For the past 15 years, a tradition of Light-Up! Night has been naming those who will actually “flip the switch” that turns on the lights that kick off the annual Nights of Lights. This week St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver continued that tradition when she identified the two people who will launch the holiday tradition, now in its 24th year.
“Over the past year so many in our community have reached out to serve the needs of others by assisting with basic needs and finding ways to enrich the quality of life for all. I am proud to announce that I have asked two people who represent the theme “Serving our community near and far,” to kick off this year’s Nights of Lights,” said Shaver. “They are the owner and Executive Chef of Michael’s Tasting Room, Michael Lugo, and Wanda Bray, the city’s Event Administrator who, after more than 15 years, is retiring in early 2018.”
Chef Lugo, a native of Puerto Rico, opened Michael’s Tasting Room in 2006 and in the last decade had made major contributions to the area’s culinary landscape and to the welfare of communities near and far. During the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Lugo worked tirelessly to gather contributions and coordinate delivery of relief supplies for Manati, Puerto Rico where he has family. Several thousand dollars in donations and his own efforts resulted in a Jacksonville shipping company delivering food, water, toiletries, batteries and pharmacy items directly to those Lugo knew were in need, and the effort is continuing today.
In addition, Lugo’s charitable efforts are ongoing here at home. Shortly after Hurricane Matthew, Lugo opened his restaurant in order to help feed city crew members who had put in long hours without a break, and he and his staff regularly participate in fundraising events like The Spanish Wine Festival, which gives back to his community in which Lugo says he has truly found creative satisfaction.
There is not an event held on the city’s public property in the last decade and a half that has not felt the guidance and assistance of Wanda Bray. Bringing her organizational skills gained through years working in association services in Ft. Myers and Tallahassee, and her extensive experience in hospitality management and event planning, Bray filled a need in city services when she joined the Department of Public Affairs in 2002.
As part of city staff, Wanda has been much more than the person who issued an event permit. Her self-effacing graciousness and kindness combined with her knowledge has made the difference between success and failure for the many public and private events. Wanda has helped the city play host to hundreds of official visitors, including royalty with all of its protocol, always quietly behind the scenes making sure everything went smoothly. Her smile no matter what has been her trademark as she served the City, worked with staff, and the many people whom she served. As much as any person, her work has helped to elevate the cultural resources and activities throughout the St. Augustine community that so many residents and visitors enjoy.
“As the city’s elected leaders, members of the City Commission have a commitment to protect the quality of life our residents enjoy. But, we are dependent on individuals, our neighbors and friends, who have a deep passion for the city and honest compassion for others, who really make St. Augustine a great place to live,” said Shaver, adding “I know the entire Commission will be proud to stand with Michael and Wanda as we continue the great tradition of all of our community, the Nights of Lights.”
Others members of the City Commission are Vice Mayor Todd Neville, Commissioner Leanna Freeman, Commissioner Roxanne Horvath and Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline.
Light-Up! Night is November 18 with the lighting ceremony scheduled for 6:30pm in the Plaza de la Constitutión. For more information, visit www.NightsofLights.com.