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Date of Issue: February 06, 2008

Cortez fishing festival coming soon

Planning is going smoothly for the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16 and 17, the celebration’s organizing committee was assured at its meeting last week.

Plenty of parking is arranged, music is in place, 53 artists are signed up, food galore is being readied, boats are all over the place, nets are being hung, the museum is spruced up, and Cortezians are ready to welcome 20,000 or more guests. 

The festival will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days, with brand new pilot-house type ticket booths built just for collection of the $2 admission fee, kids under 12 free. Parking will be on village streets and several areas in the village and nearby, with shuttle service provided from two remote locations.

It will be the 26th time Cortezians have welcomed the world to their historic village at the mainland end of the Cortez Bridge, across Anna Maria Sound from Anna Maria Island.

“Net Working” is the theme, and a big collection of working fishing nets will be in the historic Fulford Fish House. Fishing boats and other craft will line the docks, and smaller craft will be on display at the Cortez Community Center on 123rd Street, not to mention the many small workboats on vacant lots and yards every day all over the village.

T-shirts, posters, cookbooks and Cortez books will be for sale, and movies featuring commercial fishing and other nautical details will be shown in the community center. The Florida Maritime Museum at the east end of the village will be open (free, of course) both days.

Booths will line the streets along the waterfront area, 53 of them with artists showing and selling their creations and a couple of dozen others providing Cortez-type food for the visitors.

Prominent on the menu will be seafood of the types Cortez knows so well, especially mullet. That’s the fish that built the village in the late 19th century and sustained it through the decades. Until, that is, the ban on gillnetting imposed by statewide referendum in the mid-1990s. Cortez must be the mullet-cooking capital of the world, and all its forms will be available at the festival.

There will be music all day both days, arranged by Cortez musician Richard Culbreath. Culbreath’s own group will open the musical program Saturday and close it Sunday. Also entertaining will be the Sunshine Express Cloggers, Project SRQ, Anna Maria String Band, Maple Mountain folk singers and Manatee River Bluegrass Band.

Sponsor and beneficiary of the festival is the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, which over the years has put proceeds from the festival into purchase of the 95-acre FISH Preserve at the eastern end of the village. Last year’s event realized $62,000, and hopes are high for all of that and more this year.