Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival
February 13-14, 2016
Are you familiar with ‘old’ Florida?
Are you someone who can appreciate a different perspective on what’s important in life? Are you willing to spend a day amongst fishing boats, gear, fish houses and commercial fishermen? If any of this sounds intriguing, it might be a good idea for you to join us at the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. This two-day event is held in February every year.
In 1981 the first event drew 500 people to this small fishing village on Florida’s central west coast. They gathered to celebrate Florida’s commercial seafood industry – its past, its present and its future.
Since then the festival has grown from a one day event to two days with an average attendance of 18,000. Considering that the entire village is less than 10 blocks, that’s a lot of visitors for the community.
There are many reasons for the events popularity but one of the main reasons is that there are very few places left in Florida like Cortez. As you turn off the main road into the village it is obvious that you are stepping back in time. The houses are small cottages with collections of commercial boats and gear in the yards.
As you go two blocks down to the shoreline you discover a number of fish houses where local fishermen sell their catches. Cortez is located on the northern edge of Sarasota Bay and it might just be one of the most beautiful places on earth.
And as if that were not enough, there’s more. In addition to the aesthetics of the community there is also the spirit of its residents. The people who live in this small village are also what make it so special. They possess an appreciation of the simpler things in life, whether it be a freshly fried mullet for dinner or sitting on the front porch watching the world go by.
Now just add great live music, nautical arts and crafts, children’s activities, environmental exhibits, more seafood than imaginable and, of course, beer, and you’ve got a party you won’t want to miss. You’ll also want to purchase one of the festival T-shirts which are designed each year reflecting a commercial fishing theme.
Admission – $3.00 for Adults – Children 12 under free
To find Cortez Village on a map, locate Bradenton which is about 50 miles south of Tampa. Find State Road 684, known locally as Cortez Road or 44th Avenue, and go west to the beaches.
Every year there is a something new at the Festival. Festival goers will want to note that there is a remote parking area in west Bradenton. You can avoid the traffic and enjoy the bus ride with your friends to the Festival ($2.50 round trip). The new parking site is located at G. T. Bray Park (5502 33rd Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton, 34209). Just turn east off of 59th St. onto 33rd Ave. W. You can’t miss it.
As in past years, this same shuttle service is being provided from the remote parking area located at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island. Island folks can take the free trolley to the parking site.
Also, the parking area just east of the village off of Cortez Road has been expanded again this year. But get there early or later in the day as this parking area tends to fill up quickly. Parking spots open up later in the day.
Another option is to park in the western part of town. Many folks manage small parking areas throughout the village with some charging a fee depending on how close they are to the village.
The Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival is organized entirely by a volunteer committee of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.), a Florida not-for-profit corporation.