Forget The Halls - These Floridians Are Decking The Chairs

A perfect reason to visit Jacksonville Beach this winter.

Deck the Chairs Wide Shot

Deck the Chairs

Nothing says Christmas like a decorated tree. But in Florida, where palms are more prevalent than pines, they decorate something else: lifeguard chairs. The annual Deck the Chairs event is now in full swing at Latham Plaza in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. “There's just this great sense of holiday spirit,” founder and executive director Kurtis Loftus tells Southern Living. “And it's a fun place to gather and enjoy your public space.”

Deck the Chairs Santa

Deck the Chairs

Visitors are treated to 50 decorated lifeguard chairs designed by local businesses and nonprofits. These colorful and creative works of art include a ferris wheel, a time machine and a sleigh being pulled by rescue dogs. There are an additional 10 lifeguard chairs decorated by local students. This themed exhibit is part of a partnership with the Beaches Go Green nonprofit and is meant to educate guests on how plastics impact the environment. “We had six high school groups that all worked for several months on their chairs and decorated with found objects, repurposed stuff and trash. Their chairs are extraordinary.” explains Loftus. “It is really where we want to go with the event, more education and more telling stories and getting kids involved. Having them put down a phone and kind of use that maker's movement philosophy where you can create and build.”

Deck the Chairs Ferris Wheel

Deck the Chairs

Loftus originally came up with the idea for Deck the Chairs in 2013 when he noticed that the area’s shops, restaurants and bars suffered from a lack of activity during the colder months. “Like a lot of beach communities, Jacksonville Beach struggled during the winter to attract people to the beaches area.” Knowing that the lifeguard chairs were sitting idle during the holiday season, Loftus decided to create a community event featuring those beloved beach symbols. He put down his marketing career and jumped feet first into developing his concept. “It cost a lot. It was pretty scary investing everything into what a lot of folks were saying was a crazy idea,” admits Loftus. “But it had at its core a really wonderful piece that helped the community and provided us a sense of pride in something.” 

 Kelly Krehbiel is the Founder and President of Fur Sisters - Furever Urs Rescue, a nonprofit whose decorated chair was voted the first-place winner at last year’s event. “I am a long-time local resident of Jacksonville Beach and I love that Kurtis started this event for our community,” Krehbiel tells Southern Living. “It's a wonderful experience for everyone and I thought it would be a great way to gain exposure for the rescue.”

Planning for Deck the Chairs starts in February followed by months of workshopping, designing, and building with the local participants. Loftus says each team works about one hundred hours on their chair and spends anywhere from $1000 to $2000. Part of this is because the materials used must be sturdy enough to stand up to the outdoor weather conditions for the 40 days they are on display. “Think of it like a float,” says Loftus. “If you're doing the Macy's parade or something and you gotta build a big old float, that thing has to be constructed well.” 

In addition to the brightly colored chairs, the event also features outdoor movies, nightly light shows and musical performances on the Seawalk Pavilion stage. Loftus says, “we've had people that danced on stage when they were like 10 [years old] and now, they're 20 and graduated high school, but still remember dancing on the stage.” Stories like these are why Loftus says he truly cherishes the yearly holiday tradition he helped create almost a decade ago.  “When the park is filled with kids and when we're hearing the laughter and seeing the smiles and it’s kind of this public collaborative, it's just really an extraordinary thing to be in the midst of.” 

Deck the Chairs Movie Watching

Deck the Chairs


The free, family-friendly event is open nightly to the public from now through January 1, 2023 between the hours of 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. 

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