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Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival Returns Feb. 17-18

Theme for 42nd annual event is "It’s a Way of Life"


CORTEZ — For the past four decades, people have gathered in one of Florida’s last true fishing villages each February to celebrate the region's cultural history and honor the men and women who supply us with fresh local seafood. The village of Cortez and the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.) are excited to welcome the public back to the shores of Sarasota Bay for the 42nd Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on February 17 & 18, 2024.

Come on out February 17 & 18 to celebrate a real working waterfront community dedicated to preserving their fishing way of life. Soak in the sunshine along Sarasota Bay while you boogie to live local music, browse aisles of original local artwork and nautical crafts, sip cold beverages and sample some really tasty seafood. Get up close and personal with local marine life and feed your science side during “Dock Talks,” educational spiels put on by the University of Florida & Florida Sea Grant. The touch tanks and the Dock Talks are located on the Fulford Docks, right across from the Kids area and next to Starfish Co. Check out the Florida Maritime Museum and the Cortez Cultural Center, which are steeped in the history of the region. Buy a raffle ticket to be entered to win one of the beautiful, refurbished custom boats lovingly restored by the F.I.S.H Boatworks.

Working waterfronts are critical to Florida’s seafood economy and convey a sense of tradition and purpose that is hard to compare. Development, population growth, and shifting priorities have contributed to the decline and disappearance of many fishing villages, but Cortez has survived the changing tides and remains a true vestige of old Florida. The Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival is organized to share the importance of local seafood production with the public.

Cortez was settled in the 1800s by families lured by the bountiful marine resources in our region, and many of those original families’ namesake still live in the village today. This small but mighty fishing village was built on mullet and has diversified over the years to remain a top producer of Florida seafood. Grouper, snapper, stone crab, and baitfish are all landed in Cortez, in addition to the ever-present and forever mighty mullet. If you are eating wild-caught Florida seafood, there is a very strong chance that it crossed the docks of Cortez.

The 2024 Commercial Fishing Festival theme is “It’s a Way of Life,” which is true nowhere else like Cortez. The uniqueness and grit of the community envelop you as soon as you step foot into the village, where commercial fishing has built the lives of many families and remains a way of life today.

The Festival is a party with a purpose.

The persistence and determination of Cortezians are evident in this annual Festival, which has been going on for 42 years. The event is organized entirely by a fleet of dedicated volunteers and led by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.), a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and promote Florida’s traditional maritime cultures and the environment they depend on.

Every penny that the Festival earns is put right back into the community and supports the restoration and conservation of the FISH Preserve, 100 acres of coastal habitat that borders the east end of Cortez Village and is the last stretch of undeveloped waterfront property left on Sarasota Bay. It was purchased through grassroots, community efforts and now enjoys a conservation easement to protect it from development. Proceeds from the Festival help pay the mortgage on this land and contribute to restoration efforts.

Get a taste of the REAL Florida.

Grab your sunglasses and your appetite, and come on out to celebrate a way of life on the shores of Sarasota Bay during the 42nd Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

2024 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival Details:

When: February 17 & 18, 10 am-6 pm
Where: In front of Starfish Co. and A.P. Bell (and between 123 and 124th St W), Cortez, FL 34215.
Admission $5.00, kids under 12 free.
More Info: fishcortez.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Florida-Institute-for-Saltwater-Heritage-228622397188701


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