Every parade has its rituals.
Some are known for giving away candy, others cups and some beads. This weekend's annual DeSoto Heritage Festival Grand Parade, which kicks off 6:30 p.m. Saturday, is known for two such rituals -- bead throwing and chairs that seem to mysteriously appear on downtown streets days before parade day.
This year's parade, featuring everything from high school marching bands, fire trucks, horses and rides and more than 50 floats to light up the night.
The excitement builds early. Each year, people set out their chairs as early as five days before the parade to grab prime spots along the parade route. The best part is that no one bothers them.
More than 200,000 people attend the parade each year. Many are on the look out for the beads. Organizers estimate there will be about 3 million colorful beads thrown out for this year's parade, which is the second largest event of its kind in Florida. Tampa's Gasparilla parade is the largest.
Though the economy has been draining pocketbooks this year, participation in the annual event has been at an all-time high, which has surprised Murphy.
There are visiting groups and krewes from festivals spanning Winnipeg, Canada, to Bradenton's sister city, Barcarrota, Spain.
The groups were attracted to the Grand Parade through the efforts of the DeSoto Heritage Festival's Hernando, Crewe and Queen's court, who tour the country each year promoting Bradenton and its history. Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto landed in Bradenton in May 1539 with 600 conquistadors. It was the beginning of his trek through what has become the southeastern United States, according to the DeSoto Historical Society's website.
The Grand Parade is one of the oldest continually run parades in the southeast.
Preceding the parade is the annual 5K run at 6:15 p.m.
-- Herald staff report
IF YOU GO
What: DeSoto Heritage Festival Grand Parade
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Parade route stretches 2.4 miles beginning at Manatee High School. From there, it goes west on Ninth Avenue, then north on 39th Street West to Manatee Avenue and then east toward downtown Bradenton to Ninth Street West.
Information: 941-747-1998 or www.desotohq.com
View DeSoto Parade Route in a larger map