ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. -- Monday morning, the stage was going up, the crews were prepping, and the food vendors were getting ready for the St. Augustine Beach Blast Off.
Jack Antonio set up his Antonio's Pizza and Grill Homemade Italian Sausage stand at the St. Augustine Beach pier and park.
Last year was his first year at the event and "we sold about 300 pounds of sandwiches," he explained.
This year's crowd is expected to be bigger.
"We may sell 300, maybe more. I brought 500 [pounds]" and extra people to staff the tent, Antonio said.
Vendors have more food because they expect more people. One of the reasons may be due to the tons of new sand on St. Augustine Beach because of this year's multi-million dollar beach renourishment project.
"I anticipate more than 20,000 people out there," said Jennifer Sauvage, co-chairperson of the Beach Blast Off.
That's 5,000 more people than last year, according to Sauvage, and she citedthe good weather and the bigger beach as the reasons why.
So why does a bigger beach bring more people?
Sauvage explained the expanded beach "gives more seating areas for people to bring chairs out and enjoy the fireworks."
The 20 minute fireworks show, which is set to music, happens at the pier and is scheduled to start at 8:30 Monday night.
Proceeds go to City of St. Augustine Beach projects such as the renovation and expansion of the Splash Park at the pier this year. Sauvage said the event netted $30,000 last year.
"The whole idea for this event was to bring people out to the hotels, restaurants, and businesses during a slow time of the year," Sauvage noted.
Seven years later, the nearby hotels are packed, people come in by the bus loads, and Antonio is smiling as he works the griddle.
"This place will be packed! What a great way to spend New Year's Eve!" he exclaimed.
The Beach Blast Off started at 4 p.m. Monday and will last until 10 p.m. Music, games, food are available. Admission is free. Fireworks start at 8:30.