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36th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, Biggest Party Of the Year!

36th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, Biggest Party Of the Year!

| Sande Caplin |

It’s that time of year again! Every February Cortez throws its biggest party of the year, and 2018 is looking to be the best one ever.

The festival began as a quite humble event 36 years ago as little more than a local get together. It was a way to celebrate our commercial fishing industry and unique heritage. It began as a way to raise money for the newly formed Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, more informally known as F.I.S.H. to purchase what is now the F.I.S.H. Preserve, a pristine mangrove salt marsh adjoining the village to the east as a way protect this delicate habitat that the fishing industry depends on from encroaching development. Today it is one of Manatee County’s most celebrated and most attended annual festivals, and there is a good reason for that. Cortezian’s know how to throw a great party.

Every February Cortez throws it’s biggest party of the yearThe 2018 Commercial fishing festival will take place on February 17th & 18th, both days filled with live music, great food and over 50 nautical-themed artists for festival goers to enjoy. Cortez Bait & Seafood will house the popular educational “Dock Talks” and Touch Tank throughout the weekend. As you take a stroll through this working fish house, the boys from Fishing for Freedom will be on hand with a variety of fishing vessels and gear on display to educate guests on the fishing industry and the challenges we face to retain our way of life as the modern world squeezes in on us from all directions.

At the festival’s entrance is the Florida Maritime Museum at the old schoolhouse, and they will be open for visitors both days so make sure you take the time to see their wonderful collection of photos and artifacts. Next to the museum you’ll find a portion of the wonderful artists and their unique offerings as well as the “Kid Zone” where the little ones can go for a pony ride, climb the rock wall and much more. Just across the east bridge at the museum grounds, you can pop over to the Cortez Cultural Center, home of the Cortez Village Historical Society. They have ever changing displays of photos and extended genealogies of the founding families of Cortez dating back to the 1800’s.

Cortez Cultural CenterAs you work your way down 119th street to the waterfront you will find more artists in the net yards and trap yards along the way, and as you reach the waterfront you will find an amazing selection of food vendors ready to satiate any appetite. On the main stage live music from many musical genres will keep the crowds singing along and dancing all day. This year’s music includes Cortez’s own Soupy Davis and his band and the Eric Von Band along with local favorites Soul R Coaster, Koko Ray, Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones and Blues fave Jason Haram. For the complete lineup and music schedule please visit the Facebook Event page at

Florida Maritime MuseumAdmission is only $4 and kids 12 and under are free, making this one of the most affordable family friendly festivals around. Free parking is available just to the east of the village in the FISH Preserve, and off-site parking and shuttle service will be available from Coquina Beach and GT Bray Park courtesy of the Manatee County Transit for just $3 round trip. The fun runs from 10am to 6pm both days so come early and stay late, and enjoy all the fun that this last working fishing village left on the west coast of Florida has to offer.

For more information on the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage please visit their website at

photos from Cortez Fishing Festival

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