Crowds dined al fresco at
the Star Fish Co. overlooking
the Cortez docks.
SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE
sun staff writer
CORTEZ The 25th Annual Cortez
Commercial Fishing Festival reeled in thousands of visitors
last weekend to sample seafood, admire nautical art exhibits
and learn a little something about fishing.
Matthew Ibasfalean grabbed a crab from the touch tank
and showed it a visitor, who hesitantly touched it well
behind its claws as the boy explained its anatomy.
"He can go like this for hours," said his father,
fisherman Mark Ibasfalean, who set up the touch tank and
several aquariums with sparkling Sarasota Bay as the backdrop.
The cold weather kept them up most of the night trying
to keep the exhibits warm, he said.
"Whats that?" a man asked, pointing to
the old net camp in the middle of the bay. The wooden
building, where nets were dried when they were made from
cotton, not plastic, is one of the villages many
historical sights that draw thousands of people to the
But the biggest attraction is seafood, from the smoked
mullet that made Cortez famous to grouper, shrimp, crayfish
and octopus. Diners sat outdoors in the crisp weather
to enjoy the bayside views of the Cortez fleet, or huddled
near the stage to enjoy music by bands, including two
headlined by Cortez natives the Richard Culbreath
Group and the Eric von Hahmann Band.
Children enjoyed rock climbing, exploring the Privateers
pirate ship, the gator exhibit, old-fashioned pony rides
and a petting zoo featuring a savvy llama that lurked
near the food dispenser, waiting for a handout.
Rescued owls were on display, as white pelicans
true snowbirds that they are soared overhead and
splashed down in the bay.
Seabirds and fish were the inspiration for many of the
artists displaying their works at the festival, ranging
from intricate carved wooden fish, scales and all, to
solar-powered landscape lights that looked like dockside
pilings with roosting seagulls.
Reproductions of traditional wooden boats being built
by hand at the Florida Maritime Museum delighted boat
lovers, who admired the handwork as gospel music wafted
by from a tent pitched outside the church.
At $2 a person, the festival was a welcome change for
Disney-weary tourists looking for a taste of authentic
Florida, and a bite of smoked mullet to go.