Except for one major uncontrollable detail, all is ready for the 36th annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, according to chair Rose Lipke.
“We’re in the two-week window,” Lipke said. “We just need good weather.”
Lipke, in her fourth year as event chair, said Mother Nature will go a long way toward determining if the Feb. 17-18 festival generates crowds in excess of 20,000.
Lipke projected more than 25,000 will attend over the two-day festival this year — if the weather cooperates.
The festival is the sole fundraiser for the nonprofit Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, which is dedicated to protecting the environment and preserving the fishing village and commercial fishery.
All proceeds go to the expansion and restoration of the 95-acre FISH Preserve, which includes environmentally sensitive wetlands along Sarasota Bay on the east side of the village.
The festival cause earned the endorsement of ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, founder of the Ocean Futures Society, according to FISH member John Stevely.
“It’s economic value cannot be judged in terms of dollars alone,” Stevely said Cousteau wrote to FISH. “Your project is an important reminder of the vital connection between nature and humanity.”
More than 200 volunteers contribute to the festival, according to Stevely.
Lipke said the festival will have as many as 60 art vendors and more than 30 food vendors.
The festival entertainment schedule includes:
Saturday, Feb. 17: 10-11 a.m. Shanty Singers; 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Doug Deming; 12:45-1:30 p.m. awards and introductions; 2-4 p.m. Eric Von Band; and 4:30-6 p.m. Jason Haram.
Sunday, Feb. 18: 10:30 a.m.-noon Soupy Davis and his Band; 12.30-2 p.m. Manatee River BlueGrass; 2:30-4 p.m. Soul R Coaster; 4:30-6 p.m. Koko Ray; and 1-5 p.m. Eric Von on the Bratton store porch.
Admission is $4. Children under 12 get in free.
For more information, go to cortez-fish.org or call 941-245-4972.