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 to the annual Nights of Lights.
Last 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,” Shaver said. “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.”
Michael Lugo and Wanda Bray will turn on the lights during the annual ceremony, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the Plaza de la Constitucion.
Lugo is the executive chef of Michael’s Tasting Room, and Bray is the city’s event administrator. She will retire in 2018 after more than 15 years.
Lugo, a native of Puerto Rico, opened Michael’s Tasting Room in 2006. In the last decade, he has 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. Lugo’s efforts resulted in a Jacksonville shipping company delivering food, water, toiletries, batteries and pharmacy items directly to those in need, and the effort continues 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. In addition, he and his staff regularly participate in fundraising events like The Spanish Wine Festival, which gives back to the community.
Every event held on the city’s public property in the last 15 years has 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, Bray 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.
Bray 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.
“I know the entire (City) 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,” Shaver said.
For information, go to CityStAug.com.