Why was De Soto Parade canceled? Organizers explain ‘heartbreaking’ decision
The De Soto Grand Parade, one of Bradenton’s biggest annual events, was canceled for the second year in a row on Saturday due to stormy weather.
Parade organizers hoped for a pleasant evening, but instead came rain, lightning and a threat of tornadoes.
“Lightning was the main thing that killed it,“ said Tom Murphy, who serves on the Hernando de Soto Historical Society’s board of directors and as a parade co-chairman.
The society kept close contact with the National Weather Service throughout the day for the latest updates as bands of rain pushed through the Bradenton area, Murphy said.
On Saturday afternoon, they decided to delay the parade to 7:45 p.m., when the skies were supposed to clear.
Undeterred by the storms, many parade fans started to line the route with ponchos and umbrellas.
At Manatee High School, the staging ground for the parade, participants crowded inside to wait out the delay.
Then two things happened, Murphy said.
The storms took longer to clear than expected, and another squall line with lightning rolled in around parade start time.
The very large number of people crowded in the staging area also caused cell phone service to go out, Murphy said, and parade organizers were unable to reach forecasters for an update on when the weather might clear.
Based on the conditions they were seeing outside, they canceled the parade, Murphy said.
“It’s heartbreaking for the citizens of Manatee County and Bradenton that have waited now two years,” Muphy said. “We hate to disappoint them again. But you have to make these decisions based upon safety.”
Murphy said the society will look into a different method of monitoring the weather that doesn’t rely on cell phones for next year.
“We need some better technology to access the critical information sources that we need to have,” Murphy said.
Parade officials say there has been some confusion about why the parade was canceled, with online comments claiming that the mayor or police chief of Bradenton canceled the parade.
“The decision to cancel was ours and ours alone,” Murphy said.
Weather conditions finally improved not long after the parade was canceled. Some of the parade participants decided to proceed with an unofficial mini parade for the people that had not gone home yet.
Will the parade be rescheduled?
The De Soto Grand Parade will not be rescheduled, organizers say.
“There are so many pieces involved,” Murphy said.
Planning for the parade starts about a year in advance and involves getting street closure permits from Bradenton, Palmetto, Manatee County and the Florida Department of Transportation.
“We only have one shot at this each year,” Hernando de Soto Society president Sid Jones said in a news release Sunday.
“We wish we could simply reschedule it to next weekend, but what many people don’t realize is that most of the brightly lit floats that people enjoy so much come from out of town — some from as far away as Mobile, Alabama,” Jones said. “Many of these Krewes travel to Bradenton and book hotel packages and airline tickets to be here on parade weekend; and the cost to the Krewes to transport a float to Bradenton, including parade entry fees, runs $1,500 and more. We can’t just ask them to go home and come back next weekend.”
In the meantime, stay tuned for next year, Murphy said.
On social media, some locals were critical of the cancellation, but many praised the decision.
“I know this was a tough decision. Unfortunately, you can’t mess with Mother Nature,” one commenter wrote. “We look forward to next year, De Soto!”