The Grinch named COVID-19 could not keep a Beaches holiday favorite from coming back this year.
Jacksonville Beach Deck the Chairs will be on display from Nov. 21 to Jan. 1. The unusual event features 40 brightly decorated lifeguard chairs, festive music and a 100-foot glowing octopus.
The displays are creative, dazzling and popular, and an estimated 60,000 visitors make a point of seeing the chairs each year.
“The crowds get better and better every year,” said Deck the Chairs founder Kurtis Loftus.
Local businesses and organizations sponsor and decorate the displays, which will be showcased in Latham Plaza and the Seawalk Pavilion area.
The event is free and open to the public. The display lights are on from 5 p.m. to 1 p.m. each night.
Throughout 2020, organizers worked closely with city officials to prepare for a safe and accessible exhibit. Several adjustments have been made to meet the challenge posed to holiday events everywhere by the coronavirus pandemic.
Programming and interactivity with the lighted chair displays will be limited. There will also be changes to the park space layout with extra space between chairs and less fencing along the sidewalks.
Other safety precautions will include hand-sanitizing stations, a first aid/isolation tent and informational signs regarding public health policies.
“The COVID pandemic has taken its toll on our Beaches community,” said Loftus. “Business has been especially hit hard. Our hope is that the lights and free display will once again bring people into the Seawalk Pavilion and Latham Plaza park space, and that after visiting with us, they spend time and money with our friends in the service sector.”
The event has proven important to local businesses. Restaurants in the area have reported a 20-30% increase in business during the event compared with the same period before Deck The Chairs began in 2013.
The event is operated by a nonprofit organization, Deck The Chairs.
This year, visitors may notice that many popular features from 2019 will be improved. Beaches Go Green, a nonprofit that spreads awareness about waste and how it affects the environment, is installing a new light program in the Octopus Garden and syncing it to music.
In addition, lights and sounds will be improved at the 30-foot, 9,000-light tree.
“For the past seven seasons, this event has been a staple of the Jax Beach community,” said Malcolm Marvin Jr., Deck the Chairs executive director. “We’re honored to be here for our eighth season and to continue our mission of promoting the arts and arts education, especially during this challenging time.”
Several sponsors will be returning this year, while new ones have signed on.
To learn more or to volunteer, go to deckthechairs.org.