A new year is on the horizon and people are preparing to celebrate tonight, saying goodby to 2021 and hello to 2022. A number of churches in the three-county area are planning celebrations. For those craving fireworks, the best place to be is St. Augustine Beach where the city is putting on a large fireworks display at 8:30 p.m. tonight at St. Johns County Ocean Pier on A1A Beach Boulevard. The celebration has been renamed from Beach Blast Off to Light Up the NIGHT! and will be different this year with no festivities at Pier Park where thousands normally gather. Three locations on A1A Beach Boulevard are designated fireworks viewing areas so people can spread out. Locations are at the St. Johns County Pier, on A Street and on 10th Street. Limited shuttle service is provided from Anastasia Baptist Church to the viewing locations on the beach beginning at 1 p.m. Public parking is available at City Hall, Ron Parker Park, Amici’s Restaurant parking lot and the YMCA.
Don’t be surprised to hear lots of fireworks going off tonight in backyards as people hold their own pyrotechnical displays. If you have pets, tonight’s a good night to keep them indoors away from the noise.
Most government offices in Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties are closed today in order to give workers a holiday off since New Year’s falls on a Saturday. In St. Augustine, parking in city-owned parking lots and on-street parking will be free Saturday. Private lots will continue to charge and tow. Parking rules and fees at the Castillo de San Marcos and Historic Downtown Parking Facility will be enforced.
On a sad note, two longtime residents of Putnam County who have been active in the community for years have died. Tommy King, 73, with Modern Realty died Tuesday after a brief illness. He was a proud Palatka Senior High School Class of 1966 graduate as well as a graduate of St. Johns River State College. Richard “D.P.” Steinmetz, 66, of Interlachen, died Tuesday in Gainesville after an extended illness. A former Putnam County employee, he had been a volunteer fireman at the Francis and Southwest stations. He interacted with thousands of people throughout 23 years as volunteer head of security for the Palatka Blue Crab Festival. He always kept a cool head and an upbeat approach.
More growth is coming on Racetrack Road, already a source of concern to St. Johns County residents. KB Home Jacksonville division has purchased 42.5 acres of property at 6164 Racetrack Road. According to a press release, KB Home plans to develop a single-family community there, to be called Stonecrest. Work is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2022.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office continues investigating a shooting Wednesday evening that sent two men to the hospital. Deputies were called to Regent Lane in Palm Coast about a home invasion they believe was targeted to the victim during an armed robbery. Sheriff Rick Staly said there was no threat to the community. Reportedly one man involved, Zaire Roberts, now 23, was charged with attempted first degree murder when he was 17. The charge was later reduced to aggravated battery with a firearm, he was found guilty and sent to state prison. In September he was released.
St. Anastasia Catholic Church continues their Twelve Days of Christmas Celebration. On Saturday at 7 p.m.they offer a free Baroque Christmas Concert at the church. Sunday at 5 p.m. it’s a fully-staged performance of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased on line.
If you’re looking for a different way to celebrate New Year’s, take in tonight’s performance by First Coast Opera in St. Augustine. They’re performing Verdi’s La Traviata at Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College, 14 Granada St. Another performance is Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at firstcoastopera.com.
On New Year’s Day if you’re revved up with good resolutions head to Ravines Gardens State Park in Palatka to take part in their First Day Hike at 10 a.m. A ranger-guided hike and tour of the Ravines system is scheduled. The event is free with park entry of $5 per vehicle or $2 per person.
And whether you’re planning on a Southern-style good luck meal of black-eyed peas, pork and greens or a Pennsylvanian Dutch traditional meal of pork and sauerkraut, here’s wishing you a great New Year.
This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.