By Renee Unsworth
I’ve read there was a violent storm at sea when Menendez was nearing St. Augustine in 1565, so it was fitting that there were drenching thunderstorms just after the Menendez landing re-enactment around 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5 at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, 11 Magnolia Ave., in St. Augustine.
A crowd of about 500 gathered near the water to view Menendez (actor Chad Light) and his crew come ashore. Soldiers fired muskets just before he made his appearance, and other soldiers rode horses around the grounds during the event. In addition, a colonial encampment gave a glimpse of life in the 1500 and 1600’s in St. Augustine.
A celebration of the first Thanksgiving also was part of the event, with free barbecue mealsÂ by Smokin’ D’s BBQ to the first 300 who arrived at the park.
Live music James and Sylvia Kalal and the Pemberwicks was featured throughout the day, along with the park’s attractions.
From www.fountainofyouthflorida.com: On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed on the shore of Seloy, a large Timucuan town that was situated just opposite what was to become St. Augustine inlet. Menendez was on a military mission to deal with a French incursion into Spain’s new world territory. With a fleet of seven ships and many soldiers, he was an imposing presence, and the Timucuans offered Menendez and his forces part of their village â€“ thus establishing St. Augustine, the oldest continuous European settlement in the United States. 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and 78 years before the founding of Jamestown, the town of St. Augustine became a keystone in Spain’s New World network of settlements. In fact, the first Thanksgiving in the United States took place at what is now our Park. Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park features a long list of firsts, but most importantly, at almost 450 years old, we are truly America’s First Colony.