Bradenton prepares for DeSoto parade

When the seafood booths show up along the waterfront, you know it’s time for the Seafood Festival.

And when colorful eggs are spread out on the fields of G.T. Bray, it’s egg hunt time.

So when chairs begin to pop up along Manatee Avenue West, that can only mean one thing.

Time for the Grand Parade.

It’s a Manatee County tradition for parade-goers to stake out spots early along the parade route before Saturday’s parade, which begins at 6:30 p.m. But this year there may already be more chairs out than usual. Gary Scott, Hernando de Soto Historical Society president, believes the event will attract the biggest crowds yet.

“We’re expecting 300,000 people,” he said. “It’s gotten bigger and bigger every year. It’s unbelievable. The chairman this year is Chris Wilkinson — he has done a fantastic job putting his committee together and setting this up. ”

Last year, up to 250,000 people attended the event.

This time around, there will be at least 160 parade participants featured in floats, marching bands and other fare.

The grand marshals for the event will be the area’s own 2010 Winter Olympic pairs skaters Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett; and Mark Ladwig and Amanda Evora.

Besides all the sights and sounds of parade day, expect an abundance of beads.

“There will be thousands and thousands of beads that will be thrown this year,” Scott said.

Speaking of beads, Scott said the funniest thing he’s witnessed people do is send their kids out to get them. The kids return, dumping them in a bag the parents are holding before running out to get more — as if they’ve never gotten any to begin with, he said.

Just what do people do with the beads they collect after parade day?

“Hang them on their rearview mirror?” Scott said, unsure. “If you find out then let me know.”