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Diorama depicts mullet netting methods

CORTEZ – A refurbished diorama depicting now-defunct mullet netting techniques used by early Cortez fishermen was unveiled at the Cortez Cultural Center’s environmental learning event on April 20.

“Cortez is all about fishing. It is mission critical for Cortez,” Cortez Village Historical Society (CVHS) President Cindy Rodgers said as the diorama was introduced.

Gill net fishing, seine fishing and stop fishing have all been outlawed in Florida, but for many years those were the standard techniques for catching mullet and all are represented in the diorama.

The diorama was built by John McDonald and Dr. Bill Baum and had been displayed at the Florida Maritime Museum before it was gifted to CVHS, where it sat covered on the center’s back porch. Over the years, the miniature boats had cracked and the diorama was in need of overall repair.

Its refurbishment was made possible by a monetary award in January from the Anna Maria Chamber of Commerce.

“It did sit here for a while and we thought we have to do something with it, and we weren’t able to do it,” Rodgers said. “So with that award, I contacted the Anna Maria Artists’ Guild and Judy Vazquez happened to answer the phone and the next day Judy and Luann Widergren were here and said they wanted to do it.”

Rodgers said the artists lovingly worked on the project day and night.

“Judy is a mosaic artist, so she had this idea to jazz it up. She had this idea for broken glass, and added paint and sparkle,” Widergren said. “It needed some sprucing up and I tried to restore the boats and added some vintage colors. For the fish camp, this is architecturally what you would have seen.”

Susynne McElrone, a volunteer at CVHS, and a former commercial fisher in Alaska, discussed the three mullet fishing methods represented on the diorama.

“I would invite everyone to come up close and see the details here and see what strikes you, the shore, the nets, the fishermen, the stories behind this and the love that went into it,” she said.

The Cortez Cultural Center is located at 1655 Cortez Road W. and is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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