Starry Nights: Lighting up Flagler Beach businesses — and lifeguard chairs

by: Abbie Pace

The warmth of Christmas is best experienced with 3-D glasses.

Light-viewing glasses are available for free at Flagler Beach Pier Bait, Tackle, and Gift Shop, as part of Starry Nights, a tourism effort started last year by Johnny Lulgjuraj, president of the Flagler Beach Business Bureau and co-owner of Oceanside Beach Bar and Grill. Asking businesses to light up their storefronts was his reaction to the gloom of the pandemic.

“We wanted to unite and bring people together in a safe, positive way, and spark some economic prosperity,” Lulgjuraj said.

Many business and other organizations help make Starry Nights possible. The county’s tourism office, Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches, sponsors the lighting of the pier yearly; this year it also decorated a wreath, which is on display at the pier, Flagler County Destination Development and Community Engagement Manager Debra Naughton said. M and G Holiday and Event Lighting constructed the stars lit aside the pier, reflecting smoothly through each wave.

Other businesses participated by decorating lifeguard chairs on display in Veterans Park: South Flagler Creatives, Tortugas Florida Kitchen and Bar, The Turtle Shack, Northside of Flagler Beach, Snack Jacks, Funky Pelican, Oceanside, and Beach Front Grille.

Tortugas incorporated a wooden sign to its chair, reading “Caleb Strong,” and added a box where visitors can place Christmas letters for Caleb Struble, a Flagler Beach lifeguard who was injured during training exercises this summer.

“I met so many people the first weekend of Starry Nights who were on vacation, and others who drove from neighboring cities and did not know about Caleb’s accident,” said Tracy Callahan-Hennessey, Flagler Strong president. “They were so gracious and happy to sign a Christmas card for Caleb and his family. It shows the true spirit of our little beach town with a big heart.”

Callahan-Hennessey had help decorating Struble’s chair: Nikki Osmun, treasurer of Flagler Strong, and her husband, Bill; came up with the plan for the chair, and Callahan-Hennessey’s husband, Pete Hennessey, also helped. 

“Figuring out how to keep Santa in place was challenging,” Callahan-Hennessey said. “He is a life-sized dummy and very heavy.”

Struble and his family are currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia, near his hospital. The “Letters for Caleb” will be mailed to him at his Georgia residence, in hopes of delivering strength and positivity to him this Christmas.

Despite the turmoil Caleb has faced this year, he remains in good spirits,” Callahan-Hennessey said. “He has come a long way, but still has a long way to go, and we want him to know we are here to support him.”

To help support the Struble family, which is planning to make their home wheelchair accessible, mail donations to PO Box 252, Flagler Beach, Florida, 32136. To become a Flagler Strong volunteer, email [email protected].

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