First Tampa Bay parade taking place this weekend since pandemic, organizers say safety is a top priority


BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – The Hernando De Soto Historical Society is excited to bring one of the first parades in the nation since the start of the pandemic to the city of Bradenton this weekend.

The De Soto Grand Parade starts at Manatee High School at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 24. The route is about 2.5 miles long, according to organizers. It ends on Manatee Avenue at 9th Street.

President of the Hernando De Soto Historical Society Lynn Horne says the organization got final approval from city leaders just three weeks ago, but months of planning have been happening behind the scenes.

“We are going to put on the first parade that I know of in Florida since COVID, since last March. So, it is pretty neat. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of hard work,” said Horne.

Typically there are around 200 entries. This year there are around 130.

Horne says COVID-19 safety measures will be in place, but he understands not everyone will be comfortable coming out into the crowds.

“To me, it is your choice if you wanna come and see the parade. We are not pushing it on you. We want you to come, wear a mask if that is what works for you, that is why we’ve got youth groups giving out masks and sanitizers before the parade.

30,000 masks and 50,000 hand sanitizers will be handed out along the parade route.

“It is your choice. We are just trying to make it as safe as we can in these crazy COVID years,” said Horne.

Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown is excited to see the parade bring crowds out safely this weekend.

“It was important to me as the leader of our city to make sure we do it right and we stay safe, but we still have activities for our families because it is very family-friendly parade and it is something that I have been attending for 45 years,” said Mayor Brown. “If you feel safe, we want you there,” he continued.

For those who aren’t comfortable attending due to COVID-19 concerns, Mayor Brown says they’ll have a new viewing option this year.

“METV is going to be streaming it live which has never been done before. That gives people the opportunity if you want to go to the parade but you don’t want to be at it, you will be able to watch it live from home,” said the mayor.

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