1562-2012: 450th French Anniversary

Fernandina Celebrates Our French Heritage!

Fernandina has flown under eight different flags, the first being that of the French. Jean Ribault landed on the island in 1562, and named it "Isle de Mai." 2012 marks the 450th anniversary of his arrival.

Ribault first arrived near present-day Jacksonville claiming the territory for France, before heading north. Rene de Laudonniere erected a military fort at this spot near Jacksonville in 1564, naming it Fort Caroline. The Spanish defeated the French at Fort Caroline in 1565, and established St. Augustine immediately thereafter.

To put this into perspective, the French landing in Jacksonville in 1562 predates the settling of Jamestown by 45 years and it occurred 58 years before the Mayflower arrived.

The City and community partners planned a series of activities to commemorate our first flag and this part of our community's heritage.

For information on commemorative activities in Jacksonville, visit commemorate450.coj.net.

Schedule of Events (2012)

Jean Ribault
Jean Ribault
Friday to Sunday, April 27-29: French Naval Schooners Visit the Fernandina Harbor Marina
The City welcomed two French Naval ships as they make their way along the Southeast Coast. Over 50 French sailors will be calling Fernandina home for the weekend.

Sunday, April 29: Isle de Mai Petanque Tournament
Petanque America hosted a one-day Petanque Tournament in honor of the French anniversary at the Amelia River waterfront. Petanque is a French game, and Petanque America is headquartered here in Fernandina Beach.

Tuesday, May 1: City Commission Recognition of the French Anniversary and Renaming of a Downtown Pocket Park in Honor of Jean Ribault
To celebrate our community’s French heritage, the City officially named one of the downtown pocket parks in honor of Jean Ribault.

Friday, May 18: Amelia Island Museum of History Presentation on the History of French Influence in Northeast Florida
The Museum sponsored a lecture on the history of the French in our region.

Saturday, May 19: Jean Ribault Park Dedication
The Mayor was on hand to officially dedicate Jean Ribault park in downtown Fernandina Beach.

May 18-27 (Various dates): Un Voyage Musical Francais – Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival
A series of concerts showcasing French and French-related music was part of the Chamber Music festival. For more information, visit http://aicmf.com.

Friday to Sunday, November 9-11: Petanque America Open and French Food/Wine Festival
The annual Petanque America Open returned to the Amelia River Waterfront, as players from around the world travel to Fernandina to participate in the tournament. In conjunction with the event, a celebration of French food and wine took place.