What We Do

The Hernando de Soto Historical Society produces Manatee County's largest entertainment events each year, attended by upwards of 280,000 guests.

Collectively the Society’s De Soto Heritage Festival and other fundraising events throughout the year attract considerable media attention and draw visitors from around the world. Our Outreach efforts span the local community as we strive to develop successful partnerships with other local organizations.


Community Events

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.

Fundraising Events

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.

De Soto Heritage 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.

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Year-round activities

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.

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The lovely & talented Queen's Court

For over 70 years, the Hernando de Soto Historical Society has celebrated the talents of a select group of special young women, ages 18-24, from the community by naming them to the De Soto Queen’s Court, a scholarship program.

Candidates are recommended by the community and then the Hernando De Soto Historical Society makes its choices on the basis of character, appearance, scholastic ability, high morals, and personality. The De Soto Queen’s Court serves as good-will ambassadors for the Hernando De Soto Historical Society and Manatee County from the Festival season through the next year.

Learn more about the Queen’s Court.

Meet the Conquistadorables

Accompanying the Queen’s Court each year are a group of charming and sweet little ladies known as the Conquistadorables. Nominated by the community these girls, ages 7 to 9, capture the hearts of all they meet throughout the De Soto Heritage Festival.

Learn more about the Conquistadorables.

Crewe of De Soto

Publicly representing our organization’s mission, the Crewe of De Soto is the most visible arm of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society along with the one member per year who gets to don the helmet and dress of Hernando de Soto. Perhaps the most important educational tools the Society offers are the Crewe visits to local schools, hospitals, senior citizen homes, civic organizations and businesses.

Learn more about the Crewe of De Soto.

At Home and around the World

Hernando de Soto, the Captain of the Crewe, their ladies, and our De Soto Queen and Princess travel across the world representing our community. They introduce Manatee County as an area rich in cultural, historical, agricultural, and environmental diversity to the thousands of people they meet each year.

Learn more about the Crewe’s adventures.

Become a Sponsor

Opportunities are available to support the Hernando de Soto Historical Society's mission through sponsorship and advertising.

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