By MARTY CLEAR
Visitors pack the food area at the 2012 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald
As far as John Stevely is concerned, all the great fresh seafood, all the fine art and crafts, all the live music and all the games at the Cortez Village Fishing Commercial Festival this weekend are just bonuses.
The main attraction, Stevely said, is Cortez Village itself.
“It’s amazing,” said Stevely, who has been involved with organizing the festival since it began in the early 1980s. “You turn off Cortez and you have a chance to walk down the street of a historic village. It’s a great place to bring a camera. And you get a chance to see where your seafood comes from. All the fresh local seafood comes in through Cortez.”
As gorgeous and rich in history as the village may be, it’s going to be the food, art, music and games that draw thousands of people to the Cortez Village for the festival which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The festival has grown into one of the Bradenton area’s most popular annual events, with some 50 artists displaying nautically themed works, local bands playing for two straight days and tons of fresh seafood from local restaurants and vendors.
The festival is so successful, Stevely said, that organizers didn’t feel the need to stray from the formula that people like so much. But it has moved to the east of the village, adjacent to the Florida maritime Museum.
As always, there’s a theme for this year’s festival. But even Stevely has a hard time explaining the significance of this year’s theme, “Better Fish to Fry.”
But, he said, the festival is making life better for areas residents all the time, because the proceeds go to restoring and preserving 95 acres of environmentally valuable wetlands and uplands just east of Cortez Village. The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) has purchased most of that land, which is some of the last undeveloped property on Sarasota Bay.
Details: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 16-17, Cortez Fishing Village, 4415 119th St. W., Bradenton. Tickets: $3 adults; children ages 12 and younger free. Offsite parking available at G.T. Bray Park overflow parking at 5502 33rd Ave. Drive, W. or Coquina Beach with shuttle bus to Cortez ($2.50 round trip). Additional parking will be available east of the village off Cortez Road. Information: 941-722-4524 or cortez-fish.org.