiers… just as in March of the Wooden Soldiers - only stationary - no marching needed or wanted.
All of those brightly painted orange and quite distinct and uniform chairs then become completely un-uniform and sculpted to holiday-themed perfection, by even more volunteers. A local area business or organization each sponsors a chair and decorates it to their heart's content. I LOVE the uniqueness each chair takes on. And it’s that uniqueness that excites me annually to witness the many differences from one year to the next, one chair to the next.
While the dancing and classic tree is the same, and now iconic to Deck The Chairs in its own way, the little white church is always there front and center too. And children love getting their pictures taken in front of the dollhouse style church, ringing the loud bell... a line begins to form its so very popular. And while that church and tree are always there... lots of the other chairs change decor each year. So it becomes very fun and surprising to see what everyone’s imaginations come up with.
As an artist who paints every day, I can’t help but think I would have quite a lot of fun decking out a chair myself. Each year I go to the event, I contemplate about how I would come up with a theme and design???
Paint onto canvas = holiday decor onto orange chair!
And this year, it is my opinion that Deck The Chairs brought their A Game to The Beach. I’ve attended 2017 and 2018’s events, and this year by far was the most impressive. They’ve definitely stepped it up a notch or two, and I believe we need to give credit where credit is due. The sponsors and volunteers make this event possible, and you could see the dedication toward community spirit in this year’s chairs.
In both previous year’s attendance of the event I saw some plain chairs and chairs with just a sign of sponsor, and lots of lights not working or even connected. I remember last year a whole section was completely unplugged for a very long time so my hubby tried to plug it in and fix it. But this year, each chair was super! Each chair has a theme, and a theme dedicated to their cause.
K9 Warriors has dogs pulling Santa’s sleigh into the sky. A car wash sponsor has bubbles squirting out, and a toy car being soaped up in the wash under the chair... So adorable. “DUUUVAL” is loudly and proudly out on display by our very own Jaguars. And ‘Beaches Go Green’ has a massive octopus made entirely out of plastic waste from the ocean.
In fact, Beaches Go Green was in a league all their own this year. I would guesstimate their massive display took about one quarter of the town square’s entire display space. In coordination with local area schools, they presented an informative walk-through experience, utilizing all recycled materials or garbage re-purposed as art and holiday decor. While also bringing awareness to how all that trash affects the coastal communities and creatures who inhabit them; it was very educational for the public too.
They had displays and posters made entirely of bottle caps, egg cartons, tooth brushes, and seemingly countless single-use plastic water bottles. And the classic jellyfish was back and still alive… thank goodness! The jellyfish is always my favorite part of Deck The Chairs and is also made entirely of trash and repurposed materials. Thank you to Beaches Go Green for the time and dedication it must have taken to put on such a splendid display.
Auntie Anne's Food Truck was selling very tempting food and drink - meaning lots of sugars and carbohydrates. Volunteers in the main event tent were selling hot chocolate and cotton candy, tees and candy canes, and the year’s traditional DTC ornament.
They had a fabulous holiday soundtrack playing on speaker throughout the entire plaza. And when *NSYNC started singing “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” I was beyond thrilled. Thank you from this nineties teen for adding some good ol’ Justin Timberlake and *NSYNC’s Best Song Ever to your beautiful and festive holiday music lineup.
It was lovely and impressive to see small children running up to the volunteer table by the donation box, and to witness a small child happily donate a dollar bill, etc. to the cause, and then run back to their waiting parents. It is by these most simple of acts that we teach future and up and coming generations to keep community traditions alive, and instill values of sharing and giving in our future adults.
I purchased the 2019 Deck The Chairs ornament for $10.00, plus three candy candles for a dollar for the hubby. I was glad to take home a reminder of this lovely event to hang on my tree this upcoming holiday weekend. But most of all, I was glad to partake in the event and donate to the event by purchasing. Always remember that EVERY BODY can do something. Some volunteer. Some donate. Some attend and spread cheer. Some put a quarter or some pennies in the donation box. Anything anybody can do to bring the holiday spirit to others and their community is a positive thing all around.
Overall, the mood was festive, and the community spirit was alive and well. It’s a fabulous way to kick off the holidays. Deck The Chairs is a most spectacular community event here at the beach. I’m still excited about it today and my experience there this weekend. If you are local to the Beaches communities, I highly recommend it; come on out through December nightly to see the brightly lit, and coastal, festive fun. And if you are farther away, do find your local town holiday event and attend it with that community pride and giving spirit that we all can spread to others in our own and unique ways.
Be sure to have some festive fun and spread holiday cheer. Say thank you to the volunteers, or volunteer yourself. Put some change or a paper bill in the donation box if you can, maybe in place of a coffee run this week. Buy a pretzel from Auntie Annes and eat those carbs if you must. Cause any way you slice it, those simple actions are the ones that mean the most. They all add up.
Small change equals massive action… and never forget that.
Be that change you wish to see in this our very own and shareable world.
Community starts with you. It starts and ends at each individual person.
and who you are,
and what makes you you inside,
we wouldn’t be whole.
While we all may celebrate many different and amazing holidays, and all believe in different things and come from very different backgrounds, there is one thing that we can all share with each other regardless of it all. It is in those differences that we make a community, and within a community then resides the spirit of giving, sharing, and family, and friendship. So go and get out there and attend your holiday must-do, give smiles and thank you’s all around, sing along to some JT and wish you and yours a “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” - and most importantly, don’t forget to leave some goodies out for Santa while you’re at it. ~
Sea & Sky Jax - What a fabulous Florida autumn weekend! I knew it was going to be a significantly large event in Jax Beach, with preparations starting weeks in advance here on the First Coast. And with countless banners on every street corner, reminding us of the festivities any which way in town we looked. Then, as the event finally arrived, I realized, and made my own determination and educated guess, that this was the single biggest event I’ve been able to witness since moving here a few years back.
So many people came to The Beaches community to see all the sights that there was off-site parking, and lots of shuttles moving people all around. In fact, even the off-site parking and shuttle service reached their capacity on Saturday. Everyone had to see this event - and it was definitely worth the trek for those who came from far away.
I have never seen the local community or the beach itself this populated, and that includes on various 4th of July festivities. And Jax, Neptune, and Atlantic Beach sure know how to pull off a festive 4th! 1st Street is always closed off on Independence Day, with an unofficial/official bike parade, and various bounce houses, hoses and sprinklers running, coolers full of fun and cold drinks that everyone shares with their neighbors, and front yard parties, galore. And this weekend definitely made me think of the 4th in Jax.
It was the event of events here at the beach, and I’m extremely grateful to have had my very own front seat to all the action - never even having to get in the car once to witness all the excitement. Living in downtown Jax Beach offers many perks, and this was definitely one of the best. And while the show took place both on Saturday and Sunday - living right in the midst of it all offered me a unique perspective.
On Thursday and Friday of this past week, all the various styles of airplanes took many practice runs of the Sky portion of the show. And I must admit that this part of the entire experience was somewhat even more exciting to me than the actual show. I got to see it all, before all the massive crowds of people did… And not knowing what the practice schedule consisted of, I really had no idea what was coming next through the Sky.
Another individual who, for certain, had no idea what was going to happen next, was my dog - Madeline. To her, I think she must have thought that World War III had started and that the literal end of life on Earth had arrived in Jacksonville, Florida. She was absolutely and utterly terrified, and I made the smart decision of keeping her home and inside all weekend. I know we could have had a lost dog if I didn’t do just that.
And at times, the planes roaring through the air at lightning fast speed did sound like it was the end of the world. There were various moments that, due to the cloudy and overcast gray sky, the planes and the smoke they dispersed were camouflaged in to the atmosphere. Add to that, the strange sounds and echoes bouncing off all the buildings as the planes passed overhead, and all this equated to me not knowing where the planes were coming from at any given moment. It definitely was like missiles shooting through the sky. Yes, a war - of pure excitement and thrill - flying overhead.
A mix of some Florida afternoon rain, and then pops of Florida sun - the Blue Angels took to the skies about a half hour late for Saturday’s show. They flew through a massive rainbow shining above the Sea. It was breathtaking to witness, and my iPhone camera would not capture the scene at all, and what it did attempt to capture did not do the rainbow any justice whatsoever. The light and bright and delicate colors floating over the salty water were merely a mirage, and if you blinked, you might miss it.
I’ve never seen more rainbows in my life than I have in the few years I’ve lived here in the land of endless summer - the Sunshine State. And each one is as special as the next; but this rainbow was most stunning and breathtaking with the Blue Angels flying above and through it and coming right at me.
All of the excitement was absolutely and utterly fascinating to watch, and to see it all take place, at home. I could only imagine, myself not knowing too much about these fancy planes at all, what this event means to someone who is in the business, in the military, or flies for hobby etc. And all the little children running around in the sand with their souvenir toy model versions of the Blue Angels, with dreams of piloting these speculator machines when they grow up… young and old alike were equally fascinated by this most exciting of spectacles.
The only thing I know and understand about these planes for certain is that they are awesome. Pure and simple. The entire experience - of witnessing the massive beast of its engine roar, in all its power, flying overhead, in coordination, and so close together it appears from the ground that a mere piece of string could connect the planes quite easily. The dedication, teamwork, the best technology on the planet, all in coordination. All of that at its absolute best, on display for all to see. And it was a free show!
At one point, while my husband was out shooting these photos, he was interviewed by a Youtuber; I found this hilarious. If only we knew, as my hubby of course failed to inquire, which channel interviewed him, I could watch what he said to the internet vlog world about his personal experience with Sea & Sky Jax.
Sadly, Sea & Sky weekend is now over, and won’t be back in Jax Beach for a few more years. The location of this show rotates, and goes to NAS Jax as well.
And now that things are calming down in our household and returning to normal for Madeline and all her fellow dogs in town - she doesn’t quite know or realize that Halloween is next on the agenda this week. It’s a big and chaotic week indeed in the life and mind of a small and sensitive little pooch. But it was a most exciting weekend of weekends for us spectating humans… looking up to the Sky, and out toward the Sea - with our feet in the Sand. ~
[ *Editorial Note: All published photos of Sea & Sky Jax are provided by my hubby - Bryan Pieper of www.BEPREADY.com ]
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