Since 2013, Jacksonville Beach has held an annual holiday event dubbed, “Deck the Chairs,” and if you’ve ever walked around the downtown Beaches area, you’ve probably seen the array of decorated chairs. By utilizing something iconic to the area (the red lifeguard chairs), Kurtis Loftus and his group have created a unique and locally inspired holiday tradition.

We recently asked Kurtis a little bit about the festival and where the idea first originated. Check out our interview below and get out to see the festival between now and Jan. 1, 2017.

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When did Deck the Chairs first begin, and what was the original mission behind it?

July 2013, Jax Beach Deck The Chairs (JBDTC) began as a small seed of an idea to promote Beaches community through a decorated display of iconic lifeguard chairs.

Business owners collaborating with craftsmen — uniting through sponsorship dollars and talent to build a public art display while creating a unique destination experience. Jacksonville Beach has a strong tie to the historic Volunteer Life Saving Corps. The lifeguard chair represents commitment to well-being and public safety.

August 2013, a private initiative targeting the Christmas holiday season for the display was put into action. Formal branding efforts and development work began out of The Kurtis Group a local ad boutique. Four-month development window and launch of 18 chair display  in Latham Plaza on Black Friday weekend.

The original mission was three-fold:

  1. Create public art that would draw visitors
  2. Fund raise for the Volunteer Lifeguards through sponsor dollars and donations
  3. Economic benefit for our local economy during a traditionally slow period

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How did the idea come about?

The idea for JBDTC came about like most ideas … inspired thought — a July early morning run on the beach like the thousands I had done previously. Passing the dozens of chairs dotting the front edge of the dune line. Strong, majestic red towers. Simple but meaningful elements … a constant reminder of what makes the beach special.

I worked with a foundation 10 years earlier that used manatee sculptures painted by artists (and displayed throughout Jax) to raise money. The foundational pieces fell into place for JBDTC and it became a matter of lining up the resources.

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Is this something you see continuing for decades to come?

I am passionate about creative engagement. Public art was not my original pursuit. After a 30-year career in the commercial art world, I realized most of what seemed important was how the work enhanced lives. Today, we are creating a template for long standing viability — typical of any business plan the market dictates success. Since we live and work in a community that is sustained by welcoming visitors and residents as part of it’s core mission, I believe JBDTC fills a niche during the holidays. Refining and improving the experience is one of the primary board objectives.

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What do you hope the event brings to the community? Why do it?

In four years, JBDTC has grown substantially in scope and visitors to Jacksonville Beach. More private/public interest is continuing to build and the result is better displays every year. JBDTC connects residents and visitor, private and public sectors. Communities are made stronger through art. Makers movement is a national effort and JBDTC is grabbing hold of many of the underlying principles that Makers share. If holiday expression of joy through decorated lifeguard chairs in Jax Beach helps enhances community, then why not continue to create Magic In The Chair?

Our volunteers are the backbone JBDTC. Hundreds of hours in donated services and thousands of dollars in-kind donations make up the final exhibit. My job is to continue encouraging participation in areas of development, fund raising, programming and event management that will produce an event we can be proud to call our own.

Event Details:

  • FREE and OPEN to the Public
  • Lights on Every Night at 6 p.m.
  • Schedules Subject to Change
  • Food Trucks, Concessions and Kids’ Activities Every Weekend throughout December (except Christmas)