About Hernando De Soto Society

History. Heritage. Heart.

History. Heritage. Heart.

The Hernando de Soto Historical Society, Inc. is a not-for-profit, community organization of 225 Conquistadors (volunteer members) who celebrate the historical significance of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s landing near the mouth of the Manatee River in May 1539.

With his 600 Conquistadors, de Soto claimed possession of La Florida on behalf of the Spanish crown and later began his lengthy exploration of what is now the southeastern United States. The Hernando de Soto Historical Society is responsible for maintaining the Sister City relationship with Barcarrota, Spain, De Soto's hometown.

1539 to Today

In 1938, the U.S. Government-appointed Swanton Commission determined that Shaw’s Point at the mouth of the Manatee River was the most likely spot for the Spanish explorer to have come ashore in Florida.

Just one year later, the Hernando de Soto Historical Society was formed to produce the first-ever De Soto Heritage Festival.

Fast-forward 76 years and the 225+ members of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society are some of the busiest volunteers in Manatee County.  Our organization is responsible for producing the largest and most well attended events in the region.

The annual De Soto Heritage Festival (and several other annual special events held throughout the year) serve to unite Manatee County while educating the community about the historical significance of Hernando de Soto’s landing on the shores of the Manatee River on May 30, 1539.

Our Mission

Today, 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.

Significant funds are raised through the Society’s efforts and redistributed back into the community to facilitate activities in keeping with the mission of the two organizations.


  • Robert Ricciardo – ’21 – ’22 HDHS President
  • Gus Sokos – ’21 – ’22 HDHS General Chairman
  • Trey Horne – Marketing Director

Board of Directors

  • Curt Mahoney - Hernando de Soto
  • Rob Bell
  • Bill Booth
  • Jim Frost - Secretary
  • DJ Hager
  • Lynn Horne – Immediate Past President
  • Cliff Hulsart
  • Sid Jones - HDHS President Elect
  • Mike Murphy - Treasurer
  • Donnie Olmsted
  • Bob Richardson
  • Gary Scott – CHF Chairman
  • Tyrone Shinn

Fostering and facilitating an appreciation of Manatee County’s Spanish - American heritage and cultural alliances through special events, community collaborations and charitable giving Since 1939

605 17th Ave W 
Bradenton, FL 34205
(941) 747-1998
Mon - Fri: 9:00 - 5:00 
Sat - Sun: Closed