DeSoto Heritage Grand Parade: Conquistadors invade Saturday

April 29, 2011 

Bradenton’s biggest, most famous and fun bash will overrun the city Saturday.

The DeSoto Heritage Festival Grand Parade, the signature event of the local Hernando de Soto Historical Society, departs from Manatee High School, 902 33rd St. Ct. W., around 6:30 p.m. and makes its annual trek down Manatee Avenue West as well as around downtown Bradenton.

This year marks the 72nd anniversary of the historic parade.

After leaving Manatee High, the procession travels west on Ninth Avenue, north along 39th Street to Manatee Avenue, then east toward downtown to Ninth Street.

This year’s parade includes more than 150 entries and dozens of awesomely illuminated floats, acclaimed marching bands from local schools, fire trucks and more.

More than 150,000 people are expected to watch the parade.

Pedestrians will not be permitted to view the parade from the north side of Manatee Avenue West between 9th and 15th streets west because of the state’s construction along Manatee Avenue. This six-block stretch, including the sidewalk, will be closed by police.

The Bradenton Public Works & Utilities Department, Keep Manatee Beautiful and Wildlife Rescue of Florida continues its partnership to keep this a litter-free event by distributing bags prior to the parade for people to collect their trash. Attendees can take the bags home for disposal or leave them curb side after the parade for collection by Public Works.

The DeSoto 5K Run precedes the Grand Parade down the middle of Manatee Avenue along the parade route. For more information on the race visit www.bradentonrunnersclub.com.

An after party at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium, 1005 Barcarrota Blvd., features live music by Big Daddy, food and an open bar. The post-parade party is for adults age 21 or older. Tickets are $35 at the door or $30 in advance at the Hernando de Soto Historical Society, 910 Third Ave. W., which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team -- the parade’s grand marshals-- kicks the festivities off at 6:10 p.m. with a free fall parachute demonstration at Manatee High School Hawkins’ Stadium.

Information: 747-1998 or www.desotohq.com.

--Wade Tatangelo

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