PALMETTO -- The calendar said it's still March, but the 2013 DeSoto Heritage Festival that spans the month of April, arrived on Good Friday to a joyful potpourri of sights and sounds accompanying the DeSoto Children's Parade.
There were loud sirens and truck horns.
There were beads flying through the air.
There was music and dancing.
A phalanx of families lined the sidewalks waving and watching as a caravan with 40 groups cavorted under gorgeous sunshine along 10th Avenue West and the Sutton Park reviewing stand.
"This is excellent," said DeSoto parade director Tony Noble. "Great weather. Great turnout. Couldn't ask for a better day."
Probably the happiest participants were the parade winners, the school entries that reflected the theme, "How America Was Built." They won cash and the right to march in the DeSoto Grand Parade on April 27.
Palma Sola Elementary's entry was the $1,000
grand prize winner, led by a student Statue of Liberty, boy soldiers and art teacher Doreen Cosentino who used a bullhorn to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Stewart, Sea Breeze, Daughtrey, Tara, Blackburn and Mills each won $500 checks.
The money was an added bonus for the 56 Tara team members.
"The girls get a lot of smiles and giggles when crowds reacted to them," said dance director Bunni Roberts. "This is very rewarding for them. Parents love it, too."
So did grandparents like Amanda Georges.
The grandmother had four children in tow, including Austin and Shatoni Brown, Torion Brooks and Perry Youmans.
All wore ropes of beads around their necks.
"We got a good haul today," Georges said.
Griffin Johnston didn't get any beads, but that didn't matter to the 2-year-old, sitting atop dad Jason's shoulders, as Marty the Marauder and the DeSoto Crewe approached.
"Pirates!" the little boy shouted. "Pirates!"
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.