PALMETTO -- There's new royalty within the Hernando De Soto Historical Society.
On Friday night, a new DeSoto queen and princess were crowned at the DeSoto Ball -- part of a long tradition stemmed from the DeSoto Heritage Festival.
Hearty applause shook the inside of the Bradenton Area Convention Center as Hannah Kathline Rowland, a 2013 graduate of Lakewood Ranch High School, was crowned the 2014-15 princess. A teary Rowland was later joined by 21-year-old Brianna Nicole Wilson, who earned the title of Queen for 2014-15. The young women were chosen from the DeSoto Queen's Court, who are described as good-will ambassadors for the Hernando De Soto Historical Society and Manatee County through the Spring of 2014.
It was the highlight of the sparkling affair, which was preceded by cameos from past princesses and queens, as well as important figures from the society.
"It's an exciting night," said Joe Fenton, current president of the historical society, celebrating its 75th anniversary. The importance of that anniversary was mentioned with great pride throughout the night.
After giving a sweet speech, outgoing DeSoto queen Haley Geraldson reflected on this past year.
"I cannot thank the society enough for how much they've done for me," the 20-year-old Bradenton resident said, adding that the travel experiences she's had have been incredible.
Saying goodbye to her crown is bittersweet.
"Once you're a DeSoto member, you're always family," Geraldson said. "It will be nice to have a little bit of a break, but it's definitely going to be bittersweet."
After Wilson was crowned queen, Karen Hutson got up from her chair and cheered and clapped excitedly. The Fort Walton Beach resident said she had been rooting for Wilson after she met the Manatee High School graduate at a reception Thursday night.
Hutson, who is a member of the Krewe of Bowlegs, said Wilson was friendly and outgoing.
"She stood out to me," Hutson said, adding that she still thought the other ladies were lovely.
Hutson remembers Wilson asking questions about her krewe.
"She made it very personal," she said. "That was impressive."
The historical society will hold its annual DeSoto Grand Parade on Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m. at Manatee High School and held along Manatee Avenue West in Bradenton.
Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.