De Soto Ball guests welcome 2013 Hernando and his queen

rdymond@bradenton.comApril 27, 2013 

BRADENTON -- If Florida explorer Hernando de Soto himself emerged in the balcony of the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium at the 74th DeSoto Ball on Friday night, he would probably not be in total culture shock.

The music, the pomp, the clothing and the bold swagger of the 2013 Investiture of Hernando de Soto and Coronation of the Queen by The Hernando de Soto Historical Society might make him think he was back in Spain.

He would have seen a fully garbed Butch Powell elected 2013 Hernando de Soto for a rare second consecutive term.

He would have seen a radiant Haley Louise Geraldson, 18, daughter of Eric and Tammy Geraldson of Bradenton, named 2013 DeSoto Queen.

He would have seen a beaming Megan Elizabeth Briggs , 20, daughter of Robert and Tammy Briggs of Bradenton, named 2013 DeSoto Princess.

He would have seen the Friendship Award go to Raegan Lindsay Horne, 18, of Bradenton and the Dignitary to Spain also go to Megan Elizabeth Briggs.

He would have seen Gus Sokos and his wife, Lisa, honored as 2013 Captain of the Crewe and Sandy Elton as 2013 Padre.

He may have followed along with the crowd, which cheered mightily as the awards were presented.

"The queen was absolutely beautiful," said Wynn Biedermann, daughter of former queen Gail Courtney Roberts of Palmetto.

"The clothes he wore the day he landed in Florida may not have been quite as fancy, but they were close," said Bruce Marshall, a visiting dignitary from the Krewe of Billy Bowlegs in Fort Walton Beach.

Marshall was referring to the traditional yellow and orange feathers at the top of a silver helmet worn by Powell, not to mention his silver breastplate.

"The cheering, the good fun by people who have known each other from visiting each other's festivities, is what this is all about," Marshall added.

The real Hernando would probably be urged to save his questions for later, relax, sip a cold beverage being served in little plastic cups and enjoy the show.

And what a show it was Friday.

Master of Ceremonies Vernon DeSear and DeSoto Ball Chairman Bob Richardson entertained a crowd of roughly 1,000, most all of whom came dressed to honor the present and former men affectionately known as Hern and the queens and princesses that comprised his court.

Part of the adoring fans Friday were former queens, including Teresa Adams (formerly Teresa Byrd) from 1981, Samantha Dance Solie from 2005, Gail Courtney Roberts from 1959 and Veenie Goodson (formerly Veenie Bomar) from 1972.

All said being queen changed their lives.

"I had more than 270 appearances as queen," said Goodson, whose husband, Mark Goodson, was Hern in 1991. "It was a very instrumental part of my life. I made a lot of contacts. It was very memorable."

Goodson is now chairwoman of the Queen's Court.

Roberts was the first woman from Palmetto named queen. She was born and raised in Palmetto and her father was a farmer named L.M. "Spot" Courtney.

"The night I won they put a picture in the Herald of me with my mouth open," Roberts said with a laugh. "Walter Talley, a well known local lawyer, was my Hern. It was an awesome year."

The Milwaukee Braves were then training in Bradenton and they became part of the DeSoto organization.

Roberts flew to Milwaukee and threw out the ball for a Braves' doubleheader. She was hosted by the owner of the Braves.

"Bradenton's mayor at the time, Sterling Hall, went with me," Roberts said. "He was also a member of the Hernando de Soto Society."

Adams doesn't look like she's aged since was queen in 1981. For that matter, Solie, Goodson, Roberts and the rest also looked remarkable Friday.

Are they drinking from a secret Fountain of Youth?

"We started The Sisterhood of the Crown three years ago," explained Edie Deane with a wink.

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