It was a seafood lover’s delight Saturday and Sunday at the
27th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, which set
records for attendance at 24,000 and gross proceeds at
$227,000. SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD
CORTEZ – It was standing room only under sunny skies at the 27th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival last weekend, where visitors cracked crab claws, danced to down-home music, shopped for nautical art and learned what makes the historic fishing village special.
A record crowd of 24,000 enjoyed the weekend festival, taking boat tours of the working waterfront and guided tours of the Florida Maritime Museum and admiring Caribbean-colored traditional wooden boats built by hand.
In keeping with the festival theme, "Claws," a crabber demonstrated how to properly remove a stone crab claw and return the animal to the water to grow another one. Claws were on the menu, too, along with shrimp, mullet and other seafood delights. Cortezians provided much of the entertainment - Eric von Hahmann sang country hits and his own soon-to-be hit songs, including a version of Charlie Daniels’ "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," with lyrics placing the devil on a fishing boat in Cortez. Richard Culbreath led a traditional bluegrass/country band with a Patsy Cline flavor, while the Main Hatch Motleys sang rousing sea shanties, the work songs of sailors past.
Blue Fulford demonstrated how to mend a net, and a video produced by Cortez filmmaker brothers Bryan and Mark Ibasfalean showed how things are done at sea.
Community service awards were presented to Jerome Bean, Paul Thomas, Dick Scully, Doug Calhoun and Bob Pitt of the traditional wooden boatbuilding program of the Florida Maritime Museum, Harry Howey of Cortez Park, Jap Adams, Glen Brooks and Turner Matthews.
Awards for crab recipes were presented for best crab cake from a restaurant, Mike Rappaport of Banana Cabana in Bradenton Beach; best of show, "Shrimp Crab Delight," Eileen Maloney; best salad, "Captain’s Stone Crab Salad," Capt. Michael Haley; best appetizer, crab dip, Annette Maddox of Cortez; and best entrée, "Jack and Susie’s Anna Maria Island Blue Crab Stir Fry," Susan Lee.
More than $275,000 was generated at the festival, with proceeds going to support the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, which operates the public FISH Preserve on the edge of the village, keeping a piece of natural Florida alive.