Ponce de Leon Celebration
St. Augustine Florida

1883 Celebration
Ponce De Leon Day. (
from August 156, 1889 St. Augustine Weekly News)
A Plan to Revive a Festival Inaugurated in 1883.

An Interview With an Enthusiast on the Subject--He Tells how the Affair was Managed and Who
Did the Work --- The Holiday Must Be Revived --- A Chance for Athletics

On March 27, 1883, the 373rd year of the existence of this city was celebrated in grand style. It
was Ponce de Leon day and the event brought to this city the greatest crowd ever gathered here.

There is no reason why this celebration should not be made a gala day once a year. In 1883 a
picturesque landing was made by
Ponce de Leon, impersonated by Francisco B. Genovar, one of
Ponce de Leon's old associates. He had a battalion of two companies, commanded by Captains
John G. Carrea and Albert L. Rogero. These Spanish troops, in antique uniform and with the flag of
old Spain, proceeded to the old Fort and celebrated mass.

The second feature of this celebration was the oration by
Maj. George R. Fairbanks. Then the
parade, under direction and command of Mr. J. A. Enslow Jr., made up of the Ponce de Leon
army, the battalion of the U. S. A., then stationed here, the St. Augustine Guards, visiting military
Jacksonville and Palatka, the Ladies' Confederate Monument Society in carriages, the Fire
Department, the Catholic schools under direction of the sisters of St. Joseph, civic societies and
citizens. At night there was a grand Venetian display and aquatic concert on the bay in front of the
city. On the second day a yacht race was sailed and at night a grand pyrotechnic display took place.
The houses generally were decorated and all went in with spirit for a great holiday.

Dr. De Witt Webb conceived the idea. He worked hard against opposition. He was the secretary of
the executive committee and General Horatio G. Gibson was chairman. These two gentlemen were
the very inspiration of the whole enterprise and to them is due the success and credit of the affair.

Most of the gentlemen who took active part in the last celebration are still with us and can be
depended upon to renew their effective work. Secretary DeWitt Webb, Ponce de Leon Genovar,
Captains Carreras and Rogero, Grand Marshal Enslow, Executive committee. Genovar, Finance
Solicitor D. Knowlton, Chief of Finance George W. Gibbs, Chief Decorator Frank H. Greatorex
and others.

A pleasing feature of the last celebration was the old Spanish names represented in the two
companies of the Spanish troops, viz: Rogero, Carreras, Masters, Manucy, Andrea, Bridier, Capo,
Mickler, Benet, Triay, Oliveros, Colee, Hernandez, Genovar, Usina, Ponce, Valle, Gomez,
Llambias, Leonardy, Sanchez, Dupont and Ximanes.

1885 Celebration
March 27
State Senator Genovar played Ponce de Leon escorted by 46 attendants in Spanish costumes with
battle axes and glittering helmets. Fathers Lynch and Money celebrated high mass at the
Addresses were made by General Gibson and the
Hon G. R. Fairbanks. The parade that followed
was witnessed by 10,000 persons. A dress carnival was held and then a ball at the
St. Augustine
Hotel. Also a yacht and boat race and a aquatic show in the harbor.

From - Florida East Coast 1909-1910 Florida East Coast Railway
One of the most unique celebrations in this country and one of the least known to the public at large
is the annual carnival held in the quaint city of St. Augustine in memory of the landing of Ponce de

The first week of April the city is en fete for three days and it is indeed a miniature fairyland, for
nowhere else could the natural settings make the ground for this really old-world pageant. The
narrow streets, overhanging houses of true Spanish architecture, the blue waters of the bay, old Fort
Marion--all are here to make the historical features correct.

The Business Men's League is responsible for this celebration. The citizens are organized into
various societies, each with an officer. By popular vote in which the competition is most strenuous
"Ponce de Leon" is chosen. He in turn selects his retinue.
Menendez de Aviles is next in rank, then
the marshal of the day. There are the "French," "Spanish," "English" and American soldiers and a
goodly band of "Indians." The State troops are invited and everyone for miles around plans to go to
St. Augustine for "celebration" week.

Stores are closed and business is suspended always during the hours of the daily parade and

To a stranger the scene is one of interest, for it is a fine jog for one's very hazy history. We all
remember that
Ponce de Leon came to the "land of flowers" and was supposed to have found the
"fountain of eternal youth." But to have history acted out before one's eyes is the best way to fix
names, dates and places in the mind.  A noted educator said recently that she had "had dead loads
of schooling and much book learning, but her best education has been obtained from a Pullman car

The child who watched from the hotel windows the building of the caravel that was to convey
"Ponce" down the bay to the landing at the sea wall and then witnessed the three days' portrayal of
history will never forget the founding of the "oldest city in the United States."

It is fitting to hold this celebration upon the exact spot where one of the most eventful incidents in the
New World's career took place. The first day brings the landing of the "Knight of Leon" with the
Spanish grandees and soldiers. The caravel makes a beautiful sight as it comes in with all sails flying,
the armor glittering in the sun, the cross held high by the priests, and "Ponce" in his magnificence
steps ashore under the arches of evergreen. The voyagers disembark and are greeted by the
Indians, who are so realistic as to strike terror to the hearts of young children, who shiver with fear
at the gleaming tomahawks and hideous war paint. The Spaniards kneel in prayer and offer thanks
for the ending of the long voyage.

"Ponce de Leon" mounts the horse, gaily caparisoned, heads the procession in which all the
organizations join, and the tour of the city is made then through the old city gateway to the fort,
where the ceremony of blessing the country is impressively performed by the Catholic priests of the

How the small boys St. Augustine look forward to this week, for every one of them has leave and
license to be an "Indian" to his heart's content. All the burros that are for hire around the Plaza are
pressed into service, and how they do hate it. But for once in their lives they have to get up and go.

The morning of the second day brings
Menendez, who founded the city in 1565. He arrives in the
neighborhood of
Fort Marion with a grand suite and marches down Bay street. About the Plaza the
"play" is enacted of bringing in the "Indian" prisoners. The pipe of peace is finally smoked and the
second parade is made of the city streets to the fort where a tribute is paid to the place where the
first mass was celebrated on this continent. A cross is placed on the spot and the pageant circles
around, each saluting as he passes.

The third day brings the "change of flags," which takes place at the fort and is really the most
impressive sight of all. The most momentous change in the life of the ancient city came when the flag
of Spain was changed forever to the "Stars and Stripes."

Three great epochs in history had been depicted when our flag was left flying to the breeze and the
cavalcade wheeled and broke ranks.

The flag ceremony consisted of first raising the flag of Spain while the band played the national
anthem. Then from another pole the tricolor of France was flung to the breeze to the playing of the
"Marseillaise." Two English soldiers next stepped out and hoisted the "Union Jack" from a third staff,
while "Rule Britannia" was played and the "English" troops sang the words. The most spectacular
ceremony was the last, when the commander of the Spanish forces drew his sword and surrendered
to the American commander, and all the other flags were hauled down and the flag of our country
took its place amid a perfect salvo of applause, all the bands playing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The rose may fade, its leaves decay,
The lily from its stem may sever';
Castile and Leon may pass away,
But the stars must shine forever.

While the winding up of the carnival the season closes at St. Augustine, and a fitting ending to the
winter's gaiety it is. Every one departs in good spirits and the natives settle down to try to "do" the
celebration a bit better "next year." It is certainly a most creditable effort, worthy of the able support
of every American. We need more of just such historical pictures, but there are few places adapted
for such portrayal as is this dear old city in the Southland.

Oldest City Celebrates (The Bemidji Daily Pioneer, March 31, 1909)
St. Augustine Begins Three Days' Fete in Honor of Its Founding.
This ancient city, the first place in the United States inhabited by whites, began today a three days'
celebration of the anniversary of its founding. The jubilee is intended to commemorate the landing of
Ponce de Leon, the famous seeker for the fabulous fountain of youth, in 1513, the founding of the
city in 1565 and the various changes of flags which St. Augustine has seen.

The United States government will be represented by two companies of coast artillery and a military
band, Florida by a battalion of state troops and the regimental band and the Kentucky Military
institute by cadets and a band.

Finance Committee For Ponce de Leon Celebration Announced by Chairman. (Jan 8, 1910)
The following finance committee has been appointed by Chairman A. M. Taylor, of the Ponce de
Leon Celebration Executive Committee to serve this year. They will visit the business men this
week. Soliciting subscriptions for this year's celebration:

Eugene Masters, chairman; A. M. Taylor, secretary; Harvey Tomilinson, Leonard L. Simms, Harry
L. Brown.

1927 Celebration
The 1927 celebration took place on April 6-8. The events included baseball, fireworks and, of
course, the reenactments. This celebration included Ponce de Leon's landing, Menendez's founding
of St. Augustine,  Sir Francis Drake's sacking of the town and the Oglethorpe siege.
1st Spanish Period
Ponce de Leon Day
Ponce de Leon Monument (St. Augustine)
Monuments Page
Henry Flagler
Roaring 20s
Biography of Ponce de Leon
Custom Search
Parade to celebrate the landing of Ponce de Leon - 1929
State Archives of Florida
Photographer Victor Rahner
State Archives of Florida
Celebration of the landing of Ponce de Leon - Saint Augustine, Florida April 3, 1929
Photographer Victor Rahner
State Archives of Florida
Women Dressed Up to Celebrate the Landing of
Juan Ponce de Leon
April 3, 1929
Photographer Victor Rahner
William Nobles as Pedro Menendez
Herbert Wolfe as Ponce de Leon 1927
Flag Ceremony
Blessing the Land
Circa 1908 - 1909
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