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Jacksonville Beach to light up city, similar to St. Augustine's Nights of Lights

6:41 PM, Nov 13, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- Rob Nicholson and Kurtis Loftus are two men helping to light up Jacksonville Beach this winter.

"It was so dark last year," Nicholson remembered. "We didn't have any Christmas lights last year."

Nicholson is working to light up light poles for four blocks in Jacksonville Beach.  Lights will be up on 3rd and 1st Streets, he said.  City hall will be the centerpiece, and Loftus is creating something called "Deck the Chairs".

"The idea is to take these red lifeguard chairs that are 9-feet-tall," Loftus explained, "bring them into the plaza and let people decorate them," with lights and structures to make them look like boats, sea creatures, sandcastles, etc.

The goal is to decorate and light up Jacksonville Beach for the first ever Beaches Winter Lights Festival, and organizers are taking a cue from St. Augustine's successful Nights of Lights.

"We're certainly aware of what St. Augustine has done," Nicholson said.

St. Augustine's Nights of Lights started 20 years ago to boost business downtown during a slow season. Now the little lights draw thousands of people and their pocketbooks.

Nicholson is hoping the little lights will bring big traffic to Jacksonville Beach too.

"Those are good reasons to come down and have a glass of hot chocolate maybe spend time in one of our restaurants and shops," Nicholson said.

But what does St. Augustine think about that?

"Imitation is the highest form of flattery," Paul Williamson smiled.

Williamson helps to oversee the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine.

"We didn't come up with the idea. We're not the first city to do this," he added.

St. Augustine essentially copied Gatlinburg, Tennessee - 20 years ago.

But Gatlinburg is hundreds of miles away from St. Augustine, and Jacksonville Beach is only 45 minutes away.  So is there any concern over sharing the holiday economic pie?

"No, no," Williamson smiled. "I think people will see ours and Jacksonville Beach's. They'll see both."

Both sides say that it's not a competition of Christmas lights, but Loftus hopes for the same recognition. "Just like St Augustine has lights that people from all over the world know about,  maybe they'll know about our chairs and about our beautiful lights and what we're doing here in Jax Beach."

Connect with Jessica Clark, follow her on Twitter at @JessicaFCN or Like her on Facebook.


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