Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival celebrates a distinctive way of life


Visitors pack the food area at the 2012 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

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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

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Published in: on February 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cortez festival arrives Feb. 16-17

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

An estimated 25,000 people are expected to converge on the historic village of Cortez the weekend of Feb. 16-17 for the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

According to Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage festival chair Linda Molto, details are finalized, festival signs are going up and everything is in place to begin welcoming festivalgoers.

“Everything is fine as far as the festival is concerned,” Molto said at a Feb. 3 FISH meeting. “We could always use more volunteers, though.”

FISH treasurer Jane von Hahmann said most of the Saturday, Feb. 16, volunteer positions have been filled, but openings still exist for Sunday, Feb. 17.

Von Hahmann said as many as 40 volunteers are needed to service the beer truck.

“The company manned part of it for us last year, but they are not doing it at all this year, and we still have openings we are
trying to fill for the ticket booths,” she said.

Otherwise, she said, “I’m pleasantly surprised at the number of volunteers we have right now. We created a spreadsheet of volunteers this year, so hopefully next year it will be a lot easier to coordinate our volunteers.”

This is the 31st consecutive year for the fishing festival, which will feature a variety of food, music, arts and crafts, and plenty of entertainment.

Passerine will open at the main stage at the festival at 10 a.m. and the harmonizing Shanty Singers take the stage at 11:30 a.m., followed by awards and introductions.

The music picks back up at 12:30 p.m. with Cortez’ country musician Eric von Hahmann, followed by SoulRCoaster at 2:30 p.m., and rock group Razing Cane will sound out Saturday’s music finale on the main stage at 4:30 p.m.

On Sunday, Soupy Davis and his band open the main stage at 10:30 a.m., followed by von Hahmann at noon. Shotgun Justice takes the stage at 2 p.m. and Scott’s Garage closes out the main stage entertainment at 4 p.m.

Seafood is offered in all its forms and recipes straight from the waters of Sarasota Bay and, Molto said, Cortez residents always look forward to showing off a real working fishing village — complete with its own self-admitted “quirkiness, from scenery to seafood; from history to hijinks and from knowledge to novelty.”

The festival prides itself on having something to offer everyone, she said.

Entrance to the festival is off Cortez Road at 119th Street West. Free parking is available east of the village. Shuttle buses also will run festivalgoers from Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and from G.T. Bray Park, 3001 59th St. W., Bradenton.
Cost for the shuttle is $2.50 each way and exact change is required. Admission to the festival is $3 and children ages 12 and under are admitted free.

“Bring the grandparents, bring the kids and be prepared to spend the day with us, doing what we do best — having way too much fun,” said festival committee member John Stevely.

The festival hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. both days.

Volunteers can call the FISH office at 941-254-4927 and leave a message with contact information or email Molto at

Christina Guerrero, 24, of State College of Florida in Bradenton, is the winner of the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival design award.

Guerrero’s award will be featured as the festival logo to accompany the theme “Better Fish to Fry.”
“I came up with the design with the thought I wanted to give the illusion that the fish was so fresh that it was pulled right out of the water, directly into the frying pan,” Guerrero said in a prepared statement.

She said she got into graphic design in a roundabout way, but feels the industry is her future. She graduates in June with an AAS in graphic design.

Guerrero is a Sarasota native, with a 2-year-old son, Davin, and is expecting her second child a month after her graduation.
She claims a $250 prize donated by award-winning artist Susanna Spann, who previously taught illustration at the Ringling School of Art & Design.

Guerrero’s artwork will be displayed on the festival T-shirt, which can be purchased at multiple locations during the Feb. 16-17 festivities in Cortez.

Published in: on February 12, 2013 at 9:42 am  Comments (1)  

The Cortezian

Attached is the February 2013 issue of The Cortezian.

Coming up in Cortez:

The 31st Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, February 16-17, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 6 PM.

Admission is $3.00 for adults and children are free.

The 22nd Annual Community Picnic will be Saturday April 20, 2013 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM on the Few-Miller Dock on our waterfront.

Membership renewals to CVHS are due now. Mail yours of $10.00 per year for an individual or $15.00 for a family to PO Box 663 Cortez, FL 34215.

The Cortezian 0213.pdf

Published in: on February 9, 2013 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  

County focuses on historical, cultural tourism


Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Visitors to the Island Historical Museum buy
homemade Old Settler’s Bread at Heritage Day.

BRADENTON – When it’s cold and windy, as it was last week, or you’re just beached out, there are other things to do in Manatee County, according to Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Debbie Meihls.

Among them are historical and cultural attractions that were featured at a Manatee County Historical Gathering on Jan. 28 at Jiggs Landing in east Manatee County, including Jiggs Landing, the Island Historical Museum and the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez.

The Anna Maria Island Museum is selling homemade Old Settler’s Bread every Wednesday through March, and will host a Heritage Festival on Saturday, March 30, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust has completed its application to designate Anna Maria as a Florida Historic City, which the city commission will vote on, spokeswoman Sissy Quinn said, adding that the designation will give the group more input in saving historic homes, which the Island is losing to vacation rental developers.

Four replica cabins at Jiggs Landing, on the Braden River, will be for rent soon; Jiggs Landing is historically significant because of its reservoir, which made Bradenton’s development possible, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s Natural Resources Department.

The Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez has a new 15-minute video on the Kitchen, the part of Sarasota Bay where fishing families can always find a meal, and a photography walking tour of the village is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19, at 9 a.m., volunteer Sam Bell told the group.

The museum is one of the many sponsors of Manatee Heritage Days, which will feature more than 25 events including tours, cruises and concerts at several of the county’s historic sites during March, timed intentionally to coincide with the height of tourist season.

While acknowledging that residents get frustrated with lines at restaurants and traffic jams this time of year, Meihls said that the economic impact of tourism creates one job for every 85 visitors. Tourism has replaced agriculture as the largest industry in the county, she added.

The CVB will sponsor an industry partner meeting on using social media on Monday, Feb. 11, at 8 a.m., just prior to the 9 a.m. Manatee County Tourist Development Council meeting at the Manatee County Commission chambers in Bradenton, she said.

The county’s visitor guide will be out soon and will be more of a lifestyle magazine this year, published by Time Inc., with some tourist businesses carrying recommendations from Southern Living Magazine, she said, adding that the guide will be available on an iPad app and in an e-book version on the county tourism website,

Published in: on February 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jack Fulford

Jack D Fulford (1937 – 2012)

Jack Fulford of Brooksville, formerly of St. Petersburg, passed away Dec. 29, 2012. Survived by his wife of 53 years, Dixie; 3 children, Kim, Matt (Kelly), Joe; 3 grandchildren; 2 great-grand-children; and 3 sisters. Family will receive friends Wednesday, Jan. 2nd, 10-11 am, with a service at 11 am, all at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Sturgill Hospice of Brooksville.

Published in: on January 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Joyce Culbreath

Joyce Culbreath, 71, longtime resident of Bradenton passed away Dec. 14, 2012. She was a member of Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle. She is survived by her husband; Tom Culbreath, two sons; Tom, Jr. & Steven Culbreath, 6 grandchildren, 2 step grandchildren, a sister; Barbara Johnson, and a brother; Jimmy Paramore. A memorial service will be held at Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle on Sat., Dec. 29, at 11:00AM. Arrangements by Griffith-Cline Funeral Home, Bradenton, FL.

Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kenneth Oscar Hipp Jr.

Kenneth Oscar Hipp, Jr., 86, of Bradenton, FL, died on Nov. 25, 2012. Funeral arrangements by: Manasota Memorial Park and Funeral Home.

Ken went to be with the Lord on Sunday evening. He was 86. He was surrounded by his family, and took his place in heaven where his loved ones were waiting to welcome him home.

Ken was born on January 5, 1926 in Bradenton, FL and was a lifelong resident of Sarasota.

He attended the University of Florida after serving in WWII in the Philippines as a member of the U.S. Army. He was the owner of Hipp Construction Company and took great pride in his business. His ethics and honesty are still remembered today. He always "found" a job within the company for those who needed the work.

Ken loved anything that was related to fishing and the water and owned numerous boats which he enjoyed "tinkering" on in his spare time. He always looked forward to annual summer trips to Key West; traveling on a houseboat that he built himself. Ken also had an affinity for magic and loved to entertain with his newest tricks. He had a passion for all animals and they loved him equally.

He touched the lives of many people with his generosity and compassion. His deeds went mostly unsung as he never sought the spotlight.
Ken was a lifelong and devoted member and deacon of the South Trail Church of Christ.

He is the beloved husband of Mabel Adams Hipp for 60 years. Ken will forever be remembered by his loving wife, his children Kenneth O. Hipp, III and Karen E. Hipp and countless other family and friends who knew and loved him.

Friends and family are invited to celebrate his life at 11:00 AM on Thursday, November 29, 2012 at the South Trail Church, 5601 Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be sent to the South Trail Church of Christ or Tidewell Hospice of Sarasota.

Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 8:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Walter Thomas Bell

Walter Thomas Bell was born August 25, 1923, in Cortez Village to Aaron Parx Bell and Jessie Blanche Fulford Bell. He died on November 20, 2012, at the age of 89.

Walter served in the Merchant Marines in WWII. He often said that he saw enough of the world during those years to know that he was happy to be back in Cortez.

Walter was part owner and manager of A.P. Bell Fish Company and a proud supporter of Florida’s seafood industry. In his younger years Walter loved to gill net mullet, pompano and mackerel. Had he ever retired, he wanted to return to the water to catch pompano. Even though Walter would probably have preferred to fish, in the early 60s he began working at the fish house. He adapted well to buying and selling local catches from commercial fishers.

He had a laid back personality that earned him the respect of fishermen and customers alike. Some of his "rules" were to pay fair prices; pay on correct weights; always pay the fishermen promptly ("If you’re in the fish business and you can’t pay for the fish, you shouldn’t be in the fish business!") and spend money locally whenever possible. He always had a smile, listened more than he spoke and was generous even when he knew better. All of these qualities and beliefs were important to Walter and contributed to his success in business and happiness in life.

Walter is survived by two brothers (Chester and Doug Bell) and two daughters (Karen and Lisa Bell.) He is predeceased by his mother and father, sister Betty, brothers Warren, Jesse and Calvin, wife Sandra and son Jeff.

A graveside service will be held at 2p.m. on Tuesday, November 28, 2012, at Palma Sola Community Church, 8604 9th Avenue NW, Bradenton, FL 34209. Friends may gather at A.P. Bell Fish Company to share memories and fishing stories following the service.

Published in: on November 26, 2012 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Walter T. Bell

Walter T. Bell of Cortez passed away on November 20, 2012. The funeral service will be held at 2 pm on Wednesday November 28, 2012 at the Palma Sola Cemetery in Bradenton. Griffith Cline Funeral home is handling the service.

Published in: on November 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thomas “Blue” Fulford

Thomas 'Blue' Fulford

by Art Levy
Posted 11/6/2012

» The fishing got kind of slack in the late 1950s, I guess it was, and I went to work for a construction company for about six months. I got tired of that real quick. The only thing wrong with it was it wasn’t fishing.

» I helped start the Organized Fisherman of Florida in 1967 and so I’d have to go up to Tallahassee and talk to the politicians about the laws they wanted to pass and all the areas they wanted to close off to commercial fishing. It was extremely frustrating. I was a greenhorn and didn’t know the procedures and the terminology they used. I didn’t know what they were talking about.

» All of the cartilage has gone out of my shoulders. It’s extremely painful. All of the cartilage has gone out of my knee. I lost one leg, which doesn’t hurt much sometimes. Phantom pain is what they call it. It’s all from a lifetime of fishing.

» My father was born in Cortez. He died when I was 3 years old. I had an uncle who took me under his arm. He’s who taught me how to fish. That was Tink Fulford. I watched him. He’d never sit you down and tell you this or tell you that. You just watched and learned. I guess if I wasn’t going to have a daddy, Tink was kind of a daddy to me.

» At a natural resources committee meeting up there, they asked me a question I couldn’t answer. W.D. Childers was the chairman. After the meeting, I was sitting there feeling dumb and Bob Graham, who was on the committee, came over and kneeled down in front of my chair and talked to me. He told me he would help me.

» I lost my leg in 1987, Sept. 14, and I went right back to fishing in a month. Somebody visited me in the hospital from the state, wanted to know if I wanted any state help. I said, ‘No, I don’t want any state help. I’m gone back fishing.’

» My mother, when I was tiny, before I could even walk almost, she taught me to say that nursery rhyme — ‘Little boy blue, come blow your horn, the sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn’ — and everywhere she’d take me, I had to recite that nursery rhyme. It got to the point that people would say, ‘Here comes little boy blue.’ That might be why people started calling me Blue.

» My favorite fish is the kind with fins and tails. I eat fish every chance I get.

»I had come down from the bridge. It wasn’t my job to be where I was. I don’t know what I was doing down there. I was standing by the tom weight, a 600-pound weight. I turned it loose, and there she went on her way down, 600 pounds, and everything was fine and then I moved over and the rope took a loop around my leg and jerked me up. I was hanging spread eagle. It had just about cut my leg off, cut everything except the Achilles tendon. My son come down and was asking if he could cut me down and I said, ‘Yeah, I guess.’ He took his pocketknife and sliced the tendon. That was the start to another phase of my life.

»I liked Lawton Chiles. He used to call me Blue. I called him Lawton.

» Synthetic fibers were a godsend for people like me. You used to have to work to be a fisherman. Natural fibers, the cotton and linen, bacteria would grow on them and destroy the net. It had to be dried and mended. When people were having to do that, there wasn’t a long line of people wanting to become commercial fishermen.

» 1953, we were on a shrimp boat, going to Campeche, and we were in a hurricane. That was some experience. I got sick for one thing. I got so seasick I couldn’t stay in the bunk. I couldn’t stay anywhere. As a matter of fact, I went outside and tied myself to the winch. It was rough. The captain, who was my brother-in-law, said the seas were 55 feet high. Everything started breaking apart. The steering gear broke down. I promised the good Lord then, if he would help me get back to shore, he wouldn’t have to worry about me out there in the Gulf anymore. We got home and I didn’t go out that far again. I’m a smooth water fisherman. Close to the shore. Close to Cortez.

» The best way in my opinion to eat mullet is just scale it, filet it and fry it with the skin on, flesh side down, turn it when its almost done and get that corn meal crust where it’s crunchy. Oh man, that’s good.

» I’ll tell you what was a real shock to me when I would go to Tallahassee representing the commercial fishermen. I would sit up in the gallery and watch the Senate or the House in action. They’d be debating a bill and there’d be three, four guys standing over in a corner talking and joking, reading the funny papers, pinching the girls on the butt, doing everything they thought they could get by with. It bothered me. Those people were supposed to be taking care of my livelihood. I never pinched anyone on the butt, but I knew the people who did.

» If I had my life to live over again, there are some things I’d do differently, but, oh yeah, I’d still be a fisherman. No doubt about that.

Published in: on November 6, 2012 at 9:35 am  Leave a Comment  

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