Record tourism numbers continue in St. Johns County


ID=78278952ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- St. Johns County's No. 1 industry – tourism – is experiencing record breaking growth, according to the county's visitors and convention bureau.

At the Hot Shot Bakery and Café in St. Augustine, those numbers are reflected in the number of customers coming in.

Sherry Stoppelbein, owner of Hot Shots, said, "St. Augustine is hugely busy. Crazy busy!"

Stoppelbein just had a lucrative holiday which brought more business to her bakery. "Well, Nights of Lights is huge now! It's an international draw!"

The tourism numbers are breaking records.

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Troopers: Driver arrested after patrol car hit-and-run


ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A St. Augustine resident has been arrested after running a red light, striking the back of a deputy's cruiser and driving off after the accident on New Year's Day, authorities said.

Gwedolyn D. Hughes, 31, has been arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a crash with injury and property damage after an accident early Friday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Drones and holiday crowds concerning police


ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. -- A new concern is emerging with New Years celebrations, and it has to do with an item that was a popular Christmas gift: drones.

One police department on the First Coast is concerned about public safety when drones are mixed with big crowds. On Thursday evening, the St. Augustine Beach Blast Off will pull in thousands to the pier and parking lot.

The police department will not just be watching the crowd, they'll also be monitoring the skies for drones.

"We foresee drones out there," St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick said. "I just have some concerns."

The Beach Blast Off has a family-friendly rating from Family Magazine. Hardwick also anticipates the crowd will be between 20,000 – 30,000 people. That's a lot of people in one place. Throw in some people flying drones, and Hardwick foresees some public safety issues.

Acts from the 80's mean business in St. Augustine


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The 80's are making a comeback and that means business -- literally.

The music of the 80's is proving profitable for the St. Augustine Amphitheater. A string of acts from the 80's are on the schedule to perform at the St. Johns County venue.

Duran Duran is one of them. The group made young hearts go pitter patter in the 80's, and now?

"They're just as handsome as ever," Dianya Markovitz beamed. She remembers seeing Duran Duran in concert in the 80's when she was little. Now she works at the St. Augustine Amphitheater, where the band will perform in March.

She said there was a lot of excitement when the band was booked. "When it happened, I think everyone at the venue let out a huge "Yeah!"

Salt N Pepa, Kid N Play, and Tone Loc are a few more. Richard Marx will return to the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall.

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Busiest year for St. Augustine during the holidays


ID=77991408ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Locals in St. Augustine are saying this year's crowds for the Nights of Lights are the biggest they have ever seen for the holidays.

During the holiday season, visitors usually pack into St. Augustine even during the day. But the nights are proving to be busier than normal.

"It's been crazy," said Amy Stevens, a waitress at the Prince of Wales restaurant in downtown St. Augustine.

Stevens says business has been double what it usually is for the holidays. "I'm from here and I've seen a serious increase in the amount of business in the last ten years," she said.

Deputies: Bicyclist killed in St. Augustine crash


ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A bicyclist has died after being involved in a crash with a pickup truck in St. Augustine Wednesday evening, authorities said.

The accident happened about 11:30 p.m. on County Road 208 just east of Joe Ashton Road.

According to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, a 1996 Chevrolet pickup truck and the bicyclist were both traveling east on C.R. 208 when the crash occurred. The driver of the pickup called 911.

The bicyclist, deputies said, was transported to Flagler Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The bicycle was equipped with reflectors, investigators said, however, they did not find any evidence indicating the bicycle was equipped with lights.

The sheriff's off has not released the victim's name pending notification of next of kin.

Artists protest in St. Augustine, free speech at issue


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Outside city hall in the nation's oldest city there were artists, writers and performers protesting the city's ordinances that spell out where they can set up shop.

St. Augustine is being challenged in court with ordinances that make the popular yet narrow St. George Street off limits certain hours to performers. Other nearby areas also have similar restrictions.

"This is absurd what this city is doing - and the fact it has been going for 20 something years - this needs to change, "said Angel Jones, who made the trip from Melbourne to support fellow artists and performers.

Earlier this year, a lawsuit was filed with a hearing held in August. A federal judge has yet to rule on the lawsuit that has several people claiming the ordinance on the books violates the First Amendment and free expression.