Luminaria was started in the Riverside Avondale area in 1984. The celebration was envisioned by Jay McGarvey a RAP board member. Jay had seen a luminaria celebration up in New England and suggested it for the Riverside Avondale neighborhood. At the time, it was a totally novel idea. Jerry Spinks, one of RAP's most energetic leaders, took the idea and made it happen. It was almost certainly the first Luminaria festival in the South. Residents still talk about Jerry giving out fresh-baked cookies with each sale of Luminaria kits.
On the evening of Luminaria residents set luminaries on the sidewalks and walkways between their houses as a way to light the way between homes, inviting friends and neighbors to travel from house to house while celebrating the season and enjoying each other’s company. It also promotes the unique character of our neighborhood.
Luminaria has since become one of the premier holiday events in Jacksonville and a legacy for the Riverside Avondale area. Luminaria is a community-driven event that involves many volunteers and local celebrations throughout the district. It is a wonderful example of community pride and dedication to the neighborhood.
Each year, Riverside Avondale Preservation depends on our volunteers to make Luminaria a success. For our 2019 celebration, 33 volunteers donated over 135 hours of their time to help us assemble and sell 3,500 Luminaria kits. Thanks to the individuals who purchased their kits from our RAP office, as well as our generous sponsors, we were able to donate 950 kits (that’s 5,700 candles!) to area parks and places of worship at no cost to them.