Italian feast marks San Marco’s 90th birthday

Italian feast marks San Marco’s 90th birthday
Alan Howard, Gwen Gallagher-Howard, Dee Burke with Steve Morrill

Balis Park in San Marco Square was transformed into a Venetian festival Nov. 6 as nearly 150 diners sat beneath lavish tents and twinkling lights to celebrate the Feast of Carnevale, San Marco’s 90th birthday party.

A short rain shower did not dampen the spirits of partygoers as they enjoyed a six-course Italian banquet prepared by five of San Marco’s finest chefs – Chris Cohen of Bistro Aix, Tom Gray of Town Hall and Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails, Sam Efron of Taverna, Wes Nogueira of bb’s Restaurant and Matthew Medure of M Hospitality.

The event was a fundraiser for the San Marco Merchants Association, which plans to use the proceeds to further beautify the park in the center of the Square as well as promote San Marco as a destination within Jacksonville’s urban core.

During her remarks before the feast, SMMA President Anita Vining expressed special thanks to San Marco’s Anita Morrill, a professional party planner, who organized the event. Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer, who represents District 5, also addressed the crowd. She said she has lived in San Marco for 30 years and was very happy to be able to take part in the celebration. “It’s a celebration of all the people who have made San Marco what it is all these 90 years,” she said. “It’s so fabulous to see the merchants so engaged in this celebration.”

Boyer also said the occasion coincided with her 19th wedding anniversary to Judge Tyrie Boyer, who grew up in San Marco.

The Sessions, a brass band, serenaded the partygoers, and models, dressed in Italian Renaissance garb, silently struck poses on the lip of Balis Park’s fountain and near the San Marco Lions, which were also dressed for the occasion.

Over 90 years ago San Marco was constructed on 80-plus acres of the former Villa Alexandria Estate, which was then known as South Jacksonville. Developer Telfair Stockton imagined the area as a fashionable, upscale development comprised of 250 lots and a centralized commercial district. Construction of the first buildings, designed in Italian Renaissance Revival style, began in 1926. San Marco Square, named after the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy, showcases several Mediterranean-style buildings and a central fountain, guarded by the three regal lions, a symbol of St. Mark.

San Marco’s local history will be captured in a commemorative book, which will be given to all who attended the event and later sold in the San Marco Bookstore, said Morrill.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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