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A magic carpet ride through the streets of Palmetto for annual children’s parade

Scenes from the 2019 DeSoto Children’s Parade

Flags, floats and marching children in the annual DeSoto Children's Parade
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Flags, floats and marching children in the annual DeSoto Children's Parade

What’s more magical than a child’s smiling face — eyes wide with wonder as all the colors and sounds of a parade roll by?

How about a child’s face at a children’s parade with children in the parade and the theme being “Magic Carpet Ride.”

Since 1958, the Hernando DeSoto Historical Society has put on the annual Children’s Parade, though weather has canceled a few along the way. There was some concern that would be the case for Friday’s parade as severe storms threatened the area and Manatee County fell under a tornado watch.

While the storms did have some impact on the Party at the Park event at Sutton Park after the parade, the weather held off for the parade itself and several hundred of those small, smiling, wondrous faces lined the streets of Palmetto.

Even the noticeably strained faces of some parents trying to corral their kids before the parade started and the stress melted away as the parade passed.

Over at the park, a handful of older kids were using the beanbags at a cornhole station to play dodge ball instead. Their parents were nowhere to be seen so they were likely stress free.

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Children fight the wind while walking in the annual DeSoto Children’s Parade in Palmetto. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

“It’s all about the kids,” said Erik Marshall, parade chairman for Desoto. “That’s what makes this parade so special. These kids start working hard around November designing and building their floats and it’s amazing what they come up with.”

Each of the children’s floats are pulled by the parents. By the end of the parade the children were still fresh and eager to get the rest of their day started at the park. Some parents, maybe not so much, as some arrived at the end red-faced and breathing hard after pulling a float loaded with decorations and a pile of kids from the Manatee Fairgrounds to Sutton Park.

The effort was appreciated by parents such as Sarah Souder, whose family moved into the area two years ago. Souder, her husband and two boys, including 8-year-old Elias arrived early and positioned themselves well to catch all the fun.

When Elias asked if he was there for all the candy, he said, “No,” to which his mother immediately said, “That’s not true.”

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The Most Distinguished Citizen, Charles Clapsaddle, waves during the annual DeSoto Children’s Parade in Palmetto. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Elias didn’t deny it.

Souder said the parade is a chance for the family to do something together.

“I love that it’s more kid friendly than some parades and it’s something fun we get to do with as a family,” she said.

Lynn Horne will take the reigns of chairman for next year’s parade as Marshall officially handed over the duties on Friday. Horne would like to see more younger kids involved next year. Plenty of schools participate, but only six elementary schools did this year.

“I really want to work more with the elementary schools and encourage them to come back and be a part of it,” Horne said. “It seems like things are changing and less parents want to be involved.”

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Princesses prepare before the annual DeSoto Children’s Parade in Palmetto. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Rowlett Academy student Gianna Marsh, 8, was looking forward to her first Children’s Parade, though she is no stranger to parades.

For her, “It’s all about the music. But I don’t like the drums. Drums are very, very loud. Too loud.”

Marsh said she loves to dance to all the music and when asked where candy and beads fall into her parade priorities, said, “Not so much the candy, but I like the beads but neither as much as the music.”

Not to worry. There was plenty of all three for Gianna, Elias and all the children either watching or participating in the annual parade.

Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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