The Beaches holiday season got off to a festive start Sunday, as the “Light the Beach” celebration officially kicked off the 4th annual Deck the Chairs display in Jacksonville Beach.
Local residents gravitated to the Seawalk Pavilion and Latham Plaza to see the more than 40 iconic lifeguard chairs decorated with lights and other festive holiday displays. Visitors strolled amid the lighted displays, enjoying Christmas carols, a musical program and food trucks. In addition to traditional Christmas-themed displays, the colorful displays included a gingerbread house, a dragon and a Harry Potter/Hogwarts-themed display by the Jacksonville Public Library.
“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see everyone here,” said Kurtis Loftus, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit that organizes the annual Deck the Chairs celebration. “We are blessed to live in a wonderful city like Jacksonville Beach and this is a celebration we can all be proud of.”
Organized as a community fundraiser, Deck the Chairs invites local businesses and organizations to sponsor a lifeguard chair, which they then decorate with lights and holiday displays. For the first time this year, the celebration was extended beyond the central Latham Plaza location to include lightweight replica chairs placed throughout the Beaches communities.
Loftus thanked the Deck the Chairs board members, who work with community sponsors throughout the year to organize the event. “It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “We start in February and work all year to get to this day.”
Proceeds from Deck the Chairs, Loftus noted, benefit the trained Volunteer Lifesaving Corps, which staffs the lifeguard chairs at the beach on Sundays and holidays.
“This is the only volunteer lifesaving corps in the United States,” Loftus said, “and we get to call them our own.”
The Deck the Chairs display will be illuminated each night through Jan. 1 beginning at 6 p.m. In addition, this year’s display will feature the “Shine Hope and Peace Music and Light Spectacular,” a 10-minute light show that will be presented on the hour from 6 to 9 p.m. weekends in December with the exception of Christmas Day. Weekends will also feature special holiday entertainment, food trucks and the Dec. 11 presentation of awards for the best decorated chairs in a number of categories.