WORDS: Katelyn Disbro
PICTURES: Kyle Baker
KIDS around the County are longing to get back out into the community, back into sports, and once more enjoying the outdoors with their friends and families. And, when life does get back to normal, look no further than the Conquistadorables for an amazing fun program full of glamour and grace!
The Conquistadorables have been capturing the hearts of everyone they meet in Manatee County since the program was started in 2008 by the Hernando De Soto Historical Society. The young ladies who participate in this mentoring program are aged between seven and nine and are from elementary and middle schools in the local area.
De Soto member Gus Sokos explained: “The program was created to get young girls in our area engaged in the community and to learn a little about the history of the area and what our society does in the community to help.”
Each of the 10 Conquistadorables is paired up with members of the Queens Court – who are aged between 18 to 23 – and learn about the history of Spanish explorer De Soto’s landing near the mouth of the Manatee River in May 1539, along with participating in various events that are held throughout the community.
Over two months, each Conquistadorable gets to spend Saturdays with their mentor from the Queens Court, where they also learn etiquette, and how to curtsey and walk for upcoming events. One fun event is the Children’s Parade where they ride in convertibles, sponsored by Cox Chevrolet, through Palmetto before joining the free family ‘Party in the Park’ event hosted by The Early Learning Coalition.
The Parade -which was unfortunately cancelled this year along with all other De Soto events affected by the current health scare – ends at Sutton Park, where the Party starts. But it will be back with a bang next year!
The Conquistadorables are also able to participate in the Queens Selection Program, where they, along with the Queen’s Court, put on a show that includes music, fashion, and pageantry. They get to model clothes donated from local sponsors and escort the Princesses for the Queens Court to see who will be crowned Queen and Princess.
Held at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, this event is open to the public to purchase tickets. Once the new Hern and Captain are chosen along with the new Queen and Princess, they begin their year traveling to promote Manatee County. That starts with their own Grand Parade, starting at Manatee High School, going east down Manatee Avenue and ending Downtown!
For older students, the Hernando De Soto Historical Society has an exchange student program. Each year a Bradenton resident is selected to travel to Barcarrota, Spain, for three months in the summer where the student learns about Spanish culture in our sister city Barcarrota, Spain.
While the student is over in Spain, they are the ambassador for Manatee County and De Soto. Sokos added: “This is a great opportunity for our students, and they come back with a new appreciation for our two cities relationship.”
Later in the year, a Barcarrota student can come to visit and learn about the culture here in America, and the history of De Soto while staying at a host family home in our area.
2018 Ambassador, Trey Horne, returned from his 86-day trip to Barcarrota and said: “I have never felt so at home while being more than 4,000 miles away from home. I truly believe that every member of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society should make the trip to Barcarrota once, I know it won’t be their first and last visit to Barcarrota because the people of Barcarrota are amazing!”
CONQUISTADORABLES & DE SOTO QUEEN’S COURT ACHIEVEMENTS: