41st Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival: The Cortez Kind are Getting Ready to Party with a Purpose!
Every February for the past four decades, people have gathered in one of Florida’s last true fishing villages to celebrate the cultural history of the region and to 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 41st Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on February 18 & 19, 2023.
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 has been fishing for over 100 years, and this year marks the 100th Anniversary of Starfish Co., one of the Gulf Coast landmarks for fresh seafood. In honor of this centennial, this year’s festival will be at the west end of the village in front of Starfish Co.
The 2023 Festival theme is “Cortez Kind,” which you can interpret however you wish. I like to think of the Cortez kind as “one of a kind,” because there truly is no other place like this on Earth. The uniqueness and grit of the community is evident as soon as you step foot into the village, which continues to thrive in the face of storms (actual and proverbial – hurricanes, regulations, red tides, pollution, development, foreign competition…even a global pandemic.)
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 Festival is a party with a purpose.
The persistence and determination of Cortezians is evident in this annual Festival, which has been going for 41 years strong. 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 upon which they depend. Every penny that the Festival earns is put right back into the community and supports the restoration and conservation of the FISH Preserve. This 95+ acre parcel of coastal habitat borders the east end of Cortez Village and is the last stretch of undeveloped waterfront property left on North Sarasota Bay. It was purchased through a grassroots, community effort 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. How’s that for Cortez Kind?
Get a taste of the REAL Florida.
Come on out February 18 & 19 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, peruse aisles of original artwork and nautical crafts, sip cold beverages and sample some really tasty seafood. Check out the Florida Maritime Museum and the Cortez Cultural Center, which are steeped in 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. Get up close and personal with local marine life and feed your science side during “Dock Talks,” educational spiels put on by 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.)
2023 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival Details:
This party with a purpose has something for everyone. Admission is only $5 and kids under 12 are free.
When: February 18 & 19, 10am-6pm
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: Cortez Kind: 2023 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival or fishcortez.org