Cortez festival arrives Feb. 16-17

An estimated 25,000 people are expected to converge on the historic village of Cortez the weekend of Feb. 16-17 for the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

According to Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage festival chair Linda Molto, details are finalized, festival signs are going up and everything is in place to begin welcoming festivalgoers.

“Everything is fine as far as the festival is concerned,” Molto said at a Feb. 3 FISH meeting. “We could always use more volunteers, though.”

FISH treasurer Jane von Hahmann said most of the Saturday, Feb. 16, volunteer positions have been filled, but openings still exist for Sunday, Feb. 17.

Von Hahmann said as many as 40 volunteers are needed to service the beer truck.

“The company manned part of it for us last year, but they are not doing it at all this year, and we still have openings we are trying to fill for the ticket booths,” she said.

Otherwise, she said, “I’m pleasantly surprised at the number of volunteers we have right now. We created a spreadsheet of volunteers this year, so hopefully next year it will be a lot easier to coordinate our volunteers.”

This is the 31st consecutive year for the fishing festival, which will feature a variety of food, music, arts and crafts, and plenty of entertainment.

Passerine will open at the main stage at the festival at 10 a.m. and the harmonizing Shanty Singers take the stage at 11:30 a.m., followed by awards and introductions.

The music picks back up at 12:30 p.m. with Cortez’ country musician Eric von Hahmann, followed by SoulRCoaster at 2:30 p.m., and rock group Razing Cane will sound out Saturday’s music finale on the main stage at 4:30 p.m.

On Sunday, Soupy Davis and his band open the main stage at 10:30 a.m., followed by von Hahmann at noon. Shotgun Justice takes the stage at 2 p.m. and Scott’s Garage closes out the main stage entertainment at 4 p.m.

Seafood is offered in all its forms and recipes straight from the waters of Sarasota Bay and, Molto said, Cortez residents always look forward to showing off a real working fishing village — complete with its own self-admitted “quirkiness, from scenery to seafood; from history to hijinks and from knowledge to novelty.”

The festival prides itself on having something to offer everyone, she said.

Entrance to the festival is off Cortez Road at 119th Street West. Free parking is available east of the village. Shuttle buses also will run festivalgoers from Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and from G.T. Bray Park, 3001 59th St. W., Bradenton.

Cost for the shuttle is $2.50 each way and exact change is required. Admission to the festival is $3 and children ages 12 and under are admitted free.

“Bring the grandparents, bring the kids and be prepared to spend the day with us, doing what we do best — having way too much fun,” said festival committee member John Stevely.

The festival hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. both days.

Volunteers can call the FISH office at 941-254-4927 and leave a message with contact information or email Molto at


Christina Guerrero, 24, of State College of Florida in Bradenton, is the winner of the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival design award.

Guerrero’s award will be featured as the festival logo to accompany the theme “Better Fish to Fry.”

“I came up with the design with the thought I wanted to give the illusion that the fish was so fresh that it was pulled right out of the water, directly into the frying pan,” Guerrero said in a prepared statement.

She said she got into graphic design in a roundabout way, but feels the industry is her future. She graduates in June with an AAS in graphic design.

Guerrero is a Sarasota native, with a 2-year-old son, Davin, and is expecting her second child a month after her graduation.

She claims a $250 prize donated by award-winning artist Susanna Spann, who previously taught illustration at the Ringling School of Art & Design.

Guerrero’s artwork will be displayed on the festival T-shirt, which can be purchased at multiple locations during the Feb. 16-17 festivities in Cortez.

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