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Date of Issue: February 15, 2007

'Silver Mullet Festival' crowds Cortez

Cortez has a problem that every festival host would die for - it has successed itself right to the limit, and still people keep pounding on the door.

The historic fishing village has built its commercial fishing festival over its 25 years to the point that the celebration this year is filling every inch of space. So what to do?

Why, improve what's there, of course.

And that's what Cortez is doing, making this year's festival the best of its kind anywhere. Cortez swears it's true, and who's to argue?

It has even come up with a winner of a name for itself: the Silver Mullet festival, crediting the fish that built the village and sustained it for decades back beyond the 25-year life of the Commercial Fishing Festival.

This year's event will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 17 and 18, and just about every space is filled with exhibits and booths and games and food vendors and music-makers and artists and artisans.

They will fill the main street along the waterfront and crowd back into the residential streets. Many visitors will get their first look at the refurbishing work done on the 1912-built school, where, if rain doesn't prevent it, some parking will be available.

Admission will be $2 for adults, children under 12 free. Parking will be wherever you find room, along village streets and byways, at Coquina Beach on the south end of Anna Maria Island and at Sugg Middle School, 3801 59th St. W., Bradenton. Parking will be free at Coquina and Sugg, and Manatee County Area Transit will provide shuttle service between those two locations and the village for $1 each way.

The colorful waterfront will attract crowds of strollers with its fish processing plants and commercial fishing boats, and the boat yards will have their visitors as always.

The Cortez Village Historical Society will have its expanded and revised cookbook, "What's Cooking in Cortez," with more than 500 recipes.

All funds raised by the festival will go into land, said the sponsoring Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage. That is, the money will go to the purchase of isolated private lots still left in the FISH Preserve. That is 95 acres of "old Florida," the woodland and wetlands at the east end of the village, which FISH has bought with proceeds from festivals in years past and turned into a nature area.

Last year's festival put about $65,000 into the Preserve and subsequent purchases.