Anna Maria Island is enriched by the wide range of very different communities that surround it. Perhaps the most colorful and unusual of these is the working fishing village of Cortez, immediately across the bridge from Bradenton Beach, on the southwest side of Bradenton. Cortez is full of extremely picturesque cottages where real life still goes on. In many parts of the country, these kinds of communities have become sterile tourist attractions, and no longer authentic, but Cortez still works hard to maintain its traditions and meaningful activities, and the residents still work in the local fishing industry.
For these reasons, Cortez is always a wonderful place to visit, and to celebrate. But the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival is a time when the festivities are in full swing. This year, the Twenty Ninth Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival takes place on February 19 and 20.
In the early years, the festival was held in the east part of town, and that’s where it takes place this year, between the Florida Maritime Museum and Sarasota Bay. Live music will range from country to rock, pop and blues. A long lineup of entertainers will offer something for everyone.
There also will be something for everyone when it comes to food. Traditional Florida and Southern dishes will be served by numerous food vendors, including smoked mullet (of course), grouper, crab, conch, shrimp, oysters and other fish, along with plantains, funnel cakes, and corn dogs. Vendors range from the Kiwanis to the Beach House. The local Greek population influences the fare, as gyros and other traditional dishes have become part of the offering.
In addition to being a great deal of fun, the festival serves an important service, raising funds to enlarge and maintain the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Preserve (FISH). This 95-acre preserve sits adjacent to the festival site and has been an important environmental project in this area of ecologically sensitive lands.
Admission is $2, and free for anyone under 12. Remote parking with bus access is available. Visit www.cortez-fish.org for more details.