CORTEZ – This year’s 7th Annual Cortez Stone Crab and Music Festival is about more than good food, good music and good times – this year, it’s also about good will.
Blessing Bags is accepting toy donations at the admissions gate to benefit the children of Port St. Joe, hit hard by Hurricane Michael last month, while the Florida Restaurant Employee Red Tide Relief Fund and Service Industry Relief Festivities (SIRF) are accepting cash donations to help local workers hit hard by red tide.
The free festival continues this afternoon, Saturday, Nov. 10, and tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 11, from 10 am. to 6 p.m., at 4628 119th St. W. in Cortez; Marker 49 by boat. The festival features stone crabs, blue crabs, shrimp and grits and other fresh seafood dishes, back-to-back live music on three stages, continuing into the evening on stages at Swordfish Grill & Tiki Bar and The Cortez Kitchen, a kids’ zone with a bounce house slide and pony rides, and local artists displaying their nautical creations.
The SIRF fundraising effort began in August, when red tide hit local waters, and will continue regardless of when the red tide lifts, said Robert DeMino, director of the Florida Restaurant Employee Red Tide Relief Fund.
The festival also is a benefit for Fishing for Freedom, an organization of volunteers dedicated to preserving the federal and state constitutions, the environment, the economy and citizens’ rights through responsible scientific, ecological and biological management. The Manatee chapter actively opposes legislation, such as the gill net ban, that makes it difficult for commercial fisherman to make a living. They also organize and participate in rallies and coastal cleanup events in Manatee County.
“We’re hoping for a tremendous outpouring from the festival,” said festival organizer Bob Slicker, of the Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar, adding that local restaurants continue to serve fresh, healthy, sustainable seafood despite red tide.
The stone crab season got off to a slow start on Oct. 15, but has picked up, Slicker said, and plenty of claws wait for crab lovers at the festival.
John Banyas, a fourth-generation fisherman and the owner of Cortez Bait & Seafood, started the festival as a party for fishermen to kick off stone crab season, which is followed quickly by mullet season. Last year’s attendance was close to 20,000.