The Conquistadors are coming!
It’s almost April, and most Bradenton natives know that means it’s time for the DeSoto Heritage Festival. This month-long string of events, hosted by the Hernando Desoto Historical Society, is a fun and festive celebration of Bradenton’s rich Spanish-American cultural history.
The annual festival has been a part of Bradenton’s community culture for over 60 years and includes a seafood festival, bottle boat regatta, children’s parade, city capture, and one of the largest parades in Southwest Florida. Here’s everything you need to know so you can enjoy all of these awesome events!
DeSoto Seafood Festival: April 5th through 7th
The festivities kick off on April 5th with the extremely popular Desoto Seafood Festival. During this three-day event, you’ll find a ton of delicious food, great music, arts and crafts, vendors, and plenty of family-friendly fun.
Looking for this year’s DeSoto Seafood Festival Music Lineup? Here you go!
Friday, April 5th:
Gate opens at 5 p.m
6:00 p.m. ~ Highway to Hell
8:00 p.m. ~ Pitbull Toddler
Saturday, April 6th:
12:30 p.m. ~ The Dweebs
4:00 p.m. ~ Tony Tyler
6:00 p.m. ~ Saints & Angels
8:30 p.m. – Craig Morgan
Sunday, April 7th:
12:00 p.m. ~ The Klick Band
1:30 p.m. ~ The Dweebs
4:00 p.m. ~ The Rolling Stone Tribute Band
The festival is held at Sutton Park in Palmetto. It kicks off on Friday, April 5th from 5 to 10 p.m. and continues on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.
Admission is free all weekend! Unfortunately, pets and coolers are not allowed. You’ll also need cash to purchase food and drink tickets, but there will be several ATM machines inside the festival.
DeSoto Bottle Boat Regatta: April 13th
Want to enjoy a hilariously good time? Gather up your family, friends, co-workers, or club members and head over to the at the Desoto Bottle Boat Regatta to test your skills at building a homemade boat out of plastic bottles. Decorate your vessel, dress up in your costume, and compete against other teams as you paddle your makeshift-ship from the launch point to the finish line.
There are separate classes for adults and children and the races run continuously, giving spectators several hours to watch the shenanigans go down. Race winners compete for trophies, and the grand-prize winner will get to participate in the DeSoto Grand Parade. If you don’t cross the finish line first, don’t worry! There will be additional prizes for best-dressed crew and more!
The regatta kicks off on Saturday, April 13th at the Palma Sola boat ramp. It begins at 10 a.m. sharp and continues until 1 p.m. If you want to enter a boat and participate in the fun, you must register by March 31st.
DeSoto Children’s Parade: April 19th
The Desoto Children’s Parade is always a hit with local families. Watch as children from schools and other organizations flaunt their handmade floats, pass out beads and candy, and show off their stuff with musical, dance, and cheerleading performances. Following the parade, stick around for the “Party in the Park” at Sutton Park until 2 p.m.
To participate in the parade, you’ll need to register by April 5th. This year’s theme is “Magic Carpet Ride.” There will be cash prizes for several float categories as well as best performance, best cheerleading performance, a non-float “school spirit” award, and a $1,000 prize for the float that best fits with the parade’s theme.
The parade is held on April 19th from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. It begins at the Manatee County Fairgrounds and winds through Palmetto before ending at Sutton Park.
DeSoto Landing and City Capture: April 20th
Things really start to get serious on Saturday, April 20th, when the Crewe of Desoto lands in downtown Bradenton and heads straight to the Mayor’s office. When they arrive, they’ll capture Mayor Poston and take the key to the city! This marks the official start of Festival Week! You’re likely to find children throwing foam cannon balls as they help defend the city. If you’re looking for a little bit of mayhem and a lot of fun, plan to attend this event!
The Crewe lands at Pier 22 restaurant at 1 pm., then parades through the downtown streets to City Hall, located on Barcarrota Boulevard. The capture will occur close to 2 p.m.
DeSoto Grand Parade: April 27th
By far one of Bradenton’s most popular annual events, the Desoto Grand Parade attracts tens of thousands of people and is one of the largest and oldest parades in Southwest Florida! Locals and visitors young and old flock to get their coveted spots on Manatee Avenue. In fact, it’s common to see chairs laid out and spots roped off days in advance. Although it’s a well-known fact that these areas aren’t to be tampered with, some locals jokingly refer to the day before the parade as “Free Chair Friday.”
The DeSoto Grand Parade features over 150 entries, including illuminated floats with pumping music, marching bands, performers, and plenty of costumed Conquistadors handing out beads, coins, candy, and more! This parade covers a 2.4-mile route and lasts for about three hours. It’s a spectacle you definitely won’t want to miss!
The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. at Manatee High School, heads West and then takes 39th St. North until it heads East and it continues all the way down Manatee Ave. You’ll want to get there early to make sure you get a good spot. Wear comfortable shoes and plan to do some walking. It’s likely you’ll have to park several blocks away and walk to the parade route.
Have you attended DeSoto Heritage Events in the past? Which is your favorite? Help out your neighbors by sharing your comments, tips, and tricks!