Deck the Chairs lights up first night in Jacksonville Beach

Deck the Chairs begins!

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Deck the Chairs lights up the first night of the event Saturday with 40 total lifeguard chairs in Jacksonville Beach. This is the eighth year of the event and organizers said they have changes in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kurtis Loftus, the founder and executive director, expected up to 1,000 people to come out on their busiest nights, which he said will still allow space for social distancing. Organizers worked with the city and fire department to determine capacity.

New this year, the chairs are more spaced apart and there is no fencing along the sidewalk to encourage attendees to move through the grass and stay six feet apart. Signage and hand sanitizer stations are spread throughout and masks are encouraged.

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“We’re going to watch the crowds [Saturday night] and see how they like the new layout,” Loftus said. “We just want people to treat it as a big, wide open park.”

Loftus expects spectators might come from as far as Miami to view the displays since many holiday events have been canceled during the pandemic. The event is free and tickets are not required, so Loftus encouraged individuals who don’t feel safe to come back during a quieter time in the afternoon or during the week.

Loftus said the event helps bring foot traffic to the area and a boost to beach businesses who have suffered amid COVID-19 shutdowns.

“A lot of these folks — that’s their living. They were crushed during that period. So they’re really grateful that we’re putting this together.”

After Saturday, the lights will go on from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. with some programmed events on the weekends through January 1st. You can find a list of events on their website, https://deckthechairs.org/