DeSoto Grand Parade, a Bradenton tradition, celebrates 75th year in style

DeSoto Grand Parade, a Bradenton tradition, celebrates 75th year in style

jdeleon@bradenton.comApril 27, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Residents lined the streets Saturdays for the annual tradition, the DeSoto Grand Parade.

It didn't disappoint.

The 75th annual parade had the crowds cheering and smiling as they watched the floats and bands and caught beads and other goodies.

For some, like Penny Stouffer, the parade brings back old memories.

"When I just moved I remember one day my mother woke me at 8 a.m. and said we had to go put our chairs out," Stouffer recalls. "And I thought she had lost her mind, bless her heart."

On Saturday, Stouffer watched the parade from the home of one of her six children along Ninth Avenue West.

"I've probably seen it about 20 times," Stouffer said. "I like just watching the kids have fun."

After so many years living in Bradenton, however, she is still amazed how people put out their chairs in the days leading up to the parade.

"My husband and I work at the hospital, Blake, and every night there's a few more chairs," Stouffer said. "It's one of the things you laugh at each year."

For many, the fun started way before the floats take to the streets.

John Horne, owner of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar chain of restaurants, was happy mingling with friends as they awaited the parade to begin.

"This is what it is all about," Horne said. "Everybody walking from float to float meeting each other."

His float was filled with staff and special customers, including a World War II veteran.

Waiting happily to ride on the Manatee Memorial Hospital float were Morgan Thien and Paige O'Neil.

"I do it every year," Thien said. "It's

just fun."

Her mother works for the hospital, which is why she is involved, she said.

"I like throwing out the beads, it's much more fun than catching them."

Paige, 14, was also on the Manatee Memorial float last year, since her grandmother works there.

"It was a lot of fun," Paige said. "I like the whole atmosphere and all the excitement."

From Bradenton's sister city Barcarrota, Spain, a delegation of 22 people came to participate in this year's festivities.

"I like it all, the love they show us here in Bradenton, the people," Mayor Alfonso Macias Gata said in Spanish.

The delegation arrived Monday and has been partying ever since, he said. "Normally the delegation is only two or three people," Gata said. "But since it's the 75th anniversary, we came with a much larger group."

There were some first-timers at Saturday's parade, like Warren Aja.

"I just saw a DeSoto drive by and that was cool," Aja said.

Aja, from Greenfield, Massachusetts, was visiting his parents in town and came down to the parade with them.

"I'm hoping to hear some good bands, and I hear the floats are suppose to be very great as well."

Lori Wilson was enjoying the parade with her son and nephew as well as friends.

"It's very good, as usual," Wilson said.

For Wilson, the best part is getting to see the firemen.

Her friend, Ed Hawks, sat nearby saying he's been to too many parades to count.

"It's a good thing I think," Hawks said. "We have a bunch of people from our church that came here."

And of course in trying to remind parade-goers of the history of Hernando de Soto, the re-enactors from the Friends of DeSoto National Memorial also were featured in the parade.

"We are re-enactors most of the year at the national monuments right here in town," park superintendent Jorge Acevedo said. "It would be a missed opportunity not to represent the historical events."

Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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