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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Cortez festival a success on all fronts

Any way you gauge it - social, financial, just pure enjoyment - the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival over the weekend was the "huge success" its sponsors wanted.

Saturday's attendance set a record, exceeding previous ticket income by about $5,000, said Karen Bell, treasurer of the sponsoring Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.

Sunday was down a bit from Saturday, which she could not figure out since Sunday's weather was at least as    gorgeous as Saturday's. Some 12,000 people crowded the small historic fishing village Saturday, 10,000 Sunday.

Figures are vague because not all of the income is tallied yet, and neither are all the bills paid. "Beer is a big item every year," Bell said. "So is Pepsi. And several food vendors have not reported in yet" as of early in the week.

Still, she was able to estimate the financial picture, and it was rosy: "We will net at least $60,000 and maybe $80,000," she said.

The proceeds will go toward purchase of privately owned lots in the FISH Preserve, to make that public holding totally publicly owned. FISH is already negotiating for three lots at the northwest corner along Cortez Road, and hopes to get another in March.

FISH is the Cortez-based nonprofit organization that financed its purchase of the Preserve with proceeds from four past Commercial Fishing Festivals. It is 95 acres of mostly pristine woodland and mangrove wetlands at the eastern edge of the village.