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The annual DeSoto Grand Parade is Saturday. Here are 5 things to know before you go

Floats arrive for DeSoto Grand Parade in Bradenton

Floats arrive for the annual DeSoto Grand Parade in Bradenton on Saturday, April 28, 2018.
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Floats arrive for the annual DeSoto Grand Parade in Bradenton on Saturday, April 28, 2018.

Here come the beads.

Manatee County’s biggest, brightest parade will march the streets of Bradenton this Saturday.

The DeSoto Grand Parade tops off a month of community events hosted annually by the Hernando DeSoto Historical Society.

This year marks the parade’s 80th anniversary, and organizers will celebrate by honoring the service and sacrifice of U.S. military members with the theme “A Salute to American Veterans.”

Here are five things to know before you go:

Know the numbers

More than 200,000 people are expected to attend.

The parade covers a 2.4-mile stretch in about three hours.

More than 130 illuminated parade entries will make their way down the streets.

There is one Grand Marshal; this year it will be retired Corporal Steve Lewis, who enlisted in the U.S. Army at the outset of World War II and served in the Ninth Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army. Lewis is one of the last surviving members of the all-black cavalry units better known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

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Dozens of parade cars and floats drive east on Manatee Avenue West during the 2018 DeSoto Grand Parade in Bradenton. Herald file photo Bradenton.com

Know the route

The DeSoto Grand Parade starts at Manatee High School and heads west, turning north for a couple of blocks on 39th Street and then turning down Manatee Avenue East. It winds up in downtown Bradenton.

Start time is 6:30 p.m.; the parade will last for about three hours.

Arrive early if you want to stake out a prime spot to watch the procession.

Walking to the parade is the best option to avoid a traffic headache.

Traffic closures:

Manatee Avenue West will be closed from First Street West to 43rd Street West from 5 p.m. until approximately 11 p.m.

The southbound lanes of the Green Bridge will also be closed during this time. Drivers can access the northbound lanes of Ninth Street and the Green Bridge from Third Avenue West.

All lanes of Ninth Street will be closed between Sixth Avenue West and Third Avenue West.

If you drive, public parking is available at multiple lots and garages in downtown Bradenton.

Parking Options:

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Bradenton parking map. Parking in front of Bradenton City Hall (P1) is currently unavailable due to construction. City of Bradenton

Get your chair in position

Lawn chairs are beginning to pop up along the edge of the parade route. There is a general code of honor in Bradenton which holds that chairs set out ahead of parade day shall not be tampered with.

On the other hand, some locals playfully refer to the day before the parade as “free chair Friday.”

DeSoto Chairs
Chairs of all types and sizes line the street along Manatee Avenue in readiness for a previous DeSoto Heritage Grand Parade. TIFFANY TOMPKINS ttompkins@bradenton.com

Know the weather

There is a 40 percent chance of rain on Saturday with scattered showers and thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon.

We hope it clears up in time for the parade, but it might be wise to bring along some ponchos just in case.

Temperature wise, it looks to be a comfortable late-April evening with lows around 70 degrees.

The sun will set at 8:01 p.m.

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A parade participant cheers during the 2018 DeSoto Grand Parade in Bradenton. More than 150 illuminated floats made their way down the 2.4-mile parade route for an expected crowd of 200,000 people in downtown Bradenton. Andres Leiva Special to the Herald

Beads please!

The DeSoto Grand paraders throw a whole lot of beads.

If you have no need for your beads after the big day, know that the DeSoto Historical Society buys some of them back each year. Some local schools that participate in the DeSoto Children’s Parade also accept bead donations throughout the year.

Details: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, starting at Manatee High School, 902 33rd St. Court W., Bradenton. Free. Info: 941-747-1998. desotohq.com.

More than 100 floats rolled down Manatee Avenue in the DeSoto Grand Parade. Before the festivities began, parade participants got their floats ready at Manatee High School, accompanied by music, friends and lots of beads.

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