Each spring, the Hernando de Soto Historical Society produces Manatee County’s premier celebration – the De Soto Heritage Festival. 2016 will mark the 77th annual Festival, which kicks off with the De Soto Seafood Festival and culminates with the Grand Parade. We also offer support to partner-produced events like the Riverwalk Regatta. These events receive considerable media attention as do the various event sponsors.
Throughout the year, we also organize a variety of fundraising events to further support the Hernando de Soto Historical Society, including the De Soto Fishing Tournament, Beertopia, and an Golf Tournament. Dedicated members spend countless hours preparing for De Soto's annual events, which have a strong, positive influence on residents and guests, simply because of their love for the community.
One of our most visible outreach efforts is the De Soto Queen's Court, to which each year, dozens of outstanding young women in the community are nominated. Usually ten ladies are invited to share in the De Soto Heritage Festival as a member of the Court and a representative of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society. Of these, the Society membership elects the De Soto Queen and Princess to reign for the following year.
The De Soto Heritage Festival has been voted Best Festival/Event in the Bradenton Herald Readers Preference Awards by Manatee County residents for many years.
All major area newspapers and television stations cover the De Soto Heritage Festival events. More than 75 groups of businesses and individuals contribute sponsorship dollars, discounts of services and volunteer time to support the Festival.
Now in its 78th year, the De Soto Heritage Festival features nearly a dozen community events including the Seafood Fest, a homemade boating race, a fishing tournament, a musical and fashion show, a black-tie ball, Children’s Parade, a 5K run, and the finale, our nighttime Grand Parade.
In 2017 the De Soto Heritage Festival will kick off with Seafood Festival in historic Sutton Park, Palmetto on March 23-25, 2017. The celebration concludes on April 29 with the illuminated Grand Parade, one of the largest and most spectacular illuminated parades in the state of Florida.
In addition to the numerous Hernando de Soto Historical Society fundraisers which occur throughout the year, we also offer a variety of networking and social opportunities for our energetic and fun-loving membership.
The Hernando de Soto Historical Society is a fraternal-style organization, so Society member hopefuls go through an applicant process which includes service hours to the organization. Our membership intake period occurs in the fall, and official Society membership is conferred at our annual meeting in June.