During these dog days of summer that have fallen upon us, I find myself lamenting the end of stone crab season, which has only been closed for a little over a month now. The sound of claws cracking to retrieve that sweet, luscious claw meat over a newspaper covered table then dipped a pool of melted butter…it’s the stuff dreams are made of. At least the dreams of this native Cortezian that is.
As we make our way through the hot summer months with our backyard barbecues and days spent at the beach or poolside, we can indulge in fresh blue crab and Florida lobster but it’s just not the same. Like the subtle onset of the summer sea breeze, the depression that comes with the prospect of not eating fresh stoners sets in and the one thing I hold on to is the annual Cortez Stone Crab Festival, slated for November 11th and 12th, 2017. There is truly nothing better than stone crab fresh off the boats and that is what this small, local festival delivers.
It is the weekend to gorge on one of Florida’s finest delicacy in the relaxed fun atmosphere of the historic fishing village of Cortez, and more than makes up for the long months of crab deprivation. The claws served at the festival were literally fetched from the surrounding waters and only travel from the boats to your plate. It just doesn’t get any better or fresher to satiate the long months of awaiting their return.
There is more to love about the Cortez Stone Crab Festival than just the satisfaction of your hands dripping with butter with every delectable bite of the finest claw meat on the planet. This festival, now in its 6th year, is truly a celebration of what it means to be a “local”. As a proud part of the indigenous culture that is Cortez, I love that this festival features only local bands, local artists and of course local eats. The festival also serves as a vehicle to raise funds for the local non-profit organization Fishing for Freedom, comprised of commercial fishermen who actively fight to preserve the ecology of the area through coastal cleanup events year-round and are fighting for the reversal of the 1994 gill net ban which devastated the local mullet fishery. The men and women of Fishing for Freedom are a shining example of how this small community fights to preserve its heritage and remain the last working fishing village left on the west coast of Florida, and they deserve all of our support.
Make sure you mark your calendars now, (November 11 & 12, 2017) and I promise it will make the long hot wait a little easier to bear, knowing that crab Heaven is just around the corner!
Here is video from the 2016 Cortez Stone Crab Festival-