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
  • Manasota Operation Troop Support


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. 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.


The Hernando de Soto Historical Society, Inc., is a not-for-profit, community organization (volunteer members) who celebrate the historical significance of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s landing near the mouth of the Manatee River in May of 1539. Since 1939, our membership includes many civic, governmental, and business leaders that serve in a variety of community-oriented roles.

hernando desoto society


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. Our fundraising efforts financially support our sister organization, the Conquistador Historical Foundation, which annually donates to community charities, provides educational assistance, sponsors a student exchange program with Barcarrota, Spain, Bradenton’s Sister City, and funds scholarships to local students. Our royal family goes on frequent visits to not only local schools, hospitals, nursing homes and civic organizations, but also across the world to educate the communities about the historical significance of De Soto’s landing and introduce Manatee County as an area rich in cultural, historical, agricultural, and environmental diversity to the thousands of people they meet each year.