Nonprofit Spotlight: Hernando de Soto Historical Society

There are many nonprofit organizations in Bradenton and the surrounding area. Each one is doing incredible work to support our community by helping those less fortunate, promoting the arts, providing education, and more.

During our nonprofit spotlight series, we’ll highlight information about a different local nonprofit each week. This week, we were thrilled to chat with the Hernando de Soto Historical Society to learn more about their mission and how we can help. Here’s what they had to say.

Can you tell us a little bit about your mission and how you help to support our community?

The Hernando de Soto Historical Society is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1939. It consists of volunteer members who foster and facilitate an appreciation of Manatee County’s Spanish–American heritage.

Since 1939, our membership has included many civic, governmental, and business leaders who serve in a variety of community-oriented roles. Our organization produces some of the largest entertainment events in Manatee County including the De Soto Ball, and the largest night-time parade in the Southeastern United States, the De Soto Grand Parade.

Through these fundraising events and sponsorships, we are able to provide educational opportunities and donate to local charities, organizations, and individuals.

Who do you serve and why?

The Hernando de Soto Historical Society brings together a remarkable collection of committed volunteers representing a diverse cross-section of the community. More than 20 committees give hundreds of hours toward planning and producing events, many of which have received regional and national recognition. Our fundraising efforts redistribute over $50,000 annually back into the community and our events generate an estimated 3 million dollars of economic stimulus to Manatee County.


  • Adopt-A-Family
  • American Cancer Society
  • Big Brothers & Big Sisters
  • Boys & Girls Club
  • Blue Knights Law Enforcement
  • Bradenton Blue Foundation
  • Community Haven
  • Dive Into Reading
  • Early Learning Coalition
  • Emergency Services Memorial
  • Feeding Little Tummies
  • Keep Manatee Beautiful
  • Kiwanis Kids Against Hunger
  • Manatee ARC
  • Miracle League of Manasota
  • PACE Center for Girls
  • Special Olympics of Florida
  • The Vision Foundation
  • Wreaths Across America
  • Lighthouse for the Blind

Can you describe a few of your key programs?

CREWE VISITS – Perhaps the most important educational tools the Society offers are Crewe visits to local schools, hospitals, senior citizen homes, civic organizations, and businesses. Dressed in festive 16th-century Spanish attire, complete with chrome-plated Morion helmets and plumes, full-width leather belts and corsair swords in scabbards at their sides, history lessons come to life when Hernando de Soto and his Crewe speak about the importance of our heritage.

The Society’s modern-day Hernando de Soto and his Crewe of Conquistadors make public appearances locally, regionally, and nationally on behalf of Manatee County, educating audiences about the importance of our community’s heritage.

DR. ART ENGELHARD STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAM – Through a generous donation by De Soto member Dr. Art Engelhard, we maintain an annual student exchange program with Barcarrota, Spain (Bradenton’s Sister City).

The members of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society maintain close ties with Bradenton’s Sister City – Barcarrota, Spain. For almost four decades, delegates from Barcarrota have traveled to Bradenton each year to take part in the annual Festival, and vice versa.

Each year, a Bradenton resident is selected to journey to Spain for the summer (usually about 10 weeks). This individual becomes immersed in the Spanish culture and comes back home with a new appreciation of our cities’ relationship. Later in the year, a Barcarrota student travels to Bradenton to learn about our culture here in America.

VERNON DESEAR FRIENDSHIP AWARD & SCHOLARSHIPS – Our society awards college scholarships to our De Soto Queen & Princess as well as the young ladies, ages 18-22, who annually serve on the De Soto Queen’s Court. Additionally, the Vernon DeSear Friendship Award is presented to one of the ladies of the court who exemplifies qualities of outstanding friendship and attitude during her time on the court.

What’s the best way our community can help?

We are currently seeking passionate volunteers! The Hernando de Soto Historical Society invites hardworking men and women ages 21 and older who share a passion for serving their community, to join our esteemed organization.

With over 75 years of community service, our 125 members are the driving force behind Manatee County’s largest events. From planning to execution, our 20+ committees dedicate countless hours to make a difference.

Our latest applicant shares; “Joining De Soto was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Being able to give back to the community in the ways we do is so rewarding, and the brotherhood that comes along with being in De Soto is something that I’ll have forever.”

Interested in becoming part of our legacy? Visit our website for more information or to express your interest in our organization:

What else do you want us to know?

In addition to our events throughout the year, we also host the annual De Soto Heritage Festival.

This takes place the last week of April and includes some of our most well-known events, such as the Children’s Parade, City Capture, De Soto Dinner & Coronation Ball, Pre-Parade Block Party, and the Grand Parade!

Learn more about the Hernando De Soto Historical Foundation and upcoming events at Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!

At Discover Bradenton, we love supporting our local nonprofits! Explore more incredible charitable organizations in our Nonprofit Directory.

Want to get your nonprofit listed on Discover Bradenton? Get started here.

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