Party Like it’s 1519 — Celebrate 500th birthday at Santa Elena History Center

4 mins read

The year 2019 is a big one for Santa Elena founder Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, born in Spain in 1519. Join in a community commemoration of his 500th birthday with an all-day, family-friendly fiesta brimming with Spanish inspiration in downtown Beaufort at the Santa Elena History Center.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, regular-priced admission to the History Center will afford visitors extra special ways to enjoy Spanish culture and learn about the man who oversaw the first European capital in America. In the courtyard of the Santa Elena History Center, visitors will meet members of the Santa Elena Living History Company in an authentic 16th-century Spanish encampment, where weapons demonstrations and flint knapping will add extra flavor. Take a step back to a time when living was much simpler, yet surviving was uncertain.

The festivities of the day kick off with a special lecture by distinguished professor emeritus Dr. Lawrence Rowland at 11 a.m. Performances highlighting authentic, 16th-century Spanish and Renaissance music will feature classical guitar virtuoso Ulyana Machneva and the Taylor Festival Choir of Charleston at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. All of this is included in the admission price and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Visitors will also explore the newly-enhanced main exhibit, “America’s First Century,” with dynamic new features and perspectives. Knowledgeable docents will guide you through the many displays including the debut of videos from the La Florida interpretive digital archive, the Evolution of 16th-Century Maps, a display of Native American information, and a chance to don your own armor and weapons for a photo.

Another neat display for the birthday party will be birthday cards from students. All ages are invited to send in their artwork for display in the main corridor through the spring for all to enjoy. 

And what’s a birthday party without cake or a Spanish fiesta without sangria? Guests can have both during their explorations of the Santa Elena story and its leader, Pedro Menendez. Additionally, local food trucks will be on-site for those seeking lunch fare, or you may hop on the free shuttle for a ride to downtown restaurants.

“We are excited to host the community for this birthday party – 500 years is quite the occasion,” says Megan Morris, Director of Santa Elena Foundation. “Whether you’re visiting Beaufort and looking for a local experience, have not yet explored our exhibits, or have not visited recently, this is the perfect time to come downtown to experience the Santa Elena History Center.”

The logistics of the day are simple – plenty of activities, entertainment and treats throughout the event, and parking is plentiful and free of charge. The free shuttle will run its route through the Beaufort Cultural District all day, so hop on and off to get to other destinations around town.

For more information on this and future events, visit

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