Turning on the Lights on West King - the Forgotten Side of St. Augustine

Buena Onda Cafe West King Street st. Augustine Florida

"When you drive down this street, these county roads, this area has been neglected," says Tyrone Bennett, the organizer behind the West King Lighting of Historical West King Street event. 

Bennett's sentiments were echoed by many attending today's light up event at the West King Street Business District. 

Tyrone Bennett and Casey Carcaba
Event organizer Tyrone Bennett with Casey Carcaba, owner of the Cheesewheel and Carcaba's Electric, whose companies supported the event with funding and location.

"We're on the wrong side of US1, so it is almost as if we are forgotten," says Casey Carcaba, owner of the Cheesewheel and Carcaba's Electric, one of the donors behind the event. "I've got two businesses in this community. I've lived here for about 20 years now, and there is just a lot of opportunity here. I feel like it is kind of overlooked, and we wanted to shine some light on the neighborhood and all of the businesses here. We wanted to get in front of everybody and get everybody's attention to let them know that we're here, and to come out to support us.

Bennett, a local chef, who has been putting on events to help raise money for places such as the Corner Market in Lincolnville and the Lincolnville Museum, was the organizer behind the Lighting of Historical West King Street event.

"I wanted to put something together that was good for the community of West Augustine," says Bennett, "I wanted to have them participate in some of the economic stimulus from the Nights of Lights. It's been a hard road to get here. Today is the first day, it is not a one and done, we are doing the celebration today, but the lights will be on from here until January 25th. We just wanted to bring some of that stimulus, that money and that tourism that downtown gets to come here. Next year, it needs to be a full force to get this to be backed by the city and the county. This is a one-man operation. I raised the money, I asked for donations. We raised about 15,000 dollars, and so it is going to cost a little bit more than that. "

When asked what an event like the West King Lighting of Historical West King Street means for West King Street, Jaclyn Briand, manager at Buena Onda Cafe on West King Street says, "I think it is awesome. I love that the community is coming together to support and getting people out of downtown to this side of town. It means a lot to the local businesses to get more traffic."

The businesses in the West King Street Business District just west of US1 have increased their efforts in getting put on the map with the successful West King Wednesdays every 3rd Wednesday of the month, but there is still a long way to go to get the west side of West Augustine included in events like these that connect to St. Augustine.

"It is a big deal, because we've always been shut out of things that go on in St. Augustine. We feel as if we are just as important as the east side of King Street, so it is a very big deal," says Lydia White, a long-time West Augustine community leader, when asked what it means for the West King District to include the west side of West Augustine. "We do have some local businesses in West Augustine, and I think that they need to reach out to those businesses to see what their needs are and also help them with their businesses. We have a lot of great opportunities in West Augustine, but we don't have the resources to make it happen."

White had been invited to the West King Lighting of Historical West King Street event, because of her involvement with the Kids Safe Zone at the American Legion Alton Green Memorial Post 194 in West Augustine. "They had twenty bicycles, so they asked for a list of 20 kids. The American Legion Kids Safe Zone, our afterschool tutorial program, provided them with 20 children to get the bicycles. What a blessing. The Kids Safe Zone is an afterschool tutorial program that has been in existence for over 25 years founded by Greg White and Cornelious Jones, and their vision was to help low-income children with their homework, so that when their parents come home, all they have to do is feed the kids dinner and put them to bed."

Santa with LaShonda Jackson and her son Jace Jackson.

"I'm here, because the American Legion gave my child's name to get a free bicycle for Christmas," says LaShonda Jackson. "He goes to the Webster School, and he goes to Kids Safe Zone at the American Legion after school."

While no stores or food trucks from the west side of West Augustine were at the event, the west side was strongly represented by West Augustine families hoping to see a connection between the west side of West Augustine to the West King Business District and St. Augustine. 

Kierra Smith, Destiny Maddox and Cindy Jo West Augustine MomsWalker
West Augustine moms Kierra Smith, Destiny Maddox with son Nolan and Cindy Jo Walker.

Soirés for Days, a local costume and event company owned by two West Augustine Moms, came out to have fun and support the community, and they had dressed their entourage for the occasion. 

Soirés for Days Santa Costume Rental St. Augustine
Soirés for Days showcasing their holiday costumes.

Trish the Comish at the West King Lighting Event St. Augustine
Trish the Comish with the Laventure family. 

The Laventure family had been out to eat dinner, when they came upon the West King Lighting of Historical West King Street event. Recent additions to St. Johns County, they were excited about the event, and the Laventure kids Stanson, Stanley and Ashley Laventure were thrilled to receive gifts from Santa. 

Trish Becker, the local Anastasia Mosquito Control District County Commissioner, better known as Trish the Comish, says, "West Augustine is part of St. Augustine, and it is time that the lights finally get turned on on this side, not only in the physical context, but in all contexts." 

Sweet City Cupcakes St. Augustine Florida
Sweet City Cupcakes

The question is now whether trying to connect the West King Business District to St. Augustine will push away the west side of West Augustine, or whether the two sides will find a way to connect and work together as the community is hopeful will happen, since both sides are clearly distinct besides both being on the forgotten side of St. Augustine. 

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